Since launching in November 2019, Disney+ has become an unequivocal powerhouse. In just a couple of years, the company’s direct-to-consumer platform has become a key destination and early leader in the ever-intensifying streaming wars. Disney+ is full of buzz-worthy series, multi-part documentaries, and original films, alongside all of your favorite Disney animated and live-action classics, plus films from Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, and all of the goodies acquired in the Fox acquisition.
New and original films debuting on streaming platforms have become a lifeblood, and Disney+ has a continued commitment to releasing some very big movies through their direct-to-consumer platform.
So we thought now would be a good time to look back at the Disney+ original films that have already been added to the platform.
Editor’s note: This list was updated November 2022 to include Hocus Pocus 2.
Better Nate Than Ever (2022)
Run Time: 1 hr 31 min | Genre: Musical Comedy | Director: Tim Federle
Cast: Rueby Wood, Joshua Bassett, Aria Brooks, Lisa Kudrow, Norbert Leo Butz
It’s never easy when you don’t feel like you fit in, and adolescence is the worst. When Nate (Rueby Wood) isn’t cast in his school show, he has the brilliant idea to take a bus from Pittsburgh to NYC to audition for a new Broadway show instead. It’s an insane plan that can only be pulled off with the help of his best friend, his quirky aunt, and his reluctant brother. It is chock-full of Broadway cameos and so full of heart that you can’t help but smile. Better Nate Than Ever is about as Disney as it gets with some fun musical numbers to boot. – Jennifer McHugh
Hocus Pocus 2 (2022)
Run Time: 1 hr 43 min | Director: Anne Fletcher
Cast: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo
The Sanderson Sisters are back in Hocus Pocus 2! Reprising their roles from the original movie are Bette Midler as Winifred, Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah, and Kathy Najimy as Mary. After revealing a piece of their origin story, Hocus Pocus 2 mostly takes place in modern-day Salem, where a couple of teens, played by Whitney Peak (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) and Belissa Escobedo, accidentally bring the witches back from the afterlife. Reuniting with Billy Butcherson, allowing Doug Jones (Star Trek: Discovery) to reprise his beloved performance, Hocus Pocus 2 serves up nostalgia while adding layers to the cherished mythology set forth in the first film. – Yael Tygiel
Run Time: 1 hr 40 min | Genre: Christmas Fantasy Comedy | Director: Marc Lawrence
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Billy Eichner
Likely designed to be the next Santa Clause, Noelle sees Anna Kendrick play Noelle Kringle, Santa’s daughter who is desperately trying to help her brother Nick (Bill Hader) take over Santa’s responsibilities following his untimely death. But Nick decides to run away, hiding out in photogenic Phoenix, Arizona. Kendrick is good at playing incessantly chipper types and has fun with the role alongside a supporting cast that includes Shirley MacLaine, Michael Gross, Billy Eichner, and Julie Hagerty. Written and directed by rom-com veteran Marc Lawrence, Noelle is an instant holiday classic.
Artemis Fowl (2020)
Run Time: 1 hr 35 min | Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy Adventure | Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Tamara Smart
Based on a best-selling series of YA books by Irish author Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl is set in a world where a technologically advanced fairy tale world, full of elves, dwarves, and assorted creatures exists just beneath us. The film explores what happens when precocious child prodigy Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw) discovers that his father has a) been kidnapped and b) is renowned as a master thief stealing priceless antiquities from both the human and fairy tale world. (Big day for him.) Kenneth Branagh directs a lively cast, including Josh Gad – a standout as a digging dwarf and our erstwhile narrator who brings a nice about of energy and fun.
