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The 9 Best Disney Movie From Every Year of the 2010s

The 2010s were a golden era for movies, marking a decade of creativity and innovation that brought to life some of the most memorable films in the company's storied history. From the enchanting tales of Disney princesses in “Tangled” to the groundbreaking animation and storytelling of “Coco” and “Moana,” each year of the 2010s introduced audiences to new worlds, characters, and adventures that have since become beloved classics. These films not only continued the tradition of Disney's animated masterpieces but also pushed the boundaries of what audiences could expect, showcasing new technologies, diverse narratives, and complex villains that enriched the cinematic landscape of the decade.

This article takes a closer look at the 10 best Disney movies from the 2010s, highlighting one standout film from each year of the decade. From the visually stunning landscapes of “Frozen” to the heartfelt emotions in “Inside Out,” and the innovative storytelling in “Zootopia,” these selections represent the pinnacle of Disney's achievements throughout the decade. Each entry will delve into what makes these films special, from their memorable characters and influential Disney princesses to the groundbreaking achievements in animation pioneered by Pixar. This journey through the 2010s showcases the evolution of Disney movies and their continued impact on audiences around the world, proving that Disney's magic is as potent as ever.

1. Tangled (2010)

Synopsis

“Tangled” is a captivating animated musical adventure from Walt Disney Animation Studios, released in 2010. Loosely based on the classic German fairy tale “Rapunzel” by the Brothers Grimm, the film tells the story of a young princess named Rapunzel. She possesses magical long blonde hair and has spent her entire life in a secluded tower. Longing to explore the outside world, Rapunzel seizes her chance when a charming thief, Flynn Rider, accidentally discovers her hideaway. Together, they embark on an exciting journey that will ultimately lead to Rapunzel's freedom from her captor, Mother Gothel, who has kept her hidden to exploit her hair's magical properties.

Notable Characters

  • Rapunzel: Voiced by Mandy Moore, Rapunzel is a spirited and adventurous young woman who has been locked away for years by the wicked Mother Gothel. Her magical hair has the power to provide eternal youth, which Gothel uses to keep herself young.
  • Flynn Rider (Eugene Fitzherbert): Voiced by Zachary Levi, Flynn is a charismatic bandit who initially comes to the tower seeking refuge, only to become Rapunzel's ally and love interest. His journey with Rapunzel changes him profoundly, leading him to adopt a more heroic path.
  • Mother Gothel: The film's main antagonist, Mother Gothel is a deceitful and manipulative woman who pretends to be Rapunzel's loving mother to use her magical hair for herself.
  • Maximus: A determined horse from the royal guard who initially pursues Flynn but ends up as one of his and Rapunzel's loyal companions.
  • Pascal: Rapunzel's fiercely loyal chameleon friend, who provides comic relief and unwavering support throughout her journey.

Critical Reception

“Tangled” received widespread acclaim for its animation, vibrant storytelling, and memorable characters. Critics praised the film for revitalizing the Disney animated feature, drawing comparisons to the successes of the Disney Renaissance era. With a blend of traditional fairy tale elements and modern animation techniques, it struck a chord with both audiences and critics alike. The film boasts a high rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was praised for its beautiful visuals, particularly the iconic lantern release scene. It also received nominations for awards, including Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, highlighting its impactful music and lyrical composition by Alan Menken. “Tangled” not only enchanted children but also captivated adults, securing its place as a beloved addition to the Disney canon.

View Tangled on Disney+

2. Winnie the Pooh (2011)

Synopsis

“Winnie the Pooh,” a 2011 American animated musical comedy film, marks a revival of Disney's cherished Pooh franchise. Directed by Stephen Anderson and Don Hall, this film draws from three stories by A.A. Milne, featuring the beloved characters in new adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. The narrative centers around Pooh's quest for honey and the collective effort to replace Eeyore's lost tail, interwoven with a misadventure involving a misunderstood note about Christopher Robin being captured by a creature called the “Backson.”

Notable Characters

  • Winnie the Pooh: Voiced by Jim Cummings, Pooh's simple and endearing quest for honey leads to whimsical mishaps and drives the film's plot.
  • Eeyore: Voiced by Bud Luckey, Eeyore's missing tail becomes a central plot point, around which the other characters rally, showcasing his typical gloominess.
  • Tigger: Also voiced by Jim Cummings, Tigger brings energy and enthusiasm to the search for both the Backson and a new tail for Eeyore.
  • Piglet: Voiced by Travis Oates, Piglet's timid yet supportive nature shines as he aids his friends through their misadventures.
  • Owl: Voiced by Craig Ferguson, Owl's misinterpretation of a note leads to the main conflict, highlighting his well-meaning but pompous demeanor.
  • Kanga and Roo: Voiced by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Wyatt Dean Hall, respectively, provide the maternal and childlike innocence typical of their characters.

