The 50 Best Things to Watch on Disney+ Right Now

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Of all the companies to enter the streaming wars, Disney has significant advantages with Disney+. It can draw from a deep vault of its own animated and live-action movies and from popular shows on its own cable networks — as well as from company properties like Marvel and Star Wars. And that’s not counting the platform’s slate of original TV shows and movies.

That’s a lot of material: nearly 500 films and 7,500 TV episodes at the time of its debut. Below is our guide to the 50 best titles on Disney+, arranged in reverse chronological order with an eye toward variety. As the service continues to build its catalog, this list will change too.

Here are our lists of the best movies and TV shows on Netflix, the best of both on Hulu and the best movies on Amazon Prime Video.

On her first day in the Oval Office, President Elena Cañero-Reed gets a copy of the diary she started writing as a sixth-grader, with a reminder from her mother to remember her roots. Although the “Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez puts in guest appearances as the adult Elena, most of this bright comedy-drama takes place in flashback, with a particularly bright 12-year-old Cuban-American (Tess Romero) getting put through the adolescent paces. The path to the White House winds through lunchroom drama and getting used to mom’s new boyfriend.

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The latest attempt to revive the vaudevillian magic of “The Muppet Show” tries to ingratiate itself with the tech-savvy, screen-addicted modern kid, losing some of the backstage camaraderie that made it feel like puppet friends putting on a show. But the new episodes are tightly constructed and mostly clever, with segments casting Miss Piggy as a temperamental influencer, the Swedish Chef as an inept cooking-show host and Kermit the Frog as a celebrity interviewer. Even when a bit falls flat, “Muppets Now” whisks along efficiently into the next one.

Created by Jon Favreau, who kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe with “Iron Man,” “The Mandalorian” is by far the biggest production in Disney+’s launch slate. It’s an eight-episode “Star Wars” series that strikes out to a galaxy far, far away from the movies. Opening five years after the events of “Return of the Jedi” and 25 years before the emergence of a new generation of heroes in “The Force Awakens,” the show is a space western that focuses on a Clint Eastwood-like bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) with no clear allegiances. Werner Herzog, Nick Nolte, Gina Carano and Giancarlo Esposito are among the eclectic cast.

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Crossing the leisure-time sibling dynamic of “Phineas and Ferb” with a much smarter version of the comic mysteries of “Scooby Doo,” this lively and sweet animated series is about Dipper and Mabel Pines, 12-year-old twins who are shipped away to the middle of Oregon to live with their crazy “Grunkle” Stan. Stan runs a beaten-down tourist trap called the “Mystery Shack,” which becomes the nexus of supernatural happenings. Voiced by Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal, the twins have a winning banter that’s underscored by real affection.

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Fans of the original “Star Wars” trilogy scoffed at the prequels, but for a generation of children, the prequels were their own obsession, and the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” has deepened the experience. Set between the events of “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” the show has filled in gaps in the mythology, turned bounty hunters and clones into real characters and added substance to the relationship between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. The seventh and final season, produced for Disney+, builds up to the Siege of Mandalore.

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“There’s 104 days of summer vacation,” starts the theme song to this endlessly clever animated series, and two stepbrothers — the motor-mouthed Phineas and the deadpan Ferb — fill that time with crazy backyard inventions and globetrotting standoffs against their nemesis, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz … all while their sister tries desperately to tell on them. Meanwhile, their pet platypus, Perry, has a double life as a spy. “Phineas and Ferb” is an ideal gateway for younger children into fast-paced, absurdist comedy. Our critic wrote, “‘Phineas’ spoofs everything, but with such skill that it seems smart, not cheap.”

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The concept for this witty animated series is a James Bond twist on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: What if a teenage girl devoted her unique physical gifts toward fighting evil while also dealing with the pressures of high school? Here, Kim gets some help from her less-competent best friend, Ron Stoppable; his naked mole rat, Rufus; and Wade, a 10-year-old computer genius. But mostly she faces the mad scientist Dr. Drakken and other supervillains on her own. She is also humbled by the more typical headaches of being an adolescent.

