Movies

My Favorite Underrated Disney Movies

There are lots of Disney movies out there that need more love. They either get a low rating or are lost among the movies that got the most hype and love.

When I was brainstorming this list. I realized that the movies I chose had the following traits: a serious villain who doesn’t play around, a story with complex details, or they were simply overlooked from being released not long after another film that was more successful.

You could probably find other articles online that will contain the same ones that I’m about to list.

1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Still hands down, one of my favourites. It’s one of the darkest Disney films made that covers a lot of mature themes like lust, genocide, and racism. Another thing that makes it dark is you get a villain like Claude Frollo who is far more realistic than any other Disney villain will ever be. I cosplay as him in case you didn’t know that yet! (Do yourself a favour and just search Frollo on this site, you’ll find pictures of it soon enough!)

Unfortunately, this movie is hugely overlooked, and I think it’s all because of the fact that these movies get marketed to children first, and children want happy, colourful, and funny stories. They won’t understand the mature concepts this movie presents. As an adult, you can appreciate it cause you understand it. It’s dark, realistic in a way, and humor is still present through it all.

2. Treasure Planet

Treasure Planet

Anybody remember this one? It combines 2D animation but with a touch of 3D animation too. It’s a futuristic sci-fi version of the original story and I love it for its exhilarating moments and many different alien characters. I want to have a Morph for a pet!

It was well received by critics and was even nominated for an Oscar for best animated film, but it flopped in the box office so it’s no wonder people seem to forget it exists. It’s not just about positive reviews and nominations, but what also grabs people’s attention is how successful it was in the box office.

3. Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Atlantis The Lost Empire

This is probably the very first sci-fi Disney film that has made.

It’s also considered one of the first Disney films to focus more on the story and adventure than being a musical. That’s what I love about it. As much as I love musicals, sometimes I want to watch a Disney film with a more serious approach to the story and this is one of them.

But unfortunately, the movie didn’t do well in the box office, some critics liked it for its combination of CGI and 2D and different approach to storytelling while others said the opposite. Because of it’s lack of success, one of its characters: Kida, was shunned from being an official Disney Princess. But she will always be one to me.

4. Dinosaur

Dinosaur

Remember this one? I think this movie is even more forgettable than the others I’ve mentioned so far.

The characters are all CGI generated, but the backgrounds are said to be shot in real locations. I remember the time the teaser trailer came out during the showing of Toy Story 2. At that time part of it scared me, but I eventually decided to watch it. What I thought was done well was the movie’s soundtrack, it’s amazing and I’ve had dreams in the past where I hear parts of it. A good example is the track where the egg travels, it goes from epic to amazing as you listen.

So I wonder what gets this movie overlooked? I heard critics say they didn’t like the choice to make the characters talk because it took away what could have made this movie stand out. Or it probably came out around something else that turned out to be a lot more popular.

5. The Rescuers: Down Under

The Rescuers Down Under

I never saw the first film, but I think this one was definitely overlooked as it was released not long after The Little Mermaid. In cases like this, there’s a movie that comes out and is a big success, and when the franchise releases another afterwards, the hype for its predecessor is still present so people may not always pay attention.

Who would’ve thought that an international rescue organization would be run by mice inside the UN HQ? I liked this movie mainly for the humor surrounding the villain and his pet and Cody’s bond with the eagle. Some stories just simply need more love.

6. The Great Mouse Detective

The Great Mouse Detective

There are so many movies surrounding mice in the Disney universe. Mice are generally creatures we don’t like in our houses, except for the cult of people who like to keep them as pets. It makes me wonder if Disney is trying to send us a message about how we should see mice.

Anyway, this is another Disney movie I love. It’s the mouse version of Sherlock Holmes filled with charming characters including both Basil and Ratigan. Ratigan is probably one of the most charismatic villains out there who can also be very intimidating too, but he often gets forgotten because most fans tend to remember Scar and Jafar better. I’ll take Ratigan over the latter any day!

7. The Emperor’s New Groove

The Emperor's New Groove

Definitely one of the funniest Disney movies in the forgotten realms. It even has a spinoff series that takes place after the movie. When I first watched the movie, there was a strong message present: You get what you give.

Kuzco was always a selfish ruler who never thought about his people at first. When Pacha tells him to reconsider building his summer resort on the village top, Kuzco refuses and in return Pacha refuses to help him return to the palace after he’s turned into a llama. I don’t know why this movie gets forgotten, but it definitely needs more love.

8. Tarzan

Tarzan

Who doesn’t love this one? It has been well-praised for its animation and it won an Oscar for Best Original Song that was You’ll Be In My Heart by Phil Collins, and that’s a beautiful song. There’s just something about that makes it unique like the action and Tarzan’s story trying to find acceptance in the herd as well as realize what he really is.

