Table of Contents
If you were born sometime between roughly 1986 and 2005 and were lucky enough to have cable as a kid (and, honestly, if you clicked the link for this ranking), you probably remember a sliver of time in your life when Friday nights were the most important things on the planet. Not because school was over and the weekend had arrived, not because you got to go to Applebee’s on Fridays, and not even because of ABC’s TGIF block of shows. Friday night mattered because Friday night was when the Disney Channel would release its latest original movie.
The Disney Channel turns 40 years old on April 18, but the Disney Channel really became the Disney Channel around 1997, when it first started airing original movies. These movies were spiritual—and, in many cases, literal—extensions of the network’s television series, full of tween-centric bombast and bright lights. They were expressly for kids of a certain age and almost exclusively featured kids of a certain age, thrusting them into situations both fantastic (she’s living in a futuristic space society) and aspirational (he’s finding community in the local Rollerblading scene). And there were a lot of them—in 2001, the Disney Channel pumped out 10 original movies, which, apparently, is the exact amount necessary for kids to cultivate parasocial relationships with the actors on a made-for-kids TV network.
If you’re nodding your head along with any of this, chances are you have highly emotional, deeply seated takes on DCOMs (Disney Channel Original Movies, which you obviously already knew). You laud the eerie prescience of Smart House; you’re willing to argue for High School Musical 2 over High School Musical; you know what a Zequel is. Many of us at The Ringer have DCOM takes too, which is why it only felt right to make this list for the Disney Channel’s 40th birthday. Now, ranking the 40 best DCOMs isn’t easy. For every person who made Brink! their entire personality in middle school, there’s another person who’s more of a Cadet Kelly type. And it must be said that we are all guilty of biases based on our micro-generations—that is, we’re all most likely to prioritize the DCOMs that premiered in that aforementioned sliver of time, between the ages of 10 and 13 (or so). But, we’re all in this together, and we did our best to put our preconceived notions to rest and determine the 40 best Disney Channel Original Movies.
40. Don’t Look Under the Bed
39. Teen Beach Movie
38. Cow Belles
37. Halloweentown High
36. Lemonade Mouth
34. Miracle in Lane 2
33. Read It and Weep
32. Rip Girls
31. Jump In!
30. Stuck in the Suburbs
29. Up, Up and Away
28. Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge
27. Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire
26. Under Wraps
25. Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior is one of the most underrated DCOMs to come out in the last 20 years. Starring Brenda Song as the titular Wendy Wu, the film is full of action and romance, and it’s legitimately so much fun. This DCOM doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but what it lacks in innovation, it makes up for by giving us a whole boatload of action. (Seriously, how many Disney Channel movies have this kind of kick-assness?) All Wendy Wu wants to do is be homecoming queen, but when evil descends upon her town, she finds out she’s the only one who can defeat it. It’s a tale as old as time, but got damn it, it’s exciting as hell. —Jomi Adeniran
24. The Cheetah Girls 2
Hoping to capitalize on the success of the first Cheetah Girls movie, Disney fell back on a formula used way too often for unnecessary sequels: Send them on a trip. The Cheetah Girls 2 cat-naps our favorite feline foursome from their native New York and sends them to Spain to participate in a Barcelona music festival. There, they encounter foreign love affairs, tango lessons, sightseeing, and infighting galore. If there’s one thing to be said for The Cheetah Girls 2, it’s definitely not boring. But the main highlight of the first film was its legitimately catchy soundtrack, and the sequel just can’t match it—especially when every song is seemingly required to contain seven different kinds of Spanish flair. We love an over-the-top performance, but the girls take it too far this time around. Just try to watch the first 30 seconds of “Amigas Cheetahs” with a straight face. —Kate Halliwell
23. The Proud Family Movie
I won’t lie, The Proud Family Movie is mainly here on the merit of the television series, which remains one of the most beloved programs to air on Disney in the early 2000s. The movie, which serves as the finale to the original series, is, um—how do I put this?—a bit peculiar, even for an animated sitcom. What starts as a fairly straightforward story about Penny Proud’s 16th birthday party ends up warping into a twisted tale of an evil scientist attempting to create an army of humanoid peanut clones. And yes, his name is Dr. Carver—of course it is. The Proud Family Movie is so bizarre that the recent Disney+ reboot of the original series retconned the whole plot as a dream, officially removing the film from the franchise’s canon. But hey, you gotta admit, the peanut dance battle scene was pretty lit. —Aric Jenkins
22. Alley Cats Strike
This movie has everything: red Solo cups at a middle school party, friendship breakups and makeups, Kaley Cuoco pre–Big Bang Theory fame, and Tim Reid post–Sister, Sister fame. What more is there, really? This is Disney Channel playing all the hits. Plot holes and poor acting be damned, Alley Cats Strike follows a classic DCOM narrative structure—two kids from different upbringings find common ground, bump heads, then overcome their disagreements to become true friends—and ends with one of the most nerve-racking triumphs ever portrayed in a sports or sports-adjacent film.
