Disney has always ruled the “childhood favorites” category of movies and shows. But nowadays, when I’m looking for movies that remind me of the good old days, I end up gravitating more toward non-Disney animated films. And there’s a lot of them. So here are the movies that I still can’t get out of my head a couple of decades later.
‘The Land Before Time’
It’s been too many years since I last saw the first The Land Before Time movie. Regardless, I will never forget getting excited every time I saw it on TV or when my mom put it in the VCR player. It’s probably what started my obsession with pterodactyls and triceratops.
The Land Before Time was the first movie in the franchise. It’s also the only movie in the franchise that wasn’t a musical. Littlefoot meets four other dinosaurs, and they look for a new home together with the help of Littlefoot’s mother’s spirit.
‘Quest for Camelot’
Excalibur, King Arthur’s famed sword, is lost. And now is the perfect time for Kayley to achieve her dream of being a Knight of the Round Table. She embarks on the quest with a two-headed dragon, a blind man named Garrett (voiced by Cary Elwes), and Ayden (Merlin’s pet falcon).
I barely remember this movie, but looking back on it, I get that warm feeling. While it wasn’t one I watched as often as the others, I think if I watched it again at this time in my life, I’d still love it as much as the others. Just listening to the songs again can take me back to childhood for a few minutes.
‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’
Ever since I first saw this movie, I’ve had dreams of riding a broomstick with a black cat. Sadly, that will never happen, but a girl can dream. Kiki had such a fun personality that no matter how old you get, you’ll love her just as much as your favorite Disney characters.
In Kiki’s Delivery Service, Kiki leaves home at thirteen to find her place in the world. She starts working for Osono at her bakery and uses her flying to deliver for the woman. After spending a lot of her time working, she starts to realize she isn’t being true to herself. Once she finds herself again, she finds herself happy again.
‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’
I remember watching All Dogs Go to Heaven weekly for a good two months before my mom hid the movie from me. I just couldn’t get enough of the talking dogs and the beautiful relationship between a dog and a little girl. Nowadays, I can barely get through it without crying a little bit.
The movie follows Charlie B. Barkin coming to terms with being dead and learning forgiveness and kindness. He originally left Heaven to get revenge on the dog who killed him but instead bonds with Anne-Marie, an orphan. The sequels aren’t as nostalgic, but they’re also a good watch.
Spirited Away follows Chihiro as she tries to get her parents turned back into humans after they were turned into pigs. Chihiro works with Kami (Japanese Shinto spirits) while trying to get back to the human world. We meet a colorful group of characters from Haku to No-Face.
Studio Ghibli made so many movies that I grew up loving. Spirited Away was such an interesting story that I hadn’t seen before. And the characters were all so well thought-out that I couldn’t imagine the movie being great without them.
‘The Road to El Dorado’
I hadn’t watched this movie in a good 10 years before rediscovering it again in college. Since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Even the song “It’s Tough to Be a God” has blown up again recently on TikTok (and the videos that accompany it are always hilarious).
The Road to El Dorado may have bombed at the box office when it premiered, but I think it would have been huge like Frozen if it came out today. The movie tells the story of Miguel and Tulio finding El Dorado and mistaken as the prophesied gods. It’s a fun musical that will keep you laughing.
‘Howl’s Moving Castle’
I think Howl’s Moving Castle has one of my favorite love stories of all time. Even more, as I’ve grown up, I’ve loved rediscovering it and theories about what the symbolism in the movie means. I want to thank TikTok yet again for helping me rediscover my love of this movie.
Howl’s Moving Castle perfectly blends magic and technology to create a unique fantasy world that we don’t see enough of. Sophie is sucked into a war when she seeks help to break a curse. While on the search, she inevitably breaks her curse and saves her new friends and the warring kingdoms.
I know this isn’t technically an animated movie, but it has quite a few animated scenes that I had to include it. This movie may be older than me, but it will always be timeless. The flying bed was one of the scenes that has stayed with me, even when I forgot this movie existed.
While trapped in a library, a young boy fights his way out when the stories in the books around him start coming to life. Macauley Culkin plays the young boy. We meet a star-studded cast of eccentric characters from Adventure to the Pagemaster himself.
‘Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron’
This movie follows Spirit as he is captured, and then recaptured after a brief escape, by the United States Cavalry. He bonds with Little Creek, a Lakota Native American who is also caught by the calvary. The many different close encounters and escapes kept me on the edge of my seat as a kid.
Since the reboot of this franchise from Netflix, I’ve gotten back into my love for Spirit. And though my cousin is more obsessed with it still, I do think it’s a fantastic story that will touch hearts for decades to come. It truly is a timeless tale.
‘The Swan Princess’
This is by far my favorite princess movie of all time. There were quite a few sequels to Odette and Derek’s love story, but the first film will always hold my heart. I even listen to “This Is My Idea” and “Far Longer Than Forever” in the car still.
The Swan Princess starts with Odette and Derek meeting for the first time, and then “This Is My Idea” shows them age into adults. After rebuffing Derek, Odette is turned into a swan. Derek and Odette break the curse and live happily ever after. At least until the sequels happened.
Read More: 9 Best Non-Princess Disney Heroines
‘Barbie in the Nutcracker’
As a kid, I was obsessed with ballet even though I wasn’t too good at it. I have to blame Barbie for that since I had Barbie in the Nutcracker and Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses were on almost every day when I was growing up.
I may have listed Barbie in the Nutcracker as one of the most nostalgic films for me, but to be completely honest, most of her movies give me a warm feeling inside. Everything before Barbie and the Diamond Castle is what I grew up with, and I’m so happy I got to introduce my nieces to the movies.
This Barbie movie took The Nutcracker ballet and added a twist to it. Instead of Clara and the Nutcracker finding the Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara turns out to be her. Most of the movie follows the same story as the ballet, but the added dialogue really helped keep my attention as a toddler.
This movie has had me entranced for decades. I still sing along to the songs whenever I watch Thumbelina. And again, nostalgic movies are taking over TikTok, and I have seen quite a few Thumbelina cosplays popping up. I just hope Thumbelina keeps getting the recognition it deserves because it’s just as good, if not better, than some Disney films.
Thumbelina follows the titular character on her adventures, from meeting a family of toads that want to marry her, escaping and meeting new friends, and finally making her way to her fairy prince. The movie was terrific, so I was shocked to find out that it bombed at the box office and had bad reviews. Thumbelina is so iconic that I couldn’t imagine life without it.
‘FernGully: The Last Rainforest’
FernGully tells the story of fairy Chrysta after she shrinks Zak, a logger, to her size. The two of them get their friends and other rainforest folks to help save their home from pollution, Hexxus, and other loggers. And if that hasn’t caught your attention, Robin Williams plays a funny bat.
To be honest, I watched this once as a kid. However, it stuck with me for years. When I rediscovered it last year, I couldn’t believe I had forgotten it even existed. I also forgot it was a musical, which seems like a tragedy because if I had remembered, I would have bought the movie to watch over and over.
Speaking of watching movies over and over, I watch Anastasia at least once a month since it was put on Disney+. I even watched it twice in a week while I was painting a room because I just wanted to keep listening to the songs since I can’t find my favorite anywhere except YouTube.
Anastasia is the fictitious tale of the missing Romanov princess, who goes by Anya for most of the movie. She makes her way to Paris with Dimitri and Vladimir, none knowing that she is actually the missing girl they’ve been looking for. In addition, there’s also a funny bat in this movie too.