It’s not something we talk about often (unless it’s something you actually obsess over, like some of us, ahem), but the late ’90s and early ’00s were an amazing time for girls in Disney Channel Original Movies, and for the girls watching them. DCOM characters were spirited and unique and empowered and—unlike a lot of what we’re seeing for the same demo today— focused on just some really cool and smart things. It’s hard to pick, but here are some of our favorites in movies that just might deserve a replay.
1. Zenon from Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
Zetus lapetus! Talk about a 21st century trendsetter. Zenon was the coolest girl in the galaxy: stylish, crafty, smart, and an amazing BFF. While the movie sets you up for extreme disappointment in the post-millenium (Why aren’t we all hanging out in space wearing lamé leggings yet?), Zenon was everything a ’90s girl wanted to be.
2. Andi from Motocrossed
If you’re looking for a gender-stereotype-crushing babe, Andi is your girl. Not only could she ride with the boys, but she could also totally kick their butts! Andi made me wish I was hardcore enough for extreme sports. . . or at least confident enough to chop my hair off. (Baby steps.)
3. Marnie from Halloweentown
This movie terrified me, but Marnie was the baddest witch on the block. She was brave, self-assured, and curious, not to mention an awesome big sister. I’d want her on my team any day, especially against evil warlocks trying to destroy the world, etc.
4. Galleria, Chanel, Dorinda, & Aquanette from The Cheetah Girls
All four of the Cheetah Girls were confident, talented women and worthy role models. At the end of the day, the ladies acknowledged their flaws but stayed fabulous. They’re a perfect example of girl power and the importance of female friendships. Their song, Cinderella, was the single ladies anthem of 2003.
5. Sydney from Rip Girls
Seeing baby Camilla Belle should be reason enough to love Sydney, but in case it isn’t and you’ve forgotten, she was basically the tween version of Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush (at least in the sense that she made me daydream, often, about magically being able to surf). As a bonus, her BFFs also braided each other’s hair, Chris Pratt-style, and friends who braid together stay together.
6. Heather & Heidi from Double Teamed
In general, women’s sports don’t get the credit they deserve. Basketball is no exception, but Heather and Heidi made, “You play like a girl!” into a compliment. The real-life Burge twins were obviously athletically skilled, and one of them was even a founding player in the WNBA!
7. Lexy in Get a Clue
Although not quite the Nancy Drew of our generation, Lexy was a fearless, fun, and fashionable mystery-solver. She was breaking pretty big stories for high school journalism, proving we’re all capable of accomplishing more than the norm. With the exception of Mean Girls, this may be Lindsay Lohan’s best performance ever.
8. Courtney & Erica from Right On Track
In another case of equally-good-if-not-better-than the boys, Courtney and Erica both dominated at drag racing. They took sibling rivalry to another level, but the ladies ultimately showed how awesome it is to have a sister by your side to push you further in what you love and support you no matter what.
9. Kelly from Cadet Kelly
Cadet Kelly was the Elle Woods of military school. She proved that if you work hard, you can accomplish amazing things without having to change who you are. She may have worn a lot of cute accessories, but don’t be fooled: Kelly was just as tough as she was adorable.
Which leading DCOM lady was your favorite? Did we leave anyone out that you love?