Among the many titles available on Disney+ are a good number of Disney Channel Original Movies – and here are the best. The Mouse House joins the streaming wars with its own platform, which includes many family-friendly movies that came in the Fox package. Naturally, Disney+’s strength is in all the content from Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel Studios.
Like other streaming platforms, Disney+ has both movies and TV series, and one of its biggest surprises is that it also includes a bunch of Disney Channel Original Movies. The network has been producing original TV movies since 1983, initially known as Disney Channel Premiere Films and rebranded Disney Channel Original Movies in 1997. Many of these have been released on home media, but a lot more have never come out in any format, so in a way they only live in the memory of those who got to watch them on TV – but Disney+ has come to the rescue.
Disney+ has many, many movies on its service at launch, and unsurprisingly, a big number of Disney Channel Original Movies are included – 100, to be exact. Because of that, here’s a selection of the best Disney Channel Original Movies that are available at launch on Disney+.
Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)
Directed by Kenneth Johnson, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is based on the book of the same name by Marilyn Sadler and Roger Bollen, and follows 13-year-old Zenon (Kirsten Storms), who lives with her family on an Earth-orbiting space station. After getting into trouble with the station’s commander, Zenon is sent to Earth to live with her aunt. Once on this planet, Zenon discovers a plan to crash the space station through a computer virus, and thus has to find a way to save her people. Of course, all this is set in 2049. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century touches on topics like accepting others as they are and looking past first impressions – and features some truly memorable outfits, hairstyles, and slang.
The Luck of the Irish (2001)
Kyle Johnson (Ryan Merriman) doesn’t know where his family comes from, but he always carries a gold coin that brings him luck. Turns out that his family (from his mother’s side) is Irish – they’re leprechauns, to be exact – and the coin not only brings him luck but also allows all the leprechauns in the family to pass as normal humans, and it has been stolen. Kyle must track the thief down and get the coin back so he can be a normal human again. Underneath all that, The Luck of the Irish aims to teach viewers about cultural diversity and acceptance.
Cadet Kelly (2002)
Cadet Kelly centers around Kelly Collins (Hilary Duff), a free-spirited girl whose mother marries Brigadier General Joe Maxwell (Gary Cole). Maxwell becomes the Commandant of a military school and they all move upstate, and Kelly is forced to enroll at the school as its the only one in the area. Once there, and given that she’s very clumsy and clueless, she comes across with Cadet Captain Jennifer Stone (Christy Carlson Romano), who wants to break Kelly’s spirit at all costs. Cadet Kelly stars two of the biggest Disney Channel stars from the early 2000s (Duff and Romano), and it’s a must-watch.
Get a Clue (2002)
Starring one of the biggest Disney stars ever, Get a Clue follows Lexy Gold (Lindsay Lohan), a high school student in charge of the advice column in the school’s newspaper. When a teacher featured in one of her articles goes missing, Lexy – along with her editor Jack Downey, her best friend Jen (Brenda Song), and schoolmate Gabe (Ali Mukaddam) – sets out to solve the mystery behind the disappearance. Other familiar faces are Amanda Plummer and Charles Shaughnessy – Mr. Sheffield from The Nanny.
Tru Confessions (2002)
Based on the book of the same name by Janet Tashjian, Tru Confessions centers around Tru Walker (Clara Bryant), who enters a filmmaking contest launched by a local TV station. She decides to make a documentary on her family, which to her eyes is full of drama: a father too caught up on work to spend time with his family, a mother who seems as if she isn’t there, and a mentally impaired twin brother, Eddie (Shia LaBeouf). Ultimately, she chooses her brother as the focus of her film. As she works on it, she becomes worried over how others will react to her personal story, especially how cruel people can be towards people with disabilities. It’s one of those Disney Channel Original Movies that went on a more dramatic, realistic route, as it touches on topics like dysfunctional families, people with disabilities and how society treats them, mother-and-daughter dynamics, bullying, and more.
The Cheetah Girls (2003)
Yet another Disney Channel Original Movie based on a book, The Cheetah Girls follows friends Galleria Garibaldi (Raven-Symoné), Chanel Simmons (Adrienne Bailon), Aquanetta Walker (Kiely Williams), and Dorinda Thomas (Sabrina Bryan) who form a music group called The Cheetah Girls. The group was a success off-screen and actually released three studio albums, and the movie was followed by two sequels, the last one without Raven-Symonè.
Go Figure (2005)
In Go Figure, Katelin Kingsford (Jordan Hinson) is a talented figure skater who discovers that famous Russian skating coach, Natasha Goberman (Cristine Rose), is coaching at an expensive boarding school that Katelin’s parents can’t afford. Natasha convinces the girls hockey team coach to give Katelin a hockey scholarship so she can train at the school – but Katelin soon realizes that juggling hockey, skate club, homework, and life is way easier said than done. It’s predictable, yes, but it’s also quite entertaining.
High School Musical (2006) & High School Musical 2 (2007)
Of course, the biggest movies to come from the Disney Channel factory are going to be available at launch on Disney+. High School Musical started it all in 2006 and introduced viewers to Troy Bolton (Zac Efron), Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens), Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale), Ryan Evans (Lucas Grabeel), Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu), and other students from East High School. High School Musical 2 moved the drama and musical numbers from school to a country club, and broke viewership records at the time. Together they not only made possible that the third movie was released in theaters but also served as basis for Disney+’s mockumentary series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
Camp Rock (2008)
High School Musical also made Camp Rock possible. This movie follows Mitchie Torres (Demi Lovato), a young musician who wants to attend a summer music camp named “Camp Rock”. Her mother arranges to cater food for the camp so Mitchie can attend, under the condition that she helps her out in the kitchen. Once there, spoiled and arrogant pop star Shane Gray (Joe Jonas), who is in charge of dance classes at the camp, overhears her singing and falls for her voice – but he has no idea who is singing. Nick and Kevin Jonas also appear in this movie (as Shane Gray’s brothers and bandmates), and the soundtrack has some truly catchy songs.