When I was growing up, Disney Channel was my main source of entertainment, with Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) at the top of my watch list. The first Channel Original Movie (DCOM), Under Wraps, premiered in 1997, and the DCOM renaissance really began in the 2000s with the release of Cadet Kelly, starring Hilary Duff, which reached almost 8 million viewers.
These movies were a right of passage for Gen Z, including myself, filled with life lessons—and some killer soundtracks. Now that I’m an adult, it’s a completely different experience to watch a Disney Channel Original Movie. First, there are so many now-stars to spot—Zac Efron, Keke Palmer, Selena Gomez, and Demi Lovato to name a few. I’m able to single out specific scenes I may not have been able to understand when I was a kid, but further appreciate now. Not to mention every time I rewatch a DCOM, it brings back a flood of nostalgia.
If you’re looking for some movies that entertain your kids and you might enjoy watching too, look no further than introducing them to these top DCOMs. You know what the best part is? They’re all available to watch on Disney+.
The Cheetah Girls (2003)
We’re cheetah girls, Cheetah sisters. This movie started a revolution. Can you believe that the movie turns 20 this summer? It’s crazy how time flies by. Galleria (Raven-Symoné), Chanel (Adrienne Bailon), Dorinda (Sabrina Bryan), and Aqua (Kiely Williams) attempt to balance their newfound musical fame and their normal lives.
Lesson: Friends can also become family and girls can be strong and powerful.
The Cheetah Girls 2 (2006)
Amigas, Cheetahs, friends for life! Galleria (Raven-Symoné), Chanel (Adrienne Bailon), Dorinda (Sabrina Bryan), and Aqua (Kiely Williams) find themselves entering a music festival that’s in Barcelona, Spain. The girl group encounters some surprises along the way.
Lesson: The importance of staying true to who you are and following your dreams.
High School Musical (2006)
Wildcats everywhere, wave your hands up in the air! Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) is a star player on the East High basketball team but everything changes for him when he sings with Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) at a New Years Eve party. When they return to campus, the two decide to audition for the spring musical but Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) will stop at nothing to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Lesson: Dreams are achievable no matter what obstacles get in the way.
High School Musical 2 (2007)
Who can forget the iconic “Bet On It” scene? There have been so many people recreating it on TikTok in recent years. The song is featured in High School Musical 2 which is the sequel to the original movie. It’s summer break and the kids from East High are looking forward to some fun in the sun but they’ll need to get jobs first. Troy and the rest of the wildcats end up working at Sharpay and Ryan’s family resort.
Currently, the movie has the most views that any DCOM has ever received with a whopping 17.2 million viewers.
Lesson: The importance of not being afraid to leave the past behind because the good memories will always be there for you to look back on.
Jump In! (2006)
Izzy (Corbin Bleu) is trying to fulfill his father’s dream of being a boxer but he ends up stepping in for his friend Mary’s (Keke Palmer) skipping team. He starts to question whether boxing is the right path for him and if he should pursue his new passion for skipping.
Lesson: Always follow your heart and be there for your friends.
Camp Rock (2008)
Mitchie Torres (Demi Lovato) wants to spend summer at a rock camp but the only way to get in is to work in the kitchen. When pop star Shane Gray (Joe Jonas) overhears her singing, he’s on a mission to find the girl behind the voice.
Lesson: Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
Lemonade Mouth (2011)
Stella (Hayley Kiyoko), Mo (Naomi Scott), Olivia (Bridgit Mendler), Wen (Adam Hicks), and Charlie (Blake Michael) meet in detention and decide to form a band. Not many DCOMs during the 2000s included a diverse group of characters so this alone was a step toward the right direction.
Lesson: The importance of speaking out and standing up for what’s right.
Teen Beach Movie (2013)
McKenzie (Maia Mitchell) and Brady (Ross Lynch) find themselves transported into a 1960s beach musical. When their presence sends the plot of the musical into chaos, they have to find a way to return home.
Lesson: Be yourself because everyone else is taken.
In the first movie in the Descendants movie series, Ben (Mitchell Hope), the son of King Adam and Queen Belle, offers the chance for redemption for Mal (Dove Cameron), Evie (Sofia Carson), Jay (Booboo Stewart), and Carlos (Cameron Boyce). They are the troublemaking offspring of the following classic Disney villains: Maleficent, The Evil Queen, Jafar, and Cruella De Vil. Descendants 2 and Descendants 3 are also available on Disney+ if you want to make it a triple feature family movie night.