Critical Reception

“Winnie the Pooh” was celebrated for its return to the classic hand-drawn animation style, evoking a strong sense of nostalgia among audiences and critics alike. The film's gentle, watercolor backgrounds and simple, engaging storylines were praised for maintaining the integrity and charm of A.A. Milne's original books. Despite criticisms regarding its brief runtime, the succeeded in appealing to both young viewers and adults who grew up with Pooh and his friends. The film's modest box office performance belied its positive critical reception and underscored its status as a lovingly crafted homage to the traditional animation and storytelling of earlier Disney films.

View Winnie the Pooh on Disney+

3. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Synopsis

“Wreck-It Ralph” is a 2012 American animated comedy film that delves into the arcade gaming world. The story revolves around Ralph, a video game villain from the game Fix-It Felix, Jr., who rebels against his “bad guy” role, aspiring to become a hero. Directed by Rich Moore and featuring the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Lynch, the film explores Ralph's journey across different games, aiming to prove his worthiness as a hero. His adventure leads to unintended consequences, including the release of a deadly enemy that threatens the entire arcade world.

Notable Characters

  • Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly): The titular character, a large, burly villain of the arcade game who is tired of being the antagonist and seeks heroism.
  • Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman): A glitchy character from the racing game Sugar Rush, who becomes Ralph's unlikely ally.
  • Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer): The hero of Ralph's arcade game, who embarks on a quest to find Ralph and bring him back.
  • Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun (Jane Lynch): A tough-as-nails character from the first-person shooter game Hero's Duty, who joins Felix in the search for Ralph.
  • King Candy/Turbo (Alan Tudyk): The ruler of Sugar Rush, whose secret past as Turbo, a former racing game character, has significant implications for the arcade.

Critical Reception

“Wreck-It Ralph” was met with critical acclaim, celebrating its inventive take on the life of arcade game characters. It garnered an impressive score on Rotten Tomatoes and was praised for its engaging story and rich, nostalgic appeal that resonates with both children and adults. The film achieved a notable box office success, grossing over $470 million worldwide. It received multiple accolades, including the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature and nominations for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature. Critics like Roger Ebert and A.O. Scott lauded the film for its originality, emotional depth, and clever integration of various gaming eras and styles.

View Wreck-It Ralph on Disney+

4. Frozen (2013)

Synopsis

“Frozen,” a 2013 American animated musical fantasy film, is produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's 1844 fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” the film was directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. It tells the story of Princess Anna of Arendelle, who embarks on a journey alongside the iceman Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and the snowman Olaf. They seek her estranged sister Elsa, whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped their kingdom in eternal winter. The film underwent several story treatments and was finally commissioned in 2011, with Christophe Beck composing the orchestral score and songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

Notable Characters

  • Elsa (Idina Menzel): The Snow Queen with the power to create ice and snow, Elsa struggles with her abilities, fearing they make her a monster.
  • Anna (Kristen Bell): The fearless and optimistic younger sister of Elsa, Anna is determined to save her kingdom and reconnect with her sister.
  • Kristoff (Jonathan Groff): A rugged mountain man who aids Anna in her quest. He is a true outdoorsman who sells ice for a living.
  • Olaf (Josh Gad): A comical snowman brought to life by Elsa's magic, who dreams of experiencing summer.
  • Sven: Kristoff's loyal reindeer, who communicates his thoughts through simple gestures and expressions.

Critical Reception

Upon its release, “Frozen” received acclaim for its visuals, screenplay, themes, and music, quickly becoming a cultural phenomenon. It was praised as one of Disney's best animated films since the Renaissance era. The film grossed over $1.280 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing animated film at the time. It won several awards, including Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Let It Go,” and a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film. Critics and audiences alike celebrated its innovative approach to the portrayal of sisterhood and its subversion of traditional fairy tale tropes.

View Frozen on Disney+

5. Big Hero 6 (2014)

Synopsis

“Big Hero 6” is a 2014 American animated superhero film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Loosely based on the Marvel Comics superhero team, the film was directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams. It tells the story of Hiro Hamada, a young robotics prodigy, who forms a superhero team to combat a masked villain responsible for his brother Tadashi's death. The film is set in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo, a blend of San Francisco and Tokyo, and is notable for being the first Disney animated film to feature Marvel characters.

