This year sees the release of four live-action remakes of Disney films. The second of them, Aladdin, hits theaters this weekend to equal parts anticipation and trepidation. While Disney’s live-action remakes typically score at the box office, fans also hold these movies to high standards. After all, they’re based on some of the most beloved films of all time. Nonetheless, audiences' embrace of these remakes have led Disney to produce a live-action version of seemingly every title in its animation catalogue.
Here, we’re examining how critics felt about the Disney live-action remakes that have already been released, from 1996’s 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close as Cruella de Vil to this summer’s Aladdin. To come up with these rankings, we’ve averaged the critics’ scores from review aggregate sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. These critics’ opinions sometimes differ from the audiences', so we’ll also fill you in on the Rotten Tomatoes audience score for each movie.
Let’s start with the Disney live-action movie that critics were least likely to recommend.
11. ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS — AVERAGE SCORE: 31.5
It took six years for Disney to make a follow-up to Tim Burton’s live-action Alice in Wonderland. And based on both its critical and box office reception, 2016’s Alice Through the Looking Glass wasn’t worth the wait. The film centers on Alice’s return to the fantastical Underland, where she travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter.
Although critics praised the movie’s visuals, they said that they couldn’t make up for its lackluster plot and characters. In fact, many critics saw the movie as a cash grab and the worst of big studio filmmaking. As Ty Burr of the Boston Globe explained, “To watch Alice Through the Looking Glass is to witness an army of smart, creative people dumbing themselves down into delivering what they think the market wants.”
The movie has a critics score of 29% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 34. Audiences were somewhat more positive about the movie -- the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is currently 48%.
10. 102 DALMATIANS — AVERAGE SCORE: 33
Doing only marginally better than Alice Through the Looking Glass is the other sequel on this list, 2000’s 102 Dalmatians. The movie is a follow-up to 101 Dalmatians and includes Glenn Close reprising her role as Cruella de Vil. The plot involves the villain’s release from jail and brief attempt to swear off fur before getting pulled back into another plot to make a dalmatian coat.
Most critics found this sequel fairly lightweight. Yet, some appreciated the family-friendly nature of the movie, Close’s performance and the adorable puppies. For example, Mick LaSale of the San Francisco Chronicle said, “It has everything -- cuddly animals, colorful outfits and sight gags.”
While some of the more positive critics felt adults might enjoy parts of the film as much as kids, those who didn’t recommend the movie believed it would leave little ones bored or even traumatized. Mostly, though, the critics lamented that the film was a dull, contrived rehash of the original. Variety’s Todd McCarthy called it, “A pale reworking of its predecessor.”
The movie has a critics score of 31% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 35. Audiences agreed with critics on this one -- the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is currently 32%,
9. 101 DALMATIANS — AVERAGE SCORE: 44
The live-action 101 Dalmatians was Disney’s first foray into remake territory. It was a fairly faithful retelling of the animated classic. Glen Close earned raves for her performance as Cruella de Vil and the movie was a hit at the box office.
No matter what critics thought about the movie as a whole, most agreed that Close was brilliant as the villainous Cruella. Many felt that the movie became tiresome whenever its focus shifted to the animals. Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times wrote, “Thanks to Glenn Close’s delicious villainy, it succeeds in breathing archly theatrical life into the irresistibly monstrous Cruella de Vil. Otherwise, this remake goes to the dogs too often.”
The movie has a critics score of 39% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 49. The audience wasn’t especially charmed by the film either -- the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is currently 40%. For comparison’s sake, the original animated 101 Dalmatians has a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 98% and an audience score of 76%.
8. DUMBO — AVERAGE SCORE: 49
Tim Burton’s live-action remake of Dumbo hit theaters earlier this year. While the film scored major buzz when its first trailer was released, by the time the movie actually came out the response was more muted. Part of this may have been the result of critics’ lukewarm reviews of the film.
Tim Burton’s involvement in the movie was at the top of many critics minds. While some felt his visionary directorial style gave the film a unique sensibility that made it worthwhile, others lamented that the director’s signature quirk was missing. For example, David Sims of The Atlantic praised, “The film is just different enough to stick out amid the studio’s backwards-looking slate, and Burton, for the first time in years, shows he hasn’t lost his love for the idiosyncratic.”