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals (2020)
Run Time: 1 hr 39 min | Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Fantasy Superhero | Director: Anna Mastro
Cast: Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Niles Fitch, Isabella Blake-Thomas, Olivia Deeble
Basically, Secret Society of Second-Born Royals is the first Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) made specifically for Disney+. It has all of the established hallmarks of a DCOM classic, including a cast full of familiar Disney Channel faces (in this case led by Peyton Lee from Andi Mack). Secret Society of Second-Born Royals is set in a mythical European country where royal kids attend a tony boarding school. During a summer school class, it’s revealed that the second-born kids in royal bloodlines are born with extraordinary superpowers, and a boyish Professor X (Skylar Astin) teaches them how to use them to foil an evil plot. If you’re a fan of the new classic Descendants or throwback Princess Protection Program, you’re sure to love this one, too.
Black Beauty (2020)
Run Time: 1 hr 50 min | Genre: Adventure Drama Family | Director: Ashley Avis
Cast: Kate Winslet, Mackenzie Foy, Claire Forlani, Iain Glen
An international co-production that was picked up by Disney after the fact, Black Beauty is beautiful, affecting, and entertaining. A fresh adaptation of Anna Sewell’s 1877 novel of the same name, it follows the titular horse (whose inner narration is voiced by a surprisingly game Kate Winslet) and the young girl who connects with her (Mackenzie Foy from Disney’s Nutcracker and the Four Realms). The drama is punctuated by some surprisingly unsettling scenes of animal cruelty (like when Black Beauty is sold to a little rich girl who doesn’t understand the power or soul of the horse) and some moments that are genuinely transportive, like a scene of the young girl riding Black Beauty along a beach.
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe (2020)
Run Time: 1 hr 25 min | Genre: Animated Musical Adventure Sci-Fi Comedy | Director: Bob Bowen
Cast: Dan Povenmire, Jeff « Swampy » Marsh, Jon Colton Barry, Jim Bernstein
Disney+’s first animated original feature returns to the world of Phineas and Ferb, the hugely popular series that ran on Disney Channel and Disney XD for nearly a decade (from 2007 to 2015). In Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe, the precocious brothers’ perpetually put-upon older sister Candace (Ashley Tisdale) takes center stage as she is abducted by space aliens and lands on a planet whose leader (voiced by Ali Wong) treats her like a princess. Meanwhile, the boys (Vincent Martella and David Errigo Jr.) team with the villainous Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz (series co-creator Dan Povenmire) to figure out what happened to Candace and return her to earth. If you appreciate the original series, then chances are you are going to love the movie, which continues the show’s mixture of silly songs, science-minded adventures, and occasionally groan-worthy humor (creators Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh co-wrote the screenplay).
Magic Camp (2020)
Run Time: 1 hr 40 min | Genre: Fantasy Comedy Family | Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Adam DeVine, Jeffrey Tambor, Gillian Jacobs
Magic Camp is a cute and funny little gem that features Adam Devine as a magician who gave up on his dream but is recruited by a former mentor (Jeffrey Tambor) to serve as a camp counselor at the Institute of Magic, a summer camp for budding magicians. Magic Camp clearly takes its cues from other misfits-make-good favorites, most noticeably The Bad News Bears and School of Rock, and while the stuff with the kids is pretty pat (aside from a story about a young magician who lost his father), Levine elicits some genuine yuks, and director Mark Waters, who directed Mean Girls and the Freaky Friday movie, keep things moving at lively pace. Fun fact: the story is based on an original story by Steve Martin, who performed magic at Disneyland early in his career.
