×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The 6 best and 6 worst animated Disney movies according to Rotten Tomatoes

Disney movies have defined many a childhood. After debuting their first full-length animated feature all the way back in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Mouse House went on to conquer the animated movie market, producing classics like Bambi, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and many, many more. 

With such a wide selection to choose from, it can be tough to know where to start with Disney's animated classics, whether you're revisiting your own childhood on Disney+ or introducing your own kids to the celebrated studio's most famous projects. However, Disney's animated movies aren't all winners. For every spectacular success, there is an utterly dismal failure Disney would prefer we all forgot about as quickly as possible. We're here to examine those highs and lows, in an effort to understand what makes the best Disney movies work, and what brings them crashing to the ground. These are the very best Disney animated classics and the absolute worst, according to their rankings on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Best: Zootopia

As it turns out, one of Disney's most recent efforts is also one of its most critically beloved. Released in 2016, Zootopia features a stacked voice cast that includes performances from such luminaries as Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, J.K. Simmons, and Octavia Spencer. But it's not all big-name razzle-dazzle — Zootopia boasts some serious social commentary underneath its adorable facade. The film tells the story of fraught societal relations between animals — specifically, predators and prey — and the enduring friendship that blooms in spite of it between Judy Hopps, a rabbit police officer, and Nick Wilde, a fox huckster. The duo ends up uncovering a vast conspiracy within their home city of Zootopia, which they work to expose together.

The film earned rave reviews, with critics hailing its "thoughtful, inclusive message that's as rich and timely as its sumptuously state-of-the-art animation — all while remaining fast and funny enough to keep younger viewers entertained." If you're looking for a side of social commentary with your animated antics, Zootopia is definitely your best option.

Worst: A Goofy Movie

Goofy might be one of Disney's most enduring and beloved creations, but unfortunately, his major solo outing, A Goofy Movie,  wasn't embraced upon release. The 1995 film, which features a few famous voices including Wallace Shawn and Pauly Shore, focuses on the relationship between Goofy and his son, Max, who have grown apart as Max has gotten older. To remedy this, Goofy decides to take his son on a fishing trip. To say the results are unsuccessful would be putting it mildly.

Upon its release, A Goofy Movie fared poorly with critics, who maintained that children might enjoy Goofy's antics, but "most parents will agree that this beloved character deserves better." However, this might be one instance in which Rotten Tomatoes' ranking might not be entirely fair. Decades after its debut, A Goofy Movie has become a cult film for millennials who loved it as kids. A Goofy Movie might not have gotten the appreciation it deserved back in the day, but clearly, its time has come.

Best: One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Adorable puppies are a pretty irresistible subject for an animated film, and when you add in a great story and unparalleled animation, you get films like One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Based on the 1956 novel of the same name by Dodie Smith, this animated wonder hit theaters in 1961. It tells the story of the Radcliffe family, Roger and Anita, and their two Dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita, who end up having 15 puppies in a single litter. When their perfect pups are stolen by Cruella de Vil, Perdita and Pongo must set out to find them — but as it turns out, they aren't the only Damatians Cruella has kidnapped.

This heartwarming tale remains one of the best Disney animated films ever made. The critics heartily agreed, praising the film for having " plenty of pooches and a memorable villain." Decades after its debut, it's still regarded as "one of Disney's most enduring, entertaining animated films." It's not hard to see why.

Worst: Chicken Little

Based on the famous children's fable about a chicken with some serious anxiety issues, 2005's Chicken Little definitely isn't one of Disney's strongest efforts. When young Chicken Little thinks the sky is falling after getting knocked on the head by a mysterious flying missile, he warns everybody to get to safety ... only to discover that the sky is completely intact, and the missile was actually just an acorn. However, a year later, when the sky actually starts to fall — as Chicken Little discovers, aliens are trying to take over the town of Oakey Oaks — Chicken Little must prove his worth to the skeptical townspeople. Alongside his best friend Abby Mallard, Chicken Little must work to regain the trust of the town and save it from alien invasion.

If Chicken Little is unpopular in Oakey Oaks, it's nothing compared to how unpopular he was with critics. They decreed that "Disney expends more effort in the technical presentation than in crafting an original storyline," making Chicken Little one of the studio's weakest animated films.

Best: Dumbo

Released in 1941, Disney's Dumbo remains one of its most beloved stories. The studio's fourth-ever animated film, it tells the story of a young elephant whose name is actually Jumbo Jr., but thanks to his big ears, is cruelly christened "Dumbo." Aided by a mouse named Timothy, his only friend aside from his mother, Dumbo struggles to prove his worth. But when he is separated from his mother by a malicious circus owner, Dumbo must use his big ears to their fullest potential and learn to fly.

Throughout the years, Dumbo has remained a Disney favorite. Critics agreed, celebrating the film's ability to "[pack] plenty of story into its brief runtime, along with all the warm animation and wonderful music you'd expect from a Disney classic." Though it eventually got a live action remake in 2019, directed by Tim Burton, this second outing didn't fare quite as well with critics. This disappointed fans while cementing the original film's status as an unbeatable classic.

