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From 'The Lion King' to 'Pinocchio': Disney's Live-Action Remakes, Ranked


| LAST UPDATE 05/08/2023

By Malikah Mcintosh

There truly is nothing like the magic of a classic Disney movie. From Aladdin to The Lion King, here's a ranking of the live-action adaptations that landed on top, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

20. Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

In the sequel to the popular live-action remake Alice in Wonderland, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is back in Wonderland and travels through time to understand what is happening with her friend, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp).

Alice Looking Glass Depp WasikowskaAlice Looking Glass Depp Wasikowska
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The film received a shocking 29% on the Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer, leaving it in 20th place. Vox wrote about the sequel, "One of the more unnecessary sequels in an age of unnecessary sequels." Ouch! That review burns. What Disney movie is up next? 

19. Pinocchio (2022)

Academy Award-winning director Robert Zemeckis was behind the live-action remake of Pinocchio. The story follows a wooden puppet who goes on the adventure of a lifetime to become a real boy. The film also received a 29% on the Tomatometer.

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Walt Disney Studios via YouTube

Despite its low Tomatometer score, the film was filled with a star-studded cast, including Tom Hanks, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cynthia Erivo, and Keegan-Michael Key. The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore wrote, "A well-intentioned work that largely falls flat..."

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18. 102 Dalmatians (2000)

Before Disney began to turn their movies into CGI spectacles, Glenn Close starred as Cruella De Vil in fun live-action renditions of 101 Dalmatians. The sequel, 102 Dalmations, earned 31% on the Tomatometer. The sequel follows Cruella De Vil after she's released from prison on account of good behavior, but the trouble is a bark away.

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De Vil is plotting another scheme to get her hands on a Dalmatian coat. The sequel was not as well-received as its predecessor. Nancy Churnin from the Dallas Morning News said, "This film is nothing but dessert. But what a fun and festive dessert it is."

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17. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

Angelina Jolie stars as Maleficent, the evil fairy who was famously the antagonist in the 1959 animated feature Sleeping Beauty. Fast forward to now, and the live-action remakes are looking at the perspective of Maleficent. They are retelling the story everybody knows from a different point of view. 

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The sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, received 39% on the Tomatometer. The follow-up film follows Maleficent as she goes to Aurora's wedding to Prince Phillip. Maleficent ends up in a war against Queen Ingrith, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who wants to destroy the faeries. 

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16. 101 Dalmatians (1996)

The dogs are back for action in this remake of the 1961 animated classic 101 Dalmatians. Glenn Close starred as Cruella De Vil. Jeff Daniels played Roger Darling, and Joely Richardson portrayed Anita Darling. The two are on a mission to retrieve their dogs, Pongo and Perdita, when Cruella De Vil's evil goons capture them. 

101 Dalmatians Live Action101 Dalmatians Live Action
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The family fun adventure film received a 41% on the Tomatometer - a ten percent difference from its sequel. Newsweek wrote about the movie, " of the original may feel that its wit and charm have been diminished...Cute and broad, this re-make's OK. What I miss--what I'd hoped for--was a tad more sophistication."

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15. Dumbo (2019)

Coming in at the 15th spot is the live-action and CGI remake of Dumbo. Director Tim Burton was behind this film that took audiences on a roaring adventure. The film received a 45% on the Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer. The remake updated the classic story, not only with CGI but also with the plot. 

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In the remake, the story follows a traveling circus. When the owner discovers the baby elephant Dumbo can fly, Dumbo becomes the main attraction. However, the press also attracts an entrepreneur with bigger things in mind for the elephant. The film features stars like Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton, and Eva Green.

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14. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Director Tim Burton was also behind this wacky remake of Lewis Carroll's book, Alice in Wonderland. Set years after a young Alice first visits Wonderland, she is celebrating her engagement when she notices a white rabbit. She falls down the rabbit hole and ends up back in Wonderland.

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Now Alice learns her destiny that she is meant to end the terrible Red Queen's reign with the help of familiar faces like the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and others. The film received a 51% on the Tomatometer. We're curious about what film could be in the number one place!

