ByElise Jost, writer at
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Elise Jost

Which movies do you think of first when you hear the name "Disney"? While the studio rose to worldwide fame with its animated classics, it's been dabbling more and more in live-action features, namely with a new Star Wars trilogy and the announcement of a whole series of live-action remakes, including Dumbo, Mulan and even a Mary Poppins remake.

But remake or no remake, there are plenty of fantastic non animated Disney movies that we can watch whenever we feel like getting a good dose of heartwarming family comedy. Here's a list of ten of the best ones, mixing older classics with hits of the '00s. Granted, Pirates of the Caribbean probably doesn't come off as heartwarming to most, but it's definitely a Disney comedy.

If you've seen these already, get ready for a wild trip down memory lane — if you haven't, you better get Netflix up and running, because it's time for you to catch up on Disney's best. And if you feel like your favorite one is missing, be sure to let me know your recommendations in the comments below!

10. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, 1993

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is a remake of another highly successful non animated Disney movie from 1963, The Incredible Journey, and the proof that live-action talking animals are not always ridiculous. Three household pets — a golden retriever, a bulldog and a cat — mistakenly think they've been abandoned by their owners, a family who temporarily left them with a friend. But they're not the type to sit at home and sulk, so they decide to embark on a rocky adventure to find their owners that will take them from a Californian ranch to the big city of San Francisco.

The two dogs are voiced by Michael J. Fox and Don Ameche, respectively, and the cat by Sally Field, but their mouths thankfully don't move in sync with the dialogue. The movie's packed with humor, epic moments, and most importantly, will remind every pet owner to hug their best friend.

9. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 2005

Whether you've read or watched The Chronicles of Narnia, you'll surely agree that the enchanting story is a childhood classic, and a pretty fantastic one as far as non animated Disney movies are concerned. Based on C. S. Lewis' book series, The Chronicles of Narnia follow 4 children as they discover a passage to the magical world of Narnia, in which they will have to fight an evil queen and find their place in the kingdom. It's every child's dream of sneaking out of a dull life and secretly becoming a prince or a princess.

The four main actors are Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell — click here to see what they look like today (spoilers: pretty damn good). The first movie also starred Tilda Swinton as the White Witch, and James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus.

James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus / Disney
James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus / Disney

While the first trilogy is now over, The Chronicles of Narnia could be getting a complete reboot with an adaptation of The Silver Chair, set ten years after the events in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (whose movie adaptation came out in 2010). Production rights went from Walden Media to the Mark Gordon Company, and Mark Gordon himself has indicated this would a brand new start.

8. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003

It's Captain Jack Sparrow. The Pirates of the Carribean series didn't really help lift the curse of movie sequels, but the quest of young Will and Captain Jack Sparrow to fight the curse of the Black Pearl — one because he's trying to get the girl, the other because he's trying to get the ship — set high standards for non animated Disney movies.

Johnny Depp fully owns his pirate character and has given us plenty of iconic quotes, from "Why is the rum gone?" to "Parleley, parlelellyleloooo, par le nee, partner, par... snip, parsley..." He's the worst pirate you've ever heard of, but you've heard of him. Add to that romantic do-gooder Orlando Bloom, a zombie Geoffrey Rush with a zombie monkey and a zombie crew, plus Keira Knightley as a not-so-delicate daughter of the high society, and you've got an endlessly entertaining movie packed with action and subtle life lessons:

I'm dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It's the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they're going to do something incredibly... stupid.

7. Swiss Family Robinson, 1960

The oldest release on this list of non animated Disney movies, Swiss Family Robinson is the delightful tale of a family stranded on an island after their ship gets seriously damaged. They try to rebuild a home, acquiring plenty of new skills as they learn to adapt to the tropics. Later on, they find themselves having to deal with pirates, and the two brothers are also struggling to accept their fate on the island — but all in all it's a beautiful family adventure.

Swiss Family Robinson was highly successful when it was first released, and is one of these movies that will entertain adults as much as children. It stars John Mills as the father and Dorothy McGuire as the mother, two highly beloved actors with stellar movie careers. If you've been meaning to dive into Disney classics, this exotic escapade is the perfect place to start!

6. The Rookie, 2002

Nothing feels more heartwarming than a good ol' inspirational story about winning at sports and winning at life. And it gets even better when it's based on true events: The Rookie follows Jim Morris, a baseball player turned high school physics teacher for lack of a successful career. He injured his shoulder and thought he had to stop, but apparently he's not lost all his potential.

