30 Classic Movies You Didn’t Realise Were On Disney Plus
Since it was launched in November 2019, Disney+ has rapidly become one of the must-have streaming services to rival Netflix and Amazon Prime. As would be anticipated, subscribers to the platform have instant access for pretty much the entire back catalogue of Disney’s movies and TV shows – but this covers a lot more ground than just their animated classics, particularly as today Disney’s assets include Marvel, Lucasfilm and the former 20th Century Fox.
Here are some beloved old favourites which you might not have realised you can see on Disney+.
The brainchild of Star Wars and Indiana Jones creator George Lucas, fantasy adventure Willow didn’t prove anywhere near as big a hit on release in 1988, but it’s still a firm favourite of many. The film casts Warwick Davis in the title role as a young aspiring sorcerer whisked off on an epic adventure alongside Val Kilmer’s dashing but dim-witted swordsman Madmartigan.
Famous for featuring early use of CGI in the form of cinema’s first morphing sequence, Willow may be a thinly veiled homage to The Lord of the Rings, but it’s still enjoyable in its own right. It clearly remains popular, too, as a follow-up TV series will be coming to Disney+ at some point in 2022.
29. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
A film you may not have realised was produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was at the time the studio’s highest-grossing live-action film ever. Rick Moranis stars as a bumbling inventor who accidentally miniaturises his own children as well as the kids from next door, sending the tiny youngsters on a perilous adventure.
Disney Plus also offers the sequels Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. The franchise also has a revival in the works in the form of Shrunk, which will see the now reclusive Moranis make his long-awaited return to acting alongside John Gad as his now-adult son.
28. Three Men and a Baby
The biggest US box office hit of 1987, Three Men and a Baby stars a trio of your mum’s favourite 80s leading men – Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg – as apartment-sharing bachelors who suddenly find themselves looking after a newborn child. A sweet, mostly family-friendly comedy ensues (although you might have forgotten it has a surprisingly dark subplot about drug dealers).
We’re pleased to report that Disney+ also offers the (only slightly inferior) 1990 sequel Three Men and a Little Lady. This is another project with a reboot in the pipeline, as it was announced in January 2021 that Disney are working on new take on the story specifically for the streaming service, with Zac Efron as one of the titular trio.
27. Turner & Hooch
Released at the peak of the buddy cop movie boom in the late 80s, Turner & Hooch casts Tom Hanks as a neat-freak cop whose investigation finds himself partnered with a slobbering Dogue De Bordeaux. Laughs, action and male bonding ensue (and fans still debate whether or not the film is better than the similarly-themed James Belushi movie K-9).
A box office success, Turner & Hooch helped Tom Hanks on his way to becoming the biggest movie star of the 90s. It also inspired Disney+’s twelve-part remake series starring Josh Peck as Turner, although this wound up being cancelled after its first season.
26. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
A groundbreaking movie for special effects, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a huge hit back in 1988. Set in an alternate 1947 in a world where cartoon characters are real, the movie casts Bob Hoskins as a cynical human private investigator caught up in a murder investigation which implicates the energetic ‘Toon’ Roger Rabbit.
Notable for featuring Disney’s iconic characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck alongside the Looney Tunes characters including Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a cartoon lover’s dream come true. It remains perfect family entertainment, although the sinister Judge Doom and the sultry Jessica Rabbit don’t feel quite so PG these days.
As hard as it might be for kids today to conceive of a time when CGI wasn’t everywhere, Tron presented a vision unlike anything we’d even seen back in the early 80s. Jeff Bridges stars as a computer programmer who is mysteriously digitised and sucked into a world he helped create inside a computer.
Though it wasn’t a big hit on release, Tron quickly became a huge cult favourite, and its distinctive visuals proved hugely influential. Its reputation eventually persuaded Disney to greenlight sequel Tron: Legacy in 2010, and there have long been rumours that a third film may still happen.
The 1984 romantic comedy in which Tom Hanks falls in love with Daryl Hannah’s mermaid, Splash was a groundbreaking movie for Disney. It was the first film the studio released under their Touchstone Pictures banner, as with its strong language and racy content it was considered inappropriate for the family-friendly Walt Disney Pictures.
A breakthrough film for Hanks, Hannah and director Ron Howard, Splash also boasts a scene-stealing supporting turn from John Candy. It inspired the subpar TV movie sequel Splash Too, and is also said to have a gender-reversed remake in the works (Channing Tatum and Jillian Bell have been linked to the project).
