Ranking Every Live-Action Disney Adaptation

Elena Keller

Everyone knows and loves Disney movies, whether it’s their older movies, like Beauty and the Beast, or their 3D animated movies, like Frozen or Tangled, there’s something for everyone. Lately, Disney has decided to remake its beloved animated movies, with varying success.

With all the free time I have now because of the coronavirus quarantine, I took the liberty of watching almost every single Disney live-action remake (I didn’t get to watch the Maleficent sequel because it hasn’t been released on Disney+ yet). So if you’re bored like me and are in the mood for some Disney, here are the remakes I recommend watching!

1. Cinderella

This movie is by no means one of the best Disney movies ever made, but it is one of their best adaptations. Cinderella remains faithful to the original animation while still taking a new spin on certain elements (like how Cinderella and the prince meet before the ball). Cinderella is also visually beautiful with amazing costumes (have you seen the size of Cinderella’s dress?) and gorgeous sets that help bring the movie to life. This movie isn’t meant to be particularly exciting or action-packed, but it brings back a feeling of nostalgia, and it will make you feel good watching it.

2. The Jungle Book

This is one of Disney’s most underrated live action remakes, the CGI animation alone makes this movie a sight to behold. The CGI animation brings the animals to life while still letting them express emotion (something The Lion King would later fail at). The Jungle Book also keeps the core elements of the original story while refining the plot and developing Mowgli’s story. Having Baloo played by Bill Murray was also an amazing choice as he’s hilarious in this role. Unlike Cinderella, The Jungle Book is action-packed and an entertaining watch.

3. Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast is a faithful adaptation of the original animated movie, bringing the talking furniture and romance to life. While Emma Watson isn’t the strongest singer, she still played Belle beautifully and the rest of the cast was perfect in their roles. This movie also included new songs not in the original movie, that added more depth to the plot (like the Beast’s song about letting Belle go). If you’re in the mood for an original fairytale, this is certainly a good option.

4. Maleficent

One of the reasons I enjoy this movie so much is because it’s not just a perfect replica of the original Sleeping Beauty. This movie focuses on Maleficent’s origin story and how she might not be as evil as he appears. Angelina Jolie’s performance as Maleficent was fantastic and really added emotional depth to the character. I also liked the plot twist at the end of Maleficent and thought it was a good way to revert the classic fairy tale trope of a princess needing her prince to save her. Also this movie included Lana Del Rey’s cover of Once Upon A Dream (which gives it bonus points).

5. Christopher Robin

This movie is a remake of Winne the Pooh that follows a grownup Christopher Robin who learns to be a child again. I feel like this movie is more for grownups than for kids, simply because adults will more appreciate the feelings of nostalgia and the idea of rediscovering your childhood. That’s not to say that there aren’t elements children won’t enjoy, I mean it has adorable stuffed animals! I’d recommend this movie to people who are looking for a more mature film to watch, that’s not all action.

6. Aladdin

This movie started off with a bad rap because of the giant, blue monstrosity that is Will Smith as the genie, but the movie altogether isn’t terrible. I liked the entire cast for the most part, except for the guy who played Jafaar, he just wasn’t very intimidating and didn’t make a good evil villain. And while Will Smith was no Robin Williams, I thought he did a good job as the genie. The best part about this movie were the musical sequences that had amazing choreography and visual effects. Overall, this movie is an entertaining watch that does the animated movie justice.

7. Alice in Wonderland

While this movie isn’t the best remake, I appreciate how original the plot of this movie is. Instead of just following the original animation, this movie focuses on a grownup Alice returning to Wonderland and encountering iconic characters (like the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts) and some new faces (like the White Queen and the Jabberwocky). Tim Burton does an excellent job of bringing Wonderland to life visually, but his designs can be horrifying at times (the Queen of Heart’s giant head and the part where Alice has to cross a river of HEADS). This movie is very entertaining, but it will probably give you nightmares.

8. Dumbo

This movie takes a new spin on the original animation and, thankfully, removes the more problematic elements of the first one (like the blatant racism with the “Jim Crows”). While this movie remains unoffensive, it’s still not really anything special. The best thing about this movie is how adorable baby Dumbo is (look at how cute!!). The human characters alongside Dumbo, however, are one-dimensional and don’t feel very fleshed out. The thing I like most about this movie is how Tim Burton changed the horrifying pink elephants scene from the original into something kids can actually watch (seriously that scene gave me nightmares as a kid).

9. Alice Through the Looking Glass

This movie is really just an unneeded sequel to its predecessor Alice in Wonderland. Alice Through the Looking Glass follows Alice as she, once again, has to save Wonderland, this time from Time himself. While it still remains visually interesting, the plot of this movie was kind of all over the place and not very memorable. Really the best part of this movie was its title song Just Like Fire (which I distinctly remember being played EVERYWHERE after this movie came out).

10. The Lion King

It’s a shame how disappointing this movie is, considering how the original Lion King was one of Disney’s best movies. All I could think while watching this movie was how much I’d rather be watching the original. One of the best elements of this movie also ended up being its downfall. While the CGI animation is amazingly realistic, it is unable to allow its characters to express emotion. The most acute example of this is during Mufasa’s death, when Simba barely even looked upset, causing me to barely feel anything as well (and if I don’t cry during Mufasa’s death scene that’s when you know something’s wrong). I would recommend just watching the original animated Lion King instead.

11. Lady and the Tramp

Lady and the Tramp is a faithful adaptation of the original animation and, like Dumbo, removes all of the racist elements of the original. While watching this movie I just felt really bored and wanted to watch something else, even the adorable dogs couldn’t keep my attention. I’m not even really sure why Disney decided to adapt this movie in the first place, considering the original animation wasn’t really that special. This is a good choice if you’re in the mood for watching a dog movie (certainly better than 101 Dalmatians) but it won’t exactly keep your attention.

12. 101 Dalmatians

This movie was made around the same time Disney was releasing other weird live-action movies in the late ‘90s like That Darn Cat and Jungle 2 Jungle (I’ve never heard of these before but they sound ridiculous). 101 Dalmatians doesn’t really do anything horrible to deserve being the worst live-action movie, it’s just not particularly good. Glenn Close, who plays Cruella De Ville, is probably the best part of this movie, which is bad considering she’s supposed to be a dog murderer. While this movie is entertaining, it’s not very sophisticated and includes some unfunny slapstick jokes. Watch it if you’re interested, but it’s not the best remake out there.