Pixar is a name you hear and think of the word prestige. They are not only the best animation studio going, they have crafted some of the best films of the last 20 years. This weekend sees the release of the first of two new Pixar films this year, Onward. So what better time than now to rank every Pixar film! We will go worst to best, and after this weekend we will update this to slot in the latest Pixar offering. To Infinity and Beyond!
All Tied For Last- Cars, Cars 2, Cars 3, The Good Dinosaur
I know many of you find the Cars mini-franchise to be fun and entertaining, but the cars themselves are very off-putting to me. Yes, it is a cartoon, but that doesn't make it feel right. If any of them worked for me as a film, it would be the first one, only because of the three it has a good story. These feel the least like Pixar films to me. Same goes for The Good Dinosaur, which has the weakest story of any Pixar film. I just sat here for five minutes trying to think of any scene or what that film is even about without Googling it and I couldn't do it.
17- A Bug's Life
Coming on the heels of the first Toy Story, the next one was always destined to be a bit of a let down. Coming at a time when animated films about ants were all the rage for some reason, this is the better of the two. It's not a bad film per se, just a tad on the simple side. Really, 17-1 on this list are pretty good to stellar films, and all of them feature fantastic voice work. Plus: Dave Foley is great, and that they gave him the lead role is awesome.
16- Monsters University
If Monsters Inc. didn't exist, this film would be held in higher regard. Basically Animal House for kids, the story of how Mike and Sully met is a fun one, but it kinda runs out of steam about 3/4 of the way through. Like all good college comedies I guess, it doesn't have to make sense, as long as the journey is enjoyable. Bonus points for Charlie Day's cool purple character I am too lazy to Google the name of right now. My daughter loved that guy.
This one has always struck me as weird. When I think back on Brave, it feels more like a Disney film than Pixar, and adding to that confusion is that they made Merida an official Disney Princess after its release. While stunning to look at, the whole story with turning her mother into a bear and whatnot was convoluted at best. Sadly, my fondest memory of Merida comes from her appearance in Ralph Breaks the Internet.
14- Finding Dory
I was in the camp that Finding Nemo didn't need a sequel, and I avoided seeing this for a long time. It remains the only Pixar film I didn't see in theaters. I was wrong! The relationship between Hank and Dory is a delight, and what the film has to say about overcoming your limitations is uplifting. The truck driving sequence is also hilarious.
Here is where I will lose most of you, dear readers. While I will concede that the first ten minutes of Up are some of the best in the history of animation, the rest of the film doesn't live up to the bar they set for themselves. It is fun, heartbreaking, and falls apart near the end. Watch it again, and after that opening tell me if it is as good as you remember. Again- best ten minutes Pixar will ever make at the beginning.
12- Incredibles 2
Man, this is actually getting hard. Anticipation for this one could not have been higher. It was the most requested film for Pixar to do, especially when they started doing sequels to everything. It was worth the wait. I loved the focus shifting to Helen aka Elastigirl for the second adventure of the Parr family. While the villain was…not great, this was more a film about the family, so it is forgivable. These are still the best fantastic Four films ever made, for now.
11- Toy Story 4
Even the weakest Toy Story is better than 75% of the films you will see any given year. Pixar flexed their muscles here and said "We are going to center a film around a spork, and people will care". And they were right! Forky is such a great character, and I do not mean in those shorts on Disney+. While we all said out goodbyes to these characters at the end of Toy Story 3, sometimes you run into people a few years later, have a good time, and then say goodbye for good after. Toy Story 4 felt like that: one last hurrah a few years after you already said goodbye.
This one will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was released on my birthday and I anticipated it for months beforehand. Taking care of the planet is a huge responsibility that we fail at on a daily basis, and kudos to Pixar for shoving it in our faces. The relationship between Wall-E and Eve is one of the best you will see in any film animated or other wise. The shot of Wall-E zipping through the stars and sticking his hand up, or the way they danced together in space with the fire extinguisher, these are some of the most gorgeously animated sequences ever. Plus- it is just really funny!
