Disney Canon Film Ranking {c. 2018}

Poster collage

Ever since I began the Disney canon review series, I’ve been looking forward to making this list. All film fans like making lists of course, but when it comes to the Disney canon, it can prove surprisingly difficult. The thing is that these are films that many people grew up with, so many of them evoke strong personal feelings of love and nostalgia and can spark debates like wildfires, making it tough to be truly objective about them. Given that, I’ve therefore been totally and unapologetically subjective – this list is just my opinion, so please, don’t take it too seriously! If you disagree with the placement of a particular favourite, that’s completely fine – and I’d love to see your own lists, if you’ve made some! Part of the fun is comparing rankings to see how your placements square up.

With that said, I’m sure you’ll find a few “surprises” here and there. This was an incredibly difficult list to put together and I’ve been tweaking it all week; outside of the very top and bottom selections, the middle ones have been flying about all over the place as I tried to wrestle them into some kind of definitive order (even now, I could probably still shift some of the films around again depending on my mood). I’ve definitely made sure to boost up a few classics which I feel are underrated, while also knocking some of the more overrated ones down a couple of pegs, but many of the rankings still align nicely enough with the general consensus (if there even is one). For each film, I’ve included a quote or two from my review which I feel best summarises my opinion on it, but please do read the reviews themselves for a fuller exploration of them!

Oh, one other thing: while I did use a five-point grading system at the end of each review, rating each film from one to five, I didn’t necessarily adhere to that while making this list – I admit that some films crept higher or lower based simply on how much I enjoy them personally. My top ten also doesn’t exactly match the one on my Top 50 Page, although I do still enjoy those ten films enormously (The Rescuers Down Under, for instance, had too many technical problems for me to leave it that high, despite my own love for it).

So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

 

Buck disappointed in car

57. Chicken Little (2005)

Chicken Little just fails on every level, technical, artistic or otherwise, and if you’re over the age of ten you’ll find little to enjoy about it. The confusing mixture of baseball, disco and aliens leaves you bewildered and the poor writing robs most characters of any redeeming personality traits, resulting in a noisy and colourful mess with little substance or heart.”

Maggie and Caloway clash

56. Home on the Range (2004)

“This is a film so stunningly bad that I learned while researching it that a cow and a buffalo can mate to produce a ‘beefalo.’ That’s an actual fact which this piece of tripe led me to… Overall, you walk away from this film with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. It was just such a waste – a wasted opportunity to tell a good story, a waste of talent, and frankly, a waste of time.”

Bongo's idea of romance

55. Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

“It just isn’t very well put together and leaves you feeling sluggish and bored… This whole set-up seems really off from today’s perspective. The gloomy interior of the house and the strange lack of guests at this ‘party’ do nothing to quell the rather unnerving atmosphere already created by the puppets. Questions abound: Why is this little girl attending a birthday party without any other children? Does she not have any friends? Whose idea was it to invite a ventriloquist and then leave him alone with her? Where are her parents?”

Gurgi in Fflewdduh's hat

54. The Black Cauldron (1985)

“It’s like there’s an exceptionally strong film somewhere inside it that’s straining to break out, but you only ever get glimpses of the greatness that it could have attained, had it been handled better… The main strength of the film lies in its visuals and especially in its climax, but I’m afraid these aren’t enough to save it from the often mind-numbing script, the sometimes deadpan voice acting and the occasionally awful animation (at least by Disney standards).”

Pecos Bill is happy to meet you

53. Melody Time (1948)

“If Make Mine Music is the poor man’s Fantasia, then this film is truly the poor man’s Make Mine Music, but there are still a few gems to be dug out of the melee if you know where to look.”

Lewis scared in fruit hat

52. Meet the Robinsons (2007)

“Problems abound; it’s confusing, overcrowded, cheap-looking and awkwardly paced, but aside from all that, it does have a couple of genuinely touching moments which raise it up above the drivel which preceded it… The film as it is just feels rushed from start to finish, with a flimsiness to it that prevents me from getting really invested in any of the characters’ stories… there are far, far too many characters crammed into this film.”

