The best and worst Disney Channel Original Movies

Disney Channel Originals were the bread and butter of my childhood, but not all were up to standard

Each night growing up, I jumped on the couch with popcorn in hand, I assumed the persona of a snobbish film critic — but my subjects were nowhere near blockbusters. Disney Channel Original Movies were the bread and butter of my childhood. They may not have been created equally, but even the bad are iconic in their own right. 

Top 5 

1. "High School Musical 2" (2007)

The plot: After the events of the first film, we are back at it with the East High crew. Shenanigans ensue when Troy and the rest of the Wildcats get summer jobs at a resort owned by Sharpay Evans’ family. 

Post-watch thoughts: It’s arguably the greatest movie in the HSM trilogy. It has the best plot by far, and it develops the characters beyond their superficial molds. The soundtrack is full of bops and the film can be defined by one song in particular — “Bet On It.” Nothing beats watching an angsty Zac Efron run around a golf course. 

2. "The Cheetah Girls" (2003)

The plot: Four teen girls in Manhattan dream of being the first freshmen at their high school to win the talent show. After a successful audition, their group is discovered by a famous music executive, but the girls' new celebrity lifestyle tests their friendship. 

Post-watch thoughts: This movie is a classic, and it kick-started one of the most iconic Disney Channel trilogies. With a star-studded cast including Raven-Symoné, it has everything you want (and need) in life — killer vocals, sassy attitudes and, of course, cheetahlicious outfits.

3. "Camp Rock" (2008)

The plot: When Mitchie Torres is given the opportunity to attend Camp Rock, she has a serendipitous encounter with pop star Shane Gray that blossoms into a musical romance. 

Post-watch thoughts: There isn’t enough I can say about how amazing this movie is. As a kid, I wanted Mitchie’s life, and I don't just mean getting to kiss Joe Jonas. Every Disney musical has amazing songs, but nothing truly beats "Camp Rock." You can go from popping and locking with “Hasta La Vista” to empowering yourself with “This is Me.”

4. "Stuck in the Suburbs" (2004) 

The plot: Brittany Aarons is bored with her teen life in the suburbs, but her life gets interesting when she accidentally trades phones with a teen idol. 

Post-watch thoughts: The film is every teenage girl’s dream, but the plot also expands into the themes of nonconformity and self-expression, traditionally not explored on Disney Channel. And Taran Killam from SNL plays Jordan Cahill — ‘nough said. 

5. "Now You See It…" (2005) 

The plot: Allyson Miller is eager to produce a new reality TV show and signs up for one that searches for the world’s greatest kid magician. When his skills are more special than the others, Allyson realizes she’s in over her head.

Post-watch thoughts: This movie walked so "Now You See Me" could run. It’s full of twists and turns that my 5-year-old self was so shook by upon first watch. I will never forget being completely blown away by the ending. Plus, the romantic tension between Danny and Allyson still gives me goosebumps to this day. 

Worst 5 

1. "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior" (2006)

The plot: Wendy Wu’s seemingly perfect life is turned upside when she finds out she’s the reincarnated Yin-warrior. Now, she must train in martial arts to fulfill her destiny of defeating an ancient evil spirit — and she has to do all this while campaigning for homecoming queen.

Post-watch thoughts: The plot makes no sense, but that’s why this movie is horribly beautiful. Brenda Song finally got her chance to shine and it was in this mess. But on a positive note, you get to see her kick some major butt while doing everyday tasks.

2. "Return to Halloweentown" (2006) 

The plot: Marnie Piper is back in Halloweentown to attend Witch University with her brother. She is surprised to learn the curriculum is not focused on how to use their powers, but the dark forces have other plans for Marnie. 

Post-watch thoughts: I was turned off as soon as I found out Kimberly J. Brown would not be playing Marnie Piper. How can you replace the original actress at the end of the series? Although it wasn't faithful to the original movies, the plot was more adult than the previous films, so it definitely made for an intense end to a beloved, spooky saga.

3. "Hatching Pete" (2009) 

The plot: Pete lives under the radar of his high school, unlike his best friend Cleatis who is the school’s mascot. When Pete is turned down by his crush, his dad tells him to do something to get her attention, and suddenly, Cleatis gives him an opportunity to be known.

Post-watch thoughts: Jason Dolley and Mitchel Musso were never given the lead roles on Disney Channel. Along comes this movie, and I just feel bad. It’s essentially about a chicken. It didn't do them justice as actors.

4. "Teen Beach Movie" (2013)

The plot: After being swept away by a wave, two surfers Brady and Mack are stuck in their favorite movie, "Wet Side Story." Their only way out? Sing through it and another storm wave will bring them back home.

Post-watch thoughts: A beach-version of "Romeo and Juliet," what could possibly go wrong? The trope is overdone, but at least the movie adds a different flare. I give Ross Lynch credit because he carried this whole franchise on his back. 

5. "StarStruck" (2010)

The plot: While a Midwestern girl is on vacation in Los Angeles, the last thing she expects is to cross paths with a Hollywood superstar. The pair go on an unlikely adventure and get to know each other better along the way.

Post-watch thoughts: This is bad only because of Christopher Wilde’s behavior. One moment he wants to be with Sara, and the next he acts like he doesn’t know who she is — it's a problematic pairing, to say the least.



Reach the reporter at omunson@asu.edu and follow @munson_olivia on Twitter. 

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