The 20 Most Underrated Disney Movies You Need To See

Known for its magical film catalog, The Walt Disney Company certainly has quite a cinematic legacy. From beloved animated films to live-action productions that cater to many different audiences, there's something for everybody within the Disney movie landscape. As the years continue to pass on that selection of movies continues to expand, leading viewers both young and young at heart to discover new stories that they can't get enough of. Disney caters to almost any genre or tastes out there.

Yet with such an expansive collection of movies, it's understandable that many would fall out of the limelight of fandom. From live-action films that audiences didn't understand at their time of release, to animated movies that might have been a bit too bold with their choices, this list covers some of the studio's most underrated films. While some of these you might have heard of, there's no denying that they deserve your attention just as much as the classics. So, without further ado, here are some gems from the Disney catalog that need some more cinematic appreciation!

The Rocketeer (1991)

Gaining a lukewarm reception upon its initial release, "The Rocketeer" is a unique slice of Disney nostalgia that never seems to go out of style. Not only does it serve as a fantastic comic book hero movie, but it also is a beautiful homage to old Hollywood vibes and art deco glamour. Helmed by future "Captain America: The First Avenger" director Joe Johnston, the movie follows Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) as he discovers a mysterious jet pack that allows him to fly without an aircraft. As soon as Cliff uses his new rocket-powered skills, many foes take notice, changing the stunt pilot's life forever.

With its distinct art direction and a fantastic cast of characters, this adaptation of Dave Stevens' comic series is the perfect balance of sweet and thrilling. Johnston does a tremendous job of dialing up the campy with the right amount of earnest emotion. Yet it is the score by James Horner and the incredible visual effects work by ILM that make this movie a brilliant piece of superhero movie history. Sure, some viewers might think "The Rocketeer" is a tad too old school, but it is a fantastic representation of an era in blockbuster filmmaking that's very much missed.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Though some might think it crazy to put Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" on this list, there still are quite a few who haven't seen the studio's 34th animated feature. Directed by "Beauty and the Beast" alums Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, the film adapts the classic Victor Hugo novel into a much more digestible story, taking notes more from the 1939 RKO version than any others. Yet what makes Disney's take on Hugo's tale of religion, class, and architecture significant is how it ultimately takes its audience seriously ... for the most part.

Sure, the movie has its gargoyle-shaped flaws, like choosing to spotlight kid-friendly humor at the most awkward moments. Yet it's the sequences where the film focuses on the emotional arcs of Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and the very mature villain of Frollo, that put this movie in a class all of its own. When paired with the incredible musical score by Alan Menken, along with its stunning animation (especially the "Sanctuary" scene), it can be easier to enjoy this animated project for its successes rather than its flaws.

Treasure Planet (2002)

Considered a massive flop upon its initial release, "Treasure Planet" is a fascinating experiment for Disney Animation. Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, this retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" takes on a much more sci-fi twist, one which uses stunning animation to weave a story that seems out of this world but is incredibly relatable at its core. Unlike other adaptations that focused more on the swashbuckling adventure, Musker and Clements take a more dynamic approach.

From the memorable songs by Goo Goo Dolls lead singer Johnny Rzeznik to the heartbreaking voice acting by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brian Murray as Jim Hawkins and John Silver, respectively, there's a lot of heart in "Treasure Planet." While its pacing and certain jokes don't land quite as flawlessly as some of Musker and Clement's other Disney productions, this is a movie that has never seemed to get its fair shake. Considering the incredible amount of detail and work that went into "Treasure Planet," it's about time it did.

Enchanted (2007)

If you're someone who adores the classic vibes of Disney's animated history, along with rom-com humor, "Enchanted" might just be for you. Directed by Kevin Lima, the movie centers around animated heroine Giselle (Amy Adams). After getting engaged to Prince Edward (James Marsden), Giselle is sent to the mysterious real world of New York City. There she encounters a stubborn-but-handsome divorce lawyer named Robert (Patrick Dempsey), who opens her eyes to more than she ever expected. Yet it's Edward's stepmother, the evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), who might not let Giselle have any kind of happily ever after at all.

