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The best movies to watch on Disney Plus UK

Your guide to Disney's new streaming service – from feelgood favourites to hidden gems

Avengers: Infinity War
Photograph: Marvel
By Phil de Semlyen, Trevor Johnston, Tom Huddleston, Rosemary Waugh, Alim Kheraj and George Blew |
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The newly launched Disney Plus isn’t just about Avengers and Anakin Skywalker. There’s plenty of well-loved classic movies as well as some buried treasures, a fair stack of proper oddities and one of whatever the heck ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’ is on this new Mickeypedia. We’ve taken a tiny pickaxe to Mickey’s vast new movie collection to separate the great from the goofy.

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The best films on Disney+: Wonderful

Film, Action and adventure

Black Panther

With its killer Kendrick Lamar soundtrack, eye-popping Afrofuturist world and some stupidly charismatic performances, ‘Black Panther’ is sleek, fast-moving and tons of fun. We walked away wanting to see Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, and Londoners Letitia Wright and Daniel Kaluuya in another superhero movie as soon as possible – which thanks to the epic Wakandan bits of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, we shortly did.

Film, Animation

Pinocchio

Disney’s second animated movie opens with a sweetly singing cricket before plunging into scenes from a nightmare: Pinocchio’s extending schnozz is animation’s most sinister and profound metaphor. Containing a universe of anxiety and wonder, this movie does ‘timeless’ like very little else. Time Out once called it ‘the high point of Disney’s invention’.

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Film, Action and adventure

Avengers Assemble

The first and still the best of Marvel’s superhero team-up adventures, ‘The Avengers’ brought together the heroes of three existing franchises - Thor, Captain America and Iron Man - chucked in a few fan favourites like Black Widow and Hulk for good measure, and set them all on the trail of the series’ best villain, Tom Hiddleston’s smirking Loki. Sharply scripted and epic in scope, it’s an overstuffed pinata full of delights.

Film, Animation

Toy Story

The film that revolutionised animation, proving for the first time that an entire film could be created in a computer provided you continued to give audiences what they really wanted: great characters, smart jokes, and a little dash of soul. The emotional combat between outdated cowboy Woody and new-fangled space captain Buzz Lightyear is something we can all relate to, from the playground to the old folks’ home.

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10 Things I Hate About You
Photograph: Courtesy 10 Things I Hate About You
Film, Comedy

10 Things I Hate About You

A high school-set update of William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, this lovely teen romance is not only considerably better than its ropey source material, but also contains as brilliant a moment of anti-romance as you’re likely to find anywhere. A young (and very lovely) Heath Ledger plays Patrick, the local ‘bad boy’ tasked with dating Julia Stiles’ unimpressed Kat in order to pass a  dating rule set by Kat’s dad. Truly a movie that punches above its teen rom-com label weight. 

Film, Animation

The Lion King

‘Hamlet’ gets reimagined in the animal kingdom in one of Disney’s most revered and well known animated movies. Still the highest grossing traditionally animated film of all time, this story about a young lion cast out of his pride by his evil uncle only to rightly reclaim his place as the leader of the land might well be the perfect film. It has everything: inventive animation, a heart wrenching story, two extremely memorable sidekicks and songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice. It’s so good that Disney made it twice. 

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Film, Animation

Lady and the Tramp

It’s famous for that ‘spaghetti kiss’ – a legendary scene that Walt Disney almost cut. But ‘Lady and the Tramp’ has many other charming moments: the script evolved out of years of personal pet stories shared by the studio's animal-loving writers and executives. Lady is a pampered pooch whose life of luxury is interrupted by the arrival of a new baby, followed by two Siamese cats. Luckily for Lady, the world has some love in store for her.

The Muppets Christmas Carol
Photograph: Walt Disney Pictures
Film, Family and kids

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Is this the best Charles Dickens adaptation of all time? Probably. You didn’t know you needed to see the story of Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future but with muppets until you’ve seen a slightly bemused Michael Caine surrounded by puppets. That they made Gonzo play Dickens himself was an inspired move. 

