57. “Hercules” (John Musker and Ron Clements, 1997)
One of the more rickety films of the Disney Renaissance, “Hercules” is a bit of a mess, as even its biggest fans can probably admit. The tone is all over the place, the pacing is erratic, and the film’s kid-friendly approach to Greek mythology is more than a little flimsy. But John Musker and Ron Clements’ animated fantasy still has its fans, and it’s an unquestionably great musical.
The gorgeous neon-drenched animation is frequently stunning, and the film’s ensemble around the bumbling but kindhearted Hercules (Tate Donovan) — including his mentor Phil (Danny DeVito), multifaceted love interest Meg (Susan Egan), delightful villain Hades (James Woods), and the five muses that narrate the story — is among the most likable and memorable in any Disney animated film.
And one area where the movie never fails to enchant is the score, one of the greatest in Disney’s entire canon. At the time, the one that received the Oscar nomination was young Hercules’ (voiced by Roger Bart) “I Want” song “Go the Distance,” and it’s a charming number, along with DeVito’s breathless “One Last Hope.” And then of course, there are the Muses’ absolute bangers, patterned after gospel songs in an inspired choice for the Greek myth. “Zero to Hero” and the “Gospel Truth” numbers all absolutely rip, and the motown inspired “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” which they sing with Meg, is one of the best love songs in musical history. Plot issues aside, when it’s a musical, “Hercules” is simply godlike. —WC