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Best Disney Plus family movies

(Image credit: Disney)

Now that you have Disney Plus, are you finding it kind of hard to find a movie to watch with folks from a variety of ages? I mean, yes, you're probably gonna rewatch Frozen, at least once, but what about after you thaw out? 

To help you sift through the meh (hi there, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and the Tinkerbell movie trilogy) to find great kid-friendly movies that you, an actual adult, can sit through without passing out due to boredom, we've got your needs in mind. Our crack staff of parents and kidults has compiled the best Disney Plus family movies to sit down and watch on group nights. 

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Moana (2016)

If you have children in your life, you’ve (probably) already seen Moana. That’s OK: Watch it again. It’s a near-perfect movie about the titular Moana, the daughter of a Polynesian village chief who sets sail to save her people from a blight caused by the demigod Maui. Maui is voiced by The Rock. Enough said.

Moana is a wonderful hero for little kids to look up to, especially compared to the helpless princesses of Disney past, so you can feel good about tuning out if you need to. But the incredibly catchy songs, co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, will have you bopping along even if you don’t mean to. Just try to stop yourself from belting out every word of “How Far I’ll Go.”

— Caitlin McGarry

Frozen (2013)

Okay, we put it on the list. See Frozen II if you have to. Move on. Let it go.

— Henry T. Casey

Brave (2012)

(Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

If you or your daughters have curly red locks, Brave’s heroine Merida is an inspiration — and not solely because of her amazing hair. Pixar’s first full-length feature directed by a woman, Brenda Chapman, Brave tells the story of a princess who refuses to be married off to her father’s choice of suitors, none of whom are as talented at archery as she is.

There’s also a demon bear, a bewitched cake and a tapestry loaded with meaning, which means you’ll probably have to do some explaining to your kids. But the story, about a parent and child realizing the importance of compromise, is one that you’ll appreciate, even if it goes right over your kid’s head. (Did I mention the demon bear?)

— Caitlin McGarry

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Parents of younger kids who are obsessed with Fortnite, but don't know about the retro classics, have a lot to learn. Fortunately, Wreck-It Ralph does a little to educate them. Except that this animated movie is less about video games (except that all of these characters live inside arcade machines) and more about self esteem and making friends. 

The titular Ralph (John C. Reilly) has long been the villain to Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), but Ralph's years of condominium-crunching chaos have left him feeling blue, so he decides he wants to be a hero. But since Jack doesn't know how to be "good," he winds up accidentally unleashing a new villainous force and he'll need the help of Vanellope von Schweetz, a juvenile trouble-maker who's been working as a digital race-kart driver, to clean up the arcade. 

— Henry T. Casey

Ratatouille (2007)

Perhaps Pixar's most underrated movie, Ratatouille is surprisingly thoughtful for a movie about a talking rat. In fact, the movie starts with a suicide and ends with a murder attempt — but in spite of all that, it's an uplifting paean to creativity, dreams and the joys of cooking. In the film, Remy (Patton Oswalt) is a Parisian rat who dreams of feasting on fine cuisine rather than garbage. Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano) is a young busboy who dreams of being a great chef. Together, their creative recipes could take the world of fine dining by storm, but only if they can each unravel their own fears and family dramas along the way. There's also Peter O'Toole as the delightfully antagonistic food critic, Anton Ego. 

Marshall Honorof

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The Incredibles (2004)

Arguably the first family of Pixar, the Parrs are a nuclear family with superhuman powers who have been cast aside by society. And, yes, dear ol dad Bob (Craig T. Nelson) misses being Mr. Incredible, getting increasingly bored by suburban life, where his kids Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Spencer Fox) are a ton of trouble. But when Bob goes off the reservation, the work of saving the day falls upon wife and mother Helen — once known as Elastigirl — because moms always save the day. Beautifully drawn, The Incredibles is a masterful addition to the Pixar collection. -- Henry T. Casey

Finding Nemo (2003)

Parents who see their own bad parenting habits in Marlin (Albert Brooks), a clownfish who's also the single father of the titular Nemo, should probably be concerned. But at the end of this epic adventure, after Nemo makes it through to the opera house in Sydney, Australia, parents and kids alike will understand more about each other's points of view. 

