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50 Disney Channel Original Movies, Ranked By Feminism

Girl power.

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If you grew up in the '90s and 2000s, Disney Channel Original Movies taught you how to navigate middle school, what to wear, and that your best friend of the opposite sex is definitely in love with you. Through the twin wonders of Netflix and YouTube, we recently rekindled our passion for this very specific art form. Some movies were just as awesome as we remembered, portraying male and female characters as equals in every way and showcasing kick-ass women that inspired us as awkward tweens. Others whipped us into a righteous feminist rage, with backward gender dynamics and objectified women.

We decided to combine these two passions — feminism and Disney Channel Original Movies — and rank the 50 DCOMs that have left the strongest impact on us through a feminist lens, looking at strong female characters, feminist messaging, and overall quality of each movie equally. We realize that feminism is a belief system that informs actions, not a scale upon which people or art can be ranked from "most " to "least." That said: In this genre that most might classify as somewhere between intellectual junk food and artistic garbage, there are a wide and nuanced range of feminist messages to be gleaned.

50. Horse Sense (1999)

Disney Channel / Via buzzfeed.com

Horse Sense is male privilege personified. In this supposed coming-of-age story, a spoiled rich, young man is condemned to a Montana ranch after being the worst host ever to his kid cousin. Women are rarely mentioned, except as possessions. This boy is given so many chances to turn his act around. Even worse, there’s a sequel with roughly the same premise, so clearly he does not change his ways! This movie teaches kids that if you're an asshole, you get to go to a fancy ranch and ride horses. To be fair, that is kind of the way the world works when you’re a rich, white man, but not something the next generation needs to know.

49. Cow Belles (2006)

Disney Channel / Via movies.disney.com

This movie brought feminism back several years, which is especially disappointing after the glory of High School Musical, which was released a few months earlier, and the potential that Aly and AJ Michalka brought to Disney Channel. The premise — entitled sisters forced to work at their dad’s dairy company’s factory — is basically just a knock off of The Simple Life, without the very specific appeal of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. The transformation from entitled brats to hardworking young women isn’t explored with any amount of nuance, and the girl power message seems forced. After watching this, we demand a hard-hitting exposé on factory farming!

48. Johnny Tsunami (1999)

Disney Channel

One of many movies in the line of Disney Channel’s bro-on-bro turf wars with secondary tokenized female characters. If the women in Johnny Tsunami are important, it’s only because they are love interests — a prize to be won during a sporting event at the film’s climax. Even Johnny’s mother isn’t given much power, with her husband and her father-in-law running the show throughout the entirety of the film.

47. ‘Twas the Night (2001)

Disney Channel / Via imdb.com

Two con artists and JERKS decide they can knock out Santa and deliver presents themselves on Christmas Eve. Et tu, Bryan Cranston? The only sensible people in this movie are the sister and the mom, and they are ignored left and right! They’re barely in the movie! The con artists end up getting away with their plot — I guess they “learn a lesson,” but do they actually? Direct quote from this movie: “Your sister’s just a little too bright.” EH?

46. Brink! (1998)

Disney Channel

The in-line skating turf wars film Brink may be the most beloved DCOM, but is it actually feminist? Does it include a female skater? Yes. Does it star Erik Von Detten of Princess Diaries fame? Yes. Is it a shitshow in its treatment of female characters? Also, yes. Brink is basically a macho man versus man battle, with Gabriella sabotaged and almost scapegoated as a plot device, instead of being treated as a complex and autonomous character. This was the last alpha male DCOM sports movie before Rip Girls started the era of the girl power sports flick. Good riddance, we say.

45. Starstruck (2010)

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The movie’s creators were aiming for the classic rom-com setup, in which the smart, overlooked girl doesn’t fall for the guy who everyone wants, so then obviously he falls in love with her. But the girl, Jessica Olson, is really just mean here! She’s particularly rude to young pop star Christopher Wilde’s jovial rapper/driver/best friend. Also worrisome: Christopher Wilde’s mom is a caricature of a “bitchy businesswoman.” By the end of the movie, we were left hoping that Christopher Wilde would just return to Hollywood to find someone to be nice to him and finally escape the paparazzi.

44. Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior (2006)

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We like that this film rejects the nerdy Asian stereotypes that Disney Channel has enforced in the past in favor of a homecoming queen hopeful played by the beautiful Brenda Song. Unfortunately, it feeds into other stereotypes by introducing a random (hot) Chinese monk who is obviously skilled in the martial arts and has an over-the-top fake-seeming “Asian” accent. It’s kind of like an Asian Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but terribly done. Wendy is never the powerful feminist heroine we want her to be. So much unfulfilled potential.

43. Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure (2011)

Disney Channel

From the director of The Santa Clause 2: High School Musical character Sharpay finally puts aside her selfish tendencies for the sake of her dog’s Broadway career in this direct-to-DVD semi-DCOM. Her sacrifices include living in a shitty NYC apartment that is only 50% nicer than an actual NYC apartment. The fact of the matter is that there had been three HSM movies released before this, and Sharpay did not significantly evolve beyond her selfish ways over the course of the series. It would be unfitting if this canine-centric film with a single-star rating on Netflix was Sharpay’s fabulous feminist awakening. Also, great Ryan cameo at the end. We wish there were a DCOM about Ryan’s coming-out process in college, but until then, this is somewhat tolerable.

42. Don’t Look Under the Bed (1999)

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If you haven’t heard of this one, it’s because this movie was taken out of the Disney Channel rotation after it came out for being so scary. Honestly, while we rewatched most of these movies, we couldn’t bring ourselves to go through this terror again, and had a hard time even watching the trailer. The plot deals with gender in a really weird way, with a helpless female character creating an imaginary male friend who she then has to save. So, I guess it’s a female empowerment coming-of-age film? And, Priya says, the boogeyman in this film is “as ugly as the patriarchy,” so there’s that.

41. Model Behavior (2000)

Disney Channel / Via 2000ish.com

Technically, this is a Wonderful World of Disney movie, but we are choosing to include it here because 1) it was continually played on Disney Channel during our youth, and 2) Justin Timberlake. Long before he starred as Sean Parker on The Social Network, the boy band legend was the only really memorable element about this alleged female empowerment tale by way of a Parent Trap–like plot. The two main characters claim to find themselves at the end of the film, but they really find fulfillment with boys. Thankfully, one of these boys is Justin Timberlake.

40. Quints (2000)

Disney Channel / Via ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com

Rewatching this movie now, we find ourselves identifying with the parents, instead of with protagonist Jamie. As two people who frequently have pregnancy stress dreams, having quintuplets sounds like a nightmare. We’re honestly just happy to see the husband rising to the challenge as a caregiver, without any jokes about how men are incompetent at raising kids. Honestly, Jamie, who is upset that her five new siblings have taken the attention away from her, needs to get over herself — imagine how much money her parents are spending on diapers and strollers!

39. Girl vs. Monster (2012)

Disney Channel

With a title like Girl vs. Monster, this film would, you'd think, delve more deeply into issues of gender, as our protagonist Skylar discovers her parents are monster hunters and embarks on a mission to save them. Sadly, this movie is no Halloweentown. It’s confusingly dark in areas, like when kids admit they’ve been plagued by inner demons (represented by physical monsters) for as long as they can remember. There’s also a recurring gag where a popular yet really awkward girl keeps falling down the stairs and ends the movie in a neck brace while the main character makes out with her newly minted boyfriend. Can’t support that one on a feminist or “artistic” level.

38. Alley Cats Strike (2000)

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If we learned anything from Alley Cats Strike, it’s that bowling is a very gender-neutral sport. However, when all is said and done, it’s the women who save the day. In the climactic final bowling showdown, male brute force gets the split, but the intelligence and gentle touch of a woman wins the game. We all know we’ve tried that move at least once at a middle school bowling birthday party. We failed every time, because that move doesn’t fucking work.

37. Camp Rock (2008)

Disney Channel / Via disneychannel.disney.com

The positives: addresses class, Alyson Stoner is awesome at dancing, knowing that Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas were probably smoking weed with Miley Cyrus behind the scenes. The negatives: Success and progress at Camp Rock really just depends on winning over the Jo Bros. And what was up with Joe Jonas stealing Demi’s thunder at the Final Jam? She was doing fine! Maybe she would have won if he didn’t cut in! There are other Disney Channel movies with the same basic “finding your voice” message, but without so much dependence on the guy seeing the “diamond in the rough.” The story of Joe J. trying to discover the mystery girl playing the piano has a Cinderella tone to it, but if we’re looking at modern-day fairy tales, A Cinderella Story starring Hilary Duff is better in every way.

