The 30 greatest Disney songs of all time, ranked

15 February 2022, 12:51 | Updated: 15 February 2022, 13:05

Disney's greatest songs
Disney's greatest songs. Picture: Disney/Elton John

By Tom Eames

Who doesn't love belting out a few Disney classic songs?

Whether you prefer old-school cartoons like Sleeping Beauty and The Lion King, live-action musicals like Mary Poppins or modern classics like Moana, we all have a bit of Disney in our hearts.

With Disney scoring massive hits once more with Encanto in 2022, let's take a look back at some of the greatest anthems of all time.

  1. 'Gaston' (The Beauty and the Beast)

    This fun romp is from The Beauty and the Beast and is sung by Jesse Corti and Richard White in their voice roles of Le Fou and Gaston, respectively.

    The musical number follows Gaston and the village people singing about how great he is, in order to cheer him up after Belle's rejection.

    Gaston's talents range from fighting, to spitting, to eating large quantities of eggs to his superior interior decoration.

  2. 'Go the Distance' (Hercules)

    This song was from the underrated 1997 film Hercules. Written by Alan Menken and David Zippel, it was recorded by Roger Bart in his film role as the singing voice of Hercules.

    Michael Bolton recorded a brilliant pop version of the song for the film's end credits, with Ricky Martin singing the Spanish version.

  3. 'Baby Mine' (Dumbo)

    This incredibly emotional song was written by Frank Churchilla nd Ned Washington for 1941's Dumbo.

    Singer Betty Noyes recorded the vocals for the original film version. In the film, Dumbo's mother, Mrs Jumbo, an elephant locked in a circus wagon, cradles her baby Dumbo with her trunk while singing this lullaby, before they are separated from each other.

    The song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942.

  4. 'Portobello Road' (Bedknobs and Broomsticks)

    This track was written by the Sherman Brothers as a waltz about Portobello Road in London, for the underrated live action film Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

    In the film, it is sung by David Tomlinson about a famous market street where anything could seemingly happen.

    The musical number was filmed in the same style as 'Consider Yourself' from Oliver!.

  5. 'Bella Notte' (The Lady and the Tramp)

    Meaning 'Beautiful Night' in Italian, this song was written for 1955's Lady and the Tramp during its famous romantic meal scene.

    The music for the song was written by Sonny Burke, with the lyrics by singer Peggy Lee.

    In the film, it is performed by George Givot, who also provided the voice of Tony. Peggy Lee herself recorded the song the same year.

  6. 'Under the Sea' (The Little Mermaid)

    One of many songs in this list written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, this fun Calypso-style track is inspired by the music of the Caribbean which originated in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Reggae from Jamaica.

    The song was performed in the film by Samuel E Wright as Sebastian the crab. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1989.

    The song sees Sebastian trying to convince Ariel to remain in the sea, and stop her desire to become a human in order to spend her life with Prince Eric.

  7. 'Friend Like Me' (Aladdin)

    Written for the Aladdin soundtrack, this track is performed by Hollywood legend Robin Williams as his character of the Genie.

    The song was written as a Cab Calloway-style big band number, and after Robin Williams was cast, it was slightly tweaked as a comedic song.

    After Aladdin releases the Genie from his lamp, the Genie proves his powers of granting three wishes to the skeptical thief with this musical number.

    Will Smith covered the song for the 2019 remake.

  8. 'I Just Can't Wait to Be King' (The Lion King)

    Written by Elton John and Tim Rice for The Lion King, this pop anthem is performed by Jason Weaver as the singing voice of young Simba, alongside Rowan Atkinson and Laura Williams as Zazu and Nala, respectively.

    The song is performed near the start of the film by a young Simba and Nala to showcase Simba's desires to become King one day.

  9. 'Oo de Lally' (Robin Hood)

    This little ditty was written and performed by country legend Roger Miller, who also played the part of the performing rooster Alan-a-Dale.

    The song plays at the beginning of the film showing Robin Hood and Little John larking about.

    A shoutout also goes to the underrated song 'Not in Nottingham', also performed by Miller.

  10. 'Hakuna Matata' (The Lion King)

    This Elton John and Tim Rice song is based on characters Timon and Pumbaa's catchphrase in The Lion King, Hakuna Matata, a Swahili phrase meaning 'No worry(s)'.

    In the film, the song is sung by Timon (Nathan Lane), Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), and Simba (Jason Weaver and Joseph Williams). It takes place after the death of Mufasa, and sees Timon and Pumbaa convince Simba to move forward from his troubled past.

    Rice said that he got the idea for the lyrics for the song from watching the sitcom Bottom, and at one point wanted the show's stars Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson to play Timon and Pumbaa.

  11. 'Almost There' (The Princess and the Frog)

    Written by Randy Newman for 2009's The Princess and the Frog, this song was originally recorded by actress and singer Anika Noni Rose in her role as Tiana.

    The song was nominated for Best Original Song but lost to 'The Weary Kind' from Crazy Heart.

    The song occurs when Tiana and her mother Eudora are at Tiana's restaurant, with Tiana singing that she is "Almost There" to successfully open her dream restaurant.

