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The 100 Best Movies on Disney+ (January 2022)

Disney+ covers over 100 years of its flagship studio’s history, from early animated shorts to groundbreaking full-length animated features to family live-action classics to the blockbuster triumvirate of superheroes, space operas, and 3D computer animation of today. It’s a big spread of time filled with classics, some middling stuff, and even a few disasters. Rotten Tomatoes is here to discover and present only the movies with the highest Tomatometer scores on Disney+!

Looking for classic Disney animated movies? Disney+ has them, and we’ve chosen the Freshest, like Cinderella, Fantasia, 101 Dalmatians, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. For more recent Disney animated movies, the best among that crop includes Zootopia, Moana, and Frozen. Of course, you can’t talk Disney animation these days without including Pixar, who are represented in Certified Fresh full with Toy Story, Inside Out, The Incredibles, and more.

But Walt Disney Studios also has a long, honored tradition of family-friendly live-action films, too, and the streaming service does not skimp out. Here, you’ll find those delightful animation/live-action hybrids (Mary Poppins, Pete’s Dragon), sports classics (The Rookie, Miracle, Remember the Titans), and some sweet sci-fi (TRON).

If you’re looking to get lost in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney+ is launching a few films short of a full Avengers line-up: Expect to see Guardians of the Galaxy and Iron Man and a several more, and expect us to update the list as more are added in the future. And, of course, Star Wars is here in full force: From A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, to the modern era featuring The Force Awakens and spin-offs like Rogue One. Our only stipulation for inclusion in our guide is that each film featured here is Certified Fresh, which means it maintained a high Tomatometer score after meeting a minimum number of critics reviews.

As streaming continues to shake up the entertainment landscape, threatening to bury audiences under a deluge of viewing choices, we present a fast track into what you want to see with the 100 Best Movies on Disney+ to Watch Right Now!

MORE ON DISNEY+: The Best Disney+ Shows and Original MoviesAll Disney Animated Movies Ranked | All Star Wars Movies Ranked | All MCU Movies RankedAll Pixar Movies Ranked

#100
#100
Adjusted Score: 87278%
Critics Consensus: Offering Monsters, Inc. fans a return visit with beloved characters, Monsters University delivers funny and thoughtful family entertainment for viewers of any age.
Synopsis: Ever since he was a kid monster, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) has dreamed of becoming a Scarer. To make his... [More]
Directed By: Dan Scanlon

#99
Adjusted Score: 91336%
Critics Consensus: With plenty of pulpy action, a pleasantly retro vibe, and a handful of fine performances, Captain America is solidly old-fashioned blockbuster entertainment.
Synopsis: It is 1941 and the world is in the throes of war. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants to do his... [More]
Directed By: Joe Johnston

#98
Adjusted Score: 92986%
Critics Consensus: With Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas brings his second Star Wars trilogy to a suitably thrilling and often poignant -- if still a bit uneven -- conclusion.
Synopsis: It has been three years since the Clone Wars began. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Jedi Knight Anakin... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#97

Fantasia 2000 (1999)
81%

#97
Adjusted Score: 84374%
Critics Consensus: It provides an entertaining experience for adults and children alike.
Synopsis: "Fantasia/2000" continues and builds upon Walt Disney's original idea with the creation of a new musical program interpreted by a... [More]

#96

Miracle (2004)
81%

#96
Adjusted Score: 85821%
Critics Consensus: Kurt Russell's performance guides this cliche-ridden tale into the realm of inspirational, nostalgic goodness.
Synopsis: When college coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) is hired to helm the 1980 U.S. men's Olympic hockey team, he brings... [More]
Directed By: Gavin O'Connor

#95

Black Widow (2021)
79%

#95
Adjusted Score: 103731%
Critics Consensus: Black Widow's deeper themes are drowned out in all the action, but it remains a solidly entertaining standalone adventure that's rounded out by a stellar supporting cast.
Synopsis: Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her... [More]
Directed By: Cate Shortland

#94
Adjusted Score: 91159%
Critics Consensus: Though failing to reach the cinematic heights of its predecessors, Return of the Jedi remains an entertaining sci-fi adventure and a fitting end to the classic trilogy.
Synopsis: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) battles horrible Jabba the Hut and cruel Darth Vader to save his comrades in the Rebel... [More]
Directed By: Richard Marquand

#93

Avatar (2009)
82%

#93
Adjusted Score: 97487%
Critics Consensus: It might be more impressive on a technical level than as a piece of storytelling, but Avatar reaffirms James Cameron's singular gift for imaginative, absorbing filmmaking.
Synopsis: On the lush alien world of Pandora live the Na'vi, beings who appear primitive but are highly evolved. Because the... [More]
Directed By: James Cameron

#92

Ant-Man (2015)
83%

#92
Adjusted Score: 96057%
Critics Consensus: Led by a charming performance from Paul Rudd, Ant-Man offers Marvel thrills on an appropriately smaller scale -- albeit not as smoothly as its most successful predecessors.
Synopsis: Forced out of his own company by former protégé Darren Cross, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits the talents of... [More]
Directed By: Peyton Reed

#91
#91
Adjusted Score: 94689%
Critics Consensus: Unapologetically sweet and maybe even a little corny, The Sound of Music will win over all but the most cynical filmgoers with its classic songs and irresistible warmth.
Synopsis: A tuneful, heartwarming story, it is based on the real life story of the Von Trapp Family singers, one of... [More]
Directed By: Robert Wise

#90

The Book of Life (2014)
83%

#90
Adjusted Score: 86954%
Critics Consensus: The Book of Life's gorgeous animation is a treat, but it's a pity that its story lacks the same level of craft and detail that its thrilling visuals provide.
Synopsis: In the Mexican town of San Angel, Manolo (Diego Luna), Maria (Zoë Saldana) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum) have been friends... [More]
Directed By: Jorge R. Gutierrez

#89

Hercules (1997)
84%

#89
Adjusted Score: 86112%
Critics Consensus: Fast-paced and packed with dozens of pop culture references, Hercules might not measure up with the true classics of the Disney pantheon, but it's still plenty of fun.
Synopsis: Disney tackles Greek mythology in this animated feature. Hercules (Tate Donovan), a son of gods, was snatched as a baby... [More]
Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker

#88
#88
Adjusted Score: 84791%
Critics Consensus: An amazing array of images from beneath the sea.
Synopsis: Director James Cameron travels with the crew of a Russian research vessel as they plunge into the depths of the... [More]

#87

The Rookie (2002)
84%

#87
Adjusted Score: 87877%
Critics Consensus: A heart-warming sports flick, The Rookie greatly benefits from understated direction and the emotional honesty Dennis Quaid brings to the role of Jim Morris.
Synopsis: A true story about a coach who discovers that it's never too late for dreams to come true. Jim Morris... [More]
Directed By: John Lee Hancock

#86
Adjusted Score: 113613%
Critics Consensus: Rogue One draws deep on Star Wars mythology while breaking new narrative and aesthetic ground -- and suggesting a bright blockbuster future for the franchise.
Synopsis: Former scientist Galen Erso lives on a farm with his wife and young daughter, Jyn. His peaceful existence comes crashing... [More]
Directed By: Gareth Edwards

#85

Born in China (2016)
85%

#85
Adjusted Score: 87688%
Critics Consensus: Disneynature Born In China delivers more of the breathtaking footage the series is known for -- and more than enough cuddly anthropomorphic action to keep the kids entertained.
Synopsis: From frigid mountains to the heart of the bamboo forest, filmmaker Lu Chuan follows the adventures of three animal families... [More]
Directed By: Lu Chuan

#84
#84
Adjusted Score: 89849%
Critics Consensus: The Emperor's New Groove isn't the most ambitious animated film, but its brisk pace, fresh characters, and big laughs make for a great time for the whole family.
Synopsis: Arrogant young Emperor Kuzco is transformed into a llama by his power-hungry advisor -- the devious diva Yzma. Stranded in... [More]
Directed By: Mark Dindal

#83
#83
Adjusted Score: 93380%
Critics Consensus: The warmth of traditional Disney animation makes this occasionally lightweight fairy-tale update a lively and captivating confection for the holidays.
Synopsis: Hardworking and ambitious, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) dreams of one day opening the finest restaurant in New Orleans. Her dream... [More]
Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker

#82

X2 (2003)
85%

#82
Adjusted Score: 92699%
Critics Consensus: Tightly scripted, solidly acted, and impressively ambitious, X2: X-Men United is bigger and better than its predecessor -- and a benchmark for comic sequels in general.
Synopsis: Stryker (Brian Cox), a villianous former Army commander, holds the key to Wolverine's (Hugh Jackman) past and the future of... [More]
Directed By: Bryan Singer

#81
Adjusted Score: 116301%
Critics Consensus: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's action-packed plot, dazzling visuals, and irreverent humor add up to a sequel that's almost as fun -- if not quite as thrillingly fresh -- as its predecessor.
Synopsis: Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, to protect their precious batteries... [More]
Directed By: James Gunn

#80

Anastasia (1997)
86%

#80
Adjusted Score: 88473%
Critics Consensus: Beautiful animation, an affable take on Russian history, and strong voice performances make Anastasia a winning first film from Fox animation studios.
Synopsis: The evil wizard Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd) puts a hex on the royal Romanovs and young Anastasia (Meg Ryan) disappears when... [More]
Directed By: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman

#79

Mulan (1998)
86%

#79
Adjusted Score: 90109%
Critics Consensus: Exploring themes of family duty and honor, Mulan breaks new ground as a Disney film, while still bringing vibrant animation and sprightly characters to the screen.
Synopsis: Fearful that her ailing father will be drafted into the Chinese military, Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) takes his spot -- though,... [More]
Directed By: Barry Cook, Tony Bancroft

#78

Lilo & Stitch (2002)
86%

#78
Adjusted Score: 90576%
Critics Consensus: Edgier than traditional Disney fare, Lilo and Stitch explores issues of family while providing a fun and charming story.
Synopsis: A tale of a young girl's close encounter with the galaxy's most wanted extraterrestrial. Lilo is a lonely Hawaiian girl... [More]

