Disney is constantly entertaining the world with new theme park rides, the latest films, and current products. And from the comfort of their homes, people around the globe enjoy the company’s original movies on the Disney Channel.
The first Disney Channel Original Movie (Before that, there were Disney Channel Premiere films) was Under Wraps, which premiered on October 25, 1997.
The highest-rated premiere was when 17.2 million viewers gathered to watch High School Musical 2. Disney released its 100th Original Movie in 2016, when it ran a marathon of all of its past films, leading up to the 100th: Adventures In Babysitting. And already, Disney has three new and exciting movies in the works for its channel: Freaky Friday (a remake coming out this summer), Descendants 3 (the third installment of the popular franchise) and Kim Possible (a movie coming out next year, based on the series, which ran from 2002-2007).
When it comes to all of these Disney Channel Original Movies, though, which ones are the best? Which ones, year after year, are still remembered and cherished? Which ones have stood the test of time and been considered the best of the best, out of the 100+ films?
In our opinion, these are the top 20 Disney Channel Original Movies…
20 ‘Geek Charming’
In 2011, Geek Charming, a movie based on a novel, was released on the Disney Channel. It starred Sarah Hyland as Dylan Schoenfield; a popular 16-year-old girl whose well-to-do life had gone to her head.
Now, when it came to the plot of this film; a film geek at Dylan’s school named Josh Rosen decided to make a film about popularity, with Dylan and her life at the center of the film. Dylan was already at the top of the food chain at school, but she thought this film could help her achieve her next big goal: being crowned Blossom Queen, like her late mother was.
Of course, though, while the movie was being made, Josh and Dylan started having feelings for each other, and Dylan kind of started morphing into a geek herself. In the end, after watching Josh’s creation, Dylan was disgusted with her snobby behavior, and though she did win the title of Blossom Queen, she didn’t care about that anymore. Instead, she used her platform to apologize for how she acted and to confess her love for Josh.
Overall, it had a good message and some entertaining parts, and Sarah Hyland definitely helped make this Disney Channel Original Movie memorable!
19 ‘Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure’
After the success of High School Musical, a spin-off film was released in 2011, and it was called Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. Fans were thrilled that one of the most interesting HSM characters—Sharpay Evans, played by Ashley Tisdale—was getting such a big and bold role, and the movie focused on her life after graduation.
She met a casting director who wanted her in his new Broadway show, so she convinced her parents to let her move to New York by herself, all for this opportunity. Once she arrived in the Big Apple, she was kicked out of her penthouse, due to her dog, Boi, but then she met Peyton, who was played by Austin Butler, and she moved in with him. How perfect!
The rest of the film was filled with the ups and downs and highs and lows of making it big in show business, but in the end, Sharpay got her happily ever after. She and Boi were the stars of the play and as she and Peyton kissed. Sharpay's twin brother, Ryan, even took a break from his music tour to stop in and congratulate his sister. So the story wasn’t as fabulous as HSM was, but it was a nice continuation!
18 ‘Get A Clue’
In 2002, Lindsay Lohan starred in a Disney Channel Original Movie called Get A Clue. In it, her character, Lexy Gold, wanted to learn more about a missing teacher at her school.
As a rich and popular student in Manhattan, Lexy regularly dished out gossip via her school’s newspaper. But this certain incident seemed bigger and more serious than her usual news. In fact, the movie was actually filled with some pretty big topics, such as some risque behavior, a new identity, false accusations, theft, a framing, a hostage situation and an arrest. And all of those topics were figured out by Lexy and her friends—two of which were played by Brenda Song and Bug Hall—and as the movie wrapped up, the friends were happy as could be and were talking about going bowling... This was mainly because that is what anyone would do after solving a mystery like that, right?
Like several other Disney Channel Original Movies, big names like Lohan, Song, and Hall helped make this film even better, and family friendly fun that Disney is known for helped make the serious topics seem not as big and scary.
So the number 23 spots seems like a good place for Get A Clue!
