Hold onto your pixie dust, it’s about to get real! There’s little that unites and divides Disney fans more than discussing the best and worst films in Disney history. We’re here to do just that today! Before the gloves come out, let’s keep in mind that everyone’s criteria for determining the best and worst is different, and we fully appreciate that many Disney fans will have different picks for each category. And admittedly, our standards are quite high for Disney, because we know how amazing it can be at its best! Here are our picks for the 5 best and 5 worst Disney films. How do they rank in your lists?
1. Beauty and the Beast
Romanticization of Stockholm Syndrome aside, there’s not much we don’t love about Beauty and the Beast. This film brings the classic fairy tale to life through beautifully memorable songs and a feel-good storyline – it perfectly epitomizes Disney’s glory days. There’s a heroine who made it cool to love books, a villain we love to hate, and of course, all of those talking enchanted objects voiced by an impressive number of stars. Whether it’s the first or the twenty-first time you’ve seen it, it’s bound to melt your heart.
One of our favorite Disney Pixar collaborations is WALL-E. We love this adorably curious little robot with a heart of gold, and we love the timely message about what we’re doing to our planet, delivered through a captivating sci-fi story that doesn’t feel like it’s preaching at us. The characters are endearing, the story is profound and heart-felt, and the film looks amazing. What’s not to love?
3. Mary Poppins
Generations have grown up watching Julie Andrews portray the magical nanny we all hoped would descend on our doorsteps as children. With Dick Van Dyke as the utterly charming chimney sweep sidekick, a score that was an immediate classic, and ground-breaking technical ambition that surpassed any previous Disney film, Mary Poppins has it all! The icing on the cake? No Disney film to date has landed more Academy Award nominations (Mary Poppins was nominated for a whopping 13)!
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4. Inside Out
Inside Out is a wild, and wildly rewarding, ride. It brings to life the emotions in the mind of a young Riley as she struggles to adjust to a move across the country. Its personification of emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust) is simply brilliant, as is the journey across Riley’s psychic landscape. The film opens up new avenues for children and adults alike to think about and discuss difficult feelings, and various psychologists were consulted for their input into the story. On a less cerebral level, the film is packed with cuteness, humor, originality, and lots of heart.
This 1950 classic has become one of the most iconic Disney films ever. It received 3 Academy Award nominations and was lauded by critics, and the rags-to-riches story continues to be loved by Disney fans worldwide. Kind, long-suffering Cinderella and her endearing mice sidekicks have enduring charm, and let’s face it, couldn’t we all use a Fairy Godmother sometimes? While we’re not sure the film’s villainess did any favors to the reputation of step-mothers, Lady Tremaine manages to be completely terrifying even without any magical powers (relied on by other Disney villains). And of course, Cinderella has always been so integral to the Disney universe that her heroine’s castle is the beloved icon of Walt Disney World. Who could compete with that?
Who doesn’t love a good dinosaur movie? Sadly, this isn’t one of them. Disney’s Dinosaur earns points for being the first Disney feature film to be completely computer animated, which makes it noteworthy – but, in our opinion, this isn’t enough reason to endure its plodding storyline. If you manage to sit through the film without falling asleep (serious props for that!), you’ll likely also be annoyed by the fact that the incredible realism of the animals is cancelled out by having them talk. (Thankfully, the Animal Kingdom ride of the same name is a much better experience.)
We don’t know many people who can defend Pocahontas. Sure, there were some pretty musical standouts in the score (we’re looking at you, Colors of the Wind), and we love that Disney depicted Pocahontas as such a free spirit. But this was the first animated film where Disney looked to an actual historical character, and the movie’s not exactly rife with historical accuracy. Even if you can forgive this (it is Disney, after all), something we find harder to excuse is the stereotyping of Native American culture, and the reduction of horrific historical events into song-worthy fare for family viewing.
3. The Haunted Mansion
Like many other Disney fans, Haunted Mansion is one of our all-time favorite rides in Walt Disney World. It makes sense that Disney would seize on the popularity of this ride and use it as source material for a film. Sadly, the film bears very little resemblance to the attraction; what’s worse, instead of being both funny and scary, which the ride manages to do so well, the movie failed to be either. With a poor script and forgettable characters, the film relies heavily on profanity and crude jokes, and is very obviously a lazy attempt to further cash in on the attraction-as-movie genre. Take our advice and watch Pirates of the Caribbean for the 10th time instead.
4. Beauty and the Beast (2017)
This one may be a little controversial, but we simply can’t get behind the live action re-telling of one of our absolute favorite Disney films. The movie looks amazing, to be sure, and you’ll feel like you stepped right into that poor, provincial town. But the movie tries to do too much, without fleshing additional storylines out, as if producers wanted to prove that a remake was needed by throwing everything they had at it to see what stuck. And while we love Emma Watson and her feisty portrayal of Belle, a singer she is not (and we really think that’s a prerequisite for a musical). And did anyone else find the enchanted objects less – well – enchanting, and more terrifyingly disturbing? Overall, this film really doesn’t know what it wants to be, and tries to be a bit of everything, succeeding only in falling woefully short of the magic of the original.
5. Animated Film Sequels
Alright, so we’re cheating a bit with this one! But with a few exceptions (Toy Story 2 and 3 and The Lion King 2 spring to mind), Disney animated film sequels have been astonishingly sub-par, so this category has a well-deserved spot in our “worst of” list. Planes, for example, is one of the most widely panned animated films of all time, and doesn’t recapture any of the charm or story of Cars. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas is an insult to the masterpiece of the original film, despite the ridiculously high calibre of its cast. Pocahontas 2: Journey to a New World, which removes all of Pocahontas’ free spiritedness, is much worse than the original (which is already on this list). And don’t get us started on Cinderella 2, which was an utterly needless addition to an iconic Disney film. The bottom line? We’d love it if Disney ditched the irredeemable (though apparently profitable) rehashes and focused on giving us more of the new, exciting, original films we can’t get enough of!