Run Time: 1 hr 50 min | Genre: Christmas Fantasy Comedy-Drama | Director: Sharon Maguire
Cast: Isla Fisher, Jillian Bell, Jane Curtin
Godmothered is sort of the perfect Disney+ movie – agreeably low stakes, adequately shot, and warmly humored. In Godmothered, the very funny Jillian Bell plays a fairy godmother who makes a desperate bid to answer the wish of a young girl before her enchanted realm gets turned over to tooth fairies. But the letter she’s answering turns out to be very, very old and the young girl she attempts to help out is actually a frazzled adult woman (Ilsa Fisher). From there, things get really wacky, with jokes you can probably imagine involving a fairytale makeover of Fisher’s home, wardrobe, and life (big ups to the raccoon that attempts to clean the kitchen). Clearly borrowing DNA from both Disney’s Enchanted and the Christmas classic Elf, Godmothered is charming and funny, thanks to spritely direction from Bridget Jones’s Diary director Sharon Maguire and outstanding, wholly committed performances from the two leads. (Jane Curtain and June Squibb pop up as older fairy godmothers, and they make the most of their brief screen time.) There’s even a case to be made as Godmothered being a Christmas movie (it’s not explicitly Christmas-y but is set during the season), which means that it could sneak into your annual slate of favorites.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (2020)
Run Time: 1 hr 39 min | Genre: Adventure Fantasy Comedy-Drama Family | Director: Tommy McCarthy
Cast: Winslow Fegley, Ophelia Lovibond, Craig Robinson, Wallace Shawn
Based on a series of children’s books by American cartoonist and illustrator Stephan Pastis, you wouldn’t expect Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made to be director Tom McCarthy’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2015 drama Spotlight. But here we are. Timmy Failure follows the titular character, a pint-sized detective (Winslow Fegley) who attempts to solve crimes in his native Portland but always ends up making things worse, frustrating his put-upon single mom (Ophelia Lovibond) and grumpy teacher (Wallace Shawn). One of the greatest triumphs of Timmy Failure is McCarthy’s ability to conjure a lovably heightened version of Portland, with all sorts of fantastical quirks and embellishments (none bigger than Timmy’s imaginary polar bear sidekick Total), while also sustaining an air of relatability and believable tension. It’s a tonal balance that could have gone spectacularly wrong in less capable hands, but McCarthy always keeps things in check. (There’s also a funny reference to Pixar’s Up, which McCarthy worked on the story for.)
Run Time: 2 hr 2 min | Genre: Biographical Sports Family | Director: Reginald Hudlin
Cast: Jay Reeves, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Corinne Foxx, Matthew Glave
Disney used to release what they referred to as “brand deposit” films – films that speak to the legacy of Disney, were usually made in the midbudget range, and weren’t explicitly tied to preexisting franchises or widespread corporate initiatives. Many were based on true stories and tied to either a larger-than-life sports triumph or extraordinary event (think The Finest Hours or Queen of Katwe). With the introduction of Disney+, these movies found a new place to flourish, andSafety is a great example of one of these movies that could have been potentially overlooked in theaters but should be rightly celebrated on the streaming platform. Based on a true story, it follows a Clemson football player (Jay Reeves), who sneaks his younger brother onto campus after their mother checks into rehab. Energetically directed by Reginald Hudlin with a soundtrack full of era-appropriate bangers, Safety is mercifully free of the “white savior” narrative that has hobbled similar stories (hello, The Blind Side!) and instead focuses on the brothers’ struggle and the camaraderie and charity that allows for them to succeed. Safety packs the singular punch of an inspirational, based-on-a-true-story sports movie – a genre that Disney has perfected with things like Miracle and McFarland, USA but too rarely engages with these days. Thankfully Disney+ is here with the save.
Run Time: 2 hr 1 min | Genre: Biographical Romantic Musical Drama Teen | Director: Justin Baldoni
Cast: Fin Argus, Sabrina Carpenter, Madison Iseman, Lil Rel Howery
While weirdly marketed like similar-sounding, faith-based young adult dramas, Clouds is a cut above. It’s a wonderfully shot-and-edited, deeply felt, old-fashioned weepie that is vibrantly performed and very heartwarming. (Be warned: you will bawl.) Based on a true story, Clouds stars Fin Argus as Zach Sobiech, a young man suffering from osteosarcoma (bone cancer) while pursuing his dreams of becoming a singer-songwriter. With his best friend (played by Disney regular Sabrina Carpenter), he pens a song called “Clouds” that would up becoming a viral sensation. (Neve Campbell and Tom Everett Scott play Zach’s parents and, yes, there is a moment that explicitly references Scott’s turn in That Thing You Do.) There have been a number of movies recently that deal with sick children narrative, but none have had the sensitivity and artfulness of Clouds, one that intends to portray Zach’s struggle with realism and truthfulness while portraying the unlikely circumstances around his song’s success with an appropriate amount of wonder. Yes, it’s ultimately tragic, but the journey is profoundly rewarding and the movie, while consumed with this young man’s death, is vibrant and full of life. If you were scared away by the maudlin ad campaign, be advised: those advertisements are selling a very different movie than what Clouds really is. Touching, inspiring, and immaculately made, it’s one of the very biggest surprises on Disney+.
