From Marvel to Star Wars to The Simpsons, Disney+ has its hands full with mega-successful franchises, which means some really great movies can get lost in the shuffle. Let’s check out these certified gems that you can stream right now.
Return from Witch Mountain (1978)
A sequel to the immensely dark and popular Escape to Witch Mountain, this entry finds our young witches – Tia and Tony – in San Francisco as they evade the evil grasps of two-time Academy Award winner Bette Davis and Hammer Horror legend Christopher Lee. Although less well-received than the original, the baddies in this one alone make up for it. With Bette Davis sporting an evil black beret, what could possibly go wrong?
A hunt for treasure on a lush English estate, need I say more? This star-studded cast features a young Jodie Foster, David Niven, and – in her final film role – Helen Hayes, a.k.a. the First Lady of the American Theater. This adventure film doesn’t get the same attention as Foster’s turn in Freaky Friday, but it’s certainly worth checking out.
Big Business (1988)
Twins mismatched at birth? A modern take on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors? Yes, please. This lighthearted comedy starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin – each playing two roles – tackles the age-old debate of nature vs nurture. While it didn’t receive the same adulation as Midler’s iconic turns in The First Wives Club or Hocus Pocus, Big Business never feels bad about being a feel-good movie, and thirty-four years later, it is more than ready for a musical adaptation, don’t you think?
Never Been Kissed (1999)
What is this movie doing on Disney+? Once you get over the surprise of spotting a rom-com on the popular animated platform, you can dive into this Drew Barrymore classic. Our hapless protagonist Josie Geller goes undercover at a local high school to chronicle the secret lives of the students. Trouble arises when she falls for her handsome English teacher. What will Josie do? With a supporting cast featuring David Arquette and Molly Shannon, this is essential viewing for anyone with a heart.
Phantom of the Megaplex (2000)
Disney Channel Original Movies entered their Golden Age in the late nineties, with such honorable mentions as The Luck of the Irish and Smart House, but it’s Phantom of the Megaplex that combines great storytelling with that highly pleasurable nostalgia kick. With a special appearance by Mickey Rooney, this made-for-TV masterpiece straddles the lines between Gaston Leroux’s legendary novel and the modern life of teens.
Melody Time (1948)
A spiritual sequel to Fantasia and Make Mine Music, Melody Time is an animated musical anthology film meant to foil Fantasia and highlight the more popular music of the era. Starring Roy Rogers, The Andrews Sisters, and Trigger the Horse, this film is a must-see for any aficionado of Disney’s early projects, and with a 75-minute running time, can you really go wrong?
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Does this mean Sandra Bullock is a Disney princess? Before Sandra Bullock was winning Oscars, she was a rom-com legend, and While You Were Sleeping is Bullock at her best. She plays Lucy, a single and lonely token collector for the Chicago L train. After saving a man’s life, he falls into a coma and the family thinks she’s the fiancé… something Lucy does not deny. A comedy of mistakes and misinformation ensues, with Bullock supported by a stacked cast including Glynis Johns, Peter Boyle, Bill Pullman, and Peter Gallagher.
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004)
With all her public scandals, Lindsay Lohan represents the antithesis of the family values Disney would appear to stand for, so it’s an exciting surprise to find one of her unsung classics on the streaming platform. Released just a few months before cultural juggernaut Mean Girls, this musical comedy finds Lohan playing Mary Elizabeth “Lola” Steppe, a young girl with Broadway aspirations. One imagines this film might be more remembered if it didn’t fall in the shadow of Mean Girls, but with a supporting cast featuring Carol Kane and Megan Fox, this teen comedy is definitely worth checking out.
Return to Oz (1985)
Is there a scarier Disney movie? Maybe The Black Cauldron, released the same year, or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (come on, The Child Snatcher still gives you nightmares, right?) In Return to Oz, Fairuza Balk follows in Judy Garland’s glittery red footsteps to play Dorothy, who after her visit to Oz, struggles with mental health issues in a world that isn’t nearly as progressive as we are now. She escapes a future of electroshock therapy, and finds her way back to Oz, but this decrepit and destroyed land of her past is not how she remembers it. She makes some new friends along the way, but in addition to the frights of Wheelies and Mombi, what makes this film scary is the way it treats reality and disillusionment, something most children (or adults) just aren’t ready to face. Eleven years later Fairuza Balk would play a witch in The Craft which makes me wonder if The Craft exists in the same universe as Oz.
Hello Dolly! (1969)
Five years after the Broadway Blockbuster premiered in New York, Gene Kelly directed this musical adaptation starring Barbra Streisand, ultimate grumpy man Walter Matthau, and Michael Crawford (a.k.a. the original Phantom). The film follows professional meddler Dolly Levi, a woman who arranges things, as she stirs the pot of the lives of several people from Yonkers, perhaps finding love for herself in the process. This film production was the most expensive produced by 20th Century Fox, and almost bankrupted the studio, losing their backers an estimated 10 million dollars.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Image Credit: Disney+.
Justin McDevitt is a playwright and essayist from New York City. His latest play HAUNT ME had its first public reading at Theater for the New City in September. He is a contributor for RUE MORGUE where he lends a queer eye to horror cinema in his column STAB ME GENTLY.