What are the best Disney movies? Check out all our thoughts below if you want to laugh, cry, and sing your lungs out.
Few other films are as personal or magical as the best Disney movies, where fairy tales, animated mischief, and the best musicals come to life. But, despite the wholesome themes of these family movies, when discussions about the best movies from Disney come up, things can get heated.
After more than 80 years, hundreds of films, and heaps of personal bias from nostalgia, no one’s top Disney movie list is the same (and let’s not even get into the best Disney villains or Disney Princesses argument). However, we’ve picked the standouts that are ‘must-watches’ for every fan. From the animated classics to the best Pixar movies, here is our list of the best Disney movies.
What are the best Disney movies of all time?
- Big Hero 6
- Beauty and The Beast
- Toy Story
- The Lion King
- The Incredibles
- Sleeping Beauty
13. Big Hero 6 (2014)
One that’s likely to have the adults in the room tearing up even more than the kids, Big Hero 6 is a clever exploration of friendship and grief. Its snappy direction, moving voice work, and creative characters are a lovable cocktail.
The story follows Hiro Hamada, a teenage prodigy in San Fransokyo, a city built and thriving on technology. When he suffers a great loss, he struggles with overwhelming feelings of anger, not knowing how to navigate the mounting bottled-up emotions he experiences. Like Inside Out, Big Hero 6 communicates healthy coping mechanisms to children as well as how love and connection can help us work through grief.
12. Pinocchio (1940)
Pinocchio is one of the darkest Disney films, and chances are if you watched it as a kid, you probably remember having nightmares about boys turning into donkeys and massive whales with razor-sharp teeth.
Based on Carlo Collodi’s original book, Pinocchio is a deep story, full of songs bursting with subtext, and cute characters. It’s a movie about growing up and overcoming adversity.
At its heart, we get one of the best and most meaningful stories to come out of Disney as the puppet Pinocchio goes out and learns the ways of the world. Yes, it may not be for the faint of heart, and it might give you bad dreams, but Pinocchio is still one of Disney’s greatest accomplishments.
11. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
A love story so timeless that even the most vocal skeptics can’t deny its genius, Beauty and the Beast is a true standout from the acclaimed ‘90s movie Disney renaissance era. Telling the classic fairy tale of a cursed prince who must find love before a magical rose withers, it’s probably the best love story and musical to come out of Disney so far.
The expressive animation, amazing vocals, and bright colors are everything you’d want from a princess film, and you’ll struggle to find another that ticks all the boxes as well as it does. If that wasn’t enough, Beauty and the Beast is also the first animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, marking a monumental moment for animation as a genre.
10. Fantasia (1940)
Here we have Disney’s most experimental movie and a film that was one of the first to target a mature audience. Fantasia is a film where Disney set out to prove the legitimacy of animation as an art form, and, despite an initial rocky release, it’s gone down in history as iconic.
Magically drawn scenes set to classical music were Walt Disney’s way to show us how certain pieces of music make us feel when we listen to them. It’s a powerful piece of cinema and a great showcase of animation that still holds up today. From a terrifying demon to Mickey Mouse as a sorcerer’s apprentice battling brooms, Fantasia is an important part of Disney’s history as well as a superb film in its own right.
9. Toy Story (1995)
Toy Story is not only a timeless favorite for Disney and Pixar fans alike, but also the film that paved the way for modern 3D animation. It was the world’s first computer-animated feature and is still one of the best stories about friendship out there. The film focuses on a cowboy doll named Woody (Tom Hanks) who struggles with jealousy after his owner gets a new favorite toy, a spaceman named Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen).
We get to see resentment, jealousy, and a story of personal growth experienced by charismatic toys that ooze personality. Although it can be argued that the later Toy Story movies look a lot better (animation-wise, at least), the original shows the complexity of relationships in a way few films can replicate, making it a standout, and giving this film a firm place on our list.
8. The Lion King (1994)
You’ll find The Lion King in most people’s top Disney picks, and it’s easy to see why. It came right after the historic Beauty and the Beast Oscar nomination and, despite originally being a planned B-movie, surprised everyone by becoming a global phenomenon.