  12. 'Remember Me' (Coco)

    This lovely song was written for the 2017 Pixar film Coco, by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

    The song is performed at different times within the film by Benjamin Bratt, Gael García Bernal, Anthony Gonzalez, and Ana Ofelia Murguía.

    Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade also recorded a pop version for the film's end credits. It won Best Original Song at the 90th Academy Awards in 2018.

    In the film, it is known as Ernesto de la Cruz's most popular song, written by his music partner Héctor Rivera, and is first introduced as a mariachi track, as a plea from Ernesto to his fans to keep him in their minds.

    It then appears as a lullaby from Héctor to his daughter Coco, and then as a nostalgic song to connect an older Coco to an earlier time in her life, and to reunite Miguel with his great-grandmother.

  13. 'When She Loved Me' (Toy Story 2)

    This heartbreaking ballad was written by Randy Newman for Pixar's Toy Story 2 in 1999 and recorded by Sarah McLachlan.

    The song follows the backstory of toy cowgirl Jessie, as she looks back on her former relationship with her original owner, who has grown up and discarded her.

    Randy first felt that the song was inappropriate for the film, as young children may not be interested in it, but he changed his mind after screen tests showed good results.

    The song won a Grammy Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe and Academy Award but lost both to 'You'll Be in My Heart' from Tarzan.

  14. 'The Bare Necessities' (The Jungle Book)

    This classic jazzy song was written by Terry Gilkyson for the animated 1967 Disney film The Jungle Book. It was sung by Phil Harris as Baloo, and Bruce Reitherman as Mowgli.

    Originally, it was written for an earlier draft of the film that was never produced. The Sherman Brothers, who wrote the other songs in the film, kept this as the only song used from the previous version.

    In 1967, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song but lost to 'Talk to the Animals' from Doctor Dolittle.

  15. 'A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes' (Cinderella)

    This fairytale classic was written and composed by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston for 1950's Cinderella.

    In the song, Cinderella, voiced by Ilene Woods, tells her animal friends to never stop dreaming, which is a theme that continues throughout the story.

    Lily James later recorded the song for the soundtrack of the live-action version of Cinderella in 2015.

  16. 'Be Our Guest' (Beauty and the Beast)

    This memorable song was another from Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, and was recorded by by Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury as Lumière and Mrs Potts.

    It is a bombastic Broadway-inspired musical number that takes place during the first half of the film, performed by the castle's staff of enchanted objects in an attempt to welcome Belle to the fold.

    'Be Our Guest' was nominated for the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song, and was performed by Orbach live at the 64th Oscars, but lost both to the film's title song.

  17. 'Part of Your World' (The Little Mermaid)

    This song was written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken for 1989's The Little Mermaid, and performed by Jodi Benson in the main role as Ariel, a mermaid princess.

    The power ballad sees Ariel express her desire to become human, and is later reprised after she rescues Eric, a human prince with whom she has fallen in love.

    The song was influenced by Broadway and musical theatre, and over the years critics have pondered various interpretations of its empowering lyrics, from seeking independence from overprotective parents to feminism and LGBT rights.

  18. 'Let's Go Fly a Kite' (Mary Poppins)

    Composed by the Sherman Brothers for Mary Poppins, this joyous song is performed at the end of the film when George Banks (David Tomlinson), realizes that his family is much more important than his job.

    He mends his son's kite, and takes his family on a fun day out. Dick Van Dyke also joins in.

    The song had a much more emotional moment when it was used in the climax of the Saving Mr Banks film starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks.

  19. 'Reflection' (Mulan)

    This track was written and produced by Matthew Wilder (yes, the genius behind 'Break My Stride') and David Zippel for 1998's Mulan.

    In the film, the song is performed by Lea Salonga as main character Fa Mulan, with a single version recorded by Christina Aguilera as her debut single, aged just 17.

    The song appears after Mulan returns home following a humiliating attempt to impress her matchmaker. The lyrics show how Mulan feels about wanting to show the world who she really is instead of pretending to be who she is not.

  20. 'Let It Go' (Frozen)

    This juggernaut of a song was written by husband-and-wife songwriting duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

    Idina Menzel recorded the song in the film as her character Queen Elsa, with Demi Lovato recording the film's end credits version. Menzel's version was the first Disney song to break into the US charts since 1995.

    The song follows how Queen Elsa flees her kingdom when she loses control of her ability to generate ice. While hiding in the mountains, she realizes that she no longer needs to hide her ability and enjoys the freedom of escaping other people's expectations of her as a Queen.

    It won an Oscar and Grammy for Best Song, and sold over 10 million copies, making Frozen one of the biggest franchises of all time.

  21. 'How Far I'll Go' (Moana)

    This song was from 2016's Moana, written by Hamilton and Encanto's Lin-Manuel Miranda.

    In the film, it is performed Auliʻi Cravalho in her role as Moana, with Alessia Cara recording it for the soundtrack.

    The song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 89th Academy Awards and Best Original Song at the 74th Golden Globe Awards but lost both to 'City of Stars' from La La Land.

