The best and worst Disney movies

We explore the brilliant best and woeful worst of Disney animated films

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Are Disney films wise, funny and visually stunning – perfect for all the family? Or are they sappy and sentimental, brainwashing kids with all-American values? Everyone has an opinion of the 53 animations released over the years by the Walt Disney Company, beginning in 1937 with ‘Snow White’ and hitting new heights with last year’s box office bonanza ‘Frozen’. What cannot be denied is how loved these films are in every corner of the globe. But which Disney movies deserve a place on your DVD shelf, and which are best forgotten? We count down the best and worst Disney animated movies.

53

Brother Bear (2003)

Boy turns into bear. Learns lessons. Audience groans.

This magical-mystical-mumbo-jumbo fantasy tells the story of an Inuit boy bent on revenge against the bear who killed his brother. But during the hunt, he’s transformed into a bear himself. The film’s uninspired animation and treacly sentiment make it one of the most forgettable Disney features. Keith Uhlich

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52

Home on the Range (2004)

Disney goes West in a fruitless hunt for inspiration

Everything about ‘Home on the Range’ is tired, from the poster’s tagline (‘Bust a moo’) to the dull storyline. In the early 2000s, this was exactly the kind of mediocrity that served to push Disney’s classics into the past (and bear in mind this was the summer that Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’ smashed the box office). It’s hard to hate Roseanne Barr, but watching this feels like being encased in dirt. The film bombed; heads rolled. Joshua Rothkopf

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51

Pocahontas (1995)

Love in the New World. Yawns in the cinema

The so-called Disney Renaissance, a blessed run of goldmines including ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991), ‘Aladdin’ (1992) and ‘The Lion King’ (1994), had to end sometime. ‘Pocahontas’ was the first Disney animation to be based on a real-life historical character. What a shame the studio opens itself up to legitimate charges of stereotyping Native Americans. Joshua Rothkopf

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50

Melody Time (1948)

Still riding off the fumes of ‘Fantasia’, Disney goes pop

This anthology of shorts is largely (and understandably) forgotten. It lacks the sweep and classical grandeur of ‘Fantasia’, and these seven tales – about American pioneer Johnny Appleseed and cowboy Pecos Bill, among others – have lost their cultural cachet. Joshua Rothkopf

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49

Black Cauldron (1985)

One film to disappoint them all

Disney’s second attempt – after ‘The Sword in the Stone’ – to adapt a mystical British fantasy novel goes off the rails thanks to a non-existent plot and tiresome sub-Tolkien characters (including outrageous Gollum knockoff Gurgi). It’s a shame, because there are flashes of real magic here – the John Hurt-voiced Horned King is genuinely creepy. Tom Huddleston

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48

Chicken Little (2005)

Disney enters the brave new world of computer animation

Possibly ‘Chicken Little’ will be remembered as Disney’s first tiptoe into computer animation. Everything else about it is pretty forgettable: charmless, laugh-free and as frantic as a hyperactive five-year-old. The story is lifted from the traditional tale about the chick who believes the end is nigh when an acorn falls on his head (giving us the phrase ‘the sky is falling’). Cath Clarke

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47

Fantasia 2000 (1999)

Guess who’s Bach?

Disney attempted to recapture the magic of ‘Fantasia’ with a second compilation of animated shorts set to classical music. Yet this seems like a cash-grab, with bored celebrity narrators (Bette Midler, Penn & Teller!) and a recycled feel to many of the segments (the slapstick flamingo ballet isn’t a patch on the original’s crocodiles and hippos). Keith Uhlich

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46

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Disney gets that sinking feeling with a Verne-inspired adventure

Disney’s attempt at an original, non-musical take on the legend of the lost underwater civilization was seen as a flop on release – the critics weren’t kind, and the box office wasn’t spectacular. Sure, this isn’t the studio’s finest hour, but it’s a sparky, likeable enough tale, reminiscent of a feature-length episode of a Saturday morning cartoon. Tom Huddleston

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45

The Sword in the Stone (1963)

England’s finest folk hero gets the Disney treatment

Diverting wildly from TH White’s wistful, witty, very English source novel, ‘The Sword in the Stone’ presents the boyhood of King Arthur as a cosy, colourful, slightly crass all-American adventure. It’s enjoyably goofy and little ones love it, but the songs are rotten and the plot paper-thin. Tom Huddleston

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44

Treasure Planet (2002)

