Disney At 100: Top Movie Picks From Way Back

1964’s Mary Poppins


Mary Poppins, who is portrayed by the legendary Julie Andrews, is Disney’s unsung activist queen.

In addition to saving a fox from the horrors of a fox hunt, she also uses her ingenious click-and-clean technique to free Mrs. Banks from the constraints of her housekeeping duties so that she can advocate for women’s suffrage.

Lord only knows what she has hidden in that bottomless purse of hers, but I’m willing to wager she has a few good suggestions that could help to resolve the current political stalemate.

This movie must rank among the best based solely on Nanny Poppins, and Burt, Dick Van Dyke’s perpetually upbeat chimney sweep, gives it the final push into brilliance.


The 1971 film Bedknobs and Broomsticks

When I was a child, everything in this amazing movie made perfect sense, but today it all seems completely insane.

How else would a new witch defend Britain from the Nazis? Of course Angela Lansbury’s Miss Eglantine Price should be flying about on a broomstick wearing an M1 helmet and holding a sword.

The plot of this tale of three London children evacuated during the Blitz begins with the closure of Price’s witchcraft academy.

The ragtag group set out to locate Professor Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson) of the school who was traveling in style with a magic bed.


Following their discovery of him, the group searches for a spell, which sets off a series of adventures.

We were all really upset when we initially boarded the Eurostar since there was a dancing competition, fights with German soldiers, and an amazing underwater adventure.

1994’s The Lion King

The Lion King features every single essential element required for a stone-cold Disney classic, including good ol’ Shakespearean usurping and a pair of lighters-in-the-air anthems by Tim Rice and Elton John.

There’s betrayal, grief, and even a fart joke in the middle of Hakuna Matata. Really, there is something for everyone.


I was rooting for Simba and his friends Timone and Pumbaa the entire time, hoping that they could finally exact revenge on scheming uncle Scar, one of Disney’s greatest camp villains, and his pack of cackling hyenas, from the moment our Simba is held aloft on that big grey rock as a poor abandoned young cub, shortly after his beloved dad Mufasa has been murdered.

Who can resist letting out an uncontrollable yell of excitement when triumph finally arrives, accompanied by an epic rendition of Circle of Life?

(2007) Hercules

Who would have thought that combining some classic American comedy with the rich vein of Greek mythology would provide such joy?

The film, which is endlessly meme-able, depicts the tale of Hercules, a god who has been deprived of his immortality and who must complete twelve missions in order to reclaim it.


Does it abuse the myths in any way? Without a doubt (classicists need not attend).

Hades, the supremely camp character with fiery hair and one-liners to last a lifetime, is its secret weapon as his latest scheme goes horribly wrong.

“I’m surrounded by idiots,” he laments.

A movie that will linger in your head for hours after seeing is created by adding some excellent slapstick humor and gospel-inspired music.

Instant hero, from nothing.


1998’s The Parent Trap

It took me a long time to get past The Parent Trap’s numerous stereotypes, and I’m still not sure I have.

Are the billionaire vineyard owners in California not Dennis Quaid-like celebrities?

On warm days at the pool, don’t their smiles seem to catch the sun?

Also, do London wedding dress designers not have butler best friends, reside in Kensington mansions, and dress in cocktail attire at all times?


Knowing is challenging.

Lindsay Lohan plays twins Hallie and Annie in the movie that made her famous.

Their parents split them up when they were babies due to a contentious divorce; one is sent to America and the other to England.

The parents, Nick (Quaid) and Liz (Natasha Richardson), raised their daughters as the only children, which was a horribly cruel decision that the movie makes no attempt to address for even a brief moment.

When the girls decide to switch identities after meeting at a swanky summer camp, things go awry.


1998’s A Bug’s Life

A Bug’s Life is the underappreciated Disney film.

It was never going to be an easy trip, and you won’t find it featured on many people’s favorite movies lists because it was overshadowed by other Disney movies released the same year, including Mulan and The Parent Trap, as well as another big bug movie, Antz.

That’s unfortunate because the movie is strong and unique.

A Bug’s Life is more of a Western/war film with political implications concerning colonialism that will escape but undoubtedly influence younger audiences (I speak from experience), in contrast to many other Disney films that are essentially a road trip of sorts.


