Disney films have been enchanting children and adults alike for decades. Known for the cute mouse named “Mickey,” the creator Walt Disney shaped the history of animated films like no other. Lovingly crafted characters in varied storylines bring viewers laughter and weep. While the “Mickey Mouse” stories usually brought tears of laughter, they were followed by numerous films that touched people’s hearts with sad content. Now it’s time to pull out the tissues and check out this list of the 20 saddest Disney movies of all time.
The story of old Carl Fredrickson begins in this Disney film with a look back at his life so far. As a little boy who is an early admirer of the great explorer Muntz, he meets not only a kindred spirit in Ellie but also the love of his life. Fast forward, the viewer experiences the couple’s ups and downs with a lost child, a big dream, and the death of Ellis just before that dream is realized in old age.
With the sad and broken old Carl, you are brought into the presence of the movie. All he has left is his house and his memories. But they also want to take away his house. Then the 8-year-old scout Russel enters his life, and an adventure begins in which Carl fights for everything he holds dear. The loss of a beloved partner, loneliness in old age, and the feeling of not having lived one’s dreams are conveyed in this film so poignant that hardly anyone can watch this film without shedding a tear.
2. Dumbo, the flying elephant
“Dumbo, the Flying Elephant” is a Disney movie about boundless motherly love and the cruelty that comes your way when you don’t conform to the norm. The circus elephant lady Jumbo loves her little Jumbo Junior more than anything; even his oversized ears don’t change anything. However, this deviation from the norm makes him an outsider and a laughingstock among the other elephants.
He receives the inglorious nickname Dumbo, derived from the English dumb for stupid, and has to live with all kinds of taunts from elephants and visitors to the circus. When his mother defends him from humans, she is locked away. Dumbo loses the only caregiver who gave him love.
Until the happy end, he has to endure a lot of suffering. Almost everyone has had to accept an outsider role at some point in their life, which is exactly why the story of the little elephant is so touching and saddening.
“Bambi” can undoubtedly be called the mother of sad Disney films. The little deer has to watch his mother being killed by a hunter and grows up as a half-orphan. When he later finds his old friends and also love in the form of his childhood friend Feline, happiness now seems perfect despite the hard fate. But a fight between rivals and a forest fire put the lives of Bambi and his friends in great danger again. “Bambi” is a Disney film that dramatically shows its viewers how quickly lightheartedness can turn into drama.
Throughout the film, some scenes make you feel sad at the moment. This is true even for the final scene, which is actually a happy ending.
4. The Lion King
The consequences of intrigue and greed for power provide sadness in this film. The lion king Mufasa rules his kingdom with wisdom and kindness. He also teaches values to his son Simba, who will later carry on the legacy. A development that Mufasa’s younger brother Scar does not like to see. With dangerous intrigues, he tries to conquer the throne and kill Simba.
Attempts initially fail until Mufasa rushes to Simba’s aid again, and Scar seizes the opportunity to kill him. Simba finds his dead father, and Disney knows how to perfectly convey to the viewer the feeling between grief and guilt that the little lion must feel at that moment. Saddened and chased away by Scar, he leaves his kingdom. On his escape, he finds new friends and a new motto in life.
5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Already the beginning of the movie is sad. The little gypsy Colin tells some children how a mother with her baby seeks asylum at Notre Dame but is stopped by the gypsy-hating Judge Frollo. This one pushes the woman off the stairs and kills her in the process. Left behind is her disfigured baby. The Archdeacon ordered that Frollo raise the child in the church’s name. For 20 years, he kept the child named Quasimodo hiding in the bell tower. When he then shows up at the Feast of Fools, an ordeal and hunt begin because of his appearance. Only Esmeralda helps him.
A story that arouses many emotions and, similar to “Dumbo,” shows how cruel people can be to those who look or think differently.
6. Finding Nemo
The little clownfish Nemo grows up very sheltered with his father, Marlin, in the Pacific Ocean. He lost his mom and siblings at an early age, which makes his dad extra cautious. Lovingly, he wants to protect Nemo from all dangers in the ocean’s vastness. All the precautions are useless as Nemo gets lost and caught by humans.
His great fatherly love makes the fearful Marlin rise above himself, and on his search for his son, he meets the fish lady Dori. With her, he experiences all kinds of adventures during his rescue operation. And Nemo also tries desperately to escape.
Despite many funny moments, the sadness about the loss and fear for Nemo always hangs in the film’s background, and the audience feels it too.
Bolt and his 13-year-old owner Penny are the main characters of a famous TV series. Equipped with superpowers, Bolt repeatedly saves Penny’s life in the series. He himself can no longer distinguish between film and reality and thinks the series is his real life. When Penny is kidnapped for an exciting season finale, Bolt takes that seriously too, and sets out to find his owner.
In the process, he ends up in New York City – without superpowers. As in the series story, he also meets a cat here, which he initially thinks is his antagonist. In time he realizes that his life was only an illusion. Nevertheless, he believes in Penny’s love for him and returns. Meanwhile, he has been replaced by a double and wants to give up.
The feeling of no longer being loved and needing to be, coupled with the realization that one’s life was just for the show, make this one of the saddest Disney films.
8. The Snow Queen
Many children and even adults dream of having magic powers. But eight-year-old princess Elsa experiences that such powers can also make her lonely. It can create frost, ice, and snow. However, this power becomes her undoing when she unintentionally uses it to hurt her sister Anna.
She is to be sequestered until she can control the powers, and her ability is kept secret. This leads to loneliness and estrangement from her sister, with whom she previously had an intimate relationship. Then his parents also have a fatal accident.
Loneliness and fear are things no one wants to experience. No wonder the film creates sadness in the viewer.
9. Old Yeller
The film takes up the theme of friendship between a dog and a man. When 15-year-old Travis’ father goes on a long trip, he has to take care of his mother and little brother Arliss. A stray dog, which he takes in rather reluctantly, becomes an important helper in the process.
Christened Jello, he saves Arliss from a bear attack and becomes part of the family. Shortly after, he rushes to Traivs’ aid during an encounter between him and a herd of wild boars and is himself seriously injured. With good care and the company of a young dog, he recovers only to later contract rabies in a fight with a wolf. Travis has to shoot Jello with a heavy heart. A scenario that will make not only dog owners cry.
Two cultures at war, a chief’s daughter who is promised to a man who does not live up to her expectations, and the love story between this same daughter and the Englishman Smith form the basic framework of the emotional film “Pocahontas.”
The very fact that the movie doesn’t have a happy ending is saddening. Despite a heroic act that saves her father’s life, Smith has to let her go in the end. The story, paired with impressive music, makes handkerchiefs the most important utensil when watching this Disney movie.
11. Toy Story 3
12. Inside Out
14. Beauty and the Beast
15. Arlo& Spot
16. Monsters, Inc.
17. Cap and Capper
18. WALL-E – The last one cleans up the earth
19. Brother Bear
Even if all these films are sad, they have a mostly positive message that they give to the audience. This profundity is probably one of the guarantors of the success of Disney films and a reason why one is never too old for Disney. Often the real message only becomes clear when you watch the movie again as an adult.