I’ve thought a lot about this adding this topic to my blog but it is a broad subject (and somewhat of a controversial one among my friends). It’s one that a lot of millennials think about these days now that the animated films we grew up are aging but like a fine wine because they are still talked about today.
With the recent release of Aladdin, I’m upgrading all of my movies in my Disney animated collection to Blu-Ray and it got me to thinking what I considered to be my top 10 Disney movies. Every list varies depending on what era of Disney you grew up with and if you have seen any of the older, original films. I grew up mainly in the Disney Renaissance during the 90’s but did watch some of the older films and the addition of Pixar does blur the line of what is Disney now but it’s all animation.
Here we go!
10) The Lady and the Tramp (1955)
The tale of a loved house dog getting lost named Lady who gets lost in the streets and falls in love with a stray dog named Tramp. This story is the classic “rich versus poor” tale with a little bit of Disney magic added in. This film is heralded as the one of Disney’s greatest love stories that possibly rivals Beauty and the Beast. Not many animated filmed have aged as gracefully as Lady and the Tramp which helps attest the placement on this list. Plus no one can forget one of the greatest scenes in romantic movies, whether animated or live-action, of the two main characters who share spaghetti, eventually leading to a kiss.
9) Sleeping Beauty (1959)
There is little reason why this classic is not on anyone’s top Disney movie list. Sleeping Beauty is one of the few widely told fairy tales and when it is mentioned, your mind almost instantly think Disney. Disney has the greatest known version of Aurora and Maleficent. The animation is very striking and helps amplify the story of fantasy. It’s about as magical as Disney can get. The climatic battle between Prince Philip and the dragon form of Maleficent is epic, stunning, and as action-packed as any live-action film today. Sleeping Beauty is one of Disney’s greatest pieces of art ever.
8) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
This Disney classic has the unique placement of being a generational movie. It can relate to at least one part of everyone’s childhood in one way or another. The imagination, nostalgia, and emotion of The classic explores the simplicity and innocence of being a child, something that most adults forget and need a reminder of. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh gives its viewers of a sense of belonging in a world where we are misinterpreted everyday as we learn and grow. It’s a movie that can be a favorite of both grandparents, adults, young adults, and children all.
7) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a child of the Disney Renaissance and one of their darker efforts during the 90’s. That might be the reason that people still like it. The usual Disney formula is in place as always, The Hunchback of Notre Dame feels like a breath of fresh air. It holds nothing back and provides us a truly evil villain that doesn’t rely on humorous song. This film truly explores the human soul as far as what makes us good or bad, no matter what is on the outside. The protagonist, Quasimodo (who bears society’s most taunts due to his deformity), doesn’t get the girl in the end but gains something more in the end. Definitely one of the more underrated movies in Disney’s collection.
6) Peter Pan (1953)
Here is another film about the wonders of childhood that reaches across generations. The reason Peter Pan works so well and lasted so long is not just because of the quality and art, but it’s because it’s about a character who appeals to everyone who wishes they can just stop life and escape reality for a short time. After all, escapism is one of the most attractive qualities about movies. Peter Pan embodies Disney’s entire idea with its films, shows, and theme parks as far as its popularity with people of all ages. It allows them to take a few minutes from the stresses of the real world and school and enjoy something positive, freeing, and uplifting. Peter Pan is a mascot for hope that things always get better.
5) The Little Mermaid (1989)
Disney was going through a dark period following a change of management and their films did not perform well commercially, leaving the animation department in jeopardy. The Little Mermaid was a revitalization of the Disney brand and led the way for the Renaissance. Without the wonderful music of the mermaid who wanted to break free from the suffering chains of her father’s concerned limits, I, along with many other children born in the late 80’s and 90’s, would not have the movies we enjoyed growing up. The soundtrack rivaled the animation and showed us how big the characters would mark their place in Disney history. Bottom line: The Little Mermaid saved Disney.
4) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
In this sort of list, you cannot forget the film that started it all. In 1937, Walt Disney realized his dream of releasing a full-length animated feature film. Snow White set the standard for everything Disney has become and has influenced so many other studios that choose to venture into animation. This classic made it into the top four because it is the foundation for all the stories we enjoy today. It goes without saying that Snow White started something massive and is a milestone in cinema all together.
3) Aladdin (1992)
The films I have listed here have done a great job withstanding the test of time over the years. They have outdone and elevated the standard that was set by predecessors before them. Aladdin is one film that has done both of these things. This magical story of rags to riches is an instant classic, spawning two direct-to-video sequels, an animated television series, and a Broadway play. The soundtrack shoots off one hit after another, full of energy and life. You have to sing along anytime an Aladdin song comes on! The greatest characteristic of this film is Robin Williams’ performance as the infinite Genie, in which there is no limit to the dreams he can make come true. Along with a devilish villain and the electric animation, Aladdin is one of the few Disney movies where everything is on point.
2) The Lion King
This is the Shakespeare of Disney and one of the first films I remember as a child that made me fall in love of movies. This epic has a powerful story and holds its place as an undisputed classic and serves as one of the finest pieces of filmmaking in history, animated or not. A tale of maturity, responsibility, loss, and destiny, The Lion King reaches deeper than the drama of Simba, the abandoned prince and protagonist. It discusses our nature as humans by using metaphors of tyranny and rebellion to describe a fable of social order, legacy, and lust for power. Hakuna Matata – which means no worries – that the bad is in the past, an exciting and swinging hit, and a comfortable motto in relation to the film’s inner-antagonist. The Lion King is a phenomenon that transcends its legacy, going from sequels (and half-sequels) to television to theme parks to the Broadway stage. Walt Disney would be proud of this film as well as the one I have crowned as number one…
1) Beauty and the Beast (1991)
With 52 films and seven and a half decades of animated films, Beauty and the Beast can be argued as the pinnacle of Disney animation. It combines the best of the past with the present. A Broadway musical rendered for the big screen, reaching out to an audience of all ages. The film moves like animated poetry, wrapping up turmoil and triumph in a blanket of emotional passion and covered in a rich sauce of majestic grandeur. Beauty and the Beast qualifies as a masterpiece not just in animation, but in cinema. It is the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture Oscar; some still argue that it should have won that year. The story of Belle and the Beast is one that resonates with all ages. We learn that love is not the physical or material offerings of an individual, but who the person is inside their heart and soul. It’s what makes them a person, not just in terms of personality but also in their ability to grow and change to make themselves better people. It might be mushy but Disney seems to run on it so it works. This film embodies the essence and elements of Disney animation, giving us a tale that is truly as old as time and won’t be forgotten.
So what movies are in your Disney Top 10?