Disney has been a leader in the animation industry for nearly a century, creating countless beloved classics that have entertained audiences of all ages. With its impressive track record of success, it’s no surprise that the company has made animated movies that have become massive box office hits.

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This beloved animation studio has produced timeless classics that are sure to stand the test of time. Whether it’s an original or a sequel, each adventure tells a tale that has a deeper meaning and an amazing cast to bring it to life. From Frozen 2 to Inside Out, Disney has brought to life a vast array of unforgettable characters and stories.

Updated on September 28, 2023, by Ryan Heffernan:

Disney has been at the pinnacle of animated filmmaking for decades, dating as far back as the 1940s with films like Dumbo while modern hits like the Frozen movies are among the top-grossing Disney movies, with each one making over $1 billion. With Wish hitting theaters on November 22, the studio’s long-standing success in the realm of animated cinema is set to continue.

15 ‘Big Hero 6’ (2014)

Inflatable robot Baymax stands in a testing facility next to a soccer ball.
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 

Box Office: $657 million

Loosely based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, Big Hero 6 excelled as a marriage of superhero spectacle and Disney’s animated charm. It follows the relationship that blossoms between Hiro (Ryan Potter), a young robotics engineer grieving his brother’s death, and his late brother’s healthcare provider robot, Baymax (Scott Adsit).

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Hiro, along with Baymax and his close friends, forms a superhero squad using their wits to create super suits as they combat the masked villain who caused Hiro’s brother’s death. In addition to making $657 million at the box office, it has also proven to be a lasting hit for Disney.

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14 ‘Moana’ (2016)

Moana on the sea
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $687 million

Meshing adventure excitement and enjoyable musical numbers with Polynesian mythology, Moanaexcelled as a fresh and vibrant animated film from Disney when it was released in 2016. Set in ancient Polynesia, it follows the young daughter of a tribal chief as she ventures out to sea to reunite a powerful relic with the goddess Te Fiti to stave off a curse that is impacting her people.

On her journey, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is joined by the temperamental trickster Demigod who incurred the goddess’ wrath, and her pet rooster. Bringing the notion of the traditional Disney princess into the modern age, Moana was an empowering and fun-loving success that dominated the market as one of Disney’s best films released this century.

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13 ‘Up’ (2009)

Carl and Ellie in 'Up' (2009)
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $735 million

As one of Disney’s most beautiful and universally admired films, it is quite surprising that Up doesn’t rank inside the studio’s ten highest-grossing animated movies, but it was still an almighty success. It follows an old widower who ties balloons to his house to fly to his wife’s dream destination of Paradise Falls, inadvertently taking a young stowaway with him.

The hit film became an instant sensation thanks to Up‘s devastating yet tender opening sequence depicting the history Carl’s (Edward Asner) relationship with his wife. The gorgeous movie was made on a substantial budget of $175,000 but went on to earn $735 million at the worldwide box office.

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12 ‘Monsters University’ (2013)

Mike Wazowski arriving for college in Monsters University
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $743 million

Presenting fans of Monsters Inc. the opportunity to return to that film’s imaginative monstrous world, Monsters University became a crowd-pleasing success for Disney animation. The prequel follows aspiring Scarer Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) as he enrolls in Monster University and befriends Sully (John Goodman).

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The film’s biggest strength was its accessibility, with its appeal spanning from little kids to adults who had enjoyed the first Monsters Inc. movie when they were children. It went on to make over $743 million at the international box office.

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11 ‘Coco’ (2017)

Miguel plays the guitar and sings
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $814 million

Coco manages to be one of Disney’s most acclaimed and successful animated films while being a criminally underrated masterpiece as well. It follows a young boy who defied his family’s ban on music and pursues his passion, venturing into the Land of the Dead in the process where he learns his great-great-grandfather was a renowned singer.

The film was rich with everything that Disney does extraordinarily well, from its gorgeous animation and wondrous story to its fun music and even the deftness with which it touches on the story’s darker moments. The film went on to gross $814 million with a huge chunk of that coming from Mexico’s embracement of the film.

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10 ‘Inside Out’ (2015)

Inside Out
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $858 million

Once young Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and her family move to San Francisco, she must adapt to her new life. As we all are, Riley is guided by her five personified emotions: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness. With her emotions in full control of Riley’s thoughts and actions, they attempt to adjust to this new life despite the turmoil happening in Emotions Headquarters.

The director, Pete Docter got this idea after noticing changes in his daughter’s personality as she grew older. Its wonderful screenwriting and world-building done by Docter truly stood out. It transforms emotional conflict as if it’s an adventure and gives a physical reason as to why we feel the way we do.

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9 ‘Finding Nemo’ (2003)

Nemo and Marlin swimming together
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $941 million

This beloved movie follows an overprotective clown fish named Marlin (Albert Brooks) who meets a forgetful blue tang, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) during his search for his missing son, Nemo (Alexander Gould). Nemo is caught by a diver and plans his escape from a dentist’s fish tank.

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This touching tale is considered one of the most heartfelt and best of Pixar’s filmography. Its widespread acclaim was due to its visual elements and characters that can relate to adults and children alike. As the first Pixar film to win Best Animated Feature, it gave the audience an underwater adventure based on a father-and-son relationship.

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8 ‘The Lion King’ (1994)

Scar tells Simba about the elephant graveyard
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $968 million

It tells the story of Simba (Matthew Broderick), a young lion cub who is destined to become the King of the Pride Lands. After his uncle, Scar (Jeremy Irons) kills his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones), to seize the throne, he flees into exile and grows up with outcasts, Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella). Once he’s ready, he returns to challenge his uncle and take his rightful place in the Circle of Life.