23. Adventures in Babysitting
Elisabeth Shue takes centre-stage as a high school senior who gets a whole lot more than she bargained for when she agrees to watch a neighbour’s kids one Saturday night. A strange series of events see the teen and her young charges stuck in the mean streets of Chicago, struggling to get home.
A riotous comedy, Adventures in Babysitting is one of those distinctly 80s movies which is aimed at kids, but contains language and situations that wouldn’t be allowed in a kids’ movie today. Disney produced a TV movie remake of Adventures in Babysitting in 2016, and if you’re really interested you can find that on Disney+ as well.
22. Big Business
Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin were two of the most beloved female comedy stars of the 80s, so what could be better than putting them together? How about having both of them twice? That’s what you get when you sit down to watch 1988 comedy Big Business, directed by Jim Abrahams (Airplane!)
Midler and Tomlin each play dual roles, as two sets of identical twins who were accidentally mixed up at birth; and in the tradition of such classic tales as The Prince and the Pauper, one pair of ‘sisters’ grew up poor whilst the other grew up wealthy. Big Business wasn’t a huge hit on release, but it’s great comfort viewing.
21. The Sandlot
The Sandlot is a timeless take on the classic group-of-kids-and-a-dog-genre, following a group of young baseball players over the course of one summer. The gang faces many challenges across the summer, from figuring out how to get the attention of a cute lifeguard to learning how to get better at playing baseball in the dark.
Known in some countries as The Sandlot Kids, this 1993 movie didn’t make that big a splash on release but proved to be an enduring childhood favourite of millions. Two sequels followed, and this is another for which Disney+ also have a reboot TV series in the works.
20. Flight of the Navigator
A family sci-fi adventure favourite, Flight of the Navigator was an independently produced film to which Disney purchased the distribution rights, bringing it to a wide audience. Joey Kramer stars as a small boy who is abducted by aliens and returns home eight years later, still the same age, having unwittingly become the navigator of a faster-than-light spacecraft.
While the film has a fairly intense emotional core, most of us remember it for its endearing puppet creations on board the spaceship, as well as its hi-tech special effects, utilising early CGI. Disney+ have a reboot for this in the works as well, with Bryce Dallas Howard attached as director.
19. The Rocketeer
Now that Disney own Marvel, they have no shortage of comic book adaptations in their library – but did you remember they were also responsible for this early comic book movie? Based on the creation of artist and writer Dave Stevens, The Rocketeer was a heartfelt tribute to the early pulp heroes of the 1930s, with Bill Campbell as a struggling pilot who happens upon an experimental rocket pack.
Although The Rocketeer wasn’t that big a box office hit on release in 1991, its reputation grew on home video, and many fans consider it one of the finest comic book adaptations of the era. A sequel has long been stuck in development hell, but in the meantime Disney have revived the character in a very different form as a CG-animated TV series for younger kids (also available on Disney+).
It’s hard to imagine Disney ever creating a musical that turned out not to be beloved or even liked, but when Newsies was released in 1992, it was pretty much universally disliked. Still, the film gained enough of a cult following that it was eventually developed into a Tony Award-winning musical, which isn’t bad.
A musical based around the New York City Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 might sound dry and boring, but the music is anything but, and you even get to see a delightfully excitable young Christian Bale in action. If the movie isn’t your style, you can also watch a filmed version of the Broadway production on Disney Plus.
17. Return to Oz
1939’s The Wizard of Oz may be a time-honoured all-time classic, but it was not a Disney production. However, the studio were responsible for 1985’s belated sequel, which surprised everyone by being one of the darkest and most disturbing family films ever made. Fairuza Balk stars as Dorothy, who goes back over the rainbow to find the wonderful world of Oz in a frightful state.
Return to Oz had a troubled production and proved a box office bomb, and the experience deterred first-time director Walter Murch from ever calling the shots on another movie. However, it’s another film that became an enduring cult favourite, and it’s one that bolder parents may enjoy putting on to test the mettle of their children.
16. White Fang
First published in 1906, Jack London’s story of a wolfdog in the wild was adapted to the screen a number of times before Disney tackled it in 1991. Ethan Hawke stars as a young prospector during the great Gold Rush who forms a close bond with a canine he encounters on his travels.
A modest hit on release, White Fang wound up spawning a sequel in 1994’s White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf, for which Ethan Hawke did not return. The story has since been revisited in the 2018 computer-animated movie produced by Netflix, which was not so warmly received by critics or audiences.
