Disney Movie Rankings

I was researching Disney animated movies and thought it would be good to see how the movies ranked. Disney has released a lot of animated movies, but the lists I was looking at were limited to the canon of Disney Animation Studios, not Pixar, not Disney Toons (mostly straight to video), etc. These are fully animated (unlike Mary Poppins) and released in theaters, though some are compilations of shorts, particularly during the 1940’s when labor was short. The compilations were kind of a low point, as was a period in the 60’s to 80’s, and then another in the 2000’s.

At least in a few of these rankings, the writer actually sat down and watched all 55 movies before making the list, which is an impressive commitment. There are so many of these that I just don’t feel like I need to watch, though I guess if I had a lot of time I wouldn’t mind coming up with a list of my own. But instead I figured I would take an average of a number of lists on the internet to smooth out some of the personal opinions. There are some movies that tend to be polarizing. One is Fantasia, which some consider an early animation masterpiece and some will admit was kind of boring. In fact, all of the early movies tend to be polarizing with movies like Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, and Dumbo appearing at opposite ends of different reviewers’ scales. The exception is Pinocchio which was in every single Top 10 (Snow White had one outlier at #25, otherwise all Top 10). Another is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which some throw in the bottom half and some include around number 5, feeling it is part of the 1990’s renaissance. Beauty and the Beast was also pretty consistent, though while a couple of reviewers insist it is the best Disney movie ever, nobody has it outside their Top 10.

Sometimes it is easier to focus disdain and the compilation movies of the late 40’s as well as a number of movies in the 2000’s were near the bottom of just about every list. Because Disney movies are generally very good, one reviewer said that anything in the top 30 was a pretty good movie. Probably if you’re going to watch every single movie, you like Disney movies already, so maybe that isn’t a surprise.

I was surprised to see Pinocchio top the list over Snow White and Beauty and the Beast. Also Little Mermaid did quite well at #3. Other surprisingly high scoring movies were Lady and the Tramp, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and The Princess and the Frog from 2009 which didn’t get much attention. Hunchback definitely had its supporters as did 1999’s Tarzan. Cinderella also commands quite a bit of respect. I’m disappointed that Meet the Robinsons did not do that well, but glad that Bolt has some respect as the beginning of a Disney resurgence (has a lot of Pixar touches), though some seem to have personal issues with its voice actors John Travolta and Mylie Cyrus. I also liked 2010’s Rapunzel story Tangled, but it got a few low scores, while Frozen did much better.

There were some movies I had never really heard of, where Disney took a big chance on different types of movies, and was punished. A space-based Treasure Island movie called Treasure Planet was not well liked. Neither was 2001’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire. In 1999, Disney released Fantasia 2000 which bored people just as much as the original, but doesn’t have that one’s importance. 1985’s The Black Cauldron was a dark Tolkien kind of movie that most people didn’t like. And a movie I liked from my childhood, Robin Hood, was widely disdained for borrowing characters and scenes from other movies to save money, along with generally low production values. I just liked the talking animals and the Robin Hood story, I guess, but what did I know? I was 7. The Sword in the Stone is another I thought was good as a kid (re-released in 1972 which is probably when I saw it), but people don’t generally like now.

Here is the list, averaged from six lists I found using Google, with letter grades from me if I reviewed it (I own titles in bold: blue indicates I purchased in my first DMC enrollment, green my second, red, my third, black by other means, mostly purchases after writing this; blue letter grades link to reviews at my website which goes back to 1998, very short reviews of black letter grade movies appear in a comment below):

  1. Pinocchio (1940) A-
  2. Beauty and the Beast (1991) A
  3. The Little Mermaid (1989) B+
  4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) B+
  5. Aladdin (1992) A
  6. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
  7. Cinderella (1950)
  8. The Lion King (1994)
  9. Bambi (1942) B+
  10. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) B
  11. Frozen (2013) B+
  12. Moana (2016) A-
  13. Dumbo (1941) B
  14. Zootopia (2016) A
  15. The Princess and the Frog (2009) B+
  16. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  17. Big Hero 6 (2014) B+
  18. The Jungle Book (1967) B+
  19. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) B
  20. Fantasia (1940)
  21. Alice in Wonderland (1951) B
  22. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) B
  23. Tarzan (1999) B+
  24. Wreck-It Ralph (2012) C+
  25. Winnie the Pooh (2011)
  26. Mulan (1998) B
  27. Tangled (2010) B
  28. Peter Pan (1953)
  29. Lilo & Stitch (2002) B+
  30. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) C+
  31. Bolt (2008) A-
  32. Hercules (1997) B
  33. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) B+
  34. The Fox and the Hound (1981)
  35. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
  36. The Sword in the Stone (1963)
  37. Robin Hood (1973)
  38. The Rescuers (1977)
  39. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
  40. The Aristocats (1970)
  41. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  42. Treasure Planet (2002)
  43. Meet the Robinsons (2007) A-
  44. Fantasia 2000 (1999)
  45. The Three Caballeros (1944)
  46. Pocahontas (1995)
  47. Oliver & Company (1988)
  48. The Black Cauldron (1986)
  49. Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
  50. Melody Time (1948)
  51. Saludos Amigos (1942)
  52. Dinosaur (2000)
  53. Brother Bear (2003)
  54. Make Mine Music (1946)
  55. Home on the Range (2004)
  56. Chicken Little (2005)