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Even by the modest standards of Saturday morning cartoons, the ’90s animated “X-Men” is often rudimentary, but that crudeness masks a surprisingly ambitious treatment of the Marvel heroes, including several multipart episodes that took on the comics’ most talked-about story arcs. Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Beast, Magneto, Professor X and other characters cycle in and out of the series, which makes room for the apocalyptic time-hopping of “Days of Future Past” and a third season heavily devoted to the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix sagas.

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Let’s face it: Of the 31 (and counting) seasons of “The Simpsons,” only about the first nine are any good, but that legendary run had such a cultural impact that quotes from and references to it have become a linguistic shorthand. The creator Matt Groening and his animators conceived the Simpsons and the town of Springfield as an endlessly elastic source of colorful characters and sharp jibes about American families, institutions and values. Our critic called its animation “ingenious” and its scripts “consistently inventive.”

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The original four-season run of “DuckTales,” totaling more than 100 episodes, expanded on a corner of Carl Barks’s duck universe by focusing on the treasure-hunting and hoarding exploits of Scrooge McDuck and three grandnephews — Huey, Dewey and Louie — who come under his care while Donald Duck fights for the United States Navy. A gallery of colorful villains, like Flintheart Glomgold and Magica De Spell, are constantly after Scrooge’s fortune, particularly the Number One Dime that started it all. Both the original and the new “DuckTales” have rambunctious energy to spare.

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Saturday morning cartoons were always short on educational opportunities for children, but ABC decided to do a public good by producing “Schoolhouse Rock!,” a series of three-minute animated interstitials that proved to be surprisingly sticky mnemonic devices. Disney+ doesn’t have the complete run of episodes — it has 51 of the 64, the vast majority made in the mid-1970s — but it has all the classics, including the call-and-response of “Conjunction Junction,” the heartrending multiplication song “Figure Eight” and “I’m Just a Bill,” a civics lessons that was parodied on the “Simpsons” episode “The Day the Violence Died,” which is also available on the service.

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Part of the first season of “Walt Disney’s Disneyland,” an anthology show that doubled as theme-park promotion, “Man in Space” considers a future in space travel that had not arrived yet. With a child’s attention span in mind, the show combines animated silliness, like a history of the rocket or the knockabout perils of weightlessness, with a legitimate educational primer on astrophysics and how mankind might one day visit the heavens. Beware the brief, racially insensitive depiction of 13th century China in the opening minutes, but beyond that, many wonders await.

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The album “The Lion King: The Gift” was produced and curated by Beyoncé as an accompaniment to the photorealistic remake of “The Lion King,” but it dwarfed the film in ambition, using it as a jumping-off point for themes of Black power, ancestry and womanhood. Much like her groundbreaking visual album “Lemonade,” “Black Is King” is an arresting smorgasbord of music, fashion, choreography and eye-popping color, with the writer-director-performer serving as the ringmaster for other visual artists and musicians. Our critic Wesley Morris wrote, “Beauty is a reason this film exists.”

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Alongside his creative partner, the composer Alan Menken, the lyricist Howard Ashman helped usher Disney’s floundering animation department into a creative renaissance, writing songs for “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” The touching documentary “Howard” showcases his knack for integrating storytelling with song craft and the path that led him from off-Broadway musicals like “Little Shop of Horrors” to the Mouse House. It also reveals the private battle with H.I.V.-AIDS that led to his death in 1991. Jeannette Catsoulis called the film’s tone “the opposite of mournful.”

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The original production of this audacious pop musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda was a near-impossible ticket on Broadway, but now it comes to streaming as a vital and stubbornly optimistic ode to the American experiment. Leading a cast of mostly Black and Latino actors, Miranda plays Alexander Hamilton as an immigrant made good, a “young, scrappy and hungry” embodiment of an emerging nation. “Hamilton” has been described as a hip-hop history, but the music is as varied as the history is idealized and thorny. A.O. Scott wrote that the film is “motivated, above all, by a faith in the self-correcting potential of the American experiment.

