52 movies to watch on Disney+, from Jungle Book to Frozen

Aladdin: the late Howard Ashman plays a showstopping Prince Ali.
Keep the boredom at bay with singalongs and adventures on the latest streaming service

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) This Oscar-winning adaptation of Jules Verne’s proto-steampunk novel was personally overseen by Walt Disney. James Mason is terrific as antihero Captain Nemo as he faces down a giant squid and Kirk Douglas.

African Cats (2011) The antics and close calls experienced by lions and cheetahs living in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, a major game region in southwestern Kenya, are handsomely captured in this Disneynature feature.

Aladdin (1992) The Tom Cruise-alike hero. A clever princess that saves the day. Robin Williams at his wildest and freest. Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman’s showstopping Prince Ali.

Alice in Wonderland (1951) In contrast to Tim Burton’s billion dollar grossing 2010 live action reboot, the original animation was a financial disappointment on its initial release. Luckily, the counterculture would soon embrace the film’s far out charms.

The Aristocats (1970) No longer featuring Siamese Cat Song. Duchess (Eva Gabor) and her naughty kittens team up with alley cat Thomas O’Malley (Phil Harris) and his jazz band misfits. Scatman Crothers ensures this isn’t the whitest idea of jazz ever. Has a cat playing the double bass. Sold!

Bambi (1942) A young fawn has a sorrowful, joyful journey in this timeless adaptation of Felix Salten’s 1923 novel. Animators studied deer and rabbit movement to break new ground for one of the studio’s great masterpieces.

Timeless: The Jungle Book (1967) was the last film to be produced by Walt Disney
Timeless: The Jungle Book (1967) was the last film to be produced by Walt Disney

Beauty and the Beast (1991) Much of the magic was imported from Jean Cocteau’s 1946 adaptation but the old school Broadway style numbers by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken generated their own special sparkle.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) Mary Norton’s The Borrowers has been adapted for the screen many times; her earlier stories just once for this delightful tale of Blitz-evacuated children and their trainee witch guardian, played by Angela Lansbury.

Big Hero 6 (2014) A rare contemporary family film that doesn’t shy away from genuine loss, Walt Disney Animation’s otherwise zippy manga-like adventure boasts one of the big screen’s finest robots: Baymax.

The Black Hole (1979) Writing in 2014, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson deemed this film to be the least scientifically accurate movie of all time. It’s a fascinating mutiny melodrama nonetheless, pitched somewhere between science fiction and the contemporaneous vogue for disaster pictures.

Candleshoe (1977) An American orphan (Jodie Foster) is recruited to scam an English aristocrat (Helen Hayes) and her resourceful butler (David Niven) in this charming post-Ealing comedy.

The Cat From Outer Space (1978) An alien cat enlists the help of an earthling physicist in order to fix his crash-landed spaceship. Capering ensues and various villains - hello, Roddy McDowall! – are foiled.

Frozen: still a perfect storm
Frozen: still a perfect storm

Cool Runnings (1993) Loosely based on the true story of the Jamaica national bobsleigh team’s improbable debut in the 1988 Winter Olympics and featuring a winning turn from the late John Candy.

Dumbo (1941) Late last year, Disney’s pluckiest pachyderm made headlines when it was revealed that the film’s crows would not carry an “outdated cultural depictions” warning. In all other respects, not least as a tear-jerker, it holds up.

Emil and the Detectives (1964) Ten-year old Emil Tischbein travels by bus from Neustadt to Berlin, carrying 400 marks to be delivered to his grandmother. The money disappears when Emil falls asleep and he recruits child detectives to help find the culprit.

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) One of Disney’s livelier, funnier entertainments concerns a spoiled Inca monarch. Features brilliant voice work from David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, and Patrick Warburton, and rightly spawned a TV franchise and a sequel.

Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) Orphaned kids with telekinetic powers attempt to escape a ruthless millionaire. Worth watching as a lead up to seeing Bette Davis (in one of her final roles) and Christopher Lee in the sequel, Return to Witch Mountain (which is also on the service).

Fantasia (1940) Setting the Promethean myth to Stravinsky and watching centaurs gambol to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony still feels like a brilliantly bonkers idea 80 years after the film bowed.

The Fox and the Hound (1981) An orphaned fox (Mickey Rooney) and a hound dog (Kurt Russell) become firm friends after the farmer’s wife adopts the cub. But their relationship is undermined by social expectations.

Frozen (2013) Nobody saw this tale of two sisters coming. But between Idina Menzel’s troubled Snow Queen, Kirsten Bell’s sensible sibling, and goofy comic support from an iceman and a snowman, this is still a perfect storm.

Herbie Rides Again (1974) Following the shenanigans of The Love Bug, the 1963 Volkswagen racing Beetle returned for this sequel, putting his anthropomorphic skills to work against a crooked property developer.

Hercules (1997) The son of Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera is coached by Danny DeVito’s satyr, seduced by Susan Egan’s Meg (a rare Disney non-virgin love interest), and menaced by James Woods’ Hades. A heap of fun.

Holes (2003) A wrongfully convicted delinquent teen (Shia LaBeouf) is sentenced to dig holes in the desert by the warden (Sigourney Weaver) and her cohorts, played by Jon Voight and Tim Blake Nelson.

Into The Woods (2014) A wildly starry cast – Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Johnny Depp – assemble for Rob Marshall’s hot adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 Broadway musical.

