In 2019, I watched every single one of the (then) 58 feature films created by Walt Disney Animation Studios. I have long known that I wanted to create a ranking of every Disney animated film, but I knew I was going to need to watch all of them in a short time span in order to rank them based on my opinions of them now, not just when I watched them as a kid. Enjoy!
(Since 2019, I have been doing my best to update my ranking as new movies come out. Hopefully it is up-to-date as you are reading this.)
60-Melody Time (1948)
I found myself skipping through a lot of parts of this movie. At this point in my life, I simply have no desire to sit and watch an orchestral segmented movie, which is exactly what Melody Time is. The only part of the film that is somewhat interesting is the last twenty minutes on Pecos Bill. I now finally know the inspiration for Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn at The Magic Kingdom.
59-Home on the Range (2004)
This one is a pretty easy one for me. Home on the Range is the biggest filmmaking blunder Disney Animation has ever had in my opinion. The humor doesn’t really land and the characters don’t have any depth whatsoever. I will give it a little credit though as it has become one of those movies for me that is so terrible that it’s funny to watch.
58-The Three Caballeros (1944)
Despite my fond childhood memories of the Gran Fiesta Tour boat ride in Epcot, The Three Caballeros is kind of a tough watch nowadays. A lot of the scenes have animated characters interacting with real dancers and musicians. In the 2000s that is fairly common, but in the 1940s it was relatively unheard of. I’m sure it looked amazing back in the day, but today it has the dated look that you’d expect. There isn’t much of a story to it and it is not something I watch very often.
57- Fun & Fancy Free (1947)
Most of this movie is a snooze fest (I literally fell asleep watching it), though the last segment is a cute Mickey and friends cartoon of Jack and the Beanstalk.
56- Chicken little (2005)
Chicken Little is kind of in the same boat as Home on the Range of being so bad it’s funny. The only thing that puts it a couple spots ahead is the fact that it does have a little bit of a message and a couple of the jokes are kind of clever.
Nothing much to see here. The visual wonder of an orchestral-film that is Fantasia just isn’t the same when done in 2000. The segments are fine but nothing that really grabs you. My favorite parts were honestly the scenes between segments.
54-Fox and the Hound (1981)
I surprised myself when I put Fox and the hound this high. I used to adore this movie as a kid, but when I re-watched it this year I was bored out of my mind. While the characters are still cute, the story doesn’t hold up well in my opinion.
53-Saludos Amigos (1942)
At 42 mins, this is the shortest of all films in this catalog. It was released in 1942 (the same year as Bambi) and marked the first film in a series of 6 package films (aka segmented films). Unlike the package films that came after it, Saludos Amigos seemed to be more centered around the animation, and less on the music behind it. It also had a narrator that made the 4 different cartoon segments seem more like the old-fashioned mickey shorts during the Silly Symphony era. As a result, I kind of enjoyed it. It is much more enjoyable than some of the other package films and is an easy watch due to its short runtime.
52- Make Mine Music (1946)
This was the third of the films made in WWII that were designed to keep the animation studio in business while the main studio made propaganda films. Make Mine Music isn’t anything special, but it has the Casey at the Bat short, the inspiration behind Casey’s Corner restaurant in The Magic Kingdom, which also happens to be the place I worked at in 2016.
Back when Fantasia came out in 1940, it took the world by storm. People gushed the amazing colors that danced with the music played by the Philadelphia Orchestra. This was one of the last movies I watched this year and it once again proved to me that 79 years is a really long time. Fantasia is long (over 2 hrs) and it is boring. You really have to appreciate the art and innovation of it, because Fantasia truly was breathtaking for the time period. In today’s world, it’s quite tough to sit through.
50-Oliver & Company (1988)
Possibly the most tear-jerking opening scene in Disney Animation history, but after that the movie kind of falls apart. I watched this for the first time a few months ago, so I don’t really have any nostalgia built up with this one either. I like Oliver and Dodger, but all the supporting characters are heavy on the bleh. Great song by Billy Joel though!
49-The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
I’m sure this is amazing for a kid in the 70s, but it isn’t as strong for a 23-year-old in 2019. Very simple and cheap in animation style, as was customary in the 70s, and definitely aimed at a younger age group than most Disney films.