Like all of my favorite Disney movies, it features a truly terrifying antagonist, which heightens the suspense around the ant colony’s dilemma.

In today’s technological age, the animation may struggle, but the voice acting more than makes up for it.

2001’s Monsters Inc.

Another Pixar story with every detail so well designed that the supporting cast and minor touches almost threaten to steal the show from under the hairy claws of the leads.

Boo, the human toddler (voiced by story artist Rob Gibbs’s own chatty little girl, Mary), infiltrates Monstropolis and upsets scare-workers Sulley and Mike’s lives so that they stumble upon a bit of corporate skulduggery.


Boo is unquestionably the cutest creature committed to film, barring Bambi, and big fluffy Sulley’s luscious blue fur is mesmerizing every time he moves.

Additionally, Roz, the wryly sardonic Scare Floor F administrator with her triple-copied goldenrod paperwork and unbelievable secrets, is a true inspiration.

2003’s Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo’s creators more often than not hook the audience’s heartstrings to an anchor and cast it into the depths of the ocean.

This lovely Pixar movie is all about the relationship between parents and children, but it also features tremendous ingenuity and hilarity that lessen the impact of any residual emotional wounds.


Who could forget the turtle who was surfing at the time, Crush?

Or maybe Ellen DeGeneres’ show-stopping performance as the forgetful fish Dory (which was so brilliant, it even sparked a spin-off movie)?

Or, horrors, was Darla the fish-shaking monster that I, a non-fish, had nightmares about?

This is Disney at its best: entertaining for children and even more so for adults.

(2004) The Incredibles


The Parr family’s superpowers are truly epic, especially those attributed to JackJack, the infant who is still pre-verbal and who is apparently at the epicenter of some sort of perfect super-storm that will cause all kinds of trouble as soon as he wakes up from his nap.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the book’s overarching paean to exceptionalism, but the sheer joyous imagination used to create these powers is absolutely epic.

Of course, the portrayal of parenting while being amazing is wonderful since “they’re just like us!”

But what elevates it to my list of the top five movies for me is the fact that it served as the furnace in which one of the most enduring characters of all time was created.

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Edna Mode, the little, withering, fierce fashion designer and mechanical genius who outfits the supers in accordance with their astounding talents.


Just keep in mind, daahling: no capes!

Up (2009)

On a New Year’s Day some years ago, I watched Up for the first time.

The finest and worst things I could have done were the same.

The opening montage of Carl and Ellie’s wonderful connection throughout the years brutalized me as I struggled with hangxiety while unmarried, depressed, and existential.


Their first kiss, marriage, anticipation, disappointment, miscarriage, household drudgery, deteriorating health, and Ellie’s passing.

As I sobbed and washed the glitter from last night off my face, I thought, “Their love is so pure.

The rest of the film is beautiful—Carl, a widowed 78-year-old, decides to fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting South America by strapping helium balloons to his home, how else?—but the first four minutes are what I find myself returning to time and time again.

(2010) Tangled

Strangely, I watched this movie for the first time entirely in German, but I was so enthralled by it that as soon as I could afford a movie ticket, I went home and watched it again in English.


Rapunzel’s narrative is retold in the movie Tangled, which is regarded as the first “nu-Disney” princess movie because of its headstrong protagonist, female-centric storyline, and romantic subplot that is secondary to Rapunzel’s quest to find her identity.

Flynn Rider carries on the long tradition of many people’s first crushes being cartoons.

The animation is stunning, the songs of passable quality (if not top-notch), and they are amusing enough.

An undervalued piece of cinematic treasure is created when the classic Disney flourishes—semi-sentient animals, a mean stepmother—are added.

(2010) Toy Story 3.


Toy Story 3 was the last movie I believe I saw that truly felt like the end of an era.

The last scenes of this Tom Hanks-starring Disney movie still break my heart.

After witnessing Andy mature over the franchise, I could feel my childhood slipping from my grasp as a then-17-year-old Andy prepared to part with his prized possessions.

I can only image how my parents must have felt as they watched me pack up my room and get ready to leave the nest for college.

My 13-year-old self emerged from the ODEON theater weeping and dismayed by the harsh reality of having to grow up in the real world.


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