Having said that, it’s hard to pick out a truly good one from the lot. If you’re having some trouble diving in, check out this useful guide of every Disney film ranked. From “Fantasia” circa 1940 to “Frozen”, we’ve laid it all out for you!
Make Mine Music (1946)
For Disney, the 1940s were all about making patriotic films. Feature-length films were not really getting made but when they were, they were basically a collection of unrelated shorts mashed together. "Make Mine Music" was a perfect example of this. While the animation for its time was rather good, the film had no real narrative that made it feel like a cohesive film.
The film was also peppered with nudity and "graphic gunplay", all of which have been edited out since. Even if these were to be restored, the film wouldn't raise much of an eyebrow. If anything, it makes for an interesting piece of history.
Home on the Range (2004)
Like so many Disney films in the early 2000s, the humor was mostly childish and slapstick. If there was any sentimentality, it probably got lost in the burp jokes. While Disney films are geared towards kids, the good ones still have quality writing that keeps the grown-ups entertained. Not this one.
It's just rather depressing. Even with all anthropomorphic characters, the charm is lost.
Fun and Fancy-Free (1947)
Here's another messy package film from the 1940s. The film contains two long segments, one about Bongo the circus bear who escapes captivity, and finds love, the other is a Disney spoof on Jack and the Beanstalk that features Mickey in place of Jack.
While we get to see our hero Mickey Mouse and appearances by Goofy, the writing is silly and involves too many recurring gags of Goofy's pant falling down. There is also the random addition of a live-action sequence of a ventriloquist and his dummies.
The Three Caballeros (1944)
The Three Caballeros was a sort of thematic follow-up to Saludos Amigos. Out of all the package films, this one probably has the strongest narrative. The humor has more of a Loony Tunes feel to it than Disney and while it may lack in substance, it does compensate in style.
The characters are colorful and include Donald Duck, José Carioca, the cigar-smoking parrot, and Panchitos Pistoles, a gun-slinging rooster. It's full of vibrant scenes and action-packed fantasy sequences.
Chicken Little (2005)
There's nothing terribly wrong with this movie, but nothing mind-blowingly brilliant about it either. Cute and able to evoke a mild chuckle, the film is loosely based on the original fairytale of the same name.
Like in the original story, Chicken Little thinks the sky is falling after getting hit on the head by an acorn. Of course, Chicken seems to be onto something as we discover an alien attack is underway (even if no one believes him.) Ultimately, a lot goes down in this chaotic story so it might be wise to give it a miss.
Melody Time (1948)
Melody Time suffers from a familiar problem of non-sensical plot lines. Filled with abstract shorts that are better suited for "Fantasia" (several shorts in the package films were actually intended for the 1940 classic), the film fails to create a consistent atmosphere.
From Little Toot, the story of an anthropomorphic boat, to Trees, a melancholic piece on the changing seasons. We are then thrown the very fun "And Blame It on the Samba." It does, however, have a lot of artistic merit.
Saludos Amigos (1942)
Made up of four segments, one of which involves Donald Duck as a tourist in South America. This was the film that essentially inspired The Three Caballeros. While the latter may behave more of iconic status, the former is definitely more entertaining and appreciated as a stand-alone work.
The film has a beautiful authenticity with its use of actual Portuguese. The narrative is simple and pretty straight forward, as it follows the Disney artists on their trip to South America. There we see how they got inspired.
The Fox and the Hound (1981)
Of all Disney's more melancholic films, this one tops the list of the most depressing. Tod the fox and Copper the hound are two young companions who grow up and learn that their interspecies friendship just cannot survive the cruel realities of nature.
This film is famous for traumatizing young children and especially sensitive animal lovers. If you can get past it the emotional torture, the film, with its weak character development, is rather mediocre at best.
Robin Hood (1973)
One of the more expensive productions, Disney gave us a solid plot when it came to Robin Hood. Unfortunately, alongside that plot, too many moments are dedicated to comic relief and gags. One such example is the unnecessarily long football sequence.
At least there were some catchy songs and a handsome fox. That fox proved that teen crushes can extend to the anthropomorphic too.
Fantasia 2000 (1999)
In 1940 Walt Disney made the original Fantasia. It was a spectacle then, so you can imagine the impact of Fantasia 2000. It truly revealed staggering advances in animation and technology. While the visuals are certainly spectacular, the film does lack a bit of substance.
One of the most iconic sequences in the film was is of course the Pines of Rome and the climactic The Firebird. Those two make the whole watching experience totally worthwhile.
