The 10 Most Underrated Disney Animated Classics — and Why You Should Re-watch Them

Sometimes, Disney releases animated movies that are immediate smash hits. Movies like The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. And then, sometimes Disney releases movies that, to put it nicely, just don’t perform as well.


Maybe it’s not the strongest plot, or maybe it’s a recession and no one is seeing movies. Maybe the music isn’t that good (if it’s even there). But maybe, just maybe, these movies aren’t even that bad, and we should give them another chance.

Here are 10 underrated Disney movies — and why you should re-watch them.

1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 

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Why it wasn’t a big hit: Pretty heavy religious overtones don’t exactly scream Disney movie.

Why you should re-watch it: the music (including the score) is fantastic — in fact “Out There” is one of the best Disney songs ever written.


2. Sword in the Stone 

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Why it wasn’t a big hit: It came out sandwiched between 101 Dalmatians and The Jungle Book — both of which are pretty popular.

Why you should re-watch it: It’s a classic mythical story told in a Disney animated way — and it doesn’t get enough credit for that.

3. Tarzan 

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Why it wasn’t a big hit: It was released at the tail end of the Disney renaissance, and was attempting to follow movies such as Pocahontas and Aladdin, which are hard shoes to fill.

Why you should re-watch it: Two words: Phil. Collins.


4. Oliver and Company

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Why it wasn’t a big hit: There wasn’t a lot of faith  in Disney animation in the  1980s, and not even a Billy Joel-singing dog could save that. (But just one year later, a  mermaid could, and did.)

Why you should re-watch it: Two more words: Billy Joel.


5. Treasure Planet

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Why it wasn’t a big hit:  It was a trope of a very popular story. Fans of the original perhaps weren’t jazzed to see yet another remake, this time in space.

Why you should re-watch it: It’s actually a very fun and smart remake of the story — plus Morph is super cute.


6. The Great Mouse Detective 

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Why it wasn’t a big hit:  Again, the ’80s weren’t a real highlight for Disney. The Great Mouse Detective did better than most of its predecessors, but still, a lot of fans haven’t seen it.

Why you should re-watch it: Critics gave it two thumbs up. Plus Basil is awesome and a mouse is a very fun twist on Sherlock Holmes.


7. The Emperor’s New Groove

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Why it wasn’t a big hit:  Coming off the heels of the already not-super-hot Tarzan, Fantasia 2000, and Dinosaur, the film’s reviews were mostly so-so.

Why you should re-watch it: This movie is funny. Like grown-up-watching-it-without-kids funny… just watch it. Trust me.


8. Robin Hood

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Why it wasn’t a big hit:  Robin Hood has one of the lowest Rotten Tomatoes scores of all time – 54%.

Why you should re-watch it: This isn’t the best or most musical Disney film but it is a lot of fun. Robin Hood is funny in its own way and your kids will be entertained.


9. The Black Cauldron 

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Why it wasn’t a big hit:  It’s known as “the film that almost killed Disney” because it resulted in a loss at the box office.

Why you should re-watch it: It has a Rotten Tomatoes score higher than Robin Hood.

10. Brother Bear

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Why it wasn’t a big hitBrother Bear didn’t do very well at the box office, and it was in an era of generally forgettable Disney movies (it was released around the same time at Home on the Range and Chicken Little).

Why you should re-watch it:  Four words: Phil Collins is back.


Which underrated Disney movie is on your list? Let us know in the comments!



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Molly is a lifelong Disney enthusiast, and former Walt Disney World Guest Relations Cast Member and tour guide. Her Walt Disney World favorites include Festival of the Lion King, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Fantasmic!, Mickey-shaped pretzels and rice krispie treats, and anything with Buzz Lightyear! She lives in Orlando with her husband (who she met in Guest Relations) and their two rescue dogs, Kronk and Cruella de Vil (Ella for short!)

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4 Replies to “The 10 Most Underrated Disney Animated Classics — and Why You Should Re-watch Them”

  1. What’s with the disrespect to Black Cauldron? It’s one of my favorites of the ones on this list, right up there with Hunchback. As a kid I really enjoyed it even though the Horned King scared the pants off me, and as an adult I still think it’s one of the better examples of Disney going dark.

  2. The Robinsons. Lovely message of keep trying and failing and learning from failing… So many people (myself included) are cautious about risk and failing and that’s such a shame. Who knows what mankind could do if we all just went for it and risked failure more. Who knows what leaders and innovators are out there holding themselves back. Love the theme song too:
    Let it go
    Let it roll right off your shoulder
    Don’t you know
    The hardest part is over
    Let it in
    Let your clarity define you
    In the end
    We will only just remember how it feels
    Our lives are made
    In these small hours
    These little wonders
    These twists & turns of fate
    Time falls away
    But these small hours
    These small hours still remain

    Read more: Rob Thomas – Little Wonders Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  3. What a disappointing list! Only half these movies are even classics. There are so many GOOD classics you could have included instead of garbage like Hunchback, Brother Bear, or Tarzan. Look inside the Disney vault instead of grabbing crap that’s not even that old.