I was born in 1983. And while I do remember certain parts of the ‘80s, I’m definitely more of a ‘90s child. So that's why 90s movies and TV shows, like Hocus Pocus transport me right back to my childhood. And Disney+ is great for scratching that ‘90s itch since there is a whole section dedicated to that beautiful period of time. That said, while nostalgia is a lovely thing, sometimes, it shouldn’t be tampered with. What do I mean? Well, I went back and watched some of my favorite movies and TV shows from the ‘90s and found myself cringing almost constantly.
But not for all of them. Some of them surprisingly still hold up today, and certain movies and TV shows are as good now as they were back then, and maybe even better. So that’s what this list is all about. Care to step in the time machine with me?
A film about Salem witches being executed doesn’t seem like typical Disney fare, but it definitely was in 1993, and Hocus Pocus became a cult classic in the process. It’s the story of a virgin (!) teenage boy named Max (played by Omri Katz) who accidentally brings the executed witches back to life after lighting a black candle on All Hallows Eve. What ensues is the three witch sisters, led by Bette Midler and backed by Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker, having fun for the remainder of the movie.
Hocus Pocus has pretty much become the Home Alone of Halloween in that you pretty much can’t get through the Halloween season without seeing the movie at least once, just like you can't get through the Christmas season without seeing Home Alone. The three Sanderson sisters are iconic as the wise-cracking witches, and their hammy performances (with Kathy Najimy’s as the middle Sanderson sister being my favorite) just never gets old. You probably already watched it again last Halloween, but if you’re ever itching to get back in the Halloween spirit outside of October, then just watch it again. You’re guaranteed to have a good time.
Stream Hocus Pocus on Disney+. (opens in new tab)
The Straight Story
The Straight Story is the only David Lynch movie you could probably watch with your kids. It’s the true story of a man named Alvin Straight (Get it?), played by the late, great Richard Farnsworth, who drove a John Deere tractor 5 mph from Iowa to Wisconsin to see his brother who recently suffered a stroke. Why didn’t he just take a car, you ask? Well, because his eyes were so bad, he couldn’t get a driver’s license, of course. Why else would he be driving a tractor on the road?
The Straight Story holds up today since the story is timeless. Not much really happens in the movie, but it just makes me happy. Maybe it’s the music, which definitely sets your mind in a place, or maybe it’s Farnsworth's performance, which garnered him an Academy Award nomination for best actor. Whatever it is, The Straight Story may be the best movie on Disney+, regardless of the decade.
Stream The Straight Story on Disney+ (opens in new tab).
Let’s get dangerous with this next entry. Darkwing Duck was a cartoon series that originally ran from 1991-1993 on the Disney Afternoon block. It tells the story of Drake Mallard, a normal duck who has a secret... he’s really the crimefighting hero Darkwing Duck. When he’s not playing the superhero, he’s raising his adopted daughter, Gosalyn. But when he is the superhero, he and his sidekick Launchpad McQuack (from Duck Tales) fight villains like Megavolt, Bushroot, and my personal favorite, Morgana Macawber. There’s a lot of action on the show, and it actually feels like Batman-lite at times.
Darkwing Duck was always a fun show when I was a kid, but I definitely get a lot more of the references and parodies now as an adult. And like I said before, there's a surprising amount of action on the show that is genuinely exciting to watch at times. I unfortunately can’t say the same for Duck Tales from the ‘80s, but I can definitely say that Darkwing Duck still holds up to today.
Stream Darkwing Duck on Disney+ (opens in new tab).
The animated series, Gargoyles, always felt like it was a show that belonged more on Fox with cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men rather than a production from Disney. It was about some ancient stone gargoyles that came to life at night and became the protectors of New York City. They hung out with a cop named Elisa and had a deep lore that went all the way back to Scotland and actually dealt with genocide. Dark stuff!
Gargoyles was a show ahead of its time back in the ‘90s, and it’s probably even more enjoyable watching it as an adult than it was as a kid. The characters—some of which were named after the New York boroughs—have great personalities, and Keith David as the lead gargoyle, Goliath, will always be cool. This is actually one cartoon that I don’t show my three-year-old son. I think it would actually be too intense for him.