What makes "Enchanted" special right from the get-go is how it pays homage to Disney's past while also commenting on fairy tales as a whole. From the comedic references to animated classics like "The Little Mermaid" and "Snow White" to Giselle learning about dating, it's a humor-filled treat for the senses. The romance between Giselle and Robert is the element that continues to make this movie a classic, and with another crop of incredible Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz songs in the mix "Enchanted" is a gem that needs your attention before the sequel "Disenchanted" comes out.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

While Disney fans tend to admire movies like "Mary Poppins," many viewers have never seen the magic of "Bedknobs and Broomsticks." This is a shame since this Angela Lansbury-starring flick weaves a fantastical tale of witches, knights, and colorful psychedelic sequences. In 1940s London three evacuated children are left in the care of Miss Eglantine Price (Lansbury), a witch in training who is hoping to use her skills to help the British army. The film then follows the group as they travel to uncharted lands via a magical flying bed, all the while trying to figure out a way to take down the Nazis.

Though many critics have often compared "Bedknobs" to "Poppins," both movies stand on their own, aside from their creative connections. In the case of "Bedknobs," it is equally if not more imaginative than its Academy Award-winning predecessor. It takes a complex plot and makes it whimsical and digestible for a multi-demographic audience. Plus, it has some incredibly catchy songs, awe-inspiring visual effects for 1971, and an enchanting performance by Lansbury and David Tomlinson. Ultimately, "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" is a quirky treasure within the Disney catalog.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

In "Atlantis: The Lost Empire," aspiring linguist Milo James Thatch (Michael J. Fox) is hoping to find the lost city of Atlantis, a place his grandfather was in search of his entire career. He eventually finds himself with a group of ragtag explorers, who together do indeed find the famed location. When Milo begins to discover even more secrets about Atlantis, including its power source, it changes the course of everything in Milo's life in ways he never thought possible.

Even though it tanked at the box office, there's no denying that "Atlantis" is a movie that needs to be seen by more people. From its collection of meme-worthy quotable dialogue to its incredible art direction, "Atlantis" has many elements to be appreciated. Its distinct visual aesthetic was heavily influenced by both anime and the work of "Hellboy" creator Mike Mignola. Overall, "Atlantis" is a Disney movie that stands out in the best of ways.

Brother Bear (2003)

While filled with some odd narrative flaws and awkward pacing choices, "Brother Bear" is a forgotten treasure within the Disney animated catalog. Directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker, the movie tells the story of Kenai, a young man who is turned into a bear by the spirits of his ancestors after making a tragic mistake. As Kenai comes to grips with his new form, he meets some interesting characters along the way, including a young cub who tests his patience named Koda. The movie then follows the two's struggles and the brotherly bond they make as Kenai's eyes open to new perspectives he never considered.

When it comes to the less-known Disney animated movies, "Brother Bear" stands as a fascinating example of a film that should have been more popular. First, Phil Collins (after his success with "Tarzan") returned to make the music and produced some of his most underrated work. Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Suarez do some excellent voice work as the film's two leads, and the animation is some of Disney's best. Somehow not enough people have given "Brother Bear" a look, but if you brush aside its pacing flaws and odd narrative choices, you'll find a movie that has a delightful and adorable heart at its center.

Oliver and Company (1988)

When it comes to adaptations of Charles Dickens' classic tale "Oliver Twist," most tend to stick to the basics. In Disney's reimagining, the story is brought to 1980s New York City, and rather than focusing on a human boy, our protagonist is an adorable kitten. In the film, Oliver bonds with a family of misfit dogs, including the coolest puppy around named Dodger, but when Oliver accidentally falls into the lap of a rich little girl, the little cat finds himself stuck between two worlds.

