For many of us, the sight of a Disney Channel star drawing the network's iconic logo with a magical glitter wand was a cherished experience, and one that was often followed by tuning into a Disney Channel Original Movie. These films, better known as DCOMs, typically saw an underdog prove naysayers wrong by succeeding in an extreme sport, discover their true selves through song, make a best friend they never knew they needed, learn to appreciate the dysfunctional but wonderful family they grew up with, or some other similarly goofy but uplifting tale.
DCOMs not only gave big breaks to some of Hollywood's brightest stars (hello Zac Efron, Danielle Panabaker, and Demi Lovato!) but united many of us through heartwarming, albeit cheesy, scenarios and catchy earworms. (Don't try and tell us that you're not singing "Zoom, zoom, zoom" from Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century every time you have to log on for a work meeting or family chat.) These films are embedded in our shared lived experience, and there are over 100 of these gems available to watch on Disney+ right now. TV Guide has selected the best of the best DCOMs — including our favorite sports movies, musicals, genre films, friendship stories, and family flicks — to make it easy for you to recapture the joy of the late '90s and early '00s.
It might be surprising that a network best known for family sitcoms and sweet coming-of-age series would have such a rockin' sports catalog, but the high-octane, athletic DCOMs make up a good chunk of this list. We love a slow-motion, celebration montage after winning the final competition, what can we say?
You know what's better than one extreme sport in a movie? Two! Johnny Tsunami goes totally tubular with some sick surf action before hitting the slopes as Johnny (Brandon Baker) has to adjust to his new life on the East Coast after growing up on the beach and hanging ten in Hawaii. He's forced to choose between his snobby private school classmates, the Skyes, and his actual friends, the Urchins, but in the end, the movie is all about being yourself.
Before he was a total jerk unworthy of Mia's (Anne Hathaway) affections in The Princess Diaries, Eric von Detten was a certified skater cutie in arguably the best DCOM of them all: Brink!. For those of you who love an adrenaline rush, Brink! will get your heart pumping with the final montage as Andy (von Detten) not only has to skate for the win, but to prove to his soul-skater buddies that he's truly one of them.
Let's talk about some girl power. When Andi Carson's (Alana Austin) twin brother breaks his leg in a bike accident, it's up to her to take his place and win the race her family needs to get a corporate sponsorship and stay in the racing business. However, trying to be one of the boys gets a little bit tricky with Andi falls for one of the other racers. This movie doesn't only prove that girls can get dirty just like the boys, but that they can fall in love and still keep their eye on the prize. Who says you can't have it all?
Camilla Belle brings so much heart to this underrated story about embracing your roots and daring to go out of your comfort zone. Belle stars as a young girl who must decide whether to sell the land left to her by her late mother (essentially an entire Hawaiian island) or make a new home in a place that terrifies her. Luckily, she runs into some really cool friends that teach her the lay of the land, how to surf, and where to whale-watch along the way.
Alley Cats Strike
Yes, bowling is definitely a sport, and it's the central activity in another under-the-radar gem produced by Disney at the turn of the millennium. It may not seem like the most high-stakes game in the world, but you'd be surprised how stoked you get when a group of bowling-loving misfits end up in the running for the big trophy. Oh, and don't forget to check out a very young Kaley Cuoco in here, too.
We all know the Disney Channel musical game is strong. High School Musical was a worldwide phenomenon and of course is on this list, but so are some other movies that churned out some legit bangers and deserve just as much recognition as HSM.
What would it be like if Disney's greatest villains had kids? Better yet, what would it be like if Disney's greatest villains had kids and they all went to high school together? Welcome to Descendants, stepping up the DCOM musical game after High School Musical with even catchier songs and costumes to die for. But seriously, the outfits in this movie! We are forever jealous of Mal's (Dove Cameron) wardrobe.
Do we really need to explain why this is here? The DCOM that set the bar for all DCOMs that followed is a sweet musical about a basketball star (Zac Efron) who can't ignore the song in his heart. If you somehow managed to miss this global sensation, getcha head in the game and check it out. While you're at it, you should probably also watch the sequel, if only for Efron's incredible "Bet on It" performance.
It is impossible to choose between the original Camp Rock and the sequel because on the one hand, you have Demi Lovato in her breakout role and Joe Jonas in quintessential 2007 hair. On the other, you have Nick Jonas finally coming into his own as a heartthrob. Did we know when Nick sang "Introducing Me" that he would become a bona fide pop star in his own right? Yes, his performance was that good. Both of these movies are worth rewatching!
The Cheetah Girls were kind of like the Disneyfied version of the Spice Girls, with each girl having a distinct personality and a staple color of cheetah print that she was allowed to wear. Raven-Symoné, Sabrina Bryan, and 3LW's Adrienne Bailon and Kiely Williams form an aspiring pop girl group that starts to crumble under the pressure of sudden fame but then reunites thanks to the magical force of girl power. Girl groups can be tough, especially when everyone wants to be a star, but this melodrama shows what it means to stay loyal to your crew, and is filled beginning-to-end with bangers.