15. The Three Musketeers
Alexandre Dumas’ classic 1844 adventure novel has been brought to the screen many times in many different forms. Disney + has the 1993 adaptation directed by Stephen Herek, which casts Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and Oliver Platt as the titular trio with Chris O’Donnell as aspiring musketeer D’Artagnan.
The star-studded cast includes Tim Curry as the evil Cardinal Richelieu, and Rebecca De Mornay as the enigmatic Milady de Winter. It’s a fun though unexceptional action adventure, but if it’s not to your liking Disney+ also offers the 2004 direct-to-video animated movie Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, which gives a somewhat different spin on the tale.
The presence of the entire Marvel Studios filmography has always been one of Disney+’s key selling points, but you might not have realised that since Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, they are also now home to the movie that arguably kick-started the modern superhero movie boom: 2000’s X-Men.
With an illustrious cast including Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin and Hugh Jackman’s breakthrough turn as Wolverine, the original X-Men might be a little dated today, but it’s still hugely entertaining. And of course, once you’ve watched it, Disney+ has all the sequels available to watch as well.
This creepy-crawly classic was released in 1990 by Hollywood Pictures, which you might not have known was a Disney company. The House of Mouse isn’t necessarily synonymous with movies that terrify half the audience, but Arachnophobia is 100% pure nightmare fuel for anyone who doesn’t like spiders.
The movie sees a small California town besieged by a deadly new breed of arachnids, originating from the barn of new town doctor Jeff Daniels – who, of course, struggles with a crippling fear of spiders. As unsettling as it might be to arachnophobes, the Steven Spielberg-produced movie also has plenty of humour, thanks in no small part to John Goodman’s turn as an over-zealous exterminator.
12. The Sound of Music
You’d probably expect to find Julie Andrews’ iconic breakthrough performance as Mary Poppins on Disney+, but you might not have realised that they also have her other best-loved film, The Sound of Music. The 1965 classic casts Andrews as Maria, the young nun-in-training sent to be the governess of the von Trapp family in the days leading up to the Second World War.
Still one of the best-loved musicals around to this day, The Sound of Music won big at the Oscars, landing Best Picture and Best Director for Robert Wise. It’s another film that Disney now owns since the purchase of 20th Century Fox, and fits in well with their library of time-honoured family-friendly content.
11. Die Hard
When you think Disney, the first image that comes to mind probably isn’t a barefoot Bruce Willis in a grubby vest struggling against all odds to stop a terrorist takeover of a Los Angeles skyscraper. Nonetheless, action classic Die Hard is indeed available to view on Disney’s streaming service (another result of the 20th Century Fox takeover).
We never seem to get tired of debating whether or not John McTiernan’s 1988 masterpiece is or isn’t a Christmas movie, but either way it’s a rollicking roller-coaster of a movie you can enjoy any time of year. Naturally, Disney+ also plays host to all the Die Hard sequels, which aside from Die Hard 2 are a lot less festive.
10. The Full Monty
Disney? Male strippers? Surely these are two things that could never mix! Nonetheless, beloved British comedy The Full Monty is laid bare for all to see on Disney+, inviting viewers to revisit the oddly heart-warming tale of redundant Sheffield steelworkers who turn to stripping in the hopes of making some money.
The 1997 low-budget production became an unexpected blockbuster, boosting the careers of Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy and Tom Wilkinson, and later inspiring a hugely successful stage musical. We can also look forward to seeing the story continue soon, as Disney+ currently have an eight-part sequel series in the works with all the principal cast returning.
A historical epic that holds a very special place in film history, 1963’s Cleopatra is more famous for its behind-the-scenes drama: its $30 million budget (equivalent to $280 million today) was the biggest in film history at the time, and lead actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton sparked controversy with a highly-publicised affair.
All these years later, Cleopatra stands proud as a bold product of a very different time, when epic really meant epic: at 251 minutes, the running time will likely test the patience of many modern viewers. Still, it’s a great one to fill a rainy Sunday afternoon, and it’s hard not to be captivated by the visual spectacle and the charisma of its central cast.
8. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
One of the most celebrated westerns ever made, this 1969 classic attained legendary status thanks to the teaming of two of the most revered actors of the time, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, as a pair of outlaws on the run from the law, who wind up hiding out in South America – but eventually have to face their fate.