Andrea Carson and her twin brother, Andrew, were the main character’s in Motocrossed, from 2001. Andrea loved motocross, and after Andrew hurt his knee before a big race, Andrea stepped in for him. Sort of like in She’s The Man and sort of like Twelfth Night.
(This movie is actually loosely based on William Shakespeare’s play.).
However, there has to be a conflict, and in this Disney Channel Original Movie, the main one was that the twins’ father, Edward, did not like his daughter participating in a dangerous sport that was meant for boys (his words — not ours!).
Plus, Andrew hurt his knee while racing around with Andrea, meaning Edward had to quit his job and go to Europe to find a replacement rider. However, the one he found was actually a big ol’ monster (IMO!).
Andrea struggled with racing and with keeping up at first, but a happy ending had to come about, and it did: She met a cute boy, her father realized that motocross was meant for her, the family received a full sponsorship, and the cute boy joined the Carson family team... And girls everywhere wanted to be as cool and as in love as Andrea was!
16 ‘The Luck Of The Irish’
Fans of the Disney Channel cannot celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with watching The Luck of the Irish, a 2001 Original Movie.
Disney cutie Ryan Merriman played Kyle Johnson, a high school-aged basketball player who learned that he was Irish after he started getting shorter and his hair started turning red (along with his ears becoming pointed).
How did he not know all of this before? Well, Kyle had a magic coin that allowed the Johnson family leprechauns to pass as a normal human beings. After all of these discoveries, the movie was filled with an evil leprechaun, a trip to Ireland, and entertaining competitions; including an important and an exciting basketball game that helped save the day.
There is a definite pattern with Disney Channel Original Movies, since there are always solutions that are solved and happy endings for all (they are meant for a younger audience, so this makes some sense, I suppose). But not many other films are about leprechauns, so this unique story became a fan favorite. Plus, no one was going to gripe about having to watch Ryan Merriman on the screen... Meaning we are ready for a sequel, starring him, whenever Disney is ready to give us one!
Twitches started out as a book series, published by Scholastic Press, and in 2005, the Disney Channel released a film version, starring Tia and Tamera Mowry.
In the movie, twin sisters were born on Halloween and were named Apolla and Artemis after the Olympian twins, the gods of the sun and the moon.
Apolla ended up being adopted by a wealthy couple who names her Camryn, and Artemis was adopted by a single mother who named her Alex. And in a Parent Trap-like moment, the girls met and realized they had a bond, as well as magical abilities. They also discovered that there was a prophecy that stated that they were responsible for restoring their homeland, Coventry, by getting rid of “the Darkness.” So they used their bond and their powers to save the land, just in time to celebrate their birthday.
This Disney Channel Original Movie was so popular that it earned itself a sequel, Twitches Too, which aired on October 12, 2007. Plus, the Disney series Sister, Sister was popular, so having Tia and Tamera Mowry star in this film was an excellent decision! (And their little brother, Tahj, was a Disney regular, too, starring in Smart Guy and Kim Possible.)
14 ‘Teen Beach Movie’
Before I get into this film, I want to make a bold statement: Disney Channel Original Movies are not what they used to be! Sure, there have been some good ones in the past decade, but the late ‘90s to the early ‘00s... That is when the best of the best of these films came out. And after seeing success with High School Musical and Camp Rock (and their sequels), Disney released Teen Beach Movie in 2013. The film—which was filmed in Puerto Rico—was the only one the Disney Channel put out in 2013, and its sequel, titled Teen Beach Movie 2, premiered in 2015.
Teen Beach Movie gave a great nod to West Side Story...
Eexcept the main characters in this Disney film found themselves swept away and part of Wet Side Story, a musical story on the beach, with good versus evil; a love story or two and a lesson to be learned before things could go back to normal.
Fans enjoyed the unique way music was added into the film, and they especially loved the music in general (though, let’s be real: Nothing will ever be as good as "Start Of Something New" or "Breaking Free" from HSM!).