This one is for the younger Disney fans out there, but even older DCOM fans should consider checking out this 2013 movie. This '60s movie musical parody is so freakin' cute and shows off Maia Mitchell's singing abilities when her character McKenzie and her beach nemesis Brady (Ross Lynch) find themselves teleported into their favorite '60s beach musical. Warning: This movie will cause major beach trip jonesing.
Whether you're more into sci-fi, magic, or Halloween fun, there's a DCOM for you. OK, the graphics aren't always great, but a lot of these movies became hallmarks of the DCOM brand and are reliable feel-good rewatches.
This is the perfect Halloween movie for those who want to get into the spooky spirit but also want a nightmare-free sleep session at the end of the day. And for many young viewers, it was also the dream to be Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) and discover you were secretly from a family of witches and learn there's a whole town where supernatural creatures live. Having to fight off an evil warlock trying to take over the world is a bit of a mood-killer, but it still makes for a great movie!
Kirsten Storms will remain iconic forever thanks to her eccentric outfits and for popularizing the phrase "Cetus-Lupeedus!" in this DCOM classic. Not to mention, Zenon brought Protozoa (Phillip Rhys) and the song "Supernova Girl" into our lives, and we will remain eternally grateful. Let's also never forget that before Everwood, Gregory Smith was a DCOM heartthrob of epic proportions in this sci-fi adventure.
This is another one for those who like their Halloween vibes with a side of heart and some feel-good cheer. It's a high school zombie love story with catchy songs and seriously epic dance numbers. Star Milo Manheim got so far in Dancing with the Stars for a reason, and the Zombies franchise uses those moves in all the best ways.
Shame on you if you thought there was going to be a Disney list without a mermaid movie. The Thirteenth Year made the list because for once, we got to see a boy try on some fins. Cody (Chez Starbuck) discovers his mom was actually a mermaid after he grows a fish tail on his 13th birthday. It's a wild story, and we love this movie precisely because of how truly out-of-the-box it is.
The Disney Channel vibe is all about your chosen family, and there are a lot of movies about finding and/or reconnecting with your best friend — even if you start out as total enemies. If you're missing your platonic soulmate during social distancing, these are great movies to virtually watch together.
While the true story that inspired this Black History Month DCOM wasn't as saccharine as the film, Disney should be commended for bringing awareness of racist systems like apartheid to its young viewership. In the movie, tensions come to a head when Mehree (Lindsey Haun), a young white girl from apartheid-era South Africa, spends a semester abroad with a Black American family in 1977. Mehree and Piper (Shadia Simmons), the American family's teenage daughter, challenge each other with their ideas about race and community as they are forced to live together. The ending is a bit sanitized, but this movie delves into race and politics, and strives to educate young audiences about systemic racism.
Hilary Duff may be most famous for her starring role on Lizzie McGuire, but this DCOM still slaps. When Kelly (Duff) is shipped off to military school by her stepfather, she discovers how far she can go with just a little bit of discipline, and she also learns the value of friendship.
Before all the Justin Bieber drama and finstagram accounts, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez were Disney Channel's poster children for what best friendship should be. That was on full display in Princess Protection Program, in which a middle-class suburban girl is stuck essentially babysitting a princess. They learn to understand each other's very different lives and realize that if you have the right people by your side, you can get through anything.
Of course, another great genre of DCOM is the family adventure film. If you're looking for fun things to watch with your family about other people's families, here are our suggestions.
One of Disney's most beloved sitcoms became a zany adventure film that also served as a series finale for the show. The Stevens head out for an island vacation, only to find out they are part of a reality show designed to make them tear each other apart. It's part-Survivor, part-Candid Camera, and great Louis (Shia LaBeouf) insanity all over. We truly do miss those epic fights between him and Ren (Christy Carlson Romano), and rewatching the film is a fun way to revisit them.
Take The Even Stevens Movie but add magic, and you get to the Emmy-nominated Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, because if something ain't broke, why fix it? The Russos are every bit as lovable and dysfunctional as the Stevens, and having a full movie to explore these dynamics allows Alex (Selena Gomez) to reach the heights of her rebellion when she wishes her parents had never met in a fit of rage after getting busted trying to use magic on the family's magic-free vacation. It's a race against time to get the precious wishing stone she and her siblings need to undo the wish that could end their existence. Even if Alex went way too far on this one, she is still an icon who lives by her own rules.
Shia LaBeouf first showed his dramatic range in this DCOM where he stars as Eddie, a young man who is on the Autism spectrum. His sister, Tru (Clara Bryant), decides to make a documentary about him to win a local filmmaking contest, but in the process learns more about her brother than she expected, and the two forge a deeper bond than ever before. This movie should only be watched with a box of tissues nearby.
Looking for more shows to stream? Check out TV Guide's TV Throwback, recommending the best shows to rewatch — or to discover for the first time — from 1970 through the present day.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)