One day, he bets with the high school team he coaches that he'll give baseball another try if they win their own league, and what do you know, he throws at 98 mph and ends up making his way into Major League. His career will be quite short, but it's the perfect inspirational, never-give-up-on-your-dreams kind of story that Disney movies are made for. Dennis Quaid stars as Morris, along with Rachel Griffiths as his wife, Lorri Morris.

5. The Parent Trap, 1998

Which one is your favorite Parent Trap, the 1961 version or the 1998 one? As far as the best non animated Disney movies go, I chose to include the fresh-faced debut of Lindsay Lohan. It's a simple but efficient plot, in which two identical twin sisters, separated because of their parents' divorce, meet at summer camp without even knowing of each other's existence. Obviously, they quickly get along and once they find out they're related, they set up a plan to get their parents back together. First step: switch places at the end of the summer.

The father is played by Dennis Quaid (you know, the guy from The Rookie, just two paragraphs above) and the mother by Natasha Richardson. To film two children with only one actor, Lohan was equipped with a little earpiece that would give her half of the lines in her dialogue. Other fun fact: The original story was originally a children's book from 1950 by Erich Kästner, a popular German author, and titled Das doppelte Lottchen.

4. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, 1989

It might sound exciting to some to be shrunk to the size of an insect (ask Ant-Man), but it's not all sunny on the horizon of an inventor's children and their friends in Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. Rick Moranis stars as Wayne Szalinski, a typical crazy scientist who spends hours working on mysterious projects in his lab. The day his son and daughter wander inside with two of their friends, they're unfortunately hit by a beam that shrinks them, and inadvertently thrown in the trash by their father (this whole cleaning up act doesn't fit with the crazy scientist character, if you ask me).

Once outside, the children have to fight their way through a terrifying new world to make their way back to the house, as even flies are now much bigger than them. Of all the non animated Disney movies on this list, this one could probably have been a cartoon as well, considering all the special effects involved. It's a nightmare if you're not so comfortable with insects, but it's obviously also a funny and timeless movie that really fits any kind of audience.

3. Enchanted, 2007

Before Amy Adams stood alongside the Man of Steel in her vertiginous high heels, she was playing a Disney princess suddenly dropped into the real world. The plot — an evil queen sends her into present day New York even though she lives life like a proper fairytale princess — is already hilarious, but it's really her performance that made the movie an instant hit.

The amazing Susan Sarandon stars as Queen Narissa, and Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden respectively play a lawyer (in the real world) and a prince (from the fairytale), which all makes for an explosive mix. The fact alone that Adams' character is able to talk to animals is comical enough, but there's an endless number of situations in which a fairytale princess can find herself quite confused in our world.

Amy Adams in 'Enchanted' / Disney
Amy Adams in 'Enchanted' / Disney

As for a sequel, there have been talks of an Enchanted 2 since 2010, but the rumors have never really been confirmed by the studio. Still, Adams and Marsden both said they would love to come back if they're not too old to play their characters — understandably, considering how many hysterical memories they've probably made shooting the first movie.

2. Mary Poppins, 1964

Julie Andrews appears in two of the ten best non animated Disney movies, and for good reason. She's simply the best in the cult classic Mary Poppins, starring as the nanny every child would dream of having. Also starring Dick Van Dyke as Bert, the movie won 5 Oscars, including Best Actress in a Leading Role for Andrews. The soundtrack is wonderful, and earned the movie 2 Oscars for Best Music, Original Song and Best Music, Substantially Original Score.

Thanks to her magic, Poppins is able to fly with her umbrella, and her bottomless bag is probably the ancestor of Hermione's in Harry Potter. While it's the kind of movie you don't really explain, if you haven't seen it yet, know that it uses a mix of live-action and animation for some delightful scenes, mainly one including dancing penguins.

1. The Princess Diaries, 2001

The ultimate princess story of all the non animated Disney movies comes in the form of The Princess Diaries: ugly duckling Mia Thermopolis is turned into a princess by her grandmother when the latter reveals she is actually Queen of Genovia. Or at least, she tries to fit into this new lifestyle that's expected of her.

Based on a series of books by Meg Cabot, The Princess Diaries has everything a teenage story needs: the pressure of being the cool kid at high school, the wish to look pretty but the refusal to be as shallow as the mean girls, the crush on an older boy — all in all the "you don't understand me" phase that every teenager can identify with.


Anne Hathaway leads the stellar cast and gets one of the most memorable makeover scenes. Julie Andrews stars as the royal grandmother, and Mandy Moore as the popular girl in school, Lana. There's a sequel, too, and even rumors of a third one, but nothing will beat the adorable awkwardness of the first movie.

What's your favorite non animated Disney movie?


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