The Black Cauldron (1985)
One of the most stylistically different Disney films ever made, one might forget it's actually Disney! It truly was refreshing to see how they broke away from the mold. That is essentially what makes the film so special.
Still, the film didn't do fare particularly well. People often wonder if it simply would have done it better had it not been a Disney film. The screenwriters had a big job to do and condensed two books into an 80-minute film
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
This majorly big production film is a testament to just how big Disney has gotten. This almost hybrid Disney -Marvel production brings us tons of Star Wars superhero cameos that detract from the story.
Unlike its predecessor, this installment feels like a showcase of big brands and corporate power. Not really a heartfelt Disney film.
This sweet film is cherished by many. While the premise of an elephant who can fly with his ears is slightly absurd, it certainly charmed the viewers. And who can forget the iconic moment of Dumbo's mamma cradled him through the bars of cage while singing "Baby Mine?" Talk about waterworks.
The film unfortunately also contains many racist themes and has been commonly regarded as perpetuating black stereotypes. I mean, the main crow is literally named Jim Crow.
Peter Pan (1953)
The beloved film is one of Disney's best, but it has a lot more in common with Dumbo than it would like to admit. Yep, the original Peter Pan was pretty racist too. Remember the song "What Made the Red Man Red?" That would just not fly these days.
The cultural tone-deafness aside, it is a charming film about the pains of growing up. There are also memorable songs and wonderful visuals. How can we forget Pan and the Darling children flying over London?
Brother Bear (2003)
Not many remember this one but this film was actually considered as one of the more thoughtful and emotionally layered Disney films of that era. The story tells us of Kenai, a boy who learns a lesson by getting transformed into a bear after he murders the bear that killed his brother Sitka. Kenai befriends another bear, Koda, (bear with us here) and eventually discovers a painful truth.
The film received praise for its vibrant animation that reflects Kenai's growth. With that said, Brother Bear's soundtrack, even if it was by the legendary Phill Collins, turned out to be cheesy and even intrusive at times,
The computer-animated giant reptiles displayed a breathtaking prehistoric backdrop that was quite jaw-dropping. It did still sometimes look a little too much like a computer game. The story was not too bad, even if it resembled "The Land Before Time" a little too closely.
It does at least contain a little more action and than "The Land Before Time" and even scored a PG rating due to some of its rather frightening scenes. The animation didn't age well but there are some unforgettable moments such as the devastating aftermath from the meteor.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
One of the classic early package films, this film joins two great shorts, "The Wind in the Willows" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." The only problem, the books on which these shorts are based greatly differ in style.
The former is a lighthearted tale, while the latter is a classic horror story. Pairing these side by side is odd to say the least, even if as they are good as singular works. As far as the animation, even by 1940s standards is subpar.
The Aristocats (1970)
Fearing the vocal talents of Eva Gabor as Duchess, folks simply fell in love with this film. However, "The Aristocats" got a slightly lower ranking on an account of its lacking in originality and seems to emulate films like the"One Hundred and One Dalmatians" and "Lady and the Tramp".
With that said, "The Aristocats" is still delightful and the energetic scat song "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" is enough to make this movie a Disney classic.
In order to appreciate "Fantasia", you have to surrender to it. It's simply a visual and symphonic experience. You may not exactly "like" it, but it sure is something to be appreciated. Bear in mind that it was also only the third film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Ultimately, while Fantasia is not about anything, it is still impressive and somehow even more so than it's modern counterpart.
Oliver & Company (1988)
It's Oliver Twist — but this time it has talking animals. Meek little kitten Oliver finds himself in the world of thieving dogs led by Fagin, the human. It's also set in a gritty New York City instead of London, giving it American relevance. The music definitely stands out with the vocal talents of Huey Lewis, Billy Joel, and Bette Midler.
How can we forget Middler's number "Perfect Isn't Easy."
Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet has an interesting look with its traditional 2D characters placed against 3D computer-generated backgrounds. The combination of the two art forms makes for a unique aesthetic and, simply, something beautiful to look at.
As a sci-fi take on the classic adventure novel Treasure Island, at times becomes its own worst enemy with too many fancy robots that detract from the story. When it's not getting lost in space, it is a powerful film.
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
As far as throwbacks go, this film really achieved all it set out to do. It looks extremely close to the 1977 original, except for the occasional CGI trips as seen in Pooh's fantasy sequence. The film also really maintains the sensibilities it had in the original.
There's a lot of sharp word-play and amusing misunderstanding, as well as songs that could even work in earlier versions. Now and again it faulters with gags and slapstick humor that feels out of place but that is kept to a minimum.