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Based on the illustrated children’s novel by K.A. Applegate, “The One and Only Ivan” softens the darker realities of wild animals under confinement, but it’s a sweet and gentle-humored Disney fantasy. Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito and Helen Mirren are among the big names voicing the impeccably animated creatures. And Bryan Cranston stars as the human owner and ringleader of Big Top Circus, a floundering strip-mall operation that picks up after it is discovered that its mighty, chest-thumping gorilla can paint. The critic Ben Kenigsberg wrote that it “brings a fair amount of heart to a generic story line.”

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The most divisive “Star Wars” movie is also one of the boldest and best, defying the orthodoxy of the Jedi traditionalists in order to embrace a more operatic vision of the overmatched Resistance doing battle against the First Order. It starts with the shock of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) casually tossing a light saber off a cliff and keeps the heresies flowing from there, all in an effort to heighten the emotional stakes for the battles to come. Manohla Dargis called it “a satisfying, at times transporting entertainment.”

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The first two “Thor” movies rank among the worst of the Marvel cinematic series, but one solid takeaway is that Chris Hemsworth’s hammer-wielding alien stud-muffin thrives as the dopey center of a fish-out-of-water comedy. Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok” offers just that, exploiting its hero’s good humor to maximum effect while offering a vamped-up Cate Blanchett as an all-powerful villain who plots to destroy his home planet, Asgard. Manohla Dargis admired how the film “humanizes” Thor, but still thinks “what he needs is a myth as mighty as his shtick.”

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Disney has spent decades laboring over the creation of more strong-willed heroines, but few have embarked on a mission as consequential as Moana, who travels the seas to save her Polynesian village from environmental ruin. Her adventures are rendered in pleasingly lush ocean blues, and Dwayne Johnson has a fun role as the egotistic demigod Maui. But the true star of “Moana” is the songs, which range from the soaring (“How Far I’ll Go”) to the silly (“You’re Welcome”) to the Bowie-esque (“Shiny”). A.O. Scott wrote that they “anchor the film’s cheery globalism in a specific South Pacific milieu.”

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Disney live-action films don’t exactly have a tradition of gritty realism, but with “Queen of Katwe,” the director Mira Nair scrapes some of the gloss off the rousing true story of a Ugandan girl whose prodigious gifts as a chess player allow her to see the world beyond a Kampala slum. By taking the time to detail the day-to-day struggles of a desperately poor family, Nair adds power to the girl’s efforts to maneuver around the board. If “Hoosiers” made you cry, predicted A.O. Scott, “‘Queen of Katwe’ will wreck you.”

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The goofy 1977 musical comedy turns into a sincere drama about an orphaned wild child (Oakes Fegley) who befriends a big green dragon in the Pacific Northwest. By playing this story completely straight, the director David Lowery links an earnest environmental message to a touching affirmation of family. Reviews were mostly kind, though our critic found it “sentimental.

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When an 11-year-old girl moves to San Francisco from the Midwest, the personified emotions that control her mind — Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) — go haywire. Ranking near the top of Pixar tearjerkers, “Inside Out” is about how children develop into complex emotional beings and the important role that melancholy plays in making it happen. A.O. Scott called it “an absolute delight — funny and charming, fast-moving and full of surprises.”

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Wes Anderson’s first foray into animation applies the visual precision, melancholy and wit of his live-action features to a Roald Dahl novel about a sophisticated fox (voiced by George Clooney) who nonetheless taps his primitive nature to raid the poultry farms of Boggis, Bunce and Bean. If he and his family were humans, they could exist comfortably in the world of Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums.” A.O. Scott called it “in some ways Anderson’s most fully realized and satisfying film.”

