With a robust catalog dating back to 1928, Disney’s move to create a streaming platform was a no-brainer. The much anticipated Disney+ is finally here— and with over 7,000 titles, there’s an endless amount of content to binge-watch. From classic fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, to original Disney TV shows like Lizzie Maguire and That’s So Raven, the platform is packed with enough oldies to satiate your nostalgia. But if you’re looking for something new, check out Disney+ originals like the latest iteration of Lady and the Tramp or catch baby Yoda on Star Wars: The Mandalorian.

Choosing from the legion of movies films available on Disney+ can be overwhelming. Don’t worry— Complex has you covered. Here are the best movies streaming on Disney+ right now. 

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Director: Kenny Ortega
Starring: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy

If you think Christmas is king when it comes to holiday movies, you’ve obviously never seen Hocus Pocus. Max Dennison (Omri Katz) is chaperoning his little sister Dani (Thora Birch) during trick-or-treating when he runs into his crush Allison (Vinessa Shaw). In classic ’90s teen movie fashion, he tries to impress her by doing something stupid and lights a 300-year-old candle said to summon three witches back from the dead. What unfolds next is pure Halloween-themed hilarity as the evil Sanderson sisters, Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy), rise from the grave, wrestle 20th century changes, and wreak havoc on Hallows’ Eve. Unburdened from all the emotional expectations of its Christmas themed siblings, Hocus Pocus takes over-the-top pomp to new heights and delivers the most entertaining holiday movie Disney has ever made.

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against The Universe (2020)

Director: Bob Bowen
Starring: Vincent Martella, Ashley Tisdale, Dan Povenmire

One of the very best cartoon series to premiere during the late 2000’s, Phineas and Ferb is rightfully beloved, and continues to delight with its second film Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against The Universe. The Disney+ original follows Phineas and Ferb as they journey into space in order to save their sister Candace (Ashley Tisdale) from alien queen Super Super Big Doctor (Ali Wong). The whole cast is here, including, of course, spy rivals Dr. Doofenshmirtz and Perry the Platypus, as well as some fun guest turns from Ali Wong, Thomas Middleditch, and Tiffany Haddish. Like the show itself, the movie is funny for both kids and adults, and is surprisingly heartwarming in ways that feel earned to both longtime and casual fans. The music sequences are fun as well too, being both funny, catchy, and visually appealing. Candace Against The Universe is one of the best animated children’s movies of the year. 

Hamilton (2020)

Director: Thomas Kail
Starring: Lin Manuel-Miranda, Philippa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr. 

The smash hit Broadway musical that has your whole family talking has finally arrived on a streaming service. After skipping a theatrical release due to the ongoing pandemic, a filmed version of the acclaimed Broadway musical is now available for fans to watch as many times as they please. The musical follows the life and political career of its titular figure, Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) as he helps General George Washington during the American Revolution, marries Eliza Schuyler (Philippa Soo), becomes Secretary of the Treasury, and eventually meets his tragic end at the hands of Vice President Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr). As ridiculously hyped as Hamilton is, it lives up to it thanks to the remarkable talent of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who not only has crafted a meticulously researched story but has written catchy songs, intricate raps, and even turns in a moving performance in the lead role. That’s not to say the rest of the cast is immensely talented too, with Philippa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr, Daveed Diggs, and the rest of the talented cast making the musical come to life. A stunning recording of one of the most popular Broadway musicals in recent history, Disney+’s Hamilton captures the magic of watching the musical live and in person. 

Jack (1996)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Staring: Robin Williams, Adam Zolotin, Diane Lane, Fran Drescher

For all the greatness that the ‘90s has to offer when it comes to coming of age films, no story about bridging the precipice from child to adult packs quite the emotional gut punch as Jack. Helmed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring the late great comedic genius Robin Williams, Jack tells the story of a boy who ages four times faster than normal, trapping his ten-year-old self in the body of a forty-year-old man. Desperate to keep their son safe from the cruelty that can be adolescence, Jack’s parents have homeschooled him since birth, but as with any ten-year-old, curiosity and a longing to be normal leads them to enroll him in public school. What unfolds is a tearjerker about childhood, friendship, and struggle that you would need to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with. Those other movies about baseball and dogs and ducks and hockey are good, but if you’re looking for something that will really jog your memory about what it was like to be a kid, look no further.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray

Acclaimed director Wes Anderson’s first animated film, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightful adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic. Like the children’s book it’s based on, Fantastic Mr. Fox follows Mr. Fox (George Clooney), who steals food every night from three mean farmers, as he works to help his animal community overcome the farmers’ revenge. Anderson’s visual sensibility translates perfectly to animation, crafting a whimsical, yet melancholic vision with great moments of humor. Anderson also assembled an incredible cast for an animated film, with Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, and Willem Dafoe joining Clooney in the main cast. The stop motion is nothing short of beautiful, and has aged very well in the decade since the movie’s original release.

