Disney's animated features stand alone in that they often implement some of the best musical talent around. Their Broadway-style features rival some of the greatest movie musicals of all time. The best of the best of these Disney musical classics all occurred during the Disney renaissance of the '90s. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid were all so beloved that they were all turned into Broadway musicals.
The pinnacle of both Disney music and Disney Broadway shows, though, is without a doubt The Lion King. This 1994 classic transcended its Disney moniker, making The Lion King one of the greatest film musicals of all time. With the release of its hyper-realist reimagining, it is time to rank all of the music from this Disney masterpiece.
10 The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Ranking last on this list, and somehow still being fantastic, is the musical interlude between Timon and Pumbaa. The Lion Sleeps Tonight holds its roots in the real world, originating in South Africa as a single titled Mbube by Solomon Linda. In The Lion King, Timon and Pumbaa sing the iconic tune while searching for grub.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight lands at the bottom mostly due to its minimal status in the film. It is a small moment that fans adore (and was joyfully recreated for this remake), but it is still such a small throwaway moment.
9 The Morning Report
Unlike live-action re-releases, Disney animated features can often get away with added scenes. For one of the rereleases of The Lion King for home video, a brand-new musical number was added, giving fans a brand new song to fall in love with. Sadly, it was nowhere as iconic as the rest of the soundtrack.
The Morning Report, a solo number by Zazu, features the hornbill reciting the day's news. It's certainly not awful and features both James Earl Jones and Rowan Atkinson reprising their iconic roles.
8 Lebo M's Vocals & Hans Zimmer’s Score
Okay, this might not technically be a single song, but the entire musical arrangement surrounding each song needs to be addressed. Nearly every other Disney musical of this era was arranged by Alan Menken, who remains a legend. But the fact that Hans Zimmer, the man behind The Dark Knight Trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Gladiator, crafted the score for a Disney animated feature is incredible.
Not only that, but Lebo M. brought all the traditional African singing, chanting, and instrumental influences alongside Zimmer's unique score. This pair created one of the greatest musical scores ever.
7 King Of Pride Rock (The Circle Of Life Reprise)
In the same vein, the pinnacle of both the songwriting and the score can be found in the finale of the film. After vanquishing his regicide committing uncle Scar, Simba takes the long walk to assume the throne. As he roars in command, life returns to the pridelands and Simba's own child is presented to the royal subjects.
This return to the Circle of Life is one of the most rousing endings to any Disney film. The use of both Hans Zimmer's score and the original title creates both a triumphant ending for our heroes and reflection on the film's overall cyclical message.
6 Be Prepared
Villain songs in Disney films can be rather hit or miss. For every hit like The Little Mermaid's "Poor Unfortunate Souls," there are just as many bombs, such as Pocahontas' "Mine, Mine, Mine." The Lion King's villain song luckily lands in the former category. As a villain, Scar is one of the best. Bolstered by the legendary Jeremy Irons, the sinister and campy performance has an equally iconic song.
"Be Prepared" is one of the few Disney villain songs that is actually terrifying, while still remaining entertaining. Insidiously playful, this song is an achievement in writing, voice work, and animation.
5 I Just Can’t Wait To Be King
When it comes to youthful energy, I Just Can't Wait To Be King takes the cake. No other song in the film feels as high energy as this. The sequence is sillier than a lot of the others, choosing to animate the animals in a far more cartoon-like style.
While the message is clear, showing Simba's naivete over the idea of ruling, the later sequences between himself and Mufasa showcase these lessons in a far more powerful way. That being said, it is an earworm if there ever was one. I Just Can't Wait To Be King showcases some of the most impressive animation Disney had to offer at the time, mirroring other classic surreal sequences such as Dumbo's Pink Elephants scene.
4 Hakuna Matata
When it comes to sheer nostalgia, Hakuna Matata wears the crown. It's debatable, but few songs trigger a sense of nostalgia like this. Upon release, it immediately became an instant classic. Only a year later, Toy Story featured it during its finale as a small easter egg.
The song itself, though, while classic and nearly perfect, has an underlying negative effect on Simba. While the hero should be off saving his kingdom, he is instead enticed to a life of indifference. That being said, the song still slaps today and is legendary across the Disney canon.
3 Can You Feel the Love Tonight
Disney has created some of the greatest love ballads of all time. "Kiss the Girl," "Someday My Prince Will Come," and, of course, the immortal "Beauty and the Beast" are just a few. The Lion King got an extra boost though when recruiting Elton John. The songwriter behind "Your Song" helped craft another icon of romantic Disney tunes: "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."
Out of all the songs on this list, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is the most critically acclaimed. While "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata" were both nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, it was "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" that took home the win.
2 He Lives In You
Though not technically included in the original film, "He Lives in You" holds deep roots in The Lion King. Arranged originally by Lebo M., "He Lives in You" was first released on Rythym of the Pridelands, a Lion King-inspired album. It was then included in the Broadway production where it really gained a following.
Appearing twice in the show, it is deeply connected to the spiritual side of the story and the theme of ancestry. It is one of the most moving pieces that Lebo M. had ever arranged for The Lion King. It would later be used in the home video release of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, solidifying its status.
1 The Circle Of Life
There is no other song that could take the top spot. From the first note, "The Circle of Life"'s visceral nature affects everyone who hears it. When first marketing the film, Disney released the entire opening sequence as their trailer. The reactions were ecstatic. Never before had such powerful music been paired with equally powerful animation. Disney had struck a chord with audiences in a way it never had before.
Its universal message of shared experience and balance reaches to the heart of the entire film. There is a near spirituality to the events seen on screen, and the music reinforces it perfectly. "The Circle of Life" embodies The Lion King more than any other song on this list, and its universal love reinforces its number-one spot.