Alice with Tweedledee and Tweedledum

51. Alice in Wonderland (1951)

“One of the problems with this film is that it has an avalanche of characters stuffed into it… all of the individual sequence directors were trying to top one another in terms of pure craziness, but the lack of a proper story left everyone feeling frustrated with it.”

Robin Hood in the moat

50. Robin Hood (1973)

“I find most aspects of it too weak to really hold my interest; the art direction, the music, the pacing… I will give it credit for its excellent voice cast and good writing though, as they are the only things that made it watchable for me.”

Donald hallucination #2

49. The Three Caballeros (1944)

“Despite the technical achievements, it’s too messy and inconsistent to really hold up as a strong film.”

Goofy and the horse

48. Saludos Amigos (1942)

Saludos Amigos is basically a child of its time, and this dated feeling combined with its miniscule run-time might be why it is so obscure today. It’s worth a watch for any Disney fans out there, but I doubt this will be a new favourite for many.”

Arthur on the throne

47. The Sword in the Stone (1963)

“Like a neglected child, The Sword in the Stone was filled with potential which was largely squandered by its rather half-hearted production… Walt’s inattentive attitude towards it really left its mark, with the plot an unfocused mess and the artwork and casting leaving something to be desired.”

Everybody Wants to be a Cat

46. The Aristocats (1970)

“It doesn’t have an especially memorable cast, or music, or anything really, but it does have a pleasant, laid-back atmosphere to it and I think of it as ideal light entertainment for a rainy Sunday afternoon, the kind of thing you can just throw on and watch without having to think too hard about it.”

Willie as Mephistopheles

45. Make Mine Music (1946)

“The film serves as a kind of animation buffet, offering a wide range of musical and drawing styles, so you’re bound to find something you like amongst the selections presented… The trouble is that it is very inconsistent in quality and style – you might like some of the shorts, even most of them, but there will probably be a few you can’t stand as well.”

A Ralph gag image for end

44. Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

“I truly cannot fathom how something so out of touch with the original could have been produced by the same team… This is a sequel which disregards and damn near retcons much of its predecessor’s premise, an unforgiveable sin which prevents the film from ever rising up above the most mediocre level of half-assed nonsense. Its heart was in the right place with the message about friendship, but the delivery is sorely lacking.”

Ichabod's nervous eating

43. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

“The use of classic literature, rather than folklore or random music, works in this film’s favour… Naturally, though, with two such different shorts put together, there was some polarising of opinion, with some viewers loving one short but detesting the other.”

Koda and Kenai walking

42. Brother Bear (2003)

“I think the key problem was with the writing, which was a continuing struggle for the filmmakers many years into the production. They set up a story for themselves which, while compelling, was simply too heavy for them to handle properly in a family film and consequently ended up botching it. Despite this, at least they can say that they tried, and effort is always something to be appreciated.”

Fagin and Oliver at docks

41. Oliver & Company (1988)

“My opinion of this one is hard to articulate. I don’t hate the film by any means – I even enjoy watching it. If Lady and the Tramp is a gourmet meal, Oliver & Company is a KFC: it’s not particularly nutritious and there wasn’t a ton of effort put into it, but it’s enjoyable and harmless enough as long as you don’t eat/watch it too often.”

Pooh hungry for honey

40. Winnie the Pooh (2011)

“I’m in a bit of an awkward position here. I’ve always liked Pooh and his world, but while I grew up with the 1977 original, by the time this film came out I was an adult and simply too old to really appreciate it… However, I can still recognise and appreciate its charm and I will be eternally thankful for the animation it features. If you have kids under the age of eight, I would definitely recommend this one – expose them to the art while they’re young, and perhaps they’ll grow up to champion traditional animation later on!”

Bernard and Bianca

39. The Rescuers (1977)

“It is small, unambitious and safe, as it was made during a turbulent time in Disney’s history and the artists were in no place to be innovative. For what it is, though, it’s a fun experience and represents something of a departure from the usual style Disney were using at the time, with its darker palette and relative lack of comedy.”

