Ranked: All of Disney’s Live-action Remakes from "The Jungle Book" to "Dumbo"

Walt Disney/Newsweek

Tim Burton’s Dumbo, which goes on general release this week, is Disney’s latest live-action remake of one of its own animated movies. The 2019 version, starring Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green and a flying CGI elephant, is nearly twice as long as the 1941 original.

Early reviews have not been kind about the extended version. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote: “It is a flightless pachyderm of a film that saddles itself with 21st-century shame at the idea of circus animals, overcomplicating the first movie, losing the directness, abandoning the lethal pathos, mislaying the songs and finally getting marooned in some sort of steampunk Jurassic Park, jam-packed with retro-futurist boredom that had the kids at the performance I attended talking among themselves.”

Ouch! Fortunately, some of Disney’s beloved cartoons have had a far less painful transition into the modern world. Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (2015) was praised for sticking closely to its source material. In a review, Ben Sachs of The Chicago Reader wrote: “The visual design is exquisite, coming remarkably close to replicating the original movie's Technicolor splendor.”

Jon Favreau’s 2016 version of The Jungle Book was almost universally praised as a rare remake that actually improved upon its predecessor—while setting a new standard for CGI.

And Bill Condon’s faithful 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast was similarly garlanded with praise: “If you thought it was a bad idea to mess with a classic, Beauty and the Beast will persuade you that a tale as old as time is worth retelling,” wrote Calvin Wilson in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, while Brian Lowry of CNN added: “If all of Disney's live-action efforts are as exceptional as this one, by all means, be our guest.”

Sadly, as Burton’s Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland prove, they haven’t all been that exceptional—and they aren’t even the worst offenders. Yet there are plenty of live-action remakes in the pipeline. What fate awaits Guy Ritchie’s version of Aladdin—with Will Smith stepping into Robin Williams’s genie slippers—and Favreau’s adaptation of The Lion King?

Newsweek has analyzed data from review aggregation websites Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDb to rank all of the Disney live-action remakes released so far from worst to best. (We have not included the studio’s remakes of animated movies made by other studios, but we have included the live-action/animation hybrid Pete’s Dragon.)

01 102 Dalmatians
Walt Disney

12. 102 Dalmatians (2000). Rated: G. Total score: 46.55%. 
Directed by: Kevin Lima. Starring: Glenn Close, Gérard Depardieu, Ioan Gruffudd. 
Plot summary: Cruella DeVil gets out of prison and goes after the puppies once more.
What the critics said: "Maybe there should be an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Classic Movies." Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.

02 Alice Through the Looking Glass
Walt Disney

11. Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016). Rated: PG. Total score: 51.475%. 
Directed by: James Bobin. Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Lindsay Duncan. 
Plot summary: Alice returns to the whimsical world of Wonderland and travels back in time to help the Mad Hatter.
What the critics said: "A movie for anyone who ever skimmed a passage of Lewis Carroll and thought, "This is great, but it could use a bit more Terminator." Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

03 101 Dalmatians
Walt Disney

10. 101 Dalmatians (1996). Rated: G. Total score: 54.225%. 
Directed by: Stephen Herek. Starring: Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright, Hugh Laurie. 
Plot summary: An evil high-fashion designer plots to steal Dalmatian puppies in order to make an extravagant fur coat, but instead creates an extravagant mess.
What the critics said: "What we’re seeing in 101 Dalmatians is Disney strip-mining its past for profit. This movie, manufactured with calculation rather than love, can exploit our memories of a movie that was made with love." Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

04 The Jungle Book
Walt Disney

9. The Jungle Book (1994). Rated: PG. Total score: 61.3%. 
Directed by: Stephen Sommers. Starring: Jason Scott Lee, Cary Elwes, Lena Headey, Sam Neill, John Cleese. 
Plot summary: Rudyard Kipling's classic tale of Mowgli, the orphaned jungle boy raised by wolves, and how he becomes king of the jungle.
What the critics said: "The sweet innocence of Kipling's fables about a boy who learns to live among the animals is replaced here by an Indiana Jones clone, an action thriller that Kipling would have viewed with astonishment." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

05 Alice in Wonderland
Walt Disney

8. Alice in Wonderland (2010). Rated: PG. Total score: 61.35%. 
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas. 
Plot summary: Nineteen-year-old Alice returns to the magical world from her childhood adventure, where she reunites with her old friends and learns of her true destiny: to end the Red Queen's reign of terror.
What the critics said: "A film adaptation should, of course, treat its source material as inspiration rather than dogma. But did Burton have to get the books so entirely wrong?" Dana Stevens, Slate. 

06 Dumbo
Walt Disney

7. Dumbo (2019). Rated: PG. Total score: 63.15%. 
Directed by: Tim Burton. Starring: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green. 
Plot summary: A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.
What the critics said: "The original Dumbo flew as gracefully as a balsa-wood plane; the new Dumbo must flap his ears furiously just to get a foot or so of altitude. We never have confidence that he, or this film, will truly soar." Rafer Guzman, Newsday.

07 Maleficent
Walt Disney

6. Maleficent (2014). Rated: PG. Total score: 64.825%. 
Directed by: Robert Stromberg. Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley. 
Plot summary: A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.
What the critics said: "In a movie crammed with special effects, Jolie is the most startling and wondrous of all." Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

08 Christopher Robin
Walt Disney

5. Christopher Robin (2018). Rated: PG. Total score: 69.925%. 
Directed by: Marc Forster. Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss. 
Plot summary: A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life.
What the critics said: "There's no end to the schmaltz in Winnie the Pooh's honey pot, yet Disney's live-action Christopher Robin also tosses in enough charm and tomfoolery for a sufficiently delightful hang with the iconic bear." Brian Truitt, USA Today

09 Beauty and the Beast
Walt Disney

4. Beauty and the Beast (2017). Rated: PG. Total score: 70.975%. 
Directed by: Bill Condon. Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline. 
Plot summary: A selfish prince is cursed to become a monster for the rest of his life, unless he learns to fall in love with a beautiful young woman he keeps prisoner.
What the critics said: "Bill Condon's enchanting live-action adaptation of Disney's Beauty and the Beast is designed to make believers of skeptics—even those who think the 1991 animated version can't be topped." Peter Howell, Toronto Star. 

10 Cinderella
Walt Disney

3. Cinderella (2015). Rated: PG. Total score: 71.325%. 
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh. Starring: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter. 
Plot summary: When her father unexpectedly dies, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her scheming stepsisters. Never one to give up hope, Ella's fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.
What the critics said: "Cinderella is a wonderfully realized family feature that retains the strengths of its source material while at the same time updating it for today's audiences." James Berardinelli, ReelViews. 

11 Pete's Dragon
Walt Disney

2. Pete's Dragon (2016). Rated: PG. Total score: 71.4%. 
Directed by: David Lowery. Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban. 
Plot summary: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.
What the critics said: "Rather than a big, special effects-driven blockbuster, this remake of the 1977 Disney musical has the homespun feel of a children's book come-to-life." Adam Graham, Detroit News