The 10 Best Animated Disney Movies of All Time
Y’all, this is a tough one.
This is like trying to pick out the best Beatles album. Or the best Halloween candy. Or the sexiest of the tumblr sexymen. It’s just really hard and there are lots of valid opinions. But I’m going to practice self-love here and say that my own opinion is more valid than everyone else’s because I’m pretty, I’m smart, and I’m worth it. So I’m making a list of what I think the best animated Disney movies of all time are, and if you don’t like it, the comments section is below.
And I invite you to say all the horrible things you want about me and my opinions, and I will read them all and cry. But I will survive because I am beautiful and strong like a young stag. Or a proud water buffalo. Or some other charismatic ungulate from the animal kingdom.
Here we go: The best animated Disney movies of all time, in no particular order.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Some of you may seek to instantly disqualify this film because it is not “traditionally animated.” It is, in fact, stop-motion animation, meaning they made all the character models in real life and then painstakingly moved them, millimeter by millimeter, to give the illusion that they’re moving by themselves. And that is a feat of dedication and patience that deserves to be held on par with traditional animation. So to all the naysayers, I lovingly say: stfu.
Nightmare Before Christmas is DOPE. And when I say DOPE I mean CULTURALLY PROFOUND. Like, this movie SINGLE HANDEDLY inspired generations of kids to grow up all goth and spooky. This movie is the REASON why Hot Topic is still in business. This movie was literally referenced in a Blink-182 song, and for those who don’t know, when the greatest pop-punk icons of a generation put you in a song, that’s how you know you made it.
But the wild thing is that I would argue that the music from this movie has outlasted Blink-182. I mean, “This Is Halloween” is an absolute banger, so much so that Danny Elfman played it at Coachella decades after this movie came out and it still hit. It’s just got some of the best Disney tunes of all time—not to mention it has the most iconic characters. I mean, c’mon, Jack Skellington? Sally? Oogie Boogie? They’re flawlessly spooky and yet somehow so charming and adorable. Tim Burton, you worked your magic again.
Sing “Let’s get down to business …” in a crowded room. At a bar. At the mall. At a party. At your cousin’s graduation. At your great aunt’s funeral. I can guarantee you that your Uncle Billy is going to wipe his puffy, grief-haunted eyes and sing back “to defeat … The Huns.” It’s just that iconic of a song. Seriously, this movie is just full of banging music. Don’t even get me started on “Reflection.” Also, it’s just a great story. I mean, it was serving up both East Asian representation and a transmasculine narrative back in the nineties.
And just so we all remember, the ’90s were generally not a cute time for anyone who wasn’t cis and white. Yes, Mulan does present a somewhat Westernized view of East Asian culture, but I would argue that the film’s triumphs are far greater than its faults. It also gave us one of the first few Disney princess narratives where the protagonist becomes something greater than a princess. She becomes the greatest hero in her nation. I mean, who didn’t get chills when the Emperor and all of the citizens bow to her at the end of the movie?
She is one of the few Disney women who achieves something truly momentous. And, more importantly, she doesn’t achieve it by being romantically validated by a male character. She achieves greatness by being validated as a warrior. You can no doubt find some transgender parallels in this film as well, as it is essentially the story of a person who changes their gender presentation in order to overcome the strict gender roles of the society in which they live. Plus, it gives us a moment where her fellow soldiers Yao, Ling, and Chien Po outwit the Huns by dressing in drag. Huge win.
The Lion King
Can you feel the love tonight? I do. I feel the love all around this movie. The impact this film had on the culture is staggering. It inspired a Tony award-winning Broadway musical, and a live-action remake with Beyoncé. It has arguably the best songs in the entire Disney canon. And, like, of course it does. The music was written by fucking Elton John and the lyrics were written by Tim Rice (the guy who did Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita, and a million other musicals).
I mean we’ve got “The Circle of Life,” “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” and “Hakuna Matata.” Each of those songs is an absolute showstopper and they’re all in the same movie. The film also borrows plot elements from perhaps the most famous literary work of all time: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I don’t know what it is, but something about avenging your father’s death by the hand of a trusted companion just speaks to the human spirit. This film was honestly lightning in a bottle, and may actually be the number one greatest Disney film of all time (but I’m not writing that opinion piece, hell no).