9- Finding Nemo
Also high on the funny scale, Nemo has the saddest start to a Pixar film. Sorry Up, I remember being in the theater with dozens of children crying their little eyes out when Marlin and Nemo's family is taken from them. After that though, we get a whale of a tale featuring unforgettable characters, beautiful underwater set pieces, and a low key great score by Thomas Newman.
I originally had this higher, but the last eight films on this list are all so stellar, there are just nitpicks separating them, and its mostly just personal preference. The story of a rat who can cook, even though society and upbringing try to keep his dream out of reach, the idea is better than the film itself. It falls just short of being great when the middle drags a bit, and then the madcap ending feels a tad rushed. Before that though, it stands as one of the greatest love letters to Paris and food there is.
7- Toy Story 2
In my book, this is just as good as the original Toy Story. In some ways it is better. It picks up where the last one left off and doubles down on its themes of belonging and friendship. The addition of Joan Cusack to the regular cast was brilliant, and Pixar really brings the house down with the emotional sequence of Jesse being abandoned set to "When Somebody Loved Me" by Sarah McLachlan. I am tearing up just typing about it. Bonus points for paying tribute to Pixar history and having the old man from their short Geri's Game.
6- Toy Story
What else is there to be said about this film? It was a game-changer. First of its kind. They created an Oscar for it. Without this film, who knows where animated films would be right now. There wouldn't even be a Pixar. The men and women who worked on this film can say they changed the course of film forever. Best of all- it still holds up.
This will remain one of the all-time great superhero films. Hell, it is just one of the best films from the last 20 years. The Parr family takes heroism to another level, and does it with humor and heart for days. Plus- it just looks so $%&*ing good. the Dash running thought the jungle sequence still has me staring mouth agape to this day. It also has one of the best supervillains ever! Syndrome is so good!
4- Inside Out
As high concept as it gets, Pixar made the ultimate film about growing up. Capturing every little detail about the curveballs life can throw at you, watching Riley cope with all of life's little quirks is a modern fairytale that will help kids understand the changes they are going through forever. Sporting one of their best voice casts, Inside Out will melt and break your heart a thousand times over. RIP Bing Bong.
3- Monsters Inc.
This was the one where they really started to flex their muscles. Visually it was their best looking film, and let people know that they were not going to dumb down their concepts for anyone. that is one of the secrets to their success- while other leaned into making kids movies to sell toys, Pixar was making films for EVERYONE. No subject was too highbrow, no concept was too much for children to take in. Let them feel, and ask questions. That was the Pixar way. Fun and joyful, the firendship between Mike and Sully is the greatest pairing they have ever introduced. Yes, better than Woody and Buzz. And that last scene with Sully and Boo, my god the tears.
2- Toy Story 3
Full theaters of people crying their eyes out. Yes, many of us spent our childhoods watching the adventures of Woody and the gang, and we didn't want to let them go. Before we had to, we got to laugh and have an adventure with our friends one last time. Then the film turns and becomes an emotional rollercoaster. These friends, our friends, at one point stare doom in the face, accept their fate, and wait for the end to come. Name me a more dramatic experience than when they are in that incinerator. Them just when we think we are through it- THAT scene. When Andy grows up and we have to grow with him. My father sat next to me when we saw it as a family that first time, and I have NEVER seen him cry in my 35 years on this Earth but once: when Andy gets to play with his friends one last time.
I didn't even think I was going to like this film. When I saw it the first time, it was at an advance screening, and I only had a vague sense of what to expect. Needless to say, it blew me away. it is Pixar's best looking film, from the beauty of the bridge to cross between the living plane and the dead to the fantastic character designs, this is as good as animation gets. Throw in a rich, engrossing story, wonderful storytelling, and some of the best songs in any film from the last 10 years or so, and it starts to add up to something special. A wonderful celebration of Mexican culture, Coco is a story of not giving in to what others say you are and forging your own path in this world. What better message is there than that. Also, "Remember Me" is a gut punch of a song, and sheer perfection. This makes me bawl every time I watch it.
Whew! We made it! Agree with the list? Think I am crazy? Let us know what your ranking is down below, and we will update this after we see Onward this weekend!