For about 25 years, Disney has been putting out Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs), and I grew up watching them. Even as an adult, I’ll still check out the new releases or rewatch my favorites from childhood. A while back, I ranked the musicals Disney Channel made, but it’s about time to talk about the best non-musical Disney channel original movies. Since there are over 100 of them, I decided to focus on the top 30 that aren’t musicals or part of Disney Channel shows. And spoiler alert if you haven’t watched these movies.
Need to Rewatch Soon: ‘Horse Sense’ and ‘Right on Track’
In 1999, Horse Sense hit screens, and all the horse girls went wild. And for good reason. Horse Sense was the first in a Lawrence brothers (Joey and Andrew) DCOM franchise. The story was so amazing, but it was missing something that would have pushed it further up this ranking.
I remember not liking Right on Track when it first came out. But as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the film. It helps that a young Brie Larson stars in it. The movie tells the story of the Enders sisters as they start their drag racing careers.
Freaky Friday Knock-Off Done Well: ‘The Swap’
Disney redid the story of Freaky Friday in 2018, and it majorly flopped for a myriad of reasons. But two years prior, they did a body-swap film that surprised me by how good it was. The Swap, like Freaky Friday, was also based on a book.
Two teenagers (played by future Cobra Kai costars Jacob Bertrand and Peyton List) switch bodies after an argument about who has it worse – girls or boys? Throughout the film, they take on the other’s responsibilities and learn more about each other. The biggest problem: they don’t know if they’ll be able to switch back at all.
Good, But Not as Good as the First: ‘Twitches Too’
The Twitches duology is probably my second favorite Halloween series to watch every year. That said, Twitches Too is nearly on the same level as the last two Halloweentown movies. Compared to the first one, it just fell flat.
After the twins defeated the Darkness in the first movie, they were trying to get used to royal lives in Coventry and balance it with their lives back on Earth. The story just felt forced, and I hated seeing the sisters fight.
Halloween’s Getting Better: ‘Halloweentown High’ and ‘Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire’
While I’m on the topic of Halloween movies that could’ve been better but weren’t bad, we have Halloweentown High and Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire. The third Halloweentown movie is one I will never skip during the fall season, but I wish Marnie’s love story took more of a backseat.
On the other hand, I am just itching for a remake of Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire because the nostalgia is too much for me. The movie wasn’t horrible, but it was missing something I can’t put my finger on.
Cute Movies: ‘The Jennie Project’ and ‘Quints’
I barely remembered these movies before my rewatch of DCOMs, but they are so cute and fun that I’m shocked I never revisited them growing up. Quints was hilarious and made me happy that I never had five siblings that I had to help take care of.
The Jennie Project made me love monkeys (specifically, chimpanzees) even more than I already did. Based on a book, it tells the story of Jennie, a chimp who uses American Sign Language to communicate with the humans around her. I enjoyed it more than I could have imagined.
Nostalgic Classics: ‘The Thirteenth Year’ and ‘Tru Confessions’
I didn’t remember The Thirteenth Year being very good, but I’m glad I was proved wrong! Were there some things I would change if it was made nowadays? Sure, but that doesn’t take away from the story. To be honest, I would even love a sequel or remake if Disney was up to it.
At first glance, you might think Tru Confessions wouldn’t be great. But Disney proved me wrong when I watched it for the first time last year. It was charming and made me cry a little bit. It’s shot as a fictional documentary, and while I’m not a fan of the format, I couldn’t get enough of it.
Futuristic Fashions: ‘Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century’
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Zenon franchise growing up, I do have to concede that the story was interesting. My biggest gripe with Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century was the cringy slang the characters used throughout the movie.
On the other hand, I love what they did with wardrobe and makeup. They took late 1990s and early 2000s trends and made them look like they belonged in the future. In case you didn’t know, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century was supposed to be the start of a television show, and I still wish that had happened.
Might Be Cringy, But I Love It: ‘Adventures in Babysitting’
This movie got so much hate around the time it came out, but for what? It might have had some cringy scenes (I’m talking about that rap battle), but overall, I could watch that movie weekly and still enjoy it. It helps that Sabrina Carpenter and Sofia Carson starred in it.
I never watched the original Adventures in Babysitting, but I’m pretty sure I’d still like the 2016 version best. All the hijinks the kids and babysitters got into had me laughing and wondering what would happen next. Not to mention, the soundtrack slaps.
Twin Witches: ‘Twitches’
Just a few steps up from its sequel, Twitches is a nostalgic movie that I could probably quote half of from memory right now. I’ve probably watched the movie 100 times. And I still get chills during some scenes. One of my favorites is when the twins finally meet their mom.
What put this movie above Twitches Too is that the story never felt forced and the sisters’ bonding was more natural. And I know I already mentioned this, but if Twitches Too hadn’t been made, Twitches ended so perfectly that it wouldn’t have devastated me.
The Best from the Future: ‘Zenon: Z3’
I had trouble deciding whether I liked Twitches or Zenon: Z3 better, but ultimately, the third installment in the futuristic series just had a better enjoyment factor. I remember wishing I could live in this world as a kid.
Where Zenon: The Zequel failed, Zenon: Z3 made up for it. They brought back Raven as Zenon’s best friend and stepped up the story. Not once do I remember wanting to pause the movie just because I was bored and wanted to scroll through TikTok instead as I did with the second movie.
Early 2000s Hits: ‘The Luck of the Irish’ and ‘A Ring of Endless Light’
Did anyone else expect a random kid in their school to start turning into a leprechaun after watching The Luck of the Irish? No? Just me? This movie was hilarious while still having a serious side to it. It’s been over 20 years; can we get some more leprechaun movies already?