Into the Woods has a starry cast including Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Johnny Depp and others
Into the Woods has a starry cast including Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Johnny Depp and others

The Jungle Book (1967) The last film to be produced by Walt Disney is jollied along by Sherman Brothers songs, appealing character designs, and great voice work by Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, and George Sanders.

Lady and the Tramp (1955) A well-groomed, well-heeled, female American Cocker Spaniel named Lady becomes separated from her humans Jim Dear and Darling and falls for a stray called the Tramp.

Lilo & Stitch (2002) Hawaiian youngster Lilo was already causing trouble for her sister and legal guardian before she met Experiment 626, a blue, koala-shaped alien with a talent for mayhem.

The Lion King (1994) After a family tragedy, lion monarch in training Simba runs away from the pride and takes up with outsiders Timon and Pumbaa. Will he ever return to resume his royal duties? Features Matthew Broderick, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jeremy Irons. Elton John brings the tunes.

The Little Mermaid (1989) A 16-year-old mermaid gives up her voice to have a shot with some guy she has never talked to. Not sure why this isn’t carrying an “outdated cultural depictions” warning, but the songs are great and Ursula the sea witch remains one of the great Disney characters.

Mary Poppins (1964) Julie Andrews fun-but-firm nanny sails into Edwardian London and improves the lives of the Banks family, with a little help from Dick Van Dyke and cartoon penguins.

Moana (2016) A Polynesian island girl defies her parents and sets out to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) in order to save her village from blight. Features the showstopper How Far I’ll Go.

Mulan (1998) A young Chinese maiden dresses as a boy in order to take her ailing father’s place in the army. Now almost as famous for the McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce it inspired. And the riots that the sauce inspired.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) There are several welcome Muppets movies coming to Disney Plus, including Muppets Most Wanted and The Great Muppet Caper. But as we had to settle for one, we couldn’t possibly overlook Michael Caine’s Scrooge, no matter how unseasonal.

Newsies: The Broadway Musical! (2017) Inspired by the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York city, this Tony award-winning musical features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a book by Harvey Fierstein.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) This marvellous stop-motion animation directed by Henry Selick follows Jack Skellington, the King of “Halloween Town” as he stumbles through a portal to “Christmas Town” and stops off to celebrate the holiday. Thereby ruining the holiday.

Old Yeller (1957) In the 1890s, a young boy in Kansas bonds with the Labrador of the title. The dog serves him well, chasing off a bear, settling the cow, and defending him against feral hogs. And then comes the famously sad ending.

Peter Pan (1953) The depictions of Native Americans are more than unfortunate, but Disney’s film of JM Barrie’s play and novel is generally enchanting. Subsequent adaptations have seen many directors flounder, but the Disney version wisely foregrounds the most family friendly subplots: Peter seeking his shadow; Wendy wishing to see Neverland.

Pete’s Dragon (2016) The only one of the recent batch of live action remakes that turns out to be better than the original, David Lowery’s magical family film concerns an orphaned boy (Oakes Fegley) raised by a dragon in woods patrolled by Bryce Dallas Howard.

Perri (1957) Working from Felix Salten’s 1938 Perri: The Youth of a Squirrel, this is a fascinating documentary hybrid that pieces together wildlife footage and narration in order to follow the young female squirrel of the title as she grows up and finds a mate.

Pinocchio (1940) There are so many wonderful things in this wartime adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s novel – the Blue Fairy, When You Wish Upon a Star – but the trauma of seeing naughty children transformed into jackasses is a lasting one.

Queen of Katwe (2016) David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o star in this biopic of Phiona Mutesi, a young girl living in the Kampala slums who, against all odds, learns to play chess and becomes a Woman Candidate Master.

The Rescuers (1977) The Rescue Aid Society is an international mouse organisation dedicated to freeing the abducted. Two agents, Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor), set out to rescue an orphan girl being held by Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page).

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) From the strange vibrato of Some Day My Prince Will Come to the strange White Knight-friendly sentiment of the same tune, there’s plenty of disconcerting and indelible oddness about the first feature length animation. A cup placed just beyond the reach of a skeletal hand, anyone?

Return to Oz (1985) The only film directed by Walter Murch, the editor of Apocalypse Now and The Godfather Trilogy, follows Dorothy Gale (Fairuza Balk) back to Oz for a darker, bleaker adventure.

Robin Hood (1973) Bandleader and actor Phil Harris co-starred with John Wayne in The High and The Mighty. He paid enough attention to successfully channel the western icon into voice roles in Jungle Book and this.

The Tigger Movie (2000) Tigger goes in search of his biological family. As with the Muppets, it’s hard to choose between the many lovely Pooh films arriving on Disney Plus. But we’re going with the one that has the most existential angst.

Tron (1982) Jeff Bridges is a computer programmer who is transported inside a mainframe computer. The once ground-breaking effects have aged better than many more recent bells and whistles, the chases are properly exciting, and the plot is elegant.

Bambi: Disney’s timeless adaptation of Felix Salten’s 1923 novel.
Bambi: Disney’s timeless adaptation of Felix Salten’s 1923 novel.

The Ugly Dachshund (1966) A Stepford-suited couple are the proud owners of a prize-winning Dachshund named Danke, who ends up being an adoptive mother to an unruly Great Dane.

White Fang (1991) A young gold prospector (Ethan Hawke) leaves San Francisco for Klondike where he bonds with a wolfdog in this appealing adaptation of the novel by Jack London.

Zootopia (2016) Rabbit Judy Hopps from rural Bunnyburrow may be the academy valedictorian, but she’s up against it when bigger, predatory animals start reverting to a feral state.