"Zootopia" transports us into a world where the laws of nature have fallen away and animals happily coexist alongside each other. T
The film goes to portray such absurd idealism that they made the cops actual bunnies. It's also refreshing to see a female lead not motivated by love but for her passion for work.
As we know, Disney's take on real-life Native American Pocahontas and her relationship with English settler John Smith gives a pretty warped historical account of what happened. If you can look past the cringe-worthy song "Savages" it is in all fairness a beautiful film and probably has the best animation of that decade.
Even if Pocahontas falls in love with the enemy and magically learns English, the film does depict some of the harder realities of that time. Additionally, Pocahontas choosing to stay home and not leave with John is truly satisfying.
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
It's a pretty slow film and Princess Aurora pricks her finger 50 minutes into the 75-minute film, so it's a slight bore until we get to that point. In its defense, that is followed by a spectacular climax, including an incredible battle — featuring the most interesting character in the film, Maleficent who gets transformed into a dragon.
The breathtaking animation nods to medieval art with its vibrant colors and profoundly stylized form. Even in Aurora isn't terribly interesting, she is extremely beautiful.
The Rescuers (1977)
The Rescuers' success is largely due to its excellent character creation. The plot is somewhat dark, with Medusa snatching up Penny and ridiculing her of not being worthy of adoption. Thankfully it adds a good amount of comic relief in the form of Bernard and Bianca, the spunky agents of the Rescue Aid Society.
The action that runs throughout is impressive and the stakes are made high enough to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
Thankfully, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is not a package film but is essentially three short films stitched together with some added material to help it run more seamlessly. Even if the voice of Christoper Robin is pretty inconsistent thought, it somehow not as bothersome.
It's possible that the emotional impact can only be truly felt if you are familiar with Pooh and the gang. If you are not, it sure is shrug-worthy.
The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
Unlike most sequels, The Rescuers Down Under outdoes its predecessor with better animation, more developed characterization, and an even stronger plot. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor reprise their roles as Bernard and Bianca and John Candy also joins the cast as the unforgettable Wilbur.
Candy gets some of the best scenes and is the perfect dose of comic relief for this rather suspenseful plot.
The film definitely takes some poetic license in casting Hades as the villain simply because he is the ruler of the underworld. That aside, the film is still pretty great and follows our hero, Hercules who finds fame, but then starts to feel the burden of celebrity.
You can tell how Disney explored certain things it hadn't until this point in terms of themes and style. While the animation is more cartoon-like in appearance, the content feels almost adult.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
Disney's most well-known villain, Cruella De Vil, made her debut in this film. Her distinct and heartless desire to skin puppies for coats makes her forever stand out. In fact, watching her coldly purse the dogs makes even this animated film hard to watch.
Obviously, being a Disney film and all, the dalmatians survive. It's immensely satisfying seeing these canines join forces to destroy evil.
Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Meet the Robinsons is a wacky sci-fi comedy with so much heart that it may catch you off guard. The film also got a lot of praise for its detailed depiction of the year 2037. The film follows Lewis, a young inventor and orphan, and Wilbur Robinson a time-traveling kid who introduces him to the eccentric Robinson family.
While Lewis's true identity is a tad obvious, the film still ends a powerful note that (if you are not made of stone) will reduce you to tears.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
This was the very first film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, so it holds a lot of weight and set the standard for the films that followed. That being said, not everything in this film works. There are some fantastic scenes but there times where too much time is spent on the dwarfs and their antics.
Also, the romance between her and the prince is practically non-existence. The implied great love between them would have been more believable if we saw them interact at least just once. Not just to kiss her awake.
The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Apparently, "The Emperor's New Groove" was once a completely different movie. Initially named "Kingdom of the Sun" it was intended to be an epic musical with a score written by Sting. Check out the documentary, "The Sweatbox" to see what went down. That aside, the film as is, is still great fun.
It's one of those special children's movies that's also wildly entertaining for adults. Hilarious characters like Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and her henchman Kronk, get a bunch of laughs. It may not be such a shame that we didn't get to see "Kingdom of the Sun" after all.
Much like The Princess and the Frog and Frozen, "Tangled" takes a traditional fairytale and flips it on its head. She is no longer the passive victim of the original tale, but is more of a genuinely cunning action hero, with quirky cuteness of course.
Her prince stumbles upon her totally accidentally but, inevitably ends up falling in love with her. The film has some exceptional songs including "Mother Knows Best" and "I See the Light."
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
"Wreck-It Ralph" is a brilliant concept about an arcade villain who dreams of becoming a hero. It's a smart and funny look at video games. There are plenty of hilarious cameos and constant reference to Mario.