A Ring of Endless Light had more serious tones than The Luck of the Irish. This is kind of funny to me since Ryan Merriman starred in both, and he did so well with both subjects. And if you liked this movie, you need to read the novel by Madeline L’Engle!
Halloween Classics: ‘Halloweentown’ and ‘The Scream Team’
You didn’t think I’d rank the best DCOMs without mentioning Halloweentown, the movie that kickstarted my generation’s obsession with Halloween? (Don’t worry, I’m one of those people.) This movie will stay a classic for years to come because people like me will never move on from this franchise.
The Scream Team, on the other hand, gave me knock-off Ghostbusters vibes. That said, it was still enjoyable and better than the Mostly Ghostly movies. Honestly, this movie could’ve been huge if more people took DCOMs seriously.
1999 Hits: ‘Smart House’ and ‘Johnny Tsunami’
After rewatching Smart House, I can understand why some people don’t want Amazon Alexa or Google Homes. I was even a little on the fence about having Siri on my phone for a while because I didn’t want to go through what the family in this movie experienced. But I got over it, and I still enjoy the movie.
On the other hand, Johnny Tsunami made me want to get over my fear of the ocean just to try surfing. Thankfully that urge passed, but the thought still lingers. Compared to Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board, I would rather watch this any day.
Girl Power: ‘Get a Clue’ and ‘Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior’
Talk about girls kicking butt and taking names! Get a Clue had Lindsay Lohan embarking on an adventure to find her missing teacher with her friends. I loved it. I’m still waiting for Disney to try remaking it into a television show.
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior could have been huge. It should have been. It was full of action, relatable characters, and slightly cringy writing. It’s everything Disney loves, so why didn’t it get the appreciation it deserves? Can we get an adult version of this with Brenda Song, please?
Rollerskating Hijinks: ‘Brink!’
I can’t rollerskate or skateboard, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to try all because of Brink! The movie was fun, perfect for the time it was made, and I could see it getting popular on social media one day when people rediscover it.
Brink! was the third DCOM ever made, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. When you think of these movies, you probably think of cringy dialogue and tons of music. But that’s not the case with this story of a kid trying to win a skating competition to get money for his family.
Double-Dutch Champions: ‘Jump In!’
This was the first time I saw Corbin Bleu outside of High School Musical, and I wish there were more Disney movies with him. Same with Keke Palmer, but she’s been in quite a few more kids’ shows and movies of the 2000s and 2010s than Bleu.
From Bleu’s song “Push It” to the double-dutch choreography, I can’t stop thinking about this movie. And though I hadn’t seen it in years or listened to the soundtrack, I remembered so much that I was singing along to the movie when I rewatched it.
Timeless Movie: ‘The Color of Friendship’
Disney was breaking boundaries with its take on a real-life story from the late 1970s. The Color of Friendship was inspired by a family who hosted South African students twice. It goes through history and teaches about tolerating other people’s views on life.
In this film, Mahree Bok comes to live with the Dellums as part of an exchange program. Over time, they realize they have more in common than they thought, but their backgrounds and views on life are still so different. It will honestly have you sobbing at times.
Technically Not a Musical: ‘Pixel Perfect’
For some reason, I always got this movie mixed up with an episode of Phil of the Future. The special effects, story, and songs were all great, and I wish Disney had done more with it.
In Pixel Perfect, Roscoe creates the “perfect frontwoman” for his best friend’s band. But when she starts getting frustrated with not being human, things start to go awry. While it had a really weird ending, I’m glad they didn’t make too big of a deal with it.
Disney’s First Hannukah: ‘Full-Court Miracle’
Before Full-Court Miracle, I hadn’t seen much of Hannukah on Disney or Nickelodeon. It was refreshing to not have Christmas-themed movies during the holiday season. From what I’ve read online, it did a great job representing a realistic Jewish family.
Full-Court Miracle was based on Lamont Carr’s life as he helped his team to win a game during the holiday season. Carr was a basketball player at the University of Virginia. Honestly, I think this was a better basketball film than a certain Disney musical that I won’t mention here.
Better Than Expected: ‘Stuck in the Suburbs’
Stuck in the Suburbs is a hilarious movie that felt like a decent Wattpad novel that got made into a movie. I mean, seriously, it felt like watching a child’s celebrity fanfiction–but in a good way.
If you were in the girls’ position, wouldn’t you have done the same thing? And let’s talk about that soundtrack. It did so well, and I honestly can’t believe I didn’t have a CD copy of it as I did for so many other movies. Maybe I should go buy it now…
Best Halloween Movie: ‘Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge’
While Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge may be the greatest Halloween movie of all time, it’s still number two on my list of Disney’s non-musical DCOMs. While the rest of the Halloweentown franchise is good, Kalabar’s Revenge has the strongest story. Not to mention, this movie is how we got the best Disney couple of our generation.
After meeting Halloweentown’s residents in the first film, the second movie was able to dig deeper into the story and less into exposition. I don’t think there will ever be a day when I don’t love this movie.
The Best DCOM (So Far): ‘Cadet Kelly’
This might sound crazy, but I think Cadet Kelly is the best non-musical DCOM so far. Hilary Duff and Christy Carlson Romano did amazing work and really sold the story. While it is a bit cringy, what can you expect from a Disney movie?
When Cadet Kelly first came out, it wasn’t as popular as it should have been. But now that it’s streaming on Disney Plus and TikTok has brought back a love of 2000s movies, it’s getting the attention it deserves. The story was so moving, that I was hoping for a sequel that never came.