Ranking the best Disney+ movies for adults (January 2020)
Once Disney acquired 21st Century Fox and cut a deal with Comcast, it also assumed full control of Hulu. That’s where much of the more mature under Disney’s umbrella will go.
Having said that, there are still some suitable films that’ll be on Disney+ upon launch aiming for a slightly older target audience. Check out this fun list of eight below.
1. Miracle on 34th Street
At the Academy Awards, Miracle on 34th Street took home three golden statues. Edmund Gwenn won Best Supporting Actor, and he’s the man who plays Kris Kringle.
The film won awards, too, for Best Original Story and Screenplay respectively. Those were separate categories back then.
Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of substance and heart to this yarn. It’s getting closer to those holiday seasons as it is. Why not queue up Miracle on 34th Street and be moved alongside all your relatives at potentially tense family gatherings?
2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The sheer cinematic achievement of integrating live-action with animation was stunning in and of itself. Roger Rabbit’s comedic high jinks is kid-friendly enough, but there’s far more going for this film than that.
When you have a subplot based on Chinatown — IMHO, the best screenplay ever executed to film — you’re doing something right.
Legendary Doc Brown of Back to the Future fame, Christopher Lloyd, actually plays the villain here. And he’s terrifying! Legitimately menacing.
Don’t miss Who Framed Roger Rabbit? on Disney+ — especially if you’re seeking something more adult-oriented. It won three Oscars!
3. Free Solo
Let’s go with a wild card. This won Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars earlier this year, and it’s definitely deserved.
Be warned: Free Solo is not for the faint of heart. Among Disney+ movies, this may even scare the adults. It follows the meticulous preparations of prolific rock climber Alex Honnold. He spends multiple years charting out every single move of his ascent up El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park.
Honnold’s psychology is unique to say the least. That’s explored in the film — not to spoil too much. He also has his first serious girlfriend during this time, and that relationship is put to the test as Honnold faces, well, imminent death if he fails.
Documentaries often capture real-life drama in profound ways. Hard to imagine anything else in athletics quite this tension-filled and adrenaline-packed yet strangely serene.
4. Toy Story 3
All Pixar movies are headed to Disney+ ultimately, and at least upon launch that will include the first three movies in the Toy Story franchise. While the first two are undeniable classics of the genre, there’s something about the trilogy capper that transcends its predecessors.
The thematic substance of Toy Story 3 appeals to attentive adults looking for movies on Disney+ with greater depth. It captures the transition of actually giving up the toys — and who knew there could be believable life-and-death stakes involving toys? In animation, no less?
The voice talents of Tom Hanks’ Woody and Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear are always a delight. This movie was so good that almost every fan you talked to didn’t want another one. Yet Toy Story 4 released mere months ago once again to near-universal critical acclaim.
Children can indubitably enjoy the third Toy Story, yet this is probably the chapter of the franchise that’ll give the adults the most cathartic feels.
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5. Mary Poppins
The long-awaited sequel starring Emily Blunt won’t be on Disney+ until January 2021. In the meantime, the iconic original will be there upon launch.
Although Blunt did a fine job in the Poppins revival, Julie Andrews founded the role and delivered an unforgettable performance. Andrews’ musicality is phenomenal, and the fact that she carried herself so well for her first real feature film role makes it all the more impressive.
Plenty of whimsy, wit, elements of the fantastical, camp and, yes, familial substance — all the trademarks of Disney’s family-oriented entertainment are there. Mary Poppins is as magical as the titular character is.
Despite a maligned attempt at some hybridized accent, Dick Van Dyke holds his own alongside Andrews for many musical numbers. The one he carries, a chimney sweeping song-and-dance number, wound up being among the most recognizable in film history.
CHECK IT OUT: Mary Poppins Returns release date on Disney+
The whole idea of simulation theory that inspired movies like The Matrix and countless other more contemporary science fiction movies got some of its roots from here.
Jeff Bridges stars in 1982’s Tron as a computer programmer who actually gets stuck inside a computer. What a cool premise, right, especially for the early ‘80s? Yes, the effects are a little dated, but there’s something vintage and endearing about this ambitious flick.
All kinds of spin-off media resulted from this property, including an animated TV series, video games, comic books and, yes, a long-awaited sequel, Tron: Legacy in 2010. Bridges returned for it, and it was divisive but better than many remember.
The main criticism of the original Tron is the groundbreaking visuals aren’t matched by a story with enough substance.
I don’t know — coming up with this concept of being stuck in a computer and executing such a wildly creative vision relatively well seems sufficient for Disney+ recommendation!
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The conversations that can revolve around this movie transcend sports. It can be a fun way for adults to reflect on some of the landmark world history at stake.
In this Olympic hockey docudrama, Kurt Russell stars as Herb Brooks, the head coach of the heavy underdog USA hockey team, who defeated the powerhouse USSR in the 1980 Winter Games.
Director Gavin O’Connor deploys some guerilla-style cinematography here that’s uniquely engrossing, which adults surfing Disney+ should find a refreshing change from most other movies offered.
Russell’s passion wins the day and lifts this above what could’ve been extremely clichéd movie that is obvious in tipping its inevitable outcome.
Viewers can really get a sense of the grueling training the U.S. had to go through to even compete with their Cold War adversaries. Brooks was a demanding but inspiring motivator who has to go down as one of the best silver screen sports coaches ever.
8. The Greatest Game Ever Played
A golf movie. Sounds boring, right? I guess, but Shia LaBeouf really delivers here.
He carries the movie as an underdog amateur golfer whose disapproving father disparages his passion for the game. Ooh, the scenes between LaBeouf and his movie dad Elias Koteas are intense. It’s the kind of weight Disney+ movies aren’t supposed to pack for adults.
LaBeouf’s Francis Ouimet winds up competing against golf legends at the 1913 U.S. Open, and it turns into a wonderful, feel-good drama.
Child actor Josh Flitter plays Ouimet’s caddy and offers some great zingers and comic relief to cut the dramatic tension of the hotly competitive golf sequences.
By the modest Rotten Tomatoes score of 63 percent from critics, it’d be easy to scroll past this on the Disney+ queue. With all the kid-friendly titles on the new service, though, The Greatest Game Ever Played is an uplifting tale that’s a bit more mature.
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