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I’ve seen a lot of lists like this out there on the internet which try to rank from Best to Worst, or Worst to Best, the Best (and worst) Walt Disney Animated Films of all time. So here’s my take on the old classic “Top 10” (way more than 10 lol) Disney Films.
*For brevity’s sake, sequels and prequels are not included individually in this listing. When ranking for example “Cars”, I refer to the franchise as a whole, giving most focus to the first film but perhaps giving reference or mention to some of the sequels as well.*
Also for this review I have chosen to not include any of the Studio Ghibli films. I will create a similar list ranking those films in the near future. As well as seperate lists for Dreamworks, Don Bluth, and Warner Bros animated film.
Lastly, I have not seen every single Disney film (though I’ve seen probably over 80% of them). Any films I have not seen, will not be ranked, but instead included in an unranked list at the end of this article.
Collections of short films such as The Three Caballeros and Make Mine Music were not included in either of these lists. I’ve also omitted Disney films which combined animation with live action such as Bed Knobs and Broom Sticks, Mary Poppins, Pete’s Dragon, James and the Giant Peach, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, So Dear to My Heart, and Song of the South.
What are some of your favorite Disney Films? Leave a comment below.
Here’s how I would rank every Disney Film – I’ll start with the Best so you don’t have to scroll too much. <3
62 Disney Animated Feature Length Films Ranked From Best to Worst:
1.) The Lion King
It is true (though Disney denies it) that this film completely ripped off an anime called Kimba the White Lion. Yes, they took everything from this film, the Lions, Zazu, the hyenas, even Simba and Kimba’s father speaking to them in the clouds, and even Scar! Complete with the scar over his eye and everything. — Yup, totally infringed on someone’s intellectual property rights… but still… The Lion King is my favorite Disney film… They took Kimba and made it about a million times better (that doesn’t make what they did “right” or “ok” Clearly, Kimba’s creators should have been paid some royalty fees). But Disney was able to take an already great family story and make it even better. Better animation, better acting, better music, and a better story, because they condensed down a TV series into a movie format, cutting out a lot of filler episodes, while hitting the emotional highlights.
If you want to learn more about what Disney did to Kimba, check out the videos below (not my videos, just sharing them with you):
2.) Beauty and the Beast
A tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast is my 2nd favorite Disney film. It features a smart, bookworm heroine, who risks her life and freedom to save her father. It also is a great romance story, in which both the leading lady and leading male must learn to look past the surface to find true love. Don’t judge a book by the cover. If someone can love a beast, and the beast can finally learn to love someone for their mind/heart and not what’s on the outside, that love can do anything. It’s very romantic, and also parts of it are dark and frightening. Like all Disney films, it has great music, and the recent Live Action Musical adaptation is also fantastic! One of my favorite things about Beauty and the Beast is the imagery, all of the characters, and the beautiful setting. I just ordered a dress which has a beautiful stained glass print featuring the beauty and the beast.
3.) The Little Mermaid
I will always prefer the 1975 anime version of Hans Christian Andersen’s the Little Mermaid, because at the end she turns to sea foam. There is no happy ending. But sometimes with a love story, that’s OK and it makes it more dramatic. Almost any film can make me laugh, but it takes a very special film to make me cry. The 1975 anime version is also a more faithful adaptation of the original story. In the original fairy-tale, the mermaid is given one last chance for a happy ending. Her prince has already wed another woman, but the mermaid is told by her sisters that if she uses a magic poisoned dagger to kill the prince and his new wife, she can return back home to her father and sisters and live as a mermaid once again. Unable to bear the thought of hurting her true love, she chooses instead to wish him and his new wife a happy life together, and as the sun rises, she turns to sea foam, sacrificing her life and happiness in exchange for his.
Disney takes this sad tragic love story, and puts a cutesy Disney spin on it. Although the two films are very different, they are both great in their own rights. I love the side characters, music, and animation of the Disney version of the Little Mermaid. It’s also nice to imagine a happy ending once in awhile :).
If you have yet to see the anime version, Amazon is selling it for about $10. Click the image below to check it out. https://www.amazon.com/…
4.) The Good Dinosaur
Speaking of films that can make me cry… I balled like a baby (at several different scenes) in the theater when I went to see The Good Dinosaur. It’s a touching story about a dinosaur trying to get back home to his family. Similar in some ways to my childhood favorite, The Land before Time. Disney’s The Good Dinosaur is a heart touching film with beautiful and cute 3D animation. The scene with the fireflies is my favorite. The goofy looking characters, with their innocent designs, totally deceive you into thinking this is a funny or cute film. I was not prepared for how heart stirring it was going to be. It’s also very dramatic and full of suspense and twists and turns and surprises. That’s why it’s in my top 5 Disney films of all time.
5.) Monster’s Inc.
Finishing out my top 5 favorite Disney Films is Monster’s Inc. This movie is full of charming and cute characters. It is equally funny and touching. A very heart warming movie. Boo, Mike, and Sully are some of the best original characters Disney has ever designed. Monsters Inc is quite possibly the cutest disney movie of all time. The sequels were also cute, though of course, not as good as the original.
6.) Finding Nemo / Finding Dory
I actually saw Finding Dory first, before Finding Nemo, somehow I missed out on Nemo, even though it was very popular with millennials. According to this chart being born in 1981, I could consider myself a Millennial, or a Gen Y, or Gen Next (never even heard of that one). So Nemo seems to be THE Disney movie of my generation… but I actually didn’t see it when it premiered in 2003. I wouldn’t see it for over 12 years after that, but yet, this film proves to have held up to the tests of time. It was just as enjoyable, new, fresh, charming, and heart warming to me as it was to the millions of fans it earned at release. I loved Dory, especially baby Dory. She might be my favorite Disney character ever. So for that reason, I actually enjoyed Finding Dory more than Finding Nemo. Both films are funny and beautifully animated, and tell a heart warming story about the meaning of family.