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Best Disney films: Beauty and the Beast
Photograph: Disney
Film, Animation

Beauty and the Beast

Witty and charming, sunnily confident and filled with cockle-warming innocence, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ harks back to the Disney glory days. But it also took the studio to a new level – becoming the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. What works? The emotional heart of the story plus a soaring, Broadway-on-steroids score. Not to mention the adorable talking objects in the castle. 

Film, Animation

Zootropolis

Imagine ‘LA Confidential’ with a cast of talking animals and you’ve got a basic grasp of this inventive, witty and unexpectedly disturbing modern Disney classic. All her friends laugh when fluffy bunny Judy announces her intention to join the Zootopia police force, but she’s soon hot on the trail of corruption, crime and carnivorous murder, proving that you should never under estimate your cute-looking chums.

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El extraño mundo de Jack
Foto: Time Out Los Ángeles
Film, Animation

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Bringing back the time-honoured traditions of stop-motion animation was a bold move back in 1993, but writer-producer Tim Burton and director Henry Selick’s story of a pumpkin-headed outsider who longs to experience the wonders of Christmas was a huge hit with audiences, and remains a festive family favourite. It can feel a little overcooked - all the usual ooky-kooky-spooky Burton-isms are present and correct - but there’s tons to enjoy here.

Film, Science fiction

Star Wars: A New Hope

The film that started it all – not just the most lucrative franchise in film history, but the entire culture of the summer blockbuster. And ‘Star Wars’ is still a giddy, wide-eyed wonder: working on a budget that would barely cover biscuits on the more recent instalments, George Lucas and his team built an entire universe out of spare parts and model kits, reinventing the art of visual effects pretty much from scratch.

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Film, Animation

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Sweet, scary (the woodcutter scene is nightmare fuel for tiny minds) and full of hummable ditties (‘Whistle While You Work’), ‘Snow White’ is Disney’s first animated feature – and one of its most enduring. It’s impressively true to the spirit of the Grimm brothers’s tale om which it’s based, albeit with more adorable wildlife. One question: what did the dwarfs do with all those uncut gems?

Film, Science fiction

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Directed by a childhood uber-fan of the franchise, Gareth Edwards’s prequel (the action’s set sometime before the first ‘Star Wars’ film) is a punchy standalone action tale about a spunky resistance group within the Rebel Alliance. Okay, it’s a little baffling in parts, but it can’t be faulted for its energy levels or commitment to being constantly fun. It also explains how Princess Leia ends up with the plans for the Death Star in the 1977 movie, and fleshes out the rebels with compelling individual backstories. 

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Film, Action and adventure

Captain America: Civil War

Like a juggernaut gathering speed, the MCU was changing into a higher gear by the time this beefy superhero crossover arrived. It all gets a bit political at this point in the story, as Cap (Chris Evans) and Tony (Robert Downey Jr) fall out in epic style and super-hitman Bucky Barnes falls under HYDRA's foul spell. But even if office politics bores you, the spectacle is off the chain here as it all builds towards that mighty airport showdown. Oh, and you get to say hello to Tom Holland’s Spidey, too.

Film, Action and adventure

Guardians of the Galaxy

A group of intergalactic outlaws zip from planet to planet exchanging hilarious put-downs and narrowly avoiding a variety of unfortunate fates, all of them in the ‘worse than death’ bracket. One of them is the annoying kid on the playground who wants everyone to think he’s cool? Sure. Another is a ‘muscle-bound whack job’ with rage issues? Okaaay. Another one is a tree. Huh?! It must have sounded mad on paper. On screen, it’s awesome. 

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Film, Comedy

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

From its sleazy humour (‘Is that a rabbit in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?’) to its labyrinthine, ‘Chinatown’-like plot, from its use of obscure, pre-war cartoon figures to the wonderfully bizarre casting of leading man Bob Hoskins, Robert Zemeckis’s live action / animation hybrid absolutely refuses to underestimate its audience, and is all the more brilliant for it. A magnificent one-off.

