Favorite Classic Disney Films

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Favorite Classic Disney Films - A round-up of great classic Disney films and what format they are still available in.

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I asked my friends on Facebook to name their favorite classic Disney film. The responses were really quite interesting, and reflective of our ages. It also brought up the question as to what the term classic really applies to. In some circles that would be defined as something whose message stands the test of time.

For me, classic means the films that were made during Walt Disney’s lifetime. He died in 1966, about six years before I was born. But, his work had a huge impact on my childhood. Disneyland is my happy place. And the films that he created hold a special place in my heart.

Early in our marriage, my husband and I had decided not to have a television. We knew there were lots of better things to do with our time. Eventually a few years after kids came on the scene, a TV and VCR made it into our house. We relied on VHS tapes for our weekly movie nights.

Since our children were little and we were usually too exhausted to stay up later to watch a parent movie, we watched a lot of classic Disney. I love these films because they were made in an age of good vocabulary, clean language, classical music, and — let’s face it — they were favorite movies of my own childhood.

Recently, I scrolled through this list of all the movies made during Walt’s lifetime. I picked my personal favorites and culled them into one list. Once upon a time we owned almost all these on VHS tape. Unfortunately, our VCR finally bit the dust and I donated the ramshackle collection of movies to the local thrift store.

My littlest ones haven’t seen many of these thanks to those changes in technology, but I’m pleased to see that all of these are available in DVD or Blu-ray and that many are available on Amazon Instant Video. For a few bucks I can rent them and watch them with my little people.

Lately, we’ve been really stuck for movies that our younger set will enjoy. Since these are favorites of my bigger kids, too, I bet I could get them to sit through at least one screening on an upcoming Friday night.

Looking for a good family-friendly film? Here you go:

Cover image of Cinderella film.

DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital – 1950

I bought Cinderella on VHS when my youngest brother was about 3 or 4 and still not speaking. He started speaking after watching this film every day for a month. Needless to say, I think he’s got a thing for Cinderella.

Cover image of Alice in Wonderland film.

Alice in Wonderland

DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital – 1951

I remember listening to the soundtrack to Alice in Wonderland on a record player. Am I showing my age yet? The ride at Disneyland has got to be the slowest ever made, but it’s still part of the memories we’re making during our kids’ childhoods.

Cover image of Peter Pan film.

Peter Pan

DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital – 1953

As a child, I often pretended to be a character in whatever film I was watching. Of course, I was Wendy in Peter Pan; Tinkerbelle was a stinker then.

Cover image of Lady and the Tramp film.

Lady and the Tramp

DVD/Blu-ray – 1955

My elementary would often have a movie night featuring a Disney film. I remember watching Lady and the Tramp that way many, many moons ago. I had no idea that it was already a 20-year old movie.

Cover image of Davy Crockett film.

Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier

DVD only – 1955

The ultrasound pictures of our fourth son are marked Davy Crockett’s brother. The three older FishBoys were going through a Davy Crockett  phase. They showed up at the sonogram with coon skin caps on! The technician could not stop laughing. We were way big into Davy.

Cover image of Johnny Tremain film.

Johnny Tremain

DVD and Digital – 1957

Likewise, the first year that we studied the American Revolution in homeschool, our kids reenacted all the scenes from Johnny Tremain. I have such sweet memories of my three big boys running around in tri-corn hats!

Cover image of Old Yeller film.

Old Yeller

DVD and Digital – 1957

Yes, you will cry if you watch Old Yeller. And I’m not even a dog person. The book is better, though.

Cover image of Sleeping Beauty film.

Sleeping Beauty

DVD and Blu-ray – 1959

Of the classic princesses, Sleeping Beauty is my favorite. (Of the modern girls, I prefer Merida and Mulan; they have mostly healthy relationships with their parents.) My favorite scene is probably when the fairies fight over what color her dress should be. I choose blue.

Cover image of Pollyanna film.


DVD/Digital – 1960

I feel a special kinship for Pollyanna. I love the book, and I love Hayley Mills. I was gonna be her when I grew up.

Cover image of Swiss Family Robinson film.

Swiss Family Robinson

DVD only – 1960

Swiss Family Robinson is another of the films that really appealed to my boys when they were little. This movie is WAY better than the book. Ugh.

Hayley Mills’ dad is the dad in this film. I always thought that was interesting. Apparently, he was a heartthrob back in the day.

Cover image of 101 Dalmatians film.

101 Dalmatians

DVD/Blu-Ray – 1961

Part of the beauty of watching movies with your kids is watching their expressions. My little people absolutely pealed with laughter the first time they watched 101 Dalmatians.

cover image of the Parent Trap.

The Parent Trap

DVD/Digital – 1961

The Parent Trap features Hayley Mills. So of course, as a child I loved this film, the story of two twins, separated as baby who meet each other for the first time at camp. A little twisted, but interesting. I read the foreign children’s book it was based on back when I was a kid and liked it.

Forget the remake. Blech.

Cover image of the Absent-Minded Professor film

The Absent-Minded Professor

DVD/Digital – 1961

I love The Absent-Minded Professor for a number of reasons, but mainly because that was our nickname for FishBoy13 when he was little. He could recite all kinds of factoids, but forget where he put his shoes. My kids watched this over and over again.

