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Every Walt Disney Animated Movie, Ranked

From 1937’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ to 2023’s ‘Wish’, we’ve ranked all 62 films from the dream factory

Disney animated movies ranked


IS THERE A more recognizable brand on earth than Disney? The studio has, of course, gone far beyond the modest dreams of Walt and Roy Disney, who began the company 100 years ago sketching away in a garage. They could never have predicted their humble beginnings turning into an enormous corporation with thousands of films, shows, games, and more under its belt.

Though the company has seemingly infinite facets, Disney is still known for one thing more than any other, and that’s animation. Walt Disney Animation Studios has led the way in animation since its inception, from its Silly Symphony shorts to the first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937, and beyond. Wish, out Nov. 22 and centered on a 17-year-old girl (Ariana DeBose) who wishes upon a star to help save her kingdom of Rosas from an evil king (Chris Pine), marks Disney’s 62nd animated classic.

But which of Disney’s 62 animated movies reigns supreme? Which films capture that Disney magic effortlessly, and which ones make you wish they were never part of our world? Be our guest and dive into our ranking of every single Walt Disney Animation classic.

From Rolling Stone US


‘The Princess and the Frog’ (2009)

In a decade dominated by the emergence of CGI, The Princess and the Frog was hailed as a glorious return to hand-drawn animation — emphasis on glorious. The film has all the hallmarks of classic Disney. There’s a terrific villain in Dr. Facilier (Keith David), a strong supporting cast, and perhaps the princess to beat all princesses in Tiana (Anika Noni Rose). The city of New Orleans comes to vibrant life in this exceptionally fun movie. It’s stunning to watch, especially the art deco sequence for the great song “Almost There,” animated by Eric Goldberg.


‘Lilo & Stitch’ (2002)

Disney’s ingenious marketing promised us something we’d never quite seen before in Lilo & Stitch, and the film delivers. Lilo (Daveigh Chase) is the kind of protagonist we’ve never had before — endearing but an oddball who’s desperately lonely and in need of companionship. She finds it in Experiment-626, a killer alien she renames as Stitch (voiced by Chris Williams, who co-directed with Dean DeBlois). It’s a very funny yet deeply sad movie that explores the idea of family with tenderness and respect. It’s amazing that Disney let two talents like Sanders and DeBlois get away — the pair went on to direct How To Train Your Dragon at DreamWorks, among others.


‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991)

Disney gave us a tale as old as time in Beauty and the Beast, the first (and only) Disney film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It’s not hard to see why. The film is a sweeping and heartwarming romance, even if you must put aside their questionable circumstances to fully buy in. Initially, the film’s production seemed doomed to fail. Walt Disney himself wanted to adapt the timeless tale, but could never get the story right. The project was given new life when lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, were brought on board, turning the film into a musical. Its set pieces have become an indelible part of animation history, from the ballroom dance to “Beauty and the Beast” to Lumiere (Jerry Orbach) performing “Be Our Guest.”


‘The Great Mouse Detective’ (1986)

Disney was prepared to draw its last breath after the disastrous The Black Cauldron, but a mouse saved them. Not Mickey, mind you, but Basil of Baker Street (Barrie Ingham). Henry Mancini’s lively, adventurous score brings The Great Mouse Detective to life. The budget of the film was slashed in half after CEO Michael Eisner saw the storyboards, but that didn’t stop first-time directors Ron Clements and John Musker from smashing it out of the park. Despite being dubbed as part of the so-called Dark Ages, the film bears all the marks of a classic Renaissance film: bold Broadway-style musical numbers, a legendary villain in Ratigan (voiced by a fantastic Vincent Price) — designed by superstar animator Glen Keane — a great sidekick, and fantastic animation (even though its budget means it has a literal roughness around the edges).This is a tightly plotted thrill ride with a fabulous chase inside Big Ben that is one of the most impressive early examples of merging CGI with hand-drawn animation. Credit often goes to The Little Mermaid for starting the Renaissance, but without The Great Mouse Detective, that film may have never happened.


‘Tarzan’ (1999)

Disney has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to animation, and that’s rarely clearer than in Tarzan. The studio developed Deep Canvas, an innovation that effectively allowed artists to paint fully three-dimensional paintings in that a camera can freely move through. The result was Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn) swinging through the trees and vines in the jungle in a level of immersion that was previously impossible. Animator Glen Keane found Tarzan a real challenge to animate as he needed to move believably as both a human and a gorilla, so he consulted with a professor of anatomy — making Tarzan the first Disney character to display working muscles accurately.Beyond the impeccable animation, Tarzan succeeds thanks to a great story overflowing with authentic emotion. Phil Collins delivered a blazingly earnest set of songs, including the end-credit staple “You’ll Be in My Heart,” which won an Oscar. The best Disney movies make us feel, and few accomplish that better than Tarzan, which closed out the Renaissance on the highest note possible.


‘Winnie the Pooh’ (2011)

While Disney’s appeal extends to adults and children alike, few films provide such charming and sincere family entertainment as Winnie the Pooh. The 2011 film was completely overshadowed at the box office (opening against the last Harry Potter movie will do that), but the film, directed by Stephen Anderson and Don Hall, is chock-full of joy. It’s the perfect distillation of the spirit of A.A. Milne’s beloved stories: this is a warm hug in cinematic form. The animation — to date, it is Disney’s final traditionally hand-drawn film — is spectacular, particularly in Pooh’s (Jim Cummings) honey-fueled dream sequence. It’s a breezy 63 minutes, and not a second is wasted.


‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ (1961)

After Sleeping Beauty, Disney entered cost-cutting mode in the 1960s, ushering in a new process called xerography. The photocopying process led to harsh black outlines on characters but also saved a lot of time and money. Xerography meant the end of the entire ink and paint department. Remarkably, you’d never know One Hundred and One Dalmatians was made with budget in mind, because Ken Anderson’s art direction and edgier style match Sixties London effortlessly.One Hundred and One Dalmatians moves like jazz. Marc Davis’ monumental talent gave us an all-time great villain in the deranged Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson), who wants nothing more than to turn a group of adorable puppies into a glamorous fur coat. Bill Peet had worked at the studio since Snow White and finally got his chance to take the lead on the story, proving he was one of the great American storytellers. The film also proved Disney was capable of going in new directions — it was their first contemporary picture, and despite having a song (“Cruella De Vil”), it was the studio’s first non-musical.


‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ (2000)

The Emperor’s New Groove almost didn’t exist. Its tortured development hell rivals that of The Black Cauldron and might be even more dramatic. But unlike that misfire, The Emperor’s New Groove is a bona-fide masterpiece. It’s by a significant distance the funniest Disney film, blending exceptional visual gags, surrealism, and meta-humor into an unmatched package (the scene at Mudka’s Meat Hut is practically the definition of perfect comic timing).Yzma (an outstanding Eartha Kitt) brings down the house as the villain hellbent on Emperor Kuzco’s (David Spade) destruction. Disney struggled to find their identity in the wake of the Renaissance and fierce competition from other studios, but The Emperor’s New Groove held the blueprint for success.


‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937)

The legendary story of true love’s kiss came to light in Disney’s first animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It holds the blueprint for so much of what makes Disney so beloved: a fantasy universe that feels believable, impactful songs, great characters, a terrifying villain, and breathtaking animation. Few villains are as downright evil as the Evil Queen (Lucille La Verne).This is the one that started it all — adjusted for inflation, it’s still the highest-grossing animated film of all time. The studio’s most ambitious film was its very first, and that’s because not a soul outside the project believed it would work. A feature-length animation was practically unheard of — animation was best left in short form. Who would ever watch such a thing? With something to prove, Walt Disney had a clear answer in Snow White: everyone.


‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989)

Ron Clements and John Musker saved Disney from the brink with The Great Mouse Detective, yet they still managed to up the ante and bring the studio back into financial domination just a few years later with their second feature, The Little Mermaid. One of Disney’s most emotionally potent films, it has the finest stable of songs in any Disney picture, and that’s entirely thanks to the brilliant artistic collaboration between lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken. The best Disney movies have the power to transport you to another world, and The Little Mermaid brings audiences straight into the underwater kingdom of Atlantica.Mermaid Ariel (Jodi Benson), who longs to explore beyond the sea and fall in love, is given more to do than any princess before her, and the emotional payoff of the film is off the charts. The underwater animation is breathtaking, and you have Ursula (Pat Carroll), the Divine-inspired sea witch making an unforgettable foe. Menken’s work with Ashman is some of the most impactful to ever grace the studio — if the studio lives on for another 100 years, people will still point to songs like “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and “Part Of Your World” as the very best Disney has to offer.


‘Pinocchio’ (1940)

How do you follow up on the immense success of Snow White? If you’re Disney, it’s going bigger, bolder, and even darker. Adapting Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, this is a film full of wonder and horror. The story follows Pinocchio (Dickie Jones), a puppet desperate to become a real boy. The animation is unparalleled, with effects work that’s never been matched. Critically the film was adored, but children (understandably) found it far too frightening. Pinocchio’s legacy remains unmistakable, with the classic song “When You Wish Upon a Star” opening every modern Disney movie.Unfortunately for Disney, WWII shuttered access to European markets — a real shame considering the film’s heavy European influence — and the film tanked at the box office. But nowadays, Pinocchio is rightly recognized not just as one of the greatest animated films ever made, but as one of the great films period.


‘Bambi’ (1942)

Walt Disney was an enormous advocate for nature and adapting Felix Staten’s Bambi was very much a passion project for him. Attention to detail and a focus on accuracy were essential: animators studied deer and other animals to make their animated counterparts feel as naturalistic and life-like as possible. The incredible backgrounds painted by Tyrus Wong immersed audiences deep into the forest, while the multiplane camera added remarkable depth and dimension to the animation.A seemingly simple coming-of-age story of a deer growing up in the forest, Bambi is an unrivaled exploration of animation as an art form. It made such an impact that the film’s most recalled scene — the death of Bambi’s mother — actually happens off-screen, despite it leaving such a mark that most people swear they see the death occur. There’s a surprising lack of sentimentality, which makes the emotional beats land harder than any other Disney movie. Bambi is the purest distillation of the power of animation and Walt Disney’s commitment to boundary-pushing and emotionally-driven storytelling. It creates an exquisitely drawn world of fantasy that feels completely believable. There’s simply nothing else like Bambi.