With hope all but lost and West Appleton staring down defeat in the film’s climactic scene, Delia (the Cats’ worst bowler) steps in for Todd (West Appleton’s Pete Weber) to attempt the near-impossible 7-10 split. She licks her left pointer finger to test the wind inside the bowling alley, then spins the ball counterclockwise a few times before pushing it down the middle of the lane. It’s an absurd process, but it works: The ball floats forward with just enough spin to knock one pin into the other, clinching the victory for the Alley Cats.
Like former Disney kids everywhere, I implement Delia’s technique whenever I face a 7-10 split and probably will until the day I die. That’s what legacy looks like. —Daniel Comer
21. Zenon: The Zequel
We begin in 2051 with a Star Wars scroll on a futuristic Zappad detailing our heroine Zenon’s current state of affairs. She has free rein of the spay-stay after saving it from an insurance fraud scheme in the first movie, but she is quickly relegated to an alien contact monitoring lab after releasing Commander Plank’s belongings into the vacuum of space. One can’t help but compare Zenon to Ye Wenjie from The Three-Body Problem, as she, alone in her exile, detects alien signals to the tune of the stellanarious Microbe’s hit song, “Supernova Girl.” Zenon: The Zequel is Disney’s Channel’s treatise on cosmic sociology, unwaveringly optimistic in the belief that alien life is not only real, but is bound to be beautiful and benevolent and have fabulo taste in music. This movie is still shockingly watchable in 2023, with an iconic lexicon of slang, imaginative technology, and timeless themes. The only thing sorely missing in this installment is Raven-Symoné’s charisma. —Sasha Ashall
20. Phantom of the Megaplex
Like many DCOM movies, there are some … questionable plot points in Phantom of the Megaplex, the 2000 film loosely (and I mean loosely) inspired by The Phantom of the Opera. First, our main character, Pete Riley, is a 17-year-old assistant manager of a megaplex movie theater. That’s a bit far-fetched—what kind of 17-year-old can put in the hours to reach assistant manager status? And even if we accept that Riley is responsible and dedicated beyond his years, this is no ordinary megaplex. No, it’s one that’s about to host a big movie premiere, which Riley has to organize. Are there no, I don’t know, adults who might be better suited to that job?
Alas, Riley is tasked with not only throwing a premiere, but also putting out fires along the way as the megaplex’s “phantom” tries to sabotage the event. Riley eventually succeeds in uncovering the mysterious perpetrator (revealed to be the theater’s senior manager), his mother gets engaged to her boyfriend, and the theater’s owner offers Riley the position of senior manager. Wait, what?
Seriously, the scariest thing about this movie is the level of adult incompetence. —Megan Schuster
We have to respect our legends, and no other set of twins did more for Disney Channel than Tia and Tamera Mowry in Twitches. In a plot that’s eerily similar to the beginning Sister, Sister, the previously separated twins find each other in a mall and have to use their powers to save their home world. This movie works mostly because of Tia and Tamera’s rapport and charisma. Their back-and-forth is as good as it gets; almost 20 years later, you still wish you had your own magical twin to help fight the evils of darkness. No? Just me? Whatever. The Mowrys’ chemistry brings so much to Twitches. One might even call it magic. —Adeniran
18. Gotta Kick It Up!
Before she starred in Superstore or Ugly Betty or even The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, America Ferrera was Yolanda in the 2002 movie Gotta Kick It Up! She’s one of the leaders of an unlikely middle school dance club that, in classic Disney fashion, is hoping to defy the odds to make it to regionals, and eventually nationals. Except in this movie, the girls in the group aren’t just staring down stiff competition; they’re battling poor funding from the school, a lack of belief from their respective support systems, cultural norms, uneasy family dynamics, and, in the beginning, a coach who refuses to buy in.