36. Get a Clue (2002)

Disney Channel / Via movies.disney.com

“Trust no one, question everything.” Tagline, or words to live by? In this movie, Freaky Friday–era Lindsay Lohan and incredibly named Bug Hall (from The Little Rascals!) misjudge each other as a ditz and a nerd, respectively, but come to view each other as equals and learn from the other as they solve the mystery of a teacher’s disappearance. Most importantly, sweet Bug realizes the power of Lindsay’s feminine wiles, with a Legally Blonde–esque knowledge of fashion coming in handy to crack the case. Here’s to hoping Lindsay will continue to make gems like this one now she’s done with her community service hours.

35. The Thirteenth Year (1999)

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In spite of the fact that this movie is kind of boring, it was one of the first in a series of DCOMs to focus on masculinity in a surprisingly feminist and nuanced manner. First, making a man the mermaid — sorry merman — flips traditional gender roles on their head. Additionally, Cody represents an “alpha male” (popular kid, sports bro) going through these changes. Could one argue that this is a metaphor for a queer awakening? ONE COULD, but we won’t (we're saving it for a follow-up article, “Out of the Closet, Into the Castle: The History of Disney Channel’s Queer-Coded Characters.”)

34. Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire (2000)

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It’s hard being a single mom over the age of 40 when even your kids are wondering when you’re going to get a boyfriend! The pickings are so slim that you literally have to date a goddamn misogynist vampire! One could say that the kids and the vampire hunter triumph over the vampire’s attempt to force their mom into brainwashed submission — a symbol of poisonous heterosexual male dominance. Ultimately, the mom values her kids above romantic entanglements (with vampires).

33. Up, Up and Away (2000)

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Given the overwhelming whiteness of superhero movies released in the last decade, the fact that this turn-of-the-century film centered on a black superhero family is remarkable. Up, Up and Away didn’t get a lot of play because the plot is a bit weak, but the family is awesome. The mother has the traditionally male superpower of superhuman strength, and she also kills it in the boardroom. She and her husband equally share the responsibilities of raising their kids and fighting crime, something the movie never draws attention to as out of the ordinary.

32. Twitches (2005)

Disney Channel / Via olversqueen.tumblr.com

We don’t really get all the mystical malarkey of this movie, and frankly we didn’t enjoy it. But we can’t ignore that this is a movie about the stars of Sister, Sister being badasses. If you want to skip this one, the plot is almost identical to Sister, Sister: Two people don’t realize they are twins until they meet a clothing store. Throw in an alternate dimension, some sort of evil force called the “Darkness,” and two mediocre godparent types, and you’ve got a recipe for a pair of magically empowered females to save the world.

31. Tru Confessions (2002)

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At surface level, the major relationship in this movie is that between Tru and the subject of her documentary, her twin brother Eddie (played by young Shia Laboeuf), who has a developmental disability. However, a subtle yet powerful relationship that strengthens over the course of the film is that between two women — Tru and her mother. Tru seeks solace in chatrooms because she feels her parents don’t understand her (a truly 2002 solution to this problem). Spoiler alert: Her new online friend “Deedee” turns out to be her mother. Tru is ultimately able to accept her brother by building this connection with her mom, as well as tapping into her inner strength through the filming of the documentary.

30. Stepsister From Planet Weird (2000)

Disney Channel / Via stevenlathrop.tumblr.com

At the end of the day, this movie is about two very different girls coming together to accept each other despite their differences (one is human, one is a ball of gas) and defeat an evil male emperor. The ball of gas has some interesting thoughts on body image — she hates how she looks as a human and wants to return to her true form (as a ball of gas). Also, it’s wild that these gaseous aliens have gender norms that line up so closely with those of early 21st-century America!