The Dalmatians watching TV

38. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

“Although it’s quite simple and minimalistic compared to the richness of the fifties features, for what it is I think it’s a well-made and entertaining romp… even the most minor parts are given a life and warmth which make them all feel real, a feeling helped by the references to real places in England.”

Pocahontas posing #2

37. Pocahontas (1995)

“Poor Pocahontas had so much piled on its shoulders that it ultimately collapsed under the weight, but they were trying so hard to make it great that some parts of it do actually hold up… The trouble is that it’s boring, and that’s perhaps the most fatal flaw any film can suffer from. It looks great and sounds great, but it lacks substance, and that, I think, is why it isn’t better remembered among Disney fans.”

Hades and Hercules shake hands

36. Hercules (1997)

“The directors couldn’t seem to commit fully to a comedic or a dramatic tone, with the result that the film feels very choppy and uneven and struggles to raise any real emotional stakes… Hercules is a great film to watch if you want to be entertained, but for a good story, you’d best look elsewhere in the canon.”

Kristoff lecturing Anna

35. Frozen (2013)

“While I like the film just fine, I never could understand the sheer magnitude of other people’s love for it – to my mind, Disney have produced much better films than this rather middle-of-the-road effort, and you can really feel the effects of all that hasty re-writing… (on the other hand) There is something undeniably compelling about it. Yes, it has underdeveloped characters and awkward writing, but it also boasts some terrific music and truly stunning scenery, all of which blend together into a unique experience which has clearly affected a huge number of people all across the planet.”

Peter and Tiger Lily dance

34. Peter Pan (1953)

“It has held up well on the whole, but it does suffer from a few trifling problems which detract somewhat from what was almost one of Disney’s best features. Still, I would definitely recommend it for its artistry and effects.”

Dinosaur scenery #3

33. Dinosaur (2000)

“Looking over some other reviews, there seems to be a lot of hate for this particular film; it doesn’t tend to rank highly on anyone else’s lists, with some reviewers questioning its inclusion in the canon. While I admit it does have its problems – and I may be biased from nostalgia, it’s true – I think there’s a lot to like about Dinosaur.”

The spaghetti scene

32. Lady and the Tramp (1955)

“A delight to look at… It has great characters, catchy music, lush visuals and a tight story – what more can you ask for? There are a handful of minor flaws (like the Siamese cats), but nothing that seriously detracts from the viewing experience.”

Young Bambi

31. Bambi (1942)

Bambi could be seen as Disney’s take on a nature documentary… As for me, although Bambi has never been a favourite due to its rather slow pacing and lack of plot, I still really enjoy it for its artistry and iconic moments.”

Greatest Criminal Mind

30. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

“Just consider what this film’s success made possible – without it, it’s likely that the famed Animation Department would have been closed and the Renaissance would never have happened, so Disney fans owe it a considerable debt… (also) Putting Vincent Price in the role of Ratigan has to be one of the greatest casting decisions Disney has ever made.”

Kida close-up in cave

29. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

“In a way, I consider it similar to The Rescuers Down Under as the two films suffer from similar problems; both are non-musical action-adventures with nerdy male leads and a problem with overcrowding in their casts, which both suffered from competition from other popular films during their theatrical runs. Despite this, both are strong films with a lot of enjoyable aspects, including stunning visuals made possible by the magic of computers, so there’s definitely a lot to like… There’s really nothing else like it anywhere in the canon.”

Cindy's ballgown #1

28. Cinderella (1950)

“We’ve all heard the criticism aimed at the original trio of princesses for being too ‘passive,’ but when you watch this film, you realise that it just doesn’t apply to Cinderella… Although it’s not one of my absolute favourites, I do still enjoy a lot of things about it, particularly the stepmother and Cinderella herself.”

Baloo with Louie

27. The Jungle Book (1967)

“This is a fun, entertaining and visually appealing film, and I don’t think you can really ask any more of it than that. It might have some dubious morals here and there regarding women’s roles and stifling diversity (although I still don’t see the “racist” argument regarding the monkeys), but these are only very minor aspects of the production and aren’t glaring enough to detract from the overall experience.”

