If you were born in the last five years, you might think Disney means Marvel or Star Wars. You also shouldn’t be reading this list because you are five and probably getting jelly all over your mom’s tablet. Also, go outside! The world is beautiful and yours to explore!
Everyone older than five, stay where you are, because the world is a fire pit and we’re just riding out the ashes. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t have joy! For many of us, Disney has meant optimism, or quality family TV, or a high probability for a fun animal sidekick. All good things. Things we need.
With that in mind, we dug through the massive Disney+ catalog to uncover the best shows and movies from the 1990s that deserve a rewatch, or a first watch for a whole new generation of lucky viewers.
Let’s bring back a little of that pre-2000 innocence with these nostalgic picks that all still hit the right notes.
1. The Mighty Ducks (1992)
It’s 30 years later, but The Mighty Ducks still quacks, people! This classic is a story we’ve seen before (a curmudgeon having his heart slowly melted by a ragtag group of kids) but with a key twist — this one’s in an ice rink! There’s heart and charm to spare in the journey of a last-place youth hockey team led to victory by begrudging coach Emilio Estevez, a deeply baffling court-ordered “punishment” for his drunk-driving arrest. Though the later films lose a little magic with each new installment, D1, the film that started the franchise, remains a winner for all audiences.
2. Aladdin (1992)
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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!
3. Hocus Pocus (1993)
A cursory Google search reveals that a troubling amount of people have asked “Is Hocus Pocus based on a true story?” To set the record straight: this Halloween classic about a trio of over-the-top, scenery-chewing 17th-century witches reincarnated in the 1990s by a virginal high schooler is not a true story. It’s a ridiculous autumnal romp that’s low on scares and big on fun.
As the witches, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are absolute hams who are clearly having the time of their lives, and the movie is funnier for it. Special mentions go to the scene-stealing charm of a young Thora Birch and cinema’s dreamiest puritan, Thackery Binx — the only time you’ll think you might have a crush on a cat.
4. Boy Meets World (1993)
One reason Boy Meets World remains such an enjoyable watch is because of its small and relatable stories. Its strength is in its containment. Cory Matthews, played by Ben Savage, isn’t trying to save the world from destruction; he’s trying to survive middle school — and that’s enough! Alongside his friends Shawn (Rider Strong) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel), and under the tutelage of teacher and neighbor Mr. Feeny (William Daniels), Cory navigates the highs and lows of being a kid, and later an adult, as the show follows him through college. (Quite literally, he is a boy meeting the world.) Originally airing on ABC, Boy Meets World tackles a number of sensitive subjects — bullying, domestic abuse, and racism to name a few — but this truly lovely show never feels like an after-school special.
5. The Sandlot (1993)
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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.
6. A Goofy Movie (1995)
Some families, oversaturated by Disney’s box office domination in the ’90s, skipped a trip to the theaters when A Goofy Movie debuted. These families made a serious mistake. A Goofy Movie is both an exciting cross-country adventure and a thoughtful reverie on how parent-child relationships evolve over time. That’s right! Goofy is a dad now, and like many parents, he’s struggling to adjust to his son Max’s (Disney Animation-veteran Jason Marsden) newfound teenage independence and rebelliousness. Filled with shockingly catchy songs from Max’s favorite pop star Powerline (a Michael Jackson-like character vocalized by Tevin Campbell), A Goofy Movie is a relatable and lively story that’s earned deserved cult-status among millennials and beyond.
7. Doug (1996)
Following the life of 11-year-old Doug Funnie (voice acting legend Billy West) after he moves to a new town, Doug is a beloved cartoon for a reason. It’s goofy but grounded, with accessible story lines and lovable characters. While Doug’s adventures range from the simple (helping his neighbor) to fantastic (investigating a town monster myth), he’s usually also trying to impress his friend and crush, Patty Mayonnaise — a voice most will recognize as Yoga Jones (Constance Shulman) from Orange is the New Black. Loaded with silly, fantastical interludes featuring Doug’s alter-ego Quail Man or his Snoopy-like dog Porkchop, Doug absolutely stands the test of time. Perhaps that’s because it’s been in the hands of both of the animation behemoths of the 1990s: Doug premiered on Nickelodeon, but was acquired by Disney in its fifth season.
8. Smart Guy (1997)
Boasting three seasons on The WB (remember The WB?), Smart Guy follows the life and escapades of 10 year-old child genius T.J. Henderson (Tahj Mowry) as he attends high school with his older, non-genius siblings. T.J. is the smartest and smallest student in school, and high school is hard enough without the added embarrassment of not having hit your growth spurt yet! Smart Guy is a charming family sitcom, tackling everyday struggles like sibling rivalry as well as more nuanced conversations like the loss of the children’s mother. Viewer warning: Every time you hear the show’s theme song, it will absolutely be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. And that’s not a bad thing!