Disney’s Up is such a sad, touching, beautiful film about true love and loss, and growing up, and growing old together, and a story of adventure and excitement, and to never ever give up on your dreams. It’s a remarkable story. Storywise alone, it’s probably my favorite story from any Disney film. There’s no way to watch this movie and not cry. Out of all of the Disney films in our list, this one feels the most mature and grown up. Its tone is darker and sadder and more thought provoking than most Disney films. And then there’s that Disney charm and humor, with Doug the talking dog and other minor characters. The message behind Disney’s Up is so “Up”lifting. This is a movie full of heart and emotion.
Aladdin is one of the first Disney films I can remember seeing in theaters. Don’t get me wrong, I’d seen others, I know I saw 101 Dalmatians and Rescuers and other older films before this one. In fact one of the first movies I ever saw in a theater is Disney’s Snow White, and I am told it scared me until I cried lol. But my memories of seeing this one as opposed to the rest are crystal clear. And it may be that nostalgia that plays a part in how highly I rank Disney’s Aladdin on my list. I recall who I was with (my mom and best friend and her mom and brother), I can recall all of the characters, music, animation… Robin Williams as the genie, such a classic film. One of the great masterpieces of my childhood.
9.) The Nightmare Before Christmas
This is not just one of my favorite Disney films, but one of my favorite films from any studio, animated, or otherwise, of all time. I love the music, the characters, and I love Halloween. It has always been one of my favorite holidays. I also love other Tim burton films, such as beetle juice, the corpse bride, and Edward scissor hands to name a few. His stories are always so unique and I’m surprised and intrigued in how he can take a macabre subject and put a comic spin on it, and make it even a family film, such as the Nightmare Before Christmas.
This is another one of those Disney “fan favorites” that I missed at its initial release. I actually just watched Frozen for the first time a few months ago and even though I’m older than the majority of the Frozen fans, I totally agree that it is one of the best Disney films of all time. It finishes out in the final Top 10 spot on my list. I loved the story and the characters. My favorite thing was seeing how the characters changed and grew through the film. Initially Elsa is the more friendly outgoing bubbly type, but events occur which change her to isolated and aloof. Anna had been more shy, but as she grew with freedoms that Elsa lacked, she developed a natural curiosity for the world and a strong sense of adventure. Elsa struggles with the responsibilities placed on her young shoulders. Finally she can be free, and this is even highlighted in the lyrics to the very popular well known song, in which Elsa climbs the stairs of her ice castle barricading herself off from the outside world so that she can finally be her TRUE self. It’s a story about accepting and loving yourself, accepting and loving others, and having courage to be different or come to terms with those differences and individualizes. The film is often championed by the LGBT community and there are rumors that the sequel will feature a lesbian love interest for Elsa, marking the first time a Disney feature length animated film will have a gay or lesbian main character. This is controversial and a departure from the family values Disney has always tried to champion. However, in modern times, what makes a family is changing, and Disney too is changing to reflect more modern values. In this story, Elsa and Anna must rely on themselves and each other. The “prince” even betrays them and acts as the central villain in pushing the plot forward. This is a strong film featuring themes of independence and courage. It’s also charming and full of excitement as most Disney films are. The side characters such as sven and olaf are hilarious and cute. There are many people who love to hate on this film. But hating on something just because it’s popular is dumb. Sometimes that popularity is well deserved. While it’s not the best Disney film of all time, it still cinches the final spot on the “Top 10” list.
Disney’s frozen was supposedly loosely based on Han’s Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, though a number of liberties were taken.
If you’re interested in reading the original tale, you can read it for free here: http://hca.gilead.org.il/snow_que.html
You can also find over 170 variations of this tale on Amazon.
This one has the best ratings and reviews because of its illustrations by an award winning Ukranian artist: http://amzn.to/2Fgq4kw
This one has the original illustrations from hundreds of years ago: http://amzn.to/2CvQHPA
There’s also an anime based on the Snow Queen from 2005 https://www.anime-planet.com/anime/snow-queen-the
In the original tale it was a boy and girl, who were friends, not siblings. The main plot centered around a magic mirror that broke and a shard went into one of their eyes distorting their view of the world and changing their outlook/personality. The other character sets off on a journey to try to remove the shard from her friend’s eye and restore his kind heart. At the end of her journey, about to give up, the gods tell her that she already has everything she needs to save the young boy, and that her true power has always already existed within herself.
The only similarity at all in the tales is that they are set in a snowy place, and at the end, the characters are glad to see that it is finally summer again.
Alternatively there have been 2 legal allegations raised that Disney has once again stolen this story from another creator.
The first of which is some incredibly obscure Peruvian author that almost no one has ever heard of, who says that Frozen is based on memoirs she had published about her own life. The memoirs, “Living My Truth” and “Yearnings of the Heart”, by Isabella Tanikumi. The guardian reports that “Both the memoirs and Frozen feature loving sisters, one of whom causes the other to be injured and then hides herself away from public life through shame.” They go on to report that “One of the sisters has suitors named Hans and Cristoff in the memoirs; in Frozen Anna develops romantic attachments to men named Hans and Kristoff.” That seems like more than just a coincidence to me… The judge however ruled that these claims were too “generic” – I don’t agree with that ruling because it even lists specific names and characters – that’s pretty “specific” right there – which is the very opposite of something being “generic”, but hey this is Disney, they can get out of almost anything – but then again who’s to say that this author isn’t just looking to make a grab at Disney’s money since this is the best selling Disney film of all time.