  22. 'I Wan'na Be Like You' (The Jungle Book)

    It was a genius move bringing in jazz band leader Louis Prima as the voice of King Louie in The Jungle Book.

    Walt Disney wanted to make his version of The Jungle Book more upbeat than the Rudyard Kipling story, the original Bill Peet script, and the original score composed by Terry Gilkyson.

    The Sherman brothers were brought in to come up with "crazy ways to have fun with [the music]". The brothers came up with a jazz sound, with a Dixieland-like melody.

    After suggesting that Louis Prima could play King Louie, the Sherman brothers flew out to Las Vegas and perform the song for him. Once Prima was invited to do the song, he mockingly joked with the Shermans: "You want to make a monkey out of me? You got me!"

  23. 'You'll Be In My Heart' (Tarzan)

    Phil Collins was hired by Disney for the Tarzan soundtrack because he was a drummer, which was appealing as they "wanted a strong jungle beat to accompany Tarzan's adventures".

    In the end, Phil was asked to perform the songs in the film, while also serving as the narrator.

    This ballad was originally written for his daughter Lily, who was 10 years old at the time, and is used in a scene when Tarzan's adoptive gorilla mother Kala sings that her baby should stop crying because she will protect him.

    The song won Phil a Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Song in 2000.

  24. 'You've Got a Friend in Me' (Toy Story)

    Randy Newman wrote and performed this litty ditty, which would become the main theme for all the Toy Story films.

    The song is played during the opening credits for Toy Story, Toy Story 3, and Toy Story 4, focusing on the importance of Woody and Andy in the first film, and for all his toys in the third and fourth.

    The song was nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, but lost both to 'Colors of the Wind' from Disney's Pocahontas.

  25. 'Colours of the Wind' (Pocahontas)

    This powerful song was written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz for 1995's Pocahontas.

    It is the film's theme song, and was originally recorded by actress Judy Kuhn in her role as the singing voice of Pocahontas. The song is about animism and respecting nature, finding its roots in indigenous Native American culture.

    The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, and also won a Grammy and Golden Globe.

    Vanessa Williams' pop version was also a big hit, and has been covered by everyone from Ashanti to Brian Wilson.

  26. 'The Beauty and the Beast' (The Beauty and the Beast)

    This gorgeous song was written by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, and was the film's title song. Inspired by Broadway, it was first recorded by British-American actress Angela Lansbury in her role as the voice of Mrs Potts.

    The song describes the relationship between its two main characters Belle and the Beast, and how the couple have learned to accept their differences and change each other for the better.

    Lansbury's version is heard during the film's famous ballroom sequence between Belle and the Beast.

    The Murder She Wrote star was initially hesitant to record it, as she felt that it was not suitable for her ageing singing voice, but still completed the song in one take.

    Celine Dion also recorded a pop version for the film's ending credits with Peabo Bryson, scoring one of her first international hits in the process.

  27. 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' (The Lion King)

    This love ballad won Elton John and Tim Rice an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song in 1995.

    The song was performed in the film by Kristle Edwards, Joseph Williams, Sally Dworsky, Nathan Lane, and Ernie Sabella, with Elton recording another version in the film's closing credits.

    Bonus fact: Backing vocals were provided by Gary Barlow, Rick Astley, Kiki Dee and horror legend Robert Englund!

  28. 'A Whole New World' (Aladdin)

    This ballad was written by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Tim Rice. A duet was originally recorded by singers Brad Kane and Lea Salonga in their roles as the singing voices of Aladdin and Jasmine.

    The track is both the film's love and theme song, and describes Aladdin showing the confined princess a life of freedom while riding on a magic carpet. The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1993.

    A single version of the song was released, performed by American singers Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle. This version is played over the film's end credits and was a hit around the world.

    And who could forget the version by Katie Price and Peter Andre?

  29. 'When You Wish Upon a Star' (Pinocchio)

    This iconic song was written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney's 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio.

    The original version was sung by Cliff Edwards in the character of Jiminy Cricket, and is heard over the opening credits and in the final scene of the film.

    It won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was also the first Disney song to win an Oscar.

    In the 1980s, 'When You Wish Upon a Star' became the signature song of The Walt Disney Company, and is still used in its production logos at the beginning of many Disney films.

  30. 'Circle of Life' (The Lion King)

    There's nothing quite like hearing the opening bars of 'Circle of Life' as The Lion King begins.

    Written by Elton John, with lyrics by Tim Rice, the song was performed by Carmen Twillie and Lebo M in the original film.

    Rice said he was impressed at the speed with which Elton wrote the song: "I gave him the lyrics at the beginning of the session at about two in the afternoon. By half-past three, he'd finished writing and recording a stunning demo."

    Elton also sang a pop version with slightly different lyrics, scoring a hit of his own.

    'Circle of Life' was nominated for the Academy Award in 1994, but lost out to... 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight', also from The Lion King.

    The song was also featured in Disney's 2019 computer-animated remake, performed by Brown Lindiwe Mkhize, the actress who played Rafiki in the stage adaptation of the movie in London.