Does this movie fall into the much-maligned white-teacher-savior-complex trope? Oh boy, does it! But even so, it’s a charming, based-on-a-true-story tale of teenage female friendship. And it left all the girls in my grade school class yelling “sí se puede” any chance we got. —Schuster
17. Get a Clue
There is a pair of pants from Disney Channel’s Get A Clue that I still think about to this day. They’re stark-white cigarette pants with large maraschino cherries printed all over them, paired with a perfectly contrasting color-block mesh tee and—you really are not gonna believe this—a faux fur fuchsia shrug. It’s a flawless outfit, worn by a young Lindsay Lohan, in a flawless film about a rich New York City child with a booming gossip column in her school’s newspaper that ultimately sets off a chain reaction involving the disappearance of a teacher, a misplaced $10 million canary diamond, and more early aughts tech gadgets than one tween mind could possibly imagine. It’s Harriet the Spy meets Clueless, and I genuinely believe it inspired a generation of future journalists. There’s a lot to love about Get a Clue—Brenda Song! New York City high jinks! inter-school-newspaper romance!—but Lohan’s iconic fits are so singular within the genre that every other DCOM simply pales in couture comparison. —Jodi Walker
16. Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off
The Groundhogs were one of baseball’s first superteams. Hannah was a true two-way player who turned double plays and hit with the best of ’em when she kept her elbow up. Kimberly’s on-base percentage would have made Billy Beane and Peter Brand weak in the knees. Francisco thrived as the glue guy in and out of the dugout, and D.B. was a daring base runner who secured the team’s first playoff win over the defending champion Eagles with an in-the-park home run. Hell, even Eddie “Crocker” Ogden hit bombs off the bat before taking his eye off the ball to become the most celebrated second-place finisher in cook-off history. Factor in that the entire team had to survive an onslaught of sexism from Eddie’s dad before his hero moment of cracking an egg with one hand, and you have a million-dollar recipe for Disney Channel’s cheesiest, greatest baseball movie. —Austin Gayle
Only upon revisiting the (perfectly unhinged) plot of Motocrossed—22 years later—have I realized that it’s actually the original installment in the “teen rom-com interpretations of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night” canon. Motocrossed doesn’t possess the comedy chops of She’s the Man, no, but it does have that thing where you’re constantly rooting for the two main characters to kiss despite the two main characters being on very different pages about who is impersonating whose twin brother. In the process of pretending to be her injured twin brother in order to sustain his motocross sponsorships, Andrea chops off all her hair, falls a little in love with her brother’s main rival (early aughts resident hot guy Riley Smith), and brings about an entire generation of tweens’ first brushes with Shakespeare, dynamic gender expression, and the niche sport of motocross. —Walker
14. Camp Rock
The grand spectrum of “How well did this pop star play a version of themselves in a movie?” runs from Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born (good) to Joe Jonas in Camp Rock (bad). I say this as a Camp Rock enthusiast—I have great affection for both the original and the sequel, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, as timeless pieces of meme-spawning, cringe-inducing art. The original is ultimately pretty charming in its utter cringey-ness, and it’s proved to be timeless thanks to a recent crop of memes that have sprung up across TikTok. But despite my teenage crush on Joe, I’ve grown to realize that he and his brothers are some of the weakest aspects of Camp Rock, which is carried by Demi Lovato, who plays a shy singer desperate to shoot her shot at the world’s most obnoxious musical summer camp. Demi’s final performance essentially kicked off her pop career, and rightfully so—“This Is Me” isn’t winning any Grammys, but it’s an earworm that delivers what everyone wants from a DCOM diva solo: mega pipes and the Disney knees. —Halliwell
13. The Thirteenth Year
All happy 13-year-olds are alike. Every unhappy 13-year-old is unhappy in their own way. Wait, sorry—all unhappy 13-year-olds are unhappy in the same way, because they would like very much for some external authority to swoop in and tell them that they’re actually a wizard or a princess or a superhero and that they must immediately escape the dreary confines of parents and homework and burgeoning cystic acne to ascend to some glorious higher plane.
Enter The Thirteenth Year, in which swim team star Cody Griffin (played by Chez Starbuck, whose mere name surely prompted the casting director to send everyone else on the audition list home on the spot) discovers on his 13th birthday that he is secretly the adopted progeny of a mermaid, and he swiftly grows the scales and fins necessary to embark on a new aquatic life. Never mind that this raises a host of concerning questions, including, but not limited to: Why has the mermaid species evolved so that their offspring spend the first 12 years of their lives in bodies unable to survive in their parents’ world?