I came up with the rankings above by entering each reviewers rankings, then averaging those rankings for each movie, then re-sorting the list for those average rankings. There were a couple of ties, in which case I just put the earlier movie first. Also, some of the newer movies were not ranked by everyone, so I just took the average of the ranks that were available.

Here are the lists I used, which offer great commentary and often some good comments at the bottom:

11 thoughts on “Disney Movie Rankings

  1. Tedward, while I share your disappointment with the ranking of Meet the Robinsons, I must take umbrage at your dismissal of the “surprisingly high ranking” Lady and the Tramp. To disparage this cultural gem is to minimize the beautifully multi-dimensional character of Peg, who uttered dreamily from her incarceration at the pound “what a dog.” as well as the many many scenes that were copied in later movies (I’m looking at you Kung Fu Panda).
    I also take issue with Cinderella beating out Sleeping Beauty in these rankings. This is clearly a failure of these reviewers to see beyond the fact that Cinderella has managed to eclipse Aurora in cultural popularity, resulting in a failure to discern that Aurora is far and away the more complex and interesting character of the two.
    Treasure Planet was a miss that was personally painful to me as I eagerly anticipated this movie based solely on the beautiful, dare I say poetic, moment in the previews where Captain Amelia calmly instructs “brace yourself” at the launch of her ship. The rest of the movie paled in comparison to that delightful moment.
    And just what on earth is The Emperor’s New Groove doing so low on this list? The character of Kronk alone is worthy of a top ten spot.
    I am exhausted from the emotion attached to the reading of this list. I need to go lie down.

    • Kimberley,

      I am happy to have your input on this very important topic. Please believe that no offense was meant when I said Lady and the Tramp did so well. I have never seen it, but did not realize it was so highly regarded. That was part of the point of the whole exercise was to find out what I might like to get and Lady and the Tramp is now on the list, except that Disney has it locked away in their cursed vault along with Walt’s head right now.

      I’ve looked further into Sleeping Beauty and it seems it had some real production issues when it was made. Today it is probably more respected for the quality of animation than for the story which seems to be lacking, though, again, I have not seen it, so I cannot judge. It is interesting reading the different reviewers’ justifications for their rankings and when you recover, you might try reading a few of them, the first reviewer in particular.

      The key thing is that Disney has some great movies and even their lower ranked ones are very good. The reviewer Vlad said that he only considered the bottom 10 on his list to be bad movies and by the time he was up to no. 28, he had no issues with the rest of the movies (and placed Sleeping Beauty at no. 2). If you love a movie, who cares where it ranks?

  2. Hmmmm, your argument is sound, Tedward, and I concede that I lashed out a little too vehemently. I appreciate your cool head over my unwarranted outburst. I apologize if I caused you grief.

    I accept your challenge and will read the actual reviews and I will attempt to do it with an open mind.

    Have you seen The Emperor’s New Groove? If not, you must.

    Are you planning on reporting your progress and your own reviews? I promise to hold my peace.

    Most sincerely…

    • I feel much better. I have never seen The Emperor’s New Groove. I’ll see if I can find it somewhere to rent. Reading the reviews there are actually quite a few I would like to see. So many I haven’t seen. I will write up reviews of anything that is new to me from 1998 or more recent, so that I can add it to my movie reviews.

  3. Kim bought The Emperor’s New Groove for me to watch and I admit it is very good. Not a classic style Disney movie, but funny and fun to watch. As promised, I wrote up a full review on my website here.

    • Your review is fair and balanced. If I had been in the room while you were watching it, you would have enjoyed it MUCH more as I would have been in hysterics the entire time and you would have known exactly what was funny and when. I am pleased that it managed to eke out a B+ under such intense scrutiny.

