Most Disney movies end with the couple living happily ever after, but not all the romances are fairy tale-perfect on closer inspection.
Romances in early Disney movies didn't have much substance aside from some physical attraction, nice dresses, and "True Love’s Kiss." No amount of pixie dust or sea creatures singing "Kiss the Girl" can make these smitten princes and princesses understand each other beyond a pretty face or a glass slipper. These romances are two-dimensional at best and reductive or harmful at worst.
However, later Disney films tend to be much better at modern romance. When cats and dogs stop caring about who is the lady and who is the tramp, the movies ironically become more human. "Love at First Sight" became far less important to a successful Disney romance than the need for both people to respect and understand each other, or else they risk getting whacked in the head with a frying pan — or a candlestick if you’re fancy.
From liaisons that never even happened in storybooks, to once-upon-a-dreams that we sometimes wish could be our reality, follow us through the ultimate ranking of Disney animated romances.
Pocahontas and John Smith (Pocahontas, 1995)
Disney mythology went too far around the riverbend here. In real life, there was never anything remotely romantic between John Smith and Pocahontas (among many more historical inaccuracies). She was, like, 10 years old. He forged an alliance with her people, but a romance for the ages? Not so much.
Aurora and Prince Philip (Sleeping Beauty, 1959)
So maybe True Love's Kiss was a thing before Sleeping Beauty, but can it get more Mary Sue than a teen girl who used to sing about "someday my prince will come" getting awakened from a curse by said prince?
Snow White and Prince Charming (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937)
The element of danger here — the risk of Snow having her heart literally cut out while lying unconscious in a glass coffin — makes the True Love's Kiss thing a little more tolerable. At least this kiss saves her from murder, but it still presents the heroine as a damsel in distress and passive prize to be won.
Cinderella and Prince Charming (Cinderella, 1950)
Is there a Charming bloodline or something? Anyway, a guy who needs to scour the kingdom with a lost shoe in hand because he forgot your name is kind of sketchy, even if he is a prince. He probably doesn't deserve you.
Ariel and Prince Eric (The Little Mermaid, 1989)
Ariel may have emerged from the deep, but it's still pretty shallow for some rando washed up on the shore to be hopelessly in love with her just from hearing her sing. If he only knew the girl did her hair with a dinglehopper.
Jasmine and Aladdin (Aladdin, 1992)
Even if you are crushing on a royal, the questionable ethics of assuming a fake identity to get yourself into the palace are so not romantic. Aladdin is lucky he has that magic carpet on hand before he gets found out.
Peter Pan and Wendy (Peter Pan, 1953)
Neverland may be an enchanting vacation locale and all, but how selfish is it to want your (platonic) love interest to stay an eternal tween because you refuse to grow up? He also can’t expect Wendy to wear the same nightgown forever.
Tiana and Prince Naveen (The Princess and the Frog, 2009)
Try morphing into a frog only to have your "princess" also turn into a frog when you kiss, because, you know, only a real princess can turn a frog back into a prince. This is why love spells are a scam.
Maid Marian and Robin Hood (Robin Hood, 1973)
How do you get the attention of your childhood sweetheart when you're on the run from the law? Enter an archery tournament to win a kiss, of course, except a fox disguised as a stork isn't exactly going to fool the sheriff.
Esmeralda and Phoebus (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996)
Esmeralda's idea of candlelight is more like a candle-fight, and this is after she snatches Phoebus' sword and points it at his neck. Talk about playing hard to get.
Eilonwy and Taran (The Black Cauldron, 1985)
Sometimes what you really need to give you the courage to kiss your crush is a furry creature finding the opportune moment to smush your lips together. Taran owes the princess this much after she gets him out of the dungeon.
Lady and Tramp (Lady and the Tramp, 1955)
Being Miss Park Avenue doesn't mean you can’t share your spaghetti with a scruffy drifter, even if he has a reputation for dodging animal control but doesn't have a collar and a license. Aren't those things for kept pooches anyway?
Duchess and Thomas O’Malley (The Aristocats, 1970)
Pampered, purebred pet meets alley cat from the seedy side of Paris. You would think she'd turn up her pink nose at him, but he's her prince, which could probably teach humans a few things about judging appearances.
Jane and Tarzan (Tarzan, 1999)
Seeing a nearly naked man living as a gorilla would have freaked most people out, but Jane is fascinated. Spending more time with him for science is the best excuse ever. Plus, you know you're a catch when your gorilla-in-laws approve.
Anna and Kristoff (Frozen, 2013)
You'd think the only act of love that can reverse Elsa's deep freeze is the infamous True Love's Kiss, but Elsa saves Anna, who then realizes that reindeer herder Kristoff is a much better match than the treacherous Hans.
Bianca and Bernard (The Rescuers, 1977)
Bonding over a perilous (at least for mice) rescue mission to Devil's Bayou is no candlelit evening. At least Bianca doesn't need to guess whether Bernard is into her because he's so easily flustered, both by her face and those monster gators.
Perdita and Pongo (101 Dalmatians, 1961)
Disney villains bring some couples even closer. These two take "for better, for worse" to a whole other level when they brave Cruella de Vil and a killer snowstorm to rescue their puppies — and 84 more — from being turned into fur coats.
Nala and Simba (The Lion King, 1994)
Nala isn't afraid to show the reluctant ruler, who once couldn't wait to be king, who's boss, and just convincing him that he deserves to take up his birthright despite Scar usurping the throne makes her a queen in her own right.
Milo and Kida (Atlantis: The Lost Empire, 2001)
Milo is willing to ride an unreliable steampunk fish-mobile into the dark and get himself entangled with ancient and potentially dangerous Atlantean magic so not only the princess, but her people, survive. Forget a ring — that gets you a crown.
Mulan and Li Shang (Mulan, 1998)
Sure, at first Shang is furious that 'Ping' is not who "he" appears to be, but she went to war to save her dad from becoming a casualty. No wonder he not only spared her the execution but ended up coming after her.
Rapunzel and Eugene (Tangled, 2010)
When you're a princess and someone steals your crown, he deserves to get knocked out with a frying pan. Flynn (real name Eugene) really needs to redeem himself after that, but dying once to free Rapunzel should do it (Spoiler alert: he gets better).
Hercules and Megara (Hercules, 1997)
When moving actual mountains isn't enough, sometimes you just have to go to the Underworld and back for love. You might even have to ditch the party on Mount Olympus and sacrifice being a god. Now that's a real hero.
Belle and Beast (Beauty and the Beast, 1991)
Seeing past otherness is at the heart of this tale as old as time, and Belle's feelings for the furball are genuine since she had no idea about breaking the spell. Dating a beast also beats Gaston any day of the week.