— Henry T. Casey

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

(Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

Parents won't have any trouble enjoying Monsters, Inc., which is as relatable (it's basically about working in a crazy office) as its characters are adorably animated. John Goodman and Billy Crystal entertain as Sulley and Mike, whose society runs on screams. That's why this might not be a great movie for younger tots, as one of their meaner colleagues uses a machine called The Scream Extractor that terrorizes tots in a more forceful manner. Slightly older kids, who are ready for a world of monsters and slime and smaller frights? They'll love it.  

— Henry T. Casey

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

Released in the aftermath of the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s and overshadowed by all the stuff Pixar was doing at the time, The Emperor’s New Groove often gets overlooked, and that’s a shame. This is a really engaging buddy picture, starring the vocal talents of David Spade as a snotty emperor and John Goodman as the kind-hearted peasant tasked with undoing a magic spell. Kids and adults will enjoy the verbal interplay between the two stars — at least when Patrick Warburton isn’t stealing the show as a particularly dim-witted henchman. 

— Philip Michaels

The Parent Trap (1998)

(Image credit: Alamy)

Lindsay Lohan’s finest film is a remake of a classic Disney tale about identical twins whose parents separate them when they divorce and never tell them they have a twin. (Yeah, we need to talk about how terrible these parents are.) 

In this version, Lohan plays both twins — one a British snob and the other an American tomboy — who meet at summer camp and discover they’re sisters. The summer camp scenes are classic comedy; both you and your kids will delight in the antics Lohan and friends get up to while the parents are away. (Stealing each other’s clothes and piercing each other’s ears? Classic!)

Adults will appreciate the film’s acting: Dennis Quaid plays the twins’ winery-owning dad and Natasha Richardson their bridal gown designer mom. Then there’s Lohan, who is so charming in this movie that you can forgive her for every wrong turn she’s made in the last 20 years. In the end, you can’t help but root for the twins to reunite their parents, even if you vehemently disagree with all their life choices.

— Caitlin McGarry

A Goofy Movie (1995)

Goofy dog has always been fun to us fans, but being his son is a bit draining on young Max. The kid just can't get away from his responsibilities, and dad, fast enough, and often winds up in trouble while trying to impress Roxanne, one of his fellow high school students. And just when Max's got things just right — he's got a date with Roxanne! — Goofy tells him they're going to Idaho. Along the way, audiences get hyped for fictional pop singer Powerline, who's still selling merch in real stores to this date. A solid story about father and son bonding, A Goofy Movie could help both sides better understand each other during the tumults of adolescence. 

— Henry T. Casey

(Image credit: Disney)

The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King is a classic for good reason. The story of Simba, a young lion cub who thinks he’s responsible for his father’s death, is downright Shakespearean. Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas) exiles himself only to discover that his uncle arranged the murder to take control of the kingdom. The cub returns to his home as an adult (Matthew Broderick) to stage a coup and retake his throne. It’s a lot! 

But The Lion King is filled with lovable characters (Timon and Pumba), fun songs (“Hakuna Matata”) and an Elton John masterpiece (“The Circle of Life”) that will have everyone crying and singing by the movie’s end. If your kid didn’t love the 2019 remake, show them the original. 

Caitlin McGarry

Hocus Pocus (1993)

(Image credit: Alamy)

If you don’t take advantage of Disney Plus to watch Hocus Pocus every day during the month of October, you’re not really living. This iconic Halloween film stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as a trio of witches, the Sanderson sisters, who are accidentally resurrected by a teenage boy in Salem, Massachusetts. (He was trying to impress his crush, which is how all bad things happen.) 

The reborn witches wreak havoc on the town as they try to suck the souls of children to maintain their youthful looks. They also have to get used to modern life as they sniff out kids to kill, which is hilarious, but maybe not appropriate for smaller children.

Midler’s performance as Winifred Sanderson is pure comedy, making Hocus Pocus a must-watch if only for her deranged performance of “I Put A Spell on You.” 

— Caitlin McGarry

Newsies (1992)

The plot of Newsies, a musical about newspaper boys and labor strikes in turn-of-the-century New York City, may go right over your kid’s head. No matter: The songs are so good that everyone will enjoy this movie.

Christian Bale stars as Jack, a street kid who slings newspapers on the streets of Manhattan with his crew of hustling teens. When media mogul Joseph Pultizer (yes, that Pulitzer) raises the price of papers, the newsies go on strike. Mayhem ensues. When you’re not busy explaining to your children what newspapers and child labor laws are, you’ll be singing along to “King of New York” and “The World Will Know,” which are still bangers almost 30 years after Newsies was released.

