The best films and TV shows on Disney+ (and not a superhero in sight)

The streaming service, now bigger than Netflix, has more than superheroes and magic kingdoms

Whether you signed up for the kids and never gave it a second look, or you’re thinking of jumping the sinking Netflix ship, Disney+ has a lot more to offer than you might think. Do a little digging beneath the shiny veneer of superheroes and magic kingdoms and you’ll find a surprisingly broad range of great films and TV shows. Below are 25 of the best.


Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2021)

Shot with a beautiful, naturalistic intimacy, Chloé Zhao’s worthy Oscar-winner is a window into a fascinating world few of us had ever even heard of. Frances McDormand delivers another flawless performance as a woman forced to live in a camper van after the 2008 crash. A film about compassion, kindness and community in the face of ruthless corporate indifference.

Prey (Dan Trachtenberg, 2022)


You’d be forgiven for having little enthusiasm for the fifth entry in the jaded Predator franchise, but Prey is an outstanding action film. Anchored by a star-making performance by Amber Midthunder as a young Comanche warrior, it is a lean, gory, adrenalin-shot of a film.

Win Win (Tom McCarthy, 2011)

Capping an incredible indie hat-trick for Tom McCarthy (following The Station Agent and The Visitor), Win Win is another quiet triumph. Paul Giamatti stars as a morally questionable lawyer who learns a thing or two about a thing or two coaching a local wrestling team.

Ruby Sparks (Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton, 2012)

A very likable romantic comedy from the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks sees the life of struggling novelist Paul Dano turned upside down when one of his literary creations comes to life. Gets a bonus point for the perfect tagline: “She’s out of his mind.”

Speed (Jan de Bont, 1994)

Of all the high-concept action films of the 90′s, surely Speed was the best. Or maybe The Rock. Oh God, it’s impossible to choose. They’re both just so good. Not to worry — The Rock is also on Disney +, just make a 90s action blockbuster night of it.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (Akiva Schaffer, 2022)

Another self-aware reboot with a meta twist, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers does not initially inspire confidence. It turns out, though, to be far funnier than anyone expected. John Mulaney and Andy Samberg voice the titular chipmunks.

Luca (Enrico Casarosa, 2021)

Despite being the most watched streaming film of 2021, it’s hard to shake the impression Luca is one of Pixar’s more overlooked efforts. Repeated viewings prove it to be one of their very best — a glorious mix of The Little Mermaid and Cinema Paradiso (with a splash of Studio Ghibli).

Cyrus (Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, 2010)

The closest mumblecore ever got to mainstream, Cyrus will have you squirming as you bear witness to the borderline unbearable mortification unfolding on-screen. John C Reilly falls for Marisa Tomei, but has to contend with her jealous adult son, played by Jonah Hill.

Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)

Some people say every Wes Anderson film is the same, to which an entirely appropriate response would be: get the hell out of here. Slice it any which way you like, but the world is a better place with his films in it. If you’ve yet to sample the eccentric Kool Aid, Rushmore is the perfect place to start — a coming-of-age comedy starring Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray.

The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson, 2021)

Two Wes Anderson films in a row might seem like overkill, but this is a very different beast to Rushmore. A culmination of Anderson’s aesthetic evolution, it ties multiple narrative threads together, all pulled from an American newspaper published in a fictional French city. A veritable treat for the senses.

Aliens (James Cameron, 1986)

Why in God’s name is James Cameron wasting his time and considerable talent on more Avatar films? In all honesty, does one single person on the planet actually want to see a new Avatar film, let alone two? Watching Aliens is now an exercise in anger management.

High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000)

A mopey and outrageously charismatic John Cusack plays a music shop owner who scrutinises his past failed relationships with the same obsessiveness with which he organises his record collection. A great romantic comedy with a little more bite than most.

Broadcast News (James L Brooks, 1987)

A newsroom love triangle between producer, anchor and reporter is the framework around which this gentle and perceptive satire hangs. Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks and the late William Hurt star.

Paddington 2 (Paul King, 2017)

Paddington 2 has now cemented its reputation as one of the greatest sequels of all time. Surely everyone has seen it at least once? On the off-chance you have yet to absorb its warm glow of joy and kindness, we are required by law to keep recommending it.

The Savages (Tamara Jenkins, 2007)

A low-budget indie comedy drama starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney about two siblings who return home to care for their estranged father? Hook it to my veins.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller, 2018)

The true story of Lee Israel, an alcoholic author who sold literary forgeries in the 90s, this is an engrossing, morbidly funny portrait of greed and desperation. Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant are both excellent.

The Empty Man (David Prior, 2020)

A complete flop on release, it didn’t take long for The Empty Man to achieve bona-fide cult status. An ex-cop investigating a disappearance is led down a dark rabbit hole of cults and conspiracies. It’s messy, it feels incomplete, and yet there are a few intriguing ideas and a couple of standout scenes.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin, 2011)

Before she became one of Marvel’s biggest stars, Elizabeth Olsen made her debut in this small, perfectly formed indie drama. She plays Martha, who after living with a cult for years, escapes to live with her sister (Sarah Paulson).

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)

Opening to some lukewarm reviews and a disappointing box-office return, this superior nautical adventure has since garnered the praise it deserves. Russel Crowe stars as Captain Jack Aubrey hunting a French warship during the Napoleonic Wars.

TV shows

Mr Inbetween (three seasons)

This Australian pitch-black comedy about an assassin attempting to live a normal life is the definition of “hidden gem”. It’s funny, shocking, at times incredibly moving, and has one of the most extraordinary central performances in recent years.

Get Back (three parts)

The brilliance of Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary took a lot of people off-guard. In a way we’ve never seen anything like it. Using unseen and restored footage, as well as some fancy AI technology, it is an incredibly intimate and compelling portrait of four men we thought we knew. Even if you have just a passing interest in music, cultural history or the creative process, this is essential viewing.

The Mandalorian (two seasons)

Ever since Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars in 2012, they’ve been churning out intergalactic content with about as much money-spinning intensity as you’d expect. The Mandalorian is the only release to capture the magic of the original trilogy. If you need to reconnect with your inner-child, grab a 10-penny bag of sweets, a glass of red lemonade and get bingeing.

Bluey (two seasons)

If you know, you know. In the dull, soulless morass of children’s television, Bluey shines like a bright beacon of hope and relief for parents the world over. An Australian animation about a young dog and her family, it is filled with more imagination, empathy and humour than almost all other shows combined.

Atlanta (two seasons)

Atlanta isn’t the show you think it is. Ostensibly about Donald Glover and his rapper cousin navigating the Atlanta music scene, it is more concerned with exploring life’s messy realities. Unpredictable, surreal, funny, political… there’s nothing else quite like it.

Only Murders in the Building (two seasons)

About three people in total had high hopes for this lighthearted Manhattan murder mystery, but against all the odds, it’s a blast. Steve Martin hasn’t been this funny in years and Martin Short is as good as ever, but the real surprise is Selena Gomez — her cool aloofness plays perfectly against all the elder goofiness around her.

The Americans (six seasons)

In a just world The Americans would be spoken of in the same revered tones as The Wire or The Sopranos. Alas, the world is not just, and so many people remain oblivious to how extraordinary this espionage thriller is. Following two Russian sleeper agents in 80s Washington, it’s clever, moving and at times heart-stoppingly tense.

Darragh Geraghty

Darragh Geraghty

Darragh Geraghty, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about lifestyle, health and culture