48- The Black Cauldron (1985)
I had high hopes for this one as I saw it for this first time this fall. I really admire the risks taken in the production of this film, a much darker one than Disney is accustomed to. However, the execution was poor. The actual budget of this film is murky at best, but it is estimated that the film lost as much as $23M and almost put Disney Animation out of business. This story needed about 45 extra minutes of runtime to get the depth that it needed but that was out of the question for the mid-80s, when animated movies rarely surpassed 80 minutes. However, credit where credit is due, the horned king is one of the most sinister villains in the Disney canon.
My first real controversial opinion (unless you are a Fantasia die-hard), Bambi is just ok. Bambi typically appears in the top 10 of these rankings but I just find it boring, to be honest. It is cute and has some lovable characters, but in the end, I really don’t care that Bambi’s mom died. Call me heartless, but I don’t think the movie did a great job with what should have been a show-stopping tear-jerk moment.
46-Lady & The Tramp (1955)
There is one fantastic scene in this film, and that is the spaghetti scene at Tony’s and the Bella Notte song. Other than that, the magnitude of the plot elements just feels unimportant. Also, as we’re starting to figure out with this ranking, that movies centered around talking animals don’t really move the needle for me. Oh and the racist scene with the Siamese cats….that exists.
45-Sword in the Stone (1963)
This is not your typical story about King Arthur. Honestly, it’s not even your typical prequel about King Arthur. It is kind of split up into a few different adventures with the Wizard Merlin and can be pretty fun at times. The problem is the film doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, and most Disney Animated films do something exceptionally well.
44-The Rescuers (1977)
When I was a kid, this movie creeped me out so much that I didn’t watch it again until I was about 15 and then again, this year. Madame Medusa is pretty much the darker, scarier version of Yzma from Emperor’s New Groove. The movie centers around two mice that are basically trying to save a poor little girl named Penny (one of at least 5 or 6 Disney characters named Penny), who has been kidnapped by Madame Medusa. It is not a bad film, it’s reachability factor is just very low.
43-Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Another film that would be considered a classic by most, when compared with modern Disney films it is sloppy and dark. I will give it credit for being extremely ambitious with pretty amazing visual effects for the time period.
Similar to Bambi, this is an old-fashioned piece that doesn’t rely on dialogue to get a point across. As the fourth feature film to be released by Disney Animation, many consider Dumbo to be a beloved classic and one of the best animated films ever made. I am not nearly as high on it, however. It is a bit on the boring side and has enough 1940s portrayals of race to make it a little uncomfortable to watch in this day and age.
41-Winnie the Pooh (2011)
My explanation for the 2011 Winnie the Pooh is essentially the same as with the 1977 version, but with better animation.
40-The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Another one that I watched this year for the first time, this film has essentially two different 35-minute movies. The first is The Wind and the Willows and is narrated by Basil Rathbone. The second one (and better one) is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, narrated by Bing Crosby. It is nothing special but the fact that you can listen to Bing Crosby’s molasses-like singing voice multiple times in the movie is enough to sneak into a top-40 spot. Though not a classic in any way, I’d still venture to say that it’s quite underrated.
I thought I would have this in the 50s before I re-watched it recently, because I didn’t realize how funny this movie actually is. It’s is super clever and I laughed out loud many times. The biggest issue with the movie is the way it looks. Bolt looks decent but all the human characters almost look like they were made from the same character models as the humans in Toy Story, which was made 13 years earlier.
Beautiful is a word that can describe a lot of aspects of this film. The songs, the animation, and the general story (though it is a little cliché). However, I think the execution of plot elements is rushed and some of the supporting characters aren’t as strong as they could be because they have such little screen time. But hey, it has Christian Bale and Mel Gibson.
Pinocchio is literally the number one Disney movie on like half of the rankings online. Well, I’m here to tell the world that it’s actually pretty weird. Sure, it’s the second Disney animated film ever made, that’s adds some magic to it for sure. There are some really dark thematic elements to the film that make it a tough watch for young kids. Definitely a classic, but not one of my favorite ones.
