Nowadays, Disney is home to both Marvel and Star Wars — but it will forever and always be synonymous with kids entertainment. We grew up on Disney. Our parents grew up on Disney. Our grandkids will grow up on Disney. We’re Disney people, baby — and we’re proud of it!
But which Disney movies are the same amount of fun for children and parents alike? That’s what we set out to determine. In no particular order, here are our favorite Disney movies that feature big spectacle for the kiddos and sly double-entendre jokes for adults that will keep everyone entertained on family movie night.
1. Night at the Museum
When Larry Daley applies for a job as a night security guard at the Museum of Natural History in NYC, he thinks it’s going to be an easy gig. But when all the exhibits, from the dinosaurs to the tiny diorama figurines, come to life after the sun goes down, he realizes he’s got a bigger responsibility than expected.
Ben Stiller is doing great work here as an average schmuck who needs to turn his life around. Robin Williams is, as always, a scene stealer as a Teddy Roosevelt statue. Night at the Museum, directed by Shawn Levy (who went on to produce Stranger Things), is a wild, rambunctious adventure comedy that doesn’t really have much by way of a deeper meaning — but honestly, it doesn’t need it. This is entertainment for entertainment’s sake!
How to Watch: Night at the Museum is streaming on Disney+.
2. Turning Red
One of Pixar’s latest movies, Turning Red is also one of its best. Like so many Pixar classics, it perfectly explores the big feelings that come with growing up — only this time, there’s a red panda-shaped twist.
Meilin Lee may seem like your average 13-year-old girl, but she’s got a secret: When her emotions grow too strong, she turns into a giant, fluffy, adorable red panda. As Mei balances gaining her mother’s approval and obsessing over boy band 4*Town with her friends, it gets harder to keep the panda under control. Written by Domee Shi and Julia Cho, directed by Shi herself, and produced by Lindsey Collins, Turning Red is a thoughtful and groundbreaking take on puberty that is relatable, hilarious, and sob-worthy all at once. Plus, it’s got some killer boy band tunes: Good luck getting “Nobody Like U” out of your head. — Belen Edwards, Entertainment Reporter *
How to Watch: Turning Red is streaming on Disney+.
Based on the Newbery Award–winning kids book by Louis Sachar, Holes is a captivating comedy-drama that never feels too dark. Shia LaBeouf (before he grew up to be an all-around bad man) found one of his best roles with Stanley Yelnats, a young teen sent to a juvenile detention facility in the desert for a theft he didn’t commit. A decades-old family curse is to blame. There, he and his fellow teenage inmates are forced to dig holes, all day, without knowing what they’re looking for, under the watchful gaze of the warden (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant (a delightfully sinister Jon Voigt). Stanley tries to keep his head down, but the Yelnats curse has other plans for him. Holes is a funny, imaginative adventure that will genuinely surprise you the whole way through.
How to Watch: Holes is streaming on Disney+.
Though Moana loves her life on the island of Motunui, she yearns to know what’s across the ocean — which is an inconvenient curiosity to have when exploring open waters is forbidden and you’re the chief’s daughter. She tries to dedicate herself to preparing to be chief, but when a mysterious illness starts affecting the plants and animals of her island, Moana breaks the rules, hops on a boat, and sets off on an adventure to find the goddess Te Fiti and save her people.
Moana is an absolute triumph. It’s fun, witty, and imaginative. The songs are catchy, and the cast (especially Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the egotistical demi-god Maui) is top notch. More than that, however, is the message this movie sends. Moana was one of the first female-led animated Disney films to steer completely clear of romance. No handsome princes here! This Disney heroine, inspired by Polynesian myths, has bigger fish to fry.
How to Watch: Moana is streaming on Disney+.
5. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
No, not the animated Cinderella, the unforgettable 1997 live-action Cinderella starring Brandy and the one-and-only Whitney Houston! This was the television event of the ‘90s, people, and it’s no surprise why. Houston absolutely dazzles as the fairy godmother, making “Impossible” a musical theater classic in record time. There is plenty here to delight young viewers — saturated colors, silly characters, catchy songs, and a storybook romance — but for the parents the joy comes in watching showbiz royalty having the time of their lives. Alongside Brandy and Whitney Houston are Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, Victor Garber, and Bernadette Mother-Effing Peters, all visibly having a ball shooting this good-hearted musical. It’s an easy delight for the whole fam.