13 ‘Don't Look Under The Bed’
The Disney Channel has some great holiday-themed films, and in 1999, an Original Movie called Don’t Look Under The Bed aired. It was all about a girl named Frances McCausland, who noticed that strange things started happening in her town, such as dogs ending up on roofs, gelatin ending up in the school's swimming pool, and Bs being painted on different surfaces around town — including the inside of Frances’ locker. Then, an interesting character named Larry Houdini told Frances that she was being framed by the Boogeyman.
This all led to an adventure to Boogeyworld — a scary and fascinating place under Frances’ bed.
She ended up learning that Larry used to be her younger brother’s imaginary friend, and that the Boogeyman was actually Zoe; her old imaginary friend. The siblings had stopped believing in their imaginary friends, but their old pals were still around — different but still caring.
When the final credits rolled, everything had ended up all happy and right again, but let us not forget that this Disney Channel Original Movie had some really scary parts! It was unlike what fans were used to when it came to Disney, but maybe that is part of what made is so beloved.
12 ‘Smart House’
Smart House also came out in 1999, and it also starred Ryan Merriman! He played a smart teenage boy, Ben, who lived with his widowed father and his little sister in a computerized house.
Ben thought that a smart house would help his struggling family with chores and such, but after winning it in a competition and saying that there was no mother figure around, everything went wrong.
The house, named Pat, turned itself into an overbearing mother (a holographic witch was brought to life by actress Katey Sagal), and it just became more and more strict.
At one point, it even locked the family in the house — all to protect them. That is when Ben had to tell Pat that she was just a computer...not a real mom. Pat learned the truth the hard way, and then she (it) was reset to a nice and normal computer that was actually helpful again.
Even though Pat went crazy and led to some disastrous moments within this fun film, every kid watching Smart House surely wished they had their own smart house — a giant robot-like thing that could clean and cook and really just wait on us hand and foot...maybe someday!
11 ‘Camp Rock’
Before Demi Lovato was the Demi Lovato we know and love today, and when Joe Jonas was just one of the Jo Bros, they were on Camp Rock together. This Disney Channel Original Movie from 2008 was watched by 8.9 million viewers, making it the third highest viewed Original Movie on Disney Channel of all time, behind High School Musical 2 and Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie.
The movie was all about Mitchie Torres, an aspiring young musician who wanted to attend Camp Rock and became a famous singer. Of course, there were many goofy trials and tribulations encountered during her time at the musical summer camp, but she showed off her talents to everyone and returned in 2010 for a sequel: Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.
Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas are well-known singers, with chart-topping hits, and they are both quite popular and loved within the Disney family. Therefore, putting them together on this channel—and in a musical film, which, as we know, always do well here—made for a really great film full of really cute moments and super catchy songs. I wouldn't even be surprised if a third film comes out at some point (at least I can hope!).
10 ‘The Even Stevens Movie’
Even Stevens ran from 2000 to 2003, serving as a classic Disney Channel series about a wacky family. And instead of just having a normal and boring series finale, the show gave fans an entire movie, which wrapped up the show.
In the movie, the Stevens family went on a vacation that turned out to be a reality show called Family Fake Out. That meant that they went through some tough tasks (such as not having shelter or food and getting attacked by a scary squirrel) all to entertain those watching TV. In the end, the family figured out what was happening and why they were being tortured (for the show Family Fake Out). They retaliated by putting it all on a different reality series (Gotcha).
Ren, Louis, and the rest of their family members were known for their crazy antics and their different personalities, but the show ended with this Disney Channel Original Movie that had them working together to survive.
Plus, the film was full of some wild and memorable moments — something that Even Stevens was always known for and part of what made it so great! Hmm...We are ready for a reboot of this series, too...
9 ‘Gotta Kick It Up!’
Other Disney Channel Original Movies had covered bowling, motocross, basketball, and figure skating, and in 2002, the brand focused on cheerleading with Gotta Kick It Up!
This 2002 film was based on a true story of a middle school dance team. They were not from the best school. They did not have the best resources. Their team was not the biggest or the best. And all of these factors made them true underdogs. But they kicked it up. They worked harder than ever. They formed a true team. And their dance team overcame societal obstacles and more to find true success.