#77

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
87%

#77
Adjusted Score: 94085%
Critics Consensus: Equally entertaining for both kids and parents old enough to catch the references, Wreck-It Ralph is a clever, colorful adventure built on familiar themes and joyful nostalgia.
Synopsis: Arcade-game character Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is tired of always being the "bad guy" and losing to his "good... [More]
Directed By: Rich Moore

#76
#76
Adjusted Score: 94835%
Critics Consensus: The Peanuts Movie offers a colorful gateway into the world of its classic characters and a sweetly nostalgic -- if relatively unambitious -- treat for the adults who grew up with them.
Synopsis: Life always seems complicated for good ol' Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp), the boy who always tries his best against seemingly... [More]
Directed By: Steve Martino

#75

The Jungle Book (1967)
88%

#75
Adjusted Score: 90820%
Critics Consensus: With expressive animation, fun characters, and catchy songs, The Jungle Book endures as a crowd-pleasing Disney classic.
Synopsis: In this classic Walt Disney animation based on Rudyard Kipling's book, Mowgli, an abandoned child raised by wolves, has his... [More]
Directed By: Wolfgang Reitherman

#74

The Muppet Movie (1979)
88%

#74
Adjusted Score: 92612%
Critics Consensus: The Muppet Movie, the big-screen debut of Jim Henson's plush creations, is smart, lighthearted, and fun for all ages.
Synopsis: After Kermit the Frog decides to pursue a movie career, he starts his cross-country trip from Florida to California. Along... [More]
Directed By: James Frawley

#73

Freaky Friday (2003)
88%

#73
Adjusted Score: 93106%
Critics Consensus: Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan charm in Mark Waters' nicely pitched -- and Disney's second -- remake of the 1976 hit.
Synopsis: Single mother Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her teenage daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan) couldn't be more different, and it... [More]
Directed By: Mark Waters

#72

Millions (2004)
88%

#72
Adjusted Score: 93240%
Critics Consensus: A charming children fable even adults can enjoy.
Synopsis: When 9-year-old Damian (Alex Etel) finds a bag of money in his back yard, he and his brother Anthony (Lewis... [More]
Directed By: Danny Boyle

#71

Pete's Dragon (2016)
88%

#71
Adjusted Score: 102350%
Critics Consensus: Pete's Dragon continues Disney's current live-action winning streak with an update that gives the original a visual overhaul without overwhelming its sweet, soulful charm.
Synopsis: Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford), a woodcarver, delights local children with stories of a mysterious dragon that lives deep in the... [More]
Directed By: David Lowery

#70

Onward (2020)
88%

#70
Adjusted Score: 111986%
Critics Consensus: It may suffer in comparison to Pixar's classics, but Onward makes effective use of the studio's formula -- and stands on its own merits as a funny, heartwarming, dazzlingly animated adventure.
Synopsis: Teenage elf brothers Ian and Barley embark on a magical quest to spend one more day with their late father.... [More]
Directed By: Dan Scanlon

#69

Sleeping Beauty (1959)
89%

#69
Adjusted Score: 93010%
Critics Consensus: This Disney dreamscape contains moments of grandeur, with its lush colors, magical air, one of the most menacing villains in the Disney canon.
Synopsis: Filled with jealousy, the evil witch Maleficent (Eleanor Audley) curses Princess Aurora (Mary Costa) to die on her 16th birthday.... [More]
Directed By: Clyde Geronimi

#68

Tarzan (1999)
89%

#68
Adjusted Score: 92832%
Critics Consensus: Disney's Tarzan takes the well-known story to a new level with spirited animation, a brisk pace, and some thrilling action set-pieces..
Synopsis: In this Disney animated tale, the orphaned Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn) grows up in the remote African wilderness, raised by the... [More]
Directed By: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima

#67

Bolt (2008)
89%

#67
Adjusted Score: 96468%
Critics Consensus: Bolt is a pleasant animated comedy that overcomes the story's familiarity with strong visuals and likable characters.
Synopsis: The days of canine superstar Bolt (John Travolta) are filled with danger and intrigue ... until the cameras stop rolling.... [More]

#66

Big Hero 6 (2014)
90%

#66
Adjusted Score: 98662%
Critics Consensus: Agreeably entertaining and brilliantly animated, Big Hero 6 is briskly-paced, action-packed, and often touching.
Synopsis: Robotics prodigy Hiro (Ryan Potter) lives in the city of San Fransokyo. Next to his older brother, Tadashi, Hiro's closest... [More]
Directed By: Don Hall, Chris Williams

#65

Tangled (2010)
89%

#65
Adjusted Score: 97636%
Critics Consensus: While far from Disney's greatest film, Tangled is a visually stunning, thoroughly entertaining addition to the studio's classic animated canon.
Synopsis: When the kingdom's most-wanted bandit, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), hides in a convenient tower, he immediately becomes a captive of... [More]
Directed By: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard

#64

Doctor Strange (2016)
89%

#64
Adjusted Score: 112600%
Critics Consensus: Doctor Strange artfully balances its outré source material against the blockbuster constraints of the MCU, delivering a thoroughly entertaining superhero origin story in the bargain.
Synopsis: Dr. Stephen Strange's (Benedict Cumberbatch) life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When... [More]
Directed By: Scott Derrickson

#63

Bambi (1942)
91%

#63
Adjusted Score: 96249%
Critics Consensus: Elegantly animated and deeply touching, Bambi is an enduring, endearing, and moving Disney classic.
Synopsis: In a classic Disney animation, a fawn named Bambi joins his new friends, a young rabbit named Thumper and a... [More]
Directed By: David Hand

#62

Bears (2014)
90%

#62
Adjusted Score: 91817%
Critics Consensus: Sweet, beautifully filmed, and admirably short on sugarcoating, Bears continues Disneynature's winning streak.
Synopsis: Filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey chronicle a year in the lives of an Alaskan brown bear named Sky and... [More]
Starring: John C. Reilly

#61

Frozen (2013)
90%

#61
Adjusted Score: 100194%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated, smartly written, and stocked with singalong songs, Frozen adds another worthy entry to the Disney canon.
Synopsis: When their kingdom becomes trapped in perpetual winter, fearless Anna (Kristen Bell) joins forces with mountaineer Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and... [More]
Directed By: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

#60
Adjusted Score: 102467%
Critics Consensus: Suspenseful and politically astute, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a superior entry in the Avengers canon and is sure to thrill Marvel diehards.
Synopsis: After the cataclysmic events in New York with his fellow Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), lives in... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

#59
Adjusted Score: 104605%
Critics Consensus: X-Men: Days of Future Past combines the best elements of the series to produce a satisfyingly fast-paced outing that ranks among the franchise's finest installments.
Synopsis: Convinced that mutants pose a threat to humanity, Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) develops the Sentinels, enormous robotic weapons that... [More]
Directed By: Bryan Singer

#58

Isle of Dogs (2018)
90%

#58
Adjusted Score: 111583%
Critics Consensus: The beautifully stop-motion animated Isle of Dogs finds Wes Anderson at his detail-oriented best while telling one of the director's most winsomely charming stories.
Synopsis: When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island,... [More]
Directed By: Wes Anderson

#57
Adjusted Score: 117545%
Critics Consensus: Captain America: Civil War begins the next wave of Marvel movies with an action-packed superhero blockbuster boasting a decidedly non-cartoonish plot and the courage to explore thought-provoking themes.
Synopsis: Political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability when the actions of the Avengers lead to collateral damage. The... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

#56
#56
Adjusted Score: 126910%
Critics Consensus: Star Wars: The Last Jedi honors the saga's rich legacy while adding some surprising twists -- and delivering all the emotion-rich action fans could hope for.
Synopsis: Luke Skywalker's peaceful and solitary existence gets upended when he encounters Rey, a young woman who shows strong signs of... [More]
Directed By: Rian Johnson

#55

Splash (1984)
91%

#55
Adjusted Score: 93085%
Critics Consensus: A perfectly light, warmly funny romantic comedy that's kept afloat by Ron Howard's unobtrusive direction and charming performances from Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah.
Synopsis: A young boy saved from drowning by a beautiful mermaid, falls in love with her 20 years later when she... [More]
Directed By: Ron Howard

#54
Adjusted Score: 93724%
Critics Consensus: Ever After is a sweet, frothy twist on the ancient fable, led by a solid turn from star Barrymore.
Synopsis: This updated adaptation of the classic fairytale tells the story of Danielle (Drew Barrymore), a vibrant young woman who is... [More]
Directed By: Andy Tennant

#53
#53
Adjusted Score: 94692%
Critics Consensus: The arresting and dynamic visuals, offbeat details and light-as-air storytelling make James and the Giant Peach solid family entertainment.
Synopsis: Featuring stop-motion animation and live action, this inventive adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved children's tale follows the adventures of James... [More]
Directed By: Henry Selick

#52

Winnie the Pooh (2011)
90%

#52
Adjusted Score: 95357%
Critics Consensus: Short, nostalgic, and gently whimsical, Winnie the Pooh offers young audiences -- and their parents -- a sweetly traditional family treat.
Synopsis: Three stories inspired by A.A. Milne add up to a very busy day for Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings) and... [More]

#51
#51
Adjusted Score: 107368%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to a script that emphasizes its heroes' humanity and a wealth of superpowered set pieces, The Avengers lives up to its hype and raises the bar for Marvel at the movies.
Synopsis: When Thor's evil brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), gains access to the unlimited power of the energy cube called the Tesseract,... [More]
Directed By: Joss Whedon

#50

A Bug's Life (1998)
92%

#50
Adjusted Score: 96755%
Critics Consensus: A Bug's Life is a rousing adventure that blends animated thrills with witty dialogue and memorable characters - and another smashing early success for Pixar.
Synopsis: Flik (Dave Foley) is an inventive ant who's always messing things up for his colony. His latest mishap was destroying... [More]