John Carter (2012)

Director: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton

The year is 2012 and Disney wants a movie that will rival the size and scale of Fox’s Avatar. They decide to adapt the 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs novel Princess of Mars, which features the character of John Carter, who would later go on to be in several of his novels and other serials, becoming a moderately popular character in pop culture. A century later, John Carter is released: it follows the titular character (Taylor Kitsch) as he’s transported to Mars and fights to save its people. It’s one of the most expensive movies ever made and poor critical and commercial response labels it a flop. Time has been kind to the film however, with critics beginning to re-evaluate the film as a sci-fi action romp that’s actually pretty fun. The CGI holds up pretty well almost a decade later, the worldbuilding is pretty impressive, and the action scenes look great thanks to Andrew Stanton’s direction. It will always be a flop, but John Carter more than deserves your time if you’re in the market for a solid, underrated sci-fi action epic.

Hello, Dolly! (1969)

Director: Gene Kelly
Starring: Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford

It’s a musical with Barbra Streisand, what more could you want? Hello, Dolly! is the film adaptation of the Broadway hit that brought the now classic musical to the masses. The movie follows Dolly Levi (Streisand), a strong-willed matchmaker, as she travels to Yonkers to find a match for miserly millionaire Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau). One of the last movies of the Technicolor era, Hello, Dolly! Is a triumph of set design, music, and choreography, no surprise given that it’s directed by Singing In The Rain star Gene Kelly himself. Barbara Streisand shines in a complicated role, with rapid fire dialogue and zany antics. Hello, Dolly! is a nostalgic delight that shows what Hollywood could achieve during its golden days. 

Onward (2020)

Director: Don Scanlon
Starring: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Newly added to Disney+ after having its theatrical run cut short thanks to the ongoing pandemic, now’s the perfect time to catch up on the latest great film from Pixar, especially since you probably didn’t have the chance to catch it in theaters. Onward is set in a fantastical world that’s had much technological progress similar to ours, with magic long being forgotten in favor of modern day technology. High schooler elf Ian (Tom Holland) finds a spell that allows him to bring his dead father back for one day, but when it goes wrong, he journeys with his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) to spend one last proper day with their father. Onward is a marvel of world-building, creating one of the more detailed and fascinating worlds ever made for a Pixar movie. Like other Pixar movies, Onward is also a tearjerker that more than earns your tears, with its carefully constructed characters and smart story that goes to unexpectedly emotional places. Onward is yet another great film from Pixar that deserves more than its unfortunately short theatrical run.  

The Princess Bride (1987)

: Rob Reiner
Starring: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin

An 80’s comedy classic for a reason, The Princess Bride is endlessly rewatchable. Framed as a fairy tale told by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage), the movie follows Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) and the dashing Westley (Cary Elwes) as they overcome several fantastical obstacles to fall in love. The film is one of the best fantasy movies, with plenty of fun action and unforgettable characters. The cast is top to bottom great, with wrestler Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, and Mandy Patinkin all in memorable and quotable roles. It’s practically a boomer’s job to say “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” or “Inconceivable!” and act shocked when you say you’ve never seen The Princess Bride before. Whether you’re watching it for the first time or the millionth, The Princess Bride is always a charmingly great time. 

Frozen 2 (2019)

Directors: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Starring: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff

Ever heard of a little movie called Frozen? Even if you didn’t know any small children when it was released, the mega Disney blockbuster was inescapable, with hit song “Let It Go”, dominating the airwaves. Now more than five years later, we have Frozen 2, a worthy followup to that previous smash hit. The sequel follows Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) as they journey beyond Arendelle to uncover the mysterious secret behind Elsa’s powers and save the kingdom. Frozen 2 ups the action from the first film, as well as the already impressive animation: the water animation alone in the sequel is breathtaking. The songs are just as good as the original, and surprisingly the movie takes on some heavy topics involving xenophobia and tribalism. A gem that’s enjoyable by both young and old, Frozen 2 is the latest crowd pleasing hit from Disney.

