The Definitive DCOM Ranking: Before High School Musical Changed Everything (with Jordan Holtzer)

The Definitive DCOM Ranking: Before High School Musical Changed Everything (with Jordan Holtzer)

Jordan is the friendly voice behind The Relunchables, a podcast covering all manner of 1990s and early-2000s nostalgic media (including DCOMs). Allison is a writer specializing in Disney film and television history as well as other retro TV dating back to the 1950s; she blogs here at Past Foot Forward. We came of age in the excitement of the new millennium and both have clear memories of life as 90s/2000s kids. We are so grateful to have become friends through our shared interests and passion for our childhood programming. 

Together, we are ranking the 60 DCOMs that were released before High School Musical (2006). Why just these 60 Disney Channel Original Movies? By 2006, we were both in middle school. Allison would continue to watch Disney Channel for several more years, but Jordan had pretty much moved on. The DCOMs were gradually evolving into something else–not something bad, just something different from our precious memories. We believe that the 60 films from Under Wraps to Twitches best represent the sweet spot of our combined viewing experiences. We hope you enjoy our take on these classics, starting with our all-time favorites!

1. Smart House (1999)

What if Alexa took you and your family hostage? For some, maybe that has already happened. Well in 1999, the future was here with Smart House. While so many films portraying future technology get it wrong, Smart House was (almost) spot-on from the Zoom calls to virtual reality gaming and Theranos-inspired health checks. This film stands out because of the incredible technology but will always live on in the hearts of millennials for the emotional struggle of a young boy losing his mom and hoping to replace her with Artificial Intelligence. And not just any AI, but Katey Sagal, better known for portraying biker gang matriarch Gemma on Sons of Anarchy and Peggy Bundy on Married… with Children. This crossover of Black Mirror and Her takes the #1 spot!

2. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)

This film begins on a space station in the year 2049. Zenon Kar (Kirsten Storms) is a spunky blonde tween in pigtails who wears a lot of neon spandex. Zenon has big goals for her future, including a contest that she enters in hopes of meeting a rockstar named Proto Zoa. Zenon’s antics leave her grounded on planet Earth, where she is sent to live with her Aunt Judy. A bloodthirsty tycoon will soon have the space station “blasted into some universe minor” so that he can collect the insurance money, but Zenon saves the day by sneaking back to space and cracking the code in the nick of time. This movie is an obvious favorite, coining the lyrics “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!” and predicting as much technology as Smart House did. Kids in the late 90s couldn’t believe those Zap Pads, but they look an awful lot like iPads today. 

3. Cadet Kelly (2002)

While we never got that Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire crossover episode, Cadet Kelly was not a bad consolation prize. Hilary Duff and Christy Carlson Romano team up to tell the story of a young girl transferring from a private arts school to a military academy where her new stepfather lands his dream job as the Commandant. Perhaps we were supposed to learn the value of accepting a stepparent into your life. However, all we learned were those incredible moves in that epic dance battle set to Macy Grey’s “Relating to a Psychopath,” which unfortunately has been replaced on Disney+ with some less than stellar stock music. Growing up in the 90s, the threat of being sent to military school for messing up was palpable. That was, until Cadet Kelly

4. Horse Sense (1999)

Disney loves a good horse movie, so thankfully for them, this one is very good. The Lawrence brothers have made Horse Sense an enduring classic. Joey Lawrence plays Michael Woods, a spoiled Beverly Hills kid who is lazily making his way through college. Andy Lawrence plays Tommy Biggs, Michael’s young cousin who is visiting from Montana. After Michael totally neglects Tommy (all the kid wanted was to go to Disneyland and see the beach!), Michael gets a taste of his own medicine–his parents send him off to Tommy’s ranch as a punishment for making Tommy’s trip miserable. Michael learns to bond with Tommy and manages to save the ranch with an old college paper about land trusts. We certainly didn’t take that class in college, not even Jordan the lawyer!

5. Johnny Tsunami (1999)

Maybe you were like me (Jordan) and greeted your elementary school friends with a “Hey Pono!” after watching Johnny Tsunami. Maybe you aren’t like me in that I still greet my friends with a “Hey Pono!” This film hit differently for anyone who moved as a kid and struggled to fit in. Moving from the beaches of Hawaii to the suburbs of Vermont is not easy, especially when you don’t own a winter coat. Kirsten Storms, better known as Zenon, plays Johnny’s love interest, and the late Lee Thompson Young plays Sam, Johnny’s best friend who rocks that incredible Urchin beanie we all wanted as a kid. If you haven’t watched Johnny Tsunami in a while, you may have forgotten that Johnny Tsunami is actually the nickname of Johnny’s surfing legend grandfather. The grandfather is not only a surfing legend, but also a legend as a human being for teaching Johnny to follow his dreams and to embrace the obstacles life throws at him. We can only hope that Brandon Baker gets to play Saff in a potential Tiger King movie. The resemblance is uncanny! This film could have easily taken the #1 spot, but like its main character, it will forever be an underdog.