36-One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
This movie jumped almost ten spots up my list when I got around to watching it late in 2019. I had only seen 101 Dalmatians a couple times in my life and I didn’t remember it super fondly, but there is a lot more to it than I thought. I really enjoyed some of the side characters such as Sargeant Tibbs, and Towser. It’s never going to be one of my favorites, but it’s a quick and fun watch every time.
35-Robin Hood (1973)
The animal version of a tale that we know from other films. But this time it has Roger Miller’s voice doing the music. Robin Hood is about as good as it could be due to its cheap animation style. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s definitely entertaining enough.
Similar to Robin Hood, Aristocats is an awesome film for the limitations it has as a cheap film in the 70s. They even share a lot of the same voice actors. The jazzy music is a nice touch as well.
This most is one of the more hated on Disney film for how it looks. I find it tough to hate on a movie for being ambitious and innovative even if it doesn’t quite land. Dinosaur puts 3D CGI on top of real background images, and I actually think it looks decent even today. Aladar is a very likable protagonist and the supporting cast is really solid as well. James Newton Howard even wrote an excellent score. If this movie was made into a 3hr epic with today’s technology then it could legitimately have been one of the biggest movies Disney has ever made.
32-The Little Mermaid (1989)
I really don’t like The Little Mermaid as much as most people. I think it is extremely old fashioned when it comes to portraying a lead female character. Ariel is basically just a prize for Eric to save. She doesn’t have a voice for most of the film (literally) and basically wins over her Prince by giving him googly eyes. I will acknowledge, however, that this film nearly singlehandedly saved Disney Animated Studios, and for that alone it is near the top half for me.
31-The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
This is another one of the risks that Disney took in making a darker film that isn’t really suitable for young children. Generally speaking, it did pretty well. However, I think it is still seen as one of Disney’s middle of the pack films and I grouped it as such. I would love to see what this movie would’ve been without those weird gargoyles but I think directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise (Beauty & The Beast, Atlantis: The Last Empire) thought it needed some comedic relief.
30-The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
An incredibly underrated film, The Rescuers Down Under vastly exceeds the quality of its predecessor. Bernard and Miss Bianca are back and this time the child that needs saving (Cody) is in the Australian outback. The opening visual crawl of the camera through the outback is a stunning use of CGI for 1990. There is also a beautiful scene where Cody takes flight on the back of a golden eagle and it is stunning.
29-Brother Bear (2003)
I don’t know why so many people hate on Brother Bear. It is a pretty good-looking film that has heart and a great score. It tried to be the same type of movie as Tarzan even to the point of having Phil Collins do the songs. It isn’t near the movie as Tarzan but it’s a solid film. Also, Rutt and Tuke are hilarious.
28-Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
Though it is in the top half, I would venture to say that Ralph Breaks the Internet disappointed me to some degree. I adore the original film and the video game world they created. However, the second installment was without an antagonist, so the conflict was largely manufactured. The movie deals with a lot of real-life issues involving friendship and moving on. As far as sequels go, Ralph Breaks the Internet is pretty awesome, until the third act with the giant Ralph composed of a million little Ralph’s. That’s where it lost me.
So close to a home run, but a fly out none the less. It was definitely decent….so I guess we’ll call it a sac fly. Alright, enough with the baseball analogies. The world-building and overall concept of Raya and the Last Dragon is incredible. It felt like it fit into the Avatar: The Last Airbender formula and that even extended into the supporting characters. The biggest issue is that I feel like I need so much more from this world and I can’t have it. This story should have been an epic, but it was instead a very formulaic average Disney movie. I could see it working so much better in a 6 hour-mini series on Disney+ with each kingdom of Kumandra warranting it’s own episode while the team hunts for the dragon gem pieces. Dang it Disney….you really missed an opportunity for greatness on this one.
26-The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Another film that is widely slept on, The Great Mouse Detective is an extremely entertaining film from 1986. It centers on Basil of Baker Street, who is essentially the mouse version of Sherlock Holmes, and his partner David Q. Dawson. The antagonist is the devious Professor Rattigan. It is a simple, yet very enjoyable watch.
