15 Highest-Grossing Disney Movies of All Time
Disney movies hold a special place in most people’s hearts. Most of us grew up with these films, and they continue to be some of the best releases of the year. It makes sense, though. Disney has the money and reaches to get some of the best animators, directors, actors, and storyboard writers in the business. Few can touch what they’ve built.
We all remember snuggling up to watch a movie we’d seen a dozen times before and still crying in the beginning – we know it’s the Disney way. If the film doesn’t make you feel some super strong emotions, it probably isn’t that great.
Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the highest-grossing Disney movies that have ever been released. The list might be surprising unless you’re a die-hard Disney fan. Some of the films we expected to make the list didn’t! Even more shocking, some of the movies we thought would make the list just barely etched out in favor of…well, we’ll let you find that out!
Let’s go over Disney’s highest-grossing movies of all time to show why they truly are one of the best out there.
All facts and figures from Wikipedia.
The Jungle Book (2016)
The live-action version of The Jungle Book came out so long ago that many of you might not remember it, but it was a fantastic film. It had massive stars like Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, and Idris Elba. On top of it all, it was directed by none other than Jon Favreau. When it was released, it destroyed the box office.
For a short time, the movie held the record for being the biggest remake of all time until Beauty and the Beast came out later that year. It quickly grossed over $966 million, something Disney didn’t expect. The film itself was made on a $177 million budget, so this was a massive success for the studio.
The Lion King (1994)
The Lion King was part of what’s called the Disney Renaissance Era. During this time, Disney produced some of the biggest hits we’ve ever seen. One of those was The Lion King, which was inspired by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Right out of the gate, audiences and critics loved the movie. It began raking in the awards.
It won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. It also won Golden Globes and Grammys. There was nothing The Lion King couldn’t do. The shocking part was that the film only cost $45 million to make, which is practically nothing for a movie today. In return, it nearly made $970 million.
Not gonna lie, Zootopia being on this list is somewhat of a surprise. Everyone knew the movie would be good since it’s a Pixar film, but this good? That is a pretty big shocker. The movie ended up striking a chord with audiences, and it began breaking records. In less than two weeks, the film had already become the third consecutive Disney movie to reach $500 million.
After all was said and done, the box office soared to over $1 billion after the movie only cost $150 million to make. At the time, there weren’t any plans to come out with a sequel, but after this success? Disney would be crazy not to try. In the meantime, Disney released a series called Zootopia+.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
When the concept of a Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland came up with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, everyone was ready for it. Tim Burton was at his height, and everyone flocked to the theater to see it. The film made making $1 billion on a film look as easy as pie.
Disney loved that, especially since it didn’t even cost a quarter of the box office to make the film in the first place. However, that’s where things went downhill. The second in the series made good money but was panned by audiences and critics alike for being a shameless cash grab. It became one of Disney’s biggest flops.
Finding Dory (2016)
Everyone loved Finding Nemo. It was one of the biggest hits Disney had ever seen, and one of the best characters was Dory. Then, Disney hit pay dirt when they came out with Finding Dory. The studio put $200 million into the film and got back $1.029 billion at the box office.
It ended up being nominated for a slew of rewards, and it walked away with quite a few. Critics loved it, and it ended up being above 90% for Rotten Tomatoes, which isn’t an easy feat. There isn’t any news about a sequel, with the director saying that he thinks everything is wrapped up “but we’ll see.”
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Who would have guessed that a movie based on a ride at the Disney parks would be so successful? On Stranger Tides was the fourth installment in the series and was going to be a definite success. Disney knew it, and that’s why the studio gave it a nearly half-billion-dollar budget. That’s a lot even for Disney.
The returns weren’t as much as they’d hoped, but who could ask for more for over $1 billion? Maybe good reviews? Critics began to tear apart the film as soon as it was released, stating the franchise was “getting tired.” Still, it was enjoyable to sit through, so many also went to see the fifth movie when it was released.
You won’t catch me saying that the live-action remake of Aladdin was better than the first. Nothing will ever beat the energy that Robin Williams brought to the role. However, this Aladdin was definitely a success for the studio, and saying otherwise would be a lie. It followed the same plot and was directed by Guy Ritchie, which was an interesting choice.
It ended up paying off big time. The movie cost $183 million but brought back $1.051 billion from the box office. At first, there was hope for a sequel, but if the original couldn’t do it, this one can’t either. The sequel was scrapped in 2021 for unknown reasons. That being said, it has a spin-off on Disney+ for die-hard fans.