6. Brink! (1998)

While most DCOMs feature cheesy and unrealistic depictions of sports scenes, Brink! stands out for the incredible, jaw-dropping skating stunts. Erik von Detton plays Andy “Brink” Brinker, who tries to balance his love for “soul skating” with the commercialism of competing for a sponsored team to try to help support his family. Put Sam Horrigan, who plays X-Bladz captain Val, right up there with Billy Zabka for one of the all-time greatest teen movie villains! And can we talk about Jimmy, the manager of Team X-Bladz, who was slinging millions of dollars worth of product and only paying the kids $200 a week? His character is probably (definitely) held up in some white collar prison for running a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme by now. Who could forget when the Pup-n-Suds crew put worms in Val’s sandwich or the classic chocolate milkshake to the face? Soul skaters for life!

7. Double Teamed (2002)

Heather and Heidi Burge are real-life WNBA alums, and Double Teamed is about their journey from high school sports to professional basketball. The movie engages viewers without too much of a “based on a true story” vibe. Heather loves drama club; Heidi is obsessed with volleyball. Heidi’s chance meeting with the high school basketball coach (played by Joey Miyashima from High School Musical and The Paper Brigade) puts both twins on the team, and they learn that it’s okay for them to have different interests, even if their dad forces them to play ball. For kids who loved basketball, this movie was the absolute best, even if the gameplay wasn’t all that accurate. This DCOM was the perfect combination of family dynamics, girl talk, and driven athleticism. Those 80s outfits were pretty fly, too.

8. The Luck of the Irish (2001)

We all come from somewhere. Learning about one’s own family heritage was at the forefront of The Luck of the Irish. Kyle Johnson (Ryan Merriman) has everything going for him thanks to his lucky coin, until it is taken from him by evil leprechaun Seamus McTiernen (I swear, you can’t make these names up). Oh yeah, Kyle is also inexplicably transforming into a leprechaun. Did we forget to mention that this is also a basketball movie? Understanding this film is like trying to comprehend a Christopher Nolan ending. It’s easier just to accept the confusion and say they’re all still in a dream. Kyle’s grandfather, played by the late Henry Gibson, is named Reilly O’Reilly, and he owns a potato chip factory. This film may take the Irish stereotype too far… Having said all that, The Luck of the Irish sums up all there is to love about DCOMs, from the absurdity to the emotional depth (but mainly the absurdity, in this case).

9. Halloweentown (1998)

Marnie Piper (Kimberly J. Brown) is one of the coolest characters from any DCOM. Marnie is just a thirteen-year-old who loves Halloween, and she happens to have a mother who hates it. When Grandma Aggie shows up and spreads her Halloween cheer, Marnie and her siblings are dying to know more about witches, warlocks, goblins, and spells. They stow away on the bus to Halloweentown, embarking on an adventure that would change Disney Channel forever. Even though Marnie defeats Kalabar at the end, this first film merely opens the door to a timeless franchise for the heroic young witch. Two decades later, Kimberly J. Brown still loves her time as Marnie and has attended several Halloweentown festivals with devoted fans.

10. The Color of Friendship (2000)

Twenty years ago, Disney Channel first aired one of their most important original movies. The Color of Friendship brings a white South African foreign exchange student named Mahree Bok (Lindsey Haun) into the home of a Black American family in Washington, D.C. The Dellums family welcomes Mahree, even though she and Piper Dellums (Shadia Simmons) have a rough start. Piper and Mahree begin to bond over music and fashion, but Mahree learns about the horrors of Apartheid in her own country as Congressman Dellums mentors her. This film based on true events is not one to miss. It won the 2000 Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program as well as the 2001 NAACP Image Award.

11. Alley Cats Strike (2000)

Disney Channel executives read an article describing how bowling was the most participated-in sport in America. Why this article turned into Alley Cats Strike is still a mystery. It was up to the writer, Gregory Pincus (Little Big League), to create a compelling and riveting sports movie out of bowling, and boy did he deliver. Right up there with Kingpin for the GOAT of all bowling films, Alley Cats Strike pins (get the pun?) rival towns against each other in competing for the Golden Apple, the trophy going to the town with the most sports victories. It all comes down to bowling to decide the winner! The bowling scenes actually hold up, except for the game-winning 7-10 split which, according to a semi-pro bowler, is completely impossible to nail as portrayed in the film. I’m sure ratings of PBA matches on Sunday afternoons skyrocketed after the release of this movie. 

12. Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge (2001)

2001 brought Disney Channel fans the likes of Lizzie McGuire, The Proud Family, and ten great DCOMs. Some of us like Halloweentown II even better than the first installment of the trilogy. Marnie is a little older and teenager-like, and Halloweentown is in a sorry state. The normally happy town is turning into a gray gloom that requires Marnie and Aggie to reverse Halloweentown’s dangerous course, especially after Marnie accidentally lets Kalabar’s son get his hands on a spell book. The movie instantly calls forth a stream of warm childhood feelings, especially during the fall season. Most importantly, Halloweentown II establishes the portal as a magical and suspenseful piece of the Halloweentown canon.

13. Get a Clue (2002)

“I got a little hunch that there is something goin’ on now. The clothes I bought, the friends I got, my teacher had a melt-down.” I (Allison) loved hearing the “Get a Clue” theme song on Disney Channel, and it sounds as good now as it did in 2002. Lindsay Lohan has a hunch that something is going on. She plays Lexy Gold, a wealthy and fashionable teen in New York City. Her best friend is Jen (Brenda Song), her eventual boyfriend is Jack (Bug Hall), and her tech guru friend is Gabe (Ali Mukaddam). The teens set out in search of their missing teacher and come head-to-head with a jewel thief. The movie is a refreshing DCOM with its energetic cast and its sneaky spy theme. It still entertains after all these years.

14. Gotta Kick It Up! (2002)

America Ferrera stars in this inspirational movie centering on a Latin American dance team that, by the end of the film, turns everyone into a believer! While Gotta Kick it Up! is definitely the PG version of its PG-13 counterpart, Bring it On, both movies were ahead of their time for fearlessly portraying strong, diverse female characters. Considering giving it a rewatch? The only answer is “Sí Se Puede!” 

15. Quints (2000)

In Quints, Kimberly J. Brown is Jamie Grover, a bright student with doting parents and cool friends named Brad (Jake Epstein) and Zoe (Shadia Simmons from The Color of Friendship). Jamie isn’t an only child anymore when her mother births quintuplets. The quirky middle schooler starts to miss all the attention her parents used to give her, but a cameo from Don Knotts helps. Kids who loved babies got especially excited every time Disney Channel aired this one. Fun fact: one of the babies in the movie was played by Kimberly J. Brown’s real-life brother!

16. Phantom of the Megaplex (2000)

This DCOM has one of the more interesting origin stories. Apparently, a Disney Channel executive just came up with the title and told writer Stuart Krieger to come up with the rest. Stu exceeded all expectations in crafting an incredibly compelling (and somewhat scary) tale about a 17-year-old assistant manager of a movie theater trying to solve the mystery of an elusive “phantom” wreaking havoc on the night of a big movie premiere. This one was definitely for the film buffs out there who spent a great deal of their childhoods in air-conditioned theaters munching on popcorn and Sour Patch Kids. 

17. Motocrossed (2001)

Right up there with Mulan and She’s the Man for the best movies where a girl disguises herself as a boy, Motocrossed proved, yet again, what girls are capable of. The dad in this film has not aged well for his 1950s views of women and their athletic abilities. Seriously though, Alana Austin was as convincing playing a boy as the Wayans brothers were at playing girls in White Chicks

18. The Thirteenth Year (1999)

Thirteen is a funny age for anyone, but Cody Griffin (Chez Starbuck) is really struggling through puberty. His life seems to be going pretty well, otherwise. He’s got a crush on his friend, Samantha (Courtnee Draper). He was also adopted by loving parents—could a dad get any cooler than Dave Coulier? Nope. Cody is even an excellent swimmer. So excellent, in fact, that he discovers his true biological species: merman. Original DCOM kids will always love this film, but it’s slightly more entertaining in childhood memories than it is on a Disney+ rewatch.

19. Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off (2003)

Was this High School Musical before High School Musical? Replace the basketball for baseball and the performing for cooking, and maybe Disney Channel cracked the recipe for breaking down social norms. Eddie has to navigate trying to live up to his father’s expectations while secretly pursuing his passion for something considered taboo. Sound familiar? If only the baseball team broke out in song during the final game…Oh well, at least we got a surprise cameo from acclaimed chef, Bobby Flay!

