Favorite Live Action Disney

I haven’t done a Disney post in a little while so I thought I would give a list of my favorite Disney live action movies.  I am not including Muppets on this list as I am going to cover them at another time. This also does not include Marvel, Star Wars, Touchstone or other studios/franchises owned and operated by Disney.  These say Disney right on the cover!

What made me think of this is the recent announcement of Emma Watson playing Belle in live action Beauty and the Beast.  I love Watson but am not excited about this project at all. The idea of a CG Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts makes me want to throw up. Watson seemed to give the impression in an interview they would be including the music from the animated film, which would be a first in these live action fairytales.  That could be a good thing or bad thing.

I just hate this live action trend so much.  They all are big, garish, stupid and lose any of the charm of the originals.  Hopefully with Beauty and the Beast being Howard Ashman’s masterpiece and him working on his death bed will keep them from complete sacrilege but I am not optimistic.

Just stop Disney. Stop cannibalizing yourself.  At least the cheap cash grab sequels of the 90s weren’t released in the theaters.  Shame, shame, shame!

Anyway, when Disney gets it right in live action it can be very entertaining.  Friend of the blog Mark has a live action Disney blog you should definitely check out.  We disagree on a lot but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying his reviews.


So here is my list…

Best Disney Live Action

Honorable Mentions- Shaggy Dog, Absent Minded Professor, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Freaky Friday (old and new), Newsies, High School Musical, Pete’s Dragon, Darby O’ Gill and the Little People, Happiest Millionaire, Cool Runnings

12.  Swiss Family Robinson-

An admittedly hokey story but well cast and paced. I love the Home Alone style traps they construct for the pirates and the tree house.  The love triangle is less interesting but it is an entertaining family adventure along the lines of Princess Bride.

swiss family11. Tuck Everlasting

A lesser known Disney entry that I think is underrated.  Based on the book by Natalie Babbit it is the story of a girl who falls in love with a boy who can’t age. It is beautiful and sweet and isn’t afraid to give kids/teenagers something to think about instead of the same dopey romance movie we’ve seen a million times.  I love the cinematography and overall feel of the picture.  (This movie is my argument they should have cast Alexis Bidel as Bella in Twilight.  She is way more ethereal and hauntingly beautiful than Kristen Stewart…)

tuck everlasting10. Parent Trap (old and new)

The story of 2 twin sisters who find each other at camp and decide to try and get their parents back together.  Both the old and new are very charming with great lead performances by Hayley Mills and Lindsay Lohan.  The chemistry between parents on both films is palatable and convincing and as someone who hates camping I sympathize with poor Vikki (I may not show this to my kids for fear they will submarine me!) . I think it is funny and sweet.  Some worry it gives kids a false hope their parents will get back together but in my experience kids are smart enough to tell the difference between a movie and reality.  If they have such a hope it is likely a natural emotion not really having anything to do with a movie.

parent trap9. Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl

The sequels have all been terrible IMO but the original was so much fun.  Great sword fighting sequences, fun story, strong cast and our first introduction to Jack Sparrow.  Wish they had figured out a way to make the follow ups good but at least we got one good movie out of it! pirates8. Old Yeller

The Disney movie that will make you cry your eyes out but in a good way.  Tears in a movie can be manipulative and I can end up resenting the movie (I’m talking to you Nicholas Sparks!) but when done right it we can cry out of a love and attachment to the character.  This is certainly true with Old Yeller and I’m not even a dog person.  What Travis has to do at the end of the movie is so well acted and gut wrenching.  Makes you want to reach through the screen and give him a hug. It’s a movie I like to watch when I’m sick and feeling sorry for myself.  Sometimes a girl just needs a good cry!

old yeller7. Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Yes it is a paler imitation of Mary Poppins but I still really like it.  Angela Lansbury is so much fun as the witch who wants to learn a spell so she can help in the war effort.  David Tomlinson is also wonderful, as usual, as the con-man selling Lansbury the course.  The kid actors are not great but the special effects hold up in a hokey kind of way.  The animated sequences are completely unnecessary to the story but a lot of fun.  It’s just a charmer.

bedknobs6. Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, Witch and Wardrobe

Kids not old enough to watch Lord of the Rings?  Narnia is a perfect option.  I love it for its biblical allegory but even if you aren’t religious it is a classic story full of magic, sacrifice, love, friendship and an amazing villain played by Tilda Swinton.  Narnia is vividly created and Aslan is just as I would have imagined when reading the books.  The kids are not as good as the Harry Potter kids but they are fine.  It’s an exciting story in a fantastical setting. It also has a nice message about pride and how Satan will work on our egos to get us to move away from what we know is right.

