The Best And Worst Disney Channel Original Movies Of All Time

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Disney Channel Original Movies aren't the blockbuster films the Walt Disney Company is best known for. After all, Disney is popular for its prolific film making, with a long and extensive history covering everything from revolutionary animated classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to live-action adventures like Pirates of the Caribbean. But Disney's TV movies — for better or for worse — are in a category all their own.

Some of these Disney Channel Original Movies, or DCOMs, are excellent, enjoyed by children and adults alike with surprisingly great acting, high production values, and good stories. Meanwhile, other Disney Channel movies simply don't work, enduring bad casting, poor writing, and often a few too many awkward dance numbers.

Here are some of the best and worst Disney Channel Original Movies. Some have impressed audiences of all ages, while others have made viewers wonder how the films got made in the first place.

Best: The Color of Friendship is one Disney Channel Original Movie in a league of its own

Many Disney Channel Original Movies are light and silly with lots of songs and jokes. Sometimes, Disney will fit in a message about rejecting peer pressure or standing up to bullying, but, for the most part, Disney Channel isn't usually one to address bigger issues.

But The Color of Friendship is different. It follows the friendship of two teenagers, Piper and Mahree, in the 1970s. Mahree is a white South African, while Piper, an American, is black. When Mahree decides to study abroad in America, both she and Piper are surprised by the color of each other's skin. In South Africa, the fight to end apartheid is well under way. Meanwhile in America, both girls have a lot to learn about government, social injustice, and each other.

The 2000 film doesn't sugarcoat conflicts and racial issues, and the eventual friendship between Mahree and Piper feels well-earned. The film seems so genuine because it was, in fact, inspired by a true story, according to TV Guide. The film earned a 76 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Worst: The 2019 Disney Channel Original Movie Kim Possible missed the mark

Disney Channel has been known to make movies out of their most popular shows, and, generally, they're successful. There was the popular The Even Stevens Movie in 2003, plus blockbuster films like 2009's Hannah Montana: The Moviewhich made a gross profit of over $155 million worldwide.

But Disney Channel really missed the mark with Kim Possible in 2019. First of all, the original TV show aired from 2002 to 2007, which means the Disney Channel Original Movie aired 12 years after the show ended. This is a problem because, by 2019, Kim Possible's original fans had likely aged out of Disney Channel altogether. Plus, the choice to make Kim Possible a live-action movie instead of a cartoon forced the style, humor, and action to go in a different direction, losing much of the charm of the animated series. The movie came and went, impressing few.

Best: High School Musical smashed previous Disney Channel Original Movie records

There were plenty of great Disney Channel Original Movies before High School Musical, and there would be lots of great ones after. But when this TV musical came out, it was an undeniable hit. With a simple but sweet Romeo and Juliet-esque love story, catchy songs, and energetic dance moves, the film was an instant classic. When it first premiered in 2006, it took the record for Disney Channel's highest-rated telecast with 7.7 million viewers in the United States. It held the record until High School Musical 2 shattered it with 17.3 million viewers in 2007 (via Variety).

The film skyrocketed the fame of stars Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Tisdale. Plus, it inspired two sequels and the spin-off movie Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure. While the film itself may not have been an Oscar winner (it's good, but still pretty cheesy), it was created incredibly well for a musical aimed at young viewers. Overall, it was a major success.

Worst: Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure didn't excite Disney Channel Original Movie fans

While High School Musical may have been a big hit back in 2006, the sequels of the musical sensation weren't all so... sensational. There was 2007's High School Musical 2 and 2008's High School Musical 3: Senior Year, which, weren't nearly as successful as the original, with fewer catchy songs and less charm than the first movie. Still, at least the second and third films featured most of the same actors, avoiding cringe-worthy recasting. But when Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure premiered in 2011, it was missing most of the cast and their characters from the original.

The film follows Sharpay's solo adventure moving to New York City, but, without Troy, Gabriella, and the rest of the gang, the story falls flat. The song and dance numbers struggle compared to the original High School Musical and viewers are somehow supposed to root for a character who played the antagonist in the original. The Disney Channel Original Movie wasn't well received, earning just a 43 percent from viewers on Rotten Tomatoes.