Copper protects Tod

26. The Fox and the Hound (1981)

“As with all the best Dark Age films, its strength lies in its characters, which are handled with a level of skill that only Disney could achieve at the time. Using their animal cast, the filmmakers managed to tackle the delicate subject of prejudice in a similarly effective manner to the future work Zootopia.”

Pink elephants #1

25. Dumbo (1941)

Dumbo is a simple story, but a very effective one. Although its plot is so brief Walt was able to expound the entire thing to Ward Kimball in the studio parking lot in just three minutes, the emotive animation and lively music have ensured the film is rightly remembered as one of the greatest animated features of its day.”

Big Hero 6 scenery #20

24. Big Hero 6 (2014)

“It reminds me a lot of one of my all-time favourites, The Iron Giant, which is always a good thing… Baymax, for me, is up there with the pantheon of other classic Hollywood robot characters – good job, Disney.”

Tiana wishing on star as adult

23. The Princess and the Frog (2009)

“The music, animation and characters are all beautifully done and give the film a high degree of ‘rewatchability,’ but I have to knock a point off its final score for the blatant refusal to deal with the more unpleasant aspects of the time period, as well as for harming traditional animation’s place at the studio with its underperformance.”

Yzma's dependence on Kronk

22. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

“This isn’t Kingdom of the Sun and it isn’t trying to be – take it for what it is, and you’ll surely have the time of your life as you’re taken on a wild romp with Kuzco and co. Boasting a wonderful cast and some excellent writing, this half-forgotten gem from the dawn of the Experimental Era can still hold its head high as one of Disney’s brightest comedies to this day.”

Moana as chief closeup

21. Moana (2016)

“This is definitely an improvement over previous films with ethnic protagonists, celebrating Moana’s culture and making her own connection to it a key part of the plot… I loved this one – it’s lush, beautiful and filled with good music, boasting a cast of engaging characters and better writing than many of the other Revival efforts.”

Ralph at Bad Anon meeting

20. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

“Boasting an engaging cast, a well-plotted story, a strong moral at its core and oodles of delicious sweets, this is one of the most distinctive and entertaining of the New Revival films.”

Rescuers Down Under flying image

19. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

“It’s not perfect, that has to be said, but there’s certainly plenty to like about it… It may have weaknesses in its plot and characterisation, but one thing that The Rescuers Down Under really excels in is its cinematography. This film looks gorgeous… It’s worth watching for the scenes with Marahute alone.”

Rhapsody in Blue #6

18. Fantasia 2000 (1999)

“The Fantasia films are gifts to animation enthusiasts, because they’re rare examples of a major western studio treating the medium as a serious art-form rather than just using it to churn out another kid-friendly sequel or cash cow.”

Expressionist Mickey

17. Fantasia (1940)

“Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the impact it had on cinematic history… Being totally honest I actually found it very boring when I first watched it as a teenager – but I think it’s an acquired taste. Over the years, it has grown on me, and I think you appreciate it more if you take the trouble to first learn a little more about its creation.”

Maleficent's first entrance

16. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

“The chemistry of the three good fairies, the bone-chilling nightmare that is Maleficent, and of course the stunning artwork of Eyvind Earle all make this an important film for any animation fan to see.”

Bolt practices dog face

15. Bolt (2008)

“The finished film boasts a more attractive design and sleeker animation than the earlier CGI efforts… The witty writing and rich visuals make up for the formulaic plot and dearth of songs and Bolt himself is one of the more engaging of the Experimental leads.”

Ariel in Copenhagen pose

14. The Little Mermaid (1989)

“In late 1989, Don Bluth looked set to dominate the box office once again with his latest release, All Dogs Go to Heaven. For the third time in a row, his film would be facing off against a Disney feature. This time, though, something was different: the film in question was The Little Mermaid… The ‘mouse’ was back.”

