The best and worst Disney movies
From Snow White to Frozen, we explore the brilliant best and woeful worst of Disney animated films
Thu Jun 26 2014
Are Disney films wise, funny and visually stunning—perfect for the entire family? Or are they sappy and sentimental, brainwashing kids with antiquated 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.
Do you agree with our list? Have your say. Vote your favorite movies up and down the list right here.
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
Disney goes West in a fruitless hunt for inspiration.
Everything about Home on the Range is tired, from the poster’s tag line ("Bust a moo") to the dull story line. 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
Love in the New World. Yawns in the cinema.
The so-called Disney Renaissance—a blessed run of gold mines 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
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
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 nonexistent 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
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
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
Disney gets that sinking feeling with a Verne-inspired adventure.
Disney’s attempt at an original, nonmusical 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, likable enough tale, reminiscent of a feature-length episode of a Saturday morning cartoon.—Tom Huddleston
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 cozy, colorful, 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
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
Disney joins the propaganda trail.
In English the title is "Hello Friends," and Saludos Amigos sprang from the U.S. 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 traveling around the continent.—Cath Clarke
Disney looks to the East for inspiration.
Years before Shrek, Eddie Murphy voiced another irascible nonhuman 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
Disney heads south for a curious tour of Latin America.
Produced as a sort of propaganda message to America's southern neighbors, 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
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 favorite.
More animated film features
21 animated movie moments guaranteed to make you weep like Bambi
The ten most annoying Disney songs
21 things you never knew about The Jungle Book
The eight most vile Disney villainesses
So you want to make an animation?
The 30 best animated short films ever made
How to make an animated movie – in eight steps
Things animation taught you...
The best films now showing
- Rated as: 5/5
- Critics choice
Jake Gyllenhaal goes bug-eyed as a crazed opportunist who finds his calling as a vulturelike collector of crime footage, in screenwriter Dan Gilroy’s thrilling directorial debut.
- Rated as: 4/5
- Critics choice
Since the late ’70s, the Mekons have maintained an unusual durability, especially in the context of punk peers. Their story, well-unpacked here, is unexpectedly moving.
- Rated as: 4/5
- Critics choice
At the ripe old age of 83, Jean-Luc Godard embraces the head-spinning potential of 3-D in this free-form provocation, with subjects ranging from Frankenstein to dogs.