It’s really easy to boil down Disney+ into its biggest properties: Marvel, Disney, Star Wars, and Pixar. Maybe you’d throw in National Geographic if you’re the type to enjoy nature or historical documentaries. But outside the big five “hubs” that are given prominence over all else, Disney+ has a plethora of other content in it’s steadily growing library. Despite a recent purge of content after the sudden return of Bob Iger as CEO, there’s still a plethora of classics available to stream at your leisure.
Old musicals, classic stories, and retro throwbacks aplenty are still alive and kicking on Disney+. If you’re looking for classic older movies available on this family-friendly streaming service, you’re in luck. Here are our picks for the best of the best Disney+ has to offer.
The Indiana Jones Saga
With the newest Indiana Jones film, Dial of Destiny, still buzzing about, now is a perfect time to catch up on the continuing adventures of this action hero archaeologist with the classic Indiana Jones saga.
Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade make up an excellent globe spanning trilogy that sees Henry Walton Jones Jr. (Harrison Ford) fight Nazis, unearth ancient artifacts, and crack wise. Each film in the trilogy carries with it a unique location along with paying tribute to the classic adventure serials from the 1930s. A fourth film also exists, but most would rather forget that it does. These films would further the career of Harrison Ford a short time after his popular role in Star Wars, and later cement him as a household name.
Directed by the legendary Gene Kelly (Singin’ in the Rain, On the Town), Hello, Dolly! sees Barbra Streisand play the role of Dolly Levi, a matchmaker in New York who faces her toughest challenge yet in the form of Horace Vandergelder. If you’ve ever seen Pixar’s Wall-E, you may recognize portions of Hello, Dolly! from the title character’s humble little hovel, as well as from a handful of other scenes throughout.
Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, there’s something to be said for the infectious, upbeat optimism found throughout this film and other works by Gene Kelly. Featuring catchy songs and stunning dance performances, Hello, Dolly! is type of film that’s really hard to come by in the modern day. It would win multiple Oscars during its initial theatrical run, but would otherwise fail to make a significant financial return.
The Princess Bride
Believe it or not, there are still a handful of people that haven’t seen The Princess Bride yet. Directed by Rob Reiner (This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me), this film considered by many to be one of the highlights of the 1980s, in addition to being one of Reiner’s best films. In a twist on a standard fairy tale, a pair of lovebirds — specifically, a beautiful princess and a sword-swinging farmhand — find their relationship challenged by all kinds of nastiness.
Cary Elwes and Robin Wright lead this iconic fantasy film, with memorable appearances by Fred Savage, Andre the Giant, Chris Sarandon, and Christopher Guest. The Princess Bride remains beloved by practically everyone whose seen it, and when the prospect of a potential remake came about in late 2019, the negative reception was both immediate and immense.
Return to Oz
Walter Murch’s Return to Oz may not be what you expect from a Wizard of Oz sequel. Taking a distinctly-darker approach to this classic fantasy setting, Dorothy returns to the magical Land of Oz after it has been conquered by the Nome King. Tasked with returning the kingdom to its prosperous roots, she’ll have the help of new friends as Oz turns into something far different from anyone could’ve imagined.
A more faithful adaptation of the early Oz novels by L. Frank Baum, Return to Oz was the subject of mixed reviews and poor box-office returns. However, the film’s inspired visuals and special effects are a sight to behold. While it may be a little too much to handle for younger audiences, the level of creativity on display is absolutely stellar.
Speaking of effects and creativity, enter Tron, directed by Steven Lisberger. When Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) finds himself transported into the world of a mainframe computer, he must complete a variety of dangerous programs in a neon-drenched world to escape. Visually inspired by early video games, Tron‘s most distinctive characteristics are it’s early CGI effects, and it’s utilization of cel animation in creating a distinctly-futuristic setting.
