When it comes to movies and characters, you will be hard pressed to find a set of characters as iconic and trans-generational as The Disney Princesses. Starting from their first movies in 1937 with Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs and continuing down the line to the most recent addition, 2013’s Frozen, there are very few characters that represent the majesty and wonder that the Disney Corporation strives to be. The Disney Princesses are a collection of some of the timeless classic movies in American Cinematic History and I guarantee that each and every person who reads this list has at least one of these movies that is near and dear to your heart. So I decided that it was high time to take each of these 12 movies and list them from the Worst at number 12 all the way down to the Best Disney Princess movie out there.
I am going to stress HARD that this was not an easy list to make. There are so many factors that go into this list and so many ways that I could list them. SO FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE READY TO JUDGE ME, here is how I am going to create this list. If I were to make a list solely on how good or bad the movie is or how these movies had an impact on the culture at large, this would be a VERY different list. So, what I decided was to limit my list to a certain criteria.
First off, I will only be including the eleven movies that are currently representing the Disney Princesses AND one movie that, I personally feel, is soon going to be included in this list; so much so that I feel that there inclusion is absolutely needed. So movies like The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Esmerelda, The Lion King with Nala, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire with Kida are out. So sorry, them’s the breaks kids. Take it up with Disney, not me. Also, I will be looking at each of these movies for their critical strengths, the impact that these movies have had on our culture, and of the character of the princess’s themselves. Ultimately, some movies may be ‘better’ than others, but due to the role of the princess in the movie, they may be brought down a peg or two. I will attempt to make my points clear with each group. Also, please keep in mind that just because a movie is low on my list does not mean that I think the movie is bad. On the contrary, even the lowest movie on my list would receive a 2.5/5 from me. So that tells you the kind of competition that we have. With that being said, let’s get started.
We start off this list with an easy one. Out of the twelve movies that represent the Disney Princesses, you will find few people who will argue that Pocahontas is the weak link of the chain. No offense to the movie. Like I said, even though it is at the bottom, I still feel that it is a good movie. But is it a great movie? Most certainly not.
Pocahontas suffers from a number of things. Coming at the tail end of the Disney Renaissance was not a helping hand to any of the movies that came out during that period. It also REALLY doesn’t help that the story of Pocahontas is not a ‘fairy tail’ or ‘legend’ like most of the others, but a retelling of some rather sleazy historical events that change Pocahontas from the historically 11-year-old girl to a fully aged woman and John Smith from a rather portly balding aristocrat to a blonde haired, fighting, sex symbol. The addition to the talking animals just make Pocahontas a difficult watch when you know the historical context. While the movie is still decently told, its spot at number 12 is definitely justified.
Out of all of the Disney Princesses, I would say that if you were going to find the one that would be the most ‘forgotten’ it would be Sleeping Beauty. Princess Aurora is the classic representation of the textbook Disney Princess before the changing of the times. It is because of this that makes Aurora an uninteresting character.
Even though the entire plot is centered around the woman sleeping, the fact is that out of all the characters she is the most passive. She doesn’t do anything, all of the action is performed by Prince Phillip, and as the years have gone on Aurora has been completely overshadowed by the much cooler and much more interesting villain Maleficent who is the living embodiment of Disney Villain! So much so that she turns into a motherfucking Dragon! How much more badass can you get?!
Sleeping Beauty may be a classic, but the reason it is so low on this list is because of the fact that Aurora’s inclusion in the Disney Princess line is more of a formality to include the classic princesses than any symbolism of cultural significance, popularity, or meaning.
The Princess & The Frog is an interesting case for me. On the one hand, it is an excellent movie. Tiana is a fantastic character, the villain is great, the story is good, and by all accounts, it is a throwback to the classic Disney Animation that, from the time of its release, was absolutely dominated by Disney Pixar. On the other hand, The Princess and the Frog may very well be a textbook example of a movie that people think that they want, but when they get the finished product they are left unsatisfied.