Caitlin McGarry

Aladdin (1992)

When Aladdin first came out, I badgered my parents into taking me to see it five times in theaters. Nearly three decades later, I'm still not tired of it. Aladdin is a nearly perfect adventure story, bolstered by a strong script, a number of memorable songs and a perfect cast. Street rat Aladdin (Scott Weinger) dreams of the finer things in life, which he could have, if only he could marry the beautiful Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin). With the help of a boisterous, larger-than-life genie (Robin Williams), he may be able to do just that. Standing in the way of their union, however, is the scheming vizier Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) — as well as Aladdin's own refusal to tell the truth about his origins. 

Marshall Honorof

The Little Mermaid (1989)

(Image credit: Disney)

The Little Mermaid is what made most children of the ‘80s fall in love with Disney. This animated movie has everything: a beautiful mermaid (Ariel), a lovable sidekick (Flounder), a handsome prince (Eric), a scary villain (Ursula) and a memorable soundtrack that you and your kids will sing along to no matter how many times you watch it. “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and “Kiss the Girl” are delightful, even today.

The Little Mermaid isn’t exactly inspirational for young girls (Ariel trades her voice for a pair of legs to woo a prince, then gets her voice back when he saves the day), but if you can enjoy the songs and beautiful animation in spite of that, The Little Mermaid is worth revisiting.

— Caitlin McGarry

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

There are plenty of good movies, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a nearly perfect one. This classic Hollywood whodunit winds the clock back to 1947, in an alternate history where humans coexist with cartoons. When a prominent movie producer dies under suspicious circumstances, the hapless Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer) is the prime suspect. But private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) doesn't believe that Roger is the culprit, even though Eddie himself harbors a prejudice against toons due to a personal tragedy in his past. What follows is a buddy-cop comedy that pits Eddie and Roger against the malevolent Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), who has big plans to reshape Los Angeles for the worst. Not only is Who Framed Roger Rabbit hilarious; it's also an incredible blending of live action and animation. 

Marshall Honorof

Star Wars (1977)

I know that everyone gets very defensive about Star Wars, but can we at least admit to ourselves that it's largely — if not primarily — a children's film? It's about an adventurous farmboy who teams up with a space wizard to destroy a destructive space station called the "Death Star." It's not high art — and yet, it kind of is, simply because no other film captures the spirit of pure adventure and fun the way that Star Wars does. While adults can appreciate the themes of mysticism, nonviolence and freedom-versus-fascism, kids will love the weird aliens, scary villains, funny droids and fantastical technology — particularly the retro-futuristic lightsabers. The Empire Strikes back is arguably even better, but the movies go downhill after that. 

Marshall Honorof

Alice In Wonderland (1951) 

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Our natural bias toward things that are new and shiny may have you thinking about watching the live action Alice In Wonderland from 2010 that stars Johnny Depp. Do not do this if you actually love your family. 

Instead, opt for the 1951 Disney animated feature, which has the advantage of being colorful and inventive, a zippy 75 minutes and featuring the hilarious Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter instead of the nightmare-fueling Mr. Depp. The animated Alice is also truer to the Lewis Carroll story (though it also blends elements of Through the Looking-Glass, which is why Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee show up) which may inspire your kids to crack open the book. 

— Philip Michaels

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) 

At some point in the holiday season, someone in your family is likely to want to watch a Christmas movie. This will be a thorny moment in your family’s history since with very few exceptions, Christmas movies are either sappy pablum that adults will find unbearable or cynical comedies that are far too inappropriate for children. The original Miracle on 34th Street strikes just the right balance in this story of a department store Santa Claus who thinks he’s the real thing and the group of people he tries to convince that he’s right. It’s a sweet story, though not overly so, with some genuine laugh-out loud moments. (Gene Lockhart as the put-upon judge who has to rule on the existence of Santa is a particular highlight.) Very few movies still hold up seven decades later, but Miracle on 34th Street pulls that Christmas miracle off. 

Philip Michaels

Three Caballeros (1944)

Who says that World War II era propaganda can’t be entertaining? Disney created both Saludos Amigos (1942) and this follow-up two years later to promote goodwill between the U.S. and Central and South America. All your kids will care about are the various misadventures Donald Duck gets into with his new pals Jose Carioca and Panchito as they roam from Argentina to Mexico and all points in between. Adults, meanwhile, can enjoy the dancing of Aurora Miranda — yes, that’s Carmen’s sister — and the trippy animation that characterizes the Mexico sequence. 

Philip Michaels