Mulan 2
Photograph: Disney
Film, Action and adventure

Mulan

Years before ‘Shrek’, Eddie Murphy voiced another irascible non-human sidekick – the dragon Mushu in Disney’s adaptation of a classic Chinese legend. ‘Mulan’ is based on a piece of ancient Chinese folklore and sees the heroine disguise herself as a soldier in order to protect her father from being conscripted into the Imperial army. It also means she gets to have a bit more fun than she would otherwise have had staying at home and getting married. Contains the neatest haircut-with-a-sword in cinematic history.  

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Photograph: Henson Associates
Film, Family and kids

The Muppet Movie

For our money, ‘The Muppet Movie’ is Jim Henson’s ‘Citizen Kane’. Look at the parallels: both star Orson Welles in some form of tycoon role; both feature tempestuous romances; both made a splash at the Oscars; both investigate what it means to be American and/or a frog. The swinger? Kermit has the monopoly on awesome cameos (Telly Savalas! Madeline Kahn! Steve Martin!) and at no point does Charles Foster Kane sing ‘Rainbow Connection’.

Film, Animation

The Incredibles

When public opinion of superheroes shifts following the backlash to the collateral damage caused by their crime-fighting ways, heroes are sent into hiding and given new identities. Can superheroes acclimatise to life as a normy?  And what about when they have kids? This is the premise for ‘The Incredibles’, and it’s one that works quite fabulously. 

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Madame Doubtfire
© DR
Film

Mrs Doubtfire

Robin Willams playing the role of an estranged father who dons prosthetics to transform himself into a Scottish-accented female nanny so he can continue to see his kids, sounds like the stuff of nightmares (and perhaps a lengthy lawsuit). Thankfully, director Chris Columbus delivers a film brimming with pathos, humour and enough sentimentality that any sinister whiffs are easily sugar coated over. 

inside out
Photograph: Disney Pixar
Film, Animation

Inside Out

Proof that, yes, it’s okay to be sad sometimes, this Pixar animation takes us quite literally inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley. It’s here that we’re introduced to Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust, who control Riley’s life and actions via a computer-like control centre in her brain. It might not necessarily sound accessible, especially for a film aimed at kids, but ‘Inside Out’ deftly and miraculously turns the human psyche into a colourful adventure playground in a way that’s insightful and moving yet always playful too.

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Thor - Ragnarok
©DR
Film, Action and adventure

Thor: Ragnarok

Not exactly a hidden gem (it made $853m at the box office) but always worth considering when tossing up which of the service’s monster Marvel movies to kick off with. With its hilarious revolution-fomenting rock monster – part Che Guevara, part geography field trip – buddy-comedy-meet-’Gladiator’ action, and Jeff Goldblum as a kind of intergalactic Peter Stringfellow, ‘Thor Ragnarok’ is escapist fun at its purist.

Film, Action and adventure

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Without a doubt, ‘Empire’ is the best ‘Star Wars’ film (although narrowly followed by ‘Rogue One’). What started a fairly simple space opera take on Campbell’s hero journey was blown apart like the exploding Death Star. Simmering with tension, our heroes separated and given their own sense of agency and with one hell of a final act, the force is strong with this one.

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Film, Comedy

Home Alone

It’s this John Hughes classic that (briefly) made adorable moppet Macaulay Culkin a star. Sure it might not be one you’ll be queuing immediately to watch, but when Christmas time hits, the film’s festive sentimental streak shines through, even if Culkin’s character, Kevin, doesn’t seem all that upset that his Paris-bound family have accidentally left him behind for the holidays. He’s lucky it wasn’t ‘GoodFellas’ Joe Pesci who turns up to rob his house.

Film, Science fiction

X2

Superhero sequels have a habit of being a cut above their predecessor (see also ‘Superman 2’, ‘Spider-Man 2’, ‘The Dark Knight’). And while the first X-Men movie is perfectly serviceable, this second instalment is superior in every way. It’s got more memorable supporting characters, like Alan Cumming’s slippery Nightcrawler. It’s got pacier action sequences, like the attack on Professor Xavier’s Academy. And it’s got a fantastic villain, in the form of Brian Cox’s sadistic Colonel Stryker.

