If there's one thing that all animated Disney movies need, it's a screen-dominating, get-lodged-in-your-memory, catchy-as-anything song that keeps the movie in your life long after the credits roll.
From Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1938 to Frozen in 2013, the musical aspect of Disney's movies has always been a vital part of the experience for the audience to fall in love with.
Sure, many of those Disney movie songs have ended up being utterly forgettable, and some have only been OK. But there's no doubt that Disney movies have given us some of the most iconic soundtracks and original songs in all of cinema history.
Here are my picks for the best Disney movie songs of all time to listen to when you want to stroll down memory lane.
16. "Hellfire" in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The sheer intensity of "Hellfire" is enough to make an audience lean back in their chairs for fear of being engulfed in the flames of Frollo's mind. As a song, it's terrifying and tells you in a moment what kind of person he is underneath the religious veil.
Few villain songs are as good as this one is, and none are as underrated. The film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, might not be Disney's greatest picture, but "Hellfire" is one of the most evocative ballads in any Disney movie.
15. "Circle of Life" in The Lion King (1994)
The opening to the 1994 classic The Lion King remains one of cinema's most memorable, and it was all set to the Academy Award-winning work of Elton John and Tim Rice's soundtrack.
"Circle of Life" encapsulates the film's message and is still one of Disney's greatest songs. It was brought back to life for the 2019 remake, and it felt better than ever.
14. "I Wanna Be Like You" in The Jungle Book (1967)
The Jungle Book has a vast legacy beyond Rudyard Kipling's original book, almost entirely because of the 1968 animated movie.
"I Wanna Be Like You" is the song that King Louis sings to Mowgli as he asks him to divulge the secret of fire to him because Louis wants to be more like a man. The song is toe-tappingly fun and also featured in the 2016 live-action remake (sung by Christopher Walken).
13. "I Won't Say I'm in Love" in Hercules (1997)
The 1997 movie Hercules was made right in the middle of Disney's animated movie renaissance, and the songs that featured in it all had their charm. Even so, "I Won't Say I'm In Love" had a special something that made it unique.
It's a song about not falling in love when you know that's what you are doing. Meg's heartfelt admission only gets better with age, and as the original audience to the movie has all grown up.
12. "You're Welcome" in Moana (2016)
When the young princess Moana finds the island where the mighty Demi-God Maui is exiled, he immediately takes her boat and strands her there—all to the tune of a delightfully misleading song.
Having Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson sing the ballad adds a sense of fun to the tune, and he brings the egotistical validation of Maui to life while attempting to desert a teenager to an eternity of isolation.
11. "Gaston" in Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, which indicates how great it is. And when Gaston—the film's villain—gets his tune, you're supposed to hate him out of loyalty to Belle, the heroine.
However, one can't help but love Gaston for the sheer vanity of the song. It's catchy, funny, and bafflingly whimsical. It was adapted for the 2016 remake starring Emma Watson, and Luke Evans did justice to the original song. A tough feat!
10. "Under the Sea" in The Little Mermaid (1989)
"Under the Sea" is a song so catchy that The Simpsons even parodied it. It's not just one of the most well-known songs from Disney's 1989 maritime adventure, The Little Mermaid, but one of the most memorable cinematic tunes of all time.
With its reggae beat and stunning visuals, the song is a wondrous and charming tune that sticks in the mind over 30 years later.
9. "Be Prepared" in The Lion King (1994)
One of the most devilish songs in Disney's repertoire, "Be Prepared" is the song sang by Scar as he plots the deaths of both Mufasa and Simba. It has a look that evokes the goose-stepping march of Nazi Germany, and its meaning is incredibly dark.
However, in terms of sheer memorability, "Be Prepared" is one of Disney's choice efforts. The subject of the song is so evil that it marks one's mind and becomes unforgettable.
It also featured in the 2019 live-action remake of The Lion King, although the newer rendition wasn't as good as the original.
8. "Tale as Old as Time" in Beauty and the Beast (1991)
"Tale as Old as Time" is soft, delicate, and underpins the love that has grown between Belle and Beast.
The iconic image of the pair dancing in the grand ballroom of Beast's castle as the Teapot sings? A perfect moment, and few songs in Disney's history are more meaningful than this one.
The song was adapted well for the 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, with Emma Watson's Belle and Dan Stevens' Beast dancing the iconic dance this time around.
7. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" in The Lion King (1994)
"Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is the song for which Elton John and Tim Rice won an Academy Award. Deservedly so.
No other Disney film has more classic tunes in its runtime as The Lion King. This one comes as Simba and Nala's reunification turns from friendship to love, inciting Timon and Pumba to sing this song.
To watch the once-friends fall in love and to see how much Simba is becoming like his father? Beautiful. Not many other Disney songs have as much heart to them as "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."
6. "I'll Make a Man Out of You" in Mulan (1998)
When Mulan takes her father's armor and runs away from home to take his place in the Chinese army, she must learn how to blend in with the men that surround her and hide her true identity.
The song "I'll Make a Man Out of You" perfectly underscores the fight she has to overcome to become a warrior.
The anthem is powerful, bold, and a mark of femininity in a male-centric world. Mulan's story is wholly inspiring, and the song proves that she's as good as any man in being a soldier.
5. "Hakuna Matata" in The Lion King (1994)
There may not be a more popular song in the whole of Disney's history than "Hakuna Matata." The success of the epoch led to a whole generation of people raised on Disney's 90s musical output, and "Hakuna Matata" became the anthem of that era.
It's a song about togetherness, about calm, about growing up, about not sweating the details. Responsibility will always be there when one grows up—there's no need to rush toward that inevitable time.
Through this ballad, Timon and Pumba made sure that Simba's life wasn't beholden to the pain of his past, and because of that, we all learned a lesson about sadness and happiness.
4. "Let It Go" in Frozen (2013)
In the same way that "Hakuna Matata" was the song of one generation, "Let It Go" had the same effect on another generation.
Queen Elsa's ballad portrays how she comes to embrace who she is and shows how she's finally able to live freely, not caring who knows about her power. That's a message that spoke volumes to the era.
"Let It Go" wasn't a song that was only for Elsa—it talked to all the young viewers for whom the times were changing. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and has become one of Disney's most iconic anthems to this day.
3. "Friend Like Me" in Aladdin (1992)
Other than Mickey Mouse, it's hard to think of a Disney character with a history as long and iconic as The Genie of Aladdin.
The late Robin Williams' beloved creation has touched the lives of millions of children since the 1993 movie came out, and his signature song "Friend Like Me" represents everything that The Genie is.
Williams' great strength was that he always felt like a close friend, even if you'd never met him—which is why the song has such power. The film and reality were linked by this ballad, sung by a man universally adored the world over.
2. "When You Wish Upon a Star" in Pinocchio (1940)
"When You Wish Upon a Star" is the Disney-est of all the Disney songs. It's the tune that many will remember when revisiting the back catalog of animated classics, and it's the current prelude that plays before modern Disney animated movies (like Onward).
It was heard in the film Pinocchio as sung by Jiminy Cricket, and is considered a cornerstone of Disney's brand. It was the first of many Disney songs to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
1. "The Bare Necessities" in The Jungle Book (1967)
When Bill Murray's defining portrayal of Baloo the Bear hums the tune of "The Bare Necessities" to Mowgli, we learn that it's a song about "the good life"—which is why it's the best original Disney song.
As Baloo sings the song in both the original animation of The Jungle Book and the 2016 live-action remake, it's impossible not to utterly adore it.
It's a song about living life and enjoying the ride no matter what challenges you may face—and because of that, it's both profound and completely timeless.