At the time, as I stated previously, Disney Pixar was dominating and the rest of Disney Animation was seriously lacking. There was a serious demand for the classic Disney Animation that had made the Disney Renaissance what it was. The Princess & The Frog was an attempt to give those people what they wanted… However, something didn’t quite feel right. Something felt off, wrong, and forced. The thing is that the movie is still a really good movie and Tiana is a great character… But dammit, she really does get the shaft in this instance.
Admittedly out of all of the movies, Brave is the Disney Princess movie that I have the least experience with. I saw the movie once and after watching it, I was very well content with not watching it again. Not that the movie was bad or anything, just that I had seen it, I was glad I had seen it, and I will more than likely not seek the movie out again for a rewatching unless coerced by a group of friends who really want to sit down and watch it.
With that said, Brave is an excellent movie. It is a different kind of Disney Princess movie that gives us a sort of precursor of things to come; the whole ‘Disney turning their own clichés on their head.’ It was the first movie to start this trend and deserves credit in that regard for some great comedy. It may be one of the more forgotten movies out of the twelve, but it is still very much enjoyable.
Oh Tangled. I absolutely love Tangled. It is just so cheeky! It is the first movie that truly takes the concept of a Disney Princess, the preconceptions and stereotypes that the concept brings, and turns it all on its head. For the life of me, I will never understand why they changed the name from Rapunzel to Tangled. I’m sure someone could probably give me a reason for that and it probably stems from the fact that they wanted to appear more current, but that is neither here nor there.
The story of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider is just so much fun. The characters are both witty, sarcastic, and just all around fun to watch. Rapunzel is a very active character, is quick to take matters into her own hand, and by all accounts is very independent.
The reason Tangled finds itself at number eight is a reason that I will reference back to my Frozen review. Tangled is a good movie, but the fact is that it feels like it tries to hard to separate itself from its classic Disney Princess roots. Flynn Rider being confused about everyone spontaneously singing is funny, but scenes where Rider draws out the proposal and him finally saying yes to Rapunzel does have a forced ‘SEE?! We are not like the other movies! We are very progressive! Please don’t accuse us of sexism again!’ It is a good movie, but it won’t find a spot much higher than number 8.
Fun fact, I absolutely adored this movie when I was a kid. No joke, when I was a kid there were three movies that I would watch non stop. All Dogs Go to Heaven, Toy Soldiers (odd I know), and The Little Mermaid. This movie is THE movie that started the Disney Renaissance and resurrected the notion that animation movies were not only marketable, but they could be VERY successful.
Ariel is an absolute wonderful character. While she does have the whole ‘all I need a man in my life’ syndrome that is representative of a lot of early Disney movies, her sense of wonder, adventure, and rebellious nature is something that a lot of people can truly relate to.
Number seven may seem a rough spot for The Little Mermaid. But this is the point in the list where the field becomes very competitive and sadly it comes down to those who just barely inch out the others. Thus, The Little Mermaid is set at seven.
If I were to make this list based solely on a character being the embodiment of the stereotypical Disney Princess, Cinderella would be easy number one selection. When it comes to the classic ‘princess’ story, many quickly turn to Cinderella as the prime example.
The classic rags to riches, Cinderella is a story that focused on romance and the idea of star-crossed lovers. With the help of her fairy god mother and a little luck, Cinderella escapes her evil step mother and becomes a princess; all around a great feel good story.
Cinderella finds herself at six on this list because I feel it would be wrong to keep the quintessential Princess story out of the top half of this list, so it edges out The Little Mermaid in that regard. While it isn’t ripe with action, it can still be an inspiration to people out there who can see Cinderella go from a terrible life to the one she truly deserves.
Here we have the one who started it all. A cartoon that started one hell of a legacy. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a classic in animation. Considering the time that it was released and the work that went in to it, you could tell that this was the start of something phenomenal.
Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs has aged like a fine wine over the years and the story of Snow White and her collection of dwarf friends remains a solid story and an example of the classic Disney nostalgia.
That is about all I have to say about it. Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs is an iconic film. It finds itself at number 5 due to the fact that over the year, some movies have made a strong cultural impact and gave a much more active portrayal of the female protagonists.
