During March 2016, Zootopia marked the 55th official entry into the list of Walt Disney animated films. Nearly eight decades of work have provided timeless classics for all ages. While animation provides several benefits, Disney’s most recent plans involve remaking several of their animated films in live-action form. 2019’s The Lion King is the most recent example, but the Mouse House still has a plethora of other titles waiting to be remade.
With that in mind, join us as we countdown the 10 best live-action remakes of Disney classics. Enjoy!
10. Pan (2015)
2015’s Pan was initially met with mixed reviews, as the prequel was not seen as a necessary addition to the Peter Pan canon. A poor box office performance would follow and Pan quickly became forgotten. That’s a shame, since this unique film provides an interesting backstory to the classic we all love, and contains thrilling CGI effects. While the story may not be anything special, the overall film is visually impressive and strikes a perfect balance between seriousness and enjoyment. It may not be the absolute classic that the 1953 Disney animated film is, but the Warner Bros. remake is well worth a watch and has become an underrated gem. The film is pure joy and evokes a wonderful feeling of nostalgia for anyone familiar with the animated film. As a prequel and a live-action remake, Pan is a very unique take on the series and is anchored by a stellar performance from Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard.
9. Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
The film Snow White and the Huntsman is not distributed by Disney, but rather by Universal Pictures. Of course, it draws major inspiration from the 1937 classic Disney animated feature and, just like that film, is based on the German fairy tale Snow White. After seeing the box office success of the Disney remake Alice in Wonderland, the same producers decided to greenlight a script for a darker-toned Snow White live-action film. The retelling of the story may stray a little too far from the source material, but it is an appropriately dark and chilling tale. The film carries a blockbuster cast including Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, and Chris Hemsworth, and is the perfect popcorn flick. This Snow White may not be the fairest of them all, but it is an interesting take on the source material and a worthy film to bear the name Snow White.
8. Peter Pan (2013)
2013’s Peter Pan, one of many adaptations available of the 1953 classic animated film, is an excellent film with great performances that will thrill audiences of all ages. The 2013 version is visually striking, providing an amazing movie experience. It’s also quite faithful to the source material, something fans are always grateful for. A timeless story beautifully presented with a colorful assortment of CGI, Peter Pan is an impressive showcase demonstrating that the film functions just as well as a live-action film as it does in animated form. Neverland will never get old, but when it looks as fantastic as it does here, it’s impossible to resist and is truly mesmerizing. There were a lot of Peter Pan remakes congested in a very short period, but if this 2013 title was somehow missed, make sure to watch it immediately as it is one of the best live-action remakes available.
7. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)
The Disney film The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is named after The Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment during Fantasia. The movie features an incredibly likable cast that includes Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, and Alfred Molina, along with spectacular special effects that come together to present a wonderful adventure. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is best described as a spectacle and is a magical thrill to watch. As a feature-length movie based upon the Fantasia segment of the same name, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice succeeds in providing an entertaining experience. The decision to make the movie a live-action affair rather than the traditional animation of its source material was a wise move, as the film’s CGI effects can shine particularly strong with the real-life actors in the movie. With a perfect blend of action and comedy, Disney finds themselves in their element with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
6. Cinderella (2015)
Cinderella is a refreshingly traditional tale, captivating audiences in live-action form just as much as the 1950 animated classic. Director Kenneth Branagh provides a relatively safe re-imagining, but it proves to be surprisingly strong and able to stand along with its source material. Cate Blanchett steals the show here, as her performance as Lady Tremaine (also known as The Wicked Stepmother) is one for the ages. A live-action film allows the cast to shine in a light that’s unavailable during an animated film. Cinderella takes full advantage of this with strong performances throughout the cast. The film is also beautiful, with gorgeous costumes capturing the essence of the 19th century. Cinderella received an Academy Award nomination for best costume design, as the costumes did not go unnoticed. With excellent presentation, art direction and an authentic feel, Cinderella provides the complete experience for moviegoers and proves that Disney can provide old-fashioned magic both in an animated feature film as well as in a live-action film.
