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.
We’re all the same beneath our fur, man.
This is a sweet, sometimes moving tale of the friendship between a young fox and a hunting dog who live next door as kids but meet later as enemies in the forest. It has enough to say about prejudice and the innocence of youth to not be dismissed as minor. In the history of Disney animation, it’s notable for the arguments and splits during production between Disney founding animators and a new guard coming up through the ranks.—Dave Calhoun
Disney swaps a mischievous mouse for a noble bear
The last Disney feature in which Walt was involved isn’t actually a feature so much as a portmanteau film composed of three previously released shorts from the late ’60s plus one new one. Visually rather static, Winnie the Pooh relies on the charms of A.A. Milne’s original characters for its kicks—though the conceit of a voiceover narrator who flips through the pages of the story yields some nice animated gags. Eeyore would steal the show if he had more screen time.—Alex Dudok de Wit
Disney raids the Looney Tunes back catalog.
Closer to a Tasmanian Devil cartoon than a traditional Disney feature, Lilo & Stitch is a rare blast of chaotic fun amid all the fairy tales and morals. The tale of a sweet Hawaiian girl and her insane, ravenous, Elvis-obsessed extraterrestrial pal, this is nonstop mayhem in the best possible sense.—Tom Huddleston
Race, rioting, religion and raunch—Disney gets dark!
Those who expected Disney to transform Victor Hugo’s famously gritty and complex anti-religious novel into a jolly, kid-friendly romp were only half right. This is without doubt the darkest Disney flick to date, tackling themes of sexual obsession, religious hypocrisy and rampant materialism. Sure, everyone lives happily ever after, but it’s a grim and gripping ride to get there.—Tom Huddleston
- Rated as: 4/5
Portly yellow bear can’t kick his honey addiction.
This delightfully digressive feature follows Pooh and his friends (Eeyore, Tigger et al.) as they go in search of the sweet golden treasure, even sailing on a sea of honey in one especially gorgeous sequence. It’s a keeper.—Keith Uhlich
They don’t call it the Mouse House for nothing.
If you happened to be the right age (raises hand), this mouse-terpiece was exactly the thrilling, swirling adventure advertised. The story of an the all-mouse Rescue Aid Society who go to the help of an orphan girl being held captive, The Rescuers represents one of Disney's many comebacks: a solid critical and commercial success after years of duds.—Joshua Rothkopf
He’s Tarzan, you’ll be drained.
Tarzan is the last film in the decade-long Disney Renaissance, and while not quite a classic like The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, there’s still a lot to love here. The aerial animation as Tarzan swings through the jungle is spectacular, and there are some funny gags ("Is it a sub species of elephant?" ponders a gorilla looking at the little human cub). Tarzan’s sense of not belonging—to his gorilla family or mankind—is heart-touching and surprisingly moving.—Cath Clarke
Not purr-fect but catchy songs go a long way
The first film made after Walt Disney’s death follows an aristocratic feline and her kittens as they try to reclaim their stolen fortune with the help of a back-alley stray. It’s a charming adventure, with plenty of fun musical numbers—like the jazzy "Everybody Wants to be a Cat"—thrown in for good, toe-tapping measure.—Keith Uhlich
- Rated as: 3/5
Seventy years on, we finally have a black Disney heroine.
Retro was the order of the day when Disney embarked on their first hand-drawn film in several years. The result feels at once classic and modern, with its creaky fairy-tale narrative transplanted to New Orleans and buoyed up by Randy Newman’s memorable oompah soundtrack and some lively voice casting. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, too.—Tom Huddleston
A gift from the animation gods
Some find the smart-ass wisecracking in Hercules irritating, but they’re wrong. Disney might have mangled ancient Greek myth with their reimagining of Hercules as a none-too-bright but lovable lunkhead. But this film is a winner, infectiously funny and chock-full of gags. Best of all is the deliciously droll, adult-friendly villain Hades, with his hapless sidekicks Pain and Panic.—Cath Clarke
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.
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