The other lawsuit alleges that Disney once again turned to Japan for inspiration and cites numerous similarities between Frozen and the 1980s anime Saint Seiya. The similarities here include similarities between Elsa and Anna and the 2 Saint Characters (who are also sisters), Hilda and Freya. In both cases, the younger sibling has no magical powers and wishes to save her older sister and her kingdom. The older sister wields magic powers that controls snow and ice. Both of the older sisters used to be kind, until their personalities suddenly change.
But you know what they say, every idea you will ever have, someone else has had that exact same idea already. It’s all about who can execute their ideas. And there are no original ideas left in the world, and so on… So meh, at the end of the day, we may never know if Disney blatantly copied anything from either of these 2 sources…
Walt Disney’s Cars just barely misses a spot on our “list of the top 10 Disney movies”. I remember an old commercial (not related to CARS, I believe it was for Exxon Edit: It was actually for Chevron) where the cars all had happy faces and could talk, etc. It was something about how their fuel made your cars happy. I believe this came out well before the first CARS movie… But the concept was charming and cute. I don’t know if Pixar made these commercials, or has ever seen these commercials, or perhaps felt inspired by the commercials… but the similarities to the characters in Cars is quite apparent.
The story in CARS is as unique as its characters. It’s also one of the first Disney films to be marketed to young boys – no princesses here! *although there’s still love interests*. The charming and unique characters make this one of the most memorable Disney films of all time.
12.) Fluppy Dogs
Although never released in theaters, Disney’s Fluppy Dogs is a feature length animated film, and was a favorite of mine as a child. It was originally intended to be a pilot for a new TV series; however, the pilot was poorly received leading to the TV show’s cancellation before it ever began production. I’m unsure why it was so poorly received and had such low ratings. I friggin love this film. It is utterly adorable. The film is about a gang of alien dogs with sentient and super hero powers. The dogs travel between worlds with a magical key, until one day they arrive on Earth and are captured by animal control. One of the Fluppy Dogs is adopted by a young boy and they begin a journey together to rescue the others.
13.) Toy Story
This is another childhood favorite of mine. As a child, we’ve all day dreamed about our toys coming to life. And with the powers of every young child’s imagination, their toys come to life in their minds. But what happens when no one’s watching. These films depict the love children have for their toys, and suggests that that same love is returned to them in the hearts and minds of their toys. Such a classic movie with a sweet and innocent theme and memorable characters. Who did you like best? I preferred Buzz over Woody. I also loved Rex and Slinky and the potato heads. The claw machine scene and characters are also super cute. The bad toys are creepy AF though.
One of the better “newer” Disney films, I loved the imagery of the tropical islands. I love the use of mythology and the strong female lead. Watching this fills me with a sense of excitement, wanderlust, and adventure, the same as Moana herself is so full of. The imagery inspires the viewer to want to go on a journey too with the stars, and ocean waves, the big boats, the volcanic monsters, and mother earth goddess, cute animal sidekicks and the prideful gods. At the heart of the story, for Moana it is a coming of age tale, finding and exerting her independence, sometimes when that means going against her overprotective parents and guardians. They have plans for Moana to take over her father’s position, but Moana longs to leave the island like her ancestors millions of years ago. From Maui’s perspective, the lesson is a warning against being prideful, and a lesson to not avoid your responsibilities, that you must face your challenges head on, and accept responsibility for the consequences. Although, Moana herself is very strong and independent, the film is criticized by the natives as lacking depiction of any of the strong female goddessess that Polynesian lore and culture are surrounded by. For example, there is a goddess named Hina who is companion to Maui, but Disney decided to not depict her in this film, or any of the other gods, except for the “mother earth” type figure at the very end. Disney claims they wanted Moana to be a film all about “girl power” but yet, Moana is the only girl we see much of. And the film almost had a very different ending, putting Maui as the main hero in the final act saving Moana and her village. Ouch. Glad they went with the ending they did, as it is one of the most memorable and touching endings of any Disney film to date. I also love the music. The song Moana sings about her destiny calling her is one of my fave Disney songs ever.
I am not a furrie, though I sometimes play as one in various chat games. In fact, I met my first ever boyfriend in such a game when I was a teenager playing Furcadia back in the 90s. This is really only the 2nd feature length Disney Film that really targets furries; with the first film being Robin Hood. I know a little bit about Furrie culture and I think the artwork and fursuits are awesome. This Disney film was unique not only for the use of anthropomorphic animals, but also for how it dealt with very adult topics such as racial and social-political issues of our times. I agreed 100% with the political message it was sending, but I still felt it was too heavy handed and trying to cram those political beliefs down the audience’s throats, which I didn’t really enjoy. It was clear that the stereotypes and fear the other animals felt for the fox people was an allegory to the fear and stereotypes that the majority of the United States feels towards Muslims. Politics aside though, this is a super cute film. My favorite characters were the sloths! They were so cute/funny. It’s also a good movie for young girls, showing that if you work hard enough you can achieve your dreams, just like the bunny who finally became a real police officer, even though no one thought a small young girl from the country could handle being a tough city cop. She was an excellent role model for young girls. And it was far less predictable than most Disney films. I was surprised who the true villain ended up being in the end. This too goes to show you the importance of not judging others on outward appearances.
16.) Lady and the Tramp
This was one of my favorite Disney films from my early childhood. It’s such a classic. The cute doggies, the scene with the spaghetti, the naughty siamese cats, the whole thing is just adorable. That’s really all there is to say. A love story and an adventure story where cute dogs do cute things.
