A-List | The Top 10 Disney Princess Movies Through the Years

A-List | The Top 10 Disney Princess Movies Through the Years

As a proud #GirlDad (shout out to the rest of you macho brothers out here), I’ve seen my fair share of Disney Princess movies through the years. I may or may not have even played in a spirited game of Disney Princess dress-up as a pre-game before we put in the DVD and pilfered the popcorn.

The point is this: Walt Disney knew what he was doing in making movies that reached the entire family!

Raya is the newest Disney princess to impress us all.

If you have seen any Disney Princess on film or even in person, you know they are vessels of love and mirrors into our own mortality. And those songs?! Earworm delights. Well, most of them (Elsa, we’re looking at you).

With Disney releasing their latest animation classic Raya and the Last Dragon coming to theaters Nov. 2020…eh, March 2021, it got us thinking about all the wonderful depictions of a Disney Princess to come before her.

From Mulan’s courage to Cinderella’s hope and Tiana’s dreams and Merida’s bravery, each Disney Princess has taught us something and left us with a song in our heart. But which left the most indelible impression?

Whether it’s at the box office or the ringing cash registers or even in the whimsical minds of our little girls of all ages, let’s debate all of them. But before we do, here are the parameters:

  • Pop culture — What kind of impact did these princesses have on fans and Hollywood?
  • Merch — Could you see any of these princesses on a girls’ backpack or clothes?
  • Longevity — Will the movie, princess, and focus of this Disney Princess stand the test of time?
  • Attitude — What kind of Disney Princess was she? Was she a role model for you growing up or your daughters in the moment?
  • Message — This is the most important metric: What did she say to you and the world that could create an impact for your life beyond the movie?

Now, will your favorite Disney Princess make this A-List? Let’s find out.


10. Tiana, The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Source: Walt Disney Pictures/Silver Screen Partners IV

Andy Disney Princess sets out to master one trait all girls can choose to emulate and admire. With Tiana, it was clearly independence. Based in New Orleans, you would expect some funk, soul, jazz, and a pinch of voodoo. Tiana meets from frog-turned-prince, but she wasn’t looking for a man. She was looking for a business.

Tiana longs to own a restaurant. She’s Ratatouille with just as much skill, finesse, and drive. The movie is about her yearning and voyage to become a chef and owner. The fact that she got the man in the end is solely icing on the cake…she could have baked herself. Take that, fellas.

9. Aurora, Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Source: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Sometimes, when we feel alone, we look for a miracle. It’s faith that gets us through. Regardless of the circumstances you currently face, it fares in comparison to the horizon you’ll be facing soon. The Disney Princess Aurora used her faith to keep her joy, being one with nature, respecting life all around her, and peacefully sucking in the drapes. (She looks like a snorer, right?)

Prince Philip saw that faith and tried to answer her prayers, but like a woman of faith, she believed a higher purpose would have to get her attention first. He traveled, struggled, and even fought a dragon. Fortunately for him, she was paying attention. You know, once she woke up.

8. Mulan, Mulan (1998)

Source: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Few things are stronger than courage, namely when you are motivated to a goal by using it. Mulan was a modest girl in a small Chinese village who was taught to believe in herself. When fate forced her hand, she stood for all she believed in and grew the courage of which most men only dreamed.

As a strong female character, Mulan is regarded as one of Disney’s best animated stories. Imagine, a girl who joins the army, takes on the visage of a man, and ends up fighting better than the men to only end up leading them. Then, “he” is a “she.” You go girl!

7. Moana, Moana

Moana is more than a Disney Princess. She is a tribal chief and a woman of substantial power who handled it with grace.
Source: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Throughout the film Moana, we see the young girl always looking outside for the pride she had within. With a chicken and a former professional wrestler…eh, mythical sentinel with talking tattoos, she goes on a fascinating journey for her past. Moana always had a sense of adventure, but as it turns out this Disney Princess was a tribal chief.

It was that pride she discovered along the journey that helped Moana conquer fearsome beasts and overcome steep obstacles. During her film-long voyage across Oceania, it was her newfound pride in her people, her, family, and herself that brought her back home.