#49
Adjusted Score: 106602%
Critics Consensus: A legendarily expansive and ambitious start to the sci-fi saga, George Lucas opened our eyes to the possibilities of blockbuster filmmaking and things have never been the same.
Synopsis: The Imperial Forces -- under orders from cruel Darth Vader (David Prowse) -- hold Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hostage, in... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#48
#48
Adjusted Score: 105784%
Critics Consensus: Guardians of the Galaxy is just as irreverent as fans of the frequently zany Marvel comic would expect -- as well as funny, thrilling, full of heart, and packed with visual splendor.
Synopsis: Brash space adventurer Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the quarry of relentless bounty hunters after he steals an orb... [More]
Directed By: James Gunn

#47
#47
Adjusted Score: 98046%
Critics Consensus: A nostalgic charmer, Lady and the Tramp's token sweetness is mighty but the songs and richly colored animation are technically superb and make for a memorable experience.
Synopsis: This Disney animated classic follows a pampered cocker spaniel named Lady (Barbara Luddy) whose comfortable life slips away once her... [More]

#46

Monkey Kingdom (2015)
93%

#46
Adjusted Score: 94645%
Critics Consensus: Monkey Kingdom's breathtaking footage of primates in the wild is likely to please animal lovers of all ages.
Synopsis: In South Asia, Maya the monkey and her son Kip struggle to survive within the competitive social hierarchy of the... [More]
Starring: Tina Fey

#45
#45
Adjusted Score: 97885%
Critics Consensus: The Little Mermaid ushered in a new golden era for Disney animation with warm and charming hand-drawn characters and catchy musical sequences.
Synopsis: In Disney's beguiling animated romp, rebellious 16-year-old mermaid Ariel (Jodi Benson) is fascinated with life on land. On one of... [More]
Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker

#44

The Lion King (1994)
93%

#44
Adjusted Score: 102876%
Critics Consensus: Emotionally stirring, richly drawn, and beautifully animated, The Lion King is a pride within Disney's pantheon of classic family films.
Synopsis: This Disney animated feature follows the adventures of the young lion Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), the heir of his father,... [More]
Directed By: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff

#43
#43
Adjusted Score: 104186%
Critics Consensus: Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightfully funny feast for the eyes with multi-generational appeal -- and it shows Wes Anderson has a knack for animation.
Synopsis: After 12 years of bucolic bliss, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) breaks a promise to his wife (Meryl Streep) and raids... [More]
Directed By: Wes Anderson

#42

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
93%

#42
Adjusted Score: 126308%
Critics Consensus: Exciting, funny, and above all fun, Thor: Ragnarok is a colorful cosmic adventure that sets a new standard for its franchise -- and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Synopsis: Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits... [More]
Directed By: Taika Waititi

#41
Adjusted Score: 110988%
Critics Consensus: Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series' former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.
Synopsis: Thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the galaxy faces a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren... [More]
Directed By: J.J. Abrams

#40
Adjusted Score: 104189%
Critics Consensus: Dark, sinister, but ultimately even more involving than A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back defies viewer expectations and takes the series to heightened emotional levels.
Synopsis: The adventure continues in this "Star Wars" sequel. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher)... [More]
Directed By: Irvin Kershner

#39
#39
Adjusted Score: 103564%
Critics Consensus: Enchanting, sweepingly romantic, and featuring plenty of wonderful musical numbers, Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney's most elegant animated offerings.
Synopsis: An arrogant young prince (Robby Benson) and his castle's servants fall under the spell of a wicked enchantress, who turns... [More]
Directed By: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

#38

Queen of Katwe (2016)
94%

#38
Adjusted Score: 104644%
Critics Consensus: Queen of Katwe is a feel-good movie of uncommon smarts and passion, and outstanding performances by Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo help to elevate the film past its cliches.
Synopsis: Living in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle for 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) and her... [More]
Directed By: Mira Nair

#37

Iron Man (2008)
94%

#37
Adjusted Score: 104613%
Critics Consensus: Powered by Robert Downey Jr.'s vibrant charm, Iron Man turbo-charges the superhero genre with a deft intelligence and infectious sense of fun.
Synopsis: A billionaire industrialist and genius inventor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), is conducting weapons tests overseas, but terrorists kidnap him... [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

#36
#36
Adjusted Score: 108633%
Critics Consensus: Another gorgeously animated, skillfully voiced entry in the Disney canon, Raya and the Last Dragon continues the studio's increased representation while reaffirming that its classic formula is just as reliable as ever.
Synopsis: Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known... [More]

#35

Finding Dory (2016)
94%

#35
Adjusted Score: 115556%
Critics Consensus: Funny, poignant, and thought-provoking, Finding Dory delivers a beautifully animated adventure that adds another entertaining chapter to its predecessor's classic story.
Synopsis: Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is a wide-eyed, blue tang fish who suffers from memory loss every 10 seconds or so. The... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Stanton

#34
#34
Adjusted Score: 127912%
Critics Consensus: Exciting, entertaining, and emotionally impactful, Avengers: Endgame does whatever it takes to deliver a satisfying finale to Marvel's epic Infinity Saga.
Synopsis: Adrift in space with no food or water, Tony Stark sends a message to Pepper Potts as his oxygen supply... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

#33

Fantasia (1940)
95%

#33
Adjusted Score: 100171%
Critics Consensus: A landmark in animation (and a huge influence on the medium of music video), Disney's Fantasia is a relentlessly inventive blend of the classics with phantasmagorical images.
Synopsis: Released in 1940, represented Disney's boldest experiment to date. Bringing to life his vision of blending animated imagery with classical... [More]

#32

Black Is King (2020)
94%

#32
Adjusted Score: 96811%
Critics Consensus: Beyoncé is King.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Starring: Beyoncé
Directed By: Beyoncé

#31

Aladdin (1992)
95%

#31
Adjusted Score: 100911%
Critics Consensus: A highly entertaining entry in Disney's renaissance era," Aladdin is beautifully drawn, with near-classic songs and a cast of scene-stealing characters.
Synopsis: When street rat Aladdin frees a genie from a lamp, he finds his wishes granted. However, he soon finds that... [More]
Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker

#30
Adjusted Score: 104827%
Critics Consensus: The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stunningly original and visually delightful work of stop-motion animation.
Synopsis: The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown's beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual... [More]
Directed By: Henry Selick

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 99732%
Critics Consensus: With strong performances and director David Lynch at the helm, The Straight Story steers past sentimental byways on its ambling journey across the American heartland.
Synopsis: A retired farmer and widower in his 70s, Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) learns one day that his distant brother Lyle... [More]
Directed By: David Lynch

#28

The Muppets (2011)
95%

#28
Adjusted Score: 105184%
Critics Consensus: Clever, charming, and heartfelt, The Muppets is a welcome big screen return for Jim Henson's lovable creations that will both win new fans and delight longtime devotees.
Synopsis: Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan, is on vacation in Los Angeles with his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary's... [More]
Directed By: James Bobin

#27

WALL-E (2008)
95%

#27
Adjusted Score: 107418%
Critics Consensus: Wall-E's stellar visuals testify once again to Pixar's ingenuity, while its charming star will captivate younger viewers -- and its timely story offers thought-provoking subtext.
Synopsis: WALL-E, short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class, is the last robot left on Earth. He spends his days tidying... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Stanton

#26

Moana (2016)
95%

#26
Adjusted Score: 112963%
Critics Consensus: With a title character as three-dimensional as its lush animation and a story that adds fresh depth to Disney's time-tested formula, Moana is truly a family-friendly adventure for the ages.
Synopsis: An adventurous teenager sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty... [More]
Directed By: John Musker, Ron Clements

#25

Soul (2020)
95%

#25
Adjusted Score: 119461%
Critics Consensus: A film as beautiful to contemplate as it is to behold, Soul proves Pixar's power to deliver outstanding all-ages entertainment remains undimmed.
Synopsis: Joe is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn't quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz... [More]
Directed By: Pete Docter

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 101833%
Critics Consensus: Irrefutable proof that gentle sentimentalism can be the chief ingredient in a wonderful film, Miracle on 34th Street delivers a warm holiday message without resorting to treacle.
Synopsis: In this Christmas classic, an old man going by the name of Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) fills in for an... [More]
Directed By: George Seaton

#23

Monsters, Inc. (2001)
96%

#23
Adjusted Score: 102927%
Critics Consensus: Clever, funny, and delightful to look at, Monsters, Inc. delivers another resounding example of how Pixar elevated the bar for modern all-ages animation.
Synopsis: Monsters Incorporated is the largest scare factory in the monster world, and James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) is one of... [More]
Directed By: Pete Docter

#22

Ratatouille (2007)
96%

#22
Adjusted Score: 107378%
Critics Consensus: Fast-paced and stunningly animated, Ratatouille adds another delightfully entertaining entry -- and a rather unlikely hero -- to the Pixar canon.
Synopsis: Remy (Patton Oswalt), a resident of Paris, appreciates good food and has quite a sophisticated palate. He would love to... [More]
Directed By: Brad Bird

#21

Black Panther (2018)
96%

#21
Adjusted Score: 128714%
Critics Consensus: Black Panther elevates superhero cinema to thrilling new heights while telling one of the MCU's most absorbing stories -- and introducing some of its most fully realized characters.
Synopsis: After the death of his father, T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 101997%
Critics Consensus: Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an innovative and entertaining film that features a groundbreaking mix of live action and animation, with a touching and original story to boot.
Synopsis: Down-on-his-luck private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) gets hired by cartoon producer R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) to investigate an adultery... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#19

Big (1988)
97%

#19
Adjusted Score: 103369%
Critics Consensus: Refreshingly sweet and undeniably funny, Big is a showcase for Tom Hanks, who dives into his role and infuses it with charm and surprising poignancy.
Synopsis: After a wish turns 12-year-old Josh Baskin (David Moscow) into a 30-year-old man (Tom Hanks), he heads to New York... [More]
Directed By: Penny Marshall

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 104033%
Critics Consensus: A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh.
Synopsis: A fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love. He must find her after a... [More]
Directed By: Rob Reiner