Run Time: 1 hr 47 min | Genre: Jukebox Musical Romance | Director: Julia Hart
Cast: Grace VanderWaal, Graham Verchere
Stargirlis, like many Disney+ originals, based on a beloved YA novel (this one by Jerry Spinelli, published in 2000). But there’s a sensitivity and grace to Stargirl that is unlike anything else produced for the platform. The title character (Grace VanderWaal) is an adorable free spirit who shows up in a drab suburban town and unlocks the inner creativity of her buttoned-up classmates. One of those classmates, Leo (Graham Verchere), quickly falls in love with Stargirl, despite her outsider status and his own repression and insecurity. These themes aren’t particularly inventive, but the story is refreshingly wonderfully told by Julia Hart (the director of the brilliant Fast Color), who puts an emphasis on emotional honesty and storytelling clarity. Hart also allows VanderWaal, already an accomplished singer-songwriter, to take center stage in a number of rousing musical numbers (some set to the Beach Boys’ underrated “True to Your School”), letting some magical realism seep in without it ever detracting from its inherent truthfulness. Given its melancholic ending, the dreaminess of its visuals and music, and the earnestness of the lead performers, it’s easy seeing Stargirl taking its place amongst the best high school movies ever pantheon very, very soon.
The One and Only Ivan (2020)
Run Time: 1 hr 35 min | Genre: Fantasy Drama | Director: Thea Sharrock
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Helen Mirren
The One and Only Ivan is based on the best-selling and award-winning children’s novel by K.A. Applegate about a group of exotic animals who live at a Florida strip mall circus in the 1990s. The circus’ animals are brought to life by the visual effects wizards behind Disney’s The Jungle Book and Dumbo and are lovingly voiced by celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren, Danny DeVito and Sam Rockwell. The group soon hatches a plan to escape their humdrum life, and while the movie initially seems like something of a shallow romp with little concern for the welfare of its animal stars, it soon begins to show its true colors, with themes of conservatism and radical animal activism eventually coming to the forefront. (The fact that the movie didn’t use actual animals goes a long way in the movie’s production reinforcing its chief thematic concerns.) Rockwell, in particular, is nuanced and gut-wrenching as a gorilla who finds escape through self-expression, and Bryan Cranston, as one of the few human characters, does an amazing job at giving dimension and grace to a character that could easily have fallen into cartoonish buffoonery or oversized, mustache-twirling villainy. (He doesn’t fit either category; his performance is a gift.) While the ending might be a little too pat and tidy, it doesn’t do anything to diminish the power and vibrancy of everything that came before it.
Run Time: 1 hr 32 min | Genre: Documentary | Director: Don Hahn
Don Hahn’s deeply felt documentary chronicles the rise of lyricist and storyteller Howard Ashman, who was instrumental in the reviving Disney Animation through films likeAladdin,Beauty and the Beast andThe Little Mermaid. Howard utilizes archival footage, vintage photographs, and new interviews that are presented as audio-only, which gives everything a fascinating juxtaposition. (Ashman died of AIDS months before Beauty and the Beast was released to theaters, soon becoming the first animated feature to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.) There’s a moment that documents the press junket for The Little Mermaid, held at the Walt Disney World resort. Howard can be seen smiling for the camera and watching a parade roll down Main Street, while at the same time we are learning from his long-time partner that he was so sick that he was wearing a catheter the entire time, getting motion sickness on the simplest rides. The nearly uniform excellence of the documentaries on Disney+, whether its features or long-form series like Into the Unknown, has become one of the highlights of the service. And Howard is the very best documentary feature on Disney+, as it opens up some of your favorite animated features and exposes the deeply complicated man that gave them their voice.
