It’s a tale as old as time, or at least as old as the very first animated Disney movie — how do you decide which is the best? The debate rages on among Disney fans, with objectivity often clouded by childhood nostalgia. The Disney classic you couldn’t stop watching as a kid might not be another fan’s cup of tea, and vice versa.
So to provide clarity to this ongoing conversation, here’s a ranking of Disney’s first 11 classic animated movies based on a system using gross box office receipts, IMDb ratings, Rotten Tomatoes‘ Tomatometer, and audience scores. Curious how your favorite childhood film stacks up? Check out the results, ranked from worst to best.
Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
One of Disney’s live-action and animation hybrids, Fun and Fancy Free features two light and carefree animated shorts: “Bongo,” about a circus bear, and “Mickey and the Beanstalk,” based on the fairy tale. The unifying element is the fact that Jiminy Cricket hosts both.
The film scored a respectable 6.7/10 in IMDb ratings, but that figure is based on only around 5,000 votes. It scored 75 percent on the Tomatometer and came in dead-last on the list for audience score, managing only 62 percent. You might say it didn’t quite live up to its title.
The Three Caballeros (1944)
This colorful, eccentric Disney flick stars Donald on his trek to Rio with two Latin birds, Jose Carioca and Panchito. Unlike most Disney movies, The Three Caballaros doesn’t follow a traditional arc, choosing instead to mosey through Brazil with the birds as they sing, laugh, and rabble-rouse.
A colorful and entertaining adventure, the movie fared decent in ratings — scoring 6.5/10 on IMDb, a 67 percent audience score, and a respectable 88 percent on the Tomatometer. However, the film failed to garner enough box office mojo to make any major gross earnings rankings.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Who doesn’t love a two-for-one? This Disney classic adapts both The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Wind in the Willows — hence Ichabod and Mr. Toad in the title, respectively. Are they the most accurate literary adaptations ever? Nah. But the storytelling is superb, and characters like awkward Ichabod, spiteful Brom Bones, and plucky Mr. Toad make it even more memorable.
For a film that wasn’t a huge box office success, this twofer managed a truly impressive Tomatometer score of 93 percent. The audience score wasn’t as high at 71 percent, but it picked up more traction on IMDb with a 7.1/10. Ultimately, it arguably could have moved up the list a couple spots if it had packed more punch in the gross earnings category.
You may be thinking, “How could this classic about the sweet little elephant with oversized ears possibly be this far down the list?” It certainly wasn’t the music, which was fantastic with songs like “Baby Mine” and “When I See an Elephant Fly.” Perhaps, though, one of the film’s shortcomings is just that: it’s short. At only one hour and four minutes, it’s Disney’s shortest animated feature, which some critics claim makes it feel rushed.
Still, Dumbo seems to maintain solid ratings. It earned a 97 percent on the Tomatometer and 70 percent audience score. Similarly, it scored 7.3/10 on IMDb out of a sizable 95,000 votes. The film was surprisingly lackluster at the box office, though, earning an estimated $1.6 million domestically.
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
If you fell down the rabbit hole for this movie, you might feel miffed about its seventh place ranking. However, the curious tale based on the Lewis Carroll classic wasn’t as universally popular as one might think.
Alice came in at 79 percent on the Tomatometer, snagging a 78 percent audience score. It fared about the same on IMDb, where it earned a 7.4/10 from nearly 105,000 reviews. However, critics find fault with its clunky animation and uneven (read: slow) pacing. Plus, it only brought $5 million domestically on a budget of 3 million.
Song of the South (1946)
Undoubtedly the most controversial of Disney’s classic animated films, Song of the South brings to life Joel Chandler Harris’ “Uncle Remus” songs. Its most memorable contribution to pop culture proved to be Br’er Rabbit, a character that endeared itself to fans immediately. However, criticism of the film ranges from accusations of racism to insisting that it provides an oversimplified view of slavery that children would do better without seeing.
The ratings reflect this, with Song of the South scoring 60 percent on the Tomatometer and a 73 percent audience score. Its IMDb score wasn’t too shabby at 7.3/10 with over 9,000 reviews. So how did it wind up in the number six spot? This sleeper hit brought in $65 million in at the domestic box office between its original release and its 1986 re-release.
Kicking off the ascent into the top five animated Disney classics is this heartwarming story about a young deer named Bambi and his many woodland friends (think Flower the skunk, Thumper the rabbit, and Faline the doe). Say it together now: awwwww!
The film fared well enough among both critics and audiences, nabbing a 90 percent on the Tomatometer, a 72 percent audience score, and 7.3/10 out of more than 104,000 reviews on IMDb. Out of the classic animated Disney flicks, it brought the second most domestic receipts in at the box office with just over $102 million.
This rags-to-riches story bippity-boppity-boo’ed its way right into the number four spot, thanks to a stellar Tomatometer score of 97 percent, audience score of 80 percent, and IMDb score of 7.3/10 based on just over 117,000 reviews — the $85 million in gross earnings at the box office didn’t hurt either.
And what’s not to love? It’s every girl’s dream to get a visit from the Fairy Godmother. Cinderella’s step-family may be cruel, but karma catches up to them in the end. Besides, mice have never looked more lovable, thanks to Gus and Jaq.
File this under oldie but goodie. Disney’s second oldest animated classic, Pinocchio hit theaters in 1940. To this day, the story of a marionette who longs to be a real boy resonates with fans for its emotional impact and important takeaway about telling lies.
Pinocchio’s success at the box office was nothing to scoff at, with the film commanding $84 million in gross earnings domestically. Where it really shines, though, is in public reception. The film garnered a 7.5/10 score based on over 101,000 reviews on IMDb and enjoys a 72 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Most notably, Pinocchio boasts a nearly unparalleled 100 percent on the Tomatometer.
Right up there with the oldest animated Disney classics, Fantasia finds its way to the runner-up spot due to solid rankings all around. Considered a landmark moment in animation history, the phantasmagorical film is chock-full of classical music. It’s a universally well-liked movie, because it quite literally has a little something to suit everyone’s tastes.
This comes through clearly with the ratings. On Rotten Tomatoes, Fantasia scored a 96 percent on the Tomatometer and an 83 percent audience score. It was rated 7.8/10 based on over 76,000 reviews on IMDb.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Mirror, mirror on the wall… Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs really is the fairest of them all! The first animated classic Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made believers out of the detractors who told Disney animated movies would never be a thing. The joke is on those detractors, though, because Snow White is the top-grossing classic animated Disney movie to the tune of a whopping nearly $185 million.
It also slayed with audiences, earning a 98 percent on the Tomatometer and a 78 percent audience score. On IMDb, it scored 7.6/10 based on over 147,000 reviews. The film was nominated for a slew of awards, winning several, and it continues to serve as a cultural touchstone.