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Film, Animation

Moana

Stories of plucky princesses realising their potential aren’t exactly new. But what makes ‘Moana’ soar is its total commitment to feminist principles, witty script and strong tunes, and most of all Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson as demi-god Maui. He’s the kind of muscular, self-involved but well-meaning doofus that Disney animations do so well.

Photograph: 20th Century Fox
Film, Drama

The Sound of Music

It was a double whammy for Julie Andrews who in 1965, fresh from playing ‘Mary Poppins‘, went from one singing child care gig to another. This time, though, the magic didn’t come from a bag or an overly familiar chimney sweep, but from the Austrian mountains, a knack for evading Nazis and the songbook of Rodgers and Hammerstein. 

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Photograph: Disney
Film

Mary Poppins

There’s just something about Mary. From that first moment she descended from the clouds, carpet bag in hand, the mouse house’s take on P. L. Travers’s magical nanny has charmed and delighted us. The blend of live-action and old school animation is charming (those dancing penguins!), the songs are still brilliant and Julie Andrews is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. No wonder it was nominated for a whopping 13 Academy Awards. It’s Disney’s finest live-action film. 

Film, Action and adventure

Iron Man

It all started here. The sprawling multimedia soap opera that is the Marvel movie series now dominates our summer viewing and end-of-year box office charts. As a statement of intent, ‘Iron Man’ is pretty near unbeatable. Here, fully formed, is the template for all future Marvel movies: wisecracking heroes, world-threatening villains, explosive action sequences, throwaway gags and just a hint of a social conscience (the movie could probably have lent in harder on the weapons-industry-is-bad subtext, but we’ll let it go).

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Film, Animation

Wreck-it Ralph

At night in an empty arcade, Donkey Kong-ish video game villain Ralph (John C Reilly, inspired) wants a career change badly. As the anti-hero of ‘Fix-IT Felix Jr.’, Ralph has to contend with being excluded from everything - even the game’s thirtieth anniversary party. While loaded with eight-bit nostalgia, ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ somehow feels fresh: a sincere tale of finding your own identity. 

Film, Action and adventure

Finding Nemo

There’s a whole world underwater, but ‘Finding Nemo’ is way more than a film about fish. Sure, the clownfish are cute, the turtles totally rad and Dory the forgetful fish, voiced by a surprisingly good Ellen DeGeneres, will make even the stoniest of folks laugh. But this smart film is really about the lengths a parent will go to save their child. The results are the warmest, most universal of all the Pixar home-run hitters. 

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Film, Animation

Ratatouille

Can a naive, ambitious rat, the baby-eyed Remy (charmingly voiced by Patton Oswalt), long inspired by his reading of a famous French chef’s recipe book, realise his dream to become a chef? Disney Pixar seems to think that yes, he can (health and safety standards be damned). Thankfully, ‘Ratatouille’ is also a film filled with sympathy, detail, intelligence and a lack of pretension that you won’t mind that a rat made all those computer animated people food. 

Film, Animation

Fantasia

While finishing up Mickey Mouse short ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ (based on a Goethe poem – who said Disney couldn’t do highbrow?), Walt Disney decided to add similar classical-music-scored vignettes and make some movie-length out of. Lo,  ‘Fantasia’ was born. Silly and sublime, in which a hippo and an alligator do ballet, a mop does the houseworld and even the devil turns up, it’s one of the studio’s best. And it might well have been your first intro into the classy world of classical music when you were a kid. 

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Film, Animation

Aladdin

This magical comedy-fantasy kickstarted a whole new era of animation. The cave of wonders sequence saw a major Disney feature employing computer animation for the first time, while the appearance of Robin Williams was a landmark in the use of celebrity voices. Most importantly, the film’s success proved that people were again ready to hand over their cash to a cartoon spectacular – especially when the tunes were as catchy as they are here.

Photograph: Disney
Film, Action and adventure

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

One of the cuddliest mad scientist movies ever made, this basic but likeable family comedy sees physicist and father Rick Moranis accidentally shrinking his adorable moppets - hey, it’s all there in the title - and panicking when they get lost in their suddenly vast and danger-filled suburban house. The giant ants and oversized household appliances may look a little creaky, but the film has enough old-school charm to keep you watching.