With its upbeat 80s soundtrack, with songs performed by Dodger's voice actor Billy Joel and iconic vocalist Huey Lewis, "Oliver and Company" deserves a place on this list for how well it captures the genuine magic of New York City. Sure, other Disney movies love to show the glittering elements of the beloved city, but "Oliver" does a great job of showing the pros and the cons. Plus, it's hard not to fall in love with a movie that has adorable animal protagonists at its center. When they're voiced by such greats as Bette Midler, Cheech Marin, and Dom Deluise, it makes this heartwarming story even more entertaining.

Tarzan (1999)

Much like "Hunchback," 90's kids might be surprised by "Tarzan" is included on this list. While it contains a great soundtrack by Phil Collins, "Tarzan" still hasn't been seen by as many viewers as the other Disney Renaissance-era classics. With its excellent voice cast, beautiful art direction, and memorable musical sequences, this adaptation of the iconic Edgar Rice Burroughs tale of the tree-swinging hero checks all the right boxes, especially when it comes to the emotional core at the center of Tarzan's life.

From the beautiful evolution of his romance with Jane to the even more heartbreaking connection he has to his gorilla mother Kala, Disney's version of "Tarzan" allows audiences to see how significant women are to Tarzan's story. When combined with the added focus on his struggling relationship with his gorilla father figure Kerchak, directors Kevin Lima and Chris Buck (along with the rest of the talented Disney storytellers) do an incredible job reinventing Tarzan into a more emotionally rich story. That, along with the movie's other achievements, needs to be celebrated more often.

The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

Arguably featuring the most underrated Disney baddie of all time, "The Great Mouse Detective" is a smorgasbord of animated entertainment. Based on the "Basil of Baker Street" book series by Eve Titus, the movie follows the adventures of the titular mouse investigator Basil as he tries to uncover a mystery involving a toymaker. When our hero (along with his new pal, Dr. David Q. Dawson) discovers that the evil Ratigan is involved, Basil must use all of his intellect to solve the case before chaos erupts.

With charming characters, sequences, and imagery of yummy crumpets, "The Great Mouse Detective" is equal parts comfort movie and a thrilling adventure. It captures all the fun of a "Sherlock Holmes" story, while also providing its own unique twists and commentary. The actual selling point is the brilliant animation by legends like Glen Keane and the delicious voice acting by horror icon Vincent Price as Ratigan. Both Keane's talents and Price's performance elevate the material in the best of ways. Overall, if you haven't thrown yourself into the world of Basil and his detective adventures, it's about time you did so.

The Emperor's New Groove (2000)

Though it has quite a dramatic behind-the-scenes history, "The Emperor's New Groove" remains a movie that only seems to get better with age. This underrated gem follows Emperor Kuzco, a narcissistic ruler who gets "poisoned" by his vengeful advisor Yzma and her assistant Kronk. Due to Kronk's failure to read the poison label currently, Kuzco is accidentally transformed into a llama. This leaves the once-mighty royal on his own to reclaim his throne, but once Kuzco bumps into a villager he scorned named Pacha, the two must work together to take down Yzma while they learn to trust each other.

While not the more serious movie the filmmakers originally intended, "The Emperor's New Groove" is still a comedic masterpiece that has thankfully aged well over the last two decades. From Eartha Kitt's incredible vocal performance as Yzma to the brilliant infusion of Chuck Jones-style animated humor, "Emperor's New Groove" is at its best when it embraces its comedic strengths. Though it might not be the typical Disney entertainment most people go for, if you're willing to give it a chance this is a movie that's well worth your time.

Disney's Dinosaur (2000)

While "Jurassic Park" broke the mold when it comes to cinematic depictions of dinosaurs, Disney's venture into the world of dino-related stories took a more emotional (yet spectacular) approach. The film follows an Iguanodon from his birth to his young adult years as he tries to survive the ever-changing world around him. From meteor showers to battling Carnotaurus', our young hero goes through quite the cinematic journey, yet his attempt to bond with a herd of traveling dinosaurs is his biggest challenge.

