The best and worst Disney movies

From Snow White to Frozen, 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 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.

  • The Little Mermaid (1989)

    Disney gets its mojo back.

    This cheery adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale set a new template for Disney animation. That formula—take a story everyone knows, preferably featuring a plucky princess, then add a bunch of catchy-as-chlamydia show tunes—still works. But The Little Mermaid also has emotional resonance and staying power…plus sea witch Ursula is surely among the greatest Disney villains.—Guy Lodge

    The Little Mermaid is No. 44 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

    Read review

    The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • Cinderella (1950)

    The start of something beautiful

    The elements of the story are now bedrock components of the Disney formula: plucky heroine, gang of animal sidekicks, the promise of total transformation. But this hit was, by no estimates, a sure thing. Fortunately, the charm offensive proved overwhelming. If you love the brand’s theme parks (and doesn’t that castle look familiar?), here’s the movie that allowed them to happen.—Joshua Rothkopf

    Cinderella is No. 43 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

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    Cinderella (1950)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)

    The magic comes together for a Disney classic.

    Witty and charming, sunnily confident and filled with cockle-warming innocence, Beauty and the Beast harks back to the Disney glory days. But it also took the studio to a new level—becoming the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. What works? The emotional heart of the story plus a soaring, Broadway-on-steroids score. Not to mention the adorable talking objects in the castle.—Trevor Johnston

    Beauty and the Beast is No. 33 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

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    Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • The Jungle Book (1967)

    The hippies are taking over the studio.

    Were the Disney animators passing the bong around when they made The Jungle Book? Just look at the vultures (who bear more than a passing resemblance to The Beatles). Hippy-ish 1960s vibe aside, The Jungle Book stars some of Disney’s best-loved characters, including Baloo (the Bill Murray of bears) and the devilish Shere Khan. And its musical numbers have never been beaten: "Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You" are pure heaven.—Cath Clarke

    The Jungle Book is No. 29 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

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    The Jungle Book (1967)
  • Bambi (1942)

    Walt Disney’s favorite movie (if he did say so himself)

    In medieval times, they tested for witchcraft by dunking suspects in water. Perhaps they could test for serial killers today with the scene of Bambi’s mother dying. Walt Disney called Bambi "the best picture I have ever made, and the best ever to come out of Hollywood." And he might have a point. At any rate, Thumper really should have won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.—Cath Clarke

    Bambi is No. 24 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

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    Bambi (1942)
  • 101 Dalmatians (1961)

    I got 99 problems…

    She is perhaps the most villainous of Disney villainesses. Where you see an adorable puppy, Cruella De Vil sees a fashion statement. Her evil plan is to turn 99 adorable dogs into a coat. With its London setting, 101 Dalmatians pulls Disney into the modern age, casting off fairy godmothers and princesses. And the twilight bark is Disney at its best.—Cath Clarke

    101 Dalmatians is No. 23 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

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    101 Dalmatians (1961)
  • Fantasia (1940)

    Classical kitsch of the highest order

    While in postproduction on Mickey Mouse comeback "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice," Walt Disney decided to surround the short with similar classical-music-scored vignettes. Fantasia was born. Silly and sublime, in which a hippo and an alligator do a slapstick ballet and even the devil himself appears, it’s one of the studio’s finest.—Keith Uhlich

    Fantasia is No. 13 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

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    Fantasia (1940)
  • Snow White (1937)

    Disney’s feature-length debut is still effortlessly charming.

    It may not have been the first animated feature, but with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney and his animators created an entirely new genre. Just look at Frozen and ask how far mainstream animation has really advanced: Snow White has brave heroines, hunky but slightly dumb dudes, slapstick sidekicks, gorgeous animation, unforgettable tunes and the greatest femme fatale in film history.—Tom Huddleston

    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is No. 8 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

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    Snow White (1937)
  • Dumbo (1941)

    Ain’t nobody’s fault he’s got them big ears

    Unromantically, the idea for Dumbo came from the prototype of a new toy. But this tale of a baby elephant born into a traveling circus is tender, moving and packed with energy. At its heart is a piercingly sad story of a mother separated from her child. That’s pretty straightforward, but Disney finds room for inventive set pieces. The jazzy dance of the pink elephants when Dumbo mistakenly gets drunk is a scene for the ages.—Dave Calhoun

    Dumbo is No. 6 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

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    Dumbo (1941)
  • Pinocchio (1940)

    The best animated movie ever?

    The high point of Disney’s invention comes with its second feature—still the studio's most magical. The film begins with a sweetly singing cricket, yet plunges into scenes from a nightmare: Pinocchio’s extending schnozz is animation’s most sinister and profound metaphor. Containing a universe of anxiety and wonder, this movie is nothing short of immortal.—Joshua Rothkopf

    Pinocchio is No. 1 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

    Read review

    Pinocchio (1940)

The Little Mermaid (1989)

Disney gets its mojo back.

This cheery adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale set a new template for Disney animation. That formula—take a story everyone knows, preferably featuring a plucky princess, then add a bunch of catchy-as-chlamydia show tunes—still works. But The Little Mermaid also has emotional resonance and staying power…plus sea witch Ursula is surely among the greatest Disney villains.—Guy Lodge

The Little Mermaid is No. 44 in our list of the 100 best animated movies

Read review

Vote for your favorite 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 favorite.

Tell us your favorite Disney movie

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The 100 best animated movies

We know you’ll find something to love in our list of the 100 best animated movies—films that’ll make you weep, laugh, sing along and wish upon stars.

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