6. Snow White, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Snow White shows all girls how to be a real Disney Princess, strive to be your best self.
Source: Walt Disney Animation Studios

As one of the first Disney princesses, Snow White became an excellent role model because of her view on life. She was diligent about household chores and “Whistle(d) While She Work(ed)”. More importantly, from her home to her self-care “being the fairest in the land,” she learned authenticity.

We’ve all heard, “Live your truth.” That’s not new because way back in 1937, Snow White was showing girls how to do it with honesty, reality, and sincerity. That, and she didn’t act like some other girls on social media when seven dudes show them some attention.

5. Ariel, The Little Mermaid (1989)

Ariel was a Disney Princess who taught how to find yourself and be yourself.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures/Silver Screen Partners IV

In a world today where everyone is on a journey to find themselves, they should look to Ariel for support. Yes, the girl falls in love with the first bonehead she meets, but her resilience along that self-actualization voyage strengthens her for sacrifice and delivers courage in a place where she would usually fear.

Ariel discovered herself in places where few people look — in the mirror. That is a trait I would be proud for my daughter to latch onto any day of the week. Wouldn’t you?

4. Cinderella, Cinderella (1950)

Source: Walt Disney Animated Studios

What girl didn’t want to be Cinderella, the Disney Princess? Who didn’t believe in…say it with me…”Prince Charming”?! The term is synonymous with a fictious dude with shredded muscles, a well-paying job, and southern hospitality.

Cinderella lived with two wicked stepsisters. Not even family and treating her like trash. Despite discouragement, she chose hope and kindness first because mean people suck! Her determination to treat people with respect and maintain hope in her dreams is something all children should learn. Sure, she had some magical help along the way, but brides today want to wear a “glass slipper” because hope leads them there.

Now if only they could stop saying that ish in Bridezillas, we’d get the fairy tale back.

3. Jasmine, Aladdin (1992)

Disney Princess Jasmine was sweet, beautiful, and didn't take ish from anyone.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures/Silver Screen Partners IV

Jasmine is beautiful, intelligent, strong, and doesn’t take ish from anyone! If that’s what you want in a Disney Princess, look no further — and many haven’t. She typifies how a modern Disney Princess should be.

She was cunning to thwart Prince Jafar but loving enough to allure Aladdin and see the man he was supposed to become. The girl even had ideas on marriage, relationships, and how love should benefit both people in the relationship. No need for her to ride shotgun. Jasmine is driving most of the way. She shares, so there’s that too.

2. Elsa and Anna, Frozen (2013) & Frozen 2 (2019)

Source: Walt Disney Animation Studios

If you ever making a list of any Disney Princess, you will never be able to “let it go.” These two will always be near the top of the mountain because of their loyalty — to their country and to each other. From the first film to its sequel, Elsa and Anna continue their unrelenting devotion and show girls of all ages how it’s done.

Life may come at you in swaths of uncertainty and doubt, but if you stay true and loyal to what you love and believe, it will work out. Regardless of the opposite people who may be in your life (e.g., spouse, sibling, parent), loyalty to the greater good will see you through. And who knows, you too may get to ride off into the sunset on an ice horse. Maybe.

1. Belle, Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Source: Walt Disney Animation Studios

If you have been paying attention, you already know what this Disney Princess found within herself that shined in the hearts and minds of girls everywhere. It was love, plain and simple.

Who cares what her friends looked like? She loved them. They were dishware, household appliances, and furniture, but she loved them. And then, there’s this mean and cantankerous beast. Her love encouraged him to become the person he really was, and somehow, she knew it all along.

We’ve all seen that meme: “May your loved one look at you like this.” Little girls have seen that for years on the face of Belle, and they are better for it.


All Images Courtesy: The Walt Disney Co. / Featured Image Courtesy: Wreck-it Ralph/Walt Disney Animation Studios
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I write for a living, among other things in the digital journalism and analytics universe. So I'm a little like a nerd unicorn. But no bronies. Move along.
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