Like many people, I’m a huge fan of Disney. It was a huge part of my life growing up, and today it still manages to make films that really resonate with me. So, I figured, now’s a good time to list my fave of the bunch. I’m not going to do live action films because I’m not as well versed in them (the faves I can list off the top of my head are Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks, Enchanted, George of the Jungle, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Jungle Book with Jason Scott Lee, though the 2016 remake is probably going to be high on my list of faves; I’m not the biggest fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean films). Here are the list of all the different Disney animated films (including Pixar, but not including foreign films financed and distributed by Disney) that I’ve seen that are my absolute faves. Here we go!
UPDATED JUNE 2017: The list is now limited to Disney Animated Canon films and a special film that apparently was going to be in the canon, but got left out (I made a separate list for Pixar films).
NUMBER ONE, ULTIMATE FAVE: Big Hero 6
In 2014, I was in a pretty big rut. I was suffering from major depression and anxiety leaving me unable to attend school or do work. I was sad, lonely, and bored, to put it lightly. But the hype for Big Hero 6 kept me excited and was something I could look forward to in life. From the synopsis of “the story of a boy who loses his brother and the robot that heals his broken heart”, I knew this movie was going to be one of my faves. Throughout the year my excitement and enthusiasm for this movie through hype sort of helped me stay alive that year. I went to see it right on opening day and it was one of the greatest theater-going experiences of my life. It delivered, especially on the bond between Hiro and Baymax (which is now one of my fave movie friendships of all time). My love for the movie grew from there, from appreciation in the finest details of the animation to the wonderful characters to the touching story. But the main reason why I love this movie is because Hiro, who also has his own mental issues, is constantly validated. He matters, he’s important, he gets help, and he’s loved. It makes me feel the same way. This is a wonderful movie and I hope it becomes a true Disney classic.
NUMBER TWO, OTHER ULTIMATE FAVE: Wreck-It Ralph
This movie also came out in a time when I needed it the most. I was in my last year of high school and was under a lot of stress and pressure. Drama from social media didn’t help at all. When I initially heard of this movie I wasn’t terribly excited for it, but when I heard of all the praise it got, I decided to see it. And boy, that was one of the best decisions of my life. It was funny, it was heartwarming, beautifully animated, and VERY well-written. Ralph is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest characters of all time, and Vanellope is an example of what I consider a truly well-written, empowering, and yes, feminist, heroine. The relationship between Ralph and Vanellope is also one of my faves. This is another movie I hope becomes a Disney classic. It deserves it.
NUMBER THREE: Beauty and the Beast
Oh man, this movie gives me so many feels. It’s so atmospheric and so haunting, but also heartwarming. It’s a very well-crafted movie, and deservedly a classic. I think what makes it so special to me is because of the relationship between Belle and the Beast. I know a lot of people accuse it of Stockholm Syndrome, but I call bullshit. The Beast genuinely loves Belle back. And Belle doesn’t take his crap either. The point of the relationship is that they are two outcasts who find each other and fall in love. I relate to Belle a lot (she’s the Disney Princess who resembles me in looks and personality the most) and you really feel the pain and desperation the Beast goes through, so to see them get together is very rewarding. What can I say that hasn’t been said before? It’s just beautiful.
NUMBER FOUR: Sleeping Beauty
This was honestly my all-time fave movie for quite awhile. It was just a solidly made, gorgeously crafted, simple yet elegant film. Of course Maleficent is fantastic but the other characters are pretty great too. Aurora herself has a really awesome design and a lovely voice and you can see that there’s a personality lurking beneath the exterior (alas the movie didn’t get to explore that too much), Philip is a badass, the Three Good Fairies are a great example of older women who can lead a story (take note, Hollywood!), and the other characters are pretty likeable too. Some of the scenes can go on for too long, but the good scenes are still REALLY good. This is definitely my fave Disney movie from when Walt was alive.
NUMBER FIVE: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Well, yeah. Who doesn’t love this movie? It’s sweet, simple, and VERY charming. I think what makes me love the movie are the characters of Jack and Sally (who are full of life and personality despite being a skeleton and a rag doll, respectively) and the songs. These are seriously some of the best songs ever in a Disney movie, made even better by Jack’s wonderful singing voice (thank you Danny Elfman). It’s a lovely little film of the delightfully macabre with a good moral and an absolutely beautiful ending.
NUMBER SIX: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This movie is starting to get the recognition it deserves online. While it has it’s problems (more than anything, they should have gotten actual Romani people involved with the making of this film, especially given how racist the source material is), it’s still good. It has great animation and songs, but what I really love about the movie is the character of Quasimodo. He’s deformed and disabled, but he’s allowed to be a complex character. He’s kind, gentle, has issues with insecurity and self image, but will do anything for the people he loves and stands up to his abuser. He’s one of my favourite characters along with Ralph. If you haven’t seen it, you really should.
NUMBER SEVEN: Treasure Planet
Oh man, this movie is so good. It’s another example of a disabled character (John Silver) who is allowed to be complex and badass. His relationship with Jim Hawkins is very touching and solid and gives me a lot of feels. I loved this movie as a lot as a kid, and it still holds up today (another childhood fave, The Black Cauldron, doesn’t quite hold up as much, but it still holds a place in my heart). It’s exciting, it’s beautiful, it’s heartwarming, and really, really good.
NUMBER EIGHT: Hercules
This is a family fave. It’s funny, the Gospel music is awesome, I love the unique style of animation, and the characters of Hercules, Megara, and Hades are the best. Hercules is such a pure and noble hero and is utterly adorable, Megara is a great female lead, and Hades is probably the greatest Disney Villain ever (alongside of Maleficent). A lot of fun.
NUMBER NINE: Atlantis: The Lost Empire
I know this is a weird pick but I just freaking love this movie. The style is amazing, it’s action-packed, there are some truly awe-inspiring moments (such as when Kida merges with the crystal) and Kida herself is a kickass lead. She’s beautiful, she cares about her culture, and can be a force to reckon with, both by herself and when she’s merged with a crystal. The characters are well-defined and expressive, the world of Atlantis is gorgeous, It’s just never a dull moment for me.
NUMBER TEN: Tangled
This is definitely the best Disney Princess film this century. The 3D is used to its full advantage here (the hair and the lanterns), there are lots of beautiful/subtle moments, and the characters are fully fleshed out and likeable. I think this was the film that put my faith back in Disney (along with Up). I think this film works because it tries to appease Disney’s critics without hitting you over the head with a generic Girl Power TM message. Rapunzel is strong and can defend herself, but is still vulnerable at times, and that’s okay. It might not be as good as the princess films from the 1990’s but it’s legions better than Frozen, for sure.
Honourable mentions: Pocahontas, Aladdin, The Emperor’s New Groove, Mulan, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Tarzan.
And there you have it!