ByIan M. Simpson, writer at
I love superheroes and villains alike! I'm also a big fan of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Gaming! Follow me on Twitter! @The_Simpsonian
Ian M. Simpson

Disney is at the top of its game right now. With their new animated films and their live-action adaptations of their animated classics, 2016 has been a goldmine for them. Not to mention they currently own the Marvel and Star Wars films, which are both pulling in big numbers at the box office.

Flashback twenty years or so, and Disney is still in their world-building phase. Some of the best Disney movies of all time came out in the 1990s — with some thanks due to Pixar — but there were also a few that fell below the radar. While all of these films are entertaining and nostalgic for a lot of people, there are certainly a few stand-outs.

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13. The Rescuers Down Under

  • Released: 1990
  • Directed By: Hendel Butoy and Mark Gabriel
  • Starring: Bob Newhart, John Candy and Eva Gabor

Unfortunately, even though The Rescuers Down Under is a fun family film, it is lost among the other larger Disney classics that came out after it. Not only does the movie have it hard with starting out the decade, it's actually the sequel to a movie that came out thirteen years prior.

Even though the movie is full of funny moments, not even comedic legends Bob Newhart and John Candy could make characters Bernard and Wilbur memorable enough to survive the last 26 years.

12. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

  • Released: 1996
  • Directed By: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
  • Starring: Tom Hulce, Demi Moore and Jason Alexander

One of the most memorable parts of a Disney movie is the music. Every film needs that one catchy song (or two or three) that sticks in your head for weeks after you watch it. Isn't that right, Frozen? Therein lies Hunchback's fall. It's not a bad movie, it's just easy to forget.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is definitely a cult hit with a decent fanbase behind it, but when it comes to animated Disney movies, Quasimodo and Esmeralda don't land the same impact as the other entries on this list. Even though I love a good underdog story, movies like Aladdin better fill that void.

11. A Bug's Life

  • Released: 1998
  • Directed By: John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton
  • Starring: Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey and Hayden Panettiere

A few of the movies on this list I've seen only a couple of times, yet I can remember their stories in great detail. I've watched A Bug's Life many times since I was a kid and the most I can remember without further research is that there are circus bugs and the caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly.

A Bug's Life has some interesting side-characters and a decent villain, but with all of the unforgettable movies that Disney — and especially Disney/Pixar — has given us, the story of Flick hasn't stood out quite as much as the rest.

10. Pocahontas

  • Released: 1995
  • Directed By: Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg
  • Starring: Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson and Christian Bale

A Disney animated classic with voice work done by Mel Gibson and Christian Bale? If that kind of movie came out today, it would definitely get some major attention. Unfortunately, Pocahontas came out a year after The Lion King and the same year as Toy Story. With that kind of competition, it needed to be mind-blowing. Sadly, it was not.

Other than the fact that Pocahontas was changed drastically from real history, it was generally unimpressive as far as Disney movies go. It has one good song — "Colors of the Wind" — that people frequently forget the words to, and plenty of characters that don't exactly make the Disney hall of fame. Of course there's Pocahontas and John Smith, but how many people remember Ben, Thomas, Percy, and Meeko?

9. Toy Story 2

  • Released: 1999
  • Directed By: John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, and Lee Unkrich
  • Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Kelsey Grammer and Joan Cusack

You know how they always say that sequels are never better than the original? It may not be 100% correct, but it's sadly the case with Toy Story 2. It's a good movie, and the returning characters are met with some fun new faces, like Jesse, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete.

However, the movie does fall victim to sequelitis, and while it's enjoyable to watch, it doesn't quite hit as hard as the original. Think of the first Toy Story as A New Hope, Toy Story 3 as The Empire Strikes Back, and Toy Story 2 as Return of the Jedi. There's nothing terribly wrong with Jedi, but it is simply overshadowed by the other two parts of the trilogy, just like Toy Story 2.

8. Hercules

  • Released: 1997
  • Directed By: Ron Clements and John Musker
  • Starring: Tate Donovan, Danny DeVito and James Woods

Disney's Hercules is one of many depictions of the Greek hero. This time, instead of a demigod, Herc is the child of Zeus and Hera that was made mortal by Hades and his thugs. Hercules then discovers his divine origins, and sets out to become the world's greatest hero. Too bad Hades, God of the Underworld, is working against him.

Hercules has some very smart humor, clever references to Greek mythology, and some fun dialogue from Herc's mentor, Phil (DeVito). However, as far as songs go, Hercules has more than a few forgettable tunes that don't quite make onto my Best Of Disney playlist. Hercules and Megara are fun heroes, but Hades is mostly bark with little to no bite at the end of the film.

7. Tarzan

  • Released: 1999
  • Directed By: Chris Buck and Kevin Lima
  • Starring: Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver and Brian Blessed

While Disney movies are great for families, they're usually a little more kid-oriented. That means that the villains are usually toned-down as to not frighten the younger audiences. Clayton from Tarzan is one of the first villains that I remember being afraid of. He was an invader from a far away land with a big gun that he used to try and shoot the gorillas.