25-Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Meet the Robinsons is one of those films that in my eyes becomes more underrated with age. Disney Animation was in kind of a tough spot after Lilo & Stitch (2002) until Princess & the Frog (2009), and too often this movie gets grouped with the rest of the below-average films during this time. Meet the Robinsons is actually a very fun and light-hearted watched that is easy to re-watch again and again.
24-Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
One of the more unfairly hated-on movies in the Disney canon, Atlantis is also one of the biggest scale action/adventure films that they have done. I personally think Atlantis has one of the best groups of diverse supporting characters of any Disney film, but they lack depth because the movie runtime wasn’t long enough to present that depth. I would love to see a live-action remake of Atlantis because I feel like this is one of the films that could be made into a masterpiece if it was more in the range of 2 ½ hours. Also, what other movies make up their own complex language specifically for the film? Unfortunately, the language is definitely glossed over without giving it its proper due, but I still think it’s pretty cool.
23-The Jungle Book (1967)
Once thought to be a Disney masterpiece alongside some of the greatest classics the studio has ever released, I feel like The Jungle Book hasn’t aged very well and has lost its luster to many over the years. I am one of those people. Other than “The Bear Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” sequences, there isn’t anything really memorable about the movie. I actually think the live-action remake may have been better than the original, something the other remakes haven’t come close to achieving. I’ll still give it a decent rating though because I think those songs are bumpin’.
22-Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The movie that started it all, way back in 1937. In terms of the movie’s importance to the studio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would be in the top 3 for sure, if not number one. However, I am rating movies based on factors like enjoyability, rewatchability, visual aesthetic, etc. In all of those categories, this movie falls somewhere in the middle.
21-Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Sleeping Beauty is another classic Disney Princess tale. It lacks depth but makes up for it with one of the best villains in Disney’s history. It’s kind of crazy to me that the movie is named after a character that only has 14 lines and 14 minutes of screen time, but I guess Coco kind of does the same thing. Let’s face it, Sleeping Beauty is only in the top-20 because of Maleficent.
20-Treasure Planet (2002)
Perhaps the biggest financial disaster Disney has ever produced, Treasure Planet never really found favor with most audiences. To be honest, I have no idea why. Treasure Planet has all the things you could want in a Sci-Fi adventure film. Action, a phenomenal score, fun animation, an underlying message, and some comedy to keep the mood light. If I had to nit-pick with this movie, I would say it starts quite slow and a lot of the comedy doesn’t really land. However, I love the message of a rebellious boy without a father and an old, hardened criminal in disguise that bond over the parts of themselves that they see in the other. It’s a two-sided redemption story to warms my heart every time. And that intro scene on the glider will always be hype.
Encanto is a movie that has received mixed reviews but I found it to be beautiful and loads of fun. The Lin-Manuel Miranda soundtrack fits the Colombian theming perfectly and is actually quite singable after a couple listens. For the most part, I loved the story they were trying to tell and I actually found myself connecting to Mirabel a little bit. The biggest complaint I did have was with the ending. It feels like all this major stuff happens and you reach the breaking point, then there is a song and everything pretty much just puts itself back together and the movie ends. It was almsot like they ran out of runtime to do everything they wanted with the ending. Oh well, still a solid movie in my book and it even managed to crack my top 20!
While Snow White started it all, I would argue that Cinderella is the most iconic Disney Animated movie ever made. Cinderella’s castle is pretty much the logo of all things Disney at this point so tough to argue against that. Also, who doesn’t love Jaq and Gus Gus?
17-The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
A lot of people don’t think of The Emperor’s New Groove when talking about the most innovative Disney Animated films ever, but I’d argue it’s in that discussion for sure. It is the first Disney movie to truly put comedy on the forefront and break the fourth wall in doing so. It makes fun of itself on many occasions and obnoxiously plays to many fairytale movie tropes. I’d argue that there isn’t a funnier character in the Disney canon than Kronk, who happens to be one of the few “antagonists” that are actually beloved as if they were the hero of their movie. Emperor’s New Groove is as high as it gets on the rewatchability scale and has an incredible number of funny one-liners that I use all the time.