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13. The Lion King (2019)

Next up with 52% on the Tomatometer is the CGI remake of The Lion King. The film redefined what can be considered live-action and was a magnificent spectacle. The story is told with the same plot as its original and brings back some original cast members, most notably James Earl Jones as Mufasa. 

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While the Jon Favreau-directed movie was visually pleasing, many critics were less than impressed with the retelling of a favorite. Rolling Stone wrote, "Everything money can buy... has been poured into this photo-realistic retake on The Lion King. What's missing is heart, soul, daring and the faintest hint of originality."

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12. Maleficent (2014)

Maleficent gives the animated feature Sleeping Beauty a bit of a face-lift. The movie tells the story of a young fairy who is betrayed by her lover and becomes hell-bent on revenge against the king. Maleficent curses his daughter, only to later realize that she may be the answer to saving her kingdom. 

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While some critics loved the interpretation and others thought it was something to be desired, everyone could agree that Angelina Jolie did a fabulous job as the antagonist turned protagonist. The film received a 54% on the Tomatometer and earned itself a sequel, which also has a spot on this list. 

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11. Aladdin (2019)

Aladdin is back in this live-action remake of the original animated 1992 classic. In the newest Aladdin, Will Smith starred as the Genie, and Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie was behind the helm. The film made over $1 billion worldwide and received a 57% on the Tomatometer. 

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Will Smith via YouTube

Refinery29 wrote about the updated version, "Kids who are unfamiliar with the animated classic will most likely find it magical, and even adults will surely be charmed. It is a version of Aladdin, after all." Let's take a magic carpet ride and see who else is on the list. 

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10. Lady and the Tramp (2019)

In this retelling of the 1955 animated classic, Lady and Tramp embark on an adventure of a lifetime and become closer as they do. Tessa Thompson voiced the cocker spaniel housedog, Lady, and Justin Theroux voiced the fast-talking and lovable stray, Tramp. 

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Walt Disney Studios via YouTube

The Charlie Bean-directed film received a 66% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. The Guardian wrote, "Lady and the Tramp works well enough on its own simple terms as watchable, competently made home viewing." Don't worry, the meatballs and spaghetti look just as good in CGI as they do in 2-D animation. 

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9. Peter Pan & Wendy (2023)

This live-action remake has been told over and over again, yet it always remains a favorite. Breaking the top ten is the latest rendition of the classic J.M. Barrie tale Peter Pan & Wendy. This updated remake earned 65% on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer. 

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Disney UK via YouTube

CNN wrote, "Peter Pan & Wendy isn't a complete failure, but nor does this return to Neverland pass that test; rather, it's another case of a Disney production that -- unlike the beloved and venerable story that inspired it -- never truly takes flight." Maybe this film could have used a bit of magic pixie dust. 

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8. Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Emma Watson, famous for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, tooks on the iconic role of Belle in this live-action remake of the tale as old as time. In Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast, the Beast, played by Dan Stevens, is a CGI figure who keeps a young Belle hostage in his castle.

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Belle befriends the castle's characters and learns to see past the Beast's rough exterior. The classic retelling received 71% on the Tomatometer. USA Today wrote, "Beauty and the Beast marries visual spectacle and sumptuous design work with a better story than its original, casting a spell on old fans and newcomers alike."

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7. Christopher Robin (2018)

In this live-action version of a Disney classic, Christopher Robin now has a family and works in London. When he receives a surprise visit from an old friend, Winnie-the-Pooh, Robin must help his old pal find his friends from the Hundred Acre Woods, and he learns a thing or two along the way.

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Walt Disney Studios via YouTube

The film earned 72% on the Tomatometer. The Los Angeles Times shared, "The lessons Christopher must learn -- don't work too hard, hold your most cherished memories close, love your family and friends above all else -- are nothing if not obvious. And, much like Pooh himself, always worth revisiting." 

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6. Mulan (2020)

This updated live-action version of the animated classic serves up a familiar story with a modern take. Mulan earned 72% on the Tomatometer. While parts of the animated original are removed, like Eddie Murphy's hilarious sidekick Mushu and the musical numbers, the essence of the story is still there.

