30 nostalgic movies on Disney+ to watch from your childhood
Relive your favorite animated movies on Disney+
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No matter our age, a big part of growing up is reflecting on who we were in the past. For some, that may take the form of listening to your favorite songs of years' past, while for others, it may be watching TV shows or films that you loved as a kid. For many of us, those happen to be Disney originals. Its movies are almost synonymous with childhood, introducing us to “whole new worlds” and teaching us to never stop dreaming.
If you’re in the mood for some nostalgia, we've rounded up a series of gems that are available to stream on Disney Plus, to help you relive some of the most classic storylines ever. From Simba to Buzz Lightyear to Nemo, these iconic characters will "be in [our] hearts" forever, as Phil Collins once said. These movies will either bring back memories, show you some things you may not have noticed, or make you feel like it’s your first time watching all over again. From the '50s to today, get ready to laugh and cry to some of the best Disney movies of the past few decades.
From the 1950s
1. Cinderella (1950)
This is one of the most legendary fairytales of all time and a classic Disney staple. After all, Cinderella’s castle is the opening for every Disney movie since 1985. When her evil stepmother and stepsisters don’t allow Cinderella to attend the royal ball, the surprise visit from her Fairy Godmother makes her dream come true. After she captivates Prince Charming, she must make it home by midnight before her spell wears off with hopes that she may see him again. I’m pretty sure we’re all familiar with this storyline, but it's always worth watching again to remind ourselves that happily ever after endings do exist.
2. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
This movie in essence shows us what it’s like to be a child by taking imagination to a whole other level. When Alice falls down a rabbit hole, she ends up in Wonderland, a world full of fantasy and marvelous characters. But will she be able to return home? Considered a timeless classic, the film, and its animation still hold up really well today. Just like many Disney films, it leaves us with a message about growing up and learning to make decisions for ourselves.
3. Peter Pan (1953)
Who didn’t want to be a part of Peter Pan’s crew growing up? Or even Peter Pan himself, because he didn’t grow up? When Wendy and her two brothers are surprised by the visit of Peter Pan in their bedroom, they join him on a magical trip to Never Land. Not everything is fun and games on the island as they end up battling the wicked Captain Hook. Looking back at it, this story definitely takes a deeper meaning as it serves as it reminds us to always have "faith, trust, and pixie dust," a.k.a childhood wonder and imagination.
4. The Lady and the Tramp (1995)
We all know the classic, "class difference" tale of a rich girl falling in love with a poor boy with all odds against them. Well, this 1955 puppy love film walked so the rest of these romance stories could run. When Lady, a sophisticated Cocker Spaniel, crosses paths with Tramp, a stray mutt, the two embark on a lovely adventure despite their differences. This movie also contains one of the most iconic dinner date scenes of all time. Who hasn't re-created that famous spaghetti kiss at least once in their life?
5. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
I’m pretty sure we all learned the power of true love through Sleeping Beauty. Though some of us are still trying to find the love of our lives, this movie set the bar high. When evil fairy Maleficent places a spell on Princess Aurora, only a kiss of a prince can save her. Everything from the storyline, the character development, the songs, and the animation, make it a Disney masterpieces for the ages.
From the 1960s
6. Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Disney shows us the ultimate family adventure in this survival film. After they are shipwrecked on an island, the Robinson family must learn to survive and create a makeshift paradise. All is well in their treehouse home until a group of pirates threatens their island. Based on the novel by the same name, this is a fun and action-packed movie for all ages that teaches us all about family relationships and caring for one another.
7. 101 Dalmatians (1961)
What's black and white and a Disney classic all over? 101 Dalmatians, of course! When a litter of Dalmatian puppies is taken by villanous Cruella De Vil so she can use them for a fur coat, it is up to their parents to rescue them along with all the other stolen puppies. It's a tail-wagging adventure that spurned a live-action remake and even a Cruella De Vil origin story.
8. The Sword in the Stone (1963)
An underrated film but a Disney classic nonetheless, The Sword in the Stone is just one of many King Arthur legends, focusing on the king's childhood. Arthur, an orphan who aspires to become a squire, comes across Merlin, a wizard, who teaches him that he is destined for greatness. Through the support of Merlin and by believing in himself and his abilities, Arthur learns to become one of England’s most beloved kings. The lessons here are great, including, “look before you leap!” and that love is the strongest force on Earth.