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Film, Animation

The Little Mermaid

A veritably Disney classic, ‘The Little Mermaid’ uses a tried and true formula (Hans Christian Andersen fairytale given a funky, modern update) and delivers it with pizzazz. Princess Ariel made everyone watching want bright red hair and a fish for a best mate, while the husky-voiced Ursula remains a quintessential Disney villain (Cruella de Vil is her evil-sister-in-arms). Oh, and the songs are so catchy it’s necessary not to Google them if you plan on getting any work done for the rest of the day. 

Film, Animation

Up

It could have been so cutesy, so saccharine: a geeky kid with Coke-bottle glasses dreams of being an explorer. The girl down the street wants the same thing. Then we see them grow up, fall in love, share the highs and lows of life together – marriage, family, work, sickness, eventually death – and it’s neither cute nor saccharine but a glorious tapestry of honest emotion and meaning (and this, lest we forget, is a kids’ movie). The rest of ‘Up’ is ‘only’ hilarious and smart – but that opening is a true masterpiece. 

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Film, Animation

WALL•E

The wonderfully atmospheric opening of ‘WALL•E’ follows Earth’s last remaining drone as he silently goes about the Sisyphean task of cleaning up a bespoiled planet. The first line of dialogue only arrives after 45 minutes, as Wall-E falls under the spell of state-of-the-art recon robot EVE (he calls her ‘Eva’) and  her sleek, Apple-Store lines. If it sags a little in the second act as cinema’s cute ‘bot joins the human race (read: Americans) on its spaceship, its critique of consumerism and waste makes it Pixar’s boldest work by far.

Vingadores Guerra do Infinito
©Marvel Studios
Film, Action and adventure

Avengers: Infinity War

There was a ridiculous amount of pressure on ‘Infinity War’. Marvel had given us so many great films (as well as ‘Iron Man 2’) and this was part one of the finale. But, boy, did it deliver. Aside from the phenomenal action scenes and stunning visual effects, co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo managed to balance the egos of a literal army of heroes perfectly, providing some funny, relatable and even emotional moments. Our favourite moment? The spine-tingling touchdown of Thor in Wakanda. Seriously, goosebumps. 

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Film, Animation

Bambi

In medieval times, they tested for witchcraft by dunking suspects in water. Perhaps they could test for serial killers today with the scene of Bambi’s mother dying. Walt Disney called ‘Bambi’ ‘the best picture I have ever made, and the best ever to come out of Hollywood’. And he might have a point. At any rate, Disney’s edenic animation is still filled with joy, love and forest goodness. Oh, and Thumper really should have won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. 

Film, Fantasy

The Rocketeer

If you love ‘Captain America: The First Avengers’, this love letter to matinee movies will be just the ticket. They’re both directed by the same man – Joe Johnston – and both are infused with the same boy’s own, never-say-die, holy-shit-look-at-my-awesome-hair spirit. Oh, and both have devious Nazis schemes needing foiling. This one has a cool, art deco jetpack too.

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Film, Animation

Monsters, Inc.

After a slight stumble with their second film ‘A Bug’s Life’, Pixar hit their winning streak with this magnificently creative and unashamedly idiosyncratic fairytale set in a city populated by monsters. Partly improvised by a wonderful voice cast – the entire ‘Put That Thing Back Where It Came From Or So Help Me’ routine developed from an off-the-cuff comment by Billy Crystal – the film is loose, loveable and crammed with ideas.

Photograph: Disney
Film, Comedy

Cool Runnings

Surely the warmest movie ever set in the snow, this unlikely true-life tale is inspired by the real Jamaican bobsleigh team at the 1988 Winter Olympics. It inverts classic sports movie training montages in all sorts of hilarious ways (you never see Rocky training in an ice cream van), and with the great John Candy providing one of the most loveable sports coaches in cinema, it carries you along in a feel good bubble. Altogether now: ‘Feel the Rhythm, feel the Rhyme, get on up, it's bobsled time!’ 