Run Time: 1 hr 54 min | Genre: Historical Adventure | Director: Ericson Core
Cast: Willem Dafoe
What a picture!Togo dramatizes a true-life event: in 1925, a remote Alaskan town is gripped by a horrible outbreak of diphtheria. In order to bring the necessary medicine, a bold and potentially foolhardy plan is hatched to deliver the medicine via a dangerous sled dog relay across 828 frozen miles. Facing inclement weather and harsh conditions, the dogs and drivers have to come together to get the medicine in time and save a group of children from certain death. Willem Dafoe plays Leonhard « Sepp » Seppala, the lead driver, who has a special bond with Togo, who leads the sled. While that set-up sounds fairly straightforward and potentially dull, the kind of conservative live-action movie Disney would make in the late 1960s following Walt’s death, it’s not. Director/cinematographer Ericson Core and writer Tom Flynn stage the action so that it’s interspersed with flashbacks of Togo growing up with Sepp and his wife (Julianne Nicholson) on their farm, establishing just how deeply the man and dog are connected and how they will be tested on the long journey ahead. It’s brilliant, breathtaking stuff, equal parts thrilling and deeply moving. (If you have a dog, know a dog, or have ever lost a dog, be prepared to bawl your eyes out.)
Black Is King (2020)
Run Time: 1 hr 25 min | Genre: Musical | Director: Beyoncé
Cast: Beyoncé, Folajomi Akinmurele, Connie Chiume, Nyaniso Ntsikelelo Dzedze
Black Is King is an effervescent, totally brilliant and beautifully shot ode to the multifaceted amazingness of global Blackness. There’s a young king, a rise to power, and a villainous uncle (who could be a drug dealer or warlord) – all shot through a prism of high fashion and historical accuracy. There’s so much to love about Black Is King that it is hard to wrap your mind around specific moments. An early review compared it to Black Panther and The Tree of Life and that’s about right; it is elemental, electric, and frequently jaw-dropping, simultaneously contemporary and deeply entrenched in mythology and a kind of primordial power. The fact that the project was released during a summer that had seen racial tensions violently erupt makes Black Is King feel even braver and even more timely. Also, the songs are totally killer (try getting “My Power” out of your head). It’s an astounding achievement.
Run Time: 2 hr 40 min | Genre: Historical Fiction Musical Drama | Director: Thomas Kail
Cast: Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Originally planned for an October 2021 theatrical release, the coronavirus led Lin-Manuel Miranda and Disney to agree to unleash Hamilton, at home more than a year early, just in time for the long Fourth of July holiday weekend. It was a stroke of marketing genius that also felt like an altruistic gesture – a move to give back to the community during an incredibly turbulent time (there’s even a brief introduction from Miranda and director Thomas Kail, recorded at their respective homes) and turn the holiday into a living, breathing history lesson. The show, of course, is a staggering achievement (it’s rightfully won literally every award it possibly could), even more so if you haven’t seen clips or heard the music, and Kail’s direction brings the energy and liveliness of the stage performance to life in a bold new medium. Crucially, Hamilton brings the life of Alexander Hamilton, the troubled foundation of our country, and the oversized personalities that required such boldness in the first place to humanistic life. No longer words on a page, they are vibrant and alive, with Miranda and Kail’s decision to cast actors of color inspired and powerful. There never has been anything like Hamilton before, and it feels like a blessing to have it preserved for all time.