Mulan is criminally underrated in my opinion. I know that many people praise this movie, but for me, that is simply not enough. Mulan is a stunning movie and one of the first Disney movies to truly have the female character firmly in the fray of things and the main character. Typically in the past, you had more traditional gender roles where the woman, if she were involved in any physical conflict, was playing second fiddle to the man. In Mulan, it is truly one of the first instances where Mulan is, not only kicking considerable amounts of ass, but is truly the hero of the movie who uses wits, cunning, and physical prowess to win the day.
Mulan falls in at number four for the reasons that, while the movie is amazing, the Top 3 have much more of a cultural impact on American Cinema and are more well told and put together stories.
Some might find this spot to be a little high for the most recent Disney Princess movie, but I feel that it is 100% justified and I will give all the reasons why. First and foremost, Frozen is a phenomenal movie, an instant classic, and in every way, astonishing. The only reason it faces its various detractors and critics is because of the numerous amounts of praise and over saturation that it received after its release and those people were not so much criticizing the movies as they were saying ‘please no more of this movie. I get it, its good, shut up!’
But all of that aside, let’s talk about how amazing the movie Frozen is and piss those people off just a little bit more. Frozen is the first modern Disney Princess movie that blends the classic motifs with the modern egalitarianism. Anna and Elsa are two very dynamic characters. They drive the movie, the men in the movie clearly play second fiddle to their action, and the concepts of ‘love’ are used in a new and creative manner. All the while, Elsa and Anna are still very much Disney Princesses and embody the morals and character that the title represents.
It still finds itself at number 3 as two movies easily inch it out in terms of quality, but it is rightfully deserving of its place on this list.
I wanted to put Aladdin at number one. I really did. Objectively speaking, I feel that Aladdin is one of, if not the best Disney Animation movie ever made. It is the representation of a perfect movie. The animation, the voice acting, the characters, the pacing, the story, and just about everything you can think of points to Aladdin being a cinematic juggernaut.
Jasmine, as a character, is an absolute gem. She is strong-headed, confident, does not compromise her beliefs and morals for anyone else, and is an all around lovable character. Out of all the Disney Princesses she is easily my favorite and I freely admit that in my younger years I had a boyhood crush on her. Jasmine is awesome.
But ultimately, there is one thing that keeps Aladdin from the number one spot… And that is the fact that, even if Jasmine is an awesome character, the fact remains that she is a supporting character to Aladdin’s story. With each of the Disney Princess movies, the Princess in question is the protagonist of their story. An argument can be made for Sleeping Beauty. But on the whole, these princesses are the main characters in their stories. Jasmine is the one exception. She plays the supporting role to Aladdin. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when you consider that Jasmine’s main role in the story is to be the woman to woo and damsel in distress, it does keep her out of the top spot on this list.
I do not make this selection lightly. To say that this movie is the best out of the Disney Princess movies is not a claim you can make lightly. When the ‘weakest link’ in the chain still pulls around a 60% from critics with several of these movies well over the 90% range, to say that one is the best is going to bring a strong list of supporters and detractors, but please hear me out on this one.
When it comes to movies that represent Disney, their Princesses, what they stand for, who they can be seen as role models, and the cultural impact that they represent, there are few movies that represent the total package like Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Yes! I know that the close relations to Stockholm Syndrome is a thing. Yes! I know that the Beast is an abusive character and the possible representation is that all you need is a little bit of love to change the Beast into a cuddly teddy bear. But that aside, Belle is one of the first characters who not only appears to be an active character. But is a genuinely intelligent character, is an all around book nerd, remains stalwart in the face of adversity, has a strong character, is uncompromising, and remains fearless to a fault. Belle is everything that you could look for in a Disney Princess. She has strong moral character and will make difficult decisions when she needs to do so.
The movie of Beauty and the Beast is absolutely stellar, Belle is amazing, and overall she represents the total package of what it means to be a Disney Princess.
Thank you for reading and as always, if you enjoyed this review please like and subscribe for more from me.