That kind of villain made Tarzan's hero journey all the more compelling. His relationship with animals and humans was entertaining to watch, but you throw in Clayton the hunter and the tense relationship becomes more than entertainment. It becomes purpose. A violent villain like that gives audiences even more of a cause to root for the hero.

Throw in a Phil Collins soundtrack and a dramatic origin for the lead, and Tarzan becomes a gem, held back only by its lackluster secondary characters.

6. Beauty And The Beast

  • Released: 1991
  • Directed By: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
  • Starring: Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson and Richard White

Disney is filled with stories of princesses, and Beauty and the Beast is one of the best of them. Instead of actual royalty that falls for a dashing lad like in The Little Mermaid or Tangled, Beauty and the Beast follows an ordinary bookworm who falls for a prince, despite his, well, beastly nature.

Beauty and the Beast is full of the classic Disney magic and whimsy, as well as a few catchy tunes like "Be Our Guest," sung by the entertaining supporting characters. And let's not forget Gaston. Even though he is the primary antagonist of the film, his antics still prove to be amusing and entertaining, rounding out the film nicely as a whole.

5. A Goofy Movie

  • Released: 1995
  • Directed By: Kevin Lima
  • Starring: Jason Marsden, Bill Farmer, and Wallace Shawn

As far as underrated Disney movies go, A Goofy Movie definitely hits high on the list. Goofy and his son Max undergo a trying and emotional journey that just happens to contain two of the catchiest Disney songs that I've ever heard: "Stand Out" and "Eye to Eye."

A Goofy Movie is silly when it needs to be, but more importantly, serious when it needs to be. It tells a tale of a boy trying to be independent as well as the story of a father trying to connect with his son. The movie is much deeper than it seems on the surface, and through many trying ordeals, Goofy and Max get one heck of a payoff at the movie that always has the audience grinning from ear to ear.

4. Aladdin

  • Released: 1992
  • Directed By: Ron Clements and John Musker
  • Starring: Robin Williams, Scott Weinger and Jonathan Freeman

Take a young street rat, a young princess with a foolish father, a monkey in a hat, and an evil sorcerer. Do you know how to make those things better? Add Robin Williams as a genie who lives in a magic lamp. With that combination, Aladdin becomes one of the funniest and most quotable Disney movies in existence.

If you want music, you have "Prince Ali," "A Whole New World," and "Friend Like Me." If you wan't laughs, you have Williams' Genie. If you want a good villain, Jafar is one of the best out there, good enough to show up again in the sequel (yes, there's an Aladdin sequel — two, in fact). Aladdin has everything you could ask for in a great Disney movie.

3. Toy Story

  • Released: 1995
  • Directed By: John Lasseter
  • Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and John Ratzenberger

Fun fact: Did you know that the screenplay for Toy Story was co-written by Joss Whedon? Yep, that's the same Joss Whedon behind The Avengers, Firefly, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That is just one of many reasons why Toy Story is a great film.

Toy Story speaks to the child in all of us. We all play (or used to play) with toys, so the concept of toys coming to life is universally appealing. Mix the concept with Pixar animation and an A-list cast of voice actors like Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, and the movie really shines in a way that no animated movie had before then.

2. Mulan

  • Released: 1998
  • Directed By: Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook
  • Starring: Ming-Na Wen, BD Wong and Eddie Murphy

Let's get down to business. Disney excels in making movies with strong female protagonists, and none are nearly as strong as Mulan. The inspiring tale of a girl trying to save her father's life and honor by joining the army in his place is heightened greatly by the supporting characters. Eddie Murphy's Mushu has a comedic edge second only to Robin Williams' Genie. The other warriors, Shang, Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po are marvelous supporting characters.

As far as songs go, Mulan has one of the best. "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" is catchy and fun, and it is joined on the soundtrack by classics "Reflection" and "A Girl Worth Fighting For."

Mulan has hilarious comedic moments, intense action scenes, and suspense to keep you interested through the entire film. It is definitely one of Disney's high points — not only of the '90s, but of all time.

1. The Lion King

  • Released: 1994
  • Directed By: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
  • Starring: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones

The Lion King is not only considered the best animated film of the 1990s, it's considered one of the best animated movies of all time! Simba's journey through the Pridelands is one of the most iconic Disney stories, with memorable songs like "Circle of Life," "Hakuna Matata," and "I Just Can't Wait to Be King."

When you ask somebody about the saddest Disney moment, 90% of them will probably mention the wildebeest scene, where Mufasa was trampled to death (the other 10% will probably talk about the beginning to Up).

The Lion King is packed full of memorable characters. Anybody can pick two or three names that they remember from any given Disney movie, but with The Lion King, everyone knows Simba, Mufasa, Scar, Timone, Pumbaa, Nala, Zazu, and even Rafiki.

There are many Disney movies from the 1990s that are still considered treasured classics, and each and every one of them has nostalgic moments for anyone who grew up in the '90s or early 2000s. All of these films deserve to be watched at least once, and most of them will go on to be treasured for decades to come.


What is your favorite 90s Disney movie?


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