Disney movies are something that everyone is familiar with. Hell, we grew up watching some kind of Disney movie as a kid. And who isn’t partial to at least one film? I used to watch The Lion King religiously as a kid, I’d make my mom rewind the movie and start it over again every time it ended. I couldn’t get enough.
I could make a huge list of my all time favorite Disney movies – I almost did. But it’s been easily done before, and many of us share the same favorites (The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Alladin, Tarzan, etc, etc). It got me thinking about my favorites that weren’t as popular as the others, and inspired this post.
So here are my 5 favorite underrated Disney movies (in no order):
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Release Date: June 21, 1996
Quasimodo, the bell-ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral, is locked away in a tower due to his deformities. His only companies are the gargoyles, and Quasimodo longs to be with other people. One day he decides to join the outside world and meets the enchanting Gypsy Esmeralda. Her attention is caught by Quasimodo’s guardian, Frollo, an evil man, and Quasimodo helps to protect her from him.
I’ve always loved this movie. There was just something about it that set it apart from other Disney movies. For starters, it’s more adult themed, it hardly passes as a children’s movie, but it does. Stockholm syndrome to sexual desires to racial injustice – these are only a couple underlying themes. Despite this, the story is captivating and the musical score is still one of the best Disney has ever done – it’s epic. “God Help the Outcasts” was one of my favorites. This movie just never got the full credit it deserved.
Oliver & Company
Release Date: November 18, 1988
A twist on the classic tale of “Oliver Twist,“ Oliver is an orphaned kitty in New York City who’s taken in by a gang of thieving dogs. Run by Dodger, and owned by a man named Fagin, who is rather down in his luck and very poor. While in the city on a job, Oliver finds himself being adopted by a rich girl named Jenny. But his happy home is threatened through a series of events, and threatens his new happy lifestyle.
As a kid, I loved cats. I was stupidly obsessed with them. So this movie easily made the list – the lone cat in the middle of a city run by dogs (I loved dogs, too, but cats were always the favorite). It’s still a favorite of mine, and the cutest take on Oliver Twist. The music was classic 80s, between Huey Lewis and Billy Joel. But I still love it.
Release Date: December 11, 1970
A retired opera singer leaves her inheritance to her cat, Duchess, and her three kittens. Finding out about this, the butler drugs the cats and abandons them in the countryside in hopes of gaining the fortune for himself. In new and unfamiliar territory, Duchess and her kittens are lost. They wind up meeting an alley cat named Thomas O’Malley, who offers to help them return to their home in Paris. Along the way, the crew meets a number of odd and funny characters. From a jazz cat band to English geese.
It’s been so long since I watched this movie! Years honestly. There was a time when it was on Netflix, but I don’t think it is anymore. I mentioned above that when I was a kid, I was obsessed with cats. Needless to say, this was a favorite once upon a time. It’s a classic. But also very much underrated. I just remember the seen with the cat jazz band, and “Everybody Wants to be a Cat,” was the basic theme of the movie.
The Black Cauldron
Release Date: July 24, 1985
Set in the early middle ages in a mythical land called Prydain, the film follows a young pig keeper named Taran, the young princess Eilonwry, the bard Fflewddur Fflam, and a wild creature named Gurgi as they oppose the Horned King. There’s a magical cauldron that will aid him in conquering the world if acquired, and our heroes are set on destroying it and protecting the world from such an evil ruler.
I’ve been naming underrated movies, but this one, by far, is the most underrated Disney movie. And honestly one of the best ones they ever created. The story is so original and dark. It’s by far their darkest story that I know of. In the same breadth, it’s inspiring, and there’s no other Disney movie that compares to it. It’s also been years since I’ve watched this movie, I actually would love to sit down and watch this movie to write a proper review on it (something I’m considering if I can locate a site to watch it). It’s a true story on good versus evil, and I remember as a kid the Horned King terrified me. He was almost the embodiment of the devil. So watching the good guys defeat this evil is rewarding. Definitely a hidden Disney treasure.
The Emperor’s New Groove
Release Date: December 10, 2000
Emperor Kuzco is arrogant and young. He loves his life and everything about it, and could care less about the little people he rules over. His power-hungry advisor, Yzma, has intentions to kill Kuzco and take his place. Things happen, and instead of being poisoned, Kuzco is turned into a llama. He gets stranded alongside a good-hearted man named Pacha who agrees to help return him home and find a way to make him human again. Yzma learns that her attempt on his life failed, and does everything in her power to track him down and finish him off.
The newest movie on the list. This one is probably a little higher rated than the other titles I mentioned, but overall, compared to others, this one isn’t quite as popular. And it’s truly a classic (I honestly didn’t even realize it came out 17 years ago). Yzma is a terrifying villain, yet the movie plays it in such a way it’s hilarious. This is one of the funniest Disney movies I grew up watching. Between Kuzco and Kronk, it’s a must watch. So many good quotes! “You threw off my groove!”
So what are your thoughts? What underrated Disney movies are your favorite? Atlantis and Dinosaur were a near miss on this for me. Making this list makes me want to sit down and watch them all over again. It actually makes me realize I own none of these movies on DVD because I had them all on VHS. Which we no longer have a VCR, and actually recently donated all of our VHS movies. Sad.