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The first third of “Wall-E” is a high watermark for Pixar, quietly and wondrously detailing the solitary life of the only trash-compacting robot left on an uninhabitable future Earth. The film doesn’t drop off much, either, when the robot befriends a sleeker android sent to the planet to search for signs of life — and perhaps hope for surviving humans to return home. “We’ve grown accustomed to expecting surprises from Pixar,” wrote A.O. Scott, “but ‘Wall-E’ surely breaks new ground.”

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The Big Bang event that started the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Iron Man” established the template for more than 20 superhero movies and counting. But it owes much of its success to Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark, an arrogant military contractor who turns himself into the most advanced weapon in creation. While later Marvel movies were burdened by mythological baggage, “Iron Man” still feels as sleek and fleet as the superhero himself. A.O. Scott called it “an unusually good superhero picture.”

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Riding high off a nonstop run of hits after “Toy Story,” Pixar gambled on the almost perversely unappealing premise of a Parisian rat with a passion for finessing haute cuisine. But “Ratatouille” pays off in the fast-paced kitchen slapstick of a rodent on the loose, a sensual appreciation for food and a rousing message about pursuing your dreams, no matter your seeming limitations. A.O. Scott called it “a nearly flawless piece of popular art.”

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The Disney vault is overloaded with inspirational sports movies, including one where a mule kicks field goals, but “Miracle” stands out as the rare example of real life conforming to feel-good formula. Kurt Russell has the perfect raggedy energy as Herb Brooks, the hockey coach who led an overmatched assemblage of college all-stars to the gold medal over a fearsome Soviet Union squad at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Our critic called the storytelling “rote” but praised Russell’s “cagey and remote performance.”

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After getting falsely convicted for stealing shoes, a boy (Shia LaBeouf) gets sent to a labor camp where wayward children are forced to dig five-foot holes in the desert sun for no apparent reason. Based on the novel by Louis Sachar, “Holes” has the backdrop of a Depression-era social drama and heel-turns by Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight and Tim Blake Nelson, but its delightful eccentricities lighten the mood. A.O. Scott credited the director Andrew Davis for having “turned the book’s spare, gritty allegory into a shaggy-dog saga that is sometimes hectic but always surprising and never easy, predictable or false.”

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Because of a troubled production and disappointing returns, “The Emperor’s New Groove” was considered a rare misstep in the Disney animation renaissance of the ’90s and early ’00s. But this fleet, anarchic, hilarious buddy comedy about a self-absorbed king turned llama (David Spade) and a humble peasant (John Goodman) is a chance to see what Disney animators could do if they were allowed to channel the manic energy of their Warner Brothers peers. Our critic admired its “cheeky effervescence and spunk.”

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The director David Lynch shocked the film world by following the hard-R mind-melters “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” and “Lost Highway” with a G-rated, fact-based Disney film about an elderly Midwesterner (Richard Farnsworth) who travels 370 miles on a riding lawnmower to visit his ill, estranged brother. There’s plenty of Lynchian eccentricity and style, however, to his heartfelt slice of Americana, and a genuine conviction in the decency that evil-doers in his other films often work to snuff out. Janet Maslin called it “a supremely improbable triumph.”

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The first feature-length Pixar movie was also the first entirely computer-animated feature, representing an evolutionary leap for Disney on par with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The sequels would add a more emotional component, but the original “Toy Story” may be the funniest and most fast-paced, scoring jokes off the interplay and adventures of Woody, Buzz and other toys that come to life when they’re not being watched. Our critic called it “the sweetest and savviest film” of 1995.

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When it first came out in 1992, Disney’s attempt to revive the live-action musical “Newsies” alongside its animated hits was a clear-cut disaster, with a poor box office following scathing reviews from critics like Janet Maslin, who dismissed it as “a long, halfhearted romp.” But “Newsies” has since emerged as a cult favorite, inspiring even a Broadway musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein. Whatever its flaws, the film, starring a young Christian Bale, is an audacious and fitfully inspired throwback to Old Hollywood musicals, set in a spiffy backlot version of turn-of-the-century New York where newspaper boys get into a labor dispute with fat-cat publishers.