One of the best-loved films in the esteemed filmographies of both Newman and Redford, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid also helped make screenwriter William Goldman a Hollywood legend, and boasts one of the most famous final shots in film history. It’s also renowned for featuring music by songwriter Burt Bacharach, including his Oscar-winning song Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.
7. The French Connection
This 1971 police thriller attained some notoriety at the time for its harsh tone and content. Nonetheless, it proved a massively acclaimed hit, earning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director for William Friedkin and Best Actor for Gene Hackman as ‘Popeye’ Doyle, a ruthless NYPD narcotics cop whose bark is just as bad as his bite.
Along with the same year’s Dirty Harry, The French Connection helped usher in a new era for harder-edged action movies. It remains particularly celebrated for containing one of the most thrilling and well-executed car chases ever put on film. Less-revered sequel French Connection II followed in 1975, and this can also be seen on Disney+.
6. Raising Arizona
Holly Hunter has a familiar voice to Disney fans thanks to her role as Helen Parr/Elastigirl in Pixar’s Incredibles movies. Years earlier, she and fellow future Oscar winner Nicolas Cage teamed up on 1987’s oddball comedy Raising Arizona, in which they portray a hard-up couple who, on proving unable to conceive a child, steal the baby of a rich family.
Raising Arizona was the second film of filmmaking siblings Joel and Ethan Coen, and the first to bring their distinctive comedic sensibilities to the forefront. It’s certainly among the quirkier things you’re likely to find on Disney+, nor is it the only Coens classic on the streaming service: their more grounded gangster movie Miller’s Crossing is also available.
5. Starship Troopers
Everyone knows that Disney+ is home to the treasured and mostly family-friendly Star Wars franchise, but what about the considerably nastier and more excessive sci-fi of Starship Troopers? A production of Disney subsidiary Touchstone Pictures, director Paul Verhoeven’s infamous 1997 space opera sees a bunch of recent high school graduates sign up to fight in an interstellar war.
Adapted from Robert Heinlein’s novel, Starship Troopers divided critics and failed to make a profit on release, but it quickly developed a feverish cult following for its over-the-top violence and slyly satirical humour. It spawned a number of direct-to-video sequels, which haven’t made it to Disney+ just yet (not that this is too great a loss).
4. Pretty Woman
Pretty Woman has often been likened to a Disney princess fairy tale, although Julia Roberts’ Vivian Ward has a line of work you wouldn’t see in one of the studio’s animated classics. Roberts became a superstar off the back of her endearing turn as a hard-up sex worker who gets a taste of the high life when Richard Gere’s businessman hires her for a week.
Although many have questioned the film’s portrayal of sex work, director Garry Marshall’s glossy rom-com struck a chord with audiences on release in 1990, and remains hugely popular. It was a huge hit, earning over $460 million at the box office and landing Roberts a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
3. Romancing the Stone
Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner ascended to major movie star status with this riveting comedy adventure which blends Indiana Jones-style treasure hunting thrills with 80s rom-com motifs. Turner plays a romance novelist who is unwillingly swept up in a perilous quest through the South American jungle, with Douglas’ adventurer as her guide.
The first real blockbuster from director Robert Zemeckis (who went on to make Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit), Romancing the Stone remains hugely entertaining thanks to its blend of sharp wit, breathtaking spectacle and charismatic performances, including a scene-stealing supporting turn from Danny DeVito. Inferior sequel The Jewel of the Nile can also be found on Disney+.
This 1993 western may have been met with a middling reaction on release, but today it’s among the best-loved films of actors Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer and Bill Paxton. Based loosely on real events, Russell and Kilmer play the legendary lawmen Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, who set out to clean up the Old West.
Tombstone famously faced off against another film tackling the same subject matter, Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp. Ultimately neither film proved a big hit at the time, but Tombstone is by far the more popular today. Kilmer would take the title of his memoir I’m Your Huckleberry from his most celebrated line in the movie.
1. Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure
OK, we’ll admit it’s possible we’re stretching the limits of the term ‘classic film’ here. However, in that long wilderness period between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, this 1984 made-for-TV production and its 1985 sequel Ewoks: Battle for Endor was the closest thing we got to a new Star Wars movie.
Admittedly, Caravan of Courage doesn’t hold up anywhere near as well as the other Star Wars movies (and yes, we’re including the prequels in that). However, it still has more than a spark of that distinctive charm that made George Lucas’ space opera such a vital part of the childhoods of millions.