This is the rare DCOM where the main character is the popular kid—good at sports, beloved by friends and family, and possessing that most elusive of tween treasures: a significant other. Cody is tasked with breaking the local nerd out of his shell, which he does with aplomb; lessons are learned, bad guys are thwarted, and state swimming records are shattered. That Cody seems to actually like his life somehow does not put a damper on the finale, in which the newly minted fish teen reconnects with his mermaid mother and swims away with her to parts unknown, which his adoptive human parents inexplicably accept. If that’s not the fantasy of the entire DCOM viewership, I don’t know what is.
(One final fact that it is very important for any Thirteenth Year devotee to know: Starbuck now runs a shelving business in Texas and still identifies himself on Instagram as the star of The Thirteenth Year. Whenever he posts pictures of himself in or around bodies of water—surprisingly frequently—he is inundated with comments warning him that he will grow fins.) —Claire McNear
12. Double Teamed
In 2002, Disney decided to tell the origin story of twin sisters and future WNBA stars Heather and Heidi Burge. For reasons that are unclear, Disney not only chose an unfortunate title for this story, but it also went against its traditional casting route and booked two actresses who weren’t even related to one another to portray the basketball stars; Annie McElwain and Poppi Monroe had to wear identical-colored clothing and similar hairstyles in almost every scene. (Later, Jared Leto would master this type of costume deception.) But this isn’t just a film about the twins’ ascension into sports history—it also has a record-breaking amount of corny jokes about being tall. In the first half of the movie, both girls clunk around like giants in their high school as the rest of their classmates stare at them like they’re circus sideshow acts. I almost had to confirm whether or not the twins attended the Derek Zoolander Center for Ants based on the reactions of the student body. At the end of the day though, Disney knows how to churn out emotional sports films, and this is an excellent addition to the roster, especially for young girls like me who played basketball back in the early 2000s. Too bad I wasn’t 20 feet tall like the Burge sisters. —Bridget Geerlings
11. The Even Stevens Movie
Look, man, there’s just no point in pretending that The Even Stevens Movie is a normal movie with a normal plot and normal scenes. Some guy—played by Tim Meadows!—just shows up at the Stevenses’ house and tricks them into going on a remote-island vacation that is actually a hidden-camera reality show. This sort of thing happens to people every day. But nonsense is exactly what Even Stevens is good at, and the movie never forgets that, constantly putting Louis (Shia LaBeouf), Ren (Christy Carlson Romano), the parents (Tom Virtue and Donna Pescow), and BEANS (Steven Anthony Lawrence) in situations that demand hysterics. The Even Stevens Movie was the culmination of a TV show’s unparalleled run on the Disney Channel, and it rose to that occasion. Also, if you squint hard enough, you can almost see the movie as an ahead-of-its-time spoof of reality TV. I’m not sure you can say that about any other DCOM. —Andrew Gruttadaro
10. Johnny Tsunami
Imagine being a kid prodigy surfer and snowboarder with unlimited swagger. That’s the cross Johnny Kapahala has to bear in a 90-minute war with a nerd (his dad, Pete) and Brett, a first-team all-privilege rich kid at the head of a private school cult. Against all odds, Johnny quickly becomes Vermont’s top snowboarder and ends a 10-year feud between brothers Randy and Ronnie with the help of Hawaii’s version of Yoda (his grandfather) and Urchin ringleader Sam Sterling (a.k.a. actor Lee Thompson Young, a.k.a. Boobie Miles’s backup in Friday Night Lights). Johnny’s reward is getting to watch his dad serve punch at the big race after-party while he wraps his arms around the movie’s love interest. The kid simply doesn’t miss. —Gayle
9. Cadet Kelly
In 2002, putting Hilary Duff and Christy Carlson Romano inside one summer DCOM was kind of like getting Rihanna and Beyoncé to headline the Super Bowl: It simply did not get bigger than this in terms of must-see TV (movies). Carlson Romano, well into her Even Stevens reign, and Hilary Duff, the shiny new upstart on Lizzie McGuire, were paired together because Disney had one simple mission: to get these gals in military fatigues to play the exact same archetypes they already played on their respective TV series—and, if possible, to get Shawn Ashmore and some queer undertones in there too. Duff stars as a fashion-obsessed art school student forced to attend the military school where her stepfather has just been hired. Romano stars as the school’s necessary shrew in chief. And would you believe that after a disastrous series of misunderstandings, these two opposites are able to come together and bond over a shared interest in the drill team and the hard-earned discovery that they’re really not so different after all? This movie taught us the unique challenges faced by women in authority positions; it taught us a wildly achievable dance routine; it taught us military time. A salute to you, Cadet Kelly. —Walker
