Best Disney Animation Movies of All Time: The Happiest Films on Earth

It is impossible to narrow down all the best Disney movies to a list. Check out the best Disney movies that will make you relive your childhood.

Navigating through the storied history of Walt Disney Animation Studios is like embarking on a magical journey through time, where each animated feature film is a landmark in its own right. From the humble beginnings of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the first Disney movie and the world’s first animated feature, to the innovative storytelling of “Toy Story,” Disney has continuously pushed the boundaries of imagination. The studio’s commitment to blending classic fairy tale elements with cutting-edge animation techniques has resulted in a treasure trove of beloved characters, beautiful stories, and unforgettable moments that have enchanted Disney fans for generations. Notably, Disney’s exploration into different segments of storytelling, from the dark fantasy of “The Black Cauldron” to the love letter to Latin America in “The Emperor’s New Groove,” showcases the diverse range of themes and characters that have become synonymous with Disney magic. The contributions of talents like Alan Menken, whose great music has won Academy Awards, and Robin Williams, whose unforgettable performance as the Genie in “Aladdin,” brought a whole new world of animated excellence. As we delve into classics like “Sleeping Beauty” and look forward to live-action adaptations and direct-to-video sequels, it’s clear that Walt Disney Animation Studios has created a special place in the hearts of those who grew up watching Disney movies.

Yet it is still nearly impossible to narrow down the best Disney movies to a list. First of all, let’s point out that Disney owns Pixar now, so most Pixar movies are also technically Disney movies. In order to make this list possible, we had to cut out any Pixar films and films that were entirely live-action. Still, we were left with many great options. The following is the final list, including a bunch from the heyday of Disney animation and a few older classics.

Here are the 20 best Disney movies of all time.

20.) The Jungle Book

“The Jungle Book” brings to life the thrilling escapades of Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves in the heart of the jungle. This iconic film is cherished for its captivating storyline, memorable characters like Baloo the bear, and a soundtrack that’s both upbeat and nostalgic. It’s a testament to Disney’s ability to blend adventure, humor, and heartwarming moments.

19.) Tangled

Disney’s “Tangled” reimagines the classic tale of Rapunzel with a modern twist. Featuring stunning animation and a vibrant soundtrack, it tells the story of a spirited young woman with magical, golden hair who embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. “Tangled” is celebrated for its dynamic characters, especially the charming and cunning Flynn Rider, making it a beloved addition to the Disney canon.

18.) The Aristocats

“The Aristocats,” this animated classic whisks audiences away to the heart of Paris, where a family of aristocratic cats embarks on an unforgettable adventure. With its charming characters, catchy jazz-infused soundtrack, and heartwarming story of family and friendship, “The Aristocats” exemplifies Disney

17.) Frozen

A few years ago, this movie became a pop culture sensation. Both kids and adults ADORED the story of Elsa and Anna. People were singing the songs from the movie all the time.

16.) Pocahontas

This Disney movie hit the scene in the 1990s, and it quickly became one of Disney’s best animated movies.

Why? The music was beautiful, and the storyline had everyone at the edge of their seats.

15.) Cinderella

This Disney movie is a classic story where a poor girl meets a boy. He falls in love with her, and then they get married.

The story of Cinderella has become intertwined in our culture. Many little kids want a Prince Charming to save them.

14.) 101 Dalmatians

One of the most infamous villains of all time came from this movie! Cruella De Vil makes this film so much better.

The dogs and puppies help too. It makes you wish that your dogs could talk!

13.) Aladdin

This Disney movie has one of the best soundtracks! Aladdin is filled with magic carpets, blue genies and parrots with a weird sense of humor.

To say the least, it’s a classic.

12.) Mulan

The story of Mulan became a huge hit with young girls and women around the world. They loved that the main character saved an entire city from an invasion by doing the right thing.

She defied all odds by being an empowered lady! You go, girl.

11.) Moana

Sometimes Disney releases movies that are so-so. Moana was not one of these. It took off and was considered a major hit.

You will find yourself crying in your living room while watching this Disney movie.

10.) Peter Pan

Peter Pan is one of the best Disney films because it’s about kids staying kids forever!

It’s a wonderful story with a great message at the end.

9.) Bambi

Even though Bambi is filled with animals, it will have you hysterically crying in no time.

The movie has cute animals that will fill your heart with love.

8.) The Princess and the Frog

Starring Disney’s first black princess, The Princess and the Frog was a major hit. The movie was filled with a ton of life lessons and to remind the audience to follow their dreams.

Again, the soundtrack makes the movie even better.

7.) Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton is known for creating creepy films, but Nightmare Before Christmas is beloved by many. It has a Halloween storyline, but it also can be considered a Christmas movie.

