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The 12 Best Disney Movies of All Time

I am a grown man now, but I have never stopped loving Disney movies. Whether it’s an animated film or a live-action adventure, I can’t help but sit down and thoroughly enjoy the whole thing. Now that I have a Disney+ subscription, I have found myself going back and enjoying some of my childhood favorites and even some newer films. There’s never a wrong time to watch some of the best Disney movies of all time you know.

Everyone’s ranked list of Disney films is going to be different, and now that the media giant has acquired Star Wars and Marvel, there is an overwhelming amount of good movies to choose from. For my list, however, I’m only focusing on films that made me feel that classic Disney magic. If you’re looking for a broader list of choices, we also have a list of the best Disney+ movies to stream right now.

12. The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)

Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) in The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005).
Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) in The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005).

This is the only live-action film on this list, and it was a difficult decision to put it here instead of more of the cartoon movies. The reason I put it here is that The Greatest Game Ever Played is more than just a golf movie, it’s a look into golf history. The story follows a young, working-class boy named Francis Ouimet (Shia Labeouf) as he tries to make his dreams of becoming a golf champion a reality. Though it’s primarily a drama, there are bits of humor and action sprinkled in throughout the film.

Director: Bill Paxton
Main Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Stephen Dillane, Elias Koteas
Runtime: 120 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.4

Watch on Disney+

11. Soul (2020)

Main character Joe with his cat in still from Soul.
Joe (left, Jamie Foxx) with his cat in Soul (2020).

Soul is one of the most recent Pixar movies to be released directly to Disney+ and it hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves. It deals with death and the struggles of life in a beautiful story about a man who loses his life right before he gets his big musical break. When he meets a new soul on the other side who refuses to come to earth, he finds himself rediscovering the true meaning of life through the eyes of someone who has never lived.

Maybe it was because of how depressing 2020 was, but this Pixar film really hit home for me. While all Disney movies articulate complicated themes about death, this was the first one that really focused more directly on the meaning of life.

Directors: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
Main Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton
Runtime: 100 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.1

Watch on Disney+

10. Big Hero 6 (2014)

Hiro and Baymax in Big Hero 6.
Hiro (left, Ryan Potter) and Baymax (right, Scott Adsit) in Big Hero 6 (2014).

There are a lot of other movies I could have put on this list over Big Hero 6, but there’s just something about this film that I keep coming back to. It has an excellent voice cast and the animation is great, but it’s the unique storyline and setting that draws me in the most. The main character is a young kid filled with hope for his future only to be assaulted by tragedy and despair. There is no magic godmother or genie that can come save the day, only the lingering kindness of an inflatable robot and the undying spirit of a young boy who overcomes a great loss.

Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Main Cast: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung
Runtime: 102 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.8

Watch on Disney+

9. Up (2009)

Chracters Russell and Carl in a scene from Up.
Russell (left, Jordan Nagai) and Carl (right, Ed Asner) in Up (2009).

Up is both one of the most heartbreaking and most heartwarming Disney movies of all time. Right off the bat, this Pixar film punches you in the gut with a wrenching look into the inevitable end of all good things. Fortunately, what starts as a depiction of loss and despair quickly turns into the heartwarming story of a man who feels he has lost any reason to live finding hope in a young child who needs him.

Another Pixar movie that hits you in the feelings like this one is Inside Out, but for the sake of condensing this list to only 12 picks, I chose to feature Up instead. If I’m being honest, it’s mostly because of Doug the talking dog.

Directors: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
Main Cast: Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai, John Razenberger
Runtime: 96 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.2

Watch on Disney+

8. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

Pacha  and Kuzco fighting in The Emperor's New Groove (2000).
Pacha (left, John Goodman) and Kuzco (right, David Spade) fighting in The Emperor’s New Groove (2000).

One of the most genuinely hilarious Disney movies of all time (guaranteeing it a place on our list), The Emperor’s New Groove is a fun adventure story into the Peruvian jungle with some great characters. Young, bratty, and spoiled new Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) is accidentally turned into a llama and lost in the jungle after a plot to kill him goes awry, sending him on an adventure back to his palace with the help of his new, reluctant friend Pacha (John Goodman).

Besides the hilarious animation and the overall plot, this movie is highlighted by its fantastic voice performances from David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Wendie Malick, and especially Patrick Warburton as Kronk.

Directors: Mark Dindal
Main Cast: David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt
Runtime: 78 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.4

Watch on Disney+

7. Tangled (2010)

Rapunzel's lonely tower in Tangled (2010).
Rapunzel’s lonely tower in Tangled (2010).

You may be thinking to yourself, “Why is Tangled on this list if Frozen isn’t?” The answer to that is quite simple: Tangled is a better movie than Frozen. It may not have gained the same popularity as Frozen or even had as good of a soundtrack, but it just felt more unique to me. Much like Mulan, the movie featured a Princess who didn’t have to rely on someone else to save her. What’s more, the prince that does come to save her is actually a thief that she ends up saving instead.

This is also the only Disney movie I know of where one of the characters is aware of how weird it is for a group of strangers to burst into song together — which makes this movie worthy of my list in and of itself.