Hercules is a tough movie for me to peg. On one hand, it is a quality movie that came out during the heart of the Disney renaissance so it is easy for me to categorize it with all of those iconic, cream-of-the-crop Disney films. On the other hand, while similar to those films, it doesn’t quite have the same kind of vibe to it. The music isn’t as prominent with say Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and Tarzan. The message doesn’t hit as close to home as Mulan, and The Lion King. That for me is what separates it from my top few titles, but it is still one of the greats.
15-Lilo and Stitch (2002)
We’re now kind of entering the pure, fun, family entertainment section of the rankings. Lilo & Stitch is such fun movie with great theming and lovable characters. There’s a reason that it’s been 17 years now since the movie came out and you still can’t go to any Disney store without seeing Stitch merchandise.
14-Big Hero 6 (2014)
Big Hero 6 is based on the Marvel comic of the same name. I love this movie because of how unique it is in terms of Disney animation. After a tragic backstory, which I guess isn’t that original for Disney, we watch Hiro try to cope with grief, loss, depression, and moving on. The cast of supporting characters is very strong and easy to fall in love with. One of the problems I have with Big Hero 6 is that it tries to be one of those movies with a big plot twist. I thought they made it a little too obvious that they were trying to make everyone think Krei was the villain (voiced by the legend Alan Tudyk). It wasn’t a great twist and didn’t do much for me. Regardless, I would love to see more of this group of characters in the future. The real question is, which characters got blipped?
Compared to the other movie released in 2016 (Moana), I felt like Zootopia kind of popped out of nowhere without a lot of marketing. It turned out that Zootopia is a fun mystery film with plenty of comedy and lovable characters. It has another iffy attempt at a twist villain and though the message is a good one, the movie kind of pushes it in your face a little too much. The animation quality is spectacular and I especially love the color diversity that changes the mood and tone for each and every scene and setting.
12-Peter Pan (1953)
Peter Pan has got to be my favorite old Disney animated movie by far. Sure, it is old-fashioned and has some aspects that don’t age well, but it is such a cute and fun-filled adventure that I watch at least once a year. It also contains some truly awesome voice acting, especially for the time period.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson voice acting for an animated, Polynesian version of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Do tell. The most memorable aspect of Moana is definitely Lin-Manuel Miranda’s exciting soundtrack. However, the most impressive aspect of the film is the incredibly beautiful animation. The water is actually super impressive in itself, but also the 2D animation of Maui’s tattoos on top of his 3D animated body.
10-Frozen 2 (2019)
Name another sequel that had more on the line than Frozen 2…. ok besides, Star Wars. Seriously though, there was a lot of pressure to not screw this up. Frozen 2 takes the elements that I loved from the original movie, amps up the fantasy adventure, and tones down the romantic fairytale. The songs were just a bangin’ as the original and actually did more for the advancement of the plot in my opinion. The only reason that I had this below Frozen is that I found the story as a whole to be a little bit weaker.
9-Princess and the Frog (2009)
The last great 2D animated movie, I have always loved Princess and the Frog because of its amazing theming. It truly makes you fall in love with the New Orleans style, which is hard to do if you are familiar with New Orleans. Dr. Facilier is an imposing enough villain to add authenticity to the conflict, while great songs and supporting characters keep the mood light enough to make this an incredibly re-watchable movie for kids and adults alike.
This movie took the world by snowstorm in 2013 and it still holds strong today as one of the largest scale animated adventures ever made. It pulled in stacks and stacks of cash and became an insta-classic with its catchy music. The popularity this movie had with 7-15 girls across the country made it unpopular for older people to like Frozen for a time, but once you get to the point where you don’t care anymore, you realize how great the movie actually is. Pretty much all of Olaf’s lines are funny and quotable, the visuals are stunning, and the twist actually had my jaw on the floor upon first viewing if I’m being honest. Frozen definitely is deserving of the top 10 spot that I’m giving it.