17.) Wreck it Ralph
As my readers know by now, I am a gamer girl — and one who has probably played more games than most boys you know even. From Atari, NES, SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, 32X, N64, Saturn, Dreamcast, PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, Gamecube, Wii, Wii U, Xbox, 360, Gamegear, Gameboy (various iterations), Virtual Boy, NDS, 3DS, PSP, Vita, PC and more… so a Disney film about gaming? Of course I loved it!! The gaming references, “level designs” that Ralph traveled to, and the cute interactions between the two main characters, this film really stood out to me. I recommend it to all gamers, especially retro gamers who will pick up most of the nostalgic references throughout the film.
18.) Brother Bear
This is another one of those movies that I missed when it was first released, but later watched on Netflix. I had not even heard of this film prior to then. I think it may be one of the most under-rated Disney films of all time. It’s about a native american tribe, especially focusing on 3 brothers. When one brother is killed by a bear, another brother seeks revenge by killing the bear who killed his brother. Ultimately, when it is time to discover their totem animals, this brother is transformed into a bear and flees from his village. He then encounters a young cub, who has no mother. The bears are migrating and meeting together. He helps the young cub make the difficult journey and learns about himself, as well as learns to respect nature and understand the balance between humans and animals.
If you’re looking for a strong female lead, Brave should be the first Disney film that comes to mind. This little lady lives up to the title of this film. Her kingdom is cursed which causes her mother and brothers to turn into bears. The end of the film is definitely an emotional and suspenseful tear jerker.
20.) Mars Needs Moms
I saw this in theaters. I think not many people are familiar with this film. I loved it. I was very touched by how much the boy loved his mother. It’s so emotional and sweet. It got terrible reviews from fans and critics alike, but I really enjoyed it and found it both engaging and uplifting. A very heartwarming story. Financially, it is the worst performing Disney film of all time. The film cost $150 million to make, and only earned $39 million at the box office. I agree with the critic and audience movie goers who commented on the ugly / poor animation techniques – but I disagree 100% when they say this film lacks heart or that it neglected story telling. I completely connected with the characters and felt their love and fear and hope and strength as the story unfolded. It is based on a best-selling book by Berkely Breathed. You can get the book on amazon at http://amzn.to/2EQL1Vy
21.) Inside Out
This is a cute and emotionally powerful film. The story revolves around a happy “good girl” who is having trouble adjusting to her emotions as she grows up and moves to a new home. She has to leave her friends and old life behind and is struggling to make new friends and adjust to her new life in her new home. She is so overwhelmed that she completely shuts down. In her mind, her emotions go haywire. Her long term memories begin to fade away, and all that is left is an empty emotionless shell. Her emotions must work together inside her mind to recover her longterm memories. Some memories are lost forever, but new memories are also made. In this way, she grows up and finds new happiness and new balance in her life and emotions.
Tangled is a very unique twist on the classic story of Rapunzel. It is full of romance, adventure, charm, and humor. It also has some of the best Disney music ever. Check out this Acapella cover of I see the light by Peter and Evynne Hollens on youtube.
They also have another version with piano accompaniment here:
Bolt is a very cute adventure film about a dog that is in show business. He is confused and thinks that everything that happens on the TV show is actually really happening which has made him a bit narcissistic and has led him to believe he has real super powers. In the end, Bolt learns that you don’t need real super powers to be a hero.
24.) Lilo and Stitch
I had also missed this one in theaters and discovered it later. It is widely popular with 20-30 year old Disney fans, and even the creators of the film admit that Lilo and Stitch appeals to older audiences more effectively than previous attempts to do so, such as the Emperor’s New Groove, Treasure Planet, and Atlantis. Stitch was actually thought up in 1985, when its creator was trying to pitch an unsuccessful children’s story book. Originally Stitch was going to be set in Kansas, but the decision was made to move the setting to Hawaii. It was the first Disney film to be set in Hawaii, and it also features a strong ethnically diverse female lead who doesn’t need a Prince to save her. Stitch is cute and mischievous and sometimes even violent. The original film was much more violent, but due to both audience testing and also the terrorist attacks of 9/11, several changes were made to make the movie more comical and less edgy. Lilo and Stitch was nominated for several awards but lost out to Studio Ghibli’s Sprited Away. Speaking of anime, Lilo and Stitch is very popular in Japan and even had an anime called Stitch! that ran for multiple seasons.
25.) 101 Dalmatians
I only just recently learned that 101 Dalmatians is based on a book. I kinda want to read it now actually lol. The original book is from the 1950s by author Dodie Smith – http://amzn.to/2BDIEn9 – He also wrote a sequel called Starlight Barking http://amzn.to/2Cv9F9c (which may be the basis for 102 Dalmatians? I’m not sure.) Smith’s other works are also adapted to Disney films including The Midnight Kittens which would become the Aristocats. http://amzn.to/2C8Apkb
Did you know that Walt Disney hated Disney’s version of 101 Dalmatians? He hated how it looked because it was the first Disney film to use Xeroxography instead of hand-inking each cel. It was also Disney’s first film to be set in a contemporary instead of fantasy setting. Despite Walt’s dislike of the film, it became one of the most beloved classic Disney films of all time.
26.) The Aristocats
As I mentioned above, this too is based on a book by Dodie Smith, author of 101 Dalmatians. The book is The Midnight Kittens http://amzn.to/2C8Apkb I am a huge cat lover and enthusiast, so it’s somewhat surprising that I don’t rank this film higher on my list. However, the writing at times drags and at other times skips around. The script originally was going to be a 2 part mini cartoon, and a more emotional story, about a woman looking to find the right adopters for her unique cats before her death. The decision was made to change it to a feature length film, and to follow on the success of 101 Dalmatians by creating a similar European setting and adventure. From there, the film was to be mostly about the mother cat, hiding her kittens in various places to keep them safe; however, further cuts were made leaving us with what we have now.