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Film, Action and adventure

Avatar

‘Avatar’ wears its debt to Edgar Rice Burroughs on its sleeve, with its hero Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) following firmly in the footsteps of Tarzan and John Carter. Typically, though, James Cameron goes bigger than anyone else. Having come up with the idea in his ‘Titanic’ days, he waited for motion-capture photography tech to catch up.The results are awe-inspiring, especially in 3D, and bagged  the film Oscars for cinematography, VFX and art direction, as well as helping it claim the title of the highest grossing movie of all time at the box office. One day those sequels will arrive, too.

Star Wars: Empire of Dreams

An epic documentary tracking the original Star Wars trilogy from first ideas to the release of Return of the Jedi. Featuring talking head interviews with everyone from George Lucas and Carrie Fisher to backroom legends like Richard Edlund and Ben Burtt, this is essential viewing not just for Star Wars fans but for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of filmmaking. Oh, and the footage of Kurt Russell auditioning for the role of Han Solo is just priceless.

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Free Solo
Jimmy Chin
Film, Documentaries

Free Solo

We try not to look down when we’re climbing the stairs, so watching cucumber-cool rock climber Alex Honnold scaling El Capitan without ropes feels like an extreme sport in itself. This artery-pumping, Oscar-winning NatGeo doc takes you right to the centre of Yosemite National Park’s steepling granite slab and deep into the psychology of courage, technique and, surprisingly, relationships. Unsurprisingly, Honnold’s other half isn’t entirely wild about the whole ‘death-defying’ thing.

The best films on Disney+: Watchable

Photograph: Disney
Film, Family and kids

A Bug's Life

It might not seem like it now but Pixar’s follow-up to ‘Toy Story’ was, in its own way, quietly revolutionary. While ‘Toy Story’ broke new ground for computer animation, ‘A Bug’s Life’ really propelled the technology forward. But it’s the uplifting plot, as well as its cast of memorable characters (chubby German caterpillar Heimlich, especially), that helped this plucky feature about an accident prone ant and an unlikely troupe of circus bugs capture the heart. Kevin Spacey is believable as the villain.

Film, Family and kids

The Journey of Natty Gann

A look-how-young-he-is! John Cusack and Ray Wise combine in this 1985 cockle-warmer. Sure, the ingredients aren’t auspicious on paper: it’s set during the Depression, its heroine Natty Gann (Meredith Salenger) loses her daddy to a lumber camp, and scary Leland Palmer from ‘Twin Peaks’ and slackerish Lloyd Dobler from ‘Say Anything’ hardly scream #WholesomeContent. But, trust us, this road-trip adventure has a heart even bigger than Natty’s massive doggy sidekick.

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Film, Romance

Beauty and the Beast

The live action remake of Disney’s well-loved animation cast Emma Watson (‘Harry Potter’ franchise) as Belle, a young woman imprisoned by the Beast (Dan Stevens). Despite his hairy and scary exterior, Belle extends sympathy to her reclusive companion. Elegantly shot, the millennial update added several extra songs to the original hit score.

Film, Animation

Frozen

‘Part of the blame for the blandness of recent family films,’ grumbled the great critic Roger Ebert back in 1968, ‘must be laid at the doorstep of that great cultural hero, the late Walt Disney, and the studio that carries on his work.’ It’s safe to say that Disney’s output of family movies has improved a notch or eight since those half-hearted, live-action-heavy days of the late ‘60s. This empowering, uplifting snowman-building Hans Christian Andersen adaptation shows how far Disney travelled in the intervening decades. It has style, panache and a theme song you can only prise from your ears with surgical assistance.

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Photograph: Disney
Film, Family and kids

George of the Jungle

You know when something really weird happens and you can’t remember if it was real or just a figment of your fevered imagination only to later discover that, yes, it did happen and, wow, wasn’t it a bit mad? Disney’s live-action ‘George of the Jungle’, starring Brendan Fraser, Leslie Mann and a comedy toucan, is that.