Black Panther (2018)

: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett

The second highest grossing Marvel film of all time (behind Avengers: Endgame), Black Panther was an undeniable phenomenon when it was released in 2018. Though you’ve probably already seen it in theaters, it’s always great for a rewatch. Black Panther follows Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) of fictional African country Wakanda, who must ascend to the throne after the death of his father (who was killed by a rogue brainwashed assassin in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War—it was a whole thing), but finds himself threatened by a mysterious mercenary known as Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). The supporting cast is so stacked you can pick a different actor to focus on with each repeat viewing, from Forest Whitaker to Angela Bassett to rising star Letitia Wright. Black Panther remains one of the very best movies to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Coco (2017) 

Director: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt

It’s an impressive feat with movies such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E under their belt, but Pixar might just have made one of their best movies with 2017’s Coco. It follows young boy Miguel as he is transported to the Land of the Dead during Day of the Dead and must escape with the help of his deceased musician grandfather. The first Pixar movie with an entire Latinx cast, Coco is a beautiful tribute to Mexican culture and is easily one of the most tear jerking Pixar movies ever made (and that’s saying something) thanks to its themes of life, death, and family. If you don’t lose it at the ending, you might be as dead as most of the characters in this movie. Coco is arguably Pixar’s crowning achievement, and one of the best movies Disney has produced over the past decade, animated or live action.

Holes (2003) 

Director: Andrew Davis
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Arquette

One of the more unique and beloved children’s novels of the ‘90s, Holes was later adapted into a movie that’s just as strangely great as the novel. The film follows Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf), a boy wrongfully convicted of stealing sneakers, as he is sent to a detention camp where a cruel warden (Sigourney Weaver) forced him and other boys to dig holes. When an artifact that belonged to infamous outlaw “Kissin’ Kate” Barlow (Patricia Arquette) is found in a hole, exciting the warden, Stanley and the rest of the boys begin to suspect that there’s a bigger reason for the warden's obsession with digging holes. Holes works as well as it does because, like the book, it tells an intelligent and human story that’s still easy for children to follow. While it gets pretty dark, touching on issues of racism and incarceration, the story is light and funny and goes in meaningful directions. It also has a strangely great cast, including Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Arquette, and even Eartha Kitt as the mysterious (and iconic to ‘90s kids) Madame Zeroni. Holes is the rare children’s book adaptation that’s enjoyable to watch as a kid as well as an adult.

Bambi (1942) 

Director: David Hand
Starring: John Sutherland, Sam Edwards, Sterling Holloway

One of Disney’s earliest and most famous animated films, Bambi is now considered one of the best animated films of all time. Based on the 1923 book Bambi, a Life in the Woods, Bambi follows the titular young deer as he grows up in the forest alongside his friends Flower, a skunk, and Thumper, a rabbit. Bambi’s animation is so stunning and evocative that you’d be excused if you thought parts of the film were footage of an actual forest. The story itself is beautifully cyclical, showing the cycle of life and death that echoes throughout the forest in which the characters live. Famously, the death of Bambi’s mother supposedly “traumatized” many young viewers, yet the acknowledgement of both life and death makes the story feel even more elemental and meaningful. Bambi is a remarkable feat of both animation and storytelling.

The Lion King (1994)

Director: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Starring: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons

One of the first movies many ‘90s kids remember watching, The Lion King is arguably the crown jewel of Disney’s ‘90s renaissance. Loosely based on Hamlet, The Lion King centers on Simba (Matthew Broderick) as he journeys to succeed his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones) as “King of the Pride Lands”, despite the sinister machinations of his sinister uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons). The movie boasts some of the best and unique animation they’d ever achieved at the time, with gorgeous landscapes and majestic animals. The soundtrack has also received much critical acclaim, especially because of Elton John’s involvement in writing several of the original songs featured in the movie, including “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?”, which continue to be staples at many Disney karaoke nights. The Lion King remains one of the most stunning animated Disney movies of all time, more than two decades after its release. The less said about the supposedly “live action” remake released earlier this year, the better. 

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White

The first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Beauty and the Beast helped cement Disney as a major power player in the film industry with adults as well as children. Based on the French fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast follows Belle (Paige O’Hara), a woman who finds herself trapped in a castle by Beast (Robby Benson), a prince who’s been transformed into a monster. If Beast falls in love with Belle and his love is reciprocated, the curse will be broken. One of Disney’s darker movies, it also has some of the most beautiful animation in their movies, the highlight being a stunning ballroom dance set to the Academy Award winning title song. Beauty and the Beast remains among Disney’s best and most respected films.