Bambi is a Disney classic. The young buck grows up before your eyes and learns to protect his friends in the forest. He goes from innocent, sweet, shy, clumsy, and babyish, to a young adult. We witness him falling in love, taking his first steps, and even meeting the great stag who is his father. The other animals such as Flower and Thumper are equally adorable, and we watch them too evolve and grow up throughout the film.
28.) The Fox and the Hound
This is also based on a book – and the story is much sadder than the Disney version. Disney has taken a lot of liberties with this book, and taken something soul crushingly depressing and made it into a cutesy Disney film about 2 unlikely friends. Similar to Bambi, we watch the characters grow up in a forest setting. If you like sad stories, check out the original book here http://amzn.to/2sLB6fp
Dumbo is a classic Disney film that depicts what it is like to be bullied. Dumbo has no friends, and when his mother gets locked up for trying to protect Dumbo, Dumbo has an even harder time with his peers. This story is very relateable for anyone who has been a victim of bullying. One of the most memorable scenes is when Dumbo’s mother reaches her trunk down to cradle Dumbo as she sings a lullaby to him. Sending a similar message to the audience as Rudolph, Dumbo teaches us that sometimes our weaknesses are actually our greatest strengths, and to take pride in our individuality, as Dumbo learns that he can fly by using his large ears as wings.
Despite being a mostly silent film, WALL-E is able to connect with the audience through use of imaginative robots with very human-like personalities. WALL-E is full of charm, and also full of morals and warnings of what may one day befall our own humanity. WALL-E reminded me a lot of Johnny Five from Short Circuit, and I loved this film because of WALL-E’s ability to make me care about him. You feel sympathy for WALL-E, you feel his loneliness, you feel his fear, you feel his excitement, curiosity, innocence, and inquisitiveness as the story unfolds.
I had the opportunity to watch the animators working on this film on my one and only trip to Walt Disney World back in the 90s. Most Disney fans agree that Pocahontas is the weakest of all of the 90s animated Disney films. While it had beautiful music and lavish artwork, the story suffered and the bland, forgettable characters soon faded from memory. Pocahontas is also often criticized for white washing. While it is true that it was the first ever Disney film to feature a princess of color, much of the history and story of Pocahontas was sanitized to make it more family friendly (and to appeal to white kids (and their parents) as well). This in turn rightfully angered the native american people at the time of Pocahontas’ release. They are quick to point out that Pocahontas had no choice, and there was no romance between her and John Smith, and that the film seemed to show forgiveness/acceptance of both sides (natives and the settlers, with both being deemed “savages”) while seeming to neglect to explicitly spell out the tragedies that would soon befall the native american people. Despite these criticisms, the movie did quite well in the box office and received a number of awards. It was this success that helped set the trend and tone for a flush of future Disney films to have a strong independent female protagonist such as Mulan, Tangled, Brave, and Frozen. Prior to Pocahontas there had only been 6 Disney films to have a female protagonist, and most (though not all) of those were the classic princess types who needed saving by a Prince such as Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella, all of whom also happened to be white. Aladdin had Princess Jasmine 3 years prior to Pocahontas, who was also of ethnic decent and fiercely independent, but she was not the titular lead role, but instead a sidekick to the Prince. So ultimately, while Pocahontas has its flaws and offends a lot of people, it still also has its merits as well.
Hercules and Hunchback are both often attributed with the downfall of the “Great 90s Disney Movies” or the Disney Renaissance era. Interestingly enough, Pocahontas is also attributed to the eventual downfall as well. I have ranked these three films all pretty closely to each other on my list here, that was before researching and learning others’ views on these films. I typed a numbered list, and later worked down through researching some of the films on my list to flesh out my commentary or refresh my memory of certain details.
I honestly really liked Hercules. I have always loved mythology and have studied it in both highschool and university. I know that they changed nearly everything about the mythology, to make it more Disneyish but that’s to be expected with Disney handling any source material. The most common complaint is that Hercules is not a god in mythology but a demigod instead, while Disney portrays him as a full fledged god in their movie. I liked the unusual art style and I also loved the music in Hercules. The only reason it finishes in sorta a middle of the list position, is that ultimately the story and characters are not as memorable as other 90s and 2000 Disney films. I think personally for me, it was too humorous and cutesy at times, and lacked the sort of mystique that mythology so often holds. Though I do enjoy the humorous blubbering villains in Hades and his henchmen, I feel the constant focus on this trio (plus Devito as Phil) really detract from the epic adventure / love story that takes place. While still a good movie, it falls short of greatness. It has some great parts, but far more mediocre parts that just weigh the whole thing down.
There are some who criticize the film as being overtly sexual, and also criticize Hercules for giving up his dream of living among the gods in order to stay with Meg… but honestly, the love between Herc and Meg is one of the best parts of this film. Learning to trust each other, and learning to love each other, and to rely on each other, that is an important message that kids should learn at an early age. However, they may miss this message lost within the other 80% of mediocrity of the film.
33.) A Goofy Movie
My favorite thing about A Goofy Movie is how heart warming and heart felt the story and characters are. Ultimately it’s a great family movie. It’s super relatable and charming. We’ve all been embarrassed by our family members at least once or twice. We’ve all hurt each others’ feelings once or twice, but always at the end of the day… We are family. No matter how old you get, where you go, or what you do in life. That’s the message of a Goofy Movie. It’s a classic tale of a father’s love for his son, a dad who is doing his best, and has good intentions, but ultimately still makes mistakes. That’s what makes the movie so likeable and the characters so human like in their interactions.
34.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, even after being sanitized and Disneyified to death, is still an incredibly dark film with deep religious overtones. It directly calls out the corruption in the catholic church, and deals with themes such as lust, temptation, and seduction. Even the dancing and singing gargoyles can’t really keep this story from crossing quickly over into adult themes. This is perhaps one of the first Disney films to really tackle a more adult story. And that may also be part of its undoing as well. It loses some of the innocence and charm we’ve come to expect and appreciate in other Disney films.