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Mulan disguises herself as a man and serves in the Imperial army to keep her ailing father safe and at home. Here's what Empire Magazine had to say, "Niki Caro's boldly reimagined, battle-laden saga belies its Disney status and spotlights the multifaceted star power of Liu Yifei. The result is a live-action remake done right."

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5. Cruella (2021)

This live-action remake follows a different set of pawprints than its other predecessors. Unlike the Glenn Close Cruella, Emma Stone's version dives into the origin story of the infamous Disney villain. Earning 75% on the Tomatometer, this story is certainly barking up the right tree. 

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Critics can't help but wag their tails for this remake. USA Today wrote, "With a wickedly impressive fashion sense, an electric retro soundtrack and its sinfully entertaining title character, Cruella is the coolest Disney film in forever." We're pawing closer to the top of the list. 

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4. Ruyard Kipling's the Jungle Book (1994)

The 1994 live-action remake of the 1967 animated film was swinging above all the rest. Years before remaking Disney movies was cool, this Stephen Sommers-directed film did it first. The story follows Mowgli, played by Jason Scott Lee, who grows up in the jungle when his father is killed.

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However, things go awry when he is reunited with a childhood friend, Kitty, played by Lena Headey, and attempts to reintegrate into human civilization. The action-adventure film earned 80% on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer. Without question, this movie is a jungle VIP. 

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3. Cinderella (2015)

Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo! Coming in the #3 spot is the retelling of the Disney classic Cinderella. A young girl Ella, played by Lily James, is at the mercy of her evil stepmother and stepsisters when her father passes away. Ever determined, she hopes to reunite with a man she met in the woods.

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This live-action remake earned 83% on the Tomatometer. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, "Directed by Kenneth Branagh with a sprinkling of stardust, dashes of good humor, and a respect for the corniest kinds of romance, Cinderella is a winning re-do of Disney's 1950 animated classic."

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2. Pete's Dragon (2016)

Taking the second-highest spot on the list with 88% on the Tomatometer is Pete's Dragon. Despite not being a musical, this live-action retelling is just as magical as the 1977 animated version. The cast includes Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard, and young newcomer Oakes Fegley.

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The New York Post shared, "A cinematic enchantment, a low-key 1970s-style kids' movie brimming with sincerity and heart. It's one of the best films of the year." The film follows Grace, played by Howard, as she tries to find a dragon hidden within the woods. So, what movie claims the top spot? Keep reading to find out!

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1. The Jungle Book (2016)

There's nothing to worry about besides the bare necessities for this movie. The Jon Favreau-directed remake combined CGI and actors for an adventure into the jungle. Neel Sethi starred as Mowgli, a boy who wolves raised since birth. When a fearsome tiger, voiced by Idris Elba, threatens him, he must abandon his home.

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Accompanied by a straightforward panther, voiced by Ben Kingsley, and a lovable bear, voiced by Bill Murray, Mowgli goes on a journey of self-discovery. The beloved retelling earned an impressive 94% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Visually stunning and entirely engaging."

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Coming Up Next

Disney is experiencing a major winning streak with the live-action remakes of their most classic films. Adults love an opportunity to revisit their childhood favorites, and kids are able to discover these movies for the first time in an entirely different way.

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This means we'll be seeing more and more live-action retellings of our favorite characters. With multiple projects coming down the pipeline, you won't have to wait long to see some of your favorite Disney characters on the big screen again. But the question is, what Disney movie are they remaking next?

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The Little Mermaid

Did you ever want to be part of the world of Ariel and her friends? In May 2023, The Little Mermaid will be part of our world again with the live-action and CGI remake of the animated film. Halle Bailey stars as Ariel, a curious mermaid who wants to know about the world above the sea. 

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She makes a deal with the sorceress Ursula, played by Melissa McCarthy, exchanging her beautiful singing voice for a set of human legs to find Prince Eric, played by Jonah Hauer-King. Into the Woods director, Rob Marshall is now taking audiences under the sea in the latest Disney adventure to get the live-action treatment. 