Narnia-8-the-chronicles-of-narnia-241414_1024_7685. Holes

When this first came out I called all my friends and family and told them to see it!  I loved it.  I still love it.  It’s so creative and clever the way it tells several stories at once with Shia Lebeouf sent to camp where they dig holes in the desert all day. What are they digging for? Well, we learn about that as the movie tells the story of an old west bi-racial romance between Kissing Kate and Trout Walker and a curse put on LeBeouf’s family.  It’s kind of a puzzle for kids as they put together the various clues in both stories.  Great supporting work by Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Henry Winkler and Tim Blake Nelson.

holes4. Disney’s The Kid

A movie I think about a lot despite its stupid title.  Bruce Willis meets his 12 year old self and they are both horrified with each other.  I have wondered many times what the 12 year old Rachel would think of my life.  In some ways she’d be thrilled and in others disappointed.  It’s a story that has huge heart and is maybe more for adults than children.   We all hope we have lived a good life and this movie makes me ponder every time I watch it.

the kid3. Saving Mr Banks

I am aware this movie is mostly fan fiction but for the story it tells it really moved me.  I love the ending when Tom Hanks tells Emma Thompson “I’m tired of remembering it that way”.  That really impacted me and made me think. I’m tired of remembering certain things from my life in certain ways.  It’s such a great example of showing how most humans have  a moment where childhood is over and most of us always resent whoever it was that gave us that moment.  For me it was bullies, for Disney it was his Dad making him deliver papers in the cold, for Travers it was her father dyeing on her.  Disney compensated with whimsey, Travers by scorning whimsey and embracing a whole new identity.

saving mr banks2. Pollyanna

One of my all time favorite children’s movies about a girl named Pollyanna (played by Hayley Mills) who having lost both of her parents has decided to live her life always looking at the upside.  Her positivity effects all around her including her stubborn aunt played by Jane Wyman.  Karl Malden is so good as the minister who realizes preaching fire and brimstone may not be the way to share God’s message. Agnes Moorehead is also great as a lonely cantankerous woman who learns from Pollyanna how to see color and light even from her room.  Yes it’s drippy and sentimental but it is all so well acted that when an event happens to cause  Pollyanna to loose her cheerfulness it is really quite devastating.  Then it ends on just the right note.  It’s a movie I don’t know if it could be made today.  We have all gotten too cynical for such a story which is kind of sad when you think about it. pollyanna1. Mary Poppins

In the running for the best children’s movie ever made.  It is practically perfect in every way! Julie Andrews as lovely as Mary, the positive yet sometimes stern governess to little Jane and Michael.  David Tomlinson is so great as Mr Banks the banker who believes in order and discipline and comes into conflict with Mary.   When he thinks he is going to be fired and see’s the Bird Lady it is a completely devastating moment.  He is not the villain of the picture which a lesser film would have done.  Glynis Johns is fun as the suffragette Mrs Banks and the kids are sweet and charming.

The music by the Sherman Brothers is unforgettable and dancing sequences like Step in Time are so captivating you hardly notice how long they are.  The animated section is whimsical and fun and who can forget Dick van Dyke bad accent and all as the free spirited Burt.  If the only flaw I can find in a movie is a bad accent I think that is pretty darn great.  Definitely one of Disney’s great movies.  Glad he fought Travers to make it!

mary poppinsSo there you go Disney.  How about you look at these films and remember how to make good live action instead of junk like Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland…Please!

13 thoughts on “Favorite Live Action Disney

    1. Ha. True. Just anyone who likes Legends of Oz and dislikes Up is a mystery to me 🙂 But it’s good. It takes all types as they say.

  1. My list would naturally be different (for example Pete’s dragon would be on it and Tron, and the first Herbie movie), but there is none which I would call an awful movie…from the ones I know. PotC is still my favourite pirate movie by far. And I totally agree with Mary Poppins on place one.

