Best Disney Films: Discover the top 40 Disney films of all-time
When it comes to family films, there’s some stiff competition out there. Out of the hundreds we’ve seen over the years, just how do you decide which should take the top spot? Well… we’ve left it in your hands!
To help you out when it comes to family film night, we’ve rounded up some of the best Disney movies of all-time. We’ve trawled our sales data and crunched the numbers to discover which Disney films you’ve been buying over the last year!
Dating back from 1937 all the way to 2016, we’ve split our top 40 into three timeframes; golden oldies, old-school classics and the best from the new millennium. Within each era, we’ve ranked the top films according to popularity with hmv customers.
Whether you’re a Disney diehard who can’t resist the classics, or you’re a more modern fan looking for some pixel-perfect Pixar perfection, you’ll be sure to see some favourites, and maybe a few new ones that you can all enjoy together on your next family film night.
Spoiler alert: There could be some details in here that you don’t want to see. We’ve tried not to give too much away!
Alice in Wonderland
In this animated version of Lewis Carroll’s original 1865 tale, Alice is transported to an extraordinary wonderland after befriending a hare who she follows down into a rabbit hole. After encountering the seriously smiley Cheshire Cat, Alice goes on to experience a number of weird and wonderful situations during her visit to Wonderland.
The Jungle Book
This is an action-packed adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's collection of stories, first published in 1894. After the young child Mowgli is abandoned, he ends up being raised by the jungle wolves. However, when news spreads that a villainous hunter has returned, Mowgli’s animal friends set out to get him back to the village.
The Cinderella story can trace its origins all the way back to an ancient Greek folk tale from 7 BC. In the Disney version, Cinderella leads a miserable life at the hands of her wicked stepmother and two ugly stepsisters. When the royal family requests that “every eligible maiden is to attend” a ball hosted to find the Prince a wife, Cinderella’s family do everything in their power to deter her from attending. However, with the help of her fairy godmother, Cinderella makes it to the ball where she makes quite an impression on the Prince. But, when the clock strikes 12, Cinderella must return home, leaving only a glass slipper behind for the Prince to treasure.
When a Victorian family decide to look for a nanny, their children decide to write their own ad. When the ad is disregarded and thrown into the fire by their parents, the children are surprised to see the note float up the chimney. After reaching Mary Poppins, she responds to the ad (taking the job as the nanny) to bring magic and fun to their lives.
After producing a litter of Dalmatian puppies, Pongo and Perdita receive unwelcome attention from the evil Cruella de Ville. With plans to make them into a new fur coat, she arranges for the puppies to be stolen. Pongo (together with his canine friends) sets out the free his puppies.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
This Disney classic is based on a 19th century fairy tale first published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. Snow White is about a beautiful young woman who is looked after by her evil stepmother, who, out of jealousy, orders a huntsman to kill her. However, the huntsman takes pity on Snow White and sets her free, leaving her lost and alone in the forest. A friendly group of dwarfs provide her with friendship and a home. Her evil stepmother remains set on sentencing her to death, and plans to kill Snow White with a poisoned apple.
Lady and the Tramp
Lady and the Tramp is an animated tale of an aristocratic cocker spaniel, who runs away from home and is befriended by ‘Tramp’. Enjoying a night out together, it’s clear there is romance is in the air when they share a meal at a spaghetti restaurant.
After an eccentric millionaire leaves her money to her beloved cat, the untrustworthy butler decides try and claim the money for himself. The concerned heiress is aided by streetwise cat Thomas, as the butler plots against her.
The three children of the Darling family receive a visit from Peter Pan (a boy from the magical stories told by the older sister, Wendy). Peter, who refuses to grow up, takes the Darling children on a magical visit to Neverland and introduces them to his troop of ‘Lost Boys’, who are engaged in a war with the evil Captain Hook and his crew.
Adapted from another classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty tells the story of Princess Aurora, who, after being cursed, falls into a deep sleep. Only a kiss from the Prince will awaken her from an eternal slumber. It’s left to three fairies to try and bring the Prince to the Princess.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
After being evacuated from London, three English children discover they’re staying with a witch. With the help of a magic bed and the witch’s magical spells, the children go on a series of mystical adventures.
In this Disney version of the classic tale, Robin Hood is an outlaw fox who together with his merry band of woodland sidekicks, makes it his mission to take from the rich to give to the poor.
The film tells the story of a young male deer called Bambi, on his childhood adventures before one day being crowned Prince of the Forest. With heartbreak and love along the way, you’ll cry both tears of sadness and joy.
The famous wooden puppet Pinocchio wants nothing more than to be a real boy. The wood-carved creation of Geppetto finally gets his wish when he is visited by the Blue Fairy. All Pinocchio must do is remain brave, honest and unselfish. However, Pinocchio learns being good is not as easy as it seems.