20. Zenon: The Zequel (2001)

Our NASA-inspired journey continues with a “lunarious” sequel, er, zequel. Zenon comes back with a fresh ‘do and a more metallic look. Raven-Symoné is too busy to play Nebula, but Shadia Simmons is wonderful in the role. While mean girl Margie returns, boyfriend Greg dumps Zenon at the beginning of the movie. Zenon sets out to prove that alien life does exist, and the aliens are cute little patches of sparkly dust (kind of like a trip to Libby Lu).

21. Full-Court Miracle (2003)

Young Jewish kids don’t have a ton of Jewish athletes to look up to. Sure, we have Sandy Koufax, Ryan Braun and Amar’e Stoudemire (he converted!), but as a kid, I (Jordan) constantly heard it would be easier to own a team than play for one. Full Court Miracle gave me hope! A rag-tag group of Jewish kids finding an African-American coach who is trying to pursue his own dreams of making the NBA–sign me up! While this movie was supposed to be set in Philadelphia, it was actually shot in Toronto, so instead of getting a cameo from Allen Iverson, we had to settle for Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams. Was this DCOM the prequel to Uncut Gems? Did Alex Schlotsky (Alex D. Linz) grow up to be Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler)? There is just something about Jewish boys and basketball…

22. The Other Me (2000)

Andy Lawrence snagged a pretty cool role in between Horse Sense and Jumping Ship. The star-studded brother went solo to double as Will Browning and Twoie, Will’s clone. The Browning household is a little funky. Familiar Disney Channel actors Mark L. Taylor (Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off, High School Musical 2) and Lori Hallier (In a Heartbeat) play the parents, and young Allison Pill plays the sister, Allana. Allana is a miniature Goth, the mom is a health foods guru, and the dad just tries to keep up. Will is a lazy kid, so when he accidentally clones himself, he lets the clone go to school for him and do all his work. There are some bad guys (really weird ones) and dance moves of the new millennium that give Ryan Merriman in Smart House a run for his money!

23. Genius (1999)

The incredible run of DCOMs in 1999 continued with Genius. The classic trope of a super smart kid being thrown into an environment where his intellect excels (but his social skills don’t) always works. I mean, who didn’t love Smart Guy? Trevor Morgan plays Charlie Boyle, a 13-year-old boy who enrolls at a local Wisconsin college. After meeting a young Emmy Rossum (Shameless), he builds an entirely new persona as Chaz Anthony and enrolls at the girl’s high school to be close to her. We always confused this film with The Other Me since they both have similar-looking lead actors who play two identical characters. Maybe by putting these DCOMs back-to-back in the rankings, the confusion will only continue. Fortunately, it won’t take a genius to figure out. 

24. Rip Girls (2000)

There is something special about Rip Girls, another one of Disney Channel’s Hawaiian movies. Baby Camila Belle plays Sydney Miller, a 13-year-old girl who lost her mother at a very young age and never really got to know her. Sydney goes to Hawaii with her dad and stepmother to ascertain the details of her mom’s estate, which technically belongs to Sydney. During her time on the beach, the young girl makes some solid friends named Gia and Kona, and she learns all about her late mother, “Naniloa.” The movie deals with the death of a parent in a sensitive way and is an all-around diamond in the rough, even if the plot with real estate doesn’t make too much sense. You can tell within minutes that this is a golden-age DCOM. You just know.

25. The Even Stevens Movie (2003)

Even Stevens never made it to the big screen like Lizzie McGuire, but it still grabbed over five million viewers in its premiere on Disney Channel. Not sure many kids could follow along with this insane plot of the Stevens family being tricked into going on vacation to this remote island, all thanks a reality TV host played by Tim Meadows (The Office, Mean Girls). The island is secretly the set of a reality TV show called Family Fakeout. The joke is on Tim Meadows when he’s the actual mark on a separate reality show called Gotcha (basically Punk’d), hosted in the movie by Dave Coulier. The plot was absolutely twisted and I (Jordan) absolutely loved every minute of it!

26. Stuck in the Suburbs (2004)

Stuck in the Suburbs was Danielle Panabaker’s first appearance on Disney Channel, around the same time that her sister, Kay, began Phil of the Future. In her stylish early-2000s DCOM, Danielle plays a suburban girl named Brittany Aarons who dresses, talks, and acts like the rest of the girls in her neighborhood. Brittany’s cookie-cutter life starts to change when Natasha (Brenda Song) moves to town, but Brittany is still wild about pop star Jordan Cahill (Taran Killam). When Jordan Cahill and Brittany accidentally switch phones at Jordan’s music video shoot, Brittany and Natasha decide to have some fun with the singer’s personal life. This movie was Brenda Song’s third DCOM out of five! From the catchy tunes to the Limited Too looks, Stuck in the Suburbs was a favorite for me (Allison) and my sister.