Does Tron‘s effects hold up? Well, no. But from a film-making standpoint, Tron would innovate in the world of special effects in multiple ways. It would also set the stage for a legacy sequel, Tron: Legacy, almost thirty years after its release. Even if it’s not all that convincing, it’s a visually-iconic film that remains the subject of countless homages and references across all forms of media.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
A movie that almost didn’t happen, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of the most interesting films in the entirety of Disney+’s library. Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is a prejudiced private-eye tasked with proving the innocence of Roger Rabbit, an energetic character framed for murder. However, Valiant finds himself in a world of “toons” — living, breathing cartoon characters that exist among humanity — whose reality-defying antics prove to be more dangerous than you could possibly imagine.
A film that masterfully blends live-action film with 2D animation, it’s also one of the few films in existence that sees characters from just about every major studio crossing over in some fashion. Donald Duck and Daffy Duck briefly appear in a comedic piano scene, Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny exchange a quick quip or two, and dozens of other characters making brief appearances are all here and accounted for. Combine that with a genuinely hilarious and engaging murder-mystery, and you have a brilliant film that continues to dazzle to this day.
Fantasia & Fantasia 2000
As easy as it would’ve been to just fill this list with every animated Disney movie before the turn of the millennium, Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 feel appropriate for their stunning qualities. Serving as a collection of shorts in lieu of telling a traditional narrative, the Fantasia films are a showcase of the immense talents working at Disney.
Arguably featuring some of the finest pieces of animation ever put to film, from the terrifying “Night on Bald Mountain” to the beautifully subdued “Rhapsody in Blue,” the Fantasia duology was described by Walt Disney himself as “timeless.” It was originally intended to be a film that would see frequent updates and re-releases with new shorts. While this idea wouldn’t come to fruition, the two films we have in its stead are a cinematic testament to creativity and passion in the world of animation.
If you’ve never seen Old Yeller, chances are you already know how the story goes. Still, this 1957 adaptation of a classic story sees Travis Coates (Tommy Kirk) take care of his family in the absence of his father in the 1860s. But when an iconic yellow dog makes itself a part of his family, a story of love will end in tragedy as Travis is forced to make a harrowing decision.
We all know how Old Yeller ends, but the journey leading there is something appropriately sappy and nostalgic. Directed by Robert Stevenson, who would later direct Mary Poppins, this sad dog story hits the same emotional highs as Where the Red Fern Grows, which deals with similar themes. If you’re the type to quickly get attached to animals, you may want to steer clear of Old Yeller for the near future.
Adventures in Babysitting
A film that was remade in 2016 to the sound of crickets, the original 1987 Adventures in Babysitting film is a notable entry in the filmography of Chris Columbus. Responsible for two Home Alone films, two Harry Potter films, Mrs. Doubtfire, and a few stinkers here and there, Adventures in Babysitting is a surprisingly silly comedy that stars Elisabeth Shue. When a bog-standard babysitting job goes terribly awry, a down-on-her-luck babysitter finds herself on a hilarious manhunt while contending with all sorts of colorful characters.
Is it highbrow comedy? Not necessarily, but with a title like Adventures in Babysitting, you can’t really expect something like that. In its place is an easy-viewing series of mishaps that relies more on fun than anything else, with Shue’s performance keeping things from getting a little too crazy.
Mary Poppins, another film that combines both live-action film and cel animation, is Julie Andrews’ theatrical debut as the titular singing nanny. Shot entirely at Walt Disney Studios, this charming musical film sees Mary Poppins, an inspiring nanny, visiting a family in London suffering from some relationship troubles. Through song and dance, as well as a teaspoon of sugar, Mary Poppins aims to help a pair of children reconnect with their distant father.
The most financially successful film of 1964, along with receiving 13 Oscar nominations, it is considered to be one of the highlights of Walt Disney’s career prior to his death only two years later. It’s arguably “the” live-action musical most associate Disney with, even more-so than Hello, Dolly! Despite some tensions between Disney and the author of Mary Poppins‘ source material, P. L. Travers, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in this colorful adventure.