35.) The Jungle Book
As we approach the second half of our top Disney animated films, my opinions of the films become much less firm, and more fluid, perhaps it is my ability, or lack there of, to recall the details of the films, or just the fact that a majority of the films that fall in the second half of the list were not that memorable in the first place. The Jungle Book’s only saving grace were the cute animals and catchy music with themes like Bear Necessities. The animation style was dark and drab, despite being set in a lush jungle. I liked, but never really loved, the Jungle Book. I did grow up loving the numerous spin offs, especially Tale Spin which I watched faithfully after school and on weekends. Here the animals took even more of a center stage. I also enjoyed the live action retelling of the story, which I appreciated a lot more as an adult. Perhaps if I were to rewatch the animated version I may enjoy it more now. I distinctly recall having to memorize the Tyger by William Blake in highschool, and I initially thought after watching the new Jungle Book live action film that both it and the older animated version were based on this poem, but actually, they are both based on a book titled The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling which is a collection of short stories staring anthropomorphic animals to teach lessons to young children about finding and accepting their place in society and respecting the laws of the jungle. This is often criticized as being racist, but of course the Disney movie sanitizes all of this for a more mainstream audience. Still, the books are worth checking out. Did you know one of the characters is a seal in the Jungle Book? Neither did I!.. You can get it fairly cheap now (under $5 on amazon) thanks to the modest hype and success of the 2016 live action adaptation. http://amzn.to/2Cwcy9E
36.) Oliver and Company
Disney had a lot of success by this point with other talking dog films such as 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp. They also had a lot of success with musicals. So it’s no surprise that Disney’s Oliver and Company combines both of these things. While the cast of dogs (and Oliver the stray kitten) are indeed super cute, they ultimately aren’t as memorable as previous and similar Disney films. Billy Joel plays the voice of Dodger and he and Bette Midler sing a number of songs in the film, but even that isn’t enough to make the film, or its music, very memorable. And personally, I like Midler in movies like Hocus Pocus, but I felt her voice was a poor fit for Georgette who should have sounded more charming / sexy. The most memorable part of the film for me was a “pepe le pew type” of character named Tito, a chihuahua who was crushing hard on a poodle (or was it afghan?) throughout the film (and constantly getting rejected). The other characters were far less funny. In fact, the movie’s namesake, was perhaps the most bland and boring of all of the characters, making me not care very much if he ever got adopted or not. The story of Oliver and Company is based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. The only reason it ranks higher than the next few films on my list is that dogs and kittens are cuter than mice, people, or llamas, and the next few films are also pretty forgettable.
37.) The Rescuers
I never realized that The Rescuers was based on a series of books by Margery Sharp. It’s also curious to note that Miss Bianca is the main character with a ton of backstory and character development in these books and Bernard is merely her sidekick. Check out all the books on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B00CKDIDRM/ref=dp_st_1590174607# I remember watching The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under as a kid. One of the most memorable scenes I can recall off hand is when Bianca and Bernard are preparing to take off on the back of the albatross and she tells him to button up, that it’s cold outside, and he gets nervous as she starts helping him dress warmer. The other slightly annoying scene I remember is Penny in the pit whining and complaining and crying about how she can’t reach the eye as the tide is coming in. The other thing Rescuers is well known for is a hidden porn clip in one of the windows on one of the buildings when they are flying by, which includes a shower scene. (which yes it is messed up to include such things in a children’s cartoon. eww). But when I heard that, that little trivia factoid stuck with me more than most of the rest of the movie. The thing is, it just wasn’t that engaging or compelling. If I’m going to watch a cartoon about Mice I much rather watch “The Secret of Nymh” about a million times over the Rescuers or the Rescuers Down Under. On the live action side of things, I also enjoy Ralph the Motorcycle Mouse or The Witches way more than The Rescuers or The Rescuers Down Under. The Rescuers aren’t bad films, but just not great, either. I do want to read the Rescuer books though 🙂
Tarzan has great music and a lush vibrant setting that lends itself well to Disney’s animation style, but beyond that, it’s one of the least memorable Disney films to me. I don’t care about any of the characters, the story feels flat, and the pacing feels off too. Disney’s Tarzan just falls into the realms of mediocracy for me.
While I love that this film is set in Asia and based on a real historical figure and that it features a very strong female lead and role model, I ultimately don’t love it as much as a lot of other Disney films. I think the problem again is that it’s just not memorable. The characters are not interesting and the whole thing just feels very bland. If I want to watch a film about China, I rather watch Chinese Ghost Story, which was actually animated in China, or more recently, Big Fish and Begonia.
40.) The Emperor’s New Groove
This cartoon is very funny, and definitely an enjoyable and playful romp. It even aims to pass down a lesson in its storytelling. I loved “The Emperor’s New Clothes” which I’m pretty sure this film is based on. The moral is to not be vain, and to remain humble, even when you are in a position of power or prestige. I’d even say this film is far more “memorable” than the previous few films on our list here. – I’d say that from about item 32 through 42, the movies on this list are pretty interchangeable in terms of my likelihood to re-watch or recommend them. If I’m in a mood for a comedy and nothing more, The Emperor’s New Groove would probably be further up the list by a handful of places. But if I want a more fantasy and romantic type setting, which is typical Disney, ultimately the Emperor’s New Groove doesn’t quite deliver.