Best: Disney Channel Original Movie Motocrossed is all about fighting stereotypes

The early 2000s were a big time for Disney Channel Original Movies. This was the decade Disney came out with classics like Gotta Kick it Up!, Cadet Kelly, Tru Confessions, and Pixel Perfect. But before those films, Disney came out with the instant classic, Motocrossed

Motocrossed is the story of a girl named Andrea who loves motocross, much to the disappointment of her father. But when her twin brother is injured just before a motocross race, Andrea cuts her hair and impersonates her brother in order to compete. In the end, she proves to her family and the other racers that, even though she's a girl, she can be in the motocross world.

While gender expectation and societal stereotypes have changed since then, the 2001 film was important for its time. It reminded girls that they didn't have to be interested in princesses or dress-up, but could pursue what were considered more traditional "boy" activities like motocross. In the end, the film did well with a good script that loosely echoes Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, some decent acting, and a 6.6 out of 10 rating on IMDb.

Worst: The Cheetah Girls: One World is one of the worst Disney Channel Original Movie sequels ever

When it comes to musical movies, Disney Channel has come out with plenty. There was High School Musical, the Descendants franchise, and, of course, 2003's The Cheetah Girls. This film, which followed a singing and dancing girl group, may not have been one of Disney Channel's finest, scoring only a 4.8 out of 10 on IMDb, but it was a fun flick with lots of pre-teen-approved songs. Plus, it had some star power, including Raven-Symoné who played the titular character in That's So Raven.

The Cheetah Girls' popularity carried over to 2006's The Cheetah Girls 2. However, things started to go downhill when Disney made The Cheetah Girls: One World in 2008. For one thing, the Disney Channel Original Movie was missing one pivotal cast member: Raven-Symoné. Plus, it came out five years after the original, meaning many of the original fans likely grew out of watching Disney Channel by then. 

While there are still plenty of entertaining song and dance numbers in the movie with some surprisingly strong choreography, Raven may have taken the best parts of the girl group with her when she left. 

Best: Smart House was a fun, high-tech Disney Channel Original Movie

Smart House follows the story of teenage boy Ben, his little sister, and their widowed father as they move into a high-tech "smart house." The house can do all kinds of things like make meals and clean spills. The house even helps Ben impress a girl when he throws a house party. But soon the house gets out of control, becoming over-protective of the family and locking them inside. The house's personality even appears to the family as a '50s housewife, trying to take on the role of a mother.

The 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie walks a fine line between a childhood fantasy where no one has to do their chores and sci-fi horror. It's never particularly scary, but the idea of technology adopting a mind of its own and taking over is frightening. But the technology aspect is only a backdrop to the powerful lessons the family learns, one of which is that there are no shortcuts in life and relationships.

Worst: Disney Channel Original Movie Dadnapped had a good cast but a really bad script

Emily Osment — that's right, Haley Joel Osment's younger sister — made a name for herself when she landed the role of Hannah's best friend Lilly in Hannah Montana. Since then, she's had some other good roles in Young & Hungry, The Kominsky Method, and Almost Family. But just as her Hannah Montana fame was starting to wind down, she signed on to star in 2009's Dadnapped, which clearly was a mistake.

The Disney Channel Original Movie is about a girl, Melissa (Osment), who only wants her father's attention, but her dad is busy with his career, writing spy books. Right before an overdue father-daughter vacation, Melissa's dad is kidnapped and it's up to her to save him. The plot is forced and the acting is just okay. Over all, it's not Disney Channel's proudest moment. The film earned a 4.9 rating on IMDb, and perhaps the only reason it went that high is that fans liked seeing a cast full of popular Disney Channel stars of the time, including as David Henrie of Wizards of Waverly Place fame and Osment's Hannah Montana co-star Jason Earles.

Best: Disney Channel Original Movie Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is out of this world

Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century was all the rage when it hit the small screen in 1999. The Disney Channel Original Movie stars Kristen Storms as Zenon, a teen girl growing up on a space station. The trouble starts when she gets in hot water with the ship's commander and is sent to live on Earth. At first, she has a hard time fitting in, but she eventually saves the day when she uncovers and stops an evil plot that threatens the space station.

The movie is fun and futuristic with lots of great made-up slang and a catchy song. The movie was an instant classic and ended up inspiring two sequels: 2001's Zenon: The Zequel and 2004's Zenon: Z3. Sure, the sequels aren't perfect, with Zenon's best fiend Nebula (originally played by Raven-Symoné) being recast for the first sequel and only making a small appearance in Z3, but the original film was still a hit, inspiring a whole generation of kids to say "Zetus Lapetus!"