It has a love story that makes all the viewers feel good.

6.) Lilo and Stitch

This Disney film eventually became a successful TV show that many people enjoyed.

This movie is considered a classic, but sometimes people forget about it!

5.) Sleeping Beauty

“Sleeping Beauty,” a pinnacle of Disney’s animated classics, weaves a spellbinding tale of romance, enchantment, and the battle between good and evil. Released in 1959, it’s celebrated for its breathtaking animation, which was inspired by medieval art, giving it a unique and timeless aesthetic unlike any other Disney film. The story, based on the fairy tale by Charles Perrault, follows Princess Aurora, cursed by the malevolent fairy Maleficent to fall into a deep sleep on her sixteenth birthday, only to be awakened by true love’s kiss. With its iconic characters, including the valiant Prince Phillip, the three lovable fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, and the formidable Maleficent, “Sleeping Beauty” stands as a testament to Disney’s ability to bring fairy tales to life with unparalleled artistry and emotional depth. The film’s score, adapted from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, further elevates its majestic and dreamlike atmosphere, making “Sleeping Beauty” a masterpiece of animation that continues to enchant generations of viewers.

4.) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

This gets credit for being the movie that started it all. Before this movie’s release, animation was only used for cartoon shorts that were shown before full-length features. This was Disney’s first full-length feature, but it was also the first full-length animated movie, the first animated movie in the U.S. with a soundtrack album, the first animated movie ever in full color and the first in a long line of Disney movies based on fairy tales.

Today, this Disney movie may not seem particularly clever or well filled out. But if you can remember that this was the first, you’re more likely to be impressed with the balance between action and romance. Maybe you’ll be more likely to appreciate Snow White’s story and the gags of the dwarfs.

3.) Beauty and the Beast

Before 2009, this was the only animated movie ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for best picture. It was also one of the first to use computer animation and is still known for its beautiful integration of the best of both traditional and modern animation techniques. This movie has all of the sweeping beauty and classic romance of earlier Disney Princess movies.

After all, the movie’s message is to look deeper and not to judge people on their outward appearance, so the prince and princess had better be more than just some pretty faces. Also, every supporting character is taken seriously, making for an impressive balance of the romantic, thrilling and just plain cute.

2.) The Little Mermaid

When we got to thinking about Sebastian the crab and his musical numbers Under the Sea and Kiss the Girl, we couldn’t leave this movie off the list. The voice actor who sings Sebastian’s songs is Samuel E. Wright. Although this is probably the film he’s best known for, he has been nominated for two Tony awards. But he’s not the only reason that The Little Mermaid made the list.

It was the first of what has come to be known as The Disney Renaissance. It is a time stretching from The Little Mermaid‘s release in 1989 until the end of the ’90s when Disney returned to be the undisputed rulers of animated cinema. The moms out there may want to note that this is the first time a Disney Princess speaks up for herself.

1.) The Lion King

This is what happens when Shakespeare and Elton John meet up with talking animals in the Serengeti. This movie is based very loosely on Hamlet, but instead of the Prince of Denmark, you’ve got the Prince of the Animal Kingdom. Then they threw in some Macbeth and some biblical Joseph and Moses.

It’s voiced by an all-star cast, including Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Nathan Lane, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg and Jeremy Irons. This is the movie that has everything: beautiful scenery, stirring emotion, complicated power plays, dangerous fight scenes, brilliant comedic timing and musical numbers worthy of Broadway’s best.

Final Thoughts

In recent years, Walt Disney Animation Studios has continued to innovate while paying homage to its rich legacy. Films like “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and “Frozen,” inspired by the Snow Queen fairy tale, have proven that Disney’s ability to adapt and evolve with the times remains unmatched. The studio’s foray into live-action remakes, such as the beloved “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King,” has introduced classic Disney tales to new generations, while original films like “Moana,” featuring music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and voice talents like Dwayne Johnson, keep the tradition of great songs and beautiful storytelling alive. With each new release, Disney reminds us of the joy and wonder that animated films can bring, proving that the magic of Disney’s storytelling, from its classic songs to its iconic characters like Jiminy Cricket and Mandy Moore’s portrayal of Rapunzel, is as potent as ever. As Disney continues to explore new horizons with upcoming projects, including more live-action adaptations and animated features, the legacy of Walt Disney Animation Studios as a beacon of creativity, imagination, and unparalleled entertainment endures. For Disney fans, the studio’s catalogue is not just a collection of movies but a tapestry of memories and moments that hold a special place in our hearts, embodying the timeless Disney magic that has dazzled audiences for nearly a century.

Did your favorite Disney movie make the list? It was hard to choose the best movies since there are so many of them.