20 (5) Reasons Why The Lion King Still Rules 20 Years Later

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Hey, here's something that will make you feel old! The Lion King is turning 20 on Sunday. The Disney masterpiece roared (shh, let us have that one) into theaters on June 15, 1994, where it would "Hakuna Matata" its way to becoming the second highest-grossing film of the year, earning an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and two Grammys in the process.

Although The Lion King is now seen as a centerpiece of Disney's so-called Renaissance period, it had modest origins, and even those involved on the project believed it would be a tough sell. "The pitch for the story was a lion cub gets framed for murder by his uncle, set to the music of Elton John," producer Don Hahn explained. "People said 'What? Good luck with that.'"

But the Shakespeare-lite story of Simba, King Mufasa and evil uncle Scar exceeded everyone's expectations then and, 20 years later, it's still an amazing film. We'll apologize in advance to Frozen princesses, singing candlesticks and even Billy Joel in dog form, because here are 20 reasons why we think The Lion King is the greatest Disney movie ever.

1. There's nothing more majestic than that opening sequence: The sun slowly rises over the African savannah and an endless parade of silhouetted animals raise their heads, all in rhythm to the percussive beats of "Circle of Life." Empire Magazine named it No. 11 on their list of the Greatest Opening Scenes in film, a rating that seems several digits too low. (Also, if you translate those chanted Zulu lyrics, they mean "Here comes a lion, Father/Oh yes, it's a lion." Some mysteries are better left unsolved.)

3. "Hakuna Matata" is a wonderful phrase. This movie introduced us to that "No Worries" motto at least a decade before country singers like Kenny Chesney started kicking their shoes off and singing about their own lack of problems. Also, we're still trying to learn the Swahili phrase for "I don't know any other words in Swahili."

9. Scar was the most chilling villain of undetermined geographic origin since Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Through the superb voice work of Jeremy Irons and his unmistakable hiss, Scar was equal parts menace and sarcasm. And his signature song, "Be Prepared," has to be the only Disney animated sequence that was based on a Nazi rally.

10. Mufasa's death is one of the most devastating sequences in any film, animated or not. That scene where tiny Simba paws at his father's cheek is the definition of heartbreak. And before we start weeping on our keyboard, let's move on to...
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14. It might be twenty years old, but the movie and its messages are timeless. Other than maybe Timon doing one or two Arsenio Hall-style whoops, there's nothing that seems dated about it. (But that's admittedly a hallmark of the best Disney movies, all the way back to their own Snow White, who still looks amazing at 76.)

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