Best Disney films: Old-school classics (1989 – 1999)
Every Disney film is great in our eyes. But, there's something about the classics that pull on our heart strings. Whether it's 'Under the Sea', 'A Whole New World' or 'Colours of the Wind', the Disney songs in these old-school classics bring back a warm fuzzy feeling (and even give 'Let It Go' a run for its money!)
The Lion King
The Lion King is about a lion cub who struggles to find his place in the ‘circle of life’. Whilst Simba is next in line for the role as King of the pride (after the death of his father), his evil uncle Scar wants to claim the throne for himself. With the help of his new-found friends, he overcomes adversity to defeat Scar.
Beauty and the Beast
After the Prince of the castle is turned into a hideous beast by a magical spell, he finds the only way out of his situation is to win the love of Belle. When Belle agrees to live with him at the castle (in return for her Father’s freedom), she begins to see his softer side.
Mermaid Ariel is the daughter of King Triton, who rules beneath the waves. Ariel dreams of living a life above the sea, a desire that increases after she rescues a handsome Prince from drowning. Putting her Father’s kingdom at risk, she makes a deal with the sea witch – a decision she soon regrets.
Tarzan is raised by gorilla Kala after his parents are killed by the villainous jungle Leopard, Sabor. When a group of explorers arrive in the jungle to study the gorillas, Tarzan begins to enjoy the human interaction. However, with plans to capture the gorillas, one explorer tries to trick Tarzan into leading him back to the tribe.
This film – Pixar’s first feature film and the harbinger of a CGI revolution – tells a story about toys that come to life as soon as their owner leaves the room. Friendly cowboy Woody can’t help feeling jealous as a new toy – astronaut Buzz Lightyear – comes on the scene. Whilst the two have an ongoing feud, when Andy's family move to a new house, the duo get left behind and end up imprisoned in the home of the evil boy next door, Sid. Together they make it their mission to escape and reunite with their friend.
A mortal with superhero powers, Hercules attempts to prove himself in the eyes of his father, Zeus. However, hot-headed Hades tries to take Mount Olympus for himself, by ruining Hercules’ plans. With a love interest in Meg, Hercules must decide what means more to him – his legendary super-strength, or the love of his life.
A Bug’s Life
Each year a colony of ants are made to give their grain supply to a hardened gang of grasshoppers. Worker ant Flik plans to get help from the big city. After he mistakes a group of circus bugs for ferocious warriors, and they mistake him for a talent scout, he takes them back home. However, they all soon begin to realise that there has been some confusion and the group are less than happy at the prospect of standing up to the grasshoppers.
By chance, a street urchin named Aladdin (and his pet monkey) meet the beautiful Princess Jasmine when she sneaks out of the royal palace. The Sultan’s adviser suspects the attraction between the two and hatches a plan to get rid of Aladdin. Set on marrying her himself, he throws Aladdin in prison. However, when Aladdin comes across a magical lamp, the genie inside grants him three wishes.
A tale of courage, friendship and love, Pocahontas is about a girl whose life (and the lives of her native tribe) is dramatically changed by the arrival of a ship full of English settlors, captained by John Smith. This charming tale tells the story of the unlikely love between the two characters.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Inspired by the Victor Hugo classic, the Hunchback of Notre Dame tells the story of Quasimodo, a bell-ringer who has been locked up since birth. After leaving the castle for the first time, people begin to criticise the way he looks. Rescued by Esmeralda – a stunning gypsy dancer – they team up to bring a little happiness to the streets of Paris.
Best Disney films: The new millennium (2001 – 2016)
In terms of box office success, these last few years have been some of the best for Disney. The last decade has brought us some of their biggest films yet. With blockbuster after blockbuster, it's hard to imagine where they can go next. Introducing the best Disney films of the new millennium…
The Good Dinosaur
The story follows Arlo, a young dinosaur who loses his father when he’s swept away in a flash flood. Arlo tries to find his way back to his family, befriending a human caveboy along the way. Facing their fears together, the two set out on their way home.
Riley Anderson’s five personifications of her core emotions – joy, sadness, fear, disgust and anger – gradually come to life and influence her actions via a console in her mind's headquarters. When Riley’s dad gets a new job in San Francisco, the family relocate, however she never quite settles into her surroundings. The control centre of her mind tries to help her navigate her way through the big change. However, after a slight mishap at headquarters, the situation gets out of control, causing Riley's emotional state to worsen.
In a city full of humanlike animals, rabbit police officer Judy tries to prove herself to her boss. When a number of Zootropolis residents disappear, Judy is put on the case, however she is given just two days to solve the mystery. She finds an unlikely friend in cunning fox Nick, and together they face a race against time to find out who is responsible.
