The wonderful world of Disney Channel Original Movies — or DCOMs, as they're commonly called — is vast, covering a variety of topics. What becomes a common thread, though, is just how many life-changing DCOMs there are in the canon. Now, defining "life-changing" can be a bit tricky: What life circumstances are you beginning with, and what are you hoping to change? Well, it's safe to guess that if you saw the following DCOMs when they first aired, you may have been a young millennial. This means that you (like me) went through the last years of elementary school and all of middle school trying to figure out who you wanted to be, what kind of a friend you were, how you handled sticky situations, and simple things like what your personal style included.
This is where DCOMs came in handy. The films tackled a variety of important themes and topics — from racism to feminism, the importance of honoring differences to the necessity of believing in yourself. What a time to be alive, when you're growing up right alongside the protagonists of a slew of DCOMs and you get to see how they handle the tough stuff. It's life-changing indeed. The following group of DCOMs is perhaps the definitive round-up of life-changing DCOMs around.
1. Zenon: Girl Of The 21st Century
Bow down to Zenon. She is the original DCOM queen. First of all, Zenon literally had a life change in her first movie, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. Watching Zenon stay true to her quirky self, even when she was grounded (again, literally, on Earth), was so much fun. But watching her be an empowered young women in a new century? Boom. Mind. Blown.
2. The Color Of Friendship
You want life-changing? How about a DCOM that acts as a primer to racial inequality in society, while still giving you a beautiful story about friendship? Enter The Color of Friendship. It's a tearjerker with a heart of gold, and it was definitely an eye-opening historical drama that many of us young millennials needed to see.
3. Cheetah Girls
The Cheetah Girls subverted any negative connotations of the term "diva" when they entered the DCOM canon. These young women knew what they wanted, had the drive to achieve it, and stuck by each other's side until their dreams came true. How can you not be inspired by that? Ugh, I can't handle it. They're perfect.
4. Cadet Kelly
You want a feminist icon as your protagonist? You want unconventional settings like military school where young women thrive? You want Hilary-freaking-Duff during her peak Disney years? Then Cadet Kelly is here to mess you up, son. Mess you up in a good way, that is.
Halloweentown is magically life-changing in the way that the Harry Potter films were magically life-changing: You cannot resist the supernatural pull, and you always come away from it feeling more energized about life somehow.
6. Up, Up, And Away
MCU says who? DCEU? More like DC-ew. Well, OK, maybe I won't go that far. But DCOMs really had the market cornered on superheroes when they released Up, Up, and Away. The original family of superheroes was a black family with major powers. To see them dominate our television screens was an intersectional thing of beauty.
7. Gotta Kick It Up!
Gotta Kick It Up! is one of the rare moments when the DCOM universe branched out and opened up the floor to young women of color. Focused solely on young Latina women and featuring a story all about female friendship and teamwork, seeing this DCOM was a major breath of fresh air.
Motocrossed was absolutely life-changing. There's no way you couldn't be inspired and excited by Andi Carson's determination to compete against the boys at the one sport she truly loved, even though it wasn't geared toward women.
9. Rip Girls
A DCOM all about girls coming of age while riding the waves? Sign me up, sis.
10. Right On Track
Right On Track doesn't get nearly enough attention or recognition for how amazing it was. Like Motocrossed, it proved that girls were able and encouraged to do whatever it was that boys were doing (well, so long as it was legal), which was a great message for young women.
11. Wish Upon A Star
Wish Upon A Star was the innuendo-laden, body-switch DCOM that let us fall in love with Katherine Heigl, while contemplating what we would do if we switched bodies with our siblings. It was utterly amazing.