Pop Culture

The Four Best Animated Disney Movies of All Time

Tim Allen and Tom Hanks as Buzz and Woody in Toy Story

Y’all, this is a tough one.

This is like trying to pick out the best Beatles album. Or the best Halloween candy. Or the sexiest of the tumblr sexymen. It’s just really hard and there are lots of valid opinions. But I’m going to practice self love here and say that my own opinion is more valid then everyone else’s because I’m pretty, I’m smart, and I’m worth it. So I’m making a list of what I think the best animated Disney movies of all time are, and if you don’t like it, the comments section is below.

And I invite you to say all the horrible things you want about me and my opinions, and I will read them all and cry. But I will survive because I am beautiful and strong like a young stag. Or a proud water buffalo. Or some other charismatic ungulate from the animal kingdom.

*Deep breath.*

Here we go, the best animated Disney movies of all time …

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas

Some of you may seek to instantly disqualify this film because it is not “traditionally animated.” It is, in fact, stop-motion animation, meaning they made all the character models in real life and then painstakingly moved them inch by inch in order to give the illusion that they’re moving by themselves. And that is a feat of dedication and patience that deservers to be held on par with traditional animation. So to all the naysayers, I lovingly say: stfu.

Nightmare Before Christmas is DOPE. And when I say DOPE I mean CULTURALLY PROFOUND. Like this movie SINGLEHANDEDLY inspired generations of kids to grow up all goth and spooky. This movie is the REASON why Hot Topic is still in business. This movie was literally referenced in a Blink 182 song, and for those who don’t know, when the greatest pop-punk icons of a generation put you in a song, that’s how you know you made it.

But the wild thing is that I would argue that the music from this movie has outlasted Blink 182. I mean, “This Is Halloween” is an absolute banger, so much so that Danny Elfman played it at Coachella decades after this movie came out and it still hit. It’s just got some of the best Disney tunes of all time—not to mention it has the most iconic characters. I mean, c’mon, Jack Skellington? Sally? Oogie Boogie? They’re flawlessly spooky and yet somehow so charming and adorable. Tim Burton, you worked your magic again.


BD Wong, Ming-Na Wen, Donny Osmond, and Lea Salonga in Mulan (1998)

Sing “Let’s get down to business …” in a crowded room. At a bar. At the mall. At a party. At your cousin’s graduation. At your great aunt’s funeral. I can guarantee you that your Uncle Billy is going to wipe his puffy, grief haunted eyes and sing back “to defeat … The Huns.” It’s just that iconic of a song. Seriously, this movie is just full of banging music. Don’t even get me started on “Reflection.” Also, it’s just a great story. I mean, it was serving up both East Asian representation and a transmasculine narrative back in the nineties.

And just so we all remember, the nineties were generally not a cute time for anyone who wasn’t cis and white. Yes, Mulan does present a somewhat Westernized view of East Asian culture, but I would argue that the film’s triumphs are far greater than its faults. It also gave us one of the first few Disney princess narratives where the protagonist becomes something greater than a princess. She becomes the greatest hero in her nation. I mean who didn’t get chills when the Emperor and all of the citizens bow to her at the end of the movie?

She is one of the few Disney women who achieves something truly momentous. And, more importantly, she doesn’t achieve it by being romantically validated by a male character. She achieves greatness by being validated as a warrior. You can no doubt find some transgender parallels in this film as well, as it is essential the story of a person who changes their gender presentation in order to overcome the strict gender roles of the society in which they live. Plus, it gives us a moment where her fellow soldiers Yao, Ling, and Chien Po outwit The Huns by dressing in drag. Huge win.

The Lion King

simba, timon, and pumba in The Lion King
(image credit: Disney)

Can you feel the love tonight? I do. I feel the love all around this movie. The impact this film had on the culture is staggering. It inspired a Tony award-winning Broadway musical, and a reboot movie with Beyoncé. It has arguably the best songs in the entire Disney canon. And like, of course it does. The music was written by fucking Elton John and the lyrics were written by Tim Rice (the guy who did Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita and a million other musicals).

I mean we’ve got “The Circle of Life,” “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” and “Hakuna Matata.” Each of those songs is an absolute show stopper and they’re all in the same movie. The film also borrows plot elements from perhaps the most famous literary work of all time: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I don’t know what it is, but something about avenging your father’s death by the hand of a trusted companion just speaks to the human spirit. This film was honestly lightning in a bottle, and may actually be the #1 greatest Disney film of all time (but I’m not writing that opinion piece, hell no).

Toy Story

Tim Allen and Tom Hanks as Buzz and Woody in Toy Story
(image credit: Disney)

Okay, so I was’t actually a fan of this movie when it came out. It kinda creeped me out a little. I wasn’t really one for toys, so the idea of a bunch of action figures coming to life when I wasn’t looking was spooky. Also, that scene where they find all those fucked up toys under the bully’s bed gave me literal nightmares. But as I have grown up I now acknowledge the astounding positive impact this movie had on a generation of children, even if my reaction was more like “ew.”

HOWEVER, I will say that the “I’m not flying, I’m falling with style” moment at the climax of the film was thrilling to my prepubescent heart. Looking back, this movie is a true work of art that only gets more poignant as you age. It’s a movie that can’t help but remind you of the childhood things that made you you in the most elemental way possible. Everyone is going to have an emotional reaction when they think about the toys that they played with as a child. I am still bothered by the fact that many of my beloved stuffed animals are sitting up in my parents’ attic somewhere.

This film understands that play is not just “fun”; it is literal magic that children cast. It only makes sense that the toys in this film magically come to life, because in a child’s eyes, they already do that anyway. This movie reminds children of what they already know, and adults of what they have forgotten. I think this is the only film on this list that gives The Lion King a run for its money as “Greatest of All Time” Disney movie, but I leave y’all petty bitches to duke it out in the comments section and decide for yourselves.

(featured image: Disney)

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