Based on Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, The Lion King tells the story of a young cub called Simba, going through tragedy and overcoming his past in order to return home and embrace responsibility. At first glance, it may just look like another talking animal film, but with its tense plot, beautifully drawn scenes of Africa, and some of the best Disney songs of all time, it’s earned pride of place on this list.
7. Coco (2017)
Coco is a beautiful sentimental journey about family, music, and following your dreams that will have you crying like a child. Telling the adventure of young Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) as he travels to the Land of the Dead, Coco is a simple but effective story that feels relatable and otherworldly at the same time.
With its driving theme of family, which exposes the flaws and the compromises we all have to make, Coco stands as one of the most moving films on our list and is a solid choice for any family looking for their next movie night pick.
6. WALL-E (2008)
Not content with being one of the best Pixar movies, WALL-E is also one of the best science fiction movies of all time too. No, really. That dialogue-free opening section is one of the most beautiful acts in any animated movie ever, and will make you laugh and cry with equal intensity.
Looking past the charming robots, like so many other Disney movies WALL-E is also thematically rich and rather dark. The dystopian view of the future is grim and depressing, and the movie is pointed in its criticism of human greed. It’s also optimistic, and timely. A genuine classic.
5. Up (2009)
In the mood for a high-flying adventure or a heart-breaking emotional kicker? Well, the good news is that Up is both. Up tells the story of Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner) an elderly man who makes his home into a DIY aircraft so he can escape the city and live out the remainder of his days in South America (his deceased wife’s lifelong dream).
However, a stowaway boy scout, a rare exotic bird, and a talking dog disrupt his plans, forcing Carl to choose between the present and his past. Up is a prime example of Pixar and Disney at their finest, with a stellar cast, and adrenaline-inducing and emotionally touching animated sequences, everything about this movie is perfect.
4. Moana (2016)
Disney Princess films are almost always dominated by romance, and apart from one or two recent exceptions, women’s heroic deeds are typically tied to a man. Well, with Moana, we finally get a film that focuses purely on a young woman’s adventure, with no true love kisses or princes in sight.
Instead, we get an unforgettable journey that sees Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) team up with the demigod Maui (The Rock) to save her village from destruction. The movie also has a stellar soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, some genuinely hilarious jokes, and breathtaking animation.
3. The Incredibles (2004)
Initially released when superhero movies were just starting to make their comeback, The Incredibles still stands the test of time as one of the best-animated action movies around. With its creative fighting sequences, a combination of spy and superhero movie tropes, and hilarious characters, there’s a lot to love in The Incredibles.
Even today, when Marvel and the DCU are giving us at least one film a year, The Incredibles stands out. The midlife crises, realistic family bonds, and memorable one-liners make The Incredibles one of the best Pixar and Disney films that everyone (superhero fan or not) can enjoy.
2. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
The high point of the Disney animated classics is Sleeping Beauty. Yes, it’s a bold statement, but let us explain why. Visually it’s stunning, and one of the last movies Walt Disney worked on personally himself. It also gave us one of the best movie villains in Maleficent, one of the sassiest princesses (who wasn’t completely obsessed with housework), and an epic heart-pounding score based on Tchaikovsky’s original ballet.
Finally, it’s also known as one of the best-animated fairy tales in general, thanks to its fantastic art style based on medieval tapestries that drag you into a European magical world. With every frame a dazzling piece of artwork in its own right, here is an animation that’ll sweep you away every time you watch it.
1. Frozen (2013)
Disney’s 53rd animated feature, Frozen is a magical story filled with banging songs, cute character designs, and some of the best computer animation in the studio’s history, period. It is also a movie that puts women first, focusing on sisterly bonds in a touching story that’ll make your eyes water and leave you smiling by the time its credits start to roll.
Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen, the movie is about Elsa (Idina Menzel), a queen with frosty superpowers who is terrified of her own abilities. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) must go on a dangerous quest to bring her sister back to the kingdom and save herself and Elsa before it is too late. The art is stunning, the story is tight and clever, and the movie also features Sven, an adorable reindeer.
And there you have it! The best Disney movies of all time. For more wholesome fun, here is our guide to the best Disney Plus movies and best cartoon characters. Or, if you are sequels, here is everything we know about the Frozen 3 release date and Toy Story 5 release date. We also have a guide breaking down the best new movies 2023 has to offer, or, broaden your horizons with our picks for the best movies of all time.