29. Geek Charming (2011)

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Documentaries are vehicles of social change: Blackfish revealed the dangers of SeaWorld, Food Inc. showed us the urgent need to change how we eat, and, in Geek Charming, a documentary convinces a popular girl to stop dumbing herself down to fit stereotypical notions of femininity. This movie could be the tale of a mansplainer documentarian making a girl feel bad about herself for being shallow, but instead it’s a more romantic story of said boy helping Dylan, the main character, reflect on why she feels the need to win Blossom Queen. The first time we watched this, we thought that the movie was helped a lot by the fact that the actors (Sarah Hyland and Matt Prokop) had great chemistry. We later found out that their in-real-life relationship ended horribly, which has made rewatching the film more difficult.

28. Read It and Weep (2006)

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Protagonist Jamie creates a fanfic about her own life starring the idealized version of herself. It’s a roundabout critique of the “strong female character” — a term we’ve been using here — in which people assume being a strong woman means not giving a shit and being 100% powerful. In the end, Jamie realizes that maturing and becoming a strong female actually means saying how she feels and being aware of the repercussions of her actions (especially on that small pink-eyed looking man who loves her).

27. Smart House (1999)

Disney Channel / Via movies.disney.com

Smart House is a layered analysis of motherhood and women in the workplace. Operating system and Siri predecessor Pat embodies the unachievable ideal of motherhood: functional and created to serve men. On the other hand, Sarah, the inventor of Pat, is a woman in science who invented this mother figure. She is a disruptor not only in the industry but also in the life of main character Ben Cooper. Ultimately, Pat and the ‘50s-housewife ideal of womanhood are the true villains in the movie. Smart House argues that to grow up, Ben must reject his antiquated idea of femininity.

26. Zapped! (2014)

Disney Channel / Via blackcelebkids.com

So much potential (and danger!) in this movie’s quite misandrist concept: Teenage girl downloads an app that controls boys. The movie can’t really commit to the concept that all men should be ruled by protagonist and teen sensation Zendaya (although the popular girl threatens to create, and we quote, a “personal slave army”). The big takeaway is that everyone has room for growth, regardless of gender, but the way this movie gets to this message is BANANAS. The main character forces her crush (Jackson Kale) to kiss her under the control of the app in a weird sexual assault plot twist. Plus, Zendaya ends up having better chemistry with her stepbrother? We can all do better, but the movie did leave us with a long-lasting love for Zendaya and her unapologetically feminine BAMF-ness.

25. Radio Rebel (2012)

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Basic plot: Shy girl secretly runs an anti-authoritarian radio station. It doesn’t get much better than that. The crux of the movie isn’t Tara’s semi-radical theories about standing up to authority. The real magic happens when she finds the confidence to share these ideas as herself rather than behind the guise of an anonymous radio personality. She’s an outspoken feminist and activist all along — it’s just a matter of coming out as who she knows herself to be.

24. The Ultimate Christmas Present (2000)

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Men (Santa and an evil weatherman!) try to suppress young girls expressing themselves via an odd-looking weather machine that causes a snowstorm in L.A. Santa is kind of an asshole in this movie, so the question becomes: Are the girls justified in attempting to reclaim the white male’s power? We say, they are! Also featuring: a tall, masculine elf played by an NBA athlete. HOW’S THAT FOR BUSTING STEREOTYPES?

23. The Color of Friendship (2000)

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The Color of Friendship gets so real it honestly feels weird to include it on this list. A DCOM discussing race? Police brutality? Class dynamics? Apartheid? Piper and Mahree (a black politician’s daughter from Washington, D.C., and a white policeman’s daughter from South Africa, respectively) come to understand each other in spite of their drastic differences amid a racially charged, 1970s America. The movie follows the transition of these girls from strangers who misjudge each other to women who unite to, in their own small way, try to find justice in a racist world. It does not sugarcoat any of the difficult issues explored, and Piper and Mahree’s relationship feels stronger for this.

22. Pixel Perfect (2004)

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Pixel Perfect was marketed as the story of Roscoe falling for a hologram he created to perform with his friend Sam’s band. However, the film is really about the hologram helping Sam come to term with her “imperfections.” It is a journey from girl-on-holographic girl hate to the surmounting of unrealistic feminine ideals. This movie makes Roscoe out to be the fool that he is; the biggest disappointment is that Sam ends up dating this ignoramus.