Big Hero 6
Young robotics genius Hiro Hamada struggles to cope with the changes he experiences during his teenage years and finds himself fighting and getting into trouble. His older brother Tadashi becomes concerned he’s wasting his potential and takes him to the lab at his university to introduce him to Baymax – the inflatable robot he has created. Baymax is programmed to take care of humans and he encourages Hiro to focus on developing his invention of microbots. When the two learn that somebody has been stealing their ideas and creating microbots of their own, they pair up to identify the culprit.
A fantasy musical following the children of some of Disney’s most notorious characters. In present-day Auradon, Ben (son of King “Beast" and Queen Belle), is poised to take the throne. He offers a chance for redemption to the trouble-making teenaged children of defeated villains exiled to the remote Isle of the Lost, who have been granted permission to attend prep school in the kingdom with the Disney heroes' kids.
After losing his wife, clownfish Marlin is an overprotective father, who vows to protect his son Nemo from everything. But, after Nemo get captured by divers, it’s left to his father and his comical sidekick Dory (a friendly but forgetful fish) to head out on an adventure to try and rescue him.
Into the Woods
The film tells a story of a baker and his wife, who go on a journey into the woods to reverse a curse which prevents them from having children. Instructed by a witch to retrieve items that would help reverse the spell, the couple meet a number of colourful characters along the way.
A live action fantasy prequel to the 1959 classic – Sleeping Beauty – the film tells the story of the beautiful Maleficent. Once a kind-natured woman, her heart begins to turn to stone when she is betrayed protecting her peaceful kingdom. She engages in an epic battle with the invading King's successor, then curses his new-born daughter, Aurora. Later, she realises that the child holds the key to peace in the kingdom.
Frozen tells the story of two orphaned sisters, Princess Anna and her sister Queen Elsa. Elsa has magical powers that allow her to create snow and ice from her hands, which is something she struggles to control. When her secret is revealed, she flees, and inadvertently leaves the kingdom trapped in a state of eternal winter. Her fearless sister, Princess Anna, sets out to bring her back, accompanied by the grumpy Kristoff and the friendly snowman Olaf.
Based on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the film centres on the feisty character Rapunzel, who is discovered hiding out in an abandoned tower deep in the woods by handsome young bandit Flynn Rider. After trying to escape the tower that she has been confined to for her entire life, she strikes a deal with Flynn. Together they take part in the adventure of a lifetime in their quest for freedom.
This film follows the adventures of Bolt, a canine Hollywood star. After mistakenly believing he possesses the superpowers of his fictional character, Bolt comes crashing back down to earth when he realises that it’s all for show. After accidentally getting shipped to New York, he has to find his way home to Hollywood.
Tomboy and skilled archer Princess Merida sets out to break tradition by carving her own path in life. Her defiance of an age-old tradition angers the Highland lords, causing chaos in the kingdom. Merida seeks help from an eccentric witch, who grants her an ill-fated wish. Merida must then discover the true meaning of courage to undo a beastly curse before it's too late.
Wreck it Ralph
This film centres on a video game villain who is tired of being the bad guy who loses out to his good guy opponent, ‘Fix-It Felix’. Fed up of seeing all the glory go to his opponent, Ralph takes matters into his own hands. He sets out on a journey which leads him on a path through the gaming world, but in his attempt to be a hero he unwittingly releases a threatening enemy, which puts the whole arcade in danger.
Lilo and Stitch
Young orphan Lilo lives with her sister Nani on the beautiful island of Hawaii. Lilo befriends an alien, who she names Stitch, and takes home as her pet. Whilst at first Stitch causes trouble, he quickly settles in as part of the family. But, with members of Stitch’s home plant following close behind, it’s unclear how long the harmony will last.
The Princess and the Frog
Set in the French quarter of the city of New Orleans, The Princess and the Frog is a twist on the classic fairy-tale. After being transformed into a frog, Prince Naveen goes in search of a Princess to break the spell. He meets a girl called Tiana, mistaking her for a Princess. When he asks her for a kiss in order to reverse the spell, things don’t go quite to plan, as it turns her into a frog too. Together they go in search of a voodoo priestess to help reverse the spell, befriending many extraordinary characters along the way.
Atlantis: Lost Empire
Young adventurer Milo Thatch uncovers an old journal which contains vital clues as to the whereabouts of the sunken city of Atlantis. After putting together an expedition, the group face many dangers in search of the hidden naval city. Whilst they’re overjoyed when they finally find the lost kingdom, it’s not long before they discover a plan to seize the power and riches it has to offer. It becomes their mission to defend this lost civilisation.
Regardless of decade, storyline or soundtrack, Disney never get it wrong. A classic on family film night, Disney appeals to grown-ups and little ones alike!
So, if you're looking for a cosy night on the sofa, here's 40 of the best Disney films to get you started.
Now, grab some popcorn and enjoy!