8. High School Musical 2
It’s the eternal quandary of list-making: Do you rank a franchise’s first movie higher for setting the stage, or do you give that ranking to superior sequels for setting the bar? If it were solely up to me, I might give it to High School Musical 2, and I don’t think I’m alone here. Released in 2007, HSM2 smashed Disney Channel’s U.S. viewership record, and it remains the most-watched broadcast on the network to this day. You could argue it cemented the lasting fame of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. The movie’s soundtrack went triple platinum, and “What Time Is It” reached no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. That’s not even the best song! (It’s “Gotta Go My Own Way,” clearly.) Most critics found HSM2 to be a better movie than its predecessor, and it established the film series as a true franchise, which went on to spawn books, comics, theater productions, and even video games. The original High School Musical may have started it all, but its sequel is the movie that permanently etched those songs into the millennial consciousness. —Jenkins
7. The Luck of the Irish
Behold: A DCOM tackles … white privilege? Fifteen-year-old basketball star Kyle (DCOM legend Ryan Merriman) asks his parents about their lineage in preparation for his school’s Heritage Day. They’re secretive at first, but when Kyle’s mom shrinks down to a foot tall, she can no longer hide that she’s a leprechaun. Which, of course, makes Kyle a half-leprechaun. He soon realizes that his basketball skills were just a product of his lucky Irish blood. “You’re a nice guy and all that,” Bonnie (Alexis Lopez), who is Latina, tells Kyle. “But you’d be a better person if everything hadn’t always been so easy for you.” Real shit! And later, when Bonnie discusses the plight of Irish immigrants and says, “They had to work at jobs other people wouldn’t take, and they didn’t get paid what they deserved,” Kyle’s friend Russell (Glenndon Chatman), who is Black, responds, “At least they got paid!”
Now, I wouldn’t call The Luck of the Irish’s racial commentary “deep” or “particularly good,” but it is surprising in the context of a silly comedy about a kid slowly turning into a leprechaun. (Oh yeah, after Kyle finds out about his heritage, he suddenly starts shrinking, growing red hair and pointy ears, and calling people “boyo,” but I’m sure that’s self-explanatory.) And still, there was one valuable takeaway: “You don’t even know your mother’s maiden name?” a baffled Bonnie asks Kyle at the beginning of the movie. “How are you ever gonna get a credit card?” Take notes, kids! —Julianna Ress
Every Halloween, any self-respecting person who was born in the late ’80s must watch two films: Hocus Pocus and Halloweentown. The former is undoubtedly more prestigious, featuring a handful of famous actors, a good script, and special effects that appear to have cost more than $12. But Halloweentown is just as good due to its sheer ability to capture the holiday spirit and an unrelenting earnestness that simply doesn’t exist in culture anymore. Sure, the story—a teen travels to the titular Halloweentown after belatedly discovering that she comes from a family of witches, and she saves the day from a dude named Kalabar, who’s attempting to go full tyrant on the place—is super boilerplate, and the corniness factor is dialed all the way up. But Halloweentown’s energy is infectious, and it does what only the best DCOMs did: capture the pure, undiminishable joy of being a kid. —Gruttadaro
5. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
I write this blurb from the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping. I want a recount because my girl Z deserves the no. 1 spot on this list. In this intergalactic blockbuster, 13-year-old Zenon Kar gets sent to hell—a.k.a. Earth—after stirring the pot with her space station’s commander. While chilling on terra firma with her Aunt Judy, she discovers that one of the station’s employees is plotting to plant a computer virus that would annihilate her former celestial home. Now that I think about it, this movie is essentially a reverse Wall-E. But despite these high stakes, it’s the film’s fashion, quirky catchphrases, and original music that skyrocket this movie to the top of my list. Sure, High School Musical has some unbeatable tunes, but this movie introduced us to the band Microbe and one of the greatest songs of all time, “Supernova Girl.” Was Harry Styles inspired by Microbe’s lead singer, Proto Zoa? I’m willing to bet my life on it. This film was so groundbreaking that it was the first DCOM to receive a sequel. And if global warming sends us packing to live near the stars in 2049, I just pray we get the gravity-free Coachella performance from Microbe that we deserve. —Geerlings