Meanwhile, the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane said, “I was psyched for the reteaming of [star Michael] Keaton and Burton, who together cooked up Beetlejuice and two of the better Batman films, but the chemistry, sad to say, produces no magic brew.” Many of the critics compared the movie unfavorably to the animated original. Joe Morgenstrern of the Wall Street Journal observed, “Disney’s new Dumbo is one ponderous pachyderm, a live-action remake of the 1941 animated classic with a grim tone and a dead soul.”
The movie has a critics score of 47% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 51. Audiences were only mildly more impressed than critics -- the Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score is currently 54%. The original animated movie has a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 98% and an audience score of 70%.
7. ALICE IN WONDERLAND — AVERAGE SCORE: 52
Tim Burton’s live-action remake of Alice in Wonderland hit theaters in 2010, 10 years after 102 Dalmatians. It's often credited for starting Disney’s current live-action remake boom. The story is something of a sequel to the animated film that inspired it. It involves a teenage Alice returning to Underland, which she’d visited as a child. She reunites with old friends and works to end the Red Queen’s reign. The film scored big at the box office despite middling reviews.
Critics were split in their opinions of the movie. Most of them agreed that this Alice in Wonderland was visually stunning. However, they differed on whether that was in addition to an engaging story or the only thing the movie really had going for it.
Several critics also felt the film didn’t do justice to Lewis Carroll’s zany source material or the animated film from which it supposedly took its cues. The Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Rechtshaffen declared the movie, “A fantastical romp that… is more than just a gorgeous 3D sight to behold.” While John DeVore of Premiere called it, “A charmless, vandalized version of a classic.”
The movie has a critics score of 51% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 53. Audiences agreed -- the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is currently 55%. Although this Alice in Wonderland is not a retelling of the 1951 animated film, critics and audiences still preferred that version. The original animated movie has a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 80% and an audience score of 78%.
6. MALEFICENT — AVERAGE SCORE: 55
Maleficent was the first entry in Disney’s recent spate of live-action remakes to look at a Disney animated movie from the perspective of a different character. In this case, the movie told the story of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of the evil fairy Maleficent. The movie relates the villain's origins and why she wants revenge against the human kingdom.
Critics felt the movie was beautiful to look at. And even when they were critical of the film as a whole, Angelina Jolie’s performance as the title character received rapturous reviews. Critics were divided over whether her performance overshadowed the rest of the movie or if that’s what made the film work.
Andrew O’Hehir of Salon declared “… Whatever its flaws, Maleficent is a family-friendly Disney adventure that offers a relaunched and thoroughly delightful Angelina Jolie.” Yet, Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic argued, “Jolie’s performance so overshadows the rest of the cast (and the rest of the movie) that you sometimes feel as if the other characters are, like us, just standing around watching her.”
The movie has a critics score of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 56. Audiences were significantly more positive about Maleficent than critics -- the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is currently 70%. The animated version of Sleeping Beauty from 1959 has a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 90% and an audience score of 80%.
5. ALADDIN — AVERAGE SCORE: 55
The latest live-action remake from the Mouse House is Aladdin, which comes to theaters on May 24. The story retells the tale of the animated original, which involves the street rat Aladdin recovering a genie’s lamp and using his wishes to get closer to the Princess Jasmine. Will Smith is taking on the daunting task of playing the Genie, whose animated incarnation is beloved for its voice work by Robin Williams. Early teasers left fans cold, but additional trailers helped to put to rest some of their worst fears about the movie.
Critics’ reviews mostly compare the remake to its animated original, with opinions varying based on how well the movie captures the magic of the 1992 film in their minds. For the critics the movie worked for, its replication of the original is a good thing.
The Guardian’s Steve Rose wrote, “It is lively, colorful and genuinely funny, and doesn’t break what didn’t need fixing about the original.” On the other hand, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune calls it “cinematic karaoke” and Caroline Slede of Consequence of Sound says, “It has the same themes and characters, but without the heart or nuance, despite being 38 minutes longer.”
The movie has an early critics score of 61% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 49, but that could change as more reviews come in. No audience score from Rotten Tomatoes will be available until the movie’s release date. The animated version of Aladdin is highly rated by both critics and audiences. It has a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 94% and an audience score of 92%.
4. CHRISTOPHER ROBIN — AVERAGE SCORE: 66
Christopher Robin, starring Ewan McGregor in the eponymous role, essentially gives the Hook treatment to the Winnie the Pooh character. Despite his childhood adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood, Christopher Robin has since grown up and become a put-upon adult. So, his childhood toys venture into the human world to find Christopher Robin and remind him about all the joy life has to offer. The 2018 movie didn’t garner as much interest as other Disney live-action remakes, but in general, critics were positive about it.
