After watching Coco for our first movie night I got inspired. Disney is great at making cultural movies, they have done it many times. They take a culture from a country or a specific place and show the beauty of the place.
In my opinion a lot of these movies could be a great add to any history or geography class. There will of cause be a few spoilers for the movies so if you haven’t seen them and don’t want them spoiled skip the description. But what cultural movies are the best? click read more and see my top 10.
Aladdin is inspired by a Middle Eastern folk tale that was part of the 1001 Nights.
It tells the story of a poor street thug who falls in love with the beautiful princess.
The movie is great at taking us into the streets of the fictional land of Agrabah.
It also shows the contrast between the lower class and the upper class and is great of capturing all the elements of the old world, from the deserts to the huge palace the King and Princess live in.
Moana tells the story of a Polynesian princess who knows she is destined for more than just looking after the island.
It is great at using old folklore and gods of the Hawaiian people. What makes this my pick over a movie like Lilo & Stitch is how the movie drags you into the story of the old island tribes.
The cave paintings that Moana sees, the tattoos on Maui’s body and the many gods and beasts they fight are all inspired from Polynesian folklore.
Even the small things like taking care of the village, the men fishing while the women gather, and the problem of getting enough provision if you don’t leave the island is something that many Oceanic peoples struggle with on a daily basis.
Loosely inspired by the fairytale of The Snow Queen by H.C Anderson from 1844, Frozen takes us to the land of Arendelle.
The story is about Princess Elsa, who is born with a curse – everything she touches turns into ice.
For this movie the production team actually travelled to Norway to experience the feel of the cold Northlands firsthand.
The movie really gives us a great insight of the snowy fields of Norway and adds some historical folklore with the small trolls, although I think the old stories probably didn’t have them being as cute as they are in the movie.
Inspired in part by a true story, Pocahontas tells the story of a native American woman falling in love with the Englishman John Smith.
The movie portrays the relationship between the English and the natives back when the British were colonising America.
It tells the story of forbidden love between social classes and most of all it shows the beauty of the nature worship that Pocahontas’ tribe partake in.
Based on the Chinese folklore of Hua Mulan the film shows Mulan taking her father’s place in the Chinese army due to him being too old to fight.
The problem here is she is a woman, so to be accepted she has to disguise herself as a man.
The movie breaks the stereotypes of the traditional woman who stays home while the men fight. It also shows a lot of Chinese culture, with Mulan going to her ancestors for their blessing.
The dragon-spirit Mushu (actually named after a popular Chinese dish!) being sent from the ancestors to protect Mulan is also a big part of the Chinese culture.
5. The Princess and the Frog.
The Princess and the Frog sticks out from all the other movies on this list, it is not a culture from a whole country but a specific place: the US state of Georgia!
Tiana works as a waitress and dreams of the life of a princess.
She then find a cursed frog who tricks her to kiss him. This turns him back into a prince, while she is now a frog.
The movie celebrates the southern culture very well, both with the food culture and the people, this is a culture I feel is way too misrepresented in movies and cartoons so I praise when it is done right.
In Brave, Merida is the young daughter of a Scottish king, but she is also a skilled archer and wants to follow her own path as a warrior.
Unfortunately you cant be a warrior or battle as a woman, therefore she is forbidden to practice her archery skills and told instead to focus on becoming a woman.
The movie shows a lot of the beautiful nature you will experience if you ever go to Scotland.
It also shows the national pride a lot of Scots have even to this day.
Any music lover has to appreciate this masterpiece.
Coco is about Manuel who dreams of being a mariachi (Mexican classical guitarist) but his family despise all musicians since his grandfather (who was a musician) left his grandmother.
Coco beautifully displays the Mexican culture with the novellas (soap operas) and Cinco De Mayo (Day of the Dead), a yearly Mexican holiday where people praise their ancestors and relatives who have passed.
All the songs in the movie are covers of traditional Mexican songs, this movie is a must see in my opinion.
2. The Lion King.
Simba is born to become king of the savanna, unfortunately it just happens earlier than expected.
The Lion King is my all time favourite Disney movie. It takes us on an emotional journey through the savanna of Kenya to the jungle, with a storyline inspired by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
The soundtrack to this movie has a lot of inspiration from traditional African folk music.
1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Based on the 1831 novel of the same name, The Hunchback of Notre Dame tells the story of Quasimodo. An outcast who is forced into a life as the cathedral bell-ringer, Quasimodo is hidden away by the bishop, who tells him he is too ugly to ever go out in public.
Out in the city the story tells about Esmeralda, a gypsy girl trying to make money dancing for people on the street.
Another outcast due to her economic class, the movie highlights the problems France and especially Paris had during the 1800s and is potentially the most historically significant movie on the list.
Do you agree with my list? Did I miss out on some movies? leave your comments down below!