She appears as the careful mother of Simba and wife/widow of Mufasa. As the queen of Pride Rock, she is shown to be in charge of the lionesses and their hunting parties. She is depicted as being wise, courageous, and strong.
In the Lion King book, Friends in Need, Sarabi is shown as a young adult, and it is stated that she is Mufasa's betrothed. In the book, Sarabi falls into a deep pit, from which Mufasa rescues her after being alerted by Zazu.
Sarabi is first seen with the infant Simba, at Simba's presentation. She later makes an appearance when an excited Simba awakens his parents before dawn. She waryly tells Mufasa that his son is awake, while Mufasa responds that Simba is Sarabi's son before sunrise.
She appears to be friends with Sarafina the mother of Nala, as her next appearance is with them. She is shown to be quite intuitive. Knowing that her son was possibly up to mischief when Simba and Nala wanted to go to the "waterhole," she sends Zazu along with them to keep watch for any danger.
Sarabi later mourns alongside the rest of the pride when Scar informs them of the death of Mufasa and Simba, and watches in horror as Scar allows the hyenas to overrun the Pride Lands after giving his oath to protect everyone. In reality the hyenas serve as Scar's strength as king.
Many years later, after the Pride Lands have been destroyed, the lionesses lose faith in the new king. Even the hyenas lose faith spending time bugging Scar who lives his life lying on his bed doing stuff and throwing tantrums when nobody obeys him or when he does not get what he wants. It has become clear that the lionesses including Sarabi now have a dislike for Scar.
One day, Scar furiously summons Sarabi, asking why there is no hunting taking place. Sarabi informs Scar that the herds have moved on due to the drought, and that if the pride is to survive, they must leave as well. Sarabi is angered at Scar's refusal, because it essentially sentences them to death. She begins telling Scar that he is less than half the king Mufasa was. Before she can finish her statement, Scar strikes her down in anger. When Simba appears from the shadows, she mistakes him for Mufasa at first. However, she is overjoyed when Simba identifies himself, though she is confused as to how he survived.
When Scar forces Simba to reveal his belief that he killed his father, Sarabi is shocked into disbelief and begs Simba to tell her it wasn't true. But when Scar reveals the truth of the matter, she is one of the first lionesses to join the fight against Scar. She watches on proudly after her son defeats his tyrannical uncle and assumes the throne of Pride Rock.
Sarabi makes brief, non-speaking appearances in this film. She is first seen when Simba faces Zira for the first time, and Sarabi is seen standing by her son. She is not present during the exile of Kovu, when her son believed Kovu was involved in the ambush set by Zira. She is also seen when Kiara is talking to Simba about how the battle is wrong, Sarabi becomes one of the first of the Pridelanders to realize it.
- "Sarabi" means "mirage" in Swahili.
- Sarabi's voice actress, Madge Sinclair, and Mufasa's voice actor, James Earl Jones, have played African Queen Aeoleon and King Jaffe in the live action film, Coming to America, which was released six years prior to The Lion King. In both films, Jones and Sinclair's characters were both king and queen of an African country and the parents of their films' protagonists (Akeem for Aeoleon and Jaffe, Simba for Mufasa and Sarabi)
- She is similar to Snowene from Osamu Tezuka's anime, Kimba the White Lion. Like Sarabi, she gives birth to a cub, but Caesar died because poachers killed him when he tried to rescue Snowene before Kimba was born. Unlike Sarabi, Snowene dies after her cub's birth. She drowns on a ship due to a tropical storm, but her spirit later appears in the sky at night in the form a constellation to guide Kimba at sea. The spirit of her mate, Caesar spoke to Kimba from the sky at night when the cub was in Africa.
- Her granddaughter, Kiara, bears a striking resemblance to her.
- When Sarabi appears in The Lion King bloopers and in Simba's Pride, her ear rims are missing.