classic disney movies

Top 20 Classic Disney Movies of All Time

What would your childhood have been without Disney? Even as adults, Disney films continue to be sought-after must-watch shows.

Whether it’s the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, the latest season of The Mandalorian, or original animations like Encanto, Disney still manages to capture viewers’ hearts and imaginations. Since it was founded in 1923, the beloved company has become known for countless heartwarming films. Here are 20 classic Disney movies that everyone must watch at least once in their lives.

20 Classic Disney Movies

#1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Snow White

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This musical fantasy film is based on the German fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers. This movie debuted the first Disney princess — Snow White. Voiced by Adriana Caselotti, this Disney classic earned an Academy Awards nomination for Best Musical Score in 1938.

#2. Pinocchio (1940)


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This Disney fantasy movie is based on the Italian novel by Carlo Collodi entitled The Adventures of Pinocchio. Disney’s second animated film follows the adventures of Geppetto’s wooden puppet and its efforts at becoming a real boy. Pinocchio was brought to life by a fairy, but it needs to prove that it is worthy of becoming a real human boy.

#3. Fantasia (1940)


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Hailed as Disney’s longest animated feature at 126 minutes, this is considered an experimental film that combines classical music with animation. The result is a whimsical-looking concert for the eyes and ears. Fantasia is an eight-part music collection. The original classic released in 1940 was followed by a sequel called Fantasia 2000 which premiered in 1999.

#4. Dumbo (1941)


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Based on Helen Aberson-Mayer’s book, Dumbo, the Flying Elephant, this animated and musical fantasy film is based on the story of a circus elephant with extra-large ears. The movie was a hit, teaching children everywhere about the importance of family and how differences should be celebrated instead of shunned.

#5. Bambi (1940)


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One of Disney’s unparalleled, emotional, and tragic classics is Bambi, the story of a kind and charming fawn who also happens to be the son of the Great Prince of the Forest. Many people were shocked by how tragic and visual Bambi was given that it was intended for children. The death of Bambi’s mother has long been hailed as one of the saddest Disney movie moments of all time.

#6. Cinderella (1950)


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Based on the classic fairytale written by Charles Perrault, Cinderella is a strong-willed, beautiful, and kind-hearted Disney princess. Although her stepmother and stepsisters go out of their way to be mean to her, Cinderella doesn’t retaliate and continues to do her duties. Her chance at happiness finally arrives by way of a ball though her family does its best to keep her away from the charming prince.

#7. Peter Pan (1953)

Peter Pan

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Neverland, Tinkerbell, and Peter Pan debuted in this 1953 adventure fantasy film about a careless and proud boy who refuses to grow up. Peter Pan and Wendy are the epitome of childhood innocence and imagination. They also embody the human desire to remain young forever. This indulgent film shows us the power of imagination, optimism, and joy.

#8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

Under the Sea

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This science fiction film by Disney was a step away from the usual Disney movies. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea achieved a different kind of imaginative storytelling and photographic presentation. The story is about a ship that was sent out to investigate several mysterious sinkings. This movie paved the way for innovative and impressive props like the Nautilus submarine.

#9. Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Lady and the Tramp

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Lady and the Tramp is a story about love and acceptance told from the point of view of two adorable dogs. Lady is a spoiled cocker spaniel who was set aside by her owners while Tramp is a mutt who shows her how to survive in the streets. The animated feel-good film shows how we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It also reminds us that help can come from unlikely places.

#10. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Sleeping Beauty

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The 1959 film Sleeping Beauty is where Princess Aurora and Maleficent first made their debut. It follows the story of Aurora who was cursed by an evil and jealous witch. She survives the curse thanks to the intervention of well-meaning fairies. It took Disney six years to complete the movie, and the gross revenue didn’t quite match the budget for the film. Nonetheless, it is a classic that remains one of Disney’s best.

#11. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)


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An adventure and comedy, this classic movie follows the lives of Roger Radcliffe and his dalmatian Pongo. Both find love and a new life with Anita and her dalmatian Perdita. The dalmatians soon have a litter of 15 puppies that get kidnapped. Roger, Anita, Pongo, and Perdita go on a journey to save their pups. Along the way, they come across 84 other Dalmatian puppies, giving them a total of 101 dalmatians.

#12. The Legend of Lobo (1962)


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The Legend of Lobo is about the adventures of a wolf named Lobo. With both his parents dead, Lobo needs to learn how to survive so he can be the fearless leader of his pack. The movie is based on the book Lobo, the King of Currumpaw.

#13. Mary Poppins (1964)


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Released in 1964, this Disney classic made Julie Andrews a household name. The PL Travers books inspired this musical film and tells the story of the nanny named Mary Poppins. Her many magical powers, alongside characters like Bert, Jane and Michael Banks, Uncle Albert, and Mr. George W. Banks, make it a treasured film that combines animation with live action.

#14. The Jungle Book (1967)

Jungle Book

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This animated movie made Mowgli, the boy whom wolves raised, one of the most famous Disney classic characters of all time. It follows his journey of survival, from leaving his wolf and forest family to rejoin the “man village,” where he learns to embrace human civilization.

#15. The Aristocats (1970)


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Aristocats is based on a true story in 1910 about a Parisian family of cats that inherited a large fortune. The Aristocats was the last animated feature film that Walt Disney approved before he died and the first to be completed after his demise.

#16. Escape To Witch Mountain (1975)

Witch Mountain

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This Disney fantasy mixed with science fiction was inspired and based on the 1968 novel of the same title that was authored by Alexander Key. It is about two siblings who possess unbelievable psychic powers and become the target of the cruel Aristotle Bolt. This movie is a thrill to watch. Though it has some scary moments, it isn’t too frightening for younger audiences.

#17. Freaky Friday (1977)

Freaky Friday

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This fantasy and comedy film is one of the first movies that featured the now-famous plot of two people switching bodies. It tells the story of a mother and daughter who don’t have the best relationship but learn to understand and appreciate one another after switching bodies on Friday the 13th. This film was hailed a success after earning a gross of $36 million with only a $5 million budget.

#18. The Little Mermaid (1989)

Little Mermaid

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A musical fantasy film, The Little Mermaid’s main character, Ariel, is the youngest daughter of King Triton. She is curious about life on land. The storyline is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Ariel makes a bargain to be human in exchange for the opportunity to be with someone she loves. It shows that sacrifices can pay off with the help of friends.

#19. White Fang (1991)

White Fang

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Disney has a penchant for basing its films on books and this is another classic example. Jack London’s 1906 novel is a story about the enduring and unlikely friendship of a Yukon gold hunter and a wolfdog. This is an affecting movie that depicts how the environment you belong to and the people around you can shape your personality, beliefs, and future.

#20. The Lion King (1994)

Lion King

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Produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures, this musical drama is the coming-of-age story of Simba, a lion cub whose future is to become the King of the Jungle. It follows the loss he experiences after losing a parent and offers a powerful lesson about facing one’s fears and unpleasant past. The animation has an unmistakable emotional depth that is appealing for adults and children.

A Few Parting Words

Good movies entertain while offering hope and other important life lessons. This is one of the reasons why classic Disney movies remain relevant even decades after their release dates. Most of them provide life-affirming nuggets of wisdom through amusing characters and interesting characters who are easy to relate to.

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