27. The Ultimate Christmas Present (2000)

The plot of this movie makes absolutely no sense and yet, the idea of a weather machine making it snow in LA for Christmas is such a genius plot device for a movie. By far one of the more memorable and frequently aired DCOMs, The Ultimate Christmas Present has everything you could want from a Christmas movie. What a cast, too, from a young Brenda Song to the elves played by 6’11’’ forward from the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons, John Salley, and the 6’6’’ voice of Patrick Star, Bill Fagerbakke!

28. Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire (2000)

Following up Under Wraps and Halloweentown with another Halloween classic is no small feat, but Disney Channel crushed the genre again with Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire! Man, do we love a title that tells you exactly what the movie is about. Caroline Rhea, who fans of Sabrina the Teenage Witch would know as Aunt Hilda, plays a single mom whose son pimps her out to, you guessed it, a vampire played by star of The Nanny, Charles Shaughnessy. Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire walked so What We Do in the Shadows could run…

29. The Cheetah Girls (2003)

The Cheetah Girls made music a central focus long before High School Musical was soarin’ or flyin’. The first two movies in the Cheetah trilogy were produced by Debra Martin Chase and Whitney Houston. Based on Deborah Gregory’s book series, the first The Cheetah Girls film brought together four diverse young women: Galleria (Raven), Chanel (Adrienne Bailon), Aqua (Kiely Williams), and Dorinda  (Sabrina Bryan). With their growl power, the Cheetah sisters learn how to stand together and make music that they believe in. This is definitely one of those DCOMs that was marketed for a female audience at the time. It also was an early cross-promotional venture with CDs accompanying every movie and even a concert tour (without Raven) circa 2006/2007. The reach of this franchise should not be underestimated.

30. The Poof Point (2001)

If Edison Newton “Eddie” Ballard and Marie Curie Ballard can’t save their scientist parents, mom and dad will go “Poof!” It sounds dire, but it’s just an anti-aging machine that sends Norton and Marigold Ballard back to their youth in stages. The best part? The Ballard parents are played by Mark Curry and Dawnn Lewis from Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, their son is Tahj Mowry, and their daughter is Raquel Lee (who was on The Amanda Show). And yes, the parents survive.

31. You Wish! (2003)

Watching You Wish! was like watching Click for the first time. You thought you were getting another Adam Sandler comedy and instead, you got a two-hour emotional gut punch in which all you wanted afterwards was to call your dad and tell him you love him. You Wish! might be the darkest DCOM of all time in which a teenager, who’s sick of his little brother, finds a magical coin and wishes his brother never existed. Guess what? The wish comes true. I (Jordan) definitely gave my younger sister a big hug after watching this…right before I grabbed the remote and said, “now it’s my turn to choose!”

32. Go Figure (2005)

Both Disney’s theatrical ice skating movie (Ice Princess) and its DCOM counterpart were released in 2005, and I (Allison) most definitely saw them both. Some fans may not know that Meg Cabot (author of The Princess Diaries) wrote Ice Princess’s original screenplay, which originally had the lead character playing hockey, too. In Go Figure, Katelin Kingsford lives the double-life on the ice, going to boarding school on a hockey scholarship, with figure skating her actual priority. The title track by the band Everlife was definitely memorable as Katelin realizes that she loves being part of a team.

33. Tru Confessions (2002)

Disney Channel was not afraid to tackle heavy subjects, and Tru Confessions might have been the heaviest. The film focuses on Clara Bryant’s (Under Wraps) journey as Tru, a young woman navigating life with an autistic brother named Eddie, played by Shia LeBeouf. There are parallels to Quints in dealing with parents who are too preoccupied with siblings and the frustration of understanding your siblings’ needs while also needing support, yourself. This one is an intense rewatch, but it’s an important DCOM. 

34. Pixel Perfect (2004)

What does it mean to be pixel perfect? It’s a deep philosophical question, and a 2004 DCOM attempts to answer it. Raviv Ullman (known at the time as Ricky) plays lead boy Roscoe, a computer whiz who creates a hologram for his best friend Sam’s band. The hologram, Loretta Modern, is an amalgam of various women’s voices and physical attributes. She’s great at first, but things get trippy when Sam gets jealous, falls and hits her head, and finds Loretta camped out in her brain. This might not be the first DCOM that new parents should rewatch with their kids in the room.