The Lion King is a timeless classic that only gets better with rewatches and age. The iconic characters and memorable songs quickly captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. It’s a masterpiece that will remain popular for decades as one of the most successful stage musicals of all time, further cementing its status as a beloved Disney classic.

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7 ‘Zootopia’ (2016)

Nick and Judy in Zootopia
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $1.02 billion

This unique movie is set in a fictional world where animals live in harmony in a more civilized society. A rookie bunny police officer, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and a con artist fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) must work together to uncover the mystery of missing predators after they’ve gone rogue.

Zootopia was a critical and commercial success during its theatrical release. This thought-provoking movie combined traditional Disney characters with an engaging storyline that deals with diversity and inclusion. It’s a fully realized world that shares an important message of understanding and seeing past others’ superficial traits. Its clever humor and stunning animation drew in audiences of all ages.

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6 ‘Finding Dory’ (2016)

Dory swims with Marlin, Nemo, and other sea critters in 'Finding Dory'
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $1.02 billion

Following the classic movie, Finding Nemo, comes the fan-favorite blue tang, Dory. This forgetful fish goes on an adventure with her friends Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Marlin to search for her long-lost family. After finding her parents in the Marine Life Institute, she must save them from captivity.

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With the same premise as the original, the worldwide box office numbers prove that the familiar story still works. The movie’s visual appeal comes from the finely crafted underwater animation to showcase the magic of the sea. Its clever use of humor and themes of family, acceptance, and disability resonated with audiences of all ages.

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5 ‘Toy Story 3’ (2010)

Woody and his toy friends falling out of a box and smiling in Toy-Story-3
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $1.06 billion

The long-awaited sequel to the beloved Toy Story 2 follows Andy Davis (John Morris) as he prepares to leave for college. As he packs, his mother mistakenly switches the boxes and accidentally donates his favorite toys to Sunnyside Daycare. Woody (Tom Hanks) tries his best to convince his friends that they weren’t simply abandoned while they plan an escape from the kids who don’t play nice.

This movie is made for audiences of all ages with a story that can relate to everyone. Many people have grown up alongside Andy and can feel everything he is feeling. With Andy getting older, Woody and Buzz (Tim Allen) must move on and have another adventure with their new owner, Bonnie. Considered one of the best third movies in a franchise, its incredible animation and strong characters make this heartfelt blockbuster stand the test of time.

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4 ‘Toy Story 4’ (2019)

Woody and Buzz looking to a carnival in 'Toy Story 4' (2019) (1)
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $1.07 billion

Toy Story 4 is the latest installment in the Toy Story franchise. Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the rest of their friends go on another adventure with Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) and her new creation, Forky (Tony Hale). When they unexpectedly reunite with Bo-Peep (Annie Potts), they all begin to question what they want for their future and how big the world can be for a toy.

Marking the end of an era for the beloved franchise, this movie brings the story of Woody and Buzz to a satisfying conclusion that gives closure to long-time fans. It received critical acclaim for its use of cutting-edge technology to create stunning visuals and animation. Its emotional storyline and beloved characters captured the hearts of audiences, especially with nostalgic callbacks to earlier movies.

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3 ‘Incredibles 2’ (2018)

Violet using her powers to protect her family
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $1.24 billion

Incredibles 2 picks up right where its predecessor left off, with the Parr family once again using their superpowers to save the world. They are offered hope of rehabilitating the public image of the Supers by the Deavor siblings (Catherine Keener and Bob Odenkirk) after the shutdown of the Super Relocation Program. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) becomes the face of the campaign while her family must identify and defeat the cyber-criminal, Screenslaver.

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Fans who had been waiting over a decade for a sequel to The Incredibles and its sequel did not disappoint with its blend of action, humor, and heartwarming family dynamics. Although it doesn’t live up to the original entirely, it did prove to be a landmark success for Disney with its box office figures surpassing $1 billion with ease to be one of the highest-grossing Disney movies of all time.

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2 ‘Frozen’ (2013)

Anna looking up at Elsa in her ice castle
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $1.28 billion

Frozen quickly became a cultural phenomenon during its initial release. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s 1844 fairy tale The Snow Queen, the movie tells the story of Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) as she works with iceman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and a snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) to find Elsa (Idina Menzel) after she trapped their kingdom in eternal winter with her icy powers.

Considered a game changer for Disney, this cultural phenomenon had strong female leads, and an unforgettable soundtrack that featured the hit song “Let It Go.” It helped revive the interest in traditional Disney musicals as one of the best animated movies to watch during the holidays. As a touchstone for countless merchandise, stage adaptations, and even a sequel, there’s no question of its influence.

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1 ‘Frozen II’ (2019)

Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Sven looking offscreen in Frozen II
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Box Office: $1.45 billion

The sequel to the hugely popular original, Frozen II exceeded expectations as the highest-grossing Disney animated movie of all time. Fans get to see their favorite sisters on the big screen. After a mysterious voice calls out to Elsa, she must go on a journey with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven in order to uncover the secrets of her powers.

This story of a strong female character that isn’t a princess shattered box office records upon its release. With its stunning visuals, catchy soundtrack, and touching story, the movie was an instant success. It delved deeper into the mythology of the Frozen universe, giving fans even more to love. Its themes of empowerment and self-discovery truly resonated with audiences around the world as it became the most successful Disney movie, in terms of its animated ventures at least, ever made.

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