July 15, 2010

MRQE Rewind: Disney's 20 Best Live-Action Movies

Disney's latest, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, opened this Wednesday, and while it earned mostly dismal reviews it got us thinking about the non-animated films that make up the studio's iconic vault. While films like The Shaggy Dog or Old Dogs (what's with Disney making bad movies with the word "dog" in the title?) might make us cringe, we cannot discount the studio's more revered live-action movies. So, grab your umbrella and don your pirate's hat as we take a look at Disney's 20 best-reviewed live-action movies. We highlight a few gems here. Head on over to MRQE for the complete list.

MRQE Metric: 66/100
In 1988, Jamaica surprised everyone by entering the Winter Olympics bobsledding competition. While they didn't go on to win the gold medal, they did inspire everyone with their "underdog" story. The 1993 film, starring John Candy, did change some facts about the team's origins, but despite a few Hollywood liberties (John Candy's character and all the team members are fictional, they didn't actually carry the sled on their shoulders over the finish line after crashing, opposing teams were supportive of Jamaica and let them use spare sleds), the movies does do a good job of teaching us that with hard work and dedication we too can make dreams come true. Disney loves great sports drama, and this moral can inspire kids and adults alike, therefore it's no surprise that Remember the Titans (2000), and Miracle (2004) also makes the list.


MRQE Metric: 68
Before she had her troubles with the law, young and cute Lindsey Lohan was a Disney darling. While the original 1961 film didn't have enough tabulated reviews to make the cut, the 1998 remake certainly remains as a worthy counterpart, especially since much of the same tone and spirit is captured within. In this version, Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson fill the shoes originally worn by Brian Keith and Maureen O'Hara, as a couple who divorce soon after marrying. Their twin daughters, Hallie and Annie, both played by Lohan, are separated at birth, only to re-unite years later at a summer camp. From then on, the girls try everything in their power to get their parents back together. Lohan appears later in our list, in the remake of Freaky Friday.


10. The Rocketeer (1991)
MRQE Metric: 72
From the comic book by Dave Stevens comes The Rocketeer, a sort of throwback to the Saturday sci-fi adventure mantinees from the 1930s and '40s. Turning the comic to the screen, with director Joe Johnston, Disney had high hopes for the film, expecting it would turn into a trilogy (in fact, many cast members were contracted for sequels).  However, in spite of an all-star cast that included Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, and Alan Arkin, the film could not find box office success. Part of the problem was the use of 1930's Art Deco, which some critics felt distracted from the story. Other problems included the promotion of the film, and it's poster which focused more on the character of the Rocketeer than the cast. Regardless, The Rockteeer did receive a fair share of favorable reviews, many of whom enjoyed the film's homages to the serials of the past.


MRQE Metric: 73
Since 1954, there has been many adaptations of Jules Verne's classic novel, but none are more memorable than this "whale-of-a-tale" from Disney. James Mason's portrayal of Captain Nemo stands out in our minds, just as much as the iconic submarine, the Nautilus, and the epic battle with the giant squid. Certainly one of Disney's most costly and elaborate films, 20,000 Leagues is one of the studio's first to feature Hollywood stars (Mason, Kirk Douglas, and Peter Lorre) as well as stunning special effects for its day. 20,000 Leagues went on to win the Academy Award for special effects.


5. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
MRQE Metric: 74

Johnny Depp borrowing from Keith Richards, Orlando Bloom supplying the swoon, and Keira Knightley giving guys a run for their money . . . how can you not find enjoyment with Pirates of the Caribbean? However, its earliest conception, the idea of another film adaptation of a Disney ride made many questions whether it could be successful. Two previous attempts at adapting rides were dismal: 2000's Mission to Mars was inspired by a Tomorrowland attraction, but found no heart with critics. And, 2002's The Country Bears was just an all-out failure. Fortunately, this time around Disney struck box office gold, as the film's swash-buckling story, sweeping sets, and thrilling performances reminded audiences and critics alike just how much fun movies can be. Pirates of the Caribbean spawned two equally successful sequels, and a fourth is on its way to a 2011 release.


Want more great live-action movies from Disney? See the rest of the films that made the list!

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