Stream Gargoyles on Disney+ (opens in new tab).
A Goofy Movie
A Goofy Movie is probably the realest film you’ll ever watch if you’re an adult raising a child. It’s a story that follows the events of the also-great TV show Goof Troop, in which Goofy tries to better connect with his son, Max, who is now a teenager. Goofy finds that he keeps embarrassing his son because he’s, well, Goofy. He's also a single dad just trying to bond with his son the best he can while going on a fishing trip. And it gets very weird from there.
A Goofy Movie, while a comedy, actually hits hard when you’re an adult. Watching it, you kind of feel bad about the way you might have acted around your parents when you were a teenager, as you can see yourself both in Max, and in his father, Goofy. It’s a surprisingly emotional story, and one that has gotten better with age.
Stream A Goofy Movie on Disney+ (opens in new tab).
Marvel Comics X-Men
Based off of the popular comic books, the animated X-Men series from the ‘90s follows a lot of fan favorites like Gambit, Rogue, and of course, Wolverine. They battle against their arch-nemesis, Magneto, but also against society itself that wants them dead just because they’re different.
The X-Men series is one that always had more of an adult angle to it since it deals with topics like prejudice and bigotry. The animation is super janky these days, but the subject matter and topics still work. Only time will tell when we'll finally get a live-action version of X-Men in the MCU.
Stream X-Men on Disney+ (opens in new tab).
Seize the day and watch Newsies right this instant. Like Hocus Pocus, Newsies didn't do great at the box office, but ultimately became a cult classic. It's the story of news boys being exploited and then going on strike. Robert Duvall plays real-life newspaper publisher, Joseph Pultizer, and Christian Bale plays the main character, Jack “Cowboy” Kelly.
I watched Newsies in school when I was a kid and hated it. I thought it was corny and I just didn’t like musicals back then. But now, I can appreciate the excellent music by Alan Menken, the fantastic choreography, and the history lesson of the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899. And since it’s a period piece, it somehow doesn’t feel dated at all.
Stream Newsies on Disney+ (opens in new tab).
It’s hard to believe just how big Cool Runnings was back when it released in 1993. It’s the somewhat true story of a Jamaican sprinter (played by Leon Robinson) who doesn’t qualify for the Summer Olympics and decides to form a bobsled team for the Winter Olympics. It was one of the last films for John Candy, who also plays a former bobsled champion. It was a fun and funny film back in the '90s with a great soundtrack to boot.
And it’s still fun and funny. It’s probably the only sports movie I can watch again and again, and still feel happy by the end of it.
Stream Cool Runnings on Disney+ (opens in new tab).
Some people will say that Disney ruined Doug when he moved from Nickelodeon to the mouse house, but I still loved the adventures of Doug Funnie, and his secret crush for Patti Mayonnaise. In a lot of ways, Doug was like a more modern, younger take on Archie. There were buddies, bullies, and love interests involved, and it was all in good fun.
And I still like Doug. This might be the only instance on this list where I give the show a pass for nostalgia’s sake, but my daughter really enjoys Doug, too, so it still holds up as a show. At least for kids anyway.
Stream Disney’s Doug on Disney+ (opens in new tab).
The Lion King
Okay, so maybe you watched The Lion King again quite recently to prepare yourself for the live-action remake. Cool. Good on you. But if you didn’t, the story is basically Hamlet in the animal kingdom. A young lion named Simba is the heir to the throne, but his uncle, Scar, is jealous and kills the king. The young lion is exiled, grows up, and then goes back home to take his rightful place on the throne. Classic storytelling for a classic movie.
The Lion King is probably one of the most unique animated films from the studio’s long history, but it all works, even today. The songs are still catchy and powerful, the story is still intense, but enjoyable, and the characters are all memorable. Out of all the Disney animated films from the ‘90s, this is the one that I think will still be as beloved many generations from now as it was back in the '90s.
Stream The Lion King on Disney+ (opens in new tab).
There are a lot of other great ‘90s movies that still hold up today (Pulp Fiction, anyone?), but these are the best on Disney+. What’s your favorite ‘90s movie? Sound off in the comments.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.
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