Lesson: Choose love over hate.
In the first movie in the Z-O-M-B-I-E-S trilogy, the students at Seabrook High are thrown for a loop when students from Zombietown transfer to their school.
Lesson: Embrace people’s differences because that’s what makes us all special.
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior (2006)
Wendy Wu (Brenda Song) is a normal teenager who seems to have it all: popularity, beauty, and she’s one of the candidates in the running for Homecoming Queen. This all changes when Shen (Shin Koyamada), a monk from China, tells Wendy that she’s a reincarnated warrior who’s destined to save the world.
Lesson: Trust your instincts and do things that may scare you.
Virgil (Jason Dolley), Charlie (Luke Benward), and Zeke (Nicholas Braun) create a time machine to save fellow students from embarrassing situations. What can possibly go wrong? Oh, there’s just your average black hole that needs to be dealt with.
Lesson: Everything happens for a reason and there’s no need to go back in time to make things better.
Princess Protection Program (2009)
A young princess named Rosie (Demi Lovato) is taken into the Princess Protection Program after her kingdom is threatened. She is relocated to Wisconsin and stays with an agent and his daughter, Carter (Selena Gomez). She has to learn how to behave like a normal teenager and discovers that it’s not so easy blending in.
Lesson: The importance of friendship and that it’s always the best choice to do the right thing.
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie (2009)
Wizards of Waverly Place is one of the best Disney Channel original TV shows and what’s amazing is that it has an accompanying TV movie that pairs with it. Alex Russo (Selena Gomez) conjures up a spell that causes chaos with her family and she must figure out a way to fix it all before it’s too late.
Lesson: Family will always be there to pick kids up when they fall.
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the Second Dimension (2011)
Phineas (Vincent Martella) and Ferb (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) find out that their pet platypus Perry (Dee Bradley Baker) is a secret agent. The brothers join him on an adventure that blasts them to an alternate dimension where an evil version of Dr. Doofenshmirtz (Dan Povenmire) rules the Tri-State area. When the boys uncover his plot to take over their Tri-State area, they have to figure out a way to stop him.
Lesson: The importance of working with others and doing the right thing.
Girl vs. Monster (2012)
Skylar Lewis (Olivia Holt) discovers that she’s a 5th generation monster hunter. The monsters are ready to stop her before she gets her calling.
Lesson: Face your fears.
Cow Belles (2006)
Taylor (Aly Michalka) and Courtney Callum (AJ Michalka) are two spoiled sisters who are forced to work at their family business by their father to learn more about what it means to be responsible. When they find out that someone has emptied the company’s bank accounts, they attempt to track down the culprit and encounter other surprises along the way.
Lesson: Kids can succeed if they work hard enough and taking responsibility for their actions is the right thing to do.
Pop star Christopher Wilde (Sterling Knight) has it all: fame, fortune, and a big Hollywood movie waiting for him. When he runs into Jessica Olson (Danielle Campbell), everything changes.
Lesson: Follow your heart and do what’s best for you.
Time to bring all the spooky vibes into your family’s home. Marnie Cromwell (Kimberly J. Brown) discovers that she’s a witch and follows her Grandma Aggie (Debbie Reynolds) back to Halloweentown to find out more about her lineage.
Lesson: It’s OK to be different and kids can do anything they set their minds to.
Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge (2002)
An evil warlock (Daniel Kountz) steals Aggie Cromwell’s (Debbie Reynolds) spell book and plans to permanently turn everybody into the creatures of the costumes they’re wearing at midnight. It’s up to Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) to get the book back and save everybody. Disney gave viewers even more sequels with Halloweentown High in 2004 and Return to Halloweentown in 2006.
Lesson: The importance of trust and that it’s not OK to use people for personal gain.
On their 21st birthday, Alex (Tia Mowry) and Camryn (Tamera Mowry) discover that they’re twins who were separated at birth. The cherry on top is that they’re witches. They need to use their powers to stop the mighty powerful darkness.
Lesson: The power of family and that kids should always believe in themselves.
Twitches Too (2007)
Here’s the witchy sequel to add to your Halloween watchlist once spooky season creeps up. Alex (Tia Mowry) and Camryn (Tamera Mowry) discover that their biological father may still be alive but their journey for answers ends up with them uncovering a dark secret.
Lesson: The power of family and that kids should always believe in themselves.