The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was absolutely amazing. Audiences flocked to see it, and it still sits at the top as one of the best in the franchise. However, the other films are the ones that made serious bank – the second one being the highest-grossing in the whole series.
The first one was good, so Disney bumped up the budget by about $100 million, and they got that and more in box office returns. It soared to $1.066 billion, which is nearly double what the first film earned. Everyone had to see what was going to happen to Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth Swann, and Will Turner.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
While the first two Toy Story movies were good, but Toy Story 3 is one of the best. It made audiences cry, laugh, gasp in fear, and so much more. The story writers truly went out of their way to make a masterpiece, and the box office showed as much. It cost $200 million to make and earned $1.067 billion.
On opening day alone, it earned $41 million, which set an opening-day record for an animated film – later, this record would be broken by Minions and Finding Dory. On Rotten Tomatoes, it got a 98% certified fresh rating, and critics ranked the script as the 10th best American screenplay of the 21st century.
Toy Story 4 (2019)
Toy Story 4 was pretty good, but it didn’t hold a candle to the third film in the series. It featured some pretty serious topics surrounding toys after childhood and how they had to adapt. Toy Story will always be one of the best titles Disney owns, so it wasn’t a huge shocker when the film earned $1.073 billion at the box office.
However, not everyone was in love with it (including yours truly). The movie was pretty much forgettable, and many critics claimed it was the weakest in the franchise. It was a fantastic children’s movie but didn’t appeal to the adult crowd like the earlier movies had. Good? Absolutely, but nothing to write home about.
Incredibles 2 (2018)
Just when everyone was giving up hope that we’d get an Incredibles sequel, we got it! It took 14 years for Incredibles 2 to release, but it was well worth the wait. The script was amazing, the animation was perfect, and the acting was fantastic. It ended up earning $1.243 at the box office with ease.
Incredibles 2 became the ninth highest-grossing film of all time domestically and the highest-grossing animated film domestically when it ended its run. That’s pretty crazy since it was going up against Ocean’s Eight, Hereditary, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that same month. That’s a lot of heavy-hitting films to go up against.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Beauty and the Beast was one of the first live-action Disney remakes to release, and it showed what really could happen to the films. It wasn’t an exact retelling of the original, which was a wise decision. It was updated, many thanks to the help of Emma Watson guiding the way her character would act and feel.
It also had a number of other fantastic actors like Luke Evans, Josh Gad, and Dan Stevens. Overall, A+ casting. The film had an average budget of around $160 million, but it walked away with $1.264 billion at the box office. That caused Disney to make even more live-action remakes which were good, bad, and some…some were kinda ugly.
You knew Frozen was going to be on this list. Everyone knew. Almost overnight, Frozen became one of the most popular movies ever made – not just for animated films but overall. Disney didn’t even expect it to be such a massive powerhouse of a film, but it became the highest-grossing film for the whole year.
By the end of its run, Frozen had made $1.280 billion at the box office, and it was going to continue to rake in more through merchandise and sales. It is praised as having one of the best scripts ever written, and most of the world agrees with that statement. Because of Frozen, Elsa also became one of the top baby names in 2014.
Frozen II (2019)
Somehow, Disney did it again. Somehow, the studio made an insanely successful movie and then followed it up with an even more successful sequel. These two films go to show that Disney Studio has some of the best writers and animators in the world. Frozen II had a mere $150 million budget but earned $1.450 billion at the box office.
It was the third highest-grossing movie of the year and the tenth-highest of all time. Those are records that aren’t easy to set. Worldwide, it made over $350 million on opening weekend, even surpassing Disney’s highest-grossing film of all time! However, it still isn’t the top dog. That honor goes to another film.
The Lion King (2019)
Did you guess The Lion King’s live-action remake? Instead of one of the Renaissance films, it’s this massive hit, which makes sense. The original was beyond incredible, but this one took it up a notch. It was directed by one of the best in the biz, Jon Favreau, and featured actors such as Donald Glover, Seth Rogan, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, and James Earl Jones.
Disney knew it was going to be a hit, which is why they gave it a $260 million budget – more than most films on this list. It earned $1.663 billion at the box office. Currently, Disney hasn’t stated that it’ll come out with a sequel, but a prequel is scheduled to release sometime in 2024 (unless it gets delayed).