As you know if you watched last year’s “Saving Mr. Banks” — Disney’s own Disney-fied version of the creative struggles behind the making of “Mary Poppins” — the author who created the magical nanny, P.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson), didn’t much care for the glossy, sugary (well, a spoonful, at least) musical comedy that Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) made from her sharp, astringent novels. But she may have been the only one.
The movie enjoyed near-universal acclaim upon its release 50 years ago this week (on August 27, 1964). It went on to be nominated for 13 Oscars, including Best Picture, and it won five of them, including Best Actress for film-newbie Julie Andrews, in the role that has defined her career ever since. Over the past five decades, “Mary Poppins” has become not only a beloved staple that seemingly every kid has watched, but also proof that the Walt Disney studio could make family-friendly live-action movies that were every bit as artistically worthwhile as Disney’s landmark animated features.
Today, the Disney brand has grown to enbrace movies for grown-ups (released under such imprints as Touchstone), the Pixar line of computer-animated features, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe that encompasses “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Avengers,” and all related costumed comic-book characters. Still, the word “Disney” instantly brings to mind family-oriented features, usually animated, from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to “Frozen.” But as “Mary Poppins” proved, the live-action films released under the Walt Disney banner deserve recognition, too. Here are 30 of the best ones, films designed to delight generations of young viewers and their parents.