Judy faces Nick in cement

13. Zootopia (2016)

“It’s well-written, thoughtful and challenging in the themes it presents to its viewers, and the strong story is backed up with Disney’s usual polished animation and stellar voice cast. The issues it portrays are very timely in today’s often-xenophobic world, and I think it’s important that media aimed at young viewers addresses such problems early, when there’s still time to prevent the development of future bigots.”

Pinocchio's terror

12. Pinocchio (1940)

“Just as they did with Snow White, Walt and his staff put their all into this film, loading it with rich animation, stunning background art and dazzling special effects… When you take into account the dark tone, realistic villains and haunting imagery, it’s fair to say that this is the closest Disney has ever come to making a horror film.”

Friend Like Me imagery #5

11. Aladdin (1992)

“This marks the first time Disney had put a handsome male lead in the central role – the animators had always hated doing such characters and tended to feature them as little as possible… Aladdin still stands proud as one of the most successful films they’ve ever made and has earned its place in the canon with its unforgettable music, unique style and incredible vocal performances.”

Adult Simba looks at father

10. The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King features stunning scenery, strong writing and memorable characters, but it does also have a rather take-it-or-leave-it soundtrack (the amazing score notwithstanding) and the pacing isn’t always the best (the film is much stronger in its first half than its second).”

Nani sings to Lilo

9. Lilo & Stitch (2002)

“A great example of the potential beauty of simplicity in filmmaking… Lilo is one of the best child characters Disney have ever created.”

Pooh and Christopher together

8. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

“The beauty of this film is that it doesn’t need a strong plot… its charm lies in its very simplicity. The characters are interesting enough on their own that their daily shenanigans are enough to keep us invested the whole time, because we like spending time with them and care about what happens to them. The whole film has a gentle, laidback atmosphere to it which makes it perfect for families to view together, with nothing too scary or too troubling for young children.”

Snow White full outfit

7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

“As a true pioneer with a lively spirit and plenty of artistic merit, I recommend this one as highly as possible… It was the cornerstone of the entire Disney canon and changed the way animation was made and viewed.”

Rapunzel is a despicable human being

6. Tangled (2010)

“A true return to form for Disney after a decade of mishaps and misdirection. Nobody makes fairy tales like Disney, and this film is solid proof of that.”

I'm Still Here imagery #5

5. Treasure Planet (2002)

“I can only stress how important it is not to pay attention to box office figures or awards, as they’re not always indicators of a film’s quality – look to the fans, of which Treasure Planet has a considerable number. This film was made with a great deal of love and attention by two directors who’d been dreaming of creating it for more than a decade; it may not be perfect, but you can feel that passion for the project seeping through every character, every set-piece and every note of the music.”

Strangers Like Me imagery #1

4. Tarzan (1999)

“If you couldn’t tell from all the gushing I’ve been doing over its top-of-the-line cinematography, animation and characters… It’s utterly fantastic from start to finish, with a consistent emotional power and high stakes that keep you invested in Tarzan’s story right up to the last second.”

Mulan scenery #3

3. Mulan (1998)

“The relationship between Mulan and her father lies at the film’s heart and is beautifully handled… For the first time, the heroine’s story did not revolve around a male love interest but around her own goals and achievements.”

God Help the Outcasts #1

2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

“It’s ambitious, mature and totally different from almost everything else Disney had ever made up to that point… Thankfully, its reputation has begun to recover in recent years and the film is now something of a dark horse in the Disney canon, with far more fans than Disney themselves seem to think.”

Beast releases Belle

1. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

“It’s extremely good and involved the combined talents of hundreds of gifted artists, each of whom put their heart and soul into the project… With a compelling story, wonderful songs, a moving score and well-developed characters, there’s plenty to love about this one.”

 

And there we go! The Disney canon is a pretty diverse bunch of films, but that’s my (approximate) take on their quality from Chicken Little to Beauty and the Beast – what do you think? Would you have put Frozen higher, or Fantasia 2000 lower? If you’ve got a list of your own, I’d love to see it, so please leave a link in the comments below!