35. Under Wraps (1997)

The first ever DCOM! Under Wraps gets overshadowed by Halloweentown when it comes to Halloween movies (and it should!). However, this film holds its own by telling the charming tale of three kids finding a mummy along with all the shenanigans that ensue. Cut to the mummy in line at the fast food drive-through where he is mistaken for a burn victim at the hospital. Bill Faggerbakke, better known as the voice of Patrick Star on Spongebob Squarepants, gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the mummy, for only being able to grunt and groan.

36. Jett Jackson: The Movie (2001)

The show within a show dynamic of The Famous Jett Jackson definitely confused us as kids, but we loved it nonetheless. The movie was even more confusing with Jett being trapped in the world of the TV show he starred in and vice versa. The late Lee Thompson Young gave a brilliant performance, but the film was a bit of a letdown for fans of the show.  

37. Jumping Ship (2001)

Jumping Ship picks up right where Horse Sense left off. This time, all three Lawrence bros are climbing aboard. Michael is still Michael, but he is a much better cousin to Tommy. In fact, Michael is treating Tommy to an Australian summer vacation. The captain of their shoddy ship is Jake Hunter (Matthew Lawrence). The adventure might not be as iconic as Horse Sense, but this film is as close to an action movie as it gets for Disney Channel, and it’s a thrill.

38. Hounded (2001)

The lingering image of this movie two decades later is of a Pomeranian scratching her way through a closed door. It’s so much more than that, though. A post-Smart Guy Tahj Mowry stars in Hounded with Shia LaBeouf, Ed Begley, Jr. (St. Elsewhere, 7th Heaven), and Craig Kirkwood. If you thought Cadet Kelly was the only DCOM involving military school, think again. Tahj plays Jay Martin, a 13-year-old facing a future of either military school or an arts education. Jay applies for a scholarship opportunity at the arts school, differentiating him from his brother, Mike. Shia LaBeouf’s character, Ronny Van Dusen, is like a wealthy Louis Stevens (whose father happens to be the school headmaster). Ronny sabotages Jay’s chances at the scholarship, but his dad covers up the whole thing. Jay tries to prove Ronny’s culpability and accidentally steals the Van Dusen family’s dog, Camille. Mike and Jay stealthily return the pooch who has already destroyed their home’s furnishings. It’s a lovable DCOM through and through, but the details we remembered before the rewatch were quite fuzzy.

39. Up, Up, and Away (2000)

Before we had the MCU and the commercialization of superheroes, we had Up, Up and Away! It’s a bit unusual, but exciting, to see Sherman Helmsley of The Jeffersons play the grandpa. What do I (Jordan) remember about this film? Well, the villain was played by Kevin Connolly, better known as “E” from Entourage. I would say that this was the low point of his career, but he did direct Gotti, which currently holds a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Tough break coming off Medellin…Anyways, I also recall the film’s superheroes’ only weakness being tin foil. I’ll leave it at that.

40. Miracle in Lane 2 (2000)

Frankie Muniz stars in this adaptation of the true story of a young boy who, despite being confined to a wheelchair, enters the world of soapbox racing. The message was endearing, but sadly, (for Jordan) the execution collapsed like a poorly made soapbox. The sequences where Muniz’s character talks to God are also a bit strange to revisit.

41. Twitches (2005)

Tia and Tamera Mowry were on Disney Channel via Sister, Sister reruns for years, but Twitches was their first official project for the network. Based on a popular book series of the day, the film finds Alex (Tia) and Camryn (Tamera) meeting for the first time so that they can join their biological mother in the magical land of Coventry to fight off “The Darkness.” Even if the movie is a little foggy for old millennials, it’s still a fun Halloween DCOM, and it got a sequel in 2007.

42. A Ring of Endless Light (2002)

Based on the acclaimed children’s novel by Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light is one of the most serious DCOMs of the 2000s. Mischa Barton and Ryan Merriman are captivating as Vicky Austin and Adam Eddington, respectively. Vicky tries to choose between Adam (Merriman) and Zachary (Jared Padalecki mid-Gilmore Girls) while writing poetry at her grandfather’s house and communicating telepathically with dolphins. The film is stunning as an aesthetic and literary vehicle, and it sits heavily in the nostalgic memory, especially with Vicky losing her grandfather, played by the late James Whitmore.

43. ‘Twas the Night (2001)

Combine director Nick Castle, who horror fans would know for playing Michael Myers in the Halloween franchise, and Bryan Cranston, who played high school chemistry teacher-turned-crystal meth kingpin Walter White in Breaking Bad, and you get…Twas the Night?? I (Jordan) think I’d rather be chased by Michael Myers wielding a knife than have to sit through this one again.