Film, Comedy

Blackbeard's Ghost

For viewers of a certain age, nothing will say a slow Sunday afternoon like a larger-than-life Peter Ustinov on the telly, probably brandishing some form of cutlass. Recreate those heady days with this high-seas supernatural caper in which said thesp plays the ghost of the pirate Blackbeard. Expect grog-swigging, high spirits and the inimitable Ustinov managing to be larger than life and quite dead at the same time.

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Film, Animation

Big Hero 6

Despite grossing over $600 million at the box office, this snappy and tight animated film doesn’t necessarily get the credit it deserves. It might not have the songs of ‘Frozen’ or the strong social message of ‘Zootropolis’, but the way it handles the different manifestations of grief is remarkable for a film that, on the surface, seems to be about high tech superheroes and the Michelin Man. 

Film, Family and kids

Oliver & Company

There might not be anything cuter than this animated take on ‘Oliver Twist’. Instead of an orphaned boy, Oliver is a homeless kitten who joins a group of lawless dogs who teach him about life on the streets of 1980s New York. It might not be up their in the lofty halls of Disney’s classics, but this is a delightful take on a Dickens classic. Also, the opening five minutes are so desperately sad that you’ll want to watch the rest of the film just to make sure that everything ends up okay.

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Film, Comedy

Adventures in Babysitting

If you stuck ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and ‘48 Hrs.’ in a blender you’d get this joyfully helter-skelter comedy from ‘Harry Potter’ director Chris Columbus. It sees babysitter Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) and three young charges catapulted through a night of mayhem in the Windy City. The plot makes very little sense but it’s so much fun, you won’t mind a bit. Look out for Bradley Whitford as the sleazy boyfriend and, for some reason, a cameo from blues legend Albert Collins. 

Photograph: Disney
Film, Family and kids

The Aristocats

The first film made after Walt Disney’s death follows an aristocratic feline and her kittens as they try to reclaim their stolen fortune with the help of a back-alley stray. It’s a charming adventure, with plenty of fun musical numbers – like the jazzy ‘Everybody Wants to be a Cat’ – thrown in for good, toe-tapping measure.

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Photograph: 20th Century Fox
Film, Action and adventure

X-Men

The first film in the ‘X-Men’ franchise, which spawned more sequels  and soft reboots than we’ve had hot dinners, introduced the world to Magneto and Professor Charles Xavier, played by BFFs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. It’s also the initial outing for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine,  who would go on to spawn his own spin off movies, including the rather brilliant ‘Logan’. Halle Berry also stars, as does Anna Paquin.

Disney
Film, Animation

The Lion King

This live action remake of The Lion King involved real live talking lions, a real live talking warthog, some real live meer… hang on, what’s that? Sorry, no, it didn’t. It’s actually a photorealistic computer animated remake of the story of Simba, rightful king of the Pride Lands. Finally overcoming the evil plans of his uncle Scar, Simba’s triumph is accompanied by one of the most uplifting musical soundtracks ever made, slightly reworked and added to here. Directed by Jon Favreau, the cast includes Beyonce as Nala, Simba’s queen.

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Film, Fantasy

Willow

Intended as a fantastical companion piece to the space opera of Star Wars, writer George Lucas and director Ron Howard’s epic adventure has some great moments, but too often feels like a hokey ‘Lord of the Rings’ knock-off. Warwick Davies is terrific as Willow, whose discovery of a lost baby sends him on an epic quest. But despite still-impressive special effects, the film is too silly and sentimental to fully convince. A sequel series is due, though, so eyes peeled.

Film, Family and kids

Into the Woods

The hit Broadway musical gets the big-budget Hollywood treatment. Meryl Streep stars as The Witch who curses a childless Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) in this mash-up of famous fairytales. You’ll recognise lots of characters, but none of them are getting their usual happy endings. 

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Film, Science fiction

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Given the mammoth task of reinventing the Star Wars saga for a new generation, director JJ Abrams created a film that, for the most part, is every bit as grand, giddy and enjoyable as it’s predecessors (and considerably more representative of its global audience). The first act, as escaped stormtrooper John Boyega meets scrap trader Daisy Ridley on the desert world of Jakku, is simply perfect – the script crackles, the pace never flags, and the effects are monumental.