Worst: Freaky Friday is one Disney Channel Original Movie that never should have been made

Remakes aren't always bad. In fact, 2003's Freaky Friday, starring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis, was a box office hit and was perhaps more enjoyable than the original 1976 version starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. The 2003 version scored a respectable 88 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and earned a gross worldwide profit of $160 million, and the original 1976 film earned a 70 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, earning almost $26 million in gross worldwide profit. Not too shabby.

But it turns out that the third time is not the charm for Freaky Friday. When the 2018 musical version hit Disney Channel, it simply didn't have the reception the other two films enjoyed. This Disney Channel Original Movie skipped out on big names like the previous movies and went with relative unknowns Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Heidi Blickenstaff. While going with smaller stars is hardly a bad thing, these two simply didn't deliver quite like the pairs that came before them, leading to this film scoring 66 percent from critics and 22 percent from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.

Best: Disney Channel Original Movie Halloweentown was an instant holiday classic

When Halloweentown premiered on Disney Channel in 1998, it instantly became a must-watch for the Halloween season. It was the perfect fall movie for kids, as it was a little spooky but not too scary. Halloweentown tells the story of a girl named Marnie (played by Kimberly J. Brown) who, one day, finds out she's a witch. In fact, she comes from a family of witches, including both mother Gwen (Judith Hoag) and grandmother Aggie (Debbie Reynolds). Soon after learning this secret, Marnie learns of a place called Halloweentown, where witches and monsters live happily. At least, until recently. Marnie learns that there's trouble in Halloweentown, and soon it's up to her and her family to save it from an evil force.

The Disney Channel Original Movie was well received and earned a 72 percent from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. Halloweentown was so well liked that it was followed by three movies: 2001's Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge, 2004's Halloweentown Highand 2006's Return to Halloweentown.

Worst: Return to Halloweentown doesn't have the magic of other Disney Channel Original Movies

Halloweentown was a big success and so were the first two sequels. Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge scored a 6.5 on IMDb and Halloweentown High got a 6.2. All things considered, those are pretty good ratings. And it's no wonder, as the original core cast, Including the late Debbie Reynolds, agreed to return for the two Disney Channel Original Movies. But by the time Return to Halloweentown came out in 2006, the Halloweentown franchise was haunting Disney Channel.

The first big mistake was with casting. While Debbie Reynolds signed on for this fourth film, the original Marnie was replaced. It's not clear why she was recast, but it seems it wasn't actress Kimberly J. Brown's decision (via Seventeen). Still, no matter the reason, the casting change cost the film dearly. Without the spark Brown brought to Marnie's character, the film just wasn't the same.

Best: Disney Channel Original Movie Double Teamed tells a true story of professional athletes

One great thing about Disney Channel Original Movies is their variety. While plenty of these films go big with lots of fantasy or magical elements (like Halloweentown or Descendants) others are more grounded and are even being based on true stories. Disney Channel did this in 2000 with the Disney Channel Original Movie The Color of Friendship and again in 2002 with Double Teamed.

The plot of this basketball flick isn't particularly remarkable: It's a story of two twin teenagers who struggle to be successful at a new school. Heidi wants to be in the school play while Heather is more interested in basketball. There's also the issue of their father's approval and trying to decide what they want their future to look like. Still, the simple storyline and real-life influence make the film feel honest and relatable. It's a true Disney Channel classic.

The film earned a decent score of 6.1 on IMDb, but, more importantly, it reminded young viewers to follow their dreams, no matter what they may be.

Worst: There's not much to like about Disney Channel Original Movie Frenemies

There's no teen drama movie quite like 2012's Frenemies — and that's not a good thing. The movie is about three sets of friends, who each have some sort of conflict, but they find a way to get along again just in time for the (very awkward) song-and-dance scene at the end.

The film features some of Disney Channel's biggest stars of the time, including Bella Thorne and Zendaya from Shake it Up and Stefanie Scott from A.N.T. Farmbut even a good cast can't cover up the fact that the three separate storylines are predictable with extremely low stakes.

The movie focuses on two girls who battle over a coveted senior editor position, a boy and his dog who suddenly don't get along, and a set of look-a-likes who decide to trade lives for a day. The movie was based off of a book by the same title by Alexa Young, but it seems something was lost in the journey from book to film. The DCOM ended up doing poorly, getting a low 42 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. It's a Disney Channel Original Movie that's best forgotten.