After you’ve binge-watched all of The Mandalorian, WandaVision, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, you may wonder what else Disney+ has for you to indulge in. The truth is, you pretty much have the entirety of Disney history at your disposal. From princesses to Star Wars, Disney has acquired some of the most valuable intellectual properties of all time, and if you’re willing to dig deep enough, then you may just stumble upon more than a few hidden gems that can become your new faves.
You may have found many of the movies on Disney+ as VHS tapes originally, or maybe you were lucky enough to watch them in theaters. Then again, there are some films you’ll only ever be able to find on the streaming service. Just like Netflix and Hulu before it, Disney+ has moved full steam ahead on producing original content to get more subscribers to sign up, and 2021 is looking to be one of the platform’s best years yet. A wide breadth of movies are debuting exclusively on Disney+, and Looper has your guide for the best Disney+ original movies you definitely need to check out.
Own the Room
When the prospect of Disney+ first came around, a lot of its offerings were overshadowed by the likes of the MCU and every episode of The Simpsons. That especially held true for all of the National Geographic content on the platform, such as Cosmos (hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson) and various other series and documentaries. There’s definitely one inspiring National Geographic documentary you shouldn’t sleep on, though – Own the Room.
Own the Room follows five young people from around the globe who have an entrepreneurial spirit. They all have fantastic ideas for businesses, and they all have dreams of winning the $100,000 grand prize at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. On top of pursuing their goals, they each have their own adversities to face from civil unrest to natural disasters. It’s a fascinating insight into how much ingenuity the next generation has and how the kids of today will lead the businesses of tomorrow.
Critics agreed, with the film garnering a 100 percent rating on the Tomatometer upon its release. All the value the film has to offer can be perfectly summed up by Decider‘s review: "If it inspires one young person to take a good idea as far as they can, mission accomplished." Own the Room shows you’re never too young to start making a difference.
Flora & Ulysses
Comic book properties are nothing new on Disney+. After all, the streaming service has access to most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as a few of 20th Century’s X-Men films (thanks to Disney’s acquisition of the studio in 2019). It’s easy to want to escape into the world of superpowered individuals, and that’s precisely the kind of whimsy offered by the Disney+ original, Flora & Ulysses.
The film follows a 10-year-old girl, Flora (Matilda Lawler), who retreats into comic books to avoid dealing with her parents’ divorce. She soon finds herself in the middle of her own epic saga when she saves the life of Ulysses the squirrel. After an incident with a vacuum, the squirrel gains unique abilities, but every powerful rodent needs a human sidekick, and it’s up to Flora to protect him from those who don’t understand his gifts.
For anyone who has children and don’t think they’re old enough to handle the fight scenes in something like Captain America, then Flora & Ulysses should be right up your alley. It makes for great family-friendly entertainment as Nell Minow of RogerEbert.com writes, "The superhero power of this movie comes from its endearingly offbeat characters, goofy humor, and gentle insights about finding optimism even when things go wrong." It’s lighthearted fare that has enough to keep even adults invested thanks to a stellar cast of comedic actors, including Alyson Hannigan, Ben Schwartz, and Danny Pudi.
Marvel’s Behind the Mask
Superheroes are all the rage these days, but before they were the highest-grossing movies of all time, they were confined to the pages of comic books. Back then, no one knew the kind of power these characters would have; they just wanted to tell stories about incredible beings that readers could still relate to, and a big part of that relatability involves the power of identity.
The incredible fight scenes may get people engrossed in the stories, but it’s the people behind the masks of superheroes that keeps fans coming back. It’s what allows someone like Peter Parker to remain relevant nearly 60 years after he was first introduced. That issue of identity is explored in-depth in the Disney+ original documentary, Marvel’s Behind the Mask. Featuring interviews with famous comic book writers and artists, this movie is a must-watch for anyone wanting a greater appreciation of the MCU today.
At just 104 minutes in length, it doesn’t take up too much of your time, but still manages to cover a ton of ground. From Captain Marvel to Luke Cage, your favorite Marvel character is bound to come up in the proceedings.
Myth: A Frozen Tale
Who says you need a full 90 minutes to keep the kids entertained?
Frozen has been a major cash cow for Disney for almost a decade now, and the studio isn’t content with just a straight-up sequel. Disney has put out plenty of other Frozen projects over the years, including Once Upon a Snowman, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, and 2021’s Myth: A Frozen Tale. That last one originally came out on the Oculus Rift, but the studio released a "flat" version on Feb. 26, 2021 with a different kind of animation style than the one typically used by the Frozen series.
The 11-minute short film follows a mother from Arandelle, voiced by Evan Rachel Wood, telling a story about the Elementals, which play a prominent role in Frozen 2. You don’t necessarily need to see the short to understand the sequel, but it provides some nice texture for this world, and if your kids sang "Let It Go" for a year straight after the first movie came out, then they’ll be delighted to hear there’s more Frozen to consume.
Raya and the Last Dragon
This entry may be a bit of a cheat considering it’s not technically a Disney+ original. It did, in fact, come out in theaters. However, since many people didn’t have those available with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to shutter businesses, Raya and the Last Dragon may be deserving of a spot on the list. No doubt plenty of people were willing to shell out the extra $30 to watch the groundbreaking film, which features the first Southeast Asian Disney princess as well as a predominantly Asian voice cast, including Kelly Marie Train, Awkwafina, and Gemma Chan.
When the fate of a young girl’s land hangs in the balance, she sets off on the adventure of a lifetime to find the last dragon in existence to help her bring balance to her people. It’s an epic adventure that once again sees Disney trying to redefine what’s possible within the context of a "Disney princess movie," but don’t go in expecting any musical numbers. It’s a more straightforward adventure that’s breathtaking whether you see it on the big screen or your television.
Looper‘s review of Raya and the Last Dragon praised pretty much every aspect of it, from the animation to the emotional depth of the characters. It’s not just one of the best Disney+ original movies of 2021; it’s one of the best films of the year, period.