I’m old enough to lament that Disney movies aren’t what they used to be (except Frozen, of course!), and the classic childhood cartoon The Lion King, which turns 20 this week, proves this is true. It has everything from youthful naiveté to unforeseen loss and betrayal, all things we face in life. It was one of the hardest Disney flicks to sit through (because of that unbearably tragic scene with which we’re all familiar), but it certainly prepared 5-year-old me for the early loss of a parent, personal setbacks and trying to become the best possible version of myself. In honor of this amazing film’s 20th anniversary, here are 20 life lessons we took away from The Lion King.
20. “Being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble”
One of the best pieces of advice my late dad ever gave me was to never “borrow trouble,” and Mufasa has similar words of wisdom for Simba when the little guy heads to a forbidden area despite being told to stay out of there. Of course, Simba is encouraged by his evil uncle Scar, but listening to Mufasa’s orders from the get go would’ve been the right thing to do. You can still be brave without inviting potential danger, and Simba gathers this from his very wise father.
19. It’s good to fall in love with friends
When Simba and Nala are young, Zazu already knows they’re going to end up together. They don’t believe it at the time, as they’re just “friends,” but as I’ve written before, friendship can sometimes spark the greatest relationships.
18. Not all family members are trustworthy
Scar is a terrible animal in every way. Just because someone is related to you doesn’t mean they have your best interests at heart.
17. Not all adults are good either
Scar is not only a terrible uncle and brother, but a horrible adult figure who takes advantage of his nephew’s innocence and trust. It takes Simba years to finally see through Scar’s manipulation. Adults can be bad people sometimes, and they can also mess with kids’ heads in the process.
16. The loss of a parent is earth shattering regardless of your age
And this scene is too, no matter how old you are. Losing a parent is tough whether you’re young like Simba or “old enough” to take it. Nothing can prepare you for this kind of tragedy, but most of us deal with it at some point.
15. Disappointing your dad feels worse than anything
Mufasa is disappointed with Simba when his only son disobeys him, and this feels ten times worse than an angry dad.
14. Choose your battles carefully
Simba’s baby roar is no match for the hyenas and he learns the hard way that it’s not a smart idea to pick fights. When you do get in this situation, you better hope you can handle the other party.
13. Don’t dwell on the past
All you can do is learn from it. After Mufasa dies, Simba lives with guilt and regret, but he cannot change what happened and must move towards a better future for himself and his family.
12. Hakuna Matata is the best philosophy ever
Worrying isn’t constructive, so I definitely abide by Timon and Pumba’s anti-fretting advice to live longer and happier.
11. There’s more to being a leader than glamour
Simba “can’t wait to be king” as a kiddo, but learns in the saddest way possible that there’s so much more to the role than its perks. Mufasa’s status ends up costing him his life, and he makes some big decisions as ruler to keep everyone safe and content.
10. Sibling rivalry is no joke
But most little brothers aren’t murderous sociopaths.
9. Power can be blinding
Lookout for those who will do anything to be on top.
8. If it’s true love, you can always pick up where you left off
Simba and Nala go years without seeing each other, but when they finally reunite, it’s clear to Timon and Pumba that the love between them never died.
7. New friends can help you bounce back
When Simba runs away, he befriends Timon and Pumba and they give him the companionship he needs following the loss of Mufasa.
6. Life is unfair
Scar says this in the first few minutes of the movie. He’s got a valid point, but in this world, he’s the one making life difficult for everybody.
5. There’s someone unreliable in every family
Scar bails on Simba’s welcoming ceremony, and Zazu says it’s because every family has a flake. This is true!
4. Lost loved ones will always be a part of you
Mufasa’s spirit guides Simba to do the right thing and assume the role of king, for which he’s more prepared than he thinks. Mufasa gives him the strength to believe it.
3. Everyone will always fuss over royal babies
Prince George has nothing on Simba!
2. A charmed, privileged life doesn’t mean you won’t get hurt
Simba sees early on that royalty won’t shield him from devastation. It doesn’t matter who you are—life is full of surprises, both positive and negative.
1. Face your fears and don’t be afraid to go home
Maybe it will be different when you return, and it’s never too late to turn things around. That’s exactly what Simba does after overcoming his fear of going back to the place where his father was originally taken.