#17

Free Solo (2018)
97%

#17
Adjusted Score: 106080%
Critics Consensus: Free Solo depicts athletic feats that many viewers will find beyond reason - and grounds the attempts in passions that are all but universal.
Synopsis: Alex Honnold completes the first free solo climb of famed El Capitan's 3,000-foot vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.... [More]

#16

The Incredibles (2004)
97%

#16
Adjusted Score: 108259%
Critics Consensus: Bringing loads of wit and tons of fun to the animated superhero genre, The Incredibles easily lives up to its name.
Synopsis: In this lauded Pixar animated film, married superheroes Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) are forced to... [More]
Directed By: Brad Bird

#15

Coco (2017)
97%

#15
Adjusted Score: 123792%
Critics Consensus: Coco's rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly -- and deeply affecting -- approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death.
Synopsis: Despite his family's generations-old ban on music, young Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de... [More]
Directed By: Lee Unkrich

#14

Toy Story 4 (2019)
97%

#14
Adjusted Score: 124704%
Critics Consensus: Heartwarming, funny, and beautifully animated, Toy Story 4 manages the unlikely feat of extending -- and perhaps concluding -- a practically perfect animated saga.
Synopsis: Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang embark on a road trip with Bonnie and a new toy... [More]
Directed By: Josh Cooley

#13

Dumbo (1941)
98%

#13
Adjusted Score: 102679%
Critics Consensus: Dumbo packs plenty of story into its brief runtime, along with all the warm animation and wonderful music you'd expect from a Disney classic.
Synopsis: A young circus elephant is born with comically large ears and given the cruel nickname Dumbo. One day at a... [More]
Directed By: Ben Sharpsteen

#12
Adjusted Score: 102959%
Critics Consensus: With plenty of pooches and a memorable villain (Cruella De Vil), this is one of Disney's most enduring, entertaining animated films.
Synopsis: In a Disney animation classic, Dalmatian Pongo is tired of his bachelor-dog life. He spies lovely Perdita and maneuvers his... [More]

#11

Mary Poppins (1964)
96%

#11
Adjusted Score: 101037%
Critics Consensus: A lavish modern fairy tale celebrated for its amazing special effects, catchy songs, and Julie Andrews's legendary performance in the title role.
Synopsis: When Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber), the children of the wealthy and uptight Banks family, are faced with... [More]
Directed By: Robert Stevenson

#10
Adjusted Score: 99669%
Critics Consensus: With its involving story and characters, vibrant art, and memorable songs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs set the animation standard for decades to come.
Synopsis: The Grimm fairy tale gets a Technicolor treatment in Disney's first animated feature. Jealous of Snow White's beauty, the wicked... [More]
Directed By: David Hand

#9

Jane (2017)
98%

#9
Adjusted Score: 103870%
Critics Consensus: Jane honors its subject's legacy with an absorbing, beautifully filmed, and overall enlightening look at her decades of invaluable work.
Synopsis: Jane Goodall, a young and untrained woman, challenges the male dominated scientific consensus of her time with her chimpanzee research... [More]
Starring: Jane Goodall
Directed By: Brett Morgen

#8

Hamilton (2020)
97%

#8
Adjusted Score: 110775%
Critics Consensus: Look around, look around at how beautifully Hamilton shines beyond Broadway - and at how marvelously Thomas Kail captures the stage show's infectious energy.
Synopsis: The original Broadway production of the award-winning musical that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, first secretary of the treasury,... [More]
Directed By: Thomas Kail

#7

Zootopia (2016)
98%

#7
Adjusted Score: 115777%
Critics Consensus: The brilliantly well-rounded Zootopia offers a thoughtful, inclusive message that's as rich and timely as its sumptuously state-of-the-art animation -- all while remaining fast and funny enough to keep younger viewers entertained.
Synopsis: From the largest elephant to the smallest shrew, the city of Zootopia is a mammal metropolis where various animals live... [More]
Directed By: Byron Howard, Rich Moore

#6

Toy Story 3 (2010)
98%

#6
Adjusted Score: 112785%
Critics Consensus: Deftly blending comedy, adventure, and honest emotion, Toy Story 3 is a rare second sequel that really works.
Synopsis: With their beloved Andy preparing to leave for college, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), and... [More]
Directed By: Lee Unkrich

#5

Inside Out (2015)
98%

#5
Adjusted Score: 113973%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, gorgeously animated, and powerfully moving, Inside Out is another outstanding addition to the Pixar library of modern animated classics.
Synopsis: Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Midwestern girl, but her world turns upside-down when she and her parents... [More]
Directed By: Pete Docter

#4

Finding Nemo (2003)
99%

#4
Adjusted Score: 110331%
Critics Consensus: Breathtakingly lovely and grounded by the stellar efforts of a well-chosen cast, Finding Nemo adds another beautifully crafted gem to Pixar's crown.
Synopsis: Marlin (Albert Brooks), a clown fish, is overly cautious with his son, Nemo (Alexander Gould), who has a foreshortened fin.... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Stanton

#3

Pinocchio (1940)
100%

#3
Adjusted Score: 106171%
Critics Consensus: Ambitious, adventurous, and sometimes frightening, Pinocchio arguably represents the pinnacle of Disney's collected works -- it's beautifully crafted and emotionally resonant.
Synopsis: When the woodworker Geppetto (Christian Rub) sees a falling star, he wishes that the puppet he just finished, Pinocchio (Dickie... [More]

#2

Toy Story (1995)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 106145%
Critics Consensus: Entertaining as it is innovative, Toy Story reinvigorated animation while heralding the arrival of Pixar as a family-friendly force to be reckoned with.
Synopsis: Woody (Tom Hanks), a good-hearted cowboy doll who belongs to a young boy named Andy (John Morris), sees his position... [More]
Directed By: John Lasseter

#1

Toy Story 2 (1999)
100%

#1
Adjusted Score: 108442%
Critics Consensus: The rare sequel that arguably improves on its predecessor, Toy Story 2 uses inventive storytelling, gorgeous animation, and a talented cast to deliver another rich moviegoing experience for all ages.
Synopsis: Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen from his home by toy dealer Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight), leaving Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen)... [More]

Read More:

The Black Cauldron

(Photo by (c)Buena Vista Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Far too often, animated movies are written off as overly kid-friendly, unsophisticated fluff, when the truth is the medium is capable of telling stories as mature as the most prestigious live-action dramas. Sometimes, however, an animated movie ostensibly made for children can also be spooky enough to terrify the most hardened youngsters, and even a few adults.

One of Disney’s most infamous animated movies, The Black Cauldron, opened 35 years ago and traumatized kids of all stripes, and to celebrate its anniversary, we’re taking a look back at its peers. Whether they were intentionally spooky or simply featured a couple of freaky moments that made every kid hit fast-forward, we’ve put together a list of the scariest animated movies that terrified the young audiences they were meant to entertain.


Coraline (2009) 90%

Coraline

(Photo by Focus Features)

On the surface, this stop-motion adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel is a silly story of a spunky, bored little girl who finds a hidden door to a secret world where everything is perfect, yet slightly off. But just like its hidden parallel dimension, Coraline is freaky and frequently plain horrifying. As soon as Coraline finds the secret door, the story begins to unfold like a horror film, ramping up its creepy atmosphere and frightening creatures. But the real terror comes the moment Coraline is given her own set of button eyes, to be sewn on by her creepy Other Mother… before she transforms into a giant spider and all hell breaks loose. Moira MacDonald summarized it for the Seattle Times: “Children who like being scared will get a kick out of this wildly creative movie; adults needn’t have a child in tow to enjoy it, too.”


The Great Mouse Detective (1986) 80%

The Great Mouse Detective

(Photo by Walt Disney Productions)

A noir mystery starring mice may not necessarily seem like a film that would give you nightmares for days on end, but you would be wrong. Based on the children’s novel Basil of Baker Street — which itself was inspired by the tales of Sherlock Holmes — The Great Mouse Detective starts with a little mouse girl named Olivia celebrating her birthday with her father at home, when suddenly a one-legged bat breaks into the house and kidnaps the father. The film’s eerie atmosphere persists throughout its runtime, and even when there are moments of levity or sweetness, they’re usually followed by moments of utter terror. For many children, the bat represents their first experiences with jumpscares, as he is responsible for the two most frightening ones in the film: first, when he bursts into Olivia’s home at the beginning of the movie, and later when he leaps out of a baby carriage to abduct her. Nina Darnton wrote for The New York Times that “Small children may be afraid of some of the bad characters — the Disney Studio’s gift for creating really nasty bad guys means that they are scary — but they will love the cute, brave mice and cheer their triumphs. Adults will enjoy the wit and style.”


The Last Unicorn (1982) 73%

The Last Unicorn

(Photo by Jensen Farley Pictures)

Horror and fantasy are two genres that don’t cross nearly enough, but when they do, they offer unique experiences. The Last Unicorn skews more towards fantasy, but it still packs enough spooky elements to make it a scary film for kids. Rankin/Bass may be better known for their holiday classics like the stop-motion animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but this fantasy epic — about a unicorn who discovers she is the last of her kind and embarks on a quest to discover what has happened to her kin — is full of horrific dangers. Without a doubt, the most frightening for kids was the fiery Red Bull, evil incarnate, with its deep, blood-red color and almost hollow eyes that no doubt inspired countless nightmares. Writing about the film for Time Out, Geoff Andrew explained that The Last Unicorn has “Some horrific moments (the mark of the best fairytales) and some sublimely witty lines.”


Monster House (2006) 75%

Monster House

(Photo by Sony Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Monster House is ultimately charming and fun for most, but this is, after all, the only “proper” horror film on this list, and while it’s largely kid-friendly, it’s also suitably frightening in spots, as any haunted house movie worth its salt should be. The film follows three kids who decide to explore the creepy old house in their neighborhood with a terrifying reputation. It feels like a 1980s Amblin movie, full of adventure and comedy and more than a little danger, thanks to a few intense scenes courtesy of the imaginatively rendered titular house. As L.A. Weekly’s Scott Foundas said of the film, “Monster House becomes one of those wonderfully weird adventure stories beloved of children who don’t mind getting a good old-fashioned case of the heebie-jeebies. It’s kind of a blast for adults too.”