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Though it flopped at a time when superhero movies were neither common nor a sure thing, “The Rocketeer” is crackerjack entertainment, a pulpy retro adventure about the F.B.I. and the Nazis fighting over a Howard Hughes invention in 1938 Los Angeles. Bill Campbell plays a go-getting stunt pilot who stumbles upon a jetpack that transforms him into a self-styled hero but makes him a wanted man. Our critic found the overall effect merely “benign,” but conceded that it’s a “bustling, visually clever film.”

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The renaissance of Disney animation that started with “The Little Mermaid” peaked with this romance between the book-smart Belle and the tempestuous Beast, a former prince who holds her captive in his enchanted castle until the curse that turned him into a monster is broken. The technical and artistic contributions are first-rate all around, none greater than the songs by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, which include “Be Our Guest” and the title number. Our critic praised its combination of “the latest computer animation techniques with the best of Broadway.”

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Walt Disney Studios had experimented with live-action-animation hybrids for decades before “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” but it never achieved anything close to the fluidity and sophistication of Robert Zemeckis’s one-of-a-kind noir. Through the story of a hard-boiled private detective (Bob Hoskins) who helps a cartoon rabbit on a murder rap, the film pays homage to Disney and Warner Brothers animation while delivering an all-ages “Chinatown.” Its best moments, our critic wrote, “are so novel, so deliriously funny and so crazily unexpected that they truly must be seen to be believed.”

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Unpacking the mythology of countless bedtime stories, this fractured fairytale from Rob Reiner, adapted from the novel by William Goldman, winks knowingly at the conventions of romantic adventures while paying them off all the same. At its center is a star-crossed love story between a would-be princess (Robin Wright) and a mysterious pirate (Cary Elwes), but much of the fun is at the periphery, like Mandy Patinkin’s hapless swashbuckler and Wallace Shawn’s Sicilian outlaw. Janet Maslin hailed the “delightful cast and a cheery, earnest style that turns out to be ever more disarming as the film moves along.”

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Most movies aired on Disney anthology television have passed into obscurity, but children weaned on them in the ’80s haven’t forgotten “Mr. Boogedy,” a thoroughly bizarre and delightfully goofy parody of haunted house movies. Unbowed by the name of the sales agency (Devil May Care Realty) or the town (Lucifer Falls), a gag salesman (Richard Masur) moves his family into a creepy, dilapidated house on a dark and stormy night. What follows are 45 minutes of mild scares, weird effects and an affectionate undercutting of genre conventions.

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Disney would come to regret making a sequel to perhaps the greatest children’s film ever made, but Walter Murch’s “Return to Oz” has picked up a deserved cult following over the years for its half-wondrous, half-nightmarish reading of L. Frank Baum’s Oz novels. This time, Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) goes back to a far less enchanting place, with the Yellow Brick Road and the Emerald City in ruins, her old friends turned to stone and the land patrolled by people with wheels instead of hands and feet. Our critic warned that “children are sure to be startled by [its] bleakness.”

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Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah were little-known actors when they appeared together in this literal fish-out-of-water comedy about the romance between a fruit vendor and a mermaid, but their chemistry and star power here makes it easy to forget. Disney+ has digitally scrubbed the brief nudity of the original cut, but otherwise “Splash” is the diverting fantasy it’s always been, buoyed by the innocent fun of a sea creature adjusting to life on dry land. Janet Maslin said the film “could have been shorter, but it probably couldn’t have been much sweeter.”

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What did the future look like in 1982? This Disney science-fiction-adventure offered one distinctive vision, although not many people flocked to see it at the time. The film has endured as a cult favorite and technological curio, however, presaging inside-the-grid scenarios like “The Matrix.” It also provides a jaundiced look at corporate-controlled tech realms, pitting a computer engineer (Jeff Bridges) against the Master Control Program in a virtual environment. Our critic Janet Maslin praised its “nonstop parade of stunning computer graphics,” even if they weren’t accompanied by more “old-fashioned virtues.”