I actually think that he and Jane are adorable together and that final scene where she runs back to stay with him and they kiss, that is actually one of my favourite Disney movie kisses of all time! Oh and not to mention when Clayton meets his demise, it’s actually pretty disturbing. Most Disney villains fall to their death, some die in an explosion, but Clayton ends up hanging himself due to his own stupidity when he was trapped in vines.

So there’s really nothing that I can recall that makes this movie overlooked. I think it just simply is at times.

9. Pinocchio

Pinocchio

The second Disney film ever made. Pinocchio won two Oscars related to its soundtrack but was and I quote “a box office disaster”. I can see why since it was released in 1940 and I don’t think many people were going to the movies during WWII. I think it’s also a rather dark film like THOND, especially when we get to the part involving the coachman because he was basically committing child trafficking by taking naughty boys off to Pleasure Island. Then they were encouraged to engage in gorging themselves, drinking, smoking, being destructive, and picking fights until they turned into donkeys. I tell you, Lampwick’s transformation scarred me as a child and I still can’t watch the movie as an adult without that part disturbing me.

This movie is truly a classic and is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and I don’t know why, but I feel like people do forget about it sometimes. I think it’s also because just like THOND, it’s got mature themes in it and can be dark at times. But, after writing this, it looks to me that just about every Disney film has dark moments in it.

And those are my favourite Disney films that I think need more love. Surprisingly, a lot of them involve animals, their soundtracks I remember fondly, they can contain dark moments and themes that only adults can understand, and some of them have hilarious moments. Yet, they are often lost within the more popular films.

What are your favorite underrated Disney films that I may have forgotten to mention?

👽Emily

25 thoughts on “My Favorite Underrated Disney Movies”

  1. The greatest Disney movie of all time is “The Lion King”, there is absolutely no doubt about it. The music, the animation, the villain! It’s…out of this world. Then there is nothing for a long time. And then, finally, come “The Fox and the Hound” (I was not ready as a kid) and Tarzan (again: the music, the animation, the villain!)

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    1. Sure The Lion King is one of the most popular films and that’s why I think Tarzan is overlooked because it’s not as big as The Lion King and both movies have similar themes.

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      1. Fair enough. But here in Austria, Tarzan is one of the most popular Disney movies, too.

        I did not grow up with Disney movies, so I only know the popular ones from my country. And Cap and Capper (The Fox and the Hound) for some reason 🙂

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      2. Not sure if here in Canada there is a preference on what Disney movies people preferred. What? I’m shocked 😱 but I guess not everyone spent their childhood watching them.

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  2. A few forgotten gems. Presumably we’re talking animated only not live action? a few of the films from the 80s tend to get a few blank looks when I talk about them to people including what I think are well known ones such as Flight of the navigator and return to oz.

    was desperately trying to remember the one about the mouse, then remember it was An American Tail, then a further bit of investigation and realising it wasn’t a Disney Film lol

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  3. Music in both Treasure Planet and Tarzan were phenomenal. Tarzan was much funnier than I was expecting. Emperor’s New Groove was hysterical and has amazing voice acting. Soooo many meme worthy moments. Dinosaur was fabulous at the time but I don’t think the animation has ages very well at this point. Still a great movie.

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    1. All these movies have their own way to shine and soundtracks are one thing I look for in a movie that makes it good. I wasn’t expecting a lot of humor in Tarzan either, especially since it began with a dark tone.

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    1. Treasure Planet is amazing, I love Morph, Scroop, and Amelia the most. I remember renting it so many times as a kid back. I really should see the first Rescuers movie, but the Down Under one has some really well done parts.

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  4. Treasure Planet and The Emperor’s New Groove were underrated Disney movies, so I hear you right there. I’d also argue that Lilo and Stitch would be an underrated one as well with it being more racially progressive than a lot of people give credit for (okay, the Elvis stuff was random, but my point stands).

    People weren’t a fan of Pinocchio? Huh? I would’ve never expected that.

    I’m not a fan of Tarzan and it annoys me how Disney is 0-2 when it comes to animated movies in Africa with no Black characters in it and I find that suspicious.

    Hate to be that guy, but Atlantis actually ripped off stuff from the 90s anime Nadia: Secret of Blue Water and I even mentioned Kida being unoriginal in a Top 7 list I made for my film review blog: https://iridiumeye.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/top-7-characters-that-fans-are-reluctant-to-call-blatant-ripoffs/

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    1. Well perhaps it would have made more sense to make Tarzan black but I see the point. Pinocchio yeah I can’t understand why but it was the box office flop, nobody went to the theaters during war. I didn’t mind Atlantis regardless of where it came from.