The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) 95%

The Nightmare Before Christmas

(Photo by Buena Vista Pictures)

Ask any horror fan and they’ll tell you that Christmas and horror make for a fantastic combination, but this is one of the rare times that the two cross over in animated form, and it’s mostly a delightful treat. From the mind of Tim Burton and Henry Selick comes the story of the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, who gets tired of the same annual festivities and decides to kidnap Santa Claus and take over Christmas. As sweet and funny as it is terrifyingly gruesome, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a visual treat, even if those visuals are frequently bizarre, off-kilter, and a little macabre for the toddler set. The best example is the burlap-sack villain Ooogie Boogie, who literally refers to himself as “the boogieman” and who meets his demise when he comes apart at the seams and reveals he’s full of creepy-crawlies. As Alan Jones wrote for the Radio Times, “Only the deliciously demented imagination of Edward Scissorhands director Tim Burton could have come up with such a dark vision of the holiday season.”


Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998) 88%

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island

(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

For decades, Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. gang have served as an introduction to horror for kids, offering mildly creepy stories that always ended with an “Aw, shucks!” and a smile. Well, not Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, which marked the first time the gang faced a real supernatural threat as they set out to find ghosts and monsters in Louisiana. What starts as another typical Scooby-Doo adventure quickly devolves into a tale of voodoo, ghost pirates, vengeful cat demons, and of course, zombies, all tied together by a tragic backstory much darker than fans of the show would have been accustomed to. There aren’t any greedy tycoons in rubber suits here, and actual death — of werecats and humans alike — is a major element of the plot. There really isn’t anything else quite like this in the Scooby-Doo canon, and any kid going into it expecting the usual antics was in for a shock.


The Secret of NIMH (1982) 93%

The Secret of NIMH

(Photo by United Artists)

If you thought animated movies featuring talking animals were all sunshine and rainbows, think again. This film based on the children’s novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH follows a field mouse as she tries to save her ill son both from his pneumonia and from the farmer whose land they live on before he plows through it. Don Bluth’s adaptation is full of truly terrifying moments involving the survivors of scientific experiments, including a rat-eating cat named Dragon. But the scene that really traumatized kids was the visit to the Great Owl, whose introduction includes a lair littered with the bones of his devoured prey, a gruesome encounter with an ill-fated spider, and a pair of creepy, glowing eyes that stared into your very soul. Bluth’s films always skewed a little darker than typical Disney fare, and this was a prime example of his aesthetic. As critic Christopher Null wrote for Filmcritic.com, “Never mind the G rating, this is scary stuff which sent my little one fleeing to another room inside of 10 minutes.”


Spirited Away (2001) 97%

Spirited Away

(Photo by Walt Disney Pictures)

Japanese animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki’s films have been described as beautifully made artistic wonders and visual masterpieces, but “frightening” isn’t a sensation you normally associate with his work. That being said, Spirited Away is his most haunting film, and it has more than its fair share of creepy moments that sneak up on you and make a lasting impression. The story of a girl lost in a world ruled by spirits is as whimsical as a Disney film, but it doesn’t shy away from disturbing imagery, like when young protagonist Chihiro sees her parents transformed into monstrous and endlessly hungry pigs, or when the spirit No Face begins to devour all the employees of the bathhouse in a wild frenzy. Children who toughed it out through the more frightening moments were rewarded with an enchanting, magical experience, but for some kids, that would have been a tall order.


Watership Down (1978) 82%

Watership Down

(Photo by Avco Embassy courtesy Everett Collection)

It doesn’t take long for Watership Down to shed its “cute bunny film” facade and reveal a deeper allegory that flows red with blood. This adaptation of Richard Adams’ novel follows a group of rabbits on a perilous journey to find refuge after one of them has an apocalyptic vision about their home. For generations, Watership Down has traumatized children with haunting imagery of red-eyed rabbits ripping each other’s throats out or suffocating as they’re buried alive, and peril lies around every turn in the story. Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central summed it up succinctly: “Unsentimental and terrifying.”


Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) 97%

Christopher Lloyd in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

(Photo by Buena Vista Pictures)

“Wait a second. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a live-action movie,” you might say, and you’d be (mostly) right, but Robert Zemeckis’ loony live-action/animated hybrid deserves a spot on this list because it features one of Disney’s scariest villains, Christopher Llloyd’s Judge Doom, who — spoiler alert — is actually a cartoon himself. When we first meet Doom, he mercilessly murders an innocent toon without flinching, dumping it into a vat of corrosive “dip.” Then comes the pivotal moment when we discover Doom’s true identity; as played by Lloyd, he already resembled a half-desiccated corpse, a cross between the evil preacher from the Poltergeist movies and the Gestapo officer from Raiders of the Lost Ark who gets his face melted off. But once he’s run over by the streamroller and pops back up, Doom is another beast altogether and the stuff of childhood nightmares.


The Black Cauldron was released on July 24, 1985.

Did we leave out one of your favorites? Don’t agree with our choices? Let us know in the comments!

Ah, the 1980s. While most of the entertainment world is presently content to bask in the nostalgia of the era, it’s worth remembering not everything children saw back then left them with warm, fuzzy memories. It was a decade full of beloved blockbusters and cult oddities that haunted the dreams of pint-sized audiences and/or ignited their libidos, and many of them were executive produced by Steven Spielberg, who, as this list illustrates, may be responsible for nearly as many bad dreams and formative fears as fellow king of pop entertainment Stephen King. With that in mind, here are a handful of classic 1980s movies aimed at young audiences that disturbed, unsettled, or outright terrified us with surprisingly dark and adult content.


1. The Transformers: The Movie (1986) 62%

(Photo by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group courtesy Everett Collection)

1986’s The Transformers: the Movie boasts a few distinctions. It’s known for a totally ’80s soundtrack that includes such beloved Reagan-era staples as “Weird Al” Yankovic’s brilliant Devo pastiche “Dare to be Stupid” and Stan Bush’s “The Touch,” which Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) famously covered in Boogie Nights. It’s also known as the final film of Orson Welles, who voiced a planet-sized robot that devours other planets, which may or may not have been a comment on his late-in-life girth.

But Transformers: The Movie is perhaps most famous for traumatizing an entire generation of kids by killing off a slew of popular heroes from the television show and toy line, including heroic, iconic leader Optimus Prime. Young fans of the series would stare in horror as fan favorites like Ratchet, Prowl, and Ironhide were gunned down in rapid succession early in the film, while Ultra Magnus met an especially untimely end, still others were consumed by Welles’ Unicron, and prominent love-to-hate-him villain Starscream was turned to ash by a newly minted Galvatron. Think Game of Thrones’ “Red Wedding,” but for kids. Unsurprisingly, it was the executives at toy company Hasbro, rather than the filmmakers, who determined which characters would die and which would live, as a cynical means to persuade kids to spend their allowances on all the new heroes introduced in the film.


2. Gremlins (1984) 85%

Warner Bros.

(Photo by Warner Bros.)

The PG-13 rating came about partially as a response to two Steven Spielberg blockbusters that were deemed too intense and frightening for children, but were also absolutely irresistible to the 10-and-under set. If you were a pre-pubescent boy in 1984, like I was, Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were almost assuredly too dark and violent to be appropriate viewing, but everyone saw them anyway.

There’s a distinct element of meta-commentary at work in Gremlins in particular. Joe Dante’s instant classic was a ghoulish, darkly comic, and often violent satire of the creature feature genre, pitting the painfully adorable, teddy bear-like Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) against a horde of monsters as hideous and repellent as Gizmo is cute. If their revolting looks weren’t enough, let’s not forget that the gremlins rampaged through the city and killed people (we never looked at motorized stair lifts the same again) before they ultimately met an explosive end in a movie theater. Throw in Phoebe Cates’ famously morbid monologue — you know, the one about learning Santa Claus wasn’t real when her father broke his neck and died shimmying down her chimney dressed as the holly, jolly man in red — and you have a 1980s kids’ film that was probably more disturbing than parents expected, but oddly unique enough to become a celebrated holiday classic.


3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) 84%

Paramount Pictures

(Photo by Paramount Pictures)

In the most notorious scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indy, his love interest “Willie” Scott (Kate Capshaw), and 11-year-old rapscallion and miniature con man Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) look on in horror as evil cult leader Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) tears the still-beating heart out of the chest of a human sacrifice and presents it to his enraptured followers as a trophy. This sequence alone would render Temple of Doom deeply unfit for its target demographic of adventure-loving, Harrison Ford-idolizing children even if it wasn’t immediately followed by the poor victim, who somehow managed to survive the ordeal, being plunged into a fiery pit to be burned alive.

That’s far from the only kid-unfriendly content in this waking fever dream of a colonialist nightmare, though: Child slave labor? Check. Killer crocs? Check. Eyeball soup and chilled monkey brains for dessert? Check. Temple of Doom depicts India as an exotic but also brutal and bloodthirsty realm filled with casual cruelty and blood-crazed cultists. Its depiction of torture and sacrifice helped make it the black sheep of the Indiana Jones saga until The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came along, but it was still a huge box office hit, and it certainly thrilled younger audiences as much as it terrified them.


4. Return to Oz (1985) 54%

Walter Murch enjoys an impeccable reputation as one of our greatest and most important film editors and sound designers, thanks to his groundbreaking work on masterpieces like The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, and Apocalypse Now, among others. Murch only directed one feature film himself, though: 1985’s Return to Oz, a sequel of sorts to the 1939 Judy Garland classic that amped up the gothic elements of the frequently nightmare-inducing family favorite (who can forget the flying monkeys?) to intense new levels.

The film begins with its plucky heroine (Fairuza Balk, playing a subtly punk-goth Dorothy) deeply depressed following the events of The Wizard of Oz. Her aunt and uncle take her to a doctor who specializes in primitive electro-shock therapy, but before he can work his sinister magic, she ends up back in the Land of Oz. Only, things aren’t quite as she left them: pals like the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man have been turned to stone, and the once verdant and vibrant kingdom has crumbled into a barren wasteland. She and her strange new friends are pursued by malevolent forces that include the Wheelers, frightening creatures with wheels instead of hands and feet who are as horrifying as anything in an R-rated fright flick, and an evil princess who keeps a collection of sentient, interchangeable, disembodied heads on permanent display.