5. 101 Dalmatians (1996)
Based on the 1961 animated feature and the 1956 novel, the Disney live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians was incredibly successful. Starring the fabulous Glenn Close as Cruella de Vil, the live-action 101 Dalmatians is an excellent take on its animated predecessor. Aside from the animals not speaking during the 1996 remake, the film is a faithful adaptation of the animated feature and doesn’t stray far from the source material. This is a great thing as older fans of the original movie can enjoy the nostalgia, while younger viewers can experience the same story that captivated audiences during 1961. The film was one of the first live-action remakes that Disney produced, and considering its success it’s surprising it took until past 2010 for Disney to begin re-imagining more of its classics. A live-action Cruella de Vil film titled Cruella is currently in development by Disney, and one can only hope it manages to capture a fraction of the enjoyment that the live-action 101 Dalmatians provided.
4. Maleficent (2014)
Angelina Jolie stars as Maleficent, the titular character in this Walt Disney live-action production. Maleficent, the iconic villain from 1959’s Sleeping Beauty is the star of the film as the story is told by the antagonist. This interesting twist, along with Jolie’s established acting and breathtaking special effects all drive to create Maleficent into one of the best live-action remakes in the Disney canon. Fans of the beloved original will relish in the unique opportunity to explore the story from a different point of view. While the humanizing nature of Jolie’s role may ultimately diminish the menacing, villainous portrayal the villain had during Sleeping Beauty, it develops the character tremendously well. Maleficent is a worthy adventure and a fantastic update to a classic story. With top-notch art direction and costume design (the latter which was nominated for an Academy Award), Maleficent wisely chooses live-action rather than animation to tell this particular tale.
3. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Alice in Wonderland is undeniably Tim Burton, as the director injects his trademark oddities and flair to produce a visual masterpiece reminiscent of his earlier work. Featuring Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter, the film can escape on charm alone, as the movie is so inviting and the characters are so magical. A supporting cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, and Crispin Glover elevates this title even further into greatness. Whimsical and witty, Alice in Wonderland takes full advantage of the benefits a live-action film provides. It features a strong cast, incredible visuals and dazzling special effects. The tone is appropriately darker than the 1951 Disney animated feature and is the perfect interpretation of the Disney classic. With a sequel set for late May this year, Tim Burton’s visual style will soon be on display once again.
2. Hook (1991)
This Steven Spielberg-directed fantasy adventure is a re-imagining of the 1953 Disney animated film Peter Pan. Spielberg originally attached himself to the project during the early 1980s, when he began developing a film directly with Walt Disney Productions to remake Peter Pan into a live-action film. The movie would’ve followed the 1953 animated film’s storyline very closely while taking advantage of nuanced live-action features. However, in 1985 Spielberg abandoned the project and eventually latched onto Hook, a unique project that would offer much more than a simple remake. Hook was an entirely new imagination, and with a cast that includes the late Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman and Julia Roberts, the film was destined to succeed. Hook offers the major twist of Peter Pan growing up, as the character of Peter Pan in Hook has lost all his childhood memories when he decided to stay in London. Peter will eventually return to Neverland and face Captain Hook once again during a film that will recapture the inner child and imagination of every adult.
1. The Jungle Book (2016)
Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book provides the perfect appeal for both a young audience and their nostalgic parents. The movie stands tall in greatness on its own, but it is also easily the best Disney live-action remake ever made. The interesting part is that The Jungle Book feels like perhaps the most “animated” live-action movie ever, owing to its reliance on CGI effects. The line between animation and CGI is blurred, but The Jungle Book proves that doesn’t matter when it comes to making a great movie. The Jungle Book avoids rendering humans in CGI and that’s a huge reason why the film works so well. With over a dozen titles ranging from Dumbo to Beauty and the Beast set to be remade in live-action form over the next few years, this list may soon drastically change. However, it will surely be difficult to remove The Jungle Book from its top perch. The movie is a special experience and is unlikely to be topped anytime soon.