Ranking Disney Renaissance Films
The Disney Renaissance is the second best period for Disney after their Golden Age so naturally all nine of these movies are at least good and most are great. So because the critical/audience rankings are all very similar, I went with a personal opinion. All of these films are very good, but I ranked them by my own personal preferences and how I see them. So here is my ranking of all nine Disney Renaissance films.
Yes, Hercules unfortunately takes the last spot on this list but that just goes to show how incredible this period was when a film as good as Herc wound up last. It certainly isn’t a great film as it is too irreverent and frenetic in pacing, but it’s such a fun, underrated film filled with likable characters (Megara ended up very high on my best Renaissance characters list), very authentic animation and a couple of entertaining musical numbers.
Pocahontas did not deserve to have a 50s rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It is by no means a bad movie as it has such an important message, it deals with a great story and its animation is gorgeous. Its score is the standout as it’s powerful, moving and filled with a couple of great songs (Colors of the Wind is the second best Disney Renaissance song). But the reason why it ended up this low on my list lies in its messy tone as it doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be at times plus most characters are a bit bland.
This is the Disney movie that has all of the ingredients of a classic film – the protagonist is a kickass, admirable female character, Reflection and I’ll Make a Man Out of You are amazing songs and the story is impressively mature and dealing with some interesting themes. But something just doesn’t click with me here and I guess that’s mostly the fact that the film is never as dark and as serious as the material needs and the humor and its supporting characters are admittedly weaker. It’s a good, at times even impressive film, but just not great.
This is the point on the list where we get from good to really good movies and sure enough, Aladdin is a 4.5 rated movie for me. Yes, the Genie is overrated and the humor here is very dated at times, but its Middle Eastern setting is put to great use here, the film is hugely entertaining and it has a bunch of memorable characters in it. The action is so good and the soundtrack is of course excellent. It is probably the best fun and irreverent Disney film ever.
5. The Lion King
The Lion King’s quality is undisputed. Its soundtrack is quite possibly the best ever for Disney as it has no fluke in it (Hakuna Matata gets the closest to being a failure), the animation is great, the characters are very well developed and its score is majestic and it makes such great, original use of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And of course do not get me started on its opening as it is such a grand, truly monumental piece of filmmaking and the best ever opening scene in any film. But the film never quite recaptured the glory from that beginning and Scar is sometimes too careless and Timon and Pumbaa are too over-the-top. That’s why the film is a tad bit overrated to me and why it lands on the middle of my list and far from the top.
4. Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast isn’t as perfect as most would think, but it truly is the most romantic and elegant Disney has ever been. The animation is gorgeous and the ballroom sequence is one of the greats in film history. The film features a plethora of well developed characters, a timeless story and a couple of great songs with Beauty and the Beast, Belle Reprise and Be Our Guest being the highlights.
3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This is a shamefully underrated film and the darkest that Disney has ever produced in my opinion, even rivaling ‘The Black Cauldron’ in that respect. Hellfire is not only a powerful musical number, but also one hell of a scene – dark and fascinating. Frollo is one of the best and most realistic villains from the studio, the story is for once dramatic and containing no fantasy elements whatsoever and it deals with very mature themes such as discrimination and lust. This is easily the most mature and adult film on this list.
Another unfortunately underrated film here and one of my personal favorites, Tarzan is not only a lot of fun as this adventurous and funny film, but it’s also emotionally engaging and very well told in terms of storytelling. Jane is such a great character and Terk is a great sidekick. The animation is excellent and the action is very exciting. The songs from Phil Collins are great in their own right. This film has it all and it’s an almost perfect Disney adaptation of this novel.
1. The Little Mermaid
I adore this movie to pieces and it topped all three of my Renaissance lists for many great reasons. First, the soundtrack. Part of Your World, Kiss the Girl and Under the Sea are undisputed classics. Secondly, the animation. It is the first truly great animation in a long time for Disney and it signaled the start of a great period for the studio. And of course you have the characters. Ursula is a superb and competent villain, Sebastian is the best sidekick ever, King Triton is a wonderful dad and Ariel is the heart and soul of the film. Whether it is her desire to become human or Triton’s fatherhood issues, the film is deep and meaningful while being consistently engaging and entertaining as well. It is the best Disney Renaissance film and the third best overall for the studio. A timeless classic.