44. You Lucky Dog (1998)

This was Disney Channel’s poor attempt at a legal drama in which a dog inherits a $64 million estate from its owner and gets into a messy legal battle with certain family members who are not exactly thrilled about the dog receiving everything. My (Jordan’s) six-year-old self had no idea what was going on with all the wills and trusts jargon being thrown around. This movie inspired me to eventually go to law school where I learned that a dog cannot be the beneficiary of an estate under a will. While disappointing, the Blank Check-esque scene where Kirk Cameron’s character balls out on everything a dog could ever want was pretty cool.

45. Right on Track (2003)

You can’t help but hum the 7th Heaven theme song (or at least Allison can’t) when Beverly Mitchell finally hits the Disney Channel. The actress starred alongside Brie Larson to tell the story of real female drag racers Erica and Courtney Enders. Beverly is Erica, Brie is Courtney, and they are joined by Movie Surfer Marcus Toji. This is a great DCOM, but it doesn’t satisfy nostalgia cravings as much as its neighbors. There are a ton of sports movies from these years, so it was possible to get this one confused with Motocrossed or even Miracle in Lane 2 if you weren’t paying much attention as a kid.

46. Now You See It… (2005)

I don’t know about you, but I (Jordan) love a movie about magicians. From The Prestige to The Illusionist, I cannot get enough of this niche genre, and this fascination must have started with Now You See It… Alyson Michalka stars as a young producer working on a reality TV show in a search to find the best teenage magician. Ultimately, it turns out that the magician she follows, played by Johnny Pacar (Flight 29 Down, Make It or Break It) actually has magical abilities. If only he could wave a magic wand and make us forget watching this movie.

47. The Jennie Project (2001)

The Jennie Project is a heartrending DCOM if ever there was one, but you won’t find it on Disney+, unfortunately. Jennie is a chimpanzee who was rescued in Africa by Dr. Hugo Archibald. Hugo has a wife, son, and daughter who grow to love having Jennie around the house. A primatologist teaches Jennie sign language and tries to take her from the family and place her in a controlled center. After Jennie goes berserk on the mailman and finds herself in court, she is taken to the primatology center for a night, but Andrew Archibald (our favorite, Alex D. Linz) runs away to be with the chimp. The Archibald family takes Jennie back to Africa so that she can run free, kind of like a reverse Jungle Book. If this were a list of movies to watch for the rest of 2020, The Jennie Project would be right on top. Unfortunately, Disney Channel seldom reran this tearjerker. I (Allison) initially mistook it for Most Valuable Primate, another great film in which a chimpanzee does sign language.

48. Zenon: Z3 (2004)

Just when we thought Zenon was tired, she’s back! It’s 2004, so we know even more about space now. Commander Plank and Aunt Judy are married and have a foster daughter named Dasha, who is Zenon’s mini-me. The space station is okay this time, but a moon goddess named Selena wants to destroy Earth, so Zenon and friends stop her. This third piece of the trilogy honestly isn’t the most memorable, and Raven was super busy with other projects, so her role as Nebula is practically a cameo.

49. The Scream Team (2002)

The Scream Team stars a young Kat Dennings as Claire Carlyle. Claire and her brother have just lost their grandfather, and a trip to the grandpa’s small New England town puts the siblings in direct contact with ghosts who guide departed souls to eternity. Things get weird when an evil ghost is ready to destroy everything, but the kids find out that he didn’t actually commit the crime everyone thinks he committed. Who knew that clearing a ghost’s name could be so involved?

50. Going to the Mat (2004)

Andy Lawrence stars in his final DCOM (to date) in Going to the Mat. Disney Channel had some eras with greater representation of diverse abilities, and it’s awesome that they told the story of a blind teenager trying to navigate high school. Rising against the difficulties of his new school’s environment, Andy shows himself to be a champion wrestler. The dichotomy of sports and music is once again presented, and it’s cool to see Wayne Brady as the music teacher, who is also blind. 

51. Tiger Cruise (2004)

Hayden Panettiere and Bill Pullman portray a daughter and father aboard the USS Constellation. Pullman’s character is a Commander; Panettiere’s character is visiting him as part of a tiger cruise when the 9/11 attacks occur. In 2004, school-aged children were only three years removed from September 11, 2001. Just like adults, kids wrestled with the tragedy of that day. Creating a fictionalized snapshot of a real event was a bold move in this case, but the work was well done. It isn’t one we revisit every day, but Tiger Cruise is an example of the more somber, quiet corner of our memories.

