My Five Favorite Disney Live Action Films

Having shared my 5 favorite Disney animated films and 5 favorite Pixar films, I thought I would now share my 5 favorite Disney live action films.  Again, this was a really hard list to put together because of the large history of live action movies from Disney.  For the purposes of this list, I will only be talking about films from Walt Disney Pictures.  So, no Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Marvel Studios or Lucasfilm (or any other production company Disney once owned).

5. TRON (1982)
When TRON came out, arcades were all the rage, even more than they are now.  Kids these days are used to the video game graphics of the Playstation and X-Box.  I can sometimes get confused as to whether I'm actually watching live action actors or not.  But, in 1982, video games were still relatively in their infancy and arcade games were even more graphically advanced than what we were experiencing at home on our Ataris or Vectrex systems!  TRON, to me, was one of those movies that just captured the excitement people had over video games at the time.  It was amazing to see inside the world of the video game.  And, at the same time, be able to go to an arcade and play an actual TRON video game!  This film will always be special to me for that reason.  And, while the special effects might seem cheesy in comparison to today's standards, they were as amazing as seeing Pac-Man for the first time.  And, honestly, I still love the way it looks.  I love it even more than the much higher advanced CGI of TRON: Legacy.

4. The Rocketeer (1991)
When I was younger, they would play some of those black and white hero serials that played in movie houses during the 1930-50s.  And, I remember the "Rocket Man" ones and thinking how awesome he looked.  Then, years later, comic creator Dave Stevens created the comic "The Rocketeer" and loving it because it reminded me of these serials.  So, to see The Rocketeer on the big screen was an absolute treat. And, I was able to watch it at a theater like the El Capitan which just made it even more fun.  I love it, though, because it lovingly tries to recapture the feel of those serials, but with a more modern sensibility.  Billy Campbell at Cliff Secord/The Rocketeer was absolutely perfect.  He had that chiseled heroic look, but, embodied a certain "gee whiz" personality needed for the role.  And, even the special effects, while much greater than what you'd see in the early serials, still had a certain "old school" feel to them.  Every time I watch this movie, I just have so much fun.

3. Pollyanna (1960)
At face value, one might find this film so sugary sweet that you could develop diabetes just watching it.  But, Haley Mills, who plays our eternal optimist, expertly walks the line between saccharine and heartwarming.  Only she could suggest playing the "Glad Game" in times of sadness or darkness and not have you roll your eyes.  In fact, sometimes, I can be a bit of a pessimist.  And, when I'm feeling like I'm going to that place, I often hear Hayley Mills' Pollyanna say, "Let's play the Glad Game."  And, I start thinking about things I'm glad about.  The film is just such a heartwarming movie and you can't not root for her.  It's my favorite Hayley Mills game and it's such a refreshing look at turn-of-the-century America.  And, even though the film is over 2 hours long, rare for the time, it does not feel over long to me.

2. Pete's Dragon (1977)
As with The Rescuers, Pete's Dragon has a very special place in my heart mainly because it is one of the first Disney films I remember watching in its original release.  But, my love of this film is actually not just purely nostalgic.  I truly love this film and can still watch the film over and over again today.  I absolutely love the music to Pete's Dragon and, some might think this sacrilege, I think that Joel Hirschhorn's and Al Kasha's songs are very much on par with the Sherman Brothers. "Candle On The Water" is one of my favorite Disney songs.  The cast is stellar.  I think Sean Marshall is quite charming as Pete and Helen Reddy's Nora plays a wonderful "straight man" to the rest of eccentric Passamaquoddy.  Mickey Rooney is fantastic as lovable drunk Lampie and Jim Dale as Dr. Terminus and Red Buttons as Hoagy have such a great chemistry.  And, let's not forget Pete's dragon himself - Elliott!  What child didn't dream of having their own dragon as a best friend?  Pete's Dragon is such a special film and would probably be my absolute favorite Disney live action film if it weren't for this next film...

1. Mary Poppins (1964)
Sometimes, when I try to think of my favorite things, I wonder if I pick obvious things.  But, honestly, it's because some things are just that good.  That is the case of Mary Poppins being my absolutely favorite Disney live action films.  There is a reason why it's considered Walt Disney's masterpiece.  To me, it is practically perfect in every way.  First of all, we have the Sherman Brother's wonderful songs. I'm not just saying it because it was Walt's favorite song, but "Feed the Birds" is one of my favorite songs.  But, to tell you the truth, my other favorite songs are the ones that are often overlooked.  "Sister Suffragette" and all of Mr. Banks' songs are absolutely brilliant.  And, having seen Saving Mr. Banks, the Mr. Banks songs have become even more meaningful to me.  The cast is absolutely amazing and it's hard to believe that this was Julie Andrews' first film. And her chemistry with Dick Van Dyke is an absolute joy.  I could go on and on, but the film is just the perfect mix of elements required for making a great film.    


  1. Hey Loren!!! I gotta agree with your number one. Mary Poppins continues to be both extremely entertaining as well as fascinating.

    1. It's what differentiates a kiddie film from a true classic. If you can watch the film years later as an adult and still love it, it's a classic! :)


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