Disney+ is barely more than two months old, and despite having a somewhat limited library that almost never adds anything new (with some notable exceptions), it already has a robust lineup of science fiction TV shows and movies to watch.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: With the exception of The Rise of Skywalker, Disney+ has every Star Wars movie ever, including Rogue One and Solo. There’s also The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance (but only Season 1), and obviously The Mandalorian. That’s to say nothing of Lego Star Wars shorts or the Forces of Destiny shorts. Somehow, the list goes on.
The number of Marvel shows and movies available on Disney+ is perhaps even more exhaustive. It’s not just Marvel Studios live-action adaptations. There are also many different animated series, new and old, featuring familiar Marvel characters.
Pretty much all of this counts as sci-fi, but if you’re looking for even more from the House of Mouse, here’s a look at some of the best shows and movies available on Disney+.
James Cameron will try to make more Avatar movies until the day he dies, and while most of us barely remember the 2009 sci-fi adventure where Sam Worthington transported his consciousness into a giant blue person in a story that’s basically just Pocahontas with aliens, maybe it’s worth a revisit now that it’s easy to stream?
11. Wreck-It Ralph & 10. Ralph Breaks the Internet
Both Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and its sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) are some of the best non-Pixar Disney animated films in recent memory. Almost like a digital Toy Story, all of the video game characters in a dusty old arcade come alive and travel through power cables to socialize when real people aren’t around.
Protagonist Wreck-It Ralph is a villain in one game who dreams of becoming a hero, and his misadventures through a digital landscape are fun and exciting. That goes double in the sequel where Ralph winds up in a hostile new terrain known as the internet; Ralph Breaks the Internet is also chock full of cameos from Disney princesses and even Stan Lee.
This family-friendly film from 1986 grapples with heady concepts like time dilation as a result of high-speed space travel in a way that’s fun and easy to digest. In Flight of the Navigator, 12-year-old David Freeman falls in the woods and bumps his head. He wakes up 8 years later having not aged at all and discovers that he had been abducted by aliens and traveled to a planet 560 light-years away and then back in a short amount of time. Relatively speaking, however, eight years had passed on Earth. What ensues is a fun adventure with a robot from an alien civilization, a crashed spaceship, and even a small lovable little alien creature.
This 1979 American space opera film can be described in reductive ways as Interstellar but old and bad. Ultimately, it grapples with one terrifying question: What the heck happens when you get sucked into a black hole?
On a mission exploring deep space, the crew of the USS Palomino discover a massive spaceship near a black hole that somehow emits a null gravity field. Aboard that ship, they find the brilliant Dr. Hans Reinhardt and his crew of faceless robed drones studying the black hole, and the mystery they uncover is far more sinister than they could’ve imagined. Hindered by the technology of its time, The Black Hole comes across as a bit silly, and despite being heavy on the exposition and melodrama, it’s still a fun watch.
A superhero period piece set just before the outbreak of World War II in Los Angeles, The Rocketeer pits a stunt pilot who finds a rocket pack made by Howard Hughes against the gangsters and Nazis who want to use it as some kind of weapon. After using the jet pack to save a friend, he’s dubbed “The Rocketeer” by the press in Hollywood and becomes a target by all manner of nefarious forces that want to manufacture more rocket packs. A charming film with nostalgia for the golden era of Hollywood, The Rocketeer is a classic that’s still worth watching, even in 2020.
6. Tron & 5. Tron: Legacy
Unless you’re already a fan of the original Tron from 1982, it might be difficult to suffer through the visuals presented when Jeff Bridges stars as a computer programmer sucked into a digital cyberspace where programs appear as humanoid figures. Tron fuses together backlit animation with traditional VFX and live-action recording for an effect that was at the time groundbreaking, but almost 40 years later is a bit taxing on the senses.
The 2010 sequel, Tron: Legacy is a fun-but-convoluted spectacle with a superb soundtrack and unparalleled production design. Together, these two are a must-watch sci-fi experience.
Most Pixar films edge towards magical fantasy rather than sci-fi, but WALL-E is set squarely in a dark, post-apocalyptic future where the Earth has been rendered an uninhabitable trash heap. Its last resident is an adorable robot called WALL-E designed to collect garbage and compact it into neat little cubes. Over the course of 700 years, he develops a quirky personality before falling in love with a robotic probe sent to see if Earth has become habitable yet.
For those who haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the surprising turn of events that ensues, but WALL-E makes for one of Pixar’s best and most heartwarming stories — all despite there being no dialogue for the robots.
The seemingly normal Drake Mallard (a humanoid duck person similar to Donald Duck) moonlights as the masked vigilante Darkwing Duck in this excellent throwback animated series that parodies superheroes in hilarious fashion.
In the early ‘90s, Darkwing Duck helped make after-school cartoons a staple for young millennials like myself. This one barely eeks into the realm of science fiction, but because it’s a superhero storyline, I’ll allow it. For anyone who found Batman: The Animated Series too dark at the time, this was the perfect replacement.
Yes, I already mentioned Marvel shows and movies in the introduction to this article, but the presence of X-Men: The Animated Series on Disney+ feels a little bit surprising. When you think of Marvel-Disney, you think of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So on this side of the Disney-Fox merger, being able to watch X-Men: The Animated Series feels like a major perk.
In its 76-episode run from 1992 to 1997, X-Men adapted numerous Marvel Comics storylines featuring the core team of Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and others. Without this series bringing mutants into mainstream popularity, there would probably be no X-Men movies in the early 2000s, which means the MCU may have never been born in 2008’s Iron Man. Watch it if only for that.
Dubbed “the smartest cartoon on television” by Wired in 2012 (more than a year before Rick and Morty’s debut, mind you), Gravity Falls follows twins Dipper and Mabel who spend the summer with their great-uncle in the town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. They investigate various paranormal mysteries in a character-driven show heavy on the adventure, full of sci-fi elements and even a shocking number of Rick and Morty Easter eggs and crossover moments.