Notable Characters

  • Hiro Hamada: Voiced by Ryan Potter, Hiro is a 14-year-old robotics genius who transitions from underground bot fighting to leading a superhero team.
  • Baymax: Voiced by Scott Adsit, Baymax is an inflatable healthcare robot created by Hiro's late brother, Tadashi. Baymax's design and function are pivotal to the film's emotional and comedic appeal.
  • Tadashi Hamada: Voiced by Daniel Henney, Tadashi is Hiro's older brother whose death motivates Hiro's journey. He is the creator of Baymax.
  • Fred: Voiced by T.J. Miller, Fred is the comic-relief character who is also a fan of comic books and monster movies, bringing levity and enthusiasm to the team.
  • Go Go Tomago: Voiced by Jamie Chung, she is known for her speed and no-nonsense attitude, making her a formidable member of the team.
  • Wasabi: Voiced by Damon Wayans Jr., Wasabi is meticulous and precise, known for his expertise in lasers.
  • Honey Lemon: Voiced by Genesis Rodriguez, she is a cheerful and intelligent chemist with a knack for creating useful concoctions for the team.

Critical Reception

“Big Hero 6” received widespread acclaim for its animation quality, heartwarming story, and dynamic character development. The film grossed over $657 million worldwide, making it a significant commercial success. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, showcasing its impact and popularity. Critics and audiences praised the film for its emotional depth, particularly the relationship between Hiro and Baymax, and its innovative blend of superhero and animated family film elements.

View Big Hero 6 on Disney+

6. Inside Out (2015)

Synopsis

“Inside Out” is a 2015 American animated coming-of-age film produced by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by Pete Docter, the film explores the emotional life of a young girl named Riley who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her family moves to San Francisco. The story uniquely portrays her emotional struggle through five personified emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—who reside in the control center of her mind, known as Headquarters. As Riley and her emotions try to adjust to the new life, they go on an inner journey of self-discovery and acceptance.

Notable Characters

  • Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler): Serving as the de facto leader of the emotions, Joy is effervescent and determined to keep Riley happy.
  • Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith): Contrasting Joy, Sadness often feels overlooked but plays a crucial role in Riley's ability to cope with the more challenging times.
  • Anger (voiced by Lewis Black): Quick to react and filled with fiery passion, Anger cares deeply about fairness for Riley.
  • Fear (voiced by Bill Hader): Cautious and constantly calculating risks, Fear helps keep Riley safe.
  • Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling): Ensures Riley stays away from bad social situations and broccoli.
  • Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias): An 11-year-old girl whose emotions are thrown into chaos due to her family's relocation.

Critical Reception

“Inside Out” received widespread critical acclaim for its innovative portrayal of the mind's complex workings, emotional depth, and stunning animation. It debuted at the 68th Cannes Film Festival and was lauded for its screenplay, vocal performances, and its intelligent and empathetic depiction of childhood emotions. The film grossed $858.8 million worldwide, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of 2015. It received numerous accolades, including an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and was named by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of the year. Critics and audiences praised the film for its creativity and its ability to appeal to both children and adults, making it a standout addition to the Pixar library.

View Inside Out on Disney+

7. Zootopia (2016)

Synopsis

“Zootopia” is a 2016 American animated comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Set in a modern mammalian city of the same name, the film follows Judy Hopps, a rookie bunny police officer, and Nick Wilde, a red fox con artist, as they work together to uncover a conspiracy. This buddy cop mystery explores significant themes such as prejudice, stereotyping, and inclusiveness, making it a profound social commentary wrapped in an engaging narrative.

Notable Characters

  • Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin): Judy is an ambitious and idealistic rabbit, the first of her kind to join the Zootopia Police Department.
  • Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman): A sly and witty fox who initially works as a con artist but later becomes Judy's partner in unraveling the conspiracy.
  • Chief Bogo (voiced by Idris Elba): The stern but fair buffalo who is the chief of the Zootopia Police Department.
  • Bellwether (voiced by Jenny Slate): The seemingly sweet assistant mayor who has a darker agenda.
  • Mayor Lionheart (voiced by J.K. Simmons): The noble lion who faces moral challenges and decisions that affect the entire city.
  • Mrs. Otterton (voiced by Octavia Spencer): An otter whose husband's disappearance plays a key role in the central mystery.
  • Duke Weaselton (voiced by Alan Tudyk): A small-time weasel crook who provides some of the film's comic relief.
  • Gazelle (voiced by Shakira): A famous pop star in Zootopia who advocates for peace and acceptance among all species.

Critical Reception

“Zootopia” received widespread critical acclaim, celebrated for its rich animation, compelling story, and well-developed characters. The film was a box office hit, grossing over $1 billion worldwide. It resonated with audiences and critics alike for its timely and thoughtful exploration of complex social issues. “Zootopia” was honored with numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Its approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes stands impressively high, further cementing its status as a significant cinematic achievement in animation.

View Zootopia on Disney+

8. Coco (2017)

Synopsis

“Coco” is a 2017 American animated fantasy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by Lee Unkrich and co-directed by Adrian Molina, the film is inspired by the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead. The story follows Miguel, a 12-year-old boy who, despite his family's generations-old ban on music, dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. After a series of events, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead where he embarks on an extraordinary journey to discover the true story behind his family's history and their musical legacy.