9. Mary Poppins (1964)
While it was first released more than forty years ago, Mary Poppins has a timeless nature thanks to the talents of its incredible stars, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. It even inspired a 2018 sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, starring Emily Blunt. The films tells the story of magical nanny Mary Poppins, who brings music, adventure, and joy to two children in order to reconnect them with their parents. It is "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" in every sense of the word, from its songs to the lessons it has for everyone, no matter their age.
10. The Jungle Book (1967)
When thinking of Disney films that teach meaning of friendship, this one certainly nears the top of the list. The relationship between Mowgli, Bagheera, and Baloo rivals Simba, Timone, and Pumba in terms of #squadgoals. When fearsome tiger Shere Kahn kills a family of humans, infant Mowgli is left behind and ends up being raised by wolves. Later, he sets out on a journey to find the nearest man-village. Along the way, he meets delightful characters while facing the dangers of the jungle, and learns "The Bare Necessities."
From the 1970s
11. The Aristocats (1970)
Even if you're not a cat person, there's much to love about the The Aristocats. The feline-centric flick is full of toe-tapping, jazz-centric tunes that even Lizzo approves of. After Duchess and her three kittens have been stranded in the countryside, they meet Thomas O’Malley who helps them return home to claim their inheritance. Think of it as 101 Dalmatians, but with cats.
12. Robin Hood (1973)
If there’s something Disney loves doing, it's retelling the lives of historical figures by adding their own twist. Robin Hood tells the story of the legendary British hero and the journey he and his crew take to outwit Prince John and his excessive taxing. The swashbuckling adventure uses anthropomorphic animals to inhabit the roles of the characters, with Robin Hood as a fox, Little John as a bear, and Friar Tuck, a badger. In fact, it was first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to not have any human characters in over 30 years (since Bambi in 1942).
13. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
Based on A.A. Milne's classic stories, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh introduces the beloved honey-loving teddy bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood as they set out on many adventures, including the first meeting between Tigger and Pooh and Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit's house. Prepare to fall in love all over again with some of the most adorable Disney characters who will remind you of the magic of being a child.
14. The Rescuers (1977)
The Rescuers introduced us to a tiny squad of brave little mice from the Rescue Aid Society, who are on the ultimate mission to save an orphan named Penny from mischievous treasure hunters. Despite the perils along the way to save Penny, the movie explores how one can persevere through hardships and learn some lessons along the way from those you meet. It's full of all the improbable adventures and split-second escapes that are true to form for a Disney classic.
15. The Muppet Movie (1979)
Who doesn’t love the muppets? This movie will bring back some nostalgia and laughs as you watch the OG first movie of the franchise. Just like any young actor or even TikToker today, Kermit the Frog decides to pack his bags and move to Hollywood, where he hopes he will get his big break. During his cross-country trip, he befriends Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, among others. Through enchanting songs and hilarious adventures, the muppets crew must watch out for Doc Hopper, a frog legs merchant who is after Kermit.
From the 1980s
16. The Fox and the Hound (1981)
Get your tissues ready, because this movie will make you think about your friendships, old and new. In this film, a fox named Tod and a hound named Cooper grow up to be best friends. Their relationship is put to the test as Cooper becomes a hunting dog who naturally must prey on foxes. Spoiler alert: The ending is famously bittersweet, and reminds us that sometimes it's impossible to recapture a childhood bond.
17. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
The hysterically entertaining Who Framed Roger Rabbit follows toon-hating detective Eddie Valiant, who has to prove the innocence of cartoon superstar Roger Rabbit when all evidence points to him as being the murderer of Toontown’s owner. The deeper he gets into the investigation, the more scandals that are uncovered as our favorite cartoon characters make several cameos.
18. Oliver and Company (1988)
Based on Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens' timeless story, Oliver and Company follows a feisty orphan kitten Oliver as he explores New York City and befriends a gang of dogs, then ends up being adopted into high society by a young girl, Jenny. When Jenny is kidnapped, it is up to Oliver and his squad to save her. It's a must-watch for its all-star soundtrack alone, featuring the likes of Billy Joel, Huey Lewis, and Bette Midler.
19. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
A classic ’80s kids’ movie, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids reminds us of how things can go awry when parents aren’t home. It tells the story of a scientist father whose wacky invention accidentally shrinks his kids and their friends to the size of insects. As the father tries to find them, the kids must battle with the many dangers of their backyard as they try to make their way home. Seriously, the kids are tossed in a trash bag, almost killed by a lawnmower, and nearly fall off a bee—the perils are endless.