Toy Story (1995)

Director: John Lasseter
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles

Before Pixar became the worldwide animation juggernaut they are today, they had to start somewhere. That start just happens to be with 1995’s Toy Story, which revolutionized the industry. The first entirely computer-animated film, Toy Story follows toys that come to life when their owner isn’t around: Woody (Tom Hanks), a cowboy doll, becomes jealous of the attention that new spaceman figure Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) receives, leading to them both becoming lost and journeying back home to their owner Andy. Toy Story was a smash hit at the box office and established Pixar as major players in the industry. The success of Toy Story famously led to other beloved films released by the studio, including Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, and of course three successful sequels, the most recent of which was released this year. To this day, Toy Story still feels revolutionary and remains one of the best animated films ever made.

Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Director: David Lowery
Starring: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley

1977’s Pete’s Dragon isn’t the most well known Disney film, but has its fans thanks to its buoyant energy and Academy Award-nominated song “Candle on the Water”. The last thing fans expected was a remake in 2016. Even more surprisingly, independent film director David Lowery (A Ghost Story, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) was chosen to helm the remake. The result is a movie that’s decidedly more serious than the original, but manages to be just as charming. The film follows young orphan Pete (Oakes Fegley) as he befriends a dragon in the Pacific Northwest in the early ‘80s, a discovery that brings the attention of park ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), and other townspeople. Like the rest of Lowery’s work, Pete’s Dragon is visually stunning and heartfelt, and is easily one of the best live action remakes Disney has produced in recent years.

Fantasia (1940)

Directors: Samuel Armstrong, James Algar, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen, David H. Hand, Hamilton Luske, Jim Handley, Ford Beebe, T. Hee, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson
Starring: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor

Only the third animated film Disney ever produced, Fantasia is one of their best and most iconic films. Fantasia is an anthology of eight animated segments, all set to famous pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski, one of the leading conductors of the early 20th century. These pieces of music include The Nutcracker Suite, Rite of Spring, and most famously, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Fantasia’s most famous segment depicts Mickey as the titular apprentice as he attempts to get his chores done quicker with magic, only to make them even worse. Another more popular (and more infamous) segment is Night on Bald Mountain, an intense segment that shows a demonic figure named Chernabog letting lose an army of skeletal figures from a mountain as the titular orchestral piece plays. To this day, both the segment and Chernabog are considered amongst the scariest things ever created by Disney. Both exhilarating and educational, Fantasia remains one of the best things Disney’s ever produced.

Ratatouille (2007)

Director: Brad Bird
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Janeane Garofalo

There’s much debate as to which is the best Pixar movie. So many of them are beloved, from Toy Story to Finding Nemo to Wall-E, to pretty much any of the films they’ve ever released that don’t have “Cars” in the title. Their best film may just be Ratatouille. Set in modern day France, Ratatouille follows rat Remy (Patton Oswalt), an aspiring chef, as he works together with hapless garbage worker Linguini (Lou Romano) to become a star chef at one of the best restaurants in Paris. Easily one of the strangest films Pixar has ever produced, Ratatouille is nevertheless surprisingly emotional, especially to anyone who works in the arts. Remy’s need to create experiences and move people with his food resonates with anyone who’s ever has an artistic impulse, and his parents’ disapproval is unfortunately all too real as well. With a ludicrous premise done incredibly well and a story that’s tantalizing not just because of all of the food on display, Ratatouille might just be Pixar’s masterpiece.

Toy Story 4 (2019)


Director: Josh Cooley
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Tony Hale

The last thing anyone wanted was a Toy Story 4. 2010’s Toy Story 3 is widely accepted to be the perfect conclusion to the beloved franchise, with nary a dry eye in theaters, widespread critical acclaim, and even a Best Picture nomination. And yet, Pixar pulled it off: Toy Story 4 is somehow an even better conclusion to the series. The movie follows Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) as they travel with new owner Bonnie on a road trip alongside new toy Forky (Tony Hale), and discover that there may just be a bigger world out there for a toy. The Toy Story series has always been shockingly complex for what’s ostensibly a children’s film series but Toy Story 4 takes it to a new level, directling focusing on ideas of abandonment, purpose, and what we owe each other in society. It’s also a movie about a plastic spork that’s suddenly alive and doesn’t know exactly what that means. Toy Story 4 is a lot of things: an entertaining children’s movie, a complex comedy drama about what it means to discover your value, and a suitable conclusion to one of the very best cinematic quadrilogies of the 2000’s, but overall it’s also one of the best Disney movies to come out of the past couple of years. 

