We all know that Disney is the best. It’s fun, it’s family-friendly, and kids can get attached to their favorite characters for life. They’re iconic figures in the animation industry, with decades of beloved classics under their belts. But what you may not have known about Disney is that they make some pretty dark movies every once in a while. No one else would be able to pull off these kinds of stories without coming off as corny or overdone, but somehow Disney makes them look easy! These are the top 10 darkest disney movies ever made, ranked by how much darkness was present in each film.
10. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This 1996 classic might seem quite innocent at first glance, except for the fact that it’s actually about a deformed man who is nearly killed for his appearance, then becomes the subject of everyones pity. He is taken in by three people who are very close to him, including a woman he loves more than anything else in the world. But when their relationship moves from friends to her being raped by another man on Quasimodo’s behalf, things take a turn for the dark…
This animated classic might seem like your average Disney film at first glance. After all, you’ve got your typical love story with Meg and Hercules finding their way together despite what others think of them. But there’s one line near the end of this movie that creates an unexpectedly ominous tone: “Goodbye, Herc. Maybe you were born wrong.” And then when you look at the movie poster, Meg is holding a bloody sword
This one might seem like an obvious choice for this list… how could it not be when the story is about a little wooden puppet who wants to become human? But when Geppetto invents his son out of wood with no experience in taking care of something alive, Pinocchio rebels against him and runs away from home. Add in some creepy-looking children’s toys that are actually living people turned into puppets by a curse, and you’re looking at quite possibly the most depressing Disney movie ever made.
7. The Fox and the Hound
A low-key film that’s definitely not your average Disney story, The Fox and the Hound might seem innocent enough at first glance. You’ve got two unlikely friends named Tod and Copper who are forced to grow apart when Copper becomes a hunting dog… But if you think about it for more than five seconds, you’ll notice how sad this movie actually is. After all, both animals are ultimately killed in their last fight against one another.
6. Mary Poppins
This movie has some pretty dark undertones to it despite being out-and-out comedy with an upbeat tone! For instance, after being frustrated one too many times by Jane and Michael’s antics during his interview with them, Mary threatens to take her umbrella up into the air again until she is out of sight. When she does, the camera cuts to lightning striking a tree, followed by the children finding their beloved nanny floating lifeless outside in the rain! Plus, it’s implied that Mary is actually dead for most of this movie, appearing as an angel during some scenes.
5. The Black Cauldron
This movie came out in 1985 and still holds up as one of Disney’s most iconic films. But if you watch it again now with your older eyes, you might notice something very dark about this film… It’s about a young assistant pig keeper named Taran who has to stop an evil ruler from using a magical item known as the Black Cauldron to take over the world. At first glance this film seems like nothing more than a typical medieval adventure film, but if you look closely you’ll see the main character accidentally causing the death of his best friend, followed by nearly all of his other friends dying in an attempt to stop the evil ruler.
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4. Pinocchio (2015)
Disney’s second entry on this list is actually quite different from their previous one! At first glance, this 2015 live action remake seems like nothing more than your standard children’s story about rescuing your dad and finding your way home. But when it comes down to it, this movie is actually quite dark indeed… For instance, there’s a scene where Gepetto catches goldfish for no reason other than fishing them out of the ocean with his bare hands.
3. Brother Bear (2003)
Brother Bear tells the story of a young man who must transform into a bear and learn to survive in the wild after his brother is killed by a bear. The transformation occurs as punishment for Kenai, who had murdered a bear out of revenge for an injury which killed his brother Sitka. Although this is not considered one of Disney’s finest works as it contains several sequences with mild peril as well as scenes with stylistic representations of death, it does have some positive messages including environmentalism and respect for all living things. The film also contains no songs which sets it apart from other Disney movies aimed at older audiences.
‘Brother Bear’ Trailer
2. Chicken Little (2005)
Chicken Little is a computer-animated film produced by DisneyToon Studios, released to theatres on November 19, 2005, in the United States and Canada. The plot centers on an alien invasion by the evil alien leader of an alien mothership that resembles a giant chicken. Meanwhile, Chicken Little tries to tell everyone that the sky is falling because he saw an acorn hit it but no one else believes him including his own father who thinks his son has gone crazy. Although this movie does not have any serious tones or character deaths, it is dark as it tells the story of an alien invasion and the only characters that believe Chicken Little are children.
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1. The Black Cauldron (1985)
The Black Cauldron is a computer-animated film released to theatres on July 24, 1985, which was produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and was distributed by Buena Vista Pictures. This movie involves a quest to obtain a magic black cauldron before it falls into the wrong hands. Although this movie garnered largely negative reviews from critics due to its lack of appeal for audiences as well as having intense scenes involving death which caused it initially flopped at both box offices and with critics, it has since come under scrutiny for its mature themes and concepts such as death and sacrifice. For these reasons, this movie is considered one of Disney’s darkest.