Director: Nathan Greno
Main Cast: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
Runtime: 100 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.7

Watch on Disney+

6. Coco (2017)

Miguel entranced in a still from Coco.
Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) entranced in Coco (2017).

A more recent and fantastic Disney/Pixar collaboration to be mentioned today is Coco, a beautiful and touching affirmation of life and acknowledgment of the afterlife that will knock you down if it catches you on your heels. Not only is it a culturally conscious movie that integrates Spanish into the regular dialogue, but it also weaves a pretty heavy story into the plot climax, similar to The Lion King days of Disney Tragedy.

As usual, this movie features some awesome original songs that are way too catchy for their own good, as well as some fabulous motion capture technology they used to animate the hilarious side character: a Xoloitzcuintli — I know it’s a nightmare to read, but it’s a fairly common Mexican street dog — named Dante, who follows our character around the whole time.

Directors: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Main Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
Runtime: 105 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.4

Watch on Disney+

5. Hercules (1997)

Hercules stands proudly in a scene from Hercules.
Hercules (Tate Donovan) stands proudly in Hercules (1997).

Hercules was one of my first introductions into Greek mythology and is the only reason I know about as many Greek gods as I do. With a soundtrack featuring artists like Michael Bolton and Destiny’s Child, the music alone makes this film worth watching. It has the same zero-to-hero theme as many of the other classic Disney movies on this list, but with the addition of great mythology references.

Like most of the movies on this list, the voice cast really brought life to the film. Personally, I have never been able to look at Danny Devito as anything other than a goat-man since I first watched this film and that’s okay.

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
Main Cast: Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, James Woods, Danny Devito
Runtime: 93 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.3

Watch on Disney+

4. The Lion King (1994)

Rafiki and Mufasa on Pride Rock in The Lion King.
Rafiki (left, Robert Guillaume) and Mufasa (right, James Earl Jones) on Pride Rock in The Lion King (1994).

The only reason The Lion King isn’t at the top of this list is that it’s basically just Hamlet, but with lions. But that’s also what makes it such a fantastic story. With likable animal characters, complicated themes, and a memorable soundtrack from the minds of Elton John and Tim Rice, it has everything you could ever want from a Disney movie. The original film has even become one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time, so you know it’s good.

The Lion King has also been the subject of a “live-action” remake, which was largely CGI. While the movie itself stayed fairly true to the original, it lacked the same heart that came with the animated version. The original film also spurred The Lion King 2 and The Lion King 1 and 1/2 which are actually both worth watching if you haven’t seen them already.

Directors: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Main Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones
Runtime: 88 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.5

Watch on Disney+

3. Mulan (1998)

Mulan on her horse in Mulan.
Mulan (right, Ming-Na Wen) on her horse in Mulan (1998).

I first watched Mulan when I was a kid, and it instantly became one of my favorite Disney movies of all time. Looking back now, it was one of the first times a Disney “princess” was portrayed as a capable human that didn’t need saving. But when I watched it as a kid, I really just thought it was genuinely entertaining. The soundtrack is amazing and having Eddie Murphy playing the dragon companion really just tied the whole thing together. It’s the story of an unlikely hero overcoming insurmountable odds that Disney does so well.

This is actually one of those rare cases where I have actually seen the live-action version of this film and didn’t hate it. While I would never put that iteration of this movie on this list, I would recommend watching it if you’re a fan of the original animated film.

Directors: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
Main Cast: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong
Runtime: 88 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.6

Watch on Disney+

2. Tarzan (1999)

Terk (left, Rosie O'Donnell) and Tarzan (right, Tony Goldwyn) in Tarzan (1999).
Terk (left, Rosie O’Donnell) and Tarzan (right, Tony Goldwyn) in Tarzan (1999).

Tarzan is another classic story told through gorgeous animation and fueled by the heavenly score of Phil Collins. This film had all of the elements of a good Disney movie — action, talking animals, conflict, and an underlying heartfelt storyline. Plus the soundtrack was so good that I actually have the CD I still listen to from time to time.

The Tarzan franchise has since gone downhill since the original film, but that doesn’t change its place on the list. There are so many great lines and memorable moments from the first movie that still bring me joy all these years later.

Directors: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
Main Cast: Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Brian Blessed
Runtime: 88 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.3

Watch on Disney+

Read more: Best Movies

1. Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin with the lamp in Aladdin.
Aladdin (Scott Weinger) with the lamp in Aladdin (1992).

I was born in the 90s, so naturally, Aladdin is number 1 on my list of Disney movies. While it can be argued that the only reason this movie was only so good is because Robin Williams did a fantastic job as Genie, no argument will ever get me to remove this animated film from the top of my list. With magic, fighting, and a rags-to-riches main character, Aladdin is more than just a diamond in the rough.

The Return of Jafar and The King of Thieves didn’t have the same impact on me as the original, so they aren’t worth mentioning here. There is also the live-action remake featuring Will Smith as Genie that I will never actually get around to watching.

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
Main Cast: Scott Weinberg, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin
Runtime: 90 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.0

Watch on Disney+

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