Disney Plus is a service built primarily around the company’s core brands of Marvel, Star Wars, and Disney — and that hasn’t changed much this year. 2023’s new releases were still dominated by superheroes and Jedi, but there were some Na’vi and Time Lords thrown in for good measure. In fact, this year the service’s offerings were particularly solid for sci-fi fans, with stories spanning quite a few galaxies and timelines. If you’re new to Disney Plus, here are a few movies and shows to stream first.
Since its first season, filled with branching timelines and retrofuturistic tech, Loki has carved out its own distinct space within the MCU while still connecting to (and influencing) the broader multiverse. It’s something you can enjoy on its own or as part of a bigger story. And that remains true in season 2, which continues the time-travel shenanigans with a new level of existential threats and some great new characters like OB (Ke Huy Quan). It doesn’t seem like we’ll be getting a third season any time soon (if ever), so now is a great time to catch up on the whole thing.
With so many Star Wars series now streaming on Disney Plus, Ahsoka needed to do something different to stand out. And while there are some frustrating elements for the show’s first season — namely how it almost requires knowledge from the Clone Wars animated show — the series still did a lot right. Namely, it really dug into the more magical elements of the Star Wars mythos, with lots of cool ancient ruins and some terrifying witches. At one point there was even a flaming sword. No, it might not have reached the heights of Andor, but it was still a stylish excuse to jump back into the galaxy far, far away.
We’re now three seasons deep into the adventures of Din Djarin and Grogu, and while the Baby Yoda shine may have worn off somewhat, it remains a fun weekly excursion into the depths of Star Wars lore. Season 3 didn’t tie up every loose end and, at times, it felt a little too safe. But it did have moody underground exploration and Jack Black and Lizzo as galactic royals. It also ended on a surprisingly cozy note — though it’s unlikely we’ve seen the last of Mando and his little buddy.
If you’re sick of the many live-action takes on Star Wars, the Visions anthology takes things in a whole other direction. The first volume focused on Japanese-style anime and had everything from a rock opera to a samurai duel. The latest batch of episodes, meanwhile, broadens the scope with animated shorts from all over the world. The result is a huge range of styles and tones — some are cute, others scary, and one is even stop-motion.
The Guardians have always largely existed outside of the broader MCU; yeah, there are connections and guest appearances, but you can also just enjoy this trilogy on its own. The third story wraps things up in quite a bit of sentimentality — animal lovers, keep some tissues handy — but also retains the found-family vibe and cosmic sci-fi that has made GotG such a hit to begin with. And if you still need some more of Drax and friends, there’s also a fun holiday special to dig into.
Werewolf By Night might be the most experimental — and standalone — piece of the MCU to date. It’s an almost hourlong special that debuted in black-and-white and has zero big-name Marvel heroes or villains. Instead, it’s a spooky bite of classic horror, one that evokes classic monster movies and which (at least right now) seems to have no major connection to the rest of the cinematic universe. No background viewing required. It’s just 50 minutes of pulpy fun, and you can even watch it in color now.
Doctor Who: The Star Beast
A trio of Doctor Who specials are helping celebrate the show’s 60th anniversary, while also ushering in a new era on Disney Plus. And things got off to a great start with The Star Beast. The special brings back some fan favorites — David Tennant as the Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna — along with a very creepy Furby-like creature called the Meep. It has heart and sci-fi gibberish and surprisingly good production values. Just the thing to lure back lapsed fans ahead of Ncuti Gatwa’s run.
The biggest movie of 2022 is now streaming from the comfort of your home, which should make its more than three-hourlong runtime a little easier to manage. The Way of Water is, if nothing else, a visual spectacle, the kind on which James Cameron has built his career. It’s a lot like the first movie, but wetter, which means some incredible underwater sequences and even a talking whale. The sequel also sets up a lot more to come, which is a good thing — because Cameron has big plans.