Disney+ has arrived in the UK and the timing couldn’t be better. With the coronavirus keeping people indoors, its collection of family-friendly classics, Marvel epics and (of course) Star Wars is just what we need right now. What it lacks in variety, it certainly makes up for in quality and we’ve picked out the best films on Disney+ UK to help get you started.
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The Lion King
Remember the terrifying wildebeest stampede in the 1994 version of The Lion King? That was actually computer animated because drawing them by hand would have taken a long, long time. Special attention was taken to blend it into the cel-shaded backgrounds and this was all before Toy Story came out the following year. Which is all to say that not only is the 90s version a perfect movie that had absolutely zero need for a charm-deficient 2019 remake, it’s also the best Lion King to use CG animation.
10 Things I Hate About You
Heath Ledger singing Can’t Take My Eyes Off You on the bleachers. That’s the iconic scene in this top-calibre high school rom-com. The plot is taken from The Taming of the Shrew, the cast (Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are all adorable and the late 90s nostalgia is potent. Offering some much needed variety from the sci-fi and animation that dominates the Disney+ launch catalogue, 10 Things I Hate About You is as good as comfort food movies get.
Tron & Tron: Legacy
Tron and its modern sequel Tron: Legacy aren’t your typical Disney films. The original sees a programmer, played by Jeff Bridges, become trapped inside a computer system where he meets and befriends programs, including the eponymous hero Tron, who are resisting the power of a growing artificial intelligence, the Master Control Program. It became a sci-fi cult classic, leading to the creation of a modern sequel that continues the story and which features an epic score co-written by Daft Punk. Both are watchable distractions, even if the sequel feels a little thin in places.
Another nostalgia fest, this time for fans of 80s fantasy. Willow is a family-friendly, mythic quest that’s best seen as George Lucas and Ron Howard’s fun, $35 million (£30m) Tolkien fan fiction. The story of a farmer tasked with protecting a magic baby from an evil queen is not exactly the most original story in the world but that hasn’t stopped this from becoming a classic, with Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood and Val Kilmer waving a sword around. Classic Sunday afternoon fare.
This sugary sweet animation tells the story of Ralph, a villain from an 1980s arcade game, who wants to be something more than just the bad guy throwing debris off the top of an 8-bit building. One day, he goes AWOL from his game and ventures into the wider arcade – encountering a mish-mash of video game characters loosely based on your childhood favourites – from Hero’s Duty (a combination of Halo and Call of Duty, so basically Gears of War) to Sugar Rush (a weird mash-up of Mario Kart and Candy Crush), where he strikes up a friendship with a young girl racer.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Winter Soldier is among the best Marvel movies. It makes time for quieter character moments, and the action, while still spectacular, feels a little more grounded and real than the CGI-fuelled shock and awe of the mainline movies. In this outing, Captain America faces off against a rogue element of SHIELD led by Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce.
The first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a female lead, Captain Marvel channels the spirit of the 1990s both in setting and in style, with touches of Top Gun, dollops of Samuel L Jackson, and all the plot and subtlety of a blockbuster action movie. Brie Larson adds a healthy dose of sarcasm to undercut her character’s immense power, and a digitally de-aged Jackson is eerily brilliant. It’s a lot of fun.
The first two Thor films were comfortably among the worst in the overall series – Chris Hemsworth’s Viking god was dour and charmless. Director Taika Waititi injected some much needed colour into proceedings, borrowing heavily from the Planet Hulk storyline from the comics. Thor finds himself stranded on a bizarre planet, ruled over by Jeff Goldblum – pretty much playing himself. There, he crosses paths with Bruce Banner’s Hulk, who has been missing since the events of Civil War. It’s hugely funny, and arguably the best film of the series.
Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
Naturally, Star Wars is one of the big attractions on Disney+. Almost all the films, excluding the The Rise of Skywalker are on there, but needless to say the original trilogy are the ones to seek out. The caveat for pickier fans is these are the versions that have been messed with by George Lucas post-release. Some, such as improved visuals in and around Cloud City, are thoughtful additions, but others are more controversial.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The new Star Wars films attract strong opinions and Rogue One is no different. But, while it has its issues, it fills an important hole in the universe and features some of the best action sequences in the entire saga. Its main black mark is the rather iffy CGI recreation of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, but it’s still a fun romp that lacks the narrative baggage of the new trilogy.
You can’t beat the classics. Robin Williams’ genie steals the show of course, but it’s got awesome animation, classic music numbers and a bewildering array of pop culture references. If you grew up in the 1990s, you’ll know pretty much every word to this off by heart already, but let’s face it – we all have a lot of time to kill right now, so it’s definitely worth a rewatch, if just to get the taste of the awful remake out of your head. The sequel, Return of Jafar, is also pretty good.
Although you wouldn’t know it from our failed attempts to get the ‘Wakanda forever’ salute off the ground as a no-touch handshake alternative, Black Panther had a huge cultural impact. It was refreshingly unusual to see a blockbuster superhero film with such a diverse cast – and the afrofuturist setting was unlike anything we’d seen before. Michael B Jordan steals the show as Killmonger, who returns to his father’s home to claim the throne from T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman).
Released 12 years ago, a time when, for many, the climate crisis felt like a distant, abstract threat, Wall-E is classic Pixar. It’s a love story – sort of – that focuses on two robots. But it’s also a story about survival, believing in yourself and dancing through the vacuum of space propelled by a fire extinguisher. The animation, especially on the desolate, barren Earth, is a sight to behold. The opening scenes of the film are also basically a silent film, with the score and robotic sound effects doing a fantastic job bringing out the emotion and drama of what’s happening.
Don’t cry. But also cry. A lot. Inside Out is the perfect realisation of what every Pixar film strives to achieve. On the surface, it’s a comedic look at human emotion, the complexity of a child growing up and the delicate balance of family life. But by literally getting inside the head of 11-year-old Riley, the film finds a way to bring emotion to life in a way that is at once comedic, profound and, often, ingenious. It is, by some distance, Pixar’s finest piece of work.
Pixar’s Up can claim one of the most moving opening scenes of any movie. Despite being released more than a decade ago (2009), the animation hasn’t aged or lost any of its charm. In a little over 90 minutes, director Pete Docter takes us on the journey of Carl, an old widower who is seeking out Paradise Falls. Carl’s trip, in his flying house, is made in memory of his wife, Ellie, who had always wanted to visit the Falls. The film won two Oscars – Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score – but was also nominated for three more. These included Best Picture, which at the time made it only the second animated film to have got the nomination.
The Jungle Book
Whatever mood you’re in, Disney+ has The Jungle Book to suit it. The streaming service has both the 1967 animated classic, with its catchy soundtrack and moments of humour, plus the live action version released in 2016. The two films couldn’t be more different. If you want to go for full family entertainment, pick the original, but if you’re after something that’s a little darker, the modern remake is where you should head. (Bonus fact: the entire live action film was shot in a warehouse).
Guardians of the Galaxy
Volume one of Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t burst into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) until 2014 – relatively late on in the franchise that started with Iron Man in 2008. However, it’s become a firm fan favourite, providing some of the Universe’s most memorable (and important) characters. Quill, Rocket, Groot, Gamora, and Nebula are all distinctive and in many ways are more likeable than other key MCU characters (we’re looking at you, Banner). However, Guardians is worth returning to if you want to remember a slightly simpler time before Thanos’ snap.