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Ranked: The best Disney movies of all time (for kids of all ages)

Does your favorite Disney movie make our list of the best Disney movies?

Woody, Jessie and Bullseye in Toy Story 2.
Walt Disney Studios

As the old saying goes, Disney is for both the young and the young at heart. Although the studio continues to deliver great new movies for the kids of today, kids of days past still have fond memories of their days spent watching the movies that the studio used to make. Now, with the advent of Disney+, watching those beloved classics is easier than ever.

Because your favorite Disney movies are so wrapped up in what you loved as a kid, everyone’s list is going to be different. And, now that Disney owns mega properties like Marvel and Star Wars, the roster of available movies continues to grow. You might not agree with this list, and there are plenty of great Disney movies not on it, but if you’re looking for some other options, we also have a list of the best Disney+ movies to stream right now.

15. The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)

15. The Greatest Game Ever Played
55 %
pg 120m
Genre Drama
Stars Shia LaBeouf, Stephen Dillane, Josh Flitter
Directed by Bill Paxton

This is the only live-action film on this list and choosing it was not an easy decision. The Greatest Game Ever Played is a golf movie, but it’s also a look into the history of the sport. The story follows a young, working-class boy named Francis Ouimet (Shia Labeouf) as he tries to make his dream of becoming a golf champion a reality. Though it’s primarily a drama, there are bits of humor and action sprinkled in throughout and it’s a live-action entry that showcases what Disney was always great at in this format: making something inspirational that never feels too saccharine for its own good.

14. Soul (2020)

14. Soul
83 %
pg 101m
Genre Animation, Comedy, Fantasy, Family
Stars Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton
Directed by Pete Docter
Soul is one of the more recent Pixar movies, and it hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves. The movie tells the story of a jazz musician 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 never had the chance to live.

13. Big Hero 6 (2014)

13. Big Hero 6
74 %
pg 102m
Genre Adventure, Family, Animation, Action, Comedy
Stars Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney
Directed by Chris Williams, Don Hall
There are plenty of worthy titles I could have put on this list over Big Hero 6, but there’s something ineffable about this wonderful, slightly unusual Disney animated film. The cast is excellent and the animation is great, but what really sets it apart is the unique storyline and setting. The main character is a young kid filled with hope for his future who is confronted head-on by tragedy. There is no fairy godmother or magical genie that can come save the day here, however. Instead, all he has is the lingering kindness of an inflatable robot and his own undying spirit, which in the end proves to be more than enough.

12. Up (2009)

12. Up
88 %
pg 96m
Genre Animation, Comedy, Family, Adventure
Stars Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai
Directed by Pete Docter
Up is both one of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming Disney movies ever made. Right off the bat, this Pixar film punches you in the gut with a wrenching look into the inevitable end of all good things. It’s perhaps the most notorious tear-jerker in Disney’s long history. Fortunately, what starts as a depiction of loss and despair quickly turns into the heartwarming story of a depressed old man who finds hope in a young child who needs him. Pixar movies are famous for hitting you in the gut, and Up may be the most effective in that regard. If I’m being honest, though, this movie also landed on the list because of how much I love Doug the talking dog.

11. The Emperor's New Groove (2000)

11. The Emperor's New Groove
70 %
g 78m
Genre Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Stars David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt
Directed by Mark Dindal
One of the most hilarious Disney movies of all time (guaranteeing it a place on our list), The Emperor’s New Groove tells the story of an adventure into the Peruvian jungle and features characters that have quickly become both memes and icons. When the 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, he winds up on an adventure back to his palace with the help of a new, reluctant friend and subject named Pacha (John Goodman). In addition to stylish animation and a joke-filled script, it’s worth highlighting the movie’s fantastic voice performances from David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Wendie Malick, and especially Patrick Warburton as Kronk.

10. Tangled (2010)

10. Tangled
71 %
pg 100m
Genre Animation, Family
Stars Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
Directed by Byron Howard, Nathan Greno
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, to my mind, a better movie than Frozen. It never caught on in quite the same way, and I’ll admit that it doesn’t have the same standout songs, but it’s a much more idiosyncratic movie, and all the better for it. Much like Mulan, the movie features a princess who doesn’t have to rely on someone else to save her. What’s more, the prince that does come to save her is actually just a thief, who, while funny, is fairly useless. This is also the only Disney movie I know of where a character is aware of how weird it is for a group of strangers to burst into song together — which makes it worthy of my list in and of itself.

9. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

9. Sleeping Beauty
85 %
Genre Fantasy, Animation, Romance, Family
Stars Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley
Directed by Clyde Geronimi
Perhaps the most beautiful Disney film ever made, the story of Sleeping Beauty is not the reason for its inclusion. It deserves its spot because the incredible tableaus, its brilliant score, and the character of Maleficent, who may still be the most terrifying creation in the entire Disney catalog. Sleeping Beauty is a reminder that, at its peak, Disney had some of the best animators in the world. Even the simple story of Sleeping Beauty could be transformed into something magnificent in their hands, and in the end, Sleeping Beauty became one of the finest movies Disney produced while Walt was still alive. 
Sleeping Beauty Official Diamond Edition Blu-Ray Trailer #1 (2014) Disney Movie HD

8. Coco (2017)

8. Coco
81 %
pg 105m
Genre Family, Animation, Fantasy, Music, Comedy, Adventure
Stars Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
Directed by Lee Unkrich
A more recent Disney/Pixar collaboration, Coco is a beautiful and touching affirmation of life and heritage that will completely bowl you over. Not only is it a culturally conscious movie that integrates Spanish into its dialogue, it also tells a pretty weighty story, one reminiscent of great Disney tragedies like The Lion King. As usual, this movie features some awesome original songs that will live in your head for weeks, as well as some fabulous motion capture technology, which was used to animate the movie’s standout side character: a Xoloitzcuintli — I know it’s a nightmare to read, but it’s a fairly common Mexican street dog — named Dante, who is a constant companion to the film’s main character.

7. Toy Story 2 (1999)

7. Toy Story 2
Genre Animation, Comedy, Family
Stars Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack
Directed by John Lasseter
Toy Story is the movie that redefined what was possible in animation, but it was the first sequel that really got to the heart of what could make these movies so devastating. In separating Woody from the rest of the toys in Andy’s room, and introducing new, cynical toys who now understand that a child’s love is never permanent, Toy Story 2 is both hilarious and sad. It’s got some fairly mature ideas for a kids movie, but Toy Story 2 makes sure to balance those ideas out with plenty of expertly choreographed set pieces, including a genuinely brilliant one in which the toys attempt to navigate a traffic cone across a busy street. 
Toy Story 2 (1999) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

6. Hercules (1997)

6. Hercules
74 %
g 93m
Genre Animation, Family, Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy, Romance
Stars Tate Donovan, Josh Keaton, Roger Bart
Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker
Hercules was one of my first introductions to Greek mythology, but that’s not the only reason it’s on this list. 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 story structure as many of the classic Disney movies on this list, but grafts that story onto one about Greek heroes, which gives it a different flavor. As is the case with most of the movies on this list, the voice cast really brings the movie to life. 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 with me.

5. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

5. Beauty and the Beast
95 %
Genre Romance, Family, Animation, Fantasy
Stars Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White
Directed by Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
If The Little Mermaid kicked off the Disney renaissance, then Beauty and the Beast made it crystal clear that Disney was back in a major way. Telling what is either a quirky love story or a severe case of Stockholm syndrome depending on who you ask, the movie is bouied by incredible songs from Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, and animation that does right by the source material. Beauty and the Beast seems like a dark story for Disney to be adapting, but they handle it with a light touch that still does justice to the story’s weightiest themes. 

4. The Lion King (1994)

4. The Lion King
88 %
g 89m
Genre Family, Animation, Drama
Stars Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons
Directed by Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
The only reason The Lion King isn’t at the top of this list is that it’s basically just Hamlet, but with lions. That obviously makes it a little bit derivative, but it’s also what makes it great. 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. It’s also become one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time, which speaks to the enduring power of the story. If you want more proof of how special the original Lion King is, look no further than the lifeless “live-action” remake, which was largely CGI. The original film also spurred a couple of above-average sequels, The Lion King 2 and The Lion King 1 and 1/2, but if you want to experience the magic of this story, it’s best to start with the original.

3. Mulan (1998)

3. Mulan
71 %
g 88m
Genre Animation, Family, Adventure
Stars Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong
Directed by Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
I first watched Mulan when I was a kid, and it jumped all the way up my list of favorite movies. Looking back now, it was one of the first times a Disney “princess” was portrayed as a capable human that didn’t need saving. When I watched it as a kid, though, I really just thought it was genuinely entertaining. The soundtrack is amazing and Eddie Murphy’s Mushu is better than anything he would eventually do in Shrek. Mulan is about an unlikely hero overcoming insurmountable odds, which is what Disney does so well. Even so, Mulan stands apart from the standard Disney fare because of Mulan herself, who is a totally unique creation.

2. Tarzan (1999)

2. Tarzan
79 %
g 88m
Genre Family, Adventure, Animation, Drama
Stars Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close
Directed by Kevin Lima, Chris Buck
Tarzan is a classic story brought to life through gorgeous animation and fueled by a heavenly score from Phil Collins. This film has everything a good Disney movie should — action, talking animals, conflict, and a story filled with plenty of heart. The soundtrack was so good that it became a genuine phenomenon in and of itself — I still listen to it from time to time. The Tarzan franchise has 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.

1. Aladdin (1992)

1. Aladdin
86 %
g 90m
Genre Animation, Family, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
Stars Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin
Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker

I was born in the ’90s, so naturally, Aladdin had to take the top spot on this list. While you could argue that the only reason this movie is so great is Robin Williams, there’s plenty of other elements that have earned it its place. With magic, fighting, and a rags-to-riches main character, Aladdin is more than just a diamond in the rough. The songs from Howard Ashman and Alan Menken are some of the best in the Disney canon, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a song catchier than “Friend Like Me” even if Williams improvs his way through most of it.

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Movie images and data from:
Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance culture writer based in upstate New York. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The…
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