Many critics found the movie sweetly nostalgic. For example, Paul Byrnes of the Sydney Morning Herald observed, “The film is charming, even with the usual Disney paw prints on the themes. [Director Marc] Forster handles the comedy with skill and the sentiment with restraint.”
Yet, for some, the warmth that others saw curdled into something more nauseating. For example, Odie Henderson of RogerEbert.com declared, “I just wish [Disney] hadn’t given us yet another movie built on the pseudo-psychological cliché that adults need to reconnect with their childhoods in order to be better adults.”
The movie has a critics score of 72% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 60. Moviegoers that saw the film enjoyed it even more than critics -- the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is currently 83%.
3. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST — AVERAGE SCORE: 68
Of the recent Disney live-action remakes, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast fared the best at the box office, scoring over half a million dollars domestically. The movie didn’t deviate significantly from the animated original, but it included several new songs and added some touches to make the character of Belle better rounded.
Critics were mostly positive about the film. While they acknowledged that this Beauty and the Beast didn’t bring much new to the table, many still found it enjoyable. Matt Maytum of Total Film called it, “A delightful live-action recreation of a familiar fable. You’ve seen it before, but its spirit and pizzazz are pretty much irresistible”
Those that didn’t enjoy the film felt it was unsuccessful at capturing the emotional resonance of the animated version. Tasha Robinson of the The Verge declared, “It’s a largely frustrating clone of the original movie -- same songs, same script, often even the exact same shot choices -- but it replaces every moment of authentic or moving emotion with bombast and hyperbolic overemphasis.”
The movie has a critics score of 71% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 65. Audiences liked the remake even more than critics -- the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is currently 80%. The 1991 animated version of Beauty and the Beast is even more highly rated by critics and audiences. It has a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 94% and an audience score of 92%.
2. CINDERELLA — AVERAGE SCORE: 75.5
The second best-reviewed Disney live-action remake, 2015's Cinderella is a story that has been told and re-told dozens of times at the movies. This version was a fairly faithful recreation of the 1950 animated movie. The film added more substance to the love story of Cinderella and her prince and was brought to life by talent like director Kenneth Branagh and Cate Blanchett, who played the evil stepmother.
Critics appreciated the way the film maintained much of the original story while updating just enough to satisfy a new audience. They also praised the cast's performances. Lawrence Toppman from the Charlotte Observer said, “As a picture that celebrates one of the greatest archetypes in literature while freshening countless familiar details, I doubt it can be bettered.”
Similarly, Tom Long of Detroit News wrote, “Cinderella feels real enough to be sincerely touching at the same time it’s visually inventive enough to be magical. We’ve all seen this story, true; but we haven’t seen it told this effectively.”
The movie has a critics score of 84% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 67. Audiences and critics generally agreed on the film -- the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is currently 78%. Critics were even more positive about the 1950 animated Cinderella, which received a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 97%. Meanwhile, audiences enjoyed both movies almost equally, giving the animated version a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 80%.
1. THE JUNGLE BOOK — AVERAGE SCORE: 86
The best reviewed Disney live-action remake is Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book. Like Favreau’s upcoming remake of The Lion King, the movie relied heavily on computer-generated animals to tell its story. The only actual live-action part of the film was the performance of Neel Sethi as man-cub Mowgli. The visually sumptuous movie retells the heartwarming story of Mowgli as he's forced to abandon his forest home after being threatened by the tiger Shere Khan.
Critics were impressed by the movie’s technological achievement and were thoroughly taken by the movie’s immersive look and lifelike CGI animals. Many marveled at the level of realism the animals achieved, even though they weren’t flesh and blood. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone dubbed it, “A visual marvel that cuts a direct path to the heart.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy observed, “Even as the drama and its treatment become increasingly conventional and familiar as the film moves toward its patly (and arguably overly) audience-pleasing wrap-up, the exceptional visual quality and lifelike animal renditions remain stunning throughout.”
The movie has a critics score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 77. Audiences were in agreement with the critics -- the Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score is currently 86%. The Jungle Book is a true rarity in that both critics and audiences preferred it over the 1967 animated original. The Rotten Tomatoes critics score for that movie is 87% and the audience score is 82%.