The cast is filled with talents like John C. Reilly as Ralph, Sarah Silverman as Vanellope, and Alan Tudyk who does an uncanny impression of Ed Wynn. While the film is good, it still leaves you the feeling that more could have been explored.
Another modern Disney film that redefines the traditional Disney Princess. Finally, in 2016. The long-overdue representation aside, the film is sweet. We follow Moana on her quest to find the demigod Maui and save her dying island, a premise that is based on Polynesian myth.
The original music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i makes for a really catchy soundtrack, however, many of the songs feel sort of like replicas of other songs throughout the movie.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Big Hero 6 is unquestionably gorgeous and a groundbreaking achievement in animation. The film takes place in the breathtaking backdrop of San Fransokyo, a combination of San Francisco and Tokyo. We follow a young boy Hiro who forms a superhero team with Baymax, the robot his late brother Tadashi left behind.
Aside from the great artwork, Big Hero 6 is a lot of fun and has heaps of heart. Sadly, in true Disney fashion, it features an untimely death of Tadashi. Thankfully, there is a cathartic pay-off.
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
Based on "The Once and Future King by T. H. White" (originally based on Arthurian mythology), the film follows the mentorship of the orphan "Wart" (soon to be King Arthur) by the wizard Merlin. The story bids farewell to tradition and introduces a series of little anecdotes such as Merlin turning Arthur into a fish, a squirrel, and finally a sparrow. All of this (and a few songs too) results in lessons learned and fun adventures.
The film occasionally loses focus but at least keeps us entertained all the way to the end where our hero pulls the sword from the stone thus proving him worthy of ascending the throne.
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
The Great Mouse Detective sadly is one of the most overlooked Disney films out there. We find ourselves in 19th century London and Sherlock Holmes inspired mouse is to track down the missing father of a young mouse named Olivia.
The characters are charming with distinctive personalities and wonderful English accents. The film also had one fantastic villain song, possibly the best one in Disney history, "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind."
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
So much detail went into this production. They even created an entire language? (Atlantean was developed specifically for the film by linguist Marc Okrand, who also created the Klingon language for Star Trek.) The dynamic sci-fi adventure is grounded in some very well-developed characters and a strong sentimental core.
In many ways, Atlantis is an old-fashioned adventure story, even a nod to "Indiana Jones" (if Indy were a total dork). You can't really go wrong with that.
Bolt starts out as if it's going to be another sci-fi adventure, but there twist! Bolt the dog actually thinks of himself as a genetically modified superhero. Turns out he's just the star of a popular TV series. It's a cool twist that causes a lot of humor. When Bolt escapes into the real world, he is forced to learn of his own limitations the toughest way possible.
Ultimately, Bolt is also a moving story about the love between man and dog. Just a real feel-good film.
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Lilo & Stitch, a surprisingly mature film about a troubled little girl and her alien pet. This film has a lot to offer, from the unusual watercolor animation style to the very earnest issues it deals with (Lilo's sister Nani wants to keep her but the threat of foster care is a looming fear).
Unfortunately, the image conjured up from the film is a blue alien in a hula skirt, which makes it easy to dismiss. Give it a chance, you won't regret it.
Everyone only seems to remember Bambi's mother dying when she is shot offscreen by a hunter. But while that is heart-wrenching, there is mo much more to this iconic film. The plot is simple yet manages to capture feelings of loss, the excitement of new love and the joy of rebirth.
For an early Disney film, it is surprisingly well done. The score is also just hauntingly beautiful.
It's pretty much the original story as it was intended, as it took a few decades for Disney to start mixing things up a bit. The true significance of Cindarella is that it came pretty soon after the package films, proving once again the great abilities that Disney Studios possessed.
There some catchy songs and irresistibly romantic scenes. You might have some trouble connecting to it if you're not a believer in love at first sight.
In many ways, Tarzan does not feel like a typical Disney film. It veers into uncomfortably dark terrain and contains a lot of violence. Though at its core, like many Disney princesses, Tarzan feels at odds with his surroundings, and perhaps because of that, it feels different. Are we too used to seeing the men of Disney too not suffering from internal conflict?
That's probably why it is so enjoyable and exciting. Well, that, and the impressively detailed jungle settings that offer a depth so realistic and feels like you're right in there with the characters.
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Ah, "Lady and the Tramp", one of the ultimate Disney classics. The groundwork for this project was immense and artists brought in several dog breeds as a model for the movements. Beyond the artists' accuracy, the film is praised for having authentic and charming characters.
