17 Disney Live-Action Remakes Every Fan Needs to See at Least Once
We're rounding up the best Disney live-action remakes you can watch now—plus two to look out for later this year
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Disney Animation Studios launched in 1937 with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and it’s released 60 animated movies since. And here’s some Disney trivia for you: Each one can take anywhere from four to seven years to complete. But while the studio may be known for animated Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and memorable Disney couples like Belle and Beast, it has been capitalizing on the success of classics with Disney live-action remakes.
Despite the usually mixed bag of reviews, live-action adaptations of animated classics have (mostly) turned out to be massive money-makers for the studio, which explains why you’re seeing so many of them—and why there are at least 10 new Disney live-action remakes in the pipeline. Fans have no doubt heard about the highly anticipated remake of The Little Mermaid. Other classics rumored to be getting the live-action treatment in the upcoming years include Snow White, Hercules, The Sword in the Stone (with a screenplay by Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman), an Aladdin sequel and Lilo and Stitch, among many others.
With Disney celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year, there’s no better time to cue up the live-action remake of your favorite Disney flicks. Below, we have the details on two must-see films set to release in 2023, plus more than a dozen other Disney live-action remakes to watch now while you wait for the new movies to come out.
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1. The Little Mermaid (2023)
Fans are waiting with bated breath for the Disney live-action remake of The Little Mermaid—and not just because the 1989 film remains a favorite. The casting of pop star Halle Bailey as Ariel has inspired countless young girls across the country, who are thrilled to see a Black actress land the role of a Disney princess. (Yes, Ariel starts off as a mermaid, but she gets her royal man in the end!) The rest of the cast looks just as promising: Melissa McCarthy as Ursula the sea witch, Javier Bardem as King Tritan, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian the crab and Awkwafina as Ariel’s seagull pal Scuttle.
You’ll need to press play on the original for now, though. This one won’t hit theaters until May 2023. (Or maybe busy yourself with inspiring Walt Disney quotes in the meantime.)
2. Peter Pan & Wendy (2023)
The 1953 Disney movie, based on British playwright J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play Peter Pan, was a massive hit for the studio. So it only makes sense that Disney is releasing a remake later this year. And while this isn’t the only live-action film to tell the tale of the “boy who wouldn’t grow up”—there was 1991’s Hook and 2004’s Finding Neverland, for instance—it’s the first from Disney.
The 2023 flick stars Milla Jovovich’s daughter Ever Anderson as Wendy Darling, Alexander Moloney as Pan, Jude Law as Captain Hook, Yara Shahidi as Tinker Bell and Jim Gaffigan as Smee. Expect a story that follows the arc of the animated original and stunning visuals of Neverland. You won’t even have to leave the house to catch this remake; it’s set to release on Disney+.
3. Aladdin (2019)
Robin Williams’s genie stole the show in the 1994 animated version of Aladdin, making audiences both excited and apprehensive about the 2019 Disney live-action remake. Sure, some fans complained that Will Smith’s take on the genie could never compare to Williams’s masterful portrayal in the ’90s movie, but others strongly disagree.
This remake was an enormous hit for Disney, earning more than $1 billion at the box office. And producer Dan Lin credits Will Smith’s genie to much of its success. “It was really fresh, and he brought his hip-hop spin to it,” Lin told Cinemablend. The rest of the cast included newcomers Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, plus former Saturday Night Live star Nasim Pedrad. Keep an eye out for the sequel, which is still in the works, Massoud told Variety.
4. Beauty and the Beast (2017)
The live-action remake of this ’90s musical classic was a total juggernaut for Disney. When it was released in March 2017, it took in $170 million at the box office domestically in just the first weekend, making it the highest-grossing March weekend release in history. The film stars Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as Beast, and it had an amazing supporting cast, including Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Josh Gad as LeFou, Luke Evans as Gaston and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts.
Music lovers are going to want to see this remake: Broadway superstar Audra McDonald, who voiced the wardrobe, had a new aria penned just for her. And the film introduced another two new Disney songs. The movie also became the first Disney production to have a subtle gay subplot—Gad’s LeFou has an obvious crush on best pal Gaston—which caused some controversy at the time.
