These Are the 10 Disney Channel Original Movies Your Kids Need to See
Back in the late '90s and early '00s, a cool Friday night in was making a bowl of popcorn and cozying up to a new Disney Channel Original Movie. The now-cheesy movies were once the thing I looked most forward to on any given night of the week — if my homework was finished by 8 p.m., I was allowed to watch whichever movie was playing that night. In the late '90s was when DCOMs really started to pick up, so those first handful of movies that were relentlessly aired over and over are the ones I remember most. Some are ones that others would recall fondly, the others are ones that most people have likely long forgotten about.
Like other Disney movies, there's a lesson — or seven — embedded in each of these films, and even though you might cringe watching them now, you'll love watching them with your kids. For a kick right in the nostalgia, check out the 10 Disney Channel Original Movies that your kid is going to love just as much as you once did.
Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
Tagline: "She's one galactic girl who saves the day in a stellar way!" (But should be, "
Zoom, zoom, zoom, you make my heart go boom, boom, boom.")
Reasons they need to see it: Because pink tights and neon skirts, first and foremost. Though the fashion in the year 2049 may be a bit different than what we're into now, Zenon, a 13-year-old girl, will help your kids with very relevant teen (and adult) issues, like not judging a book by its cover, standing up for what you believe in, and doing the right thing even if the adults around you don't seem to understand you.
Tagline: "It takes a champ to stay in line."
Reasons they need to see it: This is my absolute favorite DCOM — not only does it star Erik von Detten, late '90s to early '00s dreamboat, but it also features a totally BA female skater who I wanted to be like so bad. The main characters in the movie love skating for the fun of it, so much so that they call themselves "Soul Skaters" — until Brink starts skating for money behind his friends' backs and learns that sometimes, friendship is the most important thing, and you don't necessarily have to do something you love to make money; you can do it because you love it.
High School Musical
Tagline: "This school rocks like no other!"
Reasons they need to see it: This is as romantic comedy as Disney has ever gotten — and that's a reach. But who doesn't love a good musical? Troy is a star on the basketball court, where his father/coach expects everything form him, but even though he loves basketball, he wants to sing in the school musical as well. He feels like he can't tell his dad, because he won't be accepted, so he spends the whole movie trying to do it all and hide who he is, which is obviously no way to live but something many tweens and teens could be faced with. Sure, it's cheesy as anything, but its message — which is basically "do you" — is awesome and empowering.
Tagline: I couldn't find one for this, so I dub the tagline, "Being normal is vastly overrated." — Aggie Cromwell
Reasons they need to see it: In an extremely roundabout TV movie way, this Halloween-themed flick encourages kids to accept and love who they are and who their family is. Marnie, her siblings, and her mom all learn to appreciate and be proud of where they come from and that being normal isn't necessarily the best or most fun thing to be.
Miracle in Lane 2
Tagline: "Justin tried for a trophy. What he won was extraordinary."
Reasons they need to see it: I remember this movie making me the most emotional of any of the Disney Channel Originals. Despite being handicapped, Justin — aka mini Frankie Muniz, aka total babe — finds a sport he loves and is talented at and proves to himself and everyone else that he can do anything he puts his mind to. It takes him a while to come to an understanding that nobody is perfect and that everyone can do different things.
Tagline: "When Andi stepped in, an extreme sport became an extreme adventure."
Reasons they need to see it: This movie is the Disney version of She's the Man with less Channing Tatum, more Riley Smith, less high school soccer, and more extreme sports. Andi loves motocross just as much as her twin brother, but everyone takes her less seriously because she's "just a girl." Fast forward to Andrew dislocating his knee and Andi cutting her hair short to ride a huge race in his place — obviously she wins, girls rule, and all of the men eat their words. It's a win for girls everywhere.
The Thirteenth Year
Tagline: "Cody's not just growing up . . . he's growing fins!"
Reasons they need to see it: As if being 13 isn't difficult enough, Cody — an adopted child — celebrates his birthday at a party with his loving family and friends, which is promptly followed by him developing scales and fins the next morning. His interesting predicament leaves him curious about his birth parents. Your kid may not have to deal with scales growing on their skin, but they'll be dealing with something — because that's what being 13 is all about — and watching Cody calmly and bravely deal with his situation will be inspiring to your child.
Tagline: "The temperature is down, but the surf is up!"
Reasons they need to see it: When Johnny — a legendary kid surfer from Hawaii — is forced to move to Vermont, he has to adapt to his new surroundings. He makes new friends, discovers that his specific talents can lend to learning other skills that he enjoys just as much, and handles bullying like a champion — by challenging them to an epic snowboarding race (specific, yet effective).
Tagline: "The Coopers' house has a mind of its own."
Reasons they need to see it: This crazy movie in which a house actually comes alive deals with a lot of relevant teen issues. Ben's mother has passed away, and he takes on a role as caretaker of the family, leaving him no time to be a kid himself. After their house, Pat, goes nuts and traps them inside, Ben realizes that he can't replace his mother with a house, and Ben's father realizes he needs to make more of an attempt to be there for his family — for if he had been around more, Ben wouldn't have felt the need to enter a competition to win a "Smart House" in the first place. This is a good one for both parents and their kiddos to watch together.
Tagline: "As if life at 14 isn't twisted enough!"
Reasons they need to see it: As an only child, this movie really hit me hard — 14-year-old Jamie's parents are having quints, and she has to deal with going from owning her parents' spotlight to sharing it with five babies who need a hell of a lot more attention than she does. Jamie learns to love her siblings, to communicate what she needs with her parents, and, most importantly, how to put other people first.