With Disney+ launching on November 12, we’re all going to have our eyeballs full with a slew of sublime House of Mouse content. But after you enjoy all the obvious bells and whistles — like the premiere of The Mandalorian, tons of MCU and Star Wars films, Disney animated hits, and Pixar greats — there’s a diverse and deep back catalog of yesteryear Disney gems to dive into.
We’ve assembled a starter list of movies, both animated and live-action (and sometimes a blend of both) for you to check out as soon as Disney+ goes live. From space adventures to sword and sorcery sagas to holiday happiness, here are 14 films to watch on the new streaming site.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Two shorter films in one, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad gives us both a spooky story based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (with Bing Crosby voicing Ichabod) as well as an adaptation of famed children’s book The Wind in the Willows. This was the last of the studio’s “package films” and the reason why Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride still delights at Disneyland – and why this suitably creepy version of the Headless Horseman makes Halloween-season Disney Parks appearances.
The Black Hole
The first Disney film to ever get a PG rating, 1979’s sci-fi disaster flick The Black Hole stars the late Robert Forster as a starship captain tasked with investigating the appearance of a long-lost interstellar vessel that’s somehow survived a black hole. Utilizing then-new computer-controlled camera technology, The Black Hole is a fun retro space ace filled with mad scientists, robots, and kooky visuals.
Escape to Witch Mountain
There’ve been three notable live-action adaptations of Alexander Key’s classic sci-fi novel — the most recent being in 2009 and starring The Rock — and multiple follow-ups to the original, but nothing quite beats the somewhat dated yet still entertaining antics of the first 1975 film, featuring two kids with psychic powers who don’t know they’re actually amnesiac aliens. It’s a fast-paced junior adventure that’s worth revisiting.
Flight of the Navigator
Featuring pioneering CGI, this charming chapter of family-friendly sci-fi is fondly remembered as an earnest underdog of ‘80s cinema. When a 12-year-old boy, David, vanishes for 8 years and returns home having not aged a day (or remembering a thing) a mystery unravels involving a sentient spaceship (voiced by Paul Reubens) and a distant planet keen on kidnapping other galaxies’ lifeforms for experiments.
Return to Oz
With The Craft’s Fairuza Balk as young Dorothy, Return to Oz, based on L. Frank Baum’s follow-up Oz novels, is a darker and bleaker take on Oz that freakily features an institutionalized Dorothy transporting back to the magical realm to find the Emerald City in ruins thanks to the Nome King. Surreal and somewhat haunting imagery has helped this box office bomb transform into a cult classic.
Starring Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, and Timothy Dalton, and directed by Captain America: The First Avenger‘s Joe Johnston, The Rocketeer is a vastly underrated superhero origin film (based on a comic series, yes) filled with 1930s steampunk-style swashbuckling and Saturday matinée serial sincerity. When a stunt pilot uncovers an experimental flight suit he’s thrust into a mission to thwart a secret Nazi plot to attack America.
Directed by Ron Howard, with a story by George Lucas, the 1988 fantasy film Willow certainly contained echoes of Star Wars (humble farmer dreams of adventure, gets swept up into fight to save the realm, meets cocky soldier, etc) but it failed to match the pop culture connection of Lucas’ classic. Since its initial release, the film’s grown in popularity as many now look back and recognize that it’s actually a pretty good go at the genre.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
It almost goes without saying that The Muppet Christmas Carol is essential repeat viewing every holiday season. There are over a dozen famous adaptations of Charles Dickens’ noble novella, but this is the only one with the power of Jim Henson’s beloved creations in its corner. And with Michael Caine in the Ebenezer Scrooge role and Kermit as Bob Cratchit, how can it be anything other than an endearing, enduring classic?
The Black Cauldron
While The Black Hole may have been Disney’s first PG film, The Black Cauldron was the company’s first animated movie to get that rating. A rich and dark fantasy, The Black Cauldron, which was also Disney’s first animated film to use CGI, is a semi-obscure offering from the ‘80s featuring gorgeously ghoulish visuals. Definitely check out this underrated magical march featuring a pig farmer and his ragtag group of allies battling the evil Horned King.
The Sword in the Stone
Notable as the last Disney animated film to be released before Walt’s passing, The Sword in the Stone — which playfully recounts King Arthur’s funny, formative years — may not be on the shortlist of the company’s classics, but it’s still an effortlessly enjoyable take on Arthurian legend, peppered with memorable musical moments and critical, crisp characters.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
This Mary Poppins-esque escapade (which actually saw its development stalled a bit because of its similarities) stars Angela Landsbury as a reclusive witch in London during World War II who reluctantly takes in three orphans. Bedknobs and Broomsticks — based on a ‘40s children’s book series — won the Oscar for Best Special Visual Effects due it’s blending of live-action and animation.
Notable as the first Disney animated film to get a sequel (long before Wreck-it-Ralph and Frozen) The Rescuers is a spirited adventure, with many hailing it as the best Disney film in over a decade upon its original release in 1977. Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Geraldine Page and more lent their voices to this rollicking romp about a global syndicate of mice dedicated to helping those in need.
The Great Mouse Detective
This caper, about a lovable mouse named Basil who idolizes, and emulates, Sherlock Holmes, whom he lives beneath, is an often-overlooked entry from the Disney vault. With Vincent Price as Basil’s “Moriarty” – Professor Ratigan – The Great Mouse Detective supplies a great villain, a cracking mystery, and heart-tugging heft.
This 1998 Disney Channel original movie struck such a chord with young viewers that it not only warranted multiple sequels, creating a full Halloweentown-verse, but it’s also now become a solid staple of the season, with Disney even playing it on a looped-marathon over on their YouTube page. Debbie Reynolds, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Judith Hoag, and Kimberly J. Brown star in this gently spooky story about a teen girl who discovers her mom and grandma are secretly witches.