My next article will be a canon-style take on the Academy Awards, in which we’ll be taking a look at the best and worst characters, villains, genre films and music, among other things; I’m having so much fun with these post-review pieces. If you’re enjoying yourself too, please stop by again soon for more – until next time, stay animated!

8 Replies to “Disney Canon Film Ranking {c. 2018}”

  1. Excellent and certainly a defendable list! Your high ranking of Treasure Planet makes me curious after this film – I’ve ignored like most other Disney films from that era. Thus I haven’t seen all the movies, but my list would look something like this:

    1 Fantasia
    2 Pinocchio
    3 The Jungle Book
    4 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
    5 The Lion King
    6 Beauty and the Beast
    7 Bambi
    8 Lilo & Stitch
    9 The Rescuers
    10 The Princess and the Frog
    11 Tangled
    12 Lady and the Tramp
    13 The Great Mouse Detective
    14 Aladdin
    15 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
    16 Tarzan
    17 Alice in Wonderland
    18 Peter Pan
    19 Dumbo
    20 One Hundred and One Dalmatians
    21 The Little Mermaid
    22 Wreck-It Ralph
    23 Zootopia
    24 Hercules
    25 Fantasia 2000
    26 Cinderella
    27 The Three Caballeros
    28 Make Mine Music
    29 Moana
    30 Mulan
    31 Bolt
    32 Brother Bear
    33 Sleeping Beauty
    34 The Emperor’s New Groove
    35 The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    36 Saludos Amigos
    37 Big Hero 6
    38 Fun and Fancy Free
    39 Frozen
    40 Robin Hood
    41 The Aristocats
    42 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
    43 The Fox and the Hound
    44 Dinosaur
    45 Melody Time
    46 Oliver & Company
    47 The Black Cauldron
    ? Atlantis: The Lost Empire
    ? Chicken Little
    ? Home on the Range
    ? Meet the Robinsons
    ? Pocahontas
    ? The Rescuers Down Under
    ? The Sword in the Stone
    ? Treasure Planet
    ? Winnie the Pooh

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Terrific list! I’m so happy to see Lilo & Stitch ranked highly on yours as well, and seeing Frozen down at 39 made me smile, it really is so overrated. It’s a shame to see Hunchback so low, but that’s fair enough, it’s not for everyone.

      Regarding the ones you haven’t seen, I would highly recommend checking out Rescuers Down Under, Atlantis and especially Treasure Planet, all underrated cult classics, but as for the rest, you ain’t missing much.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

      1. Thanks to your enthusiasm I certainly will! To be fair ‘Hunchback of the Notre Dame’ is not a bad movie (splendid animation, good staging, excellent villain, surprisingly good songs), but my main problem with it is its concept itself: if you’re going to make a movie out of a tragedy, why no keep it a tragedy? (frankly, the same question can be asked of ‘The Little Mermaid’, in fact the only Disney-film to retain the original’s sad ending is ‘The Little Matchbox Girl’). The film feels rather grotesque when compared to the book itself or the classic movie interpretations of 1923 (starring Lon Chaney) and, to a lesser extent, 1939 (starring Charles Laughton).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Admittedly, the material didn’t really lend itself to the “Disney treatment.” I’ve not seen any of the live-action versions yet, I must get around to that sometime! I did enjoy the book, although it was a bit dry.

        Like

  2. Loved seeing your list because like you said, we film people love making lists, lol!

    Interesting list you have there! We definitely disagree on things such as I would definitely put Alice in Wonderland and Robin Hood in my top 5 while Dinosaur would be much lower. But at least we both have BATB as our #1!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! Haha yes, I know those two are generally pretty popular, but I’ve just never cared for them personally. One is too cheap and tired, the other too messy and unfocused. Still, it’s always nice to hear that the ones I don’t like have fans! The Unshaved Mouse even had a kind of mild fondness for Chicken Little of all things, so anything’s possible.

      Yes, Beauty and the Beast reigns supreme, although if it weren’t for the gargoyles I may have given it to Hunchback just to be a bit different!

      Liked by 1 person

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