Hocus Pocus (1993)
Photograph: Courtesy Hocus Pocus
Film, Comedy

Hocus Pocus

This film could well be the reason why the LGBTQ+ community call Halloween the gay Christmas. While initially a commercial and critical flop, thanks to repeated TV screenings in October, this camp comedy horror is now a cult classic. And how could it not be? It stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy playing a trio of witches desperate to reclaim their youth. They even sing ‘I Put a Spell On You’. A sequel is now said to be in the works, too. 

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Photograph: Touchstone Pictures
Film, Comedy

Sister Act / Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit

Before Whoopi Goldberg became a fixture on American daytime TV, for a generation of people she was probably best known as Sister Mary Clarence, the woman who discovered Lauryn Hill while pretending to be a nun. ‘Sister Act’ is also one of those rare franchises where the sequel is just as good, if not better, than the original. And it looks like a third outing will be coming to Disney+ in the future, too. Happy days. 

Film, Family and kids

The Jungle Book

Jon Favreau’s live-action ‘Jungle Book’ is lush, flora and fauna-filled adaptation of Disney’s 1967 animation that also leans on the original Rudyard Kipling stories. Its impressive cast includes Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o and Scarlett Johansson, but the gorgeous jungle scenery that’ll have you yearning to escape Blighty for tropical climes.

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Film, Action and adventure

Ant-Man / Ant Man and the Wasp

It’s not the triumph it might’ve been had original director Edgar Wright stuck around, but this is a perfectly viable superhero blockbuster with enough smarts to carry you through. Paul Rudd makes for a delightful hero, and there are a handful of great visual gags (Cure fans, prepare to be delighted). But whatever you do, avoid the dire sequel ‘Ant Man and the Wasp’.

Film, Animation

Dumbo

Given a live action remake in 2019 under the direction of Tim Burton, the original ‘Dumbo’ was only the fourth animated film ever made by Disney. Which might seem a bit surprising given how the titular flying elephant has stayed wedged in the popular imagination. Ridiculed for his oversized ears, Dumbo gets the last laugh by putting them to good use soaring high. Long seen as a Disney masterpiece, there’s plenty to like about Dumbo, although for modern viewers there’s a huge amount not to like about those talking crows.

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Film, Science fiction

A Wrinkle in Time

Directed by Ava DuVernay, this film was the first with a production budget of over $100 million to be helmed by a non-white female director. Despite its landmark status, it flew a little under the radar with many audiences. To be fair, the plot is high concept, and there’s probably too much CGI being weaved around for the sake of it, but it’s still a lot of fun, and DuVernay clearly has a touch for visual spectacle. 

Film, Action and adventure

Pete's Dragon

This remake of the 1977 film about an orphaned boy who lives in the forest with his pet dragon doesn’t do much to alter the original but give it a new lick of paint. Thankfully, this doesn’t dampen the spirit of the film, and the message about the destruction of the environment isn’t hamfisted because of the film’s genuine wonder at nature. Genuinely sweet and entertaining stuff. 

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The Lion King 1½

Everyone’s favourite farty warthog and sassy meerkat embark on a mad rewind of ‘The Lion King’ that starts with Timon and Pumbaa watching the first movie before spinning back to the beginning of their own stories. Eh? Still, it’s a great big helium balloon of savannah-based giddiness. 

Film, Drama

High School Musical

One of the Disney+ launch shows might baffle some subscribers. ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’ is a meta take on this original made-for-TV movie that 14 years ago was an inescapable phenomenon. Spawning two sequels (the second film is the best) and launching the careers of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, it’s cheesy, a bit naff and super dated. But there’s something reassuring in its formulaic plot and cloying sweet musical numbers. Like Haribo, it’s probably bad for you, but you just can’t help but finish the whole pack. 

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Film, Action and adventure

Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

Proof that families can get along, as long as there are no remote controls or games of Monopoly lying about. This one has everything you could want in a castaway adventure: awesome tree houses, booby traps, and a scary bit with a snake. It was the highest grossing movie of 1960. The second highest? A different kind of family-based caper: ‘Psycho’. 

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