The heroic moment is one of the focal points of mainstream cinema. It’s a moment that defines most movies, showing that evil hasn’t yet won even when all seems lost and victory appears impossible.
Disney’s long history of animation shows that heroic moments can come in all kinds of forms, but they all serve to deliver the same message: that Disney’s triumphant heroes and heroines are always propelled to greatness by their actions.
Of course, not every Disney animated film sticks the landing. Some of their heroic moments failed to induce the impact they were going for; only a handful have proven to be truly inspiring, enduring, and legendary.
Here are our picks for the best heroic moments in Disney’s animated movies, from the classics all the way to modern hits.
10. Stitch Blows Himself Up to Rescue Lilo (Lilo & Stitch)
In the grand finale of Lilo & Stitch, Lilo is taken by Gantu as he prepares to depart Earth with her and Stitch. However, Stitch is blown off the ship and Lilo is left alone to be kidnapped by the enormous alien.
In order to rescue Lilo, Stitch hijacks a fuel tanker and drives it into a pool of lava, exploding the tanker and sending Stitch rocketing through the air towards Gantu’s ship.
The moment is big and bold, as the lovable Stitch goes back for Lilo—because nobody gets left behind.
9. Baloo Fights Shere Khan (The Jungle Book)
When the vicious tiger Shere Khan finally catches up to Mowgli—with the express intent of killing him—Baloo stands in front of the evil imperious tiger, choosing to fight him rather than give Mowgli up.
Baloo knows he’ll lose the fight, but his caring for Mowgli makes him heroically battle Khan anyway.
Mowgli eventually emerges victorious over Shere Khan, and the subsequent scene shows Baloo on the ground. He appears dead, and Bagheera talks about how noble Baloo’s actions were—only for the bear to wake up and ruin Bagheera’s speech.
8. Basil Fights Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Upon landing inside the innermost workings of Big Ben after a dizzying chase across London, Basil tries to get out of the clock and save little Olivia Flaversham from being crushed.
By using the bell chain, Basil heroically manages to reach the little girl before she’s killed inside the mechanism, but he’s badly beaten by Ratigan after he gets her to safety.
As Big Ben strikes the hour, the bell causes both Basil and Ratigan to fall from the tower, seemingly to their deaths. But Basil, who held on to a pedal propeller, managed to save himself.
7. Aladdin vs. Jafar (Aladdin)
Returning to Agrabah to stop the all-powerful Jafar, Aladdin knows that he has to get to the lamp and bring Genie back to his side. However, before he can grab it, he’s spotted by Jafar, who engages Aladdin in a fight.
The pair duel and Jafar uses his magical powers to overcome Aladdin. But Aladdin uses his mind and wits to convince Jafar that he needs to become a genie in order to be truly powerful.
Jafar makes his wish to become a genie, then realizes he’s been tricked into servitude and trapped inside his lamp, providing Aladdin with his hero moment and the defeat of the terrifying Jafar.
6. Hercules Goes After Meg in the Well of Souls (Hercules)
Once Olympus has been saved by Hercules and Pegasus from the invasion of the Titans, Hercules rushes back to the mortally wounded Meg, but she dies before he can get to her.
However, Hercules knows he can get her back, so immediately travels to the Underworld, willing to lay down his own life for Meg. Negotiating with Hades, Hercules dives into the Well of Souls to save Meg from death—and as a result, he rapidly ages.
The moment Hercules emerges from the Well of Souls with Meg’s soul, glowing after becoming a true hero, is one of Disney’s greatest scenes with Hades stunned that Hercules is still alive.
5. Raya Trusts Namaari to Save the World (Raya and the Last Dragon)
The entire story of Raya and the Last Dragon revolves around the initial love and subsequent hatred that Raya has for Namaari, whom she blames for unleashing the Druun.
However, when the Druun encircles the last of the heroes, Raya realizes that she must trust Namaari to do the right thing. Raya gives Namaari her piece of the gem, and the Druun turn her to stone shortly afterwards.
It’s an against-type hero moment, but Raya shows that she’s learned from Sisu to trust her frenemy to undo the damage done.
4. Anna Rescues Elsa From the Sword (Frozen)
During the climax of Frozen, Elsa is told by Hans that she has unintentionally killed Anna, which causes the blizzard to stop mid-air as Elsa collapses, distraught by the supposed “death” of her sister.
However, Anna is actually still clinging to life and looking for Kristoff. She sees that Hans is about to kill Elsa and stops him by getting in the way. She turns to ice mid-swing, shattering the blade as it hits her.
Anna’s sacrifice allows all to be undone and gives the character the moment she’d built up to throughout the film, showing that she loves Elsa in stopping Hans from killing her.
3. Mulan Stops the Hun Army (Mulan)
As Mulan and her unit travel through the snowy mountains, the Hun army gets the drop on them and charges at the rag-tag bunch of misfits.
Knowing that they’ll all be killed in a direct fight, Mulan breaks rank and sets off a firework in front of the evil Shan Yu. The explosion hits a nearby mountain and causes an avalanche, covering the Hun army in snow and killing most of them.
Mulan barely escapes with her life and is injured in the fight, but shows that she’s braver than any of the men in her squad, and she’s a genuine hero when the moment calls for it.
2. Flynn Cuts Rapunzel’s Hair (Tangled)
As in the original fairy tale, the hero—in this case, Flynn Rider—climbs up the tower to get to Rapunzel. However, in Tangled, Flynn Rider is immediately stabbed by Mother Gothel and left to die.
Rapunzel begs for the chance to heal him, which Gothel grants only after Rapunzel promises to go with her. She shares an intimate moment with Flynn before he uses a broken shard of glass to cut off her magical hair, thus ending her power.
Flynn displays his true heart: he’d rather free Rapunzel than allow her to be a slave for life, even if it means he has to die to do so.
1. Simba Returns to Pride Rock (The Lion King)
After years of blaming himself for Mufasa’s death and living in exile as a show of penance, Simba is convinced by Nala to return to Pride Rock and fight for what’s rightfully his.
The moment of true heroism comes when Simba, having beaten Scar (who is later torn apart by hyenas), takes his place as king.
It’s one thing to liberate the Pride Lands from Scar’s rule, but another to take up the mantle as king. It means Simba’s moment of heroism has arrived with him willing to take on the responsibility of leader.
As he stands on the rock and roars, it ushers in a new era and shows that he’s come full circle as a character, completing the film.