Though it is far from a perfect movie and tends to look a tad dated by today's standards, "Dinosaur" remains an impressive venture for Disney. Deciding to make an entire movie out of a mixture of actual live-action settings and realistic CGI characters was a massive undertaking in 2000. Whether the final effort paid off, "Dinosaur" is one of those projects that should be admired for the gigantic tasks it took head-on. With a beautiful score by James Newton Howard and some thrilling action sequences, there's a lot to applaud "Dinosaur" for.

Winnie The Pooh (2011)

There are quite a few "Winnie The Pooh" related movies within the Disney animated catalog that never seem to get the love they deserve, from 1977's "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" to the recent live-action film "Christopher Robin." Yet the one that seems to get talked about the least is Pooh's 2011 animated adventure, a film that is significant not only for its narrative efforts but also because it remains Walt Disney Animation's last 2D animated feature project.

Featuring music by "Frozen" duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the Stephen Anderson and Don Hall directed feature follows Pooh and his 100 Acre Wood friends through various silly scenarios, including Eeyore needing a new tail and Pooh searching for some honey (of course). The best aspect of the film is its adorable sense of humor, an element that has been consistent with the Pooh franchise since the beginning. With this Pooh cinematic adventure being quite a significant one in Disney's history, it's an absolute must-watch for any film fan who is young or young at heart.

The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

One of the rare sequels in Disney's history to arguably surpasses the original in every way, "The Rescuers Down Under" takes the beloved characters of Bianca and Bernard to new uncharted lands. The duo travels to Australia to help a young boy named Cody, captured by a poacher hellbent on catching a rare golden eagle the boy has befriended. With the help of some bold locals, including adventure-seeking mouse Jake, Bianca and Bernard must risk everything to protect Cody and his feathered friend.

With stunning animation, aided by Disney's first full use of the CAPS system, "The Rescuers Down Under" is a visual triumph. While beautiful animation and art direction is the film's main star, it also sports a fantastic story that is amplified by its equally memorable voice cast, including the talents of George C. Scott and John Candy. The score by Bruce Boughton adds a thrilling edge to an already adventure-filled tale. Ultimately, even 30-plus-years after its disappointing theatrical release, it's clear why "The Rescuers Down Under" has finally gained the admiration it deserved from the get-go.

Disney's The Kid (2000)

Though many people remember Bruce Willis more for his action-oriented roles, he was once known for his comedic skills. A movie that doesn't get enough respect for proving that fact is Disney's "The Kid." Directed by Jon Turteltaub, the film follows a middle-aged man (Willis) as he magically meets his eight-year-old self (Spencer Breslin). Together, the two go through many wacky scenarios that lead them to learn some tough lessons about what it means to grow up while still retaining your childhood wonder.

While it's funny to think about Willis being in more than one movie where he encounters a younger version of himself, "The Kid" obviously focuses much more on the light-hearted vibes than "Looper."  Though that might sound like a downgrade when comparing the two similar (yet wildly different) movies, there's a charm to "The Kid" that speaks on a deeper emotional level than most Willis movies are known for. This is especially true during the film's finale, one that requires a significant tissue box. A flawed-but-sweet crowd-pleaser, "The Kid" remains a forgotten treasure in both Disney and Willis' filmography.

Tron (1982)

Sure, most film fans have at least heard of Disney's cult sci-fi film, yet it's surprising how few cinema lovers have actually sat down and watched "Tron" from start to finish. While there's no denying that the movie indeed suffers from awkward pacing and now-dated visual effects, the charms of "Tron" come more from the efforts put into it than the end product itself. Starring Jeff Bridges, the movie follows tech genius Kevin Flynn as he gets sucked into a computer world. Along the way, he must battle various programs to escape and return to the human side of life.

Though far from a perfect movie, "Tron" does contain some entertaining elements. It perfectly captures the chaos of video game culture in the mid-80s, along with the ever-evolving world of computer programming. The authentic charm within "Tron" is in the performances of its cast, all of whom were in uncharted filmmaking territory to create a new kind of movie experience. From Bridges' cocky portrayal of Flynn to Bruce Boxleitner's wide-eyed take on the film's titular digital hero, these actors (along with David Warner's scene-chewing take as the film's various antagonists) makes "Tron" a flawed yet entertaining experiment.