4. The Cheetah Girls
In almost any other ranking, The Cheetah Girls would finish top two and not two. Based on the books by Deborah Gregory, the film follows Aquanette, Chanel, Galleria, and Dorinda as they begin their journey to musical stardom—but this journey happened in real life too. The film made stars out of its cast (especially Raven-Symoné and Adrienne Bailon), gave us incredible bops, and, dare I say, changed the way we dressed in 2003! (I mean, if you weren’t wearing some type of cheetah or leopard print that summer, what’s wrong with you?) The film spawned a series that would culminate in Disney Channel’s first musical threequel, and it was the standard bearer for the brand before high school musicals started getting popular in 2006. All in all, The Cheetah Girls was the first DCOM to make a real, deep impact on the culture, and for that reason, it remains iconic. —Adeniran
Disregard its place in these rankings (it should be first!) for a second and consider this list of skating relics that make Brink! not just the best DCOM, but a defining period piece of the late 1990s:
- Teenagers Rollerblading throughout Southern California
- ESPN paying close attention to said Rollerblading
- A skating magazine everyone wants to get their picture in
- The design of the Pup ’n’ Suds T-shirts
- A character trying and failing a thousand times before finally nailing an inverted 540
- Erik von Detten’s flow
- An antagonist named Val, played by the same dude who starred as Spike in Little Giants
- Team X-Bladz, with a “z”
- “That was an ill grab, man.”
- A four-song soundtrack that features the Suicide Machines, Fastball, and Clarissa
Adapted from an 1865 novel—deadass—Brink! is a coming-of-age underdog story that succeeds through style despite featuring overly Y2K lingo and the peer-pressure tropes that were baked into every early DCOM. So many scenes stand out, but the final street race in particular has lived rent-free in my head for the past 25 years, as has Andy Brinker’s verbal takedown of Val right before the proceedings. “Win or lose, at the end of the day, I’m not you,” he says. “So it’s still a good day.”
There goes my hero. Soul-Skaters for life. —Comer
2. Smart House
In the year 2023, what’s not to love about an inadvertently prophetic 24-year-old movie concerning the dangers of putting too much faith in technology? Ostensibly, Smart House is about a family braving the four horsemen of the ’90s apocalypse: a single dad, a latchkey kid, bullies with meticulously spiked hair, and refined sugar. This is set across the backdrop of a voice-controlled home assistant named PAT (“Personal Applied Technology”)—played, bizarrely, by Katey Sagal, also the voice of Futurama’s Turanga Leela—who runs the eponymous smart house, which inventor Sara Barnes (Jessica Steen) has rigged with heretofore unknown gizmos and gadgets. The Cooper family wins the house in a raffle and moves in. (Honorary fifth horseman: the career woman who just doesn’t have time for love.)
Inevitably, the tech goes bad. Smart House was not the first movie about the dangers of artificial intelligence, but it might have been the first one marketed to literal children. (We learned nothing.) PAT eventually attempts to self-educate herself (itself?) and swiftly transforms into a violent, possessive threat to everyone in the house—which is to say that she’s just an AI model gone wrong.
Most of the tech presented as revolutionary is now commonplace. The front-door camera and voice device that scolds a paperboy for a lousy throw and informs him it will be monitoring his accuracy from now on is just a Ring camera. The voice-controlled thermostat is Alexa and Nest. The sample of a single drop of blood that relays a complete medical history is, alas, Theranos. And the AI? I decline to make any negative comments for fear of ChatGPT rigging my doorknob with electricity à la PAT. —McNear
1. High School Musical
There’s no point in arguing with the legacy of High School Musical, a DCOM that occupies a pop culture pedestal so far above the rest that it prompted two sequels (the third of which was released in theaters), a direct-to-DVD spinoff (which didn’t not launch the career of Elvis himself, Austin Butler), and a television adaptation (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which definitely did launch the career of Olivia Rodrigo). And despite its layered web of offshoots and sequels, the original High School Musical is beautiful in its simplicity. It took a classic Romeo-Juliet tale, added a ton of catchy songs and a healthy dose of school spirit, and gave us the best DCOM of all time. Sure, HSM2 may be more beloved these days by the occasional outspoken enthusiast, but nothing in any of the sequels tops the staying power of “We’re All in This Together,” “Breaking Free,” or “Start of Something New.” Despite a series of endlessly renewed-then-debunked rumors about HSM4, I’m not done holding out hope. School spirit is forever, though. May the legacy of the East High Wildcats never die. —Halliwell