7. Nala – The Lion King
It’s a well-known fact that Disney’s animated classic The Lion King is loosely based on a Shakespearean tragedy, so it’s probably not surprising to learn that its secondary characters are as deeply interesting as its protagonists.
In fact, in the case of Nala, she’s almost certainly far more of a hero than her love interest, Simba. In a scene that many will remember as one of the most disturbing moments in a family film, Simba witnesses his father’s death by trampling. When his murderous uncle Scar convinces Simba that he’s responsible for his father’s death, he runs off and lives out his days in self-imposed exile.
While Simba’s off moping and making friends with a wise-cracking meerkat and flatulent warthog, Nala stays in the Pridelands to hold down the fort as drought and famine run rampant. She weathers the storm of Scar’s rule, and eventually encounters a then-grown Simba. She attempts to convince him to return to help the lions, but he’s too much of a coward to listen.
While Simba does eventually return, Nala is the only reason he ever mustered the courage to do so. She then happily serves alongside him as his queen in the Pridelands and raises his cub – and, if nature documentaries have taught us anything, it’s the lionesses that do all the real work, so Nala is undoubtedly the unsung hero of The Lion King.