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A year after “Mary Poppins,” Julie Andrews’s ebullience proved even more crucial in boosting the three-hour adaptation of this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, which sets a bright songbook against the grim backdrop of Nazi-occupied Austria. Andrews plays another maternal-figure-for-hire, a struggling nun who leaves the convent when a widower (Christopher Plummer) asks her to look after his seven children. Memorable songs like “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi” and the title number help her do it. Our critic didn’t care for the Broadway hit, but admired Andrews’s “air of radiant vigor.”

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In this boisterous musical, Julie Andrews descends from the sky to bring discipline and magic to two spoiled English schoolchildren — and she did the same for a studio that had struggled to make live-action fare on par with its animated classics. With a twinkle in her eye, Andrews’s nanny leads the children through chores with “A Spoonful of Sugar” and more whimsical numbers like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Feed the Birds.” Citing the legacy of P.L. Travers’s original novel, our critic praised it as “a most wonderful, cheering movie.

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Set aside the implausibility — and cruelty — of divorced parents’ including identical twins among the assets they divide, and “The Parent Trap” is a delightful screwball comedy, with Hayley Mills playing 13-year-old twins who meet for the first time in summer camp. The two decide to switch parents in a crazy scheme to bring their mother and father back together, assuming that they never married other people after the divorce because they still loved each other. Our critic admired Mills’s “cheerfully persuasive lead performance.”

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Photographed in Super Technirama 70, “Sleeping Beauty” is notable especially for eye-catching color and spectacle that sprawls across its widescreen frame — particularly during a climax when a prince confronts a hedge of thorns and a fire-breathing dragon. Yet it’s just as elegant when Princess Aurora, cursed to eternal slumber by the vengeful Maleficent, dances to “Once Upon a Dream” against a lovely forest backdrop. Our critic encouraged readers to see it on a large screen to appreciate its “gorgeous and stirring vistas.”

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Part of Disney’s “True-Life Adventures” series, “Perri” builds a semi-documentary framework around a novel by Felix Salten, who also provided the source material for “Bambi.” Much like its animated counterpart, the film emphasizes the beauty and terror of nature in equal measure, following a vulnerable young pine squirrel as it evades predators, meets a mate and makes its way through an idyllic patch of Technicolor forest. Our critic admired “the extremely adroit easing of actual incidents into the story flow.”

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“Miracle on 34th Street,” which turns on the heartwarming revelation that a department store Santa is the real thing, has become a classic Christmas movie — though the promotion for its release in the summer of 1947 never mentioned the holiday. Poor Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) gets dragged through an insane asylum and a courtroom and rebukes the impact of commercialism on Christmas. Our critic advised readers to “catch its spirit” and called it “maybe even the best comedy of the year.”

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No one can forget the trauma of watching a hunter kill a young deer’s mother. But after that notorious moment, “Bambi” is watercolor poetry, following the fawn as he learns and grows alongside his woodland friends and eventually becomes a father himself. Without spelling it out in a big production number, the film quietly teaches children about the “circle of life” in all its beauty, wonder and occasional loss. “The colors,” our critic raved, “would surprise even the spectrum itself.”

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When the Italian woodworker Geppetto wishes upon a star that his marionette Pinocchio will become a real boy, a Blue Fairy brings the puppet to life, but that’s only the beginning of a difficult odyssey before Geppetto’s dream comes true. Modern audiences may be shocked by how dark Pinocchio’s journey becomes, particularly when he arrives at Pleasure Island, but the beauty, horror and moral simplicity of the film are still resonant. The movie bombed on initial release, but our critic praised it as Walt Disney’s “happiest event since the war.”

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The first full-length animated feature remains a treasure and an institutional touchstone, establishing the outsized clashes between good and evil, the comical interludes and the lush house style that would endure as Disney hallmarks for decades. A princess’s beauty, a queen’s vanity, a magic mirror, a poisoned apple and a cottage full of diminutive miners are among the classic elements plucked from the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale. Our critic called it “sheer fantasy, delightful, gay and altogether captivating.”

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