      1. I have never seen Old Yeller, but I most likely never will. My first contact with the movie was a special about “Walt Disney’s dogs” which showed exactly one scene of the mvoie…after that I knew I would never watch it. I am not prepared for this kind of heartbreak.

  2. It’s been years since I saw Swiss Family Robinson, but I remember liking it a lot – and I still like #1, #3, #6 and #9.

    I also like Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey and The Three Musketeers, and the National Treasure films are one of my guilty pleasures: there’s a lot of nonsense in the plots, but they’re still fun and Nicolas Cage is particularly good in them.

    1. I agree on all your points. I love a adventure movie with treasure hunting and the like so I also enjoy the National Treasure movies. I’m aware of the flaws but I think they are fun. Thanks for comment

  3. With The Force Awakens coming up soon, it’ll be time for me to revise what my favourite live action Disney films will be; I have a strong suspicion this list might look different after I finally see it. With that said, here is my current Top 12 live action Disney movies:

    (Honourable mentions: Homeward Bound, Flight of the Navigator, Enchanted, The Jungle Book (1994), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids )

    12) Swiss Family Robinson – A bit silly and tame as far as Disney live action films go, but I really like John Mills performance as the father, the animal training is very well done and the concept alone is executed in such a way that it’s not too unbelievable whilst still retaining that escapist fun part of it.

    11) Holes – This is kinda like Disney’s answer to ‘Goonies’ a fairly edgy but still family friendly film with smart dialogue, a few cheesy moments but plenty of personality and a surprisingly detailed set of backstories to keep the plot engaging.

    10) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – This was more or less wish fulfilment for me, as the book was the very first true work of literature I read as a little boy and the story always moved me. The film worked for me on several levels, I really liked the Pevensies (especially Lucy), I loved the visual style, its sense of heart, the music, that incredible climactic battle, and I think they handled the religious aspects of the book respectfully. Today, I think the film gets too overlooked and too often compared to Lord of the Rings, its honestly a charming enough film to stand on its own merits.

    9) Saving Mr Banks – While I am wary of the artistic liberties taken, I was taken in by the wonderful acting and good messages presented, that bittersweet and sincere

    8) TRON – One of Disney’s most visually striking and original films. I love the imaginative and colorful style. Jeff Bridges makes for a likeable lead, and I dug a lot of the mytholigical/religious symbolism throughout the film. Overall, a magnificent technical achievement for Disney.

    7) Old Yeller – Best doggone dog in the west! For a film that had its ending already spoiled for me, it remarkably fun and well-written. As a former dog owner, I can relate a bit to Travis’ relationship with Yeller, and the emotional scenes have a particularly strong resonance with me.

    6) Bedknobs and Broomsticks – A fun, catchy and charming little fantasy with just the right amount of Mary Poppins esque magic to have a life of its own without seeming too similar. I also really like the animated sequences. Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson make the film worth watching.

    5) The Rocketeer – It was released by DIsney in the US, so it counts. A fantastic Indiana Jones style adventure with a likeable hero and a suave villain in Timothy Dalton, wonderful James Horner score and a warm, optimistic tone.

    4) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – a surprisngly profound and intellectual Disney movie with great acting, interesting themes and special effects that still mostly hold up today. It works well as both an adaptation of Jules Verne while also injecting its own well-placed sense of fun and whimsy without feeling forced.

    3) Pirates of the Caribbean – The first is still the best, and not without good reason. It was one of those rare summer blockbusters that was dark and kooky but also still had that sense of Disney fun to it, and I have very strong memories of it in the cinema and just being swept up in the action, the effects, music and swashbuckling fun. And yes, I still enjoy this first iteration of Jack Sparrow.

    2) The Muppet Christmas Carol – this is where I break the mold a bit, but I still consider ‘Muppet Christmas Carol’ a legitimate part of the Disney live action library. I love the warm, Christmassy feeling, I love the music, Michael Caine’s performance and of course the Muppets’ humour is right on point! I still watch it every year on Christmas Day!

    1) Mary Poppins – Practically perfect in every way. I loved it as a kid, I respect and love it in a whole new way as an adult. Once I start singing the tunes from Mary Poppins, there’s no stopping me! 😛
    It has always stuck in my memory wherever I have gone, and it makes me yearn for my childhood years. Mary Poppins is a true childhood classic that will never be forgotten.

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