Cover image of Summer Magic film.

Summer Magic

DVD/Digital – 1963

Summer Magic stars Hayley Mills. Need I say more? Okay, then. I love the music in this movie. My sisters and I watched it many times one summer on Disney Channel, singing along with the songs.

Cover image of Mary Poppins film.

Mary Poppins

DVD/Blu-ray/Digital – 1964

Mary Poppins was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. I thought it was a new release, and that Julie Andrews was really young. It was actually 1980 and she wasn’t.

Cover image of That Darn Cat film.

That Darn Cat!

DVD only – 1965

This is my last plug for Hayley Mills. She, like every other Disney actress after her, went on to try to break the stereotypes that wholesome films had put her in. From what I read in her bio, I’m glad I grew up to me and not her.

I still like That Darn Cat! though.

Cover image of Follow Me, Boys film.

Follow Me, Boys

DVD/Digital – 1966

Follow Me, Boys features Fred McMurray as a scout leader and Kurt Russell as the son he and his wife could never have. It’s a really sweet movie. I think I might cry watching it again. I usually do.

Cover image of The Jungle Book film.

The Jungle Book

DVD/Blu-ray/Digital – 1967

The Jungle Book was the last Disney film to have Walt’s personal, direct influence. It was released after he passed away. He turned the darker Kipling story into a light-hearted musical. The music is fabulous. I love it! I have great memories of my big people dancing and singing the songs when they were little.

Now, The Jungle Book has been re-released on Blu-ray this month. Disney sent us a copy which I am thrilled to add to my tiny little collection of classic Disney. If you’ve got a copy on hand, this would make a great family fun night. Be sure to print off the activity pages below.

Download Super Serpent Fun

What’s YOUR favorite of the classic Disney films?

I received a complimentary review copy of The Jungle Book. 

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  1. Belle was my favorite Disney Princess. She loves books and her father, and is the only brunette (like me). Plus, she shows the importance of looking beyond appearances to who the person is by refusing Gaston and loving the beast. I like the modern princess Rupenzel (Tangled) for her spunk and Elsa/Anna (Frozen) for their sisterly love.
    This is a great list! I’ve only seen about 2/3 but I like most of the ones I’ve seen.

  2. I’m so glad you shared this list! I have seen all but two of them (Davy Crockett & Johnny Tremain). Cinderella is my favorite princess. My sister and I were nuts about Disney movies when we were young, and also had a special enthusiasm for Haley Mills. We made up our own little “Disney Club” that had it’s headquarters in our bedroom closet. The walls were decorated with Disney pictures, stickers, and a Beauty and the Beast poster. One summer we watched “That Darn Cat” probably like 20 times along with the other Haley Mills movies. (Did you ever see “In Search of the Castaways”? That one was good too!) I have already started sharing some of these movies with my daughter, and look forward to some new-to-her titles in the near future.

  3. Hi Jessica,
    I clicked your link to Amazon Instant Video and it took me to your post Baby Daze from 2008. Just thought I’d let ya know.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions! Some of these we have seen, but some of the older ones we have not but I will be on the lookout for them. We have enjoyed many of your past movie suggestions. Another good place to look for these is the public library. Many of the older movies can be found at ours.

  5. Love this list! I remember watching almost all that you have listed and was a huge Hayley Mills fan as well! The Happiest Millionare was one of my favorites as well as The Apple Dumpling Gang, Gus, and In Search of the Castaways. I was a military brat growing up in the 80’s and we lived off base overseas so movies were the only TV that we watched. We have quite a few of the animated ones on the list, but I would love to get a hardcopy of some of my old favorites to watch with my girls. My girls (7 and 4 1/2) have recently discovered the Muppets and love them.

  6. I second Robin Hood and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Also a lot of the other old ones like The Happiest Millionaire. It’s been years since I’ve seen most of these – should be fun to rewatch with the kids. The only thing that strikes me with the old Disney movies (and old movies in general) is that there are almost never any black characters – I can’t think of a single movie on that list that includes one. This never occurred to me as a white kid growing up in a mostly white town, but it’s something that’s constantly on my mind now that I have two African American kids. It’s so hard to find good movies for my kids that include characters that look like them. For the most part, people of other races are either completely absent from older movies or they’re portrayed with over-the-top stereotypes or even blackface. Quite often the newer movies contain content or themes that I don’t feel are appropriate for young kids, even if they’re marketed to them. Any suggestions for good titles?

    1. Yep, I’ve noticed that, too. I think that was unfortunately the case for Asian and Latino actors as well. I remember when Much Ado About Nothing caused a stir by casting Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves as full brothers in a Shakespeare play.

      I am coming up blank on modern films. When I went through our movie drawer, most of what we have is animated or man-action stuff. The two that come to mind that have strong African-American characters are The Avengers and The Incredibles. Your point is a good one, and I confess to being woefully ignorant. I bet other readers will have good suggestions.

  7. The animated Disney’s Robin Hood is hilarious. Only, this is your warning…that darn rooster’s song will get stuck in your head for the remainder of your days. LOL

  8. I’m so torn on old yellar! I cannot bring myself to watch it….after all these years I am STILL traumatized by that movie. When is it ok to show the kids?!?!