      Know this, Tedward…anytime I send you a film it will likely be completely light and inane in terms of storyline, but the dialogue writing will be spot on. I cannot stand sloppy dialogue. Completely ruins a movie for me.

      And, I hasten to add that this movie is likely to grow even more endearing to you over time. There are bits I still reference in everyday conversation and I will never again be able to hear the words “spinach puffs” or “lever” without thinking of this film. Kronk humming his own theme music is totally worth the price of admission for me.

      sigh…now I am going to have to watch it again. no worries, I have my own copy. 😉

  4. I was looking at Wikipedia and they have a list of Disney animated movies, but I hadn’t noticed that their table includes the Rotten Tomatoes rating for every one. The Rotten Tomatoes article I originally used was from 2010 so it didn’t include movies from the last few years, but Wikipedia’s list is current all the way to this year’s Zootopia, which only two of the other lists had. They had three movies tied for second with a 98% fresh rating (including Zootopia which came in at No. 13 and No. 34 on the other lists), but if you calculate the rotten tomatoes rating yourself (positive reviews divided by total reviews, which for Zootopia is 216 divided by 220, or 98.182%), you can break the tie with the added decimals. So of course I had to do that. And Wikipedia’s article had used RT’s numbers from February, so I updated the article to September values (a handful of movies’ scores had changed by a point or so due to newer reviews). Then I re-averaged my list above to get new ratings. Instead of averaging lists like I did, you could just take the Rotten Tomatoes score since it averages a bunch of critics anyway, but some of the older movies at RT are based on only 7 reviews, plus with Zootopia at No. 2 (at 98.2, edging out Snow White’s 97.9 and 101 Dalmatians at 97.8) I have to question their list, so I averaged it equally with the others. Some of the other lists maybe have more integrity since they have the same person reviewing every single movie. I really like Metacritic better than Rotten Tomatoes, but Metacritic doesn’t have coverage on the older movies.

  5. After ordering some of the movies, I now have opinions of my own on some of them. I wrote reviews (linked above), but my website only goes back to 1998, so here are some thoughts on the older ones, ranked best to not as best:

    Aladdin (1992), A, re-watched this one and it is still great. It is an exciting adventure movie, has a strong princess, very good songs, first rate comedy, and some amazing animation. This might be the best Disney movie.

    Beauty and the Beast (1991), A, re-watched and still very good with the best music of any Disney movie, a solid story, vibrant characters, and great animation including some help from early computer animation.

    Pinocchio (1940), A-, kind of flat characters and not everything works, but this movie is a showcase of great animation with some very good songs. There is a reason this movie is such a classic.

    The Little Mermaid (1989), B+, good songs, a creepy villain, and a plucky heroine in this story of good versus evil marked an important comeback for Disney animation. Seems a little overrated though.

    The Jungle Book (1967), B+, simple animation that still looks good, a decent story, good characters, and some great songs ensure this will always be a classic.

    Bambi (1942), B+, some really great animation of the animals and great backgrounds integrated perfectly with the music, but all overshadowed by the incident.

    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), B+, beautiful to watch and incredibly important to Disney and animation, but Snow White herself is a little flat and the plot is pretty simple.

    101 Dalmatians (1961), B, the beginning really sags. I wasn’t crazy about Pongo’s owner, Roger, and Cruella de Ville is just over the top unhinged, but the story of the dogs making their way home and getting help from other animals is great with some real tension.

    The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), B, really more for little kids. Not real complex, but with some classic characters even if they don’t really develop. The narration is a great touch.

    Dumbo (1941), B, less epic and more like modern animated features. A lot of the movie is a downer as Dumbo and his mother struggle, lightening up only once it is essentially over. Still a nice message about being different and the pink elephant sequence is interesting.

    Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), B, well done, but with a mostly human cast you have to wonder why do an animated movie. A strong story, but with dark subject matter even though thankfully it ends differently than the book or movies.

    Alice in Wonderland (1951), B, not much of a plot and the characters, while colorful, are pretty simple. Still fun to watch with some very good animation: hard to believe computers weren’t available for the scenes with the whole deck of cards in motion.

    Hercules (1997), B, some good elements, but not as good as Aladdin. James Woods is a good villain and there is some decent humor, but Greek mythology makes for a challenging subject for a Disney film.

    The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), C+, Mr. Toad is self-destructive, but the characters and story are pretty good. Ichabod is just unlikable and the Headless Horseman seems like an unrelated 10-minute chase.

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