41.) The Incredibles
A fun superhero movie, a new adventure for Disney who has never really tackled the super hero / comic / geek type fare before. I loved the themes of family and the geeky superhero antics, but I still don’t find this as charming or memorable as other Disney/Pixar films such as UP, Toy Story, Monster’s Inc, or Finding Nemo/Dory. The Incredibles just falls short when compared to almost every other Pixar Film. In its own right, without comparing it to the rest, it’s probably not a bad film. It just lacks the heart and charm of the rest of the Pixar pictures.
42.) The Sword in the Stone
When I was younger, this was one of my most favorite Disney Films (because it was before most of the great 90-2ks Disney films that now take up most of the higher spots on the list.) I was always interested in the Legend of King Arthur. I read the book, watched various movies/mini series (my favorite of which is probably “Merlin”.) I’m still enamored with Renaissance faires, clothing, food, jousting, crafts, and everything medieval. I’d like to see Disney remake this, maybe a live action version since they seem to be doing a lot of those lately.
43.) The Black Cauldron
This is probably the most underrated Disney film of all time. It’s also the darkest and best suited for young adults, as opposed to children. Despite my deep love for this movie, it is one of the worst performing Disney films of all time. It was the first Disney film to use computer animation, and the first Disney film to receive a PG rating. It came out in 1985, and at the time it was the most expensive animated film, costing almost 45 million dollars to create. It did terrible in the box offices, recouping less than half of those costs. None of this affects my rating of this movie. It just doesn’t stack up to other Disney films in terms of animation, music, and etc. The story and characters are actually pretty good, especially if you’re looking for something a little darker and scarier than most other light and fluffy Disney films. Ultimately though, the film suffered numerous cuts and edits and struggled to decide if it wanted to commit to the dark and emotionally moving books on which it was based. There’s also a sierra game similar to king’s quest. based on Disney’s version of The Black Cauldron. The game has primitive graphics but actually a lot of interesting gameplay concepts, including a branching plot and multiple endings based on choices you make within the game. This game is now freeware and can be downloaded here: http://allowe.com/downloads/games.html but you’ll probably need an emulator like Scummvm to run the games on newer PCs. According to wikipedia “On March 17, 2016, Variety confirmed that Walt Disney Pictures had re-acquired the film rights to The Chronicles of Prydain, with the intention to adapt the book series into an epic motion picture series, more attuned to Lloyd Alexander’s high fantasy world. The project is currently in early development at the Walt Disney Studios with no director, producer, or screenwriter attached yet” – I can’t wait for this!! It could be as epic as Lord of the Rings, Narnia, or Harry Potter. You can also read all 5 of the original books in omnibus format https://www.amazon.com/Prydain-Chronicles-Lloyd-Alexander/dp/B0006DBJOC However, it may be cheaper to just buy the boxset or kindle editions: https://www.amazon.com/Chronicles-Prydain-Lloyd-Alexander/dp/1250000939
43.) Gnomeo and Juliet
When World of Warcraft first came out, I was really really into Gnomes for awhile, because my main character was a gnome. So I loved this cute little 3d animation remake of Romeo and Juliet. It is funny and adorable, and holds its own, but ultimately its very different from the more fantastical and charming traditional Disney films.
44.) The Princess and the Frog
This film will forever be remembered as having the first black Disney princess, but beyond that, I’m afraid the story and characters are anything but memorable. The story just feels flat, and the characters lacked the charm of previous Disney films. Music also didn’t live up to the classic 90s Disney films. The problem was they brought back all the studio and staff from greats like The Lion King, Little Mermaid, etc, and still somehow, turned out a film that really lacked the heart and soul of their earlier works. All that said though, I do really like the twist on the classic fairy tale. In this version, the princess turns into a frog, instead of the frog turning into a prince, when kissed.
45.) Treasure Planet
Disney’s attempt to capture a more mature audience failed and resulted in over $100 million in losses. This film looks beautiful, but that’s about it. It has no heart or soul. The whole thing feels lifeless and dull. I can’t bring myself to care about the characters or what’s happening around them. I do really like the animation techniques of using 2D characters atop 3D backgrounds though and wish they’d try that technique again sometime.
47.) Duck Tales the Movie
Another average, not great, Disney film. I enjoyed Duck Tales as a kid, but it works better as a series I think. It lacks a compelling storyline or overarching plot and continuity that makes most theatrical movies so engaging. – That said, there is much excitement about the new Duck Tales reboot that came out last year. I would have been more excited for a Dark Wing Duck movie myself.
48.) Atlantis: The Lost Empire
I feel like the subject matter of this film has a lot of potential – but that sadly, ultimately Disney wasted that potential and created a rather forgettable tale about the lost city. I love the “legend” behind Atlantis, and I like that Disney took a different approach than we typically think of by basing the city around Mayan culture instead of Greek culture that is so typically attributed to the legend of the sunken city. It’s also a timely tale and warning in an age when the internet and technology were beginning to advance and rapidly change our own cultures and interactions. The warning in both the original, and in Disney’s Atlantis, is that if we become too reliant on Technology, our civilization will deteriorate. It’s also a tale of greed, others want what we have, we want what others have, and sometimes if technology falls into the wrong hands, there can be deadly consequences. This is all very interesting stuff for an epic fantasy adventure — but an adventure is only as interesting as the characters experiencing it, and these characters are so flat and dull that this movie will put you to sleep before it even gets off the ground. It’s very action packed, but without a reason to care about what’s really happening to the characters at the heart of the conflict, that action ultimately goes to waste.
49.) Chicken Little
I thought this film was cute and funny, but overall a bit too juvenile and simplistic for my tastes. I have nothing bad to say about the film and have even watched it more than twice now.
Growing up, I had watched, and even enjoyed the black and white live action version of Frakenweenie, a story about a boy who loves his dog so much he brings him back to life after a tragic accident. I still prefer the live action short film over this version. I feel like the story didn’t change much or gain anything meaningful, despite adding almost another hour of footage to the remake. It’s not necessarily bad, if I had never seen the short film, I’d probably be more inclined to rate this higher.
