Right now, the name Disney isn’t exactly attracting the right attention; that’s down primarily due to political interventions that have little or nothing to do with the historic, iconic, and hugely successful company that was founded one hundred years ago this coming October.
So what better way to reflect on their indelible impact on American culture and that of the world as a whole than taking a look at the ten most highly regarded and loved movies ever released by the studio?
The list we’ve assembled reflects a cross-section of Disney’s greatest films and covers live-action as well as animated features, all of which are genuine cinematic wonders.
An undisputed classic that won’t leave a dry eye in the house. Some of the most famous sequences in Disney history take place in this 64-minute animated spectacular, and it’s great for all the kids in your household, even those who left childhood many years ago.
This movie turned things on their head, subverting the damsel in distress trope and giving us a warrior princess for the ages. The animation in this late 90s film was very much a sign that Disney was entering a new, more daring, and inclusive age.
Frankly, if Robin Williams hadn’t been cast in this movie, it wouldn’t have been half as effective and successful as it was, but fortunately, he was, and the film is all the better for it. The film takes on a classic tale and tells it expertly. Great soundtrack too.
This Pixar classic, now part of the Disney canon, is a monumental feat of animation in so much as it makes any viewer feel the deepest of emotional pulls possible. One sequence in particular, which anyone who has seen the film will know, is truly memorable and will leave you reaching for the tissues.
The story of a curmudgeonly old man seeking to go on an adventure of a lifetime is not to be missed.
Mary Poppins (1964)
The archetypal Disney musical movie and one that still draws in viewers nearly sixty years after its original release. The soundtrack is perhaps as famous as the film itself, during which Julie Andrews wins over the audience with her warm portrayal of the nanny sent to manage a household, while Dick van Dyck features as the affable chimney sweep, which helps to make this film an absolute classic.
The Lion King (1994)
The Disney team went through a series of massive hits in the 1990s, and none of them can top The Lion King, which really helped to get the studio back on track. Once again, it’s a perfect combination of strong storytelling and pitch-perfect songs that make this a film that really hits the spot with children of all ages.
On second and third viewing, it really is quite a dark movie and was, of course, the subject of a less than glorious live-action remake some years later.
We add this movie into the mix more for its innovation than anything else and the brave decision-making that led to its creation. The film was way ahead of its time, and the heavily stylized look of the 1982 film still looks very refreshing in 2023.
Jeff Bridges was the perfect casting choice to play the lead of Flynn, as was the use of dastardly English actor David Warner as villain Ed Dillinger (he returned to do a similar turn in Titanic), and the editing and SFX (sound effects) still hold up today.
Amazingly, when this movie was released, it received somewhat mixed reviews from the critics but by 1988, it had become the second highest-grossing animated film of all time, which goes to show how much they knew.
This tear-jerker followed a similar Disney path to others that have followed, namely a young child (or, in this case, a fawn) being impacted by the death of a parent. ‘That’ scene is one that lives long in the memory and sets the whole mood of the piece.
Toy Story (1995)
This commonly sits top of Pixar releases and, as such, has to make it onto our list of the best-ever Disney productions. The 1995 release was groundbreaking on many levels and expertly brought to life the adventures of toys that come to life.
It went on to gross over $390 million at the box office and was followed by a series of sequels, all of which have proven hugely successful, earning Disney a small fortune in the process.
The story of Princess Elsa is now the stuff of lore, and there isn’t a single household that isn’t aware of this production; no doubt, have seen it far too many times in the process, and the 2013 film went on to become the highest-grossing animated film of all-time before this was then wrestled from its grasp by The Lion King remake six years later.
It went on to win two Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.
Bringing this list down to ten had invariably led to the omission of some genuinely outstanding movies, such is the high success rate of Disney. We could easily have added another ten films to this list, but then it wouldn’t be a top ten list.
Honorable mentions should be given to Moana, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, Ratatouille, and 101 Dalmatians.