Okay, so I wasn’t actually a fan of Toy Story when it came out. It kinda creeped me out a little. I wasn’t really one for toys, so the idea of a bunch of action figures coming to life when I wasn’t looking was spooky. Also, that scene where they find all those fucked-up toys under the bully’s bed gave me literal nightmares. But as I have grown up I now acknowledge the astounding positive impact this movie and its sequels had on a generation of children, even if my reaction was more like “ew.”
HOWEVER, I will say that the “I’m not flying, I’m falling with style” moment at the climax of the film was thrilling to my prepubescent heart. Looking back, Toy Story is a true work of art that only gets more poignant as you age. It’s a movie that can’t help but remind you of the childhood things that made you you in the most elemental way possible. Everyone is going to have an emotional reaction when they think about the toys that they played with as a child. I am still bothered by the fact that many of my beloved stuffed animals are sitting up in my parents’ attic somewhere.
This film understands that play is not just “fun”; it is literal magic that children cast. It only makes sense that the toys in this film magically come to life, because in a child’s eyes, they already do that anyway. Toy Story reminds children of what they already know, and adults of what they have forgotten. I think this is the only film on this list that gives The Lion King a run for its money as “Greatest of All Time” Disney movie, but I’ll leave y’all petty bitches to duke it out in the comments section and decide for yourselves.
Tell me what is NOT TO LOVE about this movie? I mean, to start off Aladdin has perhaps one of the top five Disney bangers in existence: “A Whole New World.” Don’t like that song?
*opens trash bin*
Fine. You know what? I’ll humor you. Strike “A Whole New World” from the movie and it STILL has the shameless bangers “Prince Ali” and “Friend Like Me.” Aladdin is hilarious, heartwarming, and a little scary in the way a good Disney movie should be. I mean, a cave comes to life and EATS SOMEONE. That’s the RIGHT kind of childhood trauma right there.
Beauty and the Beast
Ladies and gentleman of the jury, exhibit A! The bangers. If it would please the court, Beauty and the Beast is so chock full of them that the case against it not being on this list is unconstitutional and needs to be throw out.
But seriously, if you don’t know the consummate bops that populate the soundtrack of this pleasureful piece, we can’t be friends. ALSO, Beauty and the Beast gets extra points for *gasp* challenging stereotypes of masculinity!? Seriously, why would you ever want to be a Gaston when you could be a Beast? (At least a second-half-of-the-movie Beast). He’s gentlemanly, respectful, and totally hot in human form—all things that Gaston is not.
The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid ushered in the Golden Age of Disney Movies in the 1990’s. This movie came out in 1989 and set the bar for all the Disney movies to follow. I mean, for TRITON’S SAKE, just look at the animation! The character design! And don’t even get me started on the SONGS (srsly don’t, I will start foaming at the mouth).
My one critique of this movie is that Prince Eric is a little bit of an herb. He’s cute, but I don’t exactly feel waves of personality emanating from this man. Honestly, King Triton is far more of a daddy. But I think we can all agree the Ursula is the daddiest of them all.
Encanto is a modern classic! Lin-Manuel Miranda went off writing the music for this movie. These songs were sitting at the top of Billboard’s Top 100 for weeks. Not to mention it’s a beautiful story, features a charming cast of voice actors, and boasts top notch animation sequences. Encanto is proof that the magic of family goes beyond actual magic and into something much richer. Now BRB, I’m gonna belt “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” out of my fourth-story window.
I am personally of the opinion that this is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s best role, and no, I will not be taking criticism. The issue is not up for debate. Seriously, though, Moana is clutch. The film’s Polynesian setting is a refreshing departure from Disney’s more European/American-based films, and provides a beautiful backdrop the story. Plus, Moana is one of the few Disney movies about a young woman that DOESN’T require her to end up with a man for her character arc to be complete. Pair that with Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords as a giant undersea crab demon, and you’ve got a winner.
The fact that Zootopia is this good without having ANY BANGERS WHATSOEVER is astounding to me. Truly, it speaks to the power of what not just a good, but a great narrative can do. As one of the central themes of Zootopia is prejudice, this movie was a risk for Disney. No more of the same old “power of family” or “falling in love” storylines; this movie was actually tackling a much darker aspect of the modern world. And framing the dangers of prejudice in a way that kids understand while maintaining humor and whimsy is honestly a narrative feat.
Also, Zootopia may have of the best plot twists in all of Disney—no spoilers—but the REAL villain isn’t who you think it will be.
(featured image: Disney / The Mary Sue)
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