5. Cinderella (2015)
Lily James is captivating in the role of Cinderella, the poor parlor maid whose royal dreams come true in this Disney live-action remake, which barely strayed from the plot of the original 1950 animated film. Cate Blanchett shines as the evil stepmother, Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) is appropriately swoon-worthy as the crown prince and Helena Bonham Carter is fantastic as the fairy godmother.
The film, directed by Kenneth Branagh, was another certified hit for the studio, bringing in more than $545 million worldwide. And here’s a fun Disney secret: Emma Watson had been the first choice for the role of Cinderella but couldn’t make the schedule work. Other actresses the filmmakers considered included Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan and Alicia Vikander.
6. The Jungle Book (2016)
This adventure film (directed by Jon Favreau, best known for his action-packed Marvel delights) was a CGI wonder. Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a boy raised by animals in the jungle, is one of the few human characters; the rest of the cast were mostly motion-capture and computer-animated versions of his animal friends and enemies. (Voice actors included Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o and Scarlett Johansson.)
It wasn’t an exact remake of the 1967 film, though. The script also borrowed from Rudyard Kipling’s original 1894 book. It went on to gross $966 million worldwide and won tons of award nominations for its achievements in visual effects. A sequel is currently in the works, with Favreau signed on to direct.
7. Pinocchio (2022)
It may star one of the biggest A-listers in the world (Tom Hanks), but the live-action Disney+ release of Pinocchio, which hit the streaming site in September, has mostly been a disappointment, with critics claiming it lacks the joy and charm of the 1940 original. Still, plenty of people tuned in—it was the sixth most widely watched program across all platforms for the week of Sept. 11, 2022. Benjamin Evan Ainsworth played the titular role of the puppet who turns into a real little boy, with Luke Evans, Cynthia Erivo, Keegan-Michael Key and Lorraine Bracco rounding out the rest of the voice actors.
If you’re craving a richer reimagining of the tale, though, head over to Netflix. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, which released around the same time, has won critical acclaim and made our list of the best Netflix movies of 2022.
8. Maleficent (2014)
So maybe she’s not all bad? This 2014 film tells the origin story of the antagonist from the 1959 Disney hit Sleeping Beauty. Angelina Jolie plays the evil fairy Maleficent, but in this version, she ends up bonding with young Aurora (played by Elle Fanning), whom she’d originally cursed to die on her 16th birthday.
Just as in the first movie, only true love’s kiss can wake Sleeping Beauty. But when Aurora’s suitor fails to revive her, it’s the gentle, maternal kiss from Maleficent that does the trick—a twist on the classic that makes this one of the greatest Disney live-action remakes. The movie was a huge hit (and Jolie’s highest-grossing film ever), bringing in $758 million worldwide. A less successful sequel (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) was released in 2019.
9. Mulan (2020)
Fans were eagerly awaiting this live-action remake, but it ended up being a big bust for the studio, in part due to terrible timing. It was supposed to have its theatrical release in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the world’s public spaces. The studio ended up releasing it on Disney+ for a premium fee of $20 in September 2020, and the box office only grossed $70 million. That may sound like a lot, but consider this for perspective: It had a production budget of $200 million!
Beyond that, the film faced plenty of problems prior to the pandemic. The public criticized Disney for hiring a non-Asian director and a production team consisting mostly of people of non-Asian descent. Filming also took place in Xinjiang in China, an area that has been criticized for the Uyghur genocide.
10. Dumbo (2019)
This Tim Burton–directed live-action remake starring Danny Devito, Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell and Nico Parker received majorly mixed reviews. Plenty of people thought it was fun and visually stunning, but critics complained it lacked emotional depth. Unlike, for instance, the full-of-heart 1941 version (which was Disney’s fourth-ever release, after Pinocchio, Fantasia and Cinderella).
