The ‘90s were a great decade to be a Disney fan. In the midst of this time in Disney history, the continual release of amazing films had us leaving the theater reeling from what we just saw and anticipating what would be next. But while we were waiting, we had some music to help us bide our time.
The music of Disney in the ‘90s is not only a high point in our childhoods, but it’s also a high point in the history of movie music. These songs all showcased expert songwriting and skilled instrumentation, coupled with masterful animation to bring some of our favorite films to life. The soundtracks, starting with Beauty and the Beast in 1991 and culminating with Toy Story 2 in 1999, not only gave us songs, but also memories that we as fans can tie to specific moments of our childhood. When we hear these songs, we are instantly transported back to a movie theater, or couch, or wherever we saw the movies first, and remember why we fell in love with Disney.
In honor of these amazing songs, here are my rankings for the best ‘90s Disney songs. I know some of these rankings will cause debate. Trust me, even I am debating with myself about some of them. But overall, you can’t go wrong with any of these songs.
11. “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” – Toy Story
What a great way to get introduced to Pixar! From the opening chords all the way to the final chorus, this song evokes such happiness and sets the tone so well for not only the rest of the movie, but the entire Toy Story franchise.
10. “Out There” – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This was a song tailor-made for Broadway. It’s so powerful and uplifting. Opening with the terribly sad prelude by Frollo, Quasimodo’s section of the song truly gives the feeling of wanting and waiting to become a part of something bigger.
9. “Colors of the Wind” – Pocahontas
I feel like this is a song that gets overlooked far too often. The message is still relevant today and the sequence is beautifully animated. Even during the reprise at the end of the movie, this song brings the power and emotional catharsis that we expect from Disney movies.
8. “When She Loved Me” – Toy Story 2
I love this song and wish I could rank it higher on this list. Yes, the sequence is heartbreaking and may make you cry, but that’s part of the reason why it’s such a great song. Upon listening to this song again, you’ll want to open up your closet, find your childhood toys, and give them a big hug.
7. “I2I” – A Goofy Movie
No other Disney song of the ‘90s truly encapsulated the decade like I2I did. When you hear it, you wish you could go to the Powerline concert with Max. I2I is such a great ‘90s song, you sometimes forget it wasn’t a legitimate radio hit. Also, there’s nothing like a good key change.
6. “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” – Mulan
The “sing-along” ability of this song is through the roof. I’m sure that if you walk up to any ‘90s kid and sing “Be a man,” they will respond accordingly. I personally have seen at least 10 people sing this at karaoke over the past 3 years. Also, Daisy Ridley has said that she uses this song as motivation before she goes on set, so that alone bumps it up a few notches!
5. “Something There” – Beauty and the Beast
This may not be the most frequent choice among the options from Beauty and the Beast, but “Something There” is such an important song to the story. This is also the only time in the whole movie that we get to hear Beast sing! It also gives some of the same musical themes that call back to “Belle.” The sentimentality of this song is fantastic and involves all the major characters, which is a feat in itself. Additionally, this is the first that we have heard from the upcoming live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast!
4. “Zero to Hero” – Hercules
When Hercules came out, the soundtrack made an immediate impact, as it didn’t sound anything like any of its predecessors. This song in particular really takes the overall tone of Hercules and brings it life. It’s celebratory and moves the story along. It’s fun and catchy and just makes you want to stand up and dance along! And, as we saw, they had as much fun animating this sequence as we had watching it!
3. “Son of Man” – Tarzan
My passion for the Tarzan soundtrack is well documented. In my previous article, I mentioned how it is a top 3 song for me and I am a man of my word. It’s just a great song. Listening to it right now, I am truly questioning its placement. I need to stop now before it moves up and dethrones the others in the top 3.
2. “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” – The Lion King
There are other songs that may be more iconic from The Lion King. There may be other songs that won more awards. But for me, this is the song that brings me back to seeing The Lion King for the first time. It’s so catchy and triumphant. The instrumentation, with the drums pounding in the background, brings everything together and is so uniquely Lion King.
1. “Friend Like Me” – Aladdin
Full disclosure: Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie, so pretty much any of the songs on the soundtrack could have been my pick here. But I can remember singing along to this song as a kid (and as a teenager … and as an adult…) and not just singing the song, but singing with the appropriate accents and impressions at the right time (“To help ya’ dude!”). While other songs from Aladdin may be more emotional and lauded, “Friend Like Me” is probably the marquee song of the movie. This song is also the first time we are introduced to an all-time great Disney character in Genie. The importance, playfulness, catchiness, and overall production of this song/sequence make it the ultimate highlight of the ‘90s.
What is your favorite ’90s Disney song? Let us know in the comments!