52. Don’t Look Under the Bed (1999)

This film has the distinction of being Disney Channel’s one and only kiddie horror movie. What happens when you stop believing in your imaginary friends? They turn into the Boogeyman! While this is a really interesting concept, Don’t Look Under the Bed isn’t our first choice among Disney’s huge Halloween repertoire. Even Stevens’ Ty Hodges does a fantastic job playing both a friend and a monster, and Steve Valentine’s performance is phenomenal, but it’s just a little too scary to this day.

53. Stepsister from Planet Weird (2000)

If the title isn’t enough of a warning, this movie features aliens and a weird stepsister. Turn-of-the-century favorite Courtnee Draper plays Megan Larson, a 16-year-old with divorced parents and a typically annoying little brother. In a nutshell, Megan’s mom unwittingly dates an alien (that’s right, she isn’t suspicious of a dude named Cosmo Cola). Alien stepdad brings along alien daughter named Ariel. Ariel and Megan try to break up their parents but don’t succeed. A freaky alien fight with hairdryers and leaf blowers ensues, and everyone seemingly lives happily ever after? Suspension of disbelief is definitely required.

54. Life is Ruff (2005)

“Ruff” might be a bit harsh, but this movie isn’t our very favorite, either, despite its adorable cast. We get young Kay Panabaker fresh from the set of Summerland, Kyle Massey mid-That’s So Raven, and baby Mitchel Musso before people even knew Hannah Montana was coming just months later. Kyle Massey is the main character, Calvin, who learns to take care of a dog for the right reasons after adopting him to earn dog show money for a new comic book.

55. The Proud Family Movie (2005)

This movie serves as the finale to The Proud Family series. The nice thing about Disney Channel movies based on shows is that the characters are already established, and fans get to see those characters in new contexts. In this film, Oscar Proud’s snacks take center stage when a mad scientist is after them on the Prouds’ vacation. It’s cool to hear Arsenio voice the mad scientist, but those dancing peanuts are a little strange, to say the least.

56. Halloweentown High (2004)

Kimberly J. Brown reprises her iconic role once more in Halloweentown High (yes, there is a fourth movie post-High School Musical starring Sara Paxton). The high school set loses some of the Halloweentown aura, even though teen citizens of Halloweentown are in America to go to school for some kind of supernatural foreign exchange program. While there are some sweet moments (including a dreamy new love interest for Marnie), the movie is not quite as gripping as the first two.

57. Kim Possible: So the Drama (2005)

No offense to the Kim Possible franchise, but should this one really be a DCOM? A much better Kim special is A Sitch in Time (2003), which is sadly not considered a DCOM. The salient memory of So the Drama is when Kim and Ron kiss at the dance. The film was obviously successful enough to keep the series going for another couple of years. That “call me, beep me” line never gets old. Thanks, Christina Milian!

58. Can of Worms (1999)

For whatever reason (probably because it wasn’t on too much), neither of us have much nostalgia for this DCOM. The alien creatures are creative but a bit unsightly, and a kid who hates his life on Earth wants to go to space. Sounds like he should have called up Zenon to help with this one. After all, the two movies came out the same year! Though the movie was released in April, it was shown sometimes as part of Disney’s annual Halloween lineup.

59. Buffalo Dreams (2005)

The positive aspect of this movie is that it includes Navajo culture. The downside is that fifteen years later, the story isn’t quite as enthralling as others. A guy named Josh moves to a small town in New Mexico and volunteers at a buffalo reserve. Josh must decide who his real friends are, but it isn’t easy. If you’re into buffalo, give it a go.

60. Ready to Run (2000)

It is bittersweet to bring this list to an end with a film from the 2000 run. Once again, Disney loves horses. It’s worth mentioning that other companies focused their energy on theatrically-released equine movies (like Racing Stripes and Dreamer) in the 2000s. It’s nice that Disney Channel presented some equestrian adventures on cable, but Ready to Run is not our top pick. A girl named Corrie wants to be a jockey and has horse whisperer abilities, but Corrie’s mom spends most of the movie shutting down her daughter’s dreams since Corrie’s dad died in a horse-racing accident. The ending is worthy, but the film overall doesn’t stack up compared to immediate successors like Quints and The Other Me.

We hope you had fun reliving the glory days with us; it is a joy to revisit these movies as adults, and it feels like getting a warm hug. We’re always happy to chat with fellow DCOM enthusiasts about these masterpieces. If you’re one of the young ones, we hope you watch some of these movies on Disney+ and let us know what you think. 

Be sure to check out other work from Allison and Jordan! Here is where to find them:

Jordan: (click here for Instagram)

Allison: (You are here, click here for Instagram) 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s