The 2019 remake strays from the animated original, following the owners of a failing circus that’s saved by their prized act, a big-eared baby elephant that can fly. (The most notable difference: The animals don’t speak.) It was considered a box office flop after it brought in only $353 million against a $170 million budget. Still, fans of the classic may want to watch for the gorgeous visuals and lovable elephant.
11. 101 Dalmatians (1996)
Glenn Close is wickedly funny as the over-the-top villain of this late ’90s remake. She steps into the stilettos of scheming, smoking dognapping Cruella de Vil. As in the 1960s animated film, she’s out to turn the precious puppies into a fur coat. It was a box office success and remains a fun watch, especially if you have kids. Close even earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
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12. 102 Dalmatians (2000)
Glenn Close reprises her role as Cruella de Vil in this sequel that tried to capture the magic of the first film, which had been a box-office success. Unfortunately, this one was pretty much a flop, both commercially and critically.
The plot follows de Vil as she attempts to restore her reputation by buying a dog shelter. But her devious side resurfaces, and she attempts to once again steal puppies to make an elaborate fur coat.
13. Cruella (2021)
This crime caper dramedy starring Emma Stone as Cruella de Vil is the third live-action remake of the Disney animated classic 101 Dalmatians. Despite earning only $233 million at the box office, it was considered a success because it was simultaneously released on Disney+. But its theatrical release was even more noteworthy: In May 2021, it became the first major movie to have a red-carpet event since the COVID-19 pandemic started. And it was the first movie many people had seen in a theater in well over a year.
This one got some award nods too: It won an Oscar for Best Costume Design (no wonder it was one of the most popular Disney Halloween costumes of the year). And like Glenn Close, who played Cruella de Vil more than two decades before her, Stone received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of the villain everyone loves to hate.
14. The Lion King (2019)
Disney once again tapped beloved director Jon Favreau to helm this live-action remake, though the term “live-action” is a bit of a stretch. It was actually a “photorealistic computer-animated” film and didn’t star a single human actor. The plot didn’t stray one bit from the 1994 musical movie, which pleased fans but also left some scratching their heads as to why they’d made it at all.
Still, the voice-acting cast was stellar—Donald Glover, Beyonce, Seth Rogan and Chiwetel Ejiofor included—and the film ended up bringing in $1.6 billion worldwide, making it the No. 1 “animated” film of all time, even surpassing Frozen. And there’s no shortage of great Disney quotes to share with the family.
A sequel titled Mufasa: The Lion King is in the works and will follow the origin story of Simba’s father.
15. Lady and the Tramp (2019)
This hybrid live-action/CGI remake, starring Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux as the lead voice actors, was the very first title created specifically for the Disney+ streaming service. While there are no box office numbers, it received a mixed bag of reviews, with critics enjoying the acting and chemistry between Thompson and Theroux but also pointing out that it’s a bit slow.
The 1955 original animated film—based on a short story, “Happy Dan, the Cynical Dog,” which ran in Cosmopolitan—received similar reviews but is now considered a Disney classic. In fact, the film inspired Disney dog names like Lady and Tramp.
16. Christopher Robin (2018)
Ewan McGregor steps into the shoes of Christopher Robin, the little boy who grew up in the Hundred Acre Wood with animal pals Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Roo, Kanga, Eeyore, Owl and Rabbit. But in this version, Robin is all grown up and working a busy job in London, having forgotten about his friends from home—until he receives a surprise visit from Pooh. With the help of his old gang, he learns that family and friendships are far more important than things like being busy and making money. It received favorable reviews, and the film grossed more than $197 million worldwide, which made it the highest-grossing film in the Winnie-the-Pooh franchise.
17. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
In the mid-2000s, Disney went down the rabbit hole again, revisiting its 1951 animated classic, Alice in Wonderland. Like the original, the remake sticks closely to the plot of Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Follow Alice (Mia Wasikowska) as she chases the white rabbit (Michael Sheen) and meets a cast of eccentric characters, including the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter). With Tim Burton at the helm, you know the visuals will be a trip. The film was an overwhelming success, grossing more than $1 billion worldwide.
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