21. The Luck of the Irish (2001)

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This is a movie about a young man learning to check his #LeprechaunPrivilege. Kyle is coasting on charm — well, luck technically — but has no idea who he is until he loses his family’s luck at an Irish fair to a demonic-looking elf man. Kyle is kind of a dumb jock, but his friend/love interest Bonnie is awesome and intelligent, and his mom is clearly in charge — in addition to being a leprechaun. The real feminist message here is that you can’t just be successful because of something you inherited from your family (Kyle); you have to work for your success (Bonnie).

20. The Even Stevens Movie (2003)

Disney Channel / Via movies.disney.com

Have you ever noticed that the women in Even Stevens are so much more competent than the men? Just take state senator Eileen Stevens and overachiever Ren Stevens, and put them against bumbling Steve Stevens, jocky bro Donny Stevens, human train wreck Louis Stevens, and Beans “I’m just here for the bacon” Aranguren. But this movie is not a battle of the sexes — if it were, it would have been five minutes. Instead, everyone’s talents come together at the end of the film to outsmart the reality TV host.

19. Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century (1999)

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We’re going to get a lot of flack for not putting this higher, but HEAR US OUT. We love the Zenon trilogy (OK, not Z3, but Zequel was good). We also love the songs (although "Supernova Girl" is slightly misogynistic). We respect Zenon for her strong friendships with other women, her ability to rise to the level of powerful enemies, and her use of femininity as a weapon. (As in, she literally uses an earring to save her space station.) Still, by Z3, she’s a bit of a space basic — she still hasn’t shaken her obsession with Proto Zoa and silver high-top boots.

18. Right on Track (2003)

Disney Channel / Via all-teenmovies.tumblr.com

Clearly Disney Channel execs wanted to capitalize on the ratings boon that was Double Teamed, so they decided to make another movie based on a true story about boss sisters succeeding in male-dominated sports. In Right on Track, the ladies are competing against boys — sexist boys. Major props to the dad for being the most supportive father of his champ daughters and for encouraging them to be well-rounded. Also, IRL Erica won the Pro Stock final in drag racing in 2014, so she’s still doing great and owning men.

17. Rip Girls (2000)

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A feminist movie in the most traditional, “girl power” sense. It’s not all that complex, but it’s an entertaining, female-centric movie about a young Camilla Belle finding her strength through surfing and connections with other women. Very feel-good feminism lite™.

16. Halloweentown (1998)

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Basically, this entire movie franchise is about three generations of witches fighting the domination of their male (warlock) counterparts. Each woman becomes more powerful through her relationships with the others: The grandmother leads the family as matriarch, while in crisis, younger generations are forced to follow her example as an empowered female leader — an intriguing parable of going from girl to woman. Some points off for the fourth movie (Return to Halloweentown) swapping out Kimberly J. Brown for a younger model.

15. High School Musical 2 (2007)

Disney Channel / Via movies.disney.com

We’re allowing this on the list since HSM 2 is the highest-rated movie premiere on Disney Channel, and also because of the extraordinary dance numbers, “I Don’t Dance” and “Bet on It.” The plot isn’t built on interrogating stereotypes like that of the first High School Musical, but we have to give a nod to the development of Zeke’s character as a strong male cook (Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off aired so Zeke could cook). Plus, Gabriella demanding that her boyfriend support her and put in the work in their relationship is a pretty great message on how dating should function.

14. Avalon High (2010)

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We enjoyed this movie because it draws not only from King Arthur but also from Disney Channel’s habit of making female characters’ evolution hinge on a guy to subvert viewer expectations. Avalon High is a surprisingly academic critique of Arthurian legend and the modern boy-meets-girl tropes. In the film, Ally thinks she is helping popular football bro Will fulfill his destiny to become King Arthur when IN FACT she’s fulfilling her own destiny (spoiler: She’s a King Arthur incarnate, and Will is just a regular dude).