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      1. Well, this could also go back to the original author as well, but that has bothered me and that’s not even getting into some low-key colonialism implications or potential fridge horror of some offscreen genocide going on. That is so weird how it was a box office flop especially since a ton of people have seen that movie after the fact or how “When You Wish Upon a Star” gets played at the Disney intro sequences even to this day. I was curious if you heard of that plagiarism controversy. While it doesn’t anger me as much as The Lion King blatantly stealing from Kimba the White Lion or using a plagiarized song (The Lion Sleeps Tonight), Disney should’ve at least gave credit. If the situation was reversed, Disney fans would freak out. Did you check out that link in the previous comment?

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      2. To me, the reason why I think Tarzan isn’t black is because remember at the beginning, his family was on a voyage from another country (which is never named) until the storm destroys the ship and they escape in a lifeboat, and they end up on the shores of Africa. No I have not heard of that controversy nor did I look at the link because I try not to get too involved because I prefer to separate reality from fiction. Sometimes when I love something, I just prefer to remember it as it is.

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      3. I get that with his backstory. It was just a pattern I noticed with those kind of movies. Also, they never mention which country they’re in since sadly people treat that continent like one giant nation, but that’s a conversation for another day. I didn’t know if you knew about the plagiarism controversy with Atlantis or even The Lion King in regards to blatantly ripping off from anime works that predate both movie franchises. Don’t even get me started about how Disney trademarked the phrase “Hakuna Matata” which is a slap in the face to the Swahili-speaking African nations. Separating reality from fiction, you say? Do you also separate the art from the artists? It’s hard for me to separate everything especially if it involves very scummy things with theft, cultural appropriation, or racism. It feels like that company gets a free pass for everything.

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      4. I am going to stop you right there. Yes I do that and I do it with art and artists. Call me an optimist but life is too short to let every little political, legal, or rip-off of something meant to be entertainment like music, movies, etc. bother me to a point where I toss my love for it in the trash or be extremely choosy with what I watch/play/read or whatever. I will watch (insert random movie here) because I love the story and the theme of it and couldn’t care less if it was taken from another source because it does not have an impact on me on a personal level. I listen to Megadeth, I don’t agree with Dave Mustaine’s political views but they make some fucking great music so why should I let that bother me and put my status as a fan in the dumpster? I’m not sticking my head in the sand to these very real concerns in the world, I’m making my choice to find the silver lining in the clouds. Again, life is too short to get worked up over the fact that a movie has one racist character to not watch it when the rest of it is enjoyable to me.

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      5. Looks like we’ll just agree to disagree then. Just know that I was only giving information and not attacking you at all. I was also speaking from personal experiences of being bullied and subjected to both overt as well as covert bigotry in my life which has affected my view of different media. If you don’t bury your head in the sand with real life issues, then that’s fine. Again, I wasn’t attacking you or making accusations to you as I’ve known other bloggers who separate art from the artists.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Very well, I did not interpret is an attack I may get defensive but I just wanted to be clear here. I have survived bullying as well. One of the reasons why I choose to be as optimistic as possible is also because my mental health can only take so much and I like to have a nice escape. I follow what happens in the world and in the media, just not to a point where I take it personally. 🙂

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      7. It’s good that you didn’t see what I said as an attack. Sorry to hear that you were bullied as well. While I certainly have my own issues, I’m not someone who would try to bully others. I get that everyone needs an escape. Trust me, I am like that when I watch or listen to something different if I hear too much negative news or researching negative aspects of history that don’t get talked about. With that being said, I do call out bad things when I see it.

        I understand if you want to prevent things from getting to personal, but there are some things I just can’t ignore. Just because something isn’t hurtful to one person doesn’t mean it can’t be hurtful to another. Going back to the trademark issue, I found out about it a couple of years ago weeks after getting my DNA test results where I found out I was part Congolese via my mom’s side. Even though I’ve never been to the Democratic Republic of Congo much less Africa, one of the DRC’s 5 official languages is Swahili, so trademarking a super common phrase in that language is cultural appropriation against MY culture. It ticks me off when people deny or downplay what I’ve been through or seen because that’s a form of bullying since I know what I’m talking about and wouldn’t lie about that stuff.

        Optimism is something admirable when it’s done the right way. Nothing wrong with being positive, but it shouldn’t involve denying reality or someone else’s experiences. Toxic positivity exists which is frustrating. No, I’m not accusing you of doing this. Let me make that clear.

        I just wanted to be sure we had a healthy discussion on this matter.

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