The simple love story between the elegant Lady and the scrappy Tramp is pretty difficult to dislike. Walt Disney originally felt that it would look silly. We're happy he was wrong.
Leaping forward to the current decade, "Frozen" blew up in a way that no one anticipated. There is definite sense behind its success however and that is because it really kicked the stale old fairy tale right in the pants. The subversive film packs a lot of humor, sophistication, and dare we say — feminism.
Elsa and Anna are unusually complex characters and more importantly, they make their own rules. While romance, is present, it is an afterthought. Also, who can resist "Let it Go?"
The Jungle Book (1967)
The Jungle Book is the perfect example of what Disney does best; combine lighthearted animation with darker and more realistic themes. The characters shine with their sparkling personalities.
Of course, the songs by the legendary Sherman Brothers like "I Wanna Be Like You," sung by Louis Prima as King Louie the orangutan and "The Bare Necessities" are one of the most hummed Disney songs in history.
Pinocchio (1940) Walt Disney
Watching "Snow White" and "Pinocchio" back to back illustrates just how much the Disney Studios grew in those few years. As the second animated feature, "Pinocchio is impressive. The artists and animators who reached legendary status in their later years were at the very beginning of their careers.
They endlessly experimented with various modes of animation and cutting-edge techniques such as the multi-plane camera, something the resembled the prototypical 3D rig. The touching cautionary tale, while sometimes tough to watch still offered hope. When you wish upon a star, your dreams can come true.
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
"Alice in Wonderland" somehow manages to be both original and familiar. The classic Disney film, while still a product of its time, took some risk that ultimately paid off. While the fantastic characterization is largely due to Lewis Caroll himself, Disney brilliantly brought them to life.
The Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the Queen of Hearts will forever be mortalized as some of Disney's greatest characters. This one certainly left its mark on kids around the world.
Another fiercely independent Disney heroine, Mulan takes matters into her own hands. If you're into the politics, "Mulan", in addition to the unapologetic feminist themes, it also can be perceived as a milestone for queer representation in cinema.
Politics aside, its a gorgeously animated film with exciting action sequences, humor, and dangerously catchy tunes. The film can be enjoyed on multiple levels.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Our Tiana is Disney's first princess that is a person of color, making it incredibly influential. The film is also a Disney musical in the truest sense, which for a 2000s Disney film is a lot. It takes the Brothers Grimm classic tale of the "Frog Princess" and turns into a jazzed up romp set in the swampy New Orleans (perfectly fit for a frog.)
Sadly it never garnered the fanbase it deserved, but hopefully grow in people's estimation in the future.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Oh, our beloved Quasimodo. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" strayed from the typical Disney mold and ended up being one of the most heart wrenching and visually triumphant animated films ever made. The film has said to even be too mature for kids with its controversial themes of desire as seen in the song "Hellfire."
A big reason being for this subversive film was due to the bitter exit of the animation head, Jeffery Katzenberg Katzenberg was known for his strict policies such as "outlawing" facial hair on Disney heroes. Just as well he left!
It should come as no surprise that the top five films are from the 90s AKA the Disney Renaissance. When it comes to Aladdin, however, it should be regarded as at least the funniest of the lot and that is largely due to the late Robin Williams as the Genie.
The script is an expectational the retelling of the ancient Arab folktale is executed with a distinctively modern style. Who can ever forget the Aladdin and Jasmine magic carpet scene?
The Lion King (1994)
This film is perfect for its opening scene alone. Even if Mustafa's death robbed us of our childhood, it's still a beautiful experience for people of all ages. The film's operatic and larger than life feeling perfectly encapsulates the theme of "the circle of life."
There is, of course, ample comic relief in the form on Timone and Pumba, the funniest duo in Disney history,
The Little Mermaid (1989)
The Little Mermaid ushered in an entirely new kind of Disney film: the movie musical. Films before that did incorporate music but were never structured in traditional musical format until this one. It of course paved the way for all the films that followed.
Like it or not, Ariel is the typical Disney Princess, curious, a little mischievous, and desperate to take life into her own hands. And then there's Ursula, Disney's greatest villain.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Even the Academy Awards noticed this one when they nominated the film for Best Picture. While it didn't win, its gorgeous story, animation and music captured audiences worldwide. From the stained glass opening and the perfect characterization of the bookish Belle to the heartwrenching journey of the Beast's discovery of humanity, "The Beaty and the Beast" is the perfect film.
The film took Disney to new levels of excellence. It truly was the beginning of the 90s Disney renaissance.