Like many films of this ilk, Return to Oz was a box office flop, harshly criticized at the time of its release for being an eyeball-melting acid trip of a movie, and later heralded as a cult classic for possessing those very qualities.


5. Back to the Future (1985) 96%

Universal Pictures

(Photo by Universal Pictures)

Robert Zemeckis’ masterpiece Back to the Future is so rightfully revered as a quintessential piece of Reagan-era pop Americana that it’s easy to overlook its darker themes. Robert Zemeckis was able to Trojan-horse an awful lot of raunchy, boundary-pushing sexuality and pitch-black, dirty comedy inside ostensibly family-friendly blockbusters that parents were happy to rent over and over and over again for their kids, in no small part because they had so much to offer adult audiences as well.

When it comes right down to it, Back to the Future is the story of a lovable young time-traveler’s heroic attempts to fend off his incredibly hot-to-trot future mother’s feverish sexual advances. Factor in an attempted sexual assault and a subplot involving terrorists out to slaughter the hero’s beloved, daffy mentor, and you have a perfect piece of commercial entertainment with a barely concealed heart of darkness.


6. Labyrinth (1986) 74%

Like Steven Spielberg, Jim Henson earned so much goodwill with families that he could get way with almost anything. The Muppets and Sesame Street made him an enduring international icon of child-like imagination and play, but he longed to tell stories bigger, darker, and more adult than the ones that made him one of the best-loved television creators of all time. With 1986’s Labyrinth, Henson ventured once again (after 1982’s The Dark Cyrstal) into the world of fantasy and allegory with a trippy, kaleidoscopic coming-of-age story.

A still relatively unknown young Jennifer Connelly stars as a teen who loses some of her doe-eyed innocence — but attains no small amount of worldly wisdom — when she ventures into a realm beyond the imagination, at once frightening and beguiling, to rescue her kidnapped baby brother. Labyrinth has all manner of dark elements — groping, disembodied hands, pyromaniac monsters with detachable body parts, a creepy seduction subplot complete with nonconsensual drugging — but its reputation as a corrupter of children is attributable largely to David Bowie’s portrayal of Jareth the Goblin King, whose sinister, very adult sensuality and famously ample codpiece helped kick-start the sexual curiosity of multiple generations of entranced young people.


7. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) 97%

Buena Vista courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Buena Vista courtesy Everett Collection)

Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis was also the man behind 1987’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a tough, Film Noir-leaning cartoon/live-action twist on Chinatown that casts Bob Hoskins as a tormented alcoholic trying to solve the murder of a kinky cartoon mogul and refrain from getting involved with an animated bombshell.

If Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s misunderstood femme fatale Jessica Rabbit (who, voiced by Kathleen Turner, isn’t bad, “just drawn that way”) is way too sexy, not just for a children’s film put out by a division of Disney, but for film as a medium, its villain is likewise too terrifying for a movie targeted at kids. Christopher Lloyd is utterly unnerving every moment he’s onscreen as Judge Doom, a sort of one-man cartoon apocalypse, but when he becomes his true self during the film’s harrowing climax, he’s pure nightmare fuel, a viscerally unnerving image of unhinged evil.

Despite its incredible success, Who Framed Roger Rabbit never spawned a sequel, only a couple of spin-off shorts. But, like others on this list, it has inspired something of a cult following because of its singular peculiarities and its willingness to test the bounds of children’s entertainment.


8. Back to the Future Part II (1989) 65%

Universal Pictures

(Photo by Universal Pictures)

Yup, another Zemeckis movie. We did mention his work in the 1980s was full of subversive humor and innuendo, and both audiences and critics were eating it up. So when it came time to satiate the angry demands of the market and make a sequel to his time-hopping 1985 smash Back to the Future, the prickly auteur evidently felt empowered to go even further with the black comedy and sweaty Oedipal tension. Instead of a darkly comic take on Eisenhower and Reagan’s America, we got a dystopian take on a future-distorted present, in which Thomas F. Wilson’s shady gambling kingpin Biff Tannen lords over a grim Hooverville that makes the brutal alternate reality of It’s a Wonderful Life look positively rosy by comparison. Doc Brown is in a mental hospital, Marty’s dad is dead, and Marty’s poor mom is married to Biff and outfitted in tight, low-cut cocktail garb.

Though it got mixed reviews at the time of its release, the darker, bleaker sequel has become a huge cult film in part because its cynicism feels more of a piece with our despairing current age than Back to the Future’s subversive take on the kinky goings-on behind the white-picket perfection of ’50s and ’80s faux-innocence.

This week on streaming services, we’ve got a handful of hugely popular TV series, a classic live-action animated comedy, and a couple of Certified Fresh smaller films you might have missed, plus a great selection of new choices available on FandangoNOW. Read on for details.


New on Netflix

 

Archer: P.I. (2016) 100%

H. Jon Benjamin voices the titular superspy, one of a handful of agents and skilled operatives of dubious moral fiber in the employ of an espionage outfit run by his mother.

Available now on: Netflix


Better Call Saul: Season 2 (2016) 97%

AMC’s follow-up to Breaking Bad follows Bob Odenkirk’s character before he became Saul Goodman, when he was still a scheming attorney who fell into some hard times and partnered up with former cop Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks).

Available now on: Netflix


Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) 97%

Robert Zemeckis’ mind-bending animation/live-action hybrid follows a star cartoon rabbit who is framed for murder and the private eye who reluctantly agrees to help clear his name.

Available now on: Netflix


How to Get Away With Murder: Season 3 (2017) 90%

Viola Davis stars in this drama about an esteemed law professor whose interns become implicated in a complicated web of murder and deception.

Available now on: Netflix


The Square (2008) 86%

This Australian thriller, written by Joel Edgerton (who also co-stars) and directed by his brother Nash, centers on a small town couple having an affair who make plans to leave their spouses — one of them a dangerous gangster — and run off together.

Available now on: Netflix


New on Amazon Prime

 

Gimme Danger (2016) 95%

Jim Jarmusch’s Certified Fresh documentary is a tribute to the pioneering punk band The Stooges, charting their rise and fall through first-hand accounts from Iggy Pop, his bandmates, and others close to the band.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


New on FandangoNOW

 

The Grapes of Wrath (1940) 100%

Henry Fonda stars in John Ford’s adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel about a Great Depression-era Oklahoma family who are evicted from their home and journey westward to California.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Hidden Figures (2016) 93%

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia spencer, and Janelle Monáe star in this historical drama about three gifted African-American women who played a substantial role in launching NASA’s first manned spaceflight missions.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Lion (2016) 84%

Dev Patel stars in this true story about a man, adopted by an Australian family as a boy, who uses Google Earth to track down the small Indian village from which he disappeared as a child.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Furious 7 (2015) 82%

This time out, rogue ex-secret agent Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge on our heroes after they injured his brother in the previous film, and in turn, the gang teams up with the government to bring him down. It’s now available in an Ultra HD Extended Edition.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


The Blackcoat's Daughter (2015) 74%

Kiernan Shipka and Emma Roberts star in this horror film about a pair of girls who encounter a malevolent presence during a winter holiday they’re forced to spend alone at their boarding school.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Fast & Furious 6 (2013) 71%

Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and the rest of the Furious gang reunite when Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) coaxes them into helping with an international investigation by revealing a secret from their past. It’s now available in an Extended Edition.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Cliffhanger (1993) 67%

Sylvester Stallone and John Lithgow star in this high altitude thriller about a former rock climber who is taken hostage by a group of mercenaries who have crashed in the mountains with millions in stolen cash.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (2013) 68%

This Swedish comedy is the story of a 100-year-old man who climbs out a window and disappears. Yup.

Available now on: FandangoNOW

Alice Through The Looking Glass may not be getting critics supremely high off caterpillar smoke (neither did the Tim Burton-directed original), but don’t let that stop you from having a lauded fantasy movie weekend with your family: simply check out this gallery list of 24 Certified Fresh PG and below fantasy classics and modern hits!

75 Best Summer Blockbusters of All Time

In defense of the blockbuster, Rotten Tomatoes offers you Best Summer Movies, a countdown of the highest-rated wide releases to hit theaters during the hot season since the release of Jaws in 1975. We’re using a weighted formula that takes the Tomatometer, the number of reviews, and the year of release into account. In order to qualify, each movie needs at least 20 reviews, and to have been released wide in the months between May and August. Enough talk: grab an extra large soda and a bucket of popcorn and dive into RT’s Best Summer Movies!

 

 

Bob Hoskins, the tough-guy British character actor best known for his lead performance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, died April 30 of pneumonia. He was 71. Hoskins, who was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in Neil Jordan’s neo-noir drama Mona Lisa, had retired from acting in 2012 because he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Hoskins grew up in London, and worked a number of blue collar jobs before making his onstage debut in 1969. He played a number of recurring characters on a variety of British television series before gaining a wider following for his performance in the 1978 BBC version of Pennies from Heaven. In 1979, Hoskins scored his first major film role in The Long Good Friday; playing a gangster attempting to break into legitimate business, Hoskins won rave reviews and established his screen persona as a working-class tough guy.

In fact, Hoskins’ two most celebrated performances were indeed as working class tough guys. In Neil Jordan’s moody mob drama Mona Lisa (1986), Hoskins played a mob hanger-on, and in Robert Zemeckis’ innovative live action-animation hybrid Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Hoskins played an old-school private eye. Subsequently, Hoskins contributed supporting roles in Steven Spielberg’s Hook and Oliver Stone’s Nixon. In recent years, he also won praise for his work in smaller British films, most notably Mrs. Henderson Presents and Made in Dagenham. His final big screen credit was in the 2012 fantasy adventure Snow White and the Huntsman.

Hoskins is survived by his wife and four children.

For Bob Hoskins’ complete filmography, click here.