13. How to Build a Better Boy (2014)

Disney Channel / Via all-teenmovies.tumblr.com

The movement to get women in STEM professions clearly has allies at Disney Channel. In this movie, a 15-year-old girl is able to build her best friend a fake robot boyfriend by hacking into the Pentagon’s soldier prototypes because she took “coding classes” over the summer. What a time to be alive! By the end of the movie, her friend goes from boy crazy to understanding how lucky she is to have a woman in her life who would literally hack the Pentagon because she couldn’t find a prom date: truly friendship goals for any young woman.

12. Kim Possible: So the Drama (2005)

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Kim’s obviously great, but let’s talk about Shego. She’s the perfect villain — a badass female warrior who struck out on her own to work for an evil “genius” because her family consists of annoying superheroes. Shego’s prominence gives us the chance to have a fantastic female protagonist matched with an equally fantastic female antagonist. Drakken and Ron are pretty incompetent, so this movie is just a (sexually charged?) battle between two boss women. And let the record show, Kim and Ron are the best couple. At the end of the day, Kim needs Ron, and Ron is always there for her and never feels emasculated by the fact his friend/girlfriend is clearly better than him at everything.

Last point: Why didn’t the naco make it in the mainstream fast-food circuit?

11. Teen Beach Movie (2013)

Disney Channel / Via movies.disney.com

What a great plot device: girl and her boyfriend fall into the alternate universe of the teen movie "Wet Side Story" (shockingly, not a porno). You only have to watch this one song to see what the movie is about: 21st-century feminism pitted against 1950s gender roles, with lines like, “Hang with the guys, don’t let her know how much you care / No, look in her eyes and tell her even if you’re scared.” Blunt, but sweet.

Spoiler: At the end of the day, the 1950s characters adopt the 21st-century ideals and basically experience the entire second wave of feminism in a 90-minute DCOM (nice that no one has jobs in this movie and any issues with racism have apparently been resolved). The movie is strengthened by the fact that couple dates throughout the entire film, so there’s no theme of “winning over” the guy/girl.

10. Den Brother (2010)

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Probably the first (and only) hockey bro turned feminist Girl Scout troop leader film, Den Brother’s offers a very creative way to inspect and attack bro masculinity. Main character Alex learns life lessons from his sister, her fellow troop members and, of course, his middle-aged female alter ego, Mrs. Zamboni. As Alex matures, he’s also able to change the organization (“The Bumblebees”) by demonstrating that men can be caregivers (basically, there’s a Bumblebees bylaw that men cannot be Den Mothers, thus the title: Den Brother).

9. Princess Protection Program (2009)

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You gotta love the DCOMs about female friendships and women seizing political control! A double whammy of feminism, as they say. Like Cadet Kelly, we have two very different young women, who represent contrasting feminist archetypes and over time learn from each other. Also great because Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato were best friends IRL. Props to the woman with the fake Russian accent who plays the head of the Princess Protection Program, and Lovato character’s mom, who raises hell for her male political captor (who also has a fake accent).

8. The Cheetah Girls (2003)

Disney Channel / Via movies.disney.com

One word: “Cinderella.” That song set feminism 10 years forward! This movie features four diverse and fleshed-out female characters who have no time for men. They’re all about their career and friends! The film also tackles some real issues of foster care, single parents, predatory record labels, and the sexualization of women.

7. High School Musical (2006)

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After years of shows that categorically promoted high school stereotypes, Disney Channel finally wised up and made High School Musical. All forms of femininity and masculinity are subverted and called into question. Don’t get me started on Martha, the hip-hop dancer, or Zeke, who makes crème brulées, or the stoner who plays the cello — all unsung feminist heroes of High School Musical. The plot is, in many ways, a less hard-hitting version of Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off, but the songs raise the bar for all future Disney Channel Original Movies (and all movies in general). Lest we forget, this is the movie that caused Zefron to be a thing. Alternate title of the movie: Gabriella and Troy Take on the Patriarchy!

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

Disney Channel / Via imdb.com

The crown jewel in DCOMs’ analysis of masculinity! It’s truly depressing to see a world where a young man is mocked by all of his friends and family for his love of cooking (confusing since the food industry is literally dominated by males). Fortunately, Eddie’s father repents for his misogyny by the end of the movie and helps Eddie in his cook-off. Unfortunately, said cook-off is hosted by our nemesis, Bobby Flay, who tells Eddie that he himself used to be bullied, but now he’s a famous chef, so #itgetsbetter. The film actually does a good job of attacking the toxicity of masculine and feminine norms from multiple angles, with Eddie’s female friend trying to succeed as an athlete and a semi-shoehorned in male nurse subplot exploring the power of stereotypically feminine jobs.

