Disney Plus needs R-rated content to take on Netflix — here's why

Disney Plus app on a television
(Image credit: Disney Plus)

Over the weekend, Disney Plus appeared to confirm via a YouTube video that 2001’s Kiss of the Dragon would be joining its content library later this month. 

The film itself is hardly worth getting excited about — by all accounts it's a bland action movie with patchy writing — but its addition would have been a landmark moment for the streaming service. That's because Kiss of the Dragon was primed to be the first R-rated movie added to Disney Plus.  

Unfortunately, Disney has since reached out to Tom’s Guide to clarify that Kiss of the Dragon is only coming to Disney Plus in Canada. This is far from noteworthy, as Canadian subscribers already enjoy R-rated movies including the likes of Deadpool and The King’s Man via Disney Plus. For subscribers in the Great White North, Kiss of the Dragon is a minor addition and will likely be ignored by most. 

In the U.S., however, Disney has been careful to ensure its streaming service maintains a (mostly) squeaky clean family-friendly image, with only the TV-MA rated Netflix Marvel shows breaking the mold. But if Disney Plus wants to emerge from the streaming wars victorious over its big red rival then eventually it’s going to need to offer R-rated content to all subscribers globally. 

 Disney Plus needs mature content to fight Netflix

We currently rank Disney Plus as one of the best streaming services available, and with good reason. However, that recommendation has always come with the caveat that the service is very much designed for families and Marvel/Star Wars fans. If you don’t fall into those categories, Disney Plus is unlikely to appeal, as it's sorely lacking when it comes to content variety. 

Don’t just take my word for it, look at Disney Plus’ sad Valentine’s Day 2020 collection, which proves it has basically nothing to offer for adult viewers. In the U.S. at least, Disney Plus has a narrow focus which could put a ceiling on its long-term growth. The streamer may eventually struggle to attract new subscribers as well as retain existing ones.

Conversely, when you sign up for Netflix you get access to content across basically all categories. Alongside a decent assortment of animated kids shows and family-friendly features, you have a vast amount of content that is definitely not for younger viewers. Disney Plus just doesn’t offer the same variety, which is why I’ve argued before that it’s a great supplemental streaming service but that it fails to make a case to be your one and only. 

Disney Plus did add the Defenders Saga last month, which is the name given to the collection of Marvel shows including Daredevil and Jessica Jones that debuted on Netflix between 2015 and 2019. These shows are all rated TV-MA and I optimistically hoped this would be just the start of Disney Plus adding a wave of content designed for older viewers. But it appears, at least for now, these shows will remain an exception, rather than a sign of things to come. 

I doubt many Disney Plus subscribers will be particularly disappointed to learn that Kiss of the Dragon isn’t coming to the service after all. As noted, it is a film that received a lukewarm reception back in 2001 and which hasn’t exactly enjoyed a critical re-evaluation over the last two decades. Its absence won't be keenly felt by many. 

However, Kiss of the Dragon would have been a valuable addition because of what it represented. It would signal that Disney was looking to broaden the scope of its streaming service (in the U.S. at least) and for that reason the news that it won’t be coming to Disney Plus is hugely disappointing. 

Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.