I like this film, but ultimately, The Land Before Time did it better. This film lacked originality and also suffered from some pacing issues with the story. It was heart warming and emotionally impactful, but then again, so was the Land Before Time. This film felt like a poor 3D knock off of The Land Before Time in almost every way, and its characters, while cute and likeable, were not nearly as memorable as the ones from Land Before Time.
52.) The Great Mouse Detective
These last ten movies on our list are some of the oldest Disney films, and therefore some of the most simplistic in character development and storytelling. Much like the Rescuers, this is a cute detective film feature hero mice as the stars. It’s even less memorable than the Rescuers however. I hear that the books are much better. You can check out Basil of Bakerstreet here: https://www.amazon.com/Eve-Titus/e/B001HCX2AU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1 As well as another story series with mice by the same author, Anatolle.
53.) Robin Hood
Robin Hood’s only redeeming/memorable quality is the use of anthropomorphic animal characters or “furries” to tell this legend of well known bandit turned hero who “robbed from the rich and gave to the poor” along with his band of merry men and their story. Otherwise, there’s little to nothing of interest in this film for those already familiar with the original tale. The furrie thing alone though is enough to make it iconic and immensely popular among furrie culture. You can see a lot of resemblance between Nick in Zootopia and Robin. I also see Robin’s character design as a major source of influence for Rif the fox from Inherit the Earth, one of my favorite PC video games.
54.) Sleeping Beauty
There’s nothing wrong with Sleeping Beauty, or any of the other early “princess movies” unless you’re a feminist, in which case there’s everything wrong with these movies. But I’m no feminist… So I’m fine with these early Disney princess films, but I find them less engaging, memorable, or exciting than the 90s fare of films such as Lion King, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and so on…
My favorite version of Sleeping Beauty is a book called “Spindle’s End” – a retelling of Sleeping Beauty told from the animals of the forest. I feel like this book would have made a better Disney film than the Disney Sleeping Beauty. Of course, the Disney Sleeping Beauty is much older than Spindle’s End. The author also has unique retellings of Beauty and the Beast and many other great fairy tales. https://www.amazon.com/Robin-McKinley/e/B000AQ1OUY/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
55.) Alice in Wonderland
Alice is not a typical Disney princess. She is perhaps the first example of a strong female lead in a Disney film. She doesn’t need to rely on a prince to save her. She uses her logic and wits to outsmart the queen of hearts and her henchmen. The fantasy setting, although a bit too trippy / drug inspired for my tastes, is in fact memorable and exciting. The cheshire cat is my favorite character in this tale. In the live action remake, I also really liked the hatter’s character and a bit of suggested hints of romance between Alice and Hatter.
Cinderelly, Cinderelly, night and day it’s Cinderelly. The mice sidekicks and Fairy Godmother and their songs are about the most memorable thing I can recall from this film. Did you know there’s also an anime series, and movie (which I believe is piece meal of the series edited into a much abridged movie version?) Check it on MAL: https://myanimelist.net/anime/2817/Cinderella_Monogatari
57.) Snow White
I think this was the first film I saw in theaters – and from what I was told it scared me to death. Looking back now, really all I can remember is “hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go”. I much prefer more original / creative takes on classic fairy tales. Disney’s own series, Once Upon a Time, does a better job at this than their classic cartoons. In Once Upon a Time, we sympathize more with the villains – at least I did – while watching the stories unfold. We learn the back story and motivation for why Snow White’s stepmother hated her so much. And Snow White herself is much less of a mary jane and much less passive and more spunky and fun and quick witted, and a thief like character. – I mean you would have to be resourceful to take care of yourself in the forests, you can’t just be a kept princess. I also have not read, but hear good things about Neil Gaimman’s Snow, Glass, Apples – I mean, it must be good, because it’s almost $2,000 for the hard copy on Amazon lol… https://www.amazon.com/Snow-Glass-Apples-Neil-Gaiman/dp/B000P1OWWQ – Luckily it’s also included in this collection of short stories which you can pick up for about $4. https://www.amazon.com/Smoke-Mirrors-Short-Fictions-Illusions/dp/0380789027/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1519680106&sr=1-1&keywords=snow+glass+apples
58.) A Bug’s Life
Better than Dreamworks’ Antz, but still this is by far Pixar’s weakest film. Not much else to say about this one.
59.) Winnie the Pooh
Winnie the Pooh was a big part of my childhood (I liked Tigger), but now as an adult, I have little desire to ever watch it again.
60.) Peter Pan
I never really liked Peter Pan that much. There’s nothing really “wrong” with it, it just didn’t appeal to me much when I was little.
I hated Pinocchio, I dunno why. I have heard the book it is based on is dark and creepy AF. The stuff of nightmares.
You either love it or you hate it. I hated it. I have nothing against classical music, or musicals even – Moulin Rouge is one of my all time favorite films which I’ve seen probably over a dozen times – but Disney’s Fantasia is just a bore, since it really has no overarching plot and feels too pieced together for my tastes.
Disney feature length animated films I have not watched – In no particular order:
- Victory Through Air Power
- Doug’s 1st Movie
- Recess: School’s Out
- Teacher’s Pet
- Home on the Range
- The Wild
- Meet the Robinsons
- Roadside Romeo
- Arjun: The Warrior Prince
- Big Hero 6
- Strange Magic
In 2006, Jenilee graduated with a BS in Emerging Technology and Design. In 2012 she obtained an MBA in Ecommerce. Jenilee currently works for a small manufacturing company designing websites, email marketing, digital advertising, and print advertising campaigns.
Connect with Jenilee on social media or visit her blog at http://geekysweetie.com
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