20. The Little Mermaid (1989)
The Little Mermaid is one of the most influential films on this list as it ushered in the "Disney Renaissance," a rebirth for the company into the modern age. It made a huge splash in theaters as viewers venture under the sea with Ariel, a young mermaid, wants to become human after falling for a prince she saw on land. She then makes a deal with the sea witch Ursula to trade her voice for her legs which doesn’t go as expected. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, it's an undeniably powerful story that teaches us just how important your voice can be.
From the 1990s
21. The Beauty and the Beast (1991)
What is there not to love about Beauty and the Beast? After all, it was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The central pairing of Belle and the Beast, two characters you can’t help but really care for, drives the plot, and breaks the stereotypical “love at first sight” notion from past fairytales. It taught us all a fundamental rule that Belle herself would appreciate: don't judge a book by its cover!
22. Aladdin (1992)
Aladdin had all of us wanting a magic lamp, a flying carpet, and a hilarious sidekick like the Genie. When street urchin Aladdin frees a genie from a magic lamp that will grant him wishes, he soon finds that evil Jafar has his own plans for them. This movie is a festival of magic, imagination, and romance. Through excellent visuals and catchy songs, we see the adventures Aladdin goes through to save Princess Jasmine and the rest of the kingdom.
23. The Lion King (1994)
If The Lion King's opening sequence featuring “The Circle of Life” doesn't give you chills, are you really a Disney fan? Based on Shakespeare’s classic play Hamlet, the coming-of-age story follows Simba as he overcomes his fears to face off with his uncle Scar (easily one of Disney's best villains) and fight for the throne that belongs to him. It's an epic tale with heroism and betrayal, told through the lens of the king of the jungle—and did we mention the Elton John soundtrack?
24. Toy Story (1995)
Let’s be honest: We all thought our toys were alive when we weren’t looking after watching Toy Story. This tale of talking toys was not only the first entirely computer-animated feature film, but also the first feature film from Pixar that was released by Disney. It also gave us two of the most beloved Pixar characters of all time: Woody, the “leader of the pack” cowboy, and Buzz Lightyear, the fearless space ranger.
25. Mulan (1998)
Mulan is undoubtedly one of the most unique Disney princesses, as she wasn't motivated by finding her prince charming, but rather, she is trying to find herself, and in the process manages to save her dad, her country, and become a national hero. It is the ultimate girl-power movie and was groundbreaking in all the right ways, especially considering that it was first animated Disney feature to incorporate a non-Western aesthetic.
From the 2000s
26. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Starting off our early aughts list is The Emperor’s New Groove, which might be the most criminally underrated Disney film of all time. The spinach puffs! The wrong lever! Mudka's Meat Hut! There's truly not a dull moment in the film, which we owe to Kuzco, the David Spade–voiced antihero, Yzma, the hilarious villainess, and their sidekicks, Kronk and Pacha.
27. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Monsters, Inc. made us not so scared of the monsters we thought lived under our beds or in the closet. Heart and humor collide when a little girl named Boo sneaks into the monster world, and it's up to Sulley and Mike, the top scarers at Monsters, Inc. to bring her back home without anybody noticing. And if you’re missing all the adventures of Monstropolis, you can always rewatch the movie as you wait for the spin-off, Monsters at Work, set to release next month.
28. Lilo and Stitch (2002)
If there’s one movie that embodies Disney’s core message of how important family is, it's Lilo and Stitch. Through it, we were introduced to Hawaiian culture and learned that "Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” The movie tells the endearing story of a Hawaiian girl who adopts a Stitch, a refugee alien who is passing himself as a dog in the pound. Get ready for some chaos, laughs, and a soundtrack featuring Elvis classics. It is probably one of the few animated Disney films that shows us a nontraditional family and portrays realistic themes that are still prevalent today.
29. Finding Nemo (2003)
Ask any '90s kid for P. Sherman’s address and they'll all know it by heart: “42 Wallaby Way, Sydney." Marlin's journey to find his son Nemo contains so many quotable lines and introduces us to all sorts of unforgettable characters, from Dory, the forgetful fish to Crush, the ultra-tubular sea turtle. While it's a simple story about a lost clown fish finding his way home, Finding Nemo marked our childhoods and taught us to "just keep swimming."
30. The Incredibles (2004)
The Incredibles gifted us with both Samuel L. Jackson's iconic "super-suit" monologue, as well as the character of Edna Mode, and for that, we should all be thankful. While there's plenty of suspenseful superhero scenes and a, dare I say incredible villain origin story, at the end of the day, the dynamics of the Parr family are what drive the film home. Whether they’re battling evil or living their “normal” lives, Bob, Helen, Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack are characters you'll root for each and every time.
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