This week in streaming video, we’ve got a number of decent choices, beginning with a Certified Fresh baseball biopic, a thriller from the son of David Cronenberg, and a drama by a South Korean auteur. Netflix adds a number of solid titles, including some animated Disney films and one of last year’s giant superhero blockbusters, and Amazon Prime offers up a few indie gems. Read on to find out what’s available to watch right now.


42
81%

Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) becomes the first African American to play in the majors when Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) signs him to a contract, and his inspired play and unimpeachable character strike a blow against prejudice.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes


Antiviral
66%

Antiviral a sci-fi thriller about a clinic that specializes in injecting fans with the diseases of celebrities from Brandon Cronenberg (son of David).

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes


Pieta
73%

This South Korean import is a drama about a loan shark who’s visited by a mysterious woman claiming to be his mother.

Available now on: Vudu, iTunes


Mulan
86%

Exploring themes of family duty and honor, Mulan breaks new ground as a Disney film, while still bringing vibrant animation and sprightly characters to the screen.

Available now on: Netflix


The Hunchback of Notre Dame
71%

Victor Hugo’s dark tale of alienation gets th Disney treatment, and a few catchy songs help lighten the mood.

Available now on: Netflix


Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
97%

Robert Zemeckis’ mind-bending animation/live-action hybrid gets a sparkling new 25th anniversary reissue, so it’s probably time to take another trip to Toontown.

Available now on: Netflix


Marvel’s The Avengers
91%

Now’s as good a time as any to check out the box office-busting superhero epic, starring Robert Downey Jr.), Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and many more.

Available now on: Netflix


Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
88%

Werner Herzog’s documentary is a portrait of life in a village in Siberia.

Available now on: Netflix


Any Day Now
79%

Alan Cumming stars in a drama about a gay couple who get in trouble with authorities for raising a child in 1970s Los Angeles.

Available now on: Netflix


Katy Perry: Part of Me
76%

The film follows Perry on her “California Dreams” world tour, capturing her eye-popping stage show as well as archival footage of her younger days and glimpses of backstage drama.

Available now on: Netflix


Five Minutes of Heaven
75%

Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt star in this drama about the fallout from a murder in Northern Ireland.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


The Housemaid
70%

In this remake of the classic 1960 drama, a domestic gets caught up in the dark doings of a prosperous family.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Valhalla Rising
74%

Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn and Casino Royale baddie Mads Mikkelsen team up for this brutal existentialist tale of a ferocious Viking warrior.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

This week on home video, we’ve got four new releases that are Certified Fresh, including one multiple Oscar-winner, one animated adventure, a music doc, and an indie drama about alcoholism. On top of that, there’s also the relatively well-received biopic about Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho and a quirky Sean Penn-powered road trip drama. Lastly, we have a feature adaptation of the famed Cirque du Soleil troupe’s performances, as well as a handful of notable reissues. See below for the full list!



Life of Pi

86%

Yann Martel’s 2001 novel Life of Pi was a worldwide success, so it’s not surprising that development of a film adaptation began as early as 2003. Many considered the book “unfilmable,” however, so we didn’t get the movie until Ang Lee took up the helm (after several others dropped out) and felt technology was up to snuff to tell the story. The fantasy adventure revolves around Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma), an Indian teen whose parents own a struggling zoo and decide to sell all their animals to a buyer in Canada, where the family will settle. En route to Winnipeg, their freighter encounters a massive storm that wrecks the ship and leaves Pi stranded alone on a lifeboat with a few animals, including a fearsome Bengal tiger. Like its source novel, Life of Pi was met with both critical and commercial success, and was nominated for eleven Academy Awards; it won four Oscars, including Best Director for Ang Lee. Certified Fresh at 88%, it’s a trasportive, beautifully shot, technically impressive film, even if its underlying message may not resonate with everyone.



Rise of the Guardians

75%

Another film based on a book (or series of books, rather, authored by William Joyce), Rise of the Guardians reimagines mythical childhood figures like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost as warrior-like protectors of the world’s children — in addition to their regular duties delivering presents and hiding Easter eggs, that is. Voiced by Chris Pine, Jack Frost is a bit of a mischief maker, starting snowball fights and conjuring blizzards, until he’s recruited by the existing guardians to help defeat Pitch (Jude Law), a dark spirit intent on taking over the world. In the process, Jack discovers both his true worth as a guardian and the secrets of his past life. Though critics felt the story itself could have been a little more focused, they also liked the clever premise of the film, as well as its lush animation and brisk pacing. Certified Fresh at 74%, Rise of the Guardians is a fresh take on some familiar characters that most will be able to appreciate.



Hitchcock

60%

Screenwriter Sacha Gervasi’s directorial debut, 2007’s Anvil! The Story of Anvil, earned heaps of praise, so hopes were high for his film about Alfred Hitchcock, especially considering Anthony Hopkins would be filling in the role of the great director and Helen Mirren would be playing his wife and collaborative partner, Alma Reville. Hitchcock specifically chronicles the director’s efforts to finance and produce Psycho and the tumultuous relationship that resulted between him and Reville during the making of the film. Although critics would have liked to see a bit more subtlety and insight, most found the film stylishly directed and worth watching, even if only for the inspired performances from Hopkins and Mirren. At 63% on the Tomatometer, Hitchcock isn’t the be all and end all of biopics on The Master of Suspense, but it’s a well-acted glimpse into his life and old Hollywood.



Sound City

100%

Last year, musician Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) purchased a vintage Neve 8028 mixing console from Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, where he had taken part in recording the seminal Nirvana album Nevermind in 1991. The purchase inspired him to direct a documentary recounting the history of the influential studio, which oversaw the recording of several rock legends and musical icons ranging from Neil Young, Elton John, and Grateful Dead to Barry Manilow, Weezer, Metallica, and many more before it closed in 2011. Peppered with interviews and performances by many of those artists, Sound City weaves together the complete story of the studio and culminates in the purchase that inspired the film in the first place. The film, which opened in limited release just a month ago, has so far earned a 100% Tomatometer, with critics calling it an affectionately crafted passion project that’s thrilling, nostalgic, and a must-see for music fans.



Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D

45%

Cirque du Soleil has been an expanding Las Vegas mainstay for several years now, but they’ve been a touring troupe for even longer, their television specials have won awards, and they’ve adapted their shows into films before. This latest venture, Worlds Away, is unique in that it also offers a 3D perspective for the first time, and what’s more? It’s James Cameron-approved 3D. Though it is, in fact, just another showcase for the talents of its performers, there is a narrative framing device: a young woman named Mia (Erica Linz) visits the local circus and falls into a dreamlike world with an aerialist; in order for the two to reunite, they must traverse the various tents of the circus and navigate through their performances. Critics were fairly split here; while some thought the film incoherently plotted and most conceded it was inferior to its live equivalent, others felt it was still beautiful to look at and entertaining enough. At 46%, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away won’t compare to the real thing, but it’s not too bad if you can’t make it to one of the live shows.



Smashed

83%

Aaron Paul has already built up a considerable fanbase from his role in Breaking Bad, but while Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s star is slowly rising, she hadn’t quite landed the starring role that showcases her talents properly… until Smashed came along. In this low key indie, Paul and Winstead play Charlie and Kate, a young married couple who both decide to come to terms with their alcoholism. When Kate, an elementary schoolteacher, vomits in the middle of class, then drunkenly succumbs to smoking crack later that same night, she consequently joins group therapy and resolves to change her life. Critics roundly applauded Winstead’s performance, as well as director James Ponsoldt’s sensitive direction and the film’s melodrama-free script, en route to a Certified Fresh 84% on the Tomatometer. Costarring Nick Offerman, Octavia Spencer, and Mary Kay Place, Smashed failed to generate much heat at the box office, but here’s hoping it leads to more substantial roles for Winstead.



This Must Be the Place

67%

At first glance, This Must Be the Place might seem simply like the latest in a long line of quirky indie comedy-dramas: Sean Penn, looking like a cross between Bono and Edward Scissorhands, is aging former rock star Cheyenne, who travels home to New York from Ireland in order to reconcile with his estranged father as he lies on his deathbed. Though his father dies before he arrives, Cheyenne soon discovers that he was an Auschwitz survivor whose lifelong mission was to track down the man who abused him there; Cheyenne takes up his father’s quest and sets out across the US to find his father’s persecutor. It’s a strange tale, to be sure, but critics mostly found it surprisingly touching, buoyed by Penn’s oddly charismatic performance. At 68%, This Must Be the Place might be a little too off-kilter for some, but if you give it a chance, it might surprise you.

Also available this week:

  • A 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release of Disney’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit (98%), with a collection of extras ported over from previous releases and an in-depth commentary track.
  • Two choices from the Criterion Collection: The original 1958 The Blob (69%), now on Blu-ray; and Fritz Lang’s Ministry of Fear on both DVD and Blu-ray.
  • Some animated Disney films, paired with their direct-to-DVD sequels: Mulan (86%), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (74%), and Brother Bear (38%).
  • Ron Howard’s 1988 fantasy flick Willow (46%) on Blu-ray.

Much has been made of the fact that Steven Spielberg produced J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 — and rightly so, given how strongly it seems to evoke memories of Spielberg’s classic past. But even though we think of Spielberg as a director first, he’s also had a very busy (and fairly distinguished) career as a producer — and to show you what we mean, we decided to dedicate this week’s Total Recall to films he didn’t direct. We ended up with a varied list that includes some huge hits, a handful of modern classics, and maybe even a few surprises. Read on!


1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) 97%

(Photo by Buena Vista Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

In the early 1980s, when Spielberg and George Lucas were looking for someone to write them a big check for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Paramount chief Michael Eisner didn’t blink — so when Eisner moved to Disney later in the decade and needed help getting a long-gestating live-action/animated noir project off the ground, Spielberg was happy to return the favor. The result was one of the decade’s defining films, a smash hit that blended cutting-edge technology with a well-written script and old-school slapstick — not to mention blink-and-you-missed-’em cameos from dozens of cartoon celebrities. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is, in the words of the Washington Post’s Rita Kempley, “as cunning as Wile E. Coyote and chipper as a flock of cartoon bluebirds.”


