Top 10 Times Disney Channel Movies Tackled Serious Issues
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Top 10 Times Disney Channel Movies Tackled Serious Issues

VOICE OVER: Samantha Clinch WRITTEN BY: Francesca LaMantia
DCOMs have tackled a lot of serious issues. For this list, we'll be looking at some DCOMs that get into some really deep themes. Our countdown includes "Cadet Kelly," "Rip Girls," "Tiger Cruise," and more!
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Top 10 Times DCOMs Tackled Serious Issues


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Times DCOMs Tackled Serious Issues.

For this list, we’ll be looking at some DCOMs that get into some really deep themes.

Did we miss your favorite DCOM that deals with serious subject matters? Let us know in the comments.

#10: Illegal Fishing
“A Ring of Endless Light” (2002)


Although most Disney Channel Original Movies like to inject some level of social commentary into their stories, they are usually still very lighthearted and jovial to appease the young audience. But this one is pretty dramatic from start to finish. When Vicky and her siblings visit their grandfather, she quickly learns that he is sick. But as devastating as that is, Vicky has other concerns as well. With the help of her friends, Zach and Adam, Vicky also ends up being the key to saving a group of dolphins from sailors using illegal fishing nets. That scene where Adam nearly drowns trying to save one of the dolphins is intense. Disney Channel really shifted the tone with this one.

#9: Balancing Family
“Cadet Kelly” (2002)


Family dynamics, structure, and tradition versus individuality, friendship, personal growth, culture shock. All of these topics are tackled in this comedy led by two Disney Channel icons, Hilary Duff and Christy Carlson Romano. But the most important challenge Kelly faces is trying to balance her priorities between her father and stepfather. Kelly is the star in a performance that means the world to Sir and doesn’t want to let him down even when she believes her father might be in danger. Thankfully, Kelly figures out how to balance the two sides of her life and come through for both of her dads.

#8: Sexism
“Motocrossed” (2001)


Though this movie was made in the early 2000s, its messages about sexism and feminism are still very prevalent. When her brother gets hurt before a big race, Andy takes his place to help her family. But she gets unfairly ridiculed by the other riders simply for being female. So she disguises herself as her brother instead. In a perfect world, Andy would solely be judged by her talents as a rider, but we do not live in a perfect world. She is only taken seriously as a rider when she is pretending to be her brother. That is until she smokes all the boys at their own game.

#7: Teamwork
“Gotta Kick It Up!” (2002)


Many DCOMs deal with their main characters overcoming adversity, but this one is based on a true story of teamwork and triumph. The girls at Marshal Middle School are not about to let their school disband their dance team. So they band together to enlist the new biology teacher as their coach. Though Ms. Bartlett and the girls initially clash, they come together to combine her training with their passion and raw talent to not only raise their own budget money, create their own costumes, and put together a series of killer routines, but inspire their entire town. They bring their friends and families, and of course their school, a new sense of honor the whole time following their mantra, Si se puede.

#6: Carrying Too Much Weight
“Brink!” (1998)


This may seem like a happy-go-lucky film about a group of friends who like to skate together, and in part it is. But when you examine a little deeper, there is much more under the surface. With his dad injured from work, Brink turns his life upside down in order to help his family. He spreads himself really thin between school, work, skating with his friends, and skating with a rival, sponsored team in order to make money. No kid should have to carry that kind of weight on their shoulders. And things escalate far beyond money and rivalries when Brink’s friend, Gabriella, gets hurt at the hands of one of his new teammates. The movie takes such a dark turn. She could have died.

#5: Reconnecting With One’s Roots
“Rip Girls” (2000)


The loss of a mother is practically a Disney cliché at this point. But rather than just acting as a plot device, this story is all about Sydney’s journey to reconnect with the memory of her late mother. When Sydney inherits a plantation in Hawaii that is about to be gentrified by greedy land developers, it falls on her to decide whether or not to sell. Through her growing relationships with the locals, and exploration of the island itself, she becomes more and more connected to her mother and her heritage. Colonization, grief, Hawaiian culture, self-identity, Sydney tackles it all.

#4: The Importance of Extracurriculars
“Lemonade Mouth” (2011)


Aside from the great music, the best thing about this film is the overall message about standing up for what you believe in. It all starts when Stella realizes that her new school principal is unfairly allocating funds to the sports program, and ignoring all other extracurriculars. She joins forces with four other underdogs she meets in detention and creates a band determined to speak up for the other little guys in their school. No matter how their rivals try to knock them down, or whatever personal issues get in their way, they use their voice to spark a revolution. As they say, they’ll always be more than a band.

#3: Being Developmentally Delayed
“Tru Confessions” (2002)


Some would argue that Shia LaBeouf’s performance in this film put him on the map as a dramatic actor. Those of us who remember him most fondly as the goofy and immature Louis from “Even Stevens” were pleasantly surprised by his profound portrayal of Eddie. This story is all about Tru and her relationship with her mentally challenged twin brother. It is simultaneously heart-wrenching and uplifting experiencing Eddie’s many highs and lows with Tru. This movie does not hold back when showing the, let’s call it impatience, some people have toward the mentally disabled. You really feel what Eddie feels when he gets lost in the library. And you share in Tru’s anger with the jerks that spit in Eddie’s hat.

#2: A Real-World Tragedy
“Tiger Cruise” (2004)


This one is a fictional story based on real-life events. Maddie is a young girl visiting her military man father, Gary, on a Tiger Cruise. Many families share in the joy of reuniting with their deployed loved ones. But that joy is quickly turned into sorrow when news breaks of a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. The Tigers suddenly get a first-hand experience of what their loved ones really do as a part of the US military. This movie shows the military pride of the more behind-the-scenes service members, as well as the weight of their careers on their families. Disney took a huge swing with this one and knocked it out of the park.

#1: Race & Acceptance
“The Color of Friendship” (2000)


It’s shocking that this movie didn’t earn itself a more restrictive rating considering its subject matter. Not only does this Emmy Award winning movie tackle topics of racism and discrimantion candidly, but it adds the politics of Apartheid-era South Africa into the mix. When the Dellums family participates in an exchange program, they do not expect to receive a white South Africa student. And Mahree Bok, the daughter of a South African policeman is completely unsure of how to live alongside her new host family. Despite everyone’s best efforts, tensions run very high at moments. But Mahree and Piper eventually forge a friendship through patience and understanding. One that opens Mahree’s eyes to the injustices of her home country.
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