What do you call a pirate in space? An arrrrr-stronaut

The idea of repurposing Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ as a sci-fi adventure isn’t a terrible one. But this peculiar hybrid can’t quite make sense of itself – the great floating space-galleons look more ridiculous than awe-inspiring. It’s a good yarn passably told, but ‘Treasure Planet’ feels like an opportunity wasted. Tom Huddleston

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43

Saludos Amigos (1942)

Disney joins the propaganda trail

In English the title is ‘Hello, Friends’ and ‘Saludos Amigos’ sprang from the US government’s Good Neighbor policy – which aimed to promote friendly relations with Latin America. The result is a slight but charming collection of four shorts (best of the bunch is ‘El Gaucho Goofy’) mixed with live action shots of Walt and his team travelling around the continent. Cath Clarke

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42

Mulan (1998)

Disney looks to the east for inspiration

Years before ‘Shrek’, Eddie Murphy voiced another irascible non-human sidekick – the dragon Mushu in Disney’s adaptation of a classic Chinese legend. ‘Mulan’ is a mixed bag: there’s a strong heroine and some impressive widescreen action, but the songs are forgettable and it’s all about as authentic as a fortune cookie. Tom Huddleston

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41

Three Caballeros (1944)

Disney heads south for a curious tour of Latin America

Produced as a sort of propaganda message to America's southern neighbours, this film sees Donald Duck take us by the hand through Latin America in the company of a Brazilian parrot and a Mexican rooster. Heavily musical and seen at the time as quite flashy and indulgent, it's a series of episodes and imaginary sequences that include Donald dancing with singer Aurora Miranda (sister of Carmen) and frolicking with a bunch of bathing beauties on a Mexican beach. Dave Calhoun

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Continue to numbers 40-31 in our list

Vote for your favourite Disney movie

Do you love furry forest creatures, fairy princesses and wicked witches? Or do you think Disney’s animated films are sentimental tripe? We’ve watched all 53 Disney cartoons, from ‘Fantasia’ through to ‘Frozen’, and sorted them into a list from worst to best. But do you agree with our choices? Take a look at the list below and vote for your favourite.

Tell us your favourite Disney movie

Users say

12 comments
Daniel B
Daniel B

I see you have adopted the "pick the order out of a hat and that will do" technique. That method only works for trivial issues like who hosts the Olympics. NOT for Disney movies. Please try your childhood over again, you did it wrong.


Just so you know, I never leave comments but I have created an account just so you know what you've done, is a crime.

Bettina P
Bettina P

This is really wrong on so many points. How can you give your opinion like its a fact? I strongly disagree with your whole list from start to finish and hate the witty negative comments you wrote about some of my favorite Disneys.

G4Lycra
G4Lycra

#14 has an incorrect "fact": Aladdin was not the first DIsney film to use CGI; that was Beauty And The Beast (1991). The ballroom scene was created in CGI to allow the "camera" to swing around Belle and Beast as they danced to Angela Lansbury's Mrs Potts singing the title song.

G4Lycra
G4Lycra

Black Cauldron is notable for being the film that broke Tim Burton.

Ari H
Ari H

The Black Cauldron was one of the biggest disappointment of my childhood. I loved the books, and Disney turned the two first books into a travesty. Gurgi is NOT a cute lapdog!

Jennifer O
Jennifer O

Mulan, Pocahontas and Atlantis on the bottom line?

Black Cauldron and Sword in the Stone as "sappy british myth tales"?

I have to ask this question: WHAT were the criteria to wether a disney movie is good or not?


Black Cauldron has a gigantic fan base that is only darkened by the bad box office it had, Mulan and Pocahontas belong to the movies with the most remarkable female characters (and forgetable songs, are you kidding? I could start singing "Be a man" or "Reflection" on the street and people would immediatly recognize them). Let not even get me started on the other movies you did put so low that are some of my personal favorites and definitely also have a spot on the shelve of most disney fans I know...

Jonathan R
Jonathan R

I cannot agree with this list. Why not get the readers to vote rather than pick movie names out of a hat 

Keith R
Keith R

I sincerely hope that you didn't pay the person that wrote this.

They wouldn't know a good animation if it slapped them round the face!

Daria F
Daria F

I don't even know where to start with this. I think you need to lay off the meth 

Alexander S
Alexander S

Wreck-it Ralph above the Lion King. Are you on glue?

Ari H
Ari H

@Jennifer O The Black Cauldron was one of the biggest disappointment of my childhood. I loved the books, and Disney turned the two first books into a travesty. Gurgi is NOT a cute lapdog!