2. Back to the Future (1985) 96%

(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Even before they worked together on the Back to the Future trilogy, Spielberg had a long history with the writing duo of Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale — but until they put Marty McFly behind the wheel of that fateful DeLorean, their partnership was a study in box office futility, producing the commercial duds I Wanna Hold Your Hand1941, and Used Cars. Not wanting to sully their association with Spielberg, Zemeckis and Gale resisted bringing him a serious pitch for Back to the Future — until they finally hit paydirt with Romancing the Stone. Suddenly, executives who’d rejected Future were eager to be a part of it, but Zemeckis and Gale gave first dibs to their old friend, and thus was a franchise born — as well as the film that Slant’s Eric Henderson called “one of the rare big-budget entertainments that’s improved with time.”


3. True Grit (2010) 95%

(Photo by Lorey Sebastian/Paramount Pictures)

When the marriage between DreamWorks and Paramount ended in 2008, the studios had to divvy up hundreds of projects in development — and when the dust settled, the Coen brothers’ True Grit remake stayed at Paramount, with Spielberg retaining an executive producer credit. A few Coens fans raised their eyebrows (or freaked out on their favorite Internet film forum) when they spotted Spielberg’s name in the IMDb credits, but ultimately True Grit remained, as cinematographer Roger Deakins promised one concerned commenter, “very much the Coens’ film and nothing else” — in other words, the 10-time Academy Award nominee that MSN’s Glenn Kenny called a “visually and sonically beautiful movie that uses space, distance and time to immerse you in a very particular world of mystery, awe and brutality.”


4. Men in Black (1997) 92%

It seems laughable now, but Men in Black spent a fair amount of time in development hell — until, that is, Spielberg hired writer-producer Walter F. Parkes and his wife, Laurie MacDonald, to head production at Amblin. Parkes, who had been struggling to gain traction with Men in Black at Columbia, saw his new gig as a golden opportunity to jump-start the picture — and he was right. With Spielberg’s name attached, Black found a clear path from the studio lot to the big screen, where the sci-fi buddy comedy racked up nearly $590 million in grosses and raves from critics like David Edelstein, who called it “The smartest, funniest, and best-looking sci-fi comedy since the movies learned to morph.”


5. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) 91%

(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)

When Spielberg decided not to direct Flags of Our Fathers and handed the reins to Clint Eastwood, he wasn’t just altering the course of one World War II drama — he was setting in motion the chain of events that would produce its companion piece. Inspired by his pre-production research, Eastwood came up with the idea to make a film that would present the Japanese side of the battle, and decided to shoot the two projects back-to-back. Letters from Iwo Jima ultimately suffered roughly the same middling commercial fate that befell Flags of Our Fathers, but was far and away the greater critical success, notching three Academy Award nominations and earning the admiration of writers like Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post, who called it “a work of whetted craft and judgment, tempered by Eastwood’s years of life, moviemaking and the potent tango of the two. It is the work of a mature filmmaker willing to entertain the true power of the cinema.”


6. Arachnophobia (1990) 93%

Spielberg’s longtime production partner (and co-founder of Amblin Entertainment) Frank Marshall made his directorial debut with this affectionate, cheerfully creepy tribute to classic Hollywood creature features, in which a deadly breed of spider terrorizes a small town whose residents include a lunatic exterminator (John Goodman) and, of course, a doctor with the titular phobia (Jeff Daniels). “That sound you hear in the background is the ‘ugh!’ heard round the world,” chuckled Janet Maslin of the New York Times, adding, “luckily, Arachnophobia will also be generating its share of boisterous, nervous laughter.”


7. Poltergeist (1982) 87%

(Photo by MGM courtesy Everett Collection)

Unlike a lot of the movies on this list, which benefited from his participation on a more or less ancillary level, Poltergeist was very much a Steven Spielberg production — starting with the script, which he co-wrote, and ending with his almost daily presence on the set, which sparked a DGA investigation and years of rumors about whether the credited director, Tobe Hooper, was merely a stand-in to help Spielberg wriggle out of a contractual agreement that prevented him from helming a film that would end up in direct competition with E.T. Whatever really happened behind the cameras, the result was a huge hit that spawned a franchise and won the unqualified praise of critics like Moviehole’s Clint Morris, who called it “One of the best horror flicks ever…bar none.”


8. Gremlins (1984) 85%

(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)

It earned nearly $150 million at the box office, marked Chris Columbus as a young screenwriter to watch, and resuscitated director Joe Dante’s ailing career — but Gremlins was also part of one of 1984’s biggest Hollywood controversies, sparking concern that the MPAA was giving PG ratings to films that were too intense for a younger audience (such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Spielberg suggested that an overhaul of the ratings system might be in order, and roughly a month after Gremlins‘ release, the PG-13 was born. Parental concerns over gremlin-related violence aside, the film was also a solid critical winner, earning praise from the likes of Roger Ebert, who wrote, “At the level of Serious Film Criticism, it’s a meditation on the myths in our movies: Christmas, families, monsters, retail stores, movies, boogeymen. At the level of Pop Moviegoing, it’s a sophisticated, witty B movie.”


9. I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) 90%

(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Somewhat appropriately for a film inspired by the Beatles’ first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, this wacky 1978 comedy was a film of debuts — for Robert Zemeckis, notching his first feature-length directorial credit, and for Spielberg, who produced for the first time (under the watchful eye of Universal, who made him promise he’d step in and direct if Zemeckis faltered). Despite the lack of experience, it was smooth sailing for I Wanna Hold Your Hand — at least until the film reached audiences, who ignored it so completely that it couldn’t even earn back its $2.8 million budget. As far as critics were concerned, however, it was the audience’s loss: “I Wanna Hold Your Hand re-creates precisely the excitement the Beatles let loose 14 years ago,” wrote Time’s Frank Rich, adding that “it transports the audience back to the eye of a phenomenal social hurricane.”


10. The Mask of Zorro (1998) 83%

(Photo by Columbia Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

As executive producer of Martin Campbell’s swashbuckling Zorro reboot, Spielberg may not have had to take much of an active role in the day-to-day development of the film, but he was responsible for at least one key element: the casting of Catherine Zeta-Jones, who caught his eye with her performance in the CBS miniseries The Titanic. It proved a starmaking turn for Zeta-Jones, who upstaged Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins in the film that Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called “A lively, old-fashioned adventure yarn with just a twist of modern attitude” and “the kind of pleasant entertainment that allows the paying customers to have as much fun as the people on screen.”

Big, fat flakes of white snow suddenly began tumbling down in the roasting afternoon heat of the Cannes Film Festival yesterday. It wasn’t global warming. It was just Cannes. Because here, you can do that. The festival is its own Field Of Dreams: if you pay for it, it will come. You want Christmas in May? You got it. You want Jim Carrey throwing snowballs after being brought in on a horse-drawn carriage? You got that too.

Striding up a frosty red carpet between a set of pumping snow-machines, Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, Colin Firth and Robin Wright Penn arrived in style for this scene of meteorological madness to introduce the world’s first look at Robert Zemeckis‘ upcoming 3D ‘toon A Christmas Carol.

With all the hype and hush around James Cameron‘s upcoming stereoscopic sci-fi epic Avatar, it’s easy to forget that Zemeckis is the true godfather of the 3D revolution. After the groundbreaking The Polar Express and Beowulf, his adaptation of the Dickens’ classic looks set to raise the bar even further.

Cannes 200 - Jeff Vespa/Wireimage.com
Carrey and McCarthy turn Cannes into a snowfield.

“This is the first time we’ve shown this footage to anyone,” explained Zemeckis, as a room of critics and journalists expectantly donned 3D glasses below a giant screen inside the Carlton Hotel. “Disney has given us the resources to take the performance-capture art form to the next level. Jim used every muscle in his body to drives the look of these character and we’re going to re-envision this classic novel in a way that I like to think Mr. Dickens envisioned it in his own mind.”

He wasn’t kidding. The two short scenes of footage that unspooled were, frankly, stunning. Motion-captured with an incredible level of depth and detail, Carrey transforms not only into the wizened, bitter Scrooge but each one of the three ghosts that haunts him. What really stunned were the astonishing facial nuances of the characters — you can see Scrooge’s lower lip curl with subtle malice or a malicious twitch of his eye as he talks to Colin Firth’s Fred, also rendered with startling realism. Richer, warmer and more convincing than the milky-blind waxworks that have walked around in previous mo-capped ‘toons, A Christmas Carol looks to have broken new ground in breathing human life into animated characters.

“It’s not just voiceover work, these are complete performance by all of the actors,” explained Carrey. “This technology takes it to another place.” Firth even called it a purer form of acting. “Once you put on the manhood-cancelling spandex suit and the thing that looks like a bicycle helmet with cameras on it all pointing at your face, you’re never off camera,” he explained. Sat next to him, Carrey nodded seriously. “When you start out talking out of your butt, it’s a long road to get to this place.”

Cannes 200 - Jeff Vespa/Wireimage.com
Snow falls on the Croisette on one of the hottest days of the fest.

From Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to Forrest Gump, Zemeckis has always been a master at shackling new technology to great storytelling. The second thrilling sequence showed how he’s used digital 3D to unlock a gorgeously immersive new depth to the screen. In fact, it’s not a screen anymore. It’s a window. Warping through a wooden door into Scrooges’ room, the infamous Marley’s Ghost hurls giant chain-wrapped books crashing through the 3D space and on to the floor around a terrified Scrooge. Then his jaw falls off.

Frightening, funny and spectacular, it looks like just a taste of Zemeckis’ visual-effects showstopper: an eye-roasting final teaser then showed Scrooge being rocketed into the night sky by the blazing Ghost Of The Christmas Past before plummeting back down through the clouds toward the cobblestones of 19th-century London. A tiny snowflake drifts through the air in front of the audience and rests on Scrooge’s looming, beaky nose. Filling the screen in close up, he squints at it distastefully, then irritably blows it off. “Baa… humbug.”

Check out our gallery from the Cannes photocall right here!

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