Walt Disney Studios is not well known for its live-action movie dramas. However, there are definitely some classic films in its library that are more serious, and a few that will make you cry. With the Disney Plus streaming service now live, we can now check out nearly all of those dramas. Here’s a look at the best Disney Plus movie dramas, in no particular order.
Best Disney Plus movie dramas
1. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Disney went all out for this adaptation of the classic Jules Verne novel. Kirk Douglas plays Ned Land, a sailor onboard a ship in the 19th century who is looking for a “monster” that’s attacking other ships. However, as it turns out, the “monster” is in fact a highly advanced submarine, commanded by Captain Nemo. James Mason plays the part with an understated feeling of dread as he, Land, and the crew of the submarine Nautilus explore the depths of the sea. It was the most expensive movie ever made up to that point, even if it’s special effects don’t quite live up to modern movie standards.
2. Old Yeller
Make sure you have some Kleenex available. This 1957 classic, based on the acclaimed children’s book, will definitely make you cry. The story of a boy and his dog in Texas growing up during the late 19th century sounds simple enough. However, the final scenes of this movie, which we won’t spoil here, take this kid’s drama in a whole different direction. It’s one of the most powerful scenes in movie history.
3. Tron Legacy
While we still like the original 1982 movie Tron, it’s long-awaited 2010 sequel is a much better movie. The son of Kevin Flynn, played again by Jeff Bridges, goes to find his missing father and finds himself transported to The Grid. This cyberworld, first shown in the original Tron movie, is now run by Clu, an avatar made by Kevin Flynn (and also played by Bridges). It’s a race between the two Flynns and another program, played by Olivia Wilde, to stop Clu’s plans to take over the real world. There are some amazing CGI effects in Tron: Legacy, but at the heart of it all is a father-son story.
After helping to create the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, George Lucas tried to make yet another major movie hit with this 1998 fantasy movie. While it didn’t become a smash box office hit, many fans still love this film. Warwick Davis is terrific in the lead role, who is tasked to protect a young baby from an evil queen. The queen believes this baby is the fulfillment of a prophecy that could lead to her destruction, so naturally, she wants to take this kid out. Assisting Warwick’s character are a swordsman, played by Val Kilmer, and the daughter of the evil queen, played by Joanne Whalley.
5. The Finest Hours
Chris Pine plays the lead in this 2016 movie, based on true events. In 1952, a tanker broke apart during a massive storm off the coast of Massacultis. Pine’s character is a Coast Guard crewman who helps to lead a team to the wrecked ship. Their goal; to rescue all 30 crew members of the tanker before the storm takes everyone down with them. There’s some intense action in this movie and its one of the best Disney Plus movie dramas.
6. Remember The Titans
Disney has released a number of sports movies inspired by true stories, but the best one of them remains this 2000 movie. Denzel Washington plays the role of high school football coach Herman Boone. His task was to not only coach a high school team in Virginia in 1971, but also to help integrate the white and black players into one team. It’s an inspiring story that is still timely even today.
7. The Rocketeer
Before Disney bought Marvel, they tried their hand at this 1991 adaptation of the Dave Stevens indie comic book. It’s also a throwback to the Saturday afternoon series of the 1930s and 1940s. When a man-sized rocket packed developed by Howard Hughes is stolen, it falls into the hands of an innocent pilot. He and his mentor figure out how the pack works, and just like that, The Rocketeer is born. Look for Timothy Dalton as an Errol Fynn-style actor who turns out to be the movie’s main villain.
8. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Disney wanted another major film franchise when it co-produced this 2005 adaptation of C.S Lewis’ classic novel. During World War II, four children in England go through a mysterious wardrobe at their new home. They find it’s a doorway to another world, Narnia, where they have to contend with the evil White Witch, played by Tilda Swinton. Liam Neeson also has a great performance as the voice of the lion king Aslan. You can also watch the second movie in this series, Prince Caspian, on Disney Plus.
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
A movie based on a theme park ride? In 2003, many thought that Pirates of the Caribbean was a non-starter for Disney. It wasn’t. The movie turned out to be a great action tale of swashbuckling pirates mixed with romance and some supernatural elements as well. There’s also Johnny Depp who gave a career-changing performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. It’s definitely one of the best Disney Plus movie dramas. You can also check out three of the other movies in this series on the service.
James Cameron wrote and directed this 2009 sci-fi film. Until just recently it was the biggest box-office hit of all time. The movie took advantage of new visual effect techniques and the big (at the time) trend of watching movies in 3D. The result was Avatar, and its depiction of the world of Pandora and its inhabitants was unlike any alien planet shown in film. That’s why it’s on our best Disney Plus movie dramas list. It remains a visual feast, even if the story of humans trying to take over the natives of Pandora is a bit familiar.
11. The Sound of Music
Yes, this is one of the best Disney Plus movie dramas. The 1965 film happens to be a musical. Julie Andrews’ performance is perfect as Maria, a postulant who wants to be a nun but can’t help singing and wanting more. She gets it when she becomes a governess for the Von Trapp family in Austria. Maria soon becomes a huge influence on the Von Trapp children. She eventually makes their father, played also perfectly by Christopher Plummer, fall for her. While this is based on the real Von Trapp family and their experiences to get out of Nazi-led Austria in the 1930s, this is not really a history lesson. It’s just a joyous movie to listen to and to watch with family and friends.
Oh, and Rolfe is still a jerk.
12. The Black Hole
Disney didn’t release its first PG-rated movie until this movie in 1979. The Black Hole was the studio’s answer to Star Wars, but it still had content that would be attractive to kids, namely the floating robot V.I.N.CENT. However, most of the movie was serious, as an Earth spaceship out in the stars encounters a black hole. It also encounters another Earth ship that was supposed to be lost. The captain of that ship wants to go into the black hole and see what’s on the other side. If others try to get in his way, too bad for them . . .
Those are the best Disney Plus movie dramas right now! We’ll update this list as more films arrive on Disney’s streaming service.
The best on Disney Plus
As we said, there’s a ton of content you can stream on the service. Here are some of our guides showing the best of Disney Plus.
If you want to know more about Disney Plus, including some how-to articles and how it compares with Netflix, check out our dedicated posts below: