Things are weird and scary out there in the world. If, like many of us across the globe, you’re stuck working at home for the foreseeable future you might be wondering how you’re going to keep yourself occupied. Social distancing and self-isolation can sound scary to some of us, and I already know that I’m going to turn to a bit of binge-watching to help myself cope. Boy am I glad that I have access to a Disney Plus subscription right about now.
Without further ado, here are some classic live-action films you can now catch on the massive Disney streaming platform. These are five of my all-time favorite childhood movies, and if there was ever a time I wanted to be transported back to my younger years…it’s now.
Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
I think that many of us remember this story because of the frankly amazing tree house, but Swiss Family Robinson is about far more than ingenuity in the treetops. The family (whose name isn’t actually Robinson, btw) is faced with the very real nightmare of being stranded far from civilization with nothing but each other and the remnants of their ship. Talk about social distancing! They work together to build a temporary life until they can be rescued, but learn to love their new home in ways they never thought possible.
Side note: Captain Kuala (the pirate who runs them aground at the beginning, and whom they fight at the end) was played by Sessue Hayakawa—the first asian actor to achieve heart-throb-level success in the United States.
THE UGLY DACHSHUND (1966)
Who doesn’t want to watch a movie about doggos? This one’s got them in spades, and in all sizes too. Mark and Fran’s lives are turned upside down when Mark adopts a massive Great Dane puppy, who thinks he’s a tiny Dachshund. This a hilarious romp that still manages to address the deeper topics of identity, family, and acceptance.
Side note: While I do love this film overall, I should note that unfortunately like many productions of its time (I’m looking at you, Breakfast at Tiffany’s) it contains racial stereotypes, particularly surrounding characters of asian descent.
I think my love affair with all things Irish began with this film. Darby O’Gill and the Little People is a feel-good exploration of the intricacies of Gaelic storytelling, and the perfect example of magic realism. Our protagonist, Darby himself, is an elderly man who is obsessed with capturing the legendary king of the leprechauns. His fellow villagers think he’s crazy—but the audience knows that the idyllic pot of gold is just as real as little King Brian.
Side note: This was one of Sean Connery’s first feature films, and hearing him attempt an Irish accent is definitely an experience. But really, we just want to watch him, not listen to him, amirite?
The Cat From Outer Space (1978)
This movie is just as trippy as it sounds. I’m pretty sure someone was on drugs when they pitched it, but hey, it’s got a cat so I was in from day one. When an alien spaceship crash-lands on earth, its occupant (who presents as a cat) makes friends with some Earth scientists in the hope that they can help him make the necessary repairs to send him home. This movie has everything from slapstick comedy to…well, a cat that can control objects with his mind. Make of that what you will.
Side note: Movie legend Roddy McDowall costars as one of the bad guys. You may remember him from Lassie Come Home, Planet of the Apes, or That Darn Cat! Speaking of That Darn Cat!…
THAT DARN CAT! (1965)
No Disney education is complete without Hayley Mills, and no Hayley Mills education is complete with out That Darn Cat!. DC, as our sly feline protagonist is known, becomes a major clue in the search for two bank robbers and the woman they have taken hostage. Patti, his human, loves mysteries and becomes convinced that the FBI will locate the hostage if they can just trail DC during his nightly prowls. This, of course, is easier said than done.
Side note: If you’ve only seen the 90s remake, then you definitely need to watch the original. This is 60s Disney whimsy at its finest.