5. Lemonade Mouth (2011)

Disney Channel / Via movies.disney.com

Lemonade Mouth is a story as old as time — school outcasts band together to form a wildly successful singing group — but with a surprising amount of nuance. Vest-wearing, mini–riot grrl Stella drives the action, creating the titular band through sheer force of will and getting arrested in an anti-corporate, pro-lemonade protest. As Stella comes into her own, she also helps her female friends/bandmates deal with an incarcerated father, a strict Indian father, and a shitty boyfriend. Romantically, the movie distinguishes itself not only by making us root for a white, ginger rapper as the romantic lead, but more importantly by keeping Stella single and allowing bandmate Mo to refuse to reunite with her boyfriend after he transforms from vaguely misogynistic to a classic “nice guy.”

4. Gotta Kick it Up! (2002)

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Sí se puede, amirite? A full decade before Orange Is the New Black arrived on the scene, Disney Channel released this trailblazing girl power/cheerleading flick with a nearly all-female and majority Latina cast. Every character has an individual plotline related to finding her inner strength — like when HBIC Daisy Fuentes dumps her shitty and emotionally abusive boyfriend. Yes, the movie is a bit white savior-esque at times, with Heather coming in to jumpstart the cheerleading squad, but we still respect that she used to be a boss in the boardroom. And, let’s not forget that young America Ferrera completely kills it in this movie and proves quite adept at the splits.

3. Double Teamed (2002)

Disney Channel / Via teenvogue.com

How does this movie promote feminism? Let us count the ways. 1) This is basically a movie about two amazing women with so much swagger who surpass and outsmart their male counterparts to get exactly what they want (professional basketball contracts, duh). 2) There are no stupid love subplots. 3) Have you seen how hot and tall they are? For every tall girl who wore flats to school dances because she was taller than her dates, this movie is for you! Bonus points: It’s based on a true story. Bonus bonus points: THE ACTRESSES AREN’T EVEN RELATED, BUT THEY LOOK LIKE TWINS. It’s a real-life Parent Trap, kind of!

2. Motocrossed (2001)

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We must lead with the fact that this movie almost certainly sparked more queer women’s sexual awakenings than any other Disney Channel Original Movie — or any early ‘00s movie, for that matter. Andy is simply the hottest lady disguised as a man marketed to preteens of the period (sorry, She’s the Man and Mulan). She completely owns the world of competitive motocross disguised as her brother, after her dad forbids her from participating because it is a “man’s sport” and her brother gets injured. By the close of the film, Andy has not only convinced her father that women are good enough to compete, but she has become an inspiration for the entire racing community. Our favorite scene is the very end when bad boy/love interest Dean asks Andy aka Andrea for a job, and she tells him he will have to prove himself. Nothing gets us more turnt than a woman in charge making men do work.

1. Cadet Kelly (2002)

Disney Channel / Via movies.disney.com

Never has there been a greater woman-on-woman showdown on Disney Channel than Cadet Kelly. This movie pitted the network’s two biggest female stars at the time, Hilary Duff of Lizzie McGuire and Christy Carlson Romano of Even Stevens, against each other in one über-feminist, über-awesome film about the relationship between two women as they learn to dominate in a male-dominated world. This movie is the best example of two women who embody clashing yet equally valid versions of womanhood and feminism that, when introduced to the other, allow both characters to learn and grow as individuals. The ribbon-meets-military dance at the end of the movie encapsulates this ideal that is greater than the sum of its parts, and gives both of us the chills every single time we watch it. Better yet, while throughout the movie the two compete over a boy, in the end — à la Frozen — the most important bond is that between their characters.

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Priya Krishna is the marketing manager of "Lucky Peach," and the author of "Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks."

Contact Priya Krishna at pkrishna2000@gmail.com.

Kate Taylor is a staff writer for Entrepreneur.com, covering franchises and fast food.

Contact Kate Taylor at katherine.humphrey.taylor@gmail.com.

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