Worst: Brother Bear

Some of Disney's weaker outings aren't absolutely terrible, but as Brother Bear demonstratessometimes an underwhelming effort is enough to earn a low critical rating. The film tells the story of Kenai, a young Inuit boy living in post-Ice Age Alaska, who wants revenge against a bear that killed his older brother Sitka. However, mysterious spirits turn Kenai into a bear himself so that he can experience life from their perspective. After befriending a bear cub named Koda, journeying to a distant salmon run, and learning about life on the other side of the hunter's spear, Kenai accepts the interconnected nature of life and returns to humanity with newfound insight and compassion.

Critics weren't crazy about Brother Bear, calling it "gentle and pleasant if unremarkable Disney fare, with so-so animation and generic plotting." Despite this lackluster reception, the film managed to score a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards in 2004, only to lose to one of Pixar's strongest films, Finding Nemo.

Best: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs isn't just the movie that started it all — it's still one of Disney's greatest creations. Based on the classic German fairy tale, Snow White is an expert blend of peril, wonder, and magic, good and evil. By now, we all know the story: A fair princess named Snow White runs afoul of her wicked stepmother, the Queen, who wants to get rid of Snow White to become the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. When she tries to have Snow White killed, the princess discovers a house with seven dwarfs inside. However, the Queen has one more trick up her sleeve — a poisoned apple, which puts Snow White into a magical sleep that can only be broken by true love's kiss.

Though Walt Disney didn't win an Oscar the year that the film was released, he was given an honorary award the following year by Shirley Temple, and in 1989, it was added to the National Film Registry. Even decades after its release, critics have nothing but praise for the iconic film, celebrating "its involving story and characters, vibrant art, and memorable songs."

Worst: Doug's 1st Movie

Doug might be a beloved children's cartoon character, but apparently, his first feature film isn't particularly "funnie." Based on the Disney version of the classic Nickelodeon cartoon, 1999's Doug's 1st Movie features all of Doug's beloved characters, but none of its charm. In this particular adventure, Doug and his friends discover a monster living in nearby Lucky Duck Lake. Though they eventually befriend the monster, who they dub Herman Melville after he tries to eat a copy of Moby Dick, his mere presence is a bad sign. Ultimately, Doug and his friends realize that Herman Melville was created by pollution, and understand they have to clean up the lake before it's ruined.

Doug's 1st Movie earned dismal reviews, with critics excoriating the film for "essentially [amounting] to a forgettable feature-length episode of [the] show." Considering Doug's 1st Movie was such a flop, it makes sense that a second one never materialized.

Best: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Based on the classic characters created by A.A. Milne, 1977's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh takes several beloved Winnie the Pooh tales and combines them into one narrative. Though this might not sound like a recipe for success, the disparate elements harmonize into one unforgettable feature following the adventures of Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, and all their friends. It's a tender, sunny ode to the magic of childhood and the importance of imagination, and it hasn't aged a day since its premiere.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is, accordingly, beloved by critics. The celebrated film is, in their words, a "charming collection of episodes [capturing] the spirit of A.A. Milne's classic stories," and "the most faithful of Disney's literary adaptations." The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh remains a heartwarming classic for the whole family, and a touchstone in childhoods all over the world.

Worst: Planes

When a Pixar spin-off doesn't even get to bear the studio's name, you know it's going to be a flop. Enter Planes. This film was released in 2013, and features voice performances from Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Dane Cook, and Priyanka Chopra in her official Hollywood debut. Seems promising, right? Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to Cars, for which it serves as a spin-off. Even with longtime Pixar director John Lasseter at the helm, Planes, which tells the story of anthropomorphic planes involved in a race across the world, falls extraordinarily short.

Critics panned the film, saying, "Planes has enough bright colors, goofy voices, and slick animation to distract some young viewers for 92 minutes — and probably sell plenty of toys in the bargain — but on nearly every other level, it's a Disney disappointment." The standard for both Disney and Pixar films is pretty high, making failed efforts like Planes all the more disappointing.

Best: Pinocchio

Rotten Tomatoes is unambiguous in crowning Pinocchio as the best Disney movie of all. The studio's second-ever animated film, Pinocchio is based on the novel by Carlo Collodi. It tells the story of a wooden puppet who wants to become a real boy by being brave and truthful, whose nose grows with every lie he tells. With the help of his creator Gepetto, Pinocchio accomplishes his goal in the end.

Though Pinocchio is beloved of modern audiences and picked up Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Original Score, it struggled at the box office due to World War II. That's all water under the bridge to critics, however, who hail Pinocchio as "ambitious, adventurous, and sometimes frightening ... [Pinocchio] represents the pinnacle of Disney's collected works — it's beautifully crafted and emotionally resonant." If you're looking for the best of the best when it comes to Disney, revisit Pinocchio today.

Worst: The Jungle Book 2

Sequels aren't always a good idea, and The Jungle Book 2 is a great example of why. Released in 2003, decades after its 1967 predecessor, the second Jungle Book film attempts to complete the story told in the first. What results is middling at best and dreadful at worst. Only the third Disney sequel to get a theatrical release, following Return to Never Land and The Rescuers Down UnderThe Jungle Book 2 features some serious star power, with Haley Joel Osment and John Goodman as Mowgli and Baloo, embarking on a new adventure. 

Unfortunately, critics were less than impressed with The Jungle Book 2. According to their reviews, "this inferior rehash of The Jungle Book should have gone straight to video." Sometimes, you can't improve on the original, and clearly, The Jungle Book 2 didn't do its predecessor any favors. At least the 2016 live-action remake is good.