Notable Characters

  • Miguel Rivera: Voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, Miguel is a young boy who challenges his family's ban on music to pursue his dream of becoming a musician.
  • Héctor Rivera: Voiced by Gael García Bernal, Héctor is a charming trickster in the Land of the Dead who joins Miguel on his quest. He has his own poignant reasons for wanting to return to the Land of the Living.
  • Ernesto de la Cruz: Voiced by Benjamin Bratt, Ernesto is Miguel's musical idol and a famous singer in the Land of the Dead.
  • Imelda Rivera: Voiced by Alanna Ubach, Imelda is Miguel's great-great-grandmother who imposed the family's ban on music.
  • Dante: A stray Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican hairless dog) who is Miguel's loyal companion. Dante has his own journey of transformation in the Land of the Dead.
  • Pepita: An Alebrije who acts as a spiritual guide for Imelda, showcasing the film's vibrant depiction of Mexican folklore.

Critical Reception

“Coco” received widespread acclaim for its animation, voice acting, rich musical score, and vibrant portrayal of Mexican culture. The film grossed over $807 million worldwide, making it one of the highest-grossing films of 2017 and the highest-grossing film in the history of Mexican cinema. It won numerous awards, including two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Remember Me.” Critics praised the film for its emotional depth, cultural authenticity, and visually stunning animations. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an approval rating of 97% based on 359 reviews, reflecting its universal appeal and critical success.

View Coco on Disney+

9. Toy Story 4 (2019)

Synopsis

“Toy Story 4” is a 2019 American animated comedy-drama film, marking the fourth installment in Pixar's Toy Story series and a sequel to “Toy Story 3” (2010). Directed by Josh Cooley in his feature directorial debut, the screenplay was crafted by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom. The story, conceived alongside John Lasseter, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack, Valerie LaPointe, and Martin Hynes, follows Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the rest of the gang as they embark on a road trip with their new owner, Bonnie. During the trip, Bonnie creates a new toy from a spork named Forky. The adventure becomes even more intriguing when Woody reunites with his long-lost friend Bo Peep. As they face the challenges of the journey, Woody finds himself at a crossroads, pondering his deep loyalties and place in the world.

Notable Characters

  • Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks): The beloved cowboy doll faces a crisis of purpose, balancing loyalty to his new child, Bonnie, with his own desires for a different life.
  • Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen): Woody's best friend and a fellow toy, Buzz encounters his own challenges during the trip, including a stint as a carnival prize.
  • Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts): Having been separated from the group for years, Bo has transformed into an independent and adventurous character, which reignites her bond with Woody.
  • Forky (voiced by Tony Hale): A homemade toy from a spork, Forky experiences an existential crisis, unsure of his role as a toy.
  • Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks): A vintage doll with a defective voice box, who resides in an antique store, longing for attention and repair.
  • Duke Caboom (voiced by Keanu Reeves): A Canadian stuntman toy who struggles with his past failures but finds a new sense of purpose through Woody's encouragement.

Critical Reception

“Toy Story 4” was universally acclaimed, praised for its heartfelt story, humor, and the emotional depth that resonates with both children and adults. The film successfully expanded the franchise's narrative while maintaining the beloved charm of its characters. It grossed over $1.073 billion worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film in the Toy Story franchise. The accolades for “Toy Story 4” include an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and numerous other awards, reflecting its critical and commercial success. Critics highlighted the film's ability to address complex themes like identity and purpose with sensitivity and humor, making it a worthy continuation of the Toy Story saga.

View Toy Story 4 on Disney+

Conclusion

Reflecting on the cinematic journey through the 2010s, it's clear that Disney's array of films from this decade not only enchanted audiences with their storytelling and innovation but also paved the way for a new era of animated classics. From “Tangled” to “Toy Story 4,” each film discussed has contributed to the rich tapestry of Disney's history, highlighting the company's ability to blend traditional themes with cutting-edge animation and diverse narratives. These films, through their memorable characters and groundbreaking achievements, have left an indelible mark on the hearts of viewers young and old, demonstrating that Disney's magic remains as potent as ever.

The significance of these films extends beyond their entertainment value, showcasing Disney's commitment to exploring complex themes, pushing the boundaries of animation technology, and promoting inclusive stories that reflect the vibrant mosaic of our world. As we look back on the 2010s, it is evident that these Disney movies not only embodied the spirit of their times but also set new standards for what audiences can expect from animated storytelling. The legacy of this decade's Disney films will undoubtedly continue to inspire future generations, reminding us of the transformative power of cinema to captivate, challenge, and charm.

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