With Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid coming out at the end of the month, the internet is abuzz with discussion of the original Disney classics and their newer live actions versions. The same thing happens every time one of these remakes is released, and quite frankly, it’s enough already.
There are plenty of other princesses who are overlooked as a result of the constant Disney discourse. Some are from films that are classics in their own right, and others are underrated sleeper picks who deserve their day in the sun. It is time to show them some love.
10 Princess Fiona – Shrek
The immense popularity of the Shrek franchise means that Fiona is nearly as famous as the Disney princesses she parodies. Fiona of Far Far Away is locked in a tower and rescued by the ogre Shrek, but she is far from a damsel in distress. This princess knows martial arts. She kicks more butts than the rest of the characters combined.
But Fiona’s secret is her curse: each night, she turns into an ogre. This curse turns out to be a blessing as she finds true love with Shrek, not the ill-tempered Lord Farquaad or pathetic Prince Charming. She was an early example of a princess with power proving that being pretty doesn’t mean you don’t pack a punch.
9 Princess Anastasia – Anastasia
This Fox Animation Studios production is based on the legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter of the last ruler of Imperial Russia who was rumored to have survived her family’s execution at the hands of the revolutionary Bolsheviks.
In the movie, Princess Anastasia does escape but suffers a blow to the head resulting in amnesia. She is raised as an orphan and is eventually reunited with her family, thwarting the evil sorcerer Rasputin and breaking the Romanov family curse in the process.
8 Princess Thumbelina – Thumbelina
Thumbelina is adapted from Hans Christen Anderson’s fairytale of the same name. The tiny Thumbelina is born from a flower and eventually falls in love with Cornelius, the prince of the fairies. But shortly after, Thumbelina is kidnapped. What follows is an adventure in miniature culminating in Thumbelina and Prince Cornelius’s wedding, after which Thumbelina magically grows a pair of fairy wings.
This movie was released in 1994 and directed by the same men who would later go on to create Anastasia, and although it never rose to the same prominence as its Disney contemporaries, many 90s kids will remember it as one of the best underrated family movies of the 1990s.
7 Princess Odette – The Swan Princess
Inspired by the play Swan Lake, The Swan Princess follows Princess Odette on her mission to become human again after the evil sorcerer Rothbart curses her to become a swan. Her lover, Prince Derek, must prove his love for Odette in order to break the spell, but after Rothbart performs a doppelganger switcheroo, Odette perishes, leaving Derek to fight the dark wizard.
Derek only succeeds with the help of the animal friends Odette made as a swan. He professes his love for the person Odette has become, redeeming himself from the start of their courtship when he struggled to enumerate reasons for liking her besides her beauty. Odette is revived, the spell is broken, and they all live happily ever after, proving that starting a relationship based on physical attraction alone creates problems down the line.
6 Princess Eilonwy – The Black Cauldron
Loosely based on a book series called The Chronicles of Prydain, which takes inspiration from Welsh mythology, this story is about a boy named Taran who must prevent the evil Horned King from finding the powerful artifact known as the Black Cauldron. When Taran is captured by the Horned King’s minions, he meets Princess Eilonwy in the dungeon, and they escape together to continue their quest.
Admittedly, The Black Cauldron is a Disney property, but not one of its princess classics–in fact, it’s one of Disney’s animated box office bombs. Princess Eilonwy is crucial to completing mission. She comes from a line of sorcerers herself, and proves a valuable, if stubborn and hotheaded, ally. In the end, she and Taran share a kiss.
5 San – Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke could be considered a classic by fans of Hayao Miyazaki. It is beloved as one of the best Studio Ghibli films. “Princess Mononoke” is just a nickname given to a girl named San who was raised by wolves and hates humans for their disregard of nature.
The plot deals largely with the theme of environmentalism, as the people of Iron Town, where most of the movie is set, are constantly in conflict with the Forest Spirit and other natural and supernatural creatures. San acts as a connection between nature and the human world, demonstrating the struggle to find a balance between them.
4 Princess Anneliese – Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper
Princess Anneliese is supposed to marry the wealthy King Dominick to save her kingdom from financial ruin, but she is in love with her tutor, Julian. When Anneliese is abducted by the Queen’s wicked advisor, Julian asks the pauper Erika to pose as Anneliese while he looks for the princess. It just so happens that Erika and Anneliese are identical–save for their hair color. Antics ensue involving a barking cat and a mineshaft cave-in, but in the end, the kingdom is saved.
This 2004 computer-animated musical might be a bit of reach for some audiences, but others considered it the best of the Barbie animated movies. It has developed a cult following for memorable songs such as “I Am a Girl Like You” and is loosely based on Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.
3 Princess Atta – A Bug’s Life
A Bug’s Life is the second Disney/Pixar collaboration after Toy Story. It tells the tale of Flik, a bumbling inventor ant, who accidentally destroys his colony’s food offering to the grasshoppers running a protection racket on them. Princess Atta sends Flik to find warriors to protect them, believing it to be a futile mission, but when Flik returns with what he believes to be warrior bugs, Atta begins to trust him again and allows him to carry out his plan.
After some more ups and down, Atta ultimately rescues Flik from the grasshoppers and the two end up together. Atta is a good princess who wants what is best for her people (or, rather, her ants) without a trace of selfish motivation.
2 Princess Kida – Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Atlantis: The Lost Empire centers around Atlantis history buff Milo Thatch who finally gets the chance to go on an expedition to find the lost city with Commander Rourke. Rourke secretly plans to steal the source of the city’s power and longevity, a crystal called the Heart of Atlantis. But when Heart of Atlantis fuses with the city’s Princess Kida, both sides fight to capture her.
The movie was well-loved for its animation style. It broke ground at the time of its release with its use of computer generated animation. Princess Kida’s character design is memorable, though she does play something of a damsel in distress in this movie, becoming the macguffin that everyone is after.
1 Princess Merida – Brave
Brave was Pixar’s first film to feature a female protagonist as well as its first with a female (co-)director. Princess Merida defies tradition by refusing her betrothal, which angers her mother, Queen Elinor. Their rift between them grows. When a witch gives Merida a spell to changer her mother, she unwittingly would turn her mother into a bear. After reconciling, Elinor reverts to her human form and Merida succeeds in breaking the age-old custom of arranged marriages.
Merida could be considered a “modern princess” insofar as she is not concerned with marrying a prince, but rather with living life on her own terms. Brave also provides an uplifting and nuanced mother-daughter relationship not often seen in princess movies. Merida is technically a Disney princess, but she’s part of the new generation, and is still the only one who comes from Pixar.
NEXT: 10 Highest-Rated Pixar Movies That Don’t Have a Sequel, According to IMDb