After months of build-up, Disney+ is nearly here. Disney’s streaming platform is landing with hundreds of movies and TV shows available to stream, spanning the many decades of live-action and animated storytelling from the studio. In fact there’s so much available, that it might be a bit confusing to know where to start, so we’ve jumped into the line-up to pick some must-see movies.
After the uncertainty of the 1980s, which saw Disney struggling to find its identity as it tried–and largely failed–to pull in an older audience with darker takes on fantasy movies, the studio found incredible success in the ’90s. While there were some live-action hits, it was Disney’s animated output that defined the studio this decade. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King smashed records and won awards to an amazing degree, and are now considered classics right up there with the very best of the studio. Even the slightly less successful pictures, such as Mulan and Pocahontas, are great movies that hold up superbly 20 years later.
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But there was more than just traditionally animated movies. Stop-motion genius Henry Selick directed two of the decade’s best, including the Tim Burton collaboration The Nightmare Before Christmas, and there were also rom-cons, teen movies, spooky fantasies, and retro superhero adventures. They’re all on Disney+, along with much more from the decade. So to get you started, here are the best ’90s movies to stream right now on Disney+. And once you’ve finished reading, check out GameSpot’s guides to Disney+’s best movies from the 1980s, all the Marvel movies and TV shows, and all the Stars Wars movies and shows to watch on day one.
1. The Rocketeer (1991)
Although it would be another decade before superhero movies truly made their return to the big screen, there were a handful of decent examples along the way. One of the best was The Rocketeer. The movie was based on the ’80s comic books, that were themselves a homage to serialised adventure TV shows on the 1930s, and focused on a stunt pilot who becomes an airborne crime-fighting hero when he discovers a stolen jetpack. It’s a thrilling, funny, and highly entertaining film, with a great bad guy performance from Timothy Dalton and a nice retro adventure feel that director Joe Johnson would return to when he directed Captain America: The First Avenger (which is also available on Disney+) 20 years later.
2. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
If 1989’s The Little Mermaid showed that Disney could still deliver successful, popular animated fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast confirmed that there was still only one game in town when it came to that kind of film. Not only was it a box office, erm, beast, it also gained major awards recognition, becoming the first-ever animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and win the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy. The film itself remains a beautiful and bewitching masterpiece that stands alongside the greatest animated films of the century.
3. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
The Muppet Christmas Carol was the first Muppet movie to be produced after the death of Jim Henson, and it absolutely honored the creator with perhaps the best of the lot. As the title suggests, it’s an adaptation of the classic Dickens story, with Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie and the gang playing all the familiar roles, and Gonzo narrating the story as Dickens himself, with Rizzo at his side. The one human actor is Michael Caine, who plays Scrooge with a wonderfully straight face and later stated that he drew inspiration for his performance on “Wall Street cheats and embezzlers.”
4. Aladdin (1992)
The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast are rightfully considered classics for their stories, animation, and original songs. While Aladdin has all this, it remains a much-loved movie for one main reason: Robin Williams. The late, great comedy icon took on the role of the Genie in this version of the Arabic folktale and turned in a brilliantly funny, semi-improvised performance as the mischievous fast-talking, shape-shifting lamp-dweller. It wasn’t all laughs behind the scenes; Williams had agreed to work for a reduced rate if Disney promised not to use his name or voice in the film’s marketing. When the studio went back on this, WIlliams publicly stated he would never work for it again. Nevertheless, the movie remains a defining performance in his career.
5. Hocus Pocus (1993)
When Hocus Pocus was met by terrible reviews and poor box office in 1993, no one could’ve predicted that 25 years later, it would have become an essential annual part of Halloween viewing. But for many devoted viewers who first saw it as kids in the early ’90s, this dark fantasy comedy is considered a ’90s classic and can now be watched any time of year on Disney+. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy play a trio of witches who are resurrected on Halloween night by a teenage boy and set about causing much magical mayhem. There have been various rumors of a sequel over the years, and last month it was reported that the three stars were interested in returning for a potential follow-up made for Disney+.
6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tim Burton and Henry Selick started work on The Nightmare Before Christmas back in the early ’80s, when the pair were employed as animators at Disney. Burton was fired by the studio in 1984 but returned nearly a decade later to finally produce this stop-motion classic, which Selick directed with the help of more than 120 animators. It’s a movie that works brilliantly as both a Halloween and Christmas movie, and while it’s definitely a bit scary for younger viewers, it’s a perfect mix of the nice and nightmarish, as the spooky residents of Halloweentown kidnap Santa in order to bring some seasonal cheer to their lives. It’s an astonishing technical achievement too, with the dazzlingly orchestrated stop-motion animation giving the movie a unique, timeless quality.
7. The Santa Clause (1994)
Home Improvement made Tim Allen a TV star, and with The Santa Clause he made the jump to the big screen. It’s directed by Allen’s regular collaborator John Pasquin and stars Allen as an ordinary man who has to take over present-delivering duties one Christmas Eve after accidentally causing Santa to fall from his roof. It’s a predictable but funny seasonal fable that was followed by two sequels, both of which you can also find on Disney+.
8. The Lion King (1994)
The Lion King was Disney’s fourth animated smash in a row, giving the studio its greatest run of classics since the 1940s. It was by far the biggest movie of 1994–and 25 years later remains that highest-grossing traditionally animated movie of all time. The story of Simba and his adventures on the plains of Africa was notable for being an original story, rather than an adaptation of a fairy tale, and this blend of epic adventure and powerful family drama–plus the songs of Elton John–struck a chord with audiences worldwide.
9. While You Were Sleeping (1995)
The success of Speed made Sandra Bullock one of Hollywood’s hottest stars, and she followed it the next year with the hit romantic comedy While You Were Sleeping. Like many of the best rom-coms it takes an absolutely ridiculous setup and turns it into something witty and charming. In this case Bullock’s unrequited crush ends up in a coma, and his family becomes convinced that she is his fiancée, even though they haven’t actually met. The movie features winning performances from Bullock and Bill Pullman as the man’s brother, with whom she eventually falls in love.
10. Pocahontas (1995)
It would’ve been impossible for Disney to keep churning out record-breaking animated hits at quite the same rate as it did with the likes of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, and Pocahontas was met with mixed reviews and a lower box office gross than those classics. But it’s still a terrific movie that retells the story of Pocahontas in a way that is both thrilling and thoughtful. The animation is typically spectacular, and while it received some criticism for playing fast-and-loose with historical fact, it has some surprisingly serious things to say about colonisation as well as telling a moving love story.
11. James and the Giant Peach (1996)
Roahl Dahl’s classic book about a boy who goes on an amazing adventure with a group of bugs and insects inside an enormous peach got this great adaptation courtesy of stop-motion master Henry Selick. Unlike The Nightmare Before Christmas, this blends live-action and animation to impressive effect, and thankfully the darker edges of Dahls’ story are kept intact.
12. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Although only a moderate success at the time, this witty high school rom-com helped launch the careers of its three young stars–Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s The Turn of the Screw, and a sharp, funny script and charismatic performances helped it stand above most other teen comedies in the ’90s.
13. Mulan (1998)
After the disappointment of Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules, Disney’s animation studio bounced back with with this epic Chinese saga based on the legend of Hua Mulan, a young girl who disguised herself as a man in order to fight against a Hun invasion in the fourth century. It’s a stunningly animated film, and Mulan is one of the greatest heroines in any Disney movie. It’s got a great voice cast too, with future Agents of SHIELD star Ming-Na Wen as Mulan and Eddie Murphy as Muschu the Chinese Dragon.
Source: Game Spot Mashup