I absolutely love the world of Sugar Rush and Mr. Litwack’s arcade. The core group of characters all have depth and personality. Wreck-it-Ralph isn’t just a funny and entertaining watch, but it is also an emotionally touching watch at times. It has a lot of heart for the silly family cartoon that it is. All of the pop culture references seemed tasteful and the product placement didn’t seem over-the-top as opposed to the sequel where an obnoxious amount of product placement is shoved down your throat for 112 minutes.
These last six are all very close to being perfect films in their own way, but some have a little more impact than others. Tarzan is so fantastic in its look, writing, and execution. I am surprised that, for the most part, it isn’t considered an all-time top tier Disney movie. Phil Collin’s soundtrack fits the movie perfectly and his songs are instant hits. The characters are all well thought out and introduced. Each supporting character has opportunities to develop in front of the audience and leads to some emotional moments towards the end. Tarzan is almost perfect in every way but it didn’t quite have the influence of the top 5 on my list.
5-The Lion King (1994)
Before I re-watched every single Disney movie in 2019, I thought The Lion King may end up outside the top 10. However, it’s tough to deny the perfection of the movie and how iconic its characters and songs are. Another thing that pushed The Lion King further up my board is the fact that I really didn’t like the 2019 remake. Watching that remake reminded me of how great the original really is and how tough it is to capture its essence again.
Mulan is one of the great heroines in the movies. In modern-day movies, the message that Mulan brings to the table is typically shoved in your face in an obnoxious manner, but Mulan does it the right way. She questions the status quo, makes courageous decisions and kicks butt in the process. She doesn’t need a man but she also doesn’t lose graceful and feminine qualities in the process of being a strong heroin character. I also credit Shan Yu as being one of the most underrated Disney villains simply because of his lack of screen time.
3-Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Talk about a tale as old as time, am I right? Beauty and the Beast was immediately one of my favorite movies when I watched it for the first time at like age 10, and it’s still one of my favorites today. I’ve heard all the complaints about the movie not making sense, the questions about the prince’s age and Belle’s Stockholm syndrome, and frankly, I don’t want to hear any of it. Beauty and the Beast is a masterpiece and it starts with the way it looks. It uses colors brilliantly to describes the emotions in each and every scene. Sure, it has its storytelling flaws, but what movie doesn’t? Alan Menken’s score has a plethora of catchy tunes that I jam to in the car any time I’m craving some childhood nostalgia (which is often). Let’s just say there is a reason Beauty and the Beast has more representation in Disney World than any other movie (tied with Frozen), it is a beloved classic.
In 2010, I was forced to see Tangled in theaters against my will. Thank goodness I was because it is probably the most perfect Disney film of all time in my opinion. It has all the components that make a great Disney Princess movie. Music, animal sidekicks, no parents (at least at first), and a great villain. Mother Gothel is the perfect antagonist for this movie. I also love how Tangled didn’t feel the need to have a big plot twist. Instead, they used dramatic irony to their advantage so that the audience knew from the opening scene that Mother Gothel was evil but Rapunzel doesn’t find out until the end. So, there is still a big reveal, but it isn’t an unnecessary twist.
You may be asking yourself, “But Perry, why isn’t Tangled your #1 if it is the most perfect film?” The answer is quite simple actually; nostalgia and Robin Williams. Aladdin has the best cast of characters, the best villain, and a soundtrack to compete with any other Disney movie. There are a couple different underlying messages in the movie and they are both very well done. The main theme is about Aladdin finding out that his worth isn’t just based on what he is on the outside. However, there are also some lines in the movie that suggest Jasmine also has a lot more value than just a prize to be won. This was truly the first time in Disney Princess movies where young girls were given the message that they have value, princesses don’t have to just stand there and look pretty. They can also make a difference with their actions. Though Jasmine’s role isn’t nearly as important in the animated classic as it is in the 2019 remake, the message is there. Aladdin has some flaws in the story but when all is said and done, I can easily overlook them all and confidently say that it is my favorite Disney animated movie of all time.
That’s all of them! Is your ranking similar to mine? Where did I go wrong? Don’t hesitate to let me know! If you enjoy this type of content, check out my podcast Banter? I Hardly Know Her! Every show features top 10 rankings, draft style episodes, and other fun methods of discussing topics in movies & entertainment.