Like all Disney films, this one was entertaining, full of family and friends that were lovable and relatable, as well as humorous moments that made kids of all ages laugh. But this movie was also super inspiring. It was about real kids who did these real things, and stars like America Ferrera helped bring the story—the inspiring, sad, amazing, and eventful story—to life. And after it aired on the Disney Channel, more kids probably wanted to join cheer squads, and more people (hopefully) wanted to kick it up and reach their personal goals, too, just like these girls did!
8 ‘Cadet Kelly’
In 2002, Hilary Duff starred as Kelly Collins, an eighth grade girl who attended a school with few rules and tons of freedom. However, Kelly’s mother married a military man, which meant that Kelly had to transfer to military school.
Kelly was used to eating hot dogs from street vendors — not waking up early for tough inspections.
She was used to dressing in bright colors and funky accessories — not wearing a neutral uniform like everyone else. And the tough Cadet Captain Jennifer Stone, played by Christy Carlson Romano, certainly did not help in Kelly’s new situation. But Kelly was strong, and she fought through, finding success and real friendship at her new school. It was not easy, and it was not always pretty, but—once again—the Disney Channel taught a valuable lesson, all through Hilary Duff’s transition to a military school.
And here is a side note... This Disney Channel Original Movie is just as good now as it was then; I know that first hand! Sure, there are some silly little parts, since the Disney Channel caters to a younger crowd, but it is so memorable. It's full of iconic lines and scenes, with a heart-warming story and pretty cast.
7 ‘Double Teamed’
Another sports-themed movie that was based on a true story was Double Teamed. This 2002 Disney Channel Original Movie was about twins and professional basketball players named Heather and Heidi Burge. They originally started out at a new high school to play volleyball, but they were both recruited to play on the basketball team for the Palos Verdes High School Sea Kings.
After they started playing, Heather was usually seen as the better player, but she ended up twisting her ankle, meaning Heidi had to step up her game. Let’s be real, though — they were both insanely talented, both in the movie and in real life! The film ended by showing the Burge twins in the WNBA; Heidi played for the Los Angeles Sparks and Heather played for the Sacramento Monarchs. And in the movie, their teams went up against each other, with the sisters going up for a tip-off against each other.
In reality, though, their time in the WNBA did not conicide, and the two never even played against each other in the WNBA. But the real-life Heather and Heidi did play pro ball, and their inspiring story was told to millions, all thanks to the Disney Channel.
Okay, we are getting down to the best of the best here, as we only have a few more Disney Channel Original Movies left to rank and share with everyone!
Next up is Quints, a movie from the year 2000 that starred Kimberly J. Brown as Jamie. She was an only child, meaning her parents were always giving her tons of attention, which could sometimes be annoying. All of that changed when her mom got pregnant, though.
She ended up giving birth to five new babies!
These quintuplets were named Adam, Eddie, Debbie, Becky, and Charlie, and as one can imagine, they needed constant attention. When one was changed, two more would be crying, and as soon as they were fed, more were pooping or getting sick... The work never ended! Therefore, Jamie was sort of pushed to the back burner. She missed the days that her parents showered her with affection and attention, but she did love all of her new siblings deep down and despite the trouble.
Smart House may have made fans wish for a smart house, and Gotta Kick It Up! may have inspired people to cheer, but we are not sure how many people wished for quints after seeing Quints!
5 ‘Tru Confessions’
Everyone has heaRd of Double Teamed, Motocrossed, and Cadet Kelly, but one of the greatest Disney Channel Original Movies is severely underrated. Tru Confessions aired in 2002, telling the story of Tru Walker, an aspiring filmmaker. Her twin brother, Eddie, had Autism, and he became the focus of a documentary Tru was making.
Tru loved her brother, but their mother babied him, their father was too tough on him, and many moments in Tru’s life were put on hold due to Eddie. Her documentary was supposed to be about something meaningful to her, though. Therefore, her film stated that living with a brother with a disability could be stressful — a statement that was made known to the world after Tru won a film contest and her film was broadcasted on television.
