The Lion King Remake – The Lion King Ranked
What’s a rankography exactly? Well, it’s my ranking of a filmography, whether that be a director’s output, an actor’s appearances, or even an entire franchise. My rankographies are based on personal preference and I rank movies according to how much I enjoyed them, rather than any specific technical merit or attribute.
Remember, this is just my ranking, not THE ranking, so be sure to post your own personal ranking of The Lion King franchise in the comments below. The Lion King franchise contains some movies that I have a very deep connection with. This franchise has been a part of my life for, quite literally, as long as I can remember and Simba’s still my favorite Disney character to this day. These movies are something special.
The stories, themes, animation, and characters have all been things I’ve found to be fantastic pretty much across the board, so even the lowest-ranked Lion King movie is still one I genuinely enjoy. I’ve already reviewed all four of these movies on this channel, so if you wanna check those out for some more in-depth thoughts on each of them, I’ll put the links in the description below and I’ll also link them up in the cards as we go along. Alright, let’s get this rankography started. Coming in at #4: The Lion King 1 1/2. This was always my least favorite of the animated trilogy when I was younger and, as you can see, it still is today.
I think a big part of that was the timing. This movie was released ten years after the first film and so, I was a bit out of the target age range when it came out. I was in that early teen ìtoo old for cartoonsî phase, but it was The Lion King, so I definitely still got the DVD when it was released and watched it quite a few times. Unfortunately, the story never really grabbed me. You’d think that was a consequence of when the film came out, but even rewatching it today, it clearly has the weakest story of the bunch. I’ll admit that I was always much more of a Simba fan than a Timon and Pumbaa fan, so the fact that this movie is essentially their story never quite drew me in as much as another character could’ve.
That’s not to say I disliked them I just preferred them in smaller doses than this movie provided. I still feel that way today, but I think I appreciate this movie more than I ever did when I was younger because of its premise. The story itself is a little lackluster, but the idea that this film is both a prequel and an alternate perspective retelling is pretty unique. So, even though I wasn’t dying to know the backstory of Timon and Pumbaa, this movie was able to provide it in a very nostalgic package with some fantastically self-aware meta-humor. As entertaining as it can be, it definitely feels like a step down from the rest of the franchise in nearly every way.
The other films offer some profound messages and themes whereas this is a much lighter, comedic take on the franchise’s characters and ends up feeling like a throwaway movie. It’s occasionally fun but doesn’t contribute much. Coming in at #3: The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride. I was 8 years old when this direct-to-video release came out, so I was still solidly in the right age bracket for it. Although I definitely didn’t watch it as much as the original film, this VHS got more than its share of watches. I absolutely loved having a continuation of the story and seeing what came next. Even now, I’m impressed by how good this movie is. I half expected it to be a nostalgia-fueled, slightly disappointing rewatch, but no ñ it’s still a good movie and certainly a worthy sequel to The Lion King.
When you really think about it, The Lion King 2 had an impossible task. It had to serve as the follow-up film to the most successful animated film of all time, with only a fraction of the budget and time, due to its DTV nature. Of course, it wasn’t gonna ever be as good as the original movie, but it manages to do a surprisingly good job. We get nearly all our favorite characters back (most with their original voice actors) and the themes and story serve as a logical follow-up to those in the first film. We see Simba still dealing with the aftermath of Scar’s betrayal, while at the same time, figuring out the best ways to lead and be a father.
We’re also introduced to a number of new characters, including Simba’s daughter Kiara, the outsider lion Kovu, and the Scar sympathizer Zira. The movie definitely rehashes quite a bit of the original film’s story and utilizes Romeo and Juliet as its plot conflict guide, but it also touches on some deeper themes through wonderful character moments and songs, much like the original film. I still think The Lion King 2 is Disney’s best and most solid direct-to-video sequel. Coming in at #2: The Lion King 2019. Although not technically a live-action film, it joins the rapidly growing ranks of Disney’s live-action remakes thanks to its spectacular photorealistic animation. The debate remains, but you might as well call it live-action cause that was clearly the filmmakers’ intentions. It all looks so real.
The lions look real. Rafiki looks real, Timon and Pumbaa look real. Pride Rock, the gorge, the backgrounds, the animal movements ñ it all looks real! Fur blowing in the wind, rain, the fire I could go on, but I think you get the point. I love the realism portrayed by this style, but there are some obvious tradeoffs. Real animals aren’t usually brightly colored and lions certainly don’t cry. So the vibrancy of the original movie just isn’t there and the intense human emotions of that first film can’t come across in the same way here, making most scenes feel slightly less emotionally impactful. This movie is a true remake.
The basic story is the same, as are the character dynamics and overarching themes. Many people are calling this a shot-for-shot remake, but considering the number of scenes that were tweaked, added, and omitted, I think that’s a really hard case to make. There’s no doubt that some scenes have been closely replicated to amazing effect, but there are enough minor changes to consider the film its own thing. Some of the changes were great, some were frustrating or baffling, but none fundamentally altered the tale. Much like The Lion King 2, this film had impossible shoes to fill.
It could never live up to the original film, but it still did a fantastic job bringing its own visual sense to the already universally beloved story. So that means my #1 Lion King film is the 1994’s The Lion King. I’m sure that’s a huge surprise to everybody watching. The original Lion King is the single most important film to me. It was the first movie I ever saw in the theater and it defined my childhood. Everything was Lion King for me. It was my absolute favorite movie for a decade and even though it’s dropped a few spots on my all-time list since then, it still remains my favorite animated movie.
I mean, what is there to say about this movie that hasn’t already been said a million times? What can I say about it that you haven’t already said about it at some point? It’s an absolutely amazing movie. It’s one of those extremely rare movies that I can’t find a fault in. The characters are fantastic, the music’s memorable, the animation’s astonishingly cinematic, the story’s epic, the themes are impactful and heartfelt. It’s truly a perfect movie. Perfect and timeless. The Lion King is 25 years old, yet it’s still just as spectacular now as it was in 1994. And, having grown up with this movie, I can tell you it’s a film that always sticks with you. You can be 4 years old, loving the animals and bright colors.
You can be 8 years old, just starting to pick up on some of the deeper themes and messages the story has to offer. You can be 16, empathizing with adolescent Simba, 25; understanding adult Simba’s decision to return home. 30, 40, 60, 80 it doesn’t matter how old you are. There’s always gonna be some aspect of The Lion King that resonates with you and that you can connect with at that particular stage in your life. And so, just like we’re all a part of the great circle of life, the Lion King is always gonna be a part of us.
It lives in you. Alright, so that’s my rankography of The Lion King franchise. Four great movies, one clear standout, and a lifetime of impact. What does your ranking look like? I’d love to see some reasoning for your order, so make sure you post it in the comments below. Also, be sure to check out my reviews of all four Lion King films for some more in-depth discussion of each, as well as my ratings, pros and cons, and even tailored film recommendations.