If you have a family, there’s a very strong chance that you already have a subscription to Disney+. After all, it’s hard to resist a streaming service with nearly every animated movie that Disney and Pixar have ever made, as well as all the Star Wars and Marvel movies. There’s a very strong selection of children’s films to enjoy, but Disney+ also excels in family entertainment. These are the movies that pull off the rare feat of enticing both kids and adults and offering something entertaining to audiences of all ages. The vast majority of Disney’s animated films could easily fill this list. But for now, we’re concentrating on the live-action titles that make up the best family movies on Disney+.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
C.S. Lewis’ beloved Narnia books received a lavish modern remake in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. During World War II, young Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) and her three siblings find an enchanted wardrobe that is actually a portal to a fantasy world under the heel of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). Although the talking creatures of this world fear the Witch, they recognize that the children may herald the return of Aslan (Liam Neeson), the great lion who created Narnia ages ago.
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Stars: William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Liam Neeson
Director: Andrew Adamson
Runtime: 143 minutes
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997)
Have you been waiting for a diverse and modern take on Cinderella? Disney already did it 24 years ago, with Brandy as Cinderella and Whitney Houston as her Fairy Godmother. This TV movie beautifully adapts Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, with additional musical numbers and a more proactive heroine. Cinderella may be smitten with Christopher (Paolo Montalbán), but she’s not the kind of young woman who waits around for her prince to save her.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Genre: Musical, Fantasy
Stars: Whitney Houston, Brandy, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters
Director: Robert Iscove
Runtime: 88 minutes
Into the Woods (2014)
Director Rob Marshall adapted James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway hit Into the Woods as a live-action film. It’s not quite as dark as the original play that inspired it, but it’s still a dazzling musical journey into fantasy, with several familiar faces. The Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) desperately want to have children of their own. But first, they will have to escape the curse of the Witch (Meryl Streep) and procure the items she needs. Along the way, the childless couple encounters Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and even the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp).
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Genre: Musical, Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Stars: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine
Director: Rob Marshall
Runtime: 124 minutes
Home Alone (1990)
Disney’s merger with 21st Century Fox really paid dividends for Disney+. Now, the classic 20th Century Studios films like Home Alone are part of the Disney+ library. And unlike Die Hard, this one is unquestionably a Christmas movie. Macaulay Culkin has a star-making turn as Kevin, a mischievous kid who is accidentally left behind while the rest of his family goes on a vacation. Kevin’s mother, Kate (Catherine O’Hara), desperately tries to reunite with her son. Meanwhile, Kevin faces the Wet Bandits — Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) — as they fruitlessly try to break into his home.
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Stars: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy
Director: Chris Columbus
Runtime: 103 minutes
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Before he abandoned Hollywood for a few decades, Rick Moranis headlined Disney’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise. But the first film is the best one, as Moranis’ Wayne Szalinski struggles to perfect his size-changing ray. Unfortunately for Wayne and his family, the neighbor kids, Ron (Jared Rushton) and Russ Thompson (Thomas Wilson Brown), accidentally get themselves and Wayne’s children — Amy (Amy O’Neill) and Nick Szalinski (Robert Oliveri) — greatly reduced in size. Now, the children have to band together for their own survival as they try to reach their parents and undo the ray’s effects.
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi
Stars: Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer, Marcia Strassman, Kristine Sutherland
Director: Joe Johnston
Runtime: 93 minutes
Mary Poppins (1964)
“As I expected. ‘Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.’” That magical tape measure might as well have been reviewing the movie too. Mary Poppins is a true Disney classic, and Julie Andrews is an absolute treasure in the title role. Within the film, Mary answers the call to become the new nanny of the Banks children, Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber). With the help of her friend, Bert (Dick Van Dyke), Mary takes the children on magical misadventures and helps them reconnect with their emotionally distant parents.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Genre: Musical, Fantasy
Stars: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Hermione Baddeley
Director: Robert Stevenson
Runtime: 139 minutes
The Mighty Ducks (1992)
Disney’s initial Mighty Ducks movie wasn’t a hit with critics, but it was a slap shot for audiences. The Mighty Ducks introduced viewers to Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) a former hockey player turned successful lawyer. After an arrest for driving under the influence, Gordon is assigned to 500 hours of community service as the coach of a youth hockey team. Through the Ducks, Gordon rediscovers his passion for the game and proves that he has a lot to teach the next generation of players. Gordon also bonds with his young players and makes big sacrifices in order to be a better example for the team.
Rotten Tomatoes: 23%
Genre: Comedy, Sports
Stars: Emilio Estevez, Joss Ackland, Lane Smith
Director: Stephen Herek
Runtime: 104 minutes
The Muppets (2011)
Disney hasn’t always known what to do with the Muppets, but Jim Henson’s creations finally got their due in this 2011 revival. Credit co-writer and star Jason Segel for the passion behind this film. Segel plays Gary, the human brother of Walter, a lost Muppet who became the world’s biggest fan of The Muppet Show. With the help of Gary’s girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), Walter and Gary get the gang back together to save the Muppet Theater from Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). This film is terrific, and it has all of the heart that The Muppets have become known for.
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Genre: Comedy, Musical
Stars: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper. Rashida Jones
Director: James Bobin
Runtime: 103 minutes
The Princess Bride (1987)
The Princess Bride is another brilliant pickup from the Disney and Fox merger. This very modern fairy tale is grounded by a Grandfather (Peter Falk), who reads the story to his Grandson (Fred Savage). In the faraway land of Florin, a young farmhand named Westley (Cary Elwes) becomes the Dread Pirate Roberts in order to reunite with his lost love, Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright). To save Buttercup from a loveless marriage to an evil prince, Westley aligns himself with a giant named Fezzik (André the Giant), and the vengeful Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). This is a movie that remains enchanting for moviegoers of all ages.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Adventure
Stars: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant
Director: Rob Reiner
Runtime: 98 minutes
Willow was a rare venture outside the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises for Lucasfilm. It’s an original fantasy film that charges Warwick Davis’ would-be sorcerer, Willow Ufgood, with protecting the infant princess Elora Danan. The evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh), will do anything to eliminate Elora. Fortunately, Willow has Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and Bavmorda’s rebellious daughter, Sorsha (Joanne Whalley), by his side as they join forces to save the girl and the kingdom. There’s a sequel series coming to Disney+ next year, but the original film is still a winner for family audiences.
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Stars: Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley
Director: Ron Howard
Runtime: 126 minutes
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