9. Recess (1997)
While you were getting a splinter from the mulch under the swings, the middle school kids of Recess were concocting elaborate plans to infiltrate the teacher’s lounge and holding full-scale wars with the neighboring yard of kindergartners. This animated series is incredibly clever, depicting the school playground as a microcosm of human society complete with its own social hierarchy, territories, and functioning system of law. While in class, the kids suffer under the authoritarian rule of the teachers, but during recess, they are self-governing: They are free.
In an overt nod to this theme, the show’s opening music and credits sequence are direct homages to the WWII classic The Great Escape, with the kids literally tunneling out of class and onto the schoolyard. Originally premiering on ABC’s “One Saturday Morning” block, Recess is both a satire and a refreshing take on childhood, with voice talents like Pamela Adlon bringing emotional resonance to an already engaging show.
10. Hercules (1997)
Who puts the “glad” in “gladiator”? Hercules! The movie’s soundtrack alone is enough to earn Hercules a spot on this list — it’s an exhilarating combination of gospel, classic musical theater, doo-wop, and power ballads from Disney legend Alan Menken. Beyond the toe-tapping tunes, the movie centers on the life of Greek and Roman demi-god Hercules (in Greek, he’s Heracles) trying to earn his place on Mount Olympus with the other gods. The voice cast here is in rare form, with James Woods, Tate Donavan, Susan Egan, Hal Holbrook, Paul Schaffer, and Charlton Heston all lending their talents to this energetic and uplifting Disney flick. Come for the origin story of a legendary hero, stay for Danny DeVito as a half-goat, half-man coaching Hercules in a training sequence that rivals Rocky’s.
11. Brink! (1998)
On the Disney Channel in the ’90s, one name was synonymous with “absolute hunk,” and that name was Erik von Detten. This lanky kid with a California vibe and a middle-part bowl cut absolutely cornered the market on cool-guy-casting for the latter half of the decade, with no outing more archetypal than this made-for-TV sports flick about, uh, extreme rollerblading.
Detten plays Brink, the leader of an inline skating crew that often clashes with a group of sponsored skaters, Team X-Bladz. Their conflict is a difference of philosophy: Brink and the Soul-Skaters skate for the joy of it, not the seemingly vast amounts of money to be made in aggressive inline skating. But when Brink learns of his father’s financial troubles, his hard line on sponsored skating begins to soften. This movie boasts some seriously exciting rollerblading sequences alongside a heartening story about family and principle.
12. The Parent Trap (1998)
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Did you know The Parent Trap is a Nancy Meyers movie? One more reason to love the film that launched Lindsay Lohan’s career and sent a generation of kids into a feverish obsession with overly intricate handshakes. The Parent Trap, a remake of the 1961 classic, tells the story of two girls who meet at summer camp and realize they were twins separated at birth by their now-divorced parents. Nothing left to do in this situation but switch places and try to get Mom and Dad back together, right?
Lindsay Lohan is precocious and adorable, doing double-duty as both of the twins with the help of (now-commonplace) movie magic. She fits right in alongside the veteran cast, which includes a glowing Natasha Richardson, Dennis Quaid at his dreamiest, and iconic ’90s villain Elaine Hendrix absolutely stealing the screen. The Parent Trap is as charming now as it was 20 years ago, though hopefully fewer children of divorce will be using it as a blueprint to lock their parents in a room together while giggling mischievously just outside the door. It’s just a movie, kids.
13. So Weird (1999)
Disney said goodbye to the ’90s by experimenting outside of its ooey, gooey comfort zone with this slightly dark, slightly scary Disney Channel show best described as “X-Files, but for kids!” With a level of fright on par with Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?, So Weird follows teenager Fiona Phillips (Cara DeLizia) as she contends with a new monster/paranormal event of the week at each stop on her rock star mother’s music tour. With the added cred of actual ’70s music legend Mackenzie Phillips, the engaging series through line of Fiona searching for clues about her deceased father, and the presence of certified ’90s hottie Erik von Detten (!!!), So Weird is a fun, eerie adventure that exists in a category of its own in Disney’s catalog.
14. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)
The year is 2049, and Zenon (Kirsten Storms) is a mischievous teenager living on a space station where everyone dresses in bright spandex. After her latest prank goes too far, Zenon is grounded, literally, and sent to her aunt’s house on Earth. She soon uncovers a plot to destroy the space station, and with the help of a few new friends, must find a way back into space to save everyone she loves (including her BFF, played by Raven-Symoné).
The quintessential DCOM (that’s Disney Channel Original Movie for the uninitiated), Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is fluffy, but it’s the best kind of earnest, entertaining fluff, boosted by a delightfully kooky vision of a future only 20 years away from the present. Cetus-Lupeedus!
This content was originally published here.