For the other parts of this series, here are the links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Full Ranking.
Below are the top ten films in the Disney Animated Canon.
#10 – Mulan – 1998
Just as Pocahontas has some problems with race and gender, Mulan does (mostly) great on both counts on top of having some really fantastic characters and really classic music (Reflection is the standout). The reason I watch this film so frequently though is how great the animation is. The artwork is truly beautiful and I would put the battle on the mountain against war scenes from most any live-action movie.
#9 – Lady and the Tramp – 1955
Probably the most purely adorable film ever made by Disney. The romance, the songs, the scary animation, it’s all a part of a film that makes me say awe reliably.
#8 – Lilo and Stitch – 2002
I’m not really an Elvis person. And yet the thing that I really adore about this movie is how they use the music to accentuate the greatest family story Disney ever wrote. People that look real! A family dynamic with realistic arguments and problems! And Stitch’s antics alone are worth the price of admission.
#7 – Wreck-it-Ralph
I’m also not the biggest gamer, but I definitely appreciate video games and one thing that many of us had been waiting for was a good film made for gamers. Wreck-It-Ralph gave us that film. Enough references to satisfy gamers with an actual story and characters to care about. What gets this to classic territory for me though is how they animate within Ralph’s arcade game. They try and emulate 8-bit animation and its really enjoyable and satisfying.
#6 – Atlantis: The Lost Empire – 2001
I was seven years old when this was released and I absolutely adored it. When watching it again I wasn’t sure if I would love it the same (Dinosaur definitely didn’t hold up). But there is a moment where the King of Atlantis explains how it came that they were sunk under the sea. The story of Atlantis is a parable for the threat of nuclear power and weaponry, and that depth is what elevates the film this high. It’s a comedy, action, adventure, discovery, science fiction film and it exceeds in everything it does.
#5 – Hunchback of Notre Dame – 1996
This film is one I enjoy more and more with each viewing. Although that is an odd way of saying it because this isn’t really a film to enjoy. It’s a film to appreciate. It is a complex and difficult film. It’s certainly not for the same audience as most Disney Musicals and that explains why it’s not as appreciated as the others. But for damn sure it’s in my top 5.
#4 – Sleeping Beauty – 1959
One word: Maleficent! There is no Disney villain more awesome and terrifying than Maleficent. She is the standout in an already great film. Fauna, Flora, and Meriwether are next on the things to love about this film. They do most of the saving and they bring some really phenomenal comedy and touching moments to this film. The icing on the cake though is the music; Once Upon a Dream is one of the best songs in any Disney film and the scene with it is completely elegant.
#3 – Fantasia – 1940
For his third film, Walt Disney made Fantasia. The man was nothing if he wasn’t brave. He hoped that this would be a return to art in American Cinema and Theatre. Unfortunately it was a flop and he had to rush Dumbo to save the company. However, every penny was worth it 70 years later. Fantasia is a bona fide Disney classic and it’s because they took classic music and created brilliant and imaginative animation to compliment it. Not all films are capital A Art. Fantasia most definitely is.
#2 – Bambi – 1942
The death of Bambi’s mother would shoot this film into the top ten on its own. The birth of Bambi’s son brings it to the top five. But it’s the art and the music that strings it all together that makes it the second best Disney film of all time. This movie has enormous heart and a really intelligent screenplay and is definitely the greatest animal movie ever made.
#1 – Beauty and the Beast – 1991
Just like Nighthawknews, I don’t believe in the idea of a perfect film. However, I find it hard to say that Beauty and the Beast isn’t the perfect Disney film. There is nothing to criticize in this film. The music, the supporting characters, the villains, the songs, the voice acting, the animation, the story, THE MAGIC!! The film is elegant in its delivery and I just can’t get over it. I don’t know how it hasn’t always been at the top of this list.
If you want to send me your list or question any of my decisions here, you can go here and we can chat.