John Carter (2012)

A flop upon its initial release, Disney's attempt at adapting Edgar Rice Burroughs' "John Carter of Mars" series can now play for an audience who appreciates the movie for its successes rather than its flaws. In the adaptation, viewers follow Civil War soldier John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) as he is sent to the mysterious world of Barsoom. There he tries to fit in with the locals and befriends a princess, all the while dealing with his new superhuman abilities as well as his very troubled past.

With its emotional core, unique cast of characters, and well-designed art direction, "John Carter" is a movie that clearly had a lot of love poured into every frame. Sure, it's easy to see why the Andrew Stanton-directed project didn't easily click with audiences, but it is also one of those films that deserves a second (or first) accurate glance. It is more than its structural flaws and should be admired for the beautiful things it accomplished in bringing Burroughs' classic tale to life. While it might take some effort to get into, "John Carter" is a treasure waiting to be discovered.

Return to Oz (1985)

Known by many film fans as one of the scariest movies Disney ever made, "Return to Oz" has a lot more to it than its off-putting elements. Serving as an unofficial sequel to the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz", "Return" finds Dorothy Gale (Fairuza Balk) still obsessing over her original adventure to Oz. After escaping an electrotherapy session, Dorothy finds herself back in Oz, but this time everything has changed, including her beloved friends (Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow) who are frozen in stone. Now Dorothy must join a new group of misfits to save Oz from the evil that surrounds it.

While many look at "Return to Oz" as a nightmarish fever dream that should be avoided at all costs, it is arguably closer to the original vision of L. Frank Baum's world than the 1939 film ever was. That kind of devotion to Baum's material is one of the many qualities that makes "Return" a fascinating bit of filmmaking. Yes, the sequences in it are scary, but that is what fairy tales were meant to be. "Return to Oz" perfectly pays homage to both the whimsy and terror classic fantasy stories initially contained, and that is quite the accomplishment.

Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)

Though released under their Hollywood Pictures label, Disney's down-to-earth drama "Mr. Holland's Opus" is an underappreciated marvel. In case you haven't already been shown this during your music class, the movie follows the fictional life of Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss), an aspiring composer who in 1964 becomes a high school music teacher to support his family. As the decade's pass, Glenn begins to realize how important his job is to his actual musical goals, resulting in a career that changes the lives of many.

While not as flashy or visually exciting as other movies on this list, "Mr. Holland's Opus" is a film that touches the heart of anyone who sees it. From its relatable start to its tear-jerking conclusion, any viewer can find something to connect to with Holland's fictional story, but it is Richard Dreyfuss' beautiful performance that makes the movie soar. Sure, Glenn can sometimes be an insufferable and frustrating character, but the love at his core makes him a believable hero. Ultimately, this movie is better than a distraction during school, for it is a work of expressive cinematic art.

The Three Musketeers (1993)

Sometimes the best Disney movies are the ones that know how to dive into the swashbuckling action, and one of the more underrated examples of that is Disney's adaptation of "The Three Musketeers." Featuring an all-star cast that includes Kiefer Sutherland, Tim Curry, and Oliver Platt, this adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas novel loves to focus on the hijinks of the movie's titular heroes. Plus, there's all of the romance, political intrigue, and court drama "Musketeer" fans love, but with a 90's twist.

What makes this adaptation stand out is the obvious fun being had on-screen, especially when it comes to the chemistry of the lead trio. While this "Musketeers" follows the typical beats of other versions, none of them know how to deliver sassy dialogue, ridiculous hammy melodrama, and Tim Curry energy like the Disney one does. When topped off with the cinematic cherry of an end-credits song by Bryan Adams, Sting, and Rod Stewart, it's pretty evident that this "Musketeers" is an adorably electric product of its time.