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Back to the Beginning

Ariel isn't the only Disney princess who is getting a live-action makeover. Disney announced back in 2016 that Snow White would also receive a live-action adaptation. Up-and-coming actress Rachel Zegler was cast as Snow White, while Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot will take on the Evil Queen role.

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While footage from the film was shown at the D23 expo back in 2022, no trailer has been released for Snow White. The movie is set to release in theaters sometime in 2024. This adaptation takes Disney back to its original roots, with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves being the first feature-length film the artist came out with. 

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Simba's Return

Returning to the Pride Lands is the upcoming feature-length live-action Mufasa: The Lion King. While not a ton of information has been released to the public, we do know some major details. Now as King of Pride Rock, Simba retraces the paw prints of his late father while teaching his cub about life and ruling. 

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Walt Disney Studios via YouTube

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins will take over the directing reins from Jon Favreau, and some cast members from the first remake will be returning, like Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon. The movie is set for a summer 2024 release, and we just can't wait to be king. We mean, watch The Lion King

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In the Works

With many films already in the Disney Vault, there are many options for reimaginings of their classic stories. While the movies we mentioned are coming up in the near future, they are many other live-action remakes that are currently in the works. So, what other movies are in line to get live-action adaptations?

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Lilo & Stitch is one animated classic getting a live-action remake. Little has been announced about the film and when it'll be released, but we do know that Maia Kealoha and Zach Galifianakis are attached to the movie. Other Disney films that will be remade include The Hunchback of Notre Dame,  Hercules, and Bambi

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The Beginning of Disney

It is hard to imagine a world without Walt Disney, but there was a time when no one even knew who he was! Walt Disney was born in 1901, and he developed a love for the arts from a young age. In high school, Disney became a cartoonist for the school newspaper.

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Then, in 1921, Disney created the first six "Laugh-O-Grams," which helped him launch his Laugh-O-Gram Studio. The cartoons were modernized takes on fairytales. Sound familiar to anyone? Unfortunately, though, Disney's Laugh-O-Gram Studio went bankrupt.

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His First Short Film

While Disney still had the Laugh-O-Gram Studio, he started a project titled Alice's Wonderland. The short film was Disney's first and was 12 minutes long. It may not have been enough to save his company, but another film distributor needed new material, and she gave Disney a call.

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At this point, Disney had moved to Los Angeles to be closer to his brother, Roy. He signed a contract to make six Alice comedies, and the two brothers formed their company, the Disney Brothers Studio. They started working and building the brand that we know today. 

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Taking Risks

It was time to take a considerable risk. Disney informed his animators that they would make a feature-length animated movie. It took the team three years to complete the project. They went 400% over the budget, and over 300 people were working on Disney's first animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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Other people in the industry nicknamed this "Disney's Folly." There was a big chance that this film would have sent Disney bankrupt once again, but luckily, he wouldn't have to worry about that at this point. Snow White was an immediate success when it was released in theaters. 

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From Animated To Live-Action

Disney began his empire by creating whimsical animations that captured the hearts of children and adults. It's been decades since Walt released his first Laugh-O-Gram, yet the magic of Disney continues to inspire audiences everywhere. Since his first animated feature, much has grown and changed over the years.

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Nowadays, there are Disney theme parks worldwide for kids to meet their favorite characters in person. There are many princesses to accompany Snow White, and stories are made from different types of animation. We have come full circle as the animated films that made Disney famous are being turned into live-action movies.

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Disney's Legacy

Walt Disney's legacy has become even bigger than just a few films. His works have inspired many and continue to enchant young audiences as they get introduced to Snow White, Mowgli, Belle, Simba, and many more for the very first time. Adults who grew up on his films are now revisiting their favorites in new ways.

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We can't wait to see what other live-action movies are in store. The best part about all these adaptations is now we'll have multiple ways to enjoy seeing our favorite Disney characters on screen. What movie do you want to see Disney make into a live-action film next? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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