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1998)

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Charles Fleischer, Christopher Lloyd

A stunning mix of live action and animation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is one of the most inventive films Disney has ever released. Based on the (much more adult) novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? depicts a version of Hollywood in 1947 where “toons” and humans live side by side. Private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) helps exonerate toon Roger Rabbit, who’s been accused of murdering a millionaire, discovering an insidious conspiracy along the way. A bizarre mix of both noir and comedy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? manages to be appropriate for both adults and children: children will appreciate the cartoon antics and jokes, adults will appreciate the surprisingly complex noir homage and acting from Bob Hoskins. The effects work in Roger Rabbit is top notch as well, seamlessly blending live action and animation in a way that was unheard of at the time. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is one of Disney’s best and most singular achievements.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Director: Anthony & Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie

Captain America: The First Avenger was an early success for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, effortlessly adapting the iconic character to film with a star-making turn from Chris Evans. A sequel was inevitable, but few guessed it would rank among the best Marvel movies ever made. Captain America: The Winter Soldier adapts one of the most celebrated Captain America comic stories of all time, centering on Cap (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) as they uncover a conspiracy within counter-terrorism agency S.H.I.E.L.D. while evading the mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier. Loosely inspired by old school political thrillers, Winter Soldier matches spy espionage with typical superhero action, making it much more twistier than other Marvel movies. Evans continues to be great, and without giving away too much, the reveal of the Winter Soldier’s identity is great for Cap’s character development. Captain America: The Winter Soldier proved that Marvel wasn’t afraid to experiment with different genres and that they have a great grasp on Captain America as a character.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista

Marvel found themselves taking a huge risk when they decided to adapt the Guardians of the Galaxy comic series: while they’re relatively popular to comic enthusiasts, the general populace had no idea who the Guardians were. Smartly, director James Gunn tied the previously unknown team of superheroes to something general audiences can connect to: classic rock. Earthling Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), kidnapped as a child by aliens, now an intrepid and selfish smuggler, forms an uneasy alliance with a group of aliens on the run after stealing a rare artifact. Quill’s Walkman, filled with music he loved listening to as a child, is a major component of the film, grounding the more bizarre science fiction action in a recognizable pop culture setting. Guardians of the Galaxy rightfully made Chris Pratt a star, with his charming turn as Quill, and the movie was so well received that the Guardians are now a household name and a regular fixture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Guardians of the Galaxy is a unique gamble that is one of the strangest and most fun Marvel films. 

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Director: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow,  Guy Pearce

The first Iron Man film was a huge critical and commercial success that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man 2, while a huge commercial success, was a bit less well-received to say the least. Iron Man 3 brought the series to a respectable close with the distinctive style of writer/director Shane Black. Black, best known for writing the first two Lethal Weapon movies and directing the underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, brings his stylistic tics to the series, including adding elements of buddy cop films and having the film take place during Christmas. Iron Man 3 directly follows the events of The Avengers, as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) comes to terms with his PTSD from the events of that film and deals with a vengeful millionaire from his past (Guy Pearce) and the mysterious terrorist the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Perfectly balancing comedy, drama, and action, Iron Man 3 does great work with its characters, has a surprising amount of laughs, and has great action sequences. It’s one of the most unexpectedly great Marvel movies.

Moana (2016)

Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House

Disney has had a long history of making princess movies, and a great many of them have unfortunately been white. Disney made a big step forward with 2009’s The Princess and The Frog with the company’s first black princess, and then moved into even more diverse territory with 2016’s Moana. The company’s first Pacific Islander princess, Moana centers on the titular strong-willed daughter (Auli’i Cravalho) of a Polynesian village chief, who sets out on a journey to return an ancient relic to the goddess Te Fiti with the help of arrogant demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson). The film is beautifully animated and lovingly evocative of Pacific Islander culture down to the casting of newcomer Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson. Moana notably also does not have a love interest, a rarity for Disney princesses, and instead sets out to help her people and the environment.  The film also boasts some of the best music in recent Disney history thanks to the input of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Moana is a huge step forward both in diversity and storytelling for Disney.

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Starring: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David

One of the most recent Disney films to bring to mind the heights of the Disney Renaissance, The Princess and the Frog is one of the last Disney movies to use traditional hand drawn animation. The Princess and the Frog is a throwback to the princess focused musical films of the 90’s, such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. It centers on hard-working waitress Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), who hopes to own a restaurant of her own, as she journeys to help a frog prince (Bruno Campos) transform back into a human and finds herself turned into a frog as well. The Princess and the Frog is richly animated, with an accurate and loving depiction of New Orleans in the 1920’s. The performances are heartfelt as well, and the jazz and gospel inspired music brings to mind the rich culture of New Orleans. The Princess and the Frog proves that Disney is still more than capable of capturing the magic of some of their best years.


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