It opened everyone’s eyes, though, and peers at school started being nicer to the two, and the twins’ parents realized that they could handle some parenting situations differently. The entire film wrapped up with a tear-jerking moment, full of love, and a line from Eddie—who was played by Shia LaBeouf—a guy who used to play the funny kid yet proved in Tru Confessions that he can be serious and mesmerizing.
4 ‘Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century’
Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century was a book, was going to be a TV series, and ended up being a 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie. It was also the first Disney Channel Original Movie to lead to a sequel; Zenon: The Zequel came out in 2001, and Zenon: Z3 came out in 2004.
In the first film, though, the year was 2049, and Zenon Kar lived on an Earth-orbiting space station. But she got in trouble, had to move to Earth and was considered weird.
Zenon then learned lessons of accepting and being accepted, all while uncovering a big plan that almost put an end to her home: the space station. Plus, Proto Zoa and his pop-rock group Microbe played a big role in helping to save the day (and since then, fans have seen Proto Zoa—well, actor Phillip Rhys—in series such as Bones, Glee, CSI and NCIS...but he will always be known for singing that iconic song: “Zoom, zoom, zoom...Make my heart go boom boom boom…”).
The second and third films in the franchise were not as good as the original, but they were still super entertaining, brining back these cool characters in a fun and futuristic setting.
3 ‘The Color Of Friendship’
The Color of Friendship aired on the Disney Channel in 2000, and it was based on the real-life friendship that existed between two young girls (named Mahree and Piper) in the 1970s.
Piper Dellums was a black girl who lived in the United States, and her father was an outspoken opponent of the South African apartheid system. Mahree Bok was a white South African who benefited from the apartheid system. Mahree ended up moving in with Piper, through a foreign exchange program, and the two learned a lot from each other.
There were struggles, shocks, and arguments, but in the end, they realized they were very similar and became very good friends.
The main point of the film was, yes, a friendship, but the deeper details—involving race and injustices—may have gone over some heads; many kids probably thought it was just another fun Disney film, and now that we are older, we appreciate it even more.
In the 1970s, in the 2000s, and in today’s time, there were differences, there were fights, and there were obstacles (the same can be said for today's world). But Piper and Mahree sat down, got to know each other and proved that we are all the same...and that is just beautiful.
2 ‘High School Musical’
In 2006, the world changed forever. Okay, that may be a little extreme, but High School Musical was released that year, and it quickly and easily became the most successful Disney Channel Original Movie ever.
Fans also received High School Musical 2 in 2007 and High School Musical 3: Senior Year in 2008 — but this is just about the original.
This is the film about Troy Bolton (played by Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (played by Vanessa Hudgens). They became friends, they got the leads in the school musical, they fell in love, and they inspired everyone to soar, to not stick to the status quo, to break free, to sing!
It was a great story (that was sort of like Romeo and Juliet), it had a great cast, and it was filled with songs that are still loved, all these years later.
This list has been hard to create, since there are so many great Disney Channel films, but we feel comfortable and confident with this decision; High School Musical is almost the best Original Movie ever made. It certainly had the best soundtrack, and we loved watch Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, but one other film was even better, in our eyes...
"Halloween is cool.” That line kind of sums up this last entry. This is the number one movie, which is, of course, Halloweentown!
Many people enjoy dressing up for and celebrating Halloween, but this holiday-themed film went even deeper and showed just how cool it could be, as it took us inside Halloweentown, a magical place filled with witches, silly monsters, and talking skeletons. And, yes, the villainous Kalabar was there, too, but the Cromwell-Piper family took care of him.
In 1998, Kimberly J. Brown (a true Disney star) starred as 13-year-old Marnie Piper, whose mother would not let her partake in Halloween activities, for some reason. However, she found out from her grandmother, Aggie (played by Debbie Reynolds), that she was actually a witch! The entire family ended up having powers, and they all worked together and used them all to save Halloweentown.
Disney also released Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge in 2001, Halloweentown High in 2004, and Return to Halloweentown in 2006, but the casts changed and even if it had not, the original films are always the best. And when it comes to being the best, I think of Halloweentown. It's the best Disney Channel Original Movie that was ever created!