How to Watch: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is streaming on Disney+.
6. The Princess Bride
Credit: 20th Century Fox / Kobal / Shutterstock
Few fantasy comedies can hold a candle to The Princess Bride. Buttercup (Robin Wright) and Wesley (Carey Elwes) are in love — but when he goes off to earn money so they can wed, he is killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Despondent, Buttercup reluctantly agrees to marry the odious Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon), until the Dread Pirate Roberts returns to the kingdom with an eye to disrupting the royal wedding.
Directed by Rob Reiner and written by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men — talk about range!!!), this adventure comedy has swashbuckling sword fights, swoon-worthy romance, dastardly villains, and if all that wasn’t enough, it’s easily one of the funniest films made in the 20th century. Part of that achievement comes from the strength of the supporting cast: Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, Fred Savage, Peter Falk, Billy Crystal, and Carol Kane, to name a few.
How to Watch: The Princess Bride is streaming on Disney+.
7. The Sandlot
Credit: 20th Century Fox / Kobal / Shutterstock
For those looking for escape into a warm and cozy slice of Americana, look no further than The Sandlot. This nostalgic sports comedy tells the coming-of-age story of a misfit group of boys who play baseball together in a 1960s Los Angeles suburb. When the narrator, “Smalls,” accidentally loses his father’s prized Babe Ruth–signed baseball over a fence, the boys must do whatever it takes to retrieve it. But behind that fence lives their greatest fear: a massive bull mastiff they’ve nicknamed “The Beast.” With a tone akin to Stand By Me but with a little more levity and a lot of heart, The Sandlot is a surprisingly affecting film that always hits a home run. *
How to Watch: The Sandlot is streaming on Disney+.
You’ve been singing “A Whole New World” in the shower since before you could say “magic carpet.” So, you already know that Aladdin, a swoon-worthy scamp in a shirtless vest, finds the Genie of the Lamp (Robin Williams’ greatest role?) and pretends to be a prince to impress the queen of the crop top, Princess Jasmine. When evil vizier Jafar and his wise-cracking parrot (the role Gilbert Gottfried was born to play) enter the mix, things only get more complicated for our favorite street rat.
Aladdin lifts its story from a well-known Middle Eastern folktale and is bolstered by a catchy Alan Menken score and the infectious joy of the vocal cast. It’s also worth noting that for many in the ’90s, the independent and adventurous Jasmine was a breath of fresh air in a long line of lovesick Disney princesses. Seriously — her best friend is a tiger! *
How to Watch: Aladdin is streaming on Disney+.
9. The Emperor’s New Groove
The Emperor’s New Groove has the self-centered Incan emperor Kuzco (David Spade) attempting to become human again with the help of village leader Pacha (John Goodman) after he’s turned into a llama by his evil ex-advisor Yzma. And, yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.
Disney’s memorable 2000s buddy comedy is a laugh-every-line sort of movie. It’s fast-paced, snappy, and clever in a way few other animations are. Bonus: Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and her sidekick Kronk (Patrick Warburton) will forever be one of the best villainous duos out there. — Brooke Bajgrowicz, Entertainment Fellow *
How to Watch: The Emperor’s New Groove is streaming on Disney+.
Credit: Disney / Pixar / Moviestore / Shutterstock
Inspired by the Mexican Día de los Muertos holiday, Coco follows a young boy who has trouble following his family’s strict rules. On the Dia de Los Muertos, when the community gathers to honor their lost loved ones, Coco sneaks into a mausoleum and is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead. He’ll have to connect with his ancestors and uncover his family’s secret history to find his way back into the Land of the Living — before he’s trapped forever.
The stunning animation is an extravagant homage to Mexican artistry; the macabre jokes will keep the whole family laughing; and the touching story will hit you straight in the heart. Coco is Disney/Pixar at its finest. It’s not a question of IF Coco will make you cry, but WHEN.
How to Watch: Coco is streaming on Disney+.
(*) indicates a blurb that appeared in a previous Mashable article.
UPDATE: Nov. 12, 2022, 5:00 a.m. EDT This article has been updated to reflect current streaming options.