Pixar is the powerhouse of animated films telling stories that transport us to some of our most powerful emotions and engaging stories. It’s no secret that they are predominant in animation and it is not hard to see why. I decided to rewatch all of the Pixar films and rank the ones that we have now.
As with all of my rankings, this is my own personal opinion and I have based this list on humor, heart, entertainment, story, and overall legacy the film has in retrospect. Some of these films were easy to rank, but as I got done into the top 10 it became harder and harder to rank. Nonetheless, this is what I think of all 22 Pixar films we have now..
22. Cars 2
Easily the worst Pixar movie by far, this is a classic case of sequelitis where all the wrong moves are taken. It takes the annoying funny character, Mater, from the first film and makes him the star of the show. It tries to go bigger and bolder with its story choices. It completely abandons what made the first film special, and finally it’s just an excuse to make money and sell toys. This movie is easily forgettable and has zero charm or wit on its own. This is one of the few times Pixar made a mistake and they clearly paid the price for it.
21. Cars 3
The Cars franchise is such a weird concept as there isn’t much you can do with talking cars who race in a grand prix style, yet Cars 3 had potential to be something great solely based on its trailer. It showed Lightning McQueen being severely injured and forced to be confronted with the legacy he left behind which could have been a powerful message to send families home on. It’s not as good in execution with it continuing to be a brash and loud film made solely to entertain children during the Summer. The characters and motivations are thinly written, there is no excitement or humor, and it’s just noise and distractions for younger audiences. Pixar said they were done with this franchise, and I am so glad that we don’t have to suffer through another one.
20. The Good Dinosaur
This film is sweet but it also is blatantly ripping off the Lion King in a lot of its story elements. A brash yet nervous dinosaur yearns to be a leader and prove himself to his father and those around him which causes him to make fatal mistakes. He will then embark on a journey that transforms him for a lifetime. It’s all too familiar and doesn’t contain enough originality on its own to justify its existence among a Pixar household. It is one of the more forgettable films by the studio and the only reason I remember it is because I have a joke with my friend about the film. It’s safe, slow, and boring and all the wrong words that should be used to describe a Pixar film.
Brave is another example of missed potential with Pixar and veers off course from what could have been a progressive and insightful story to something predictable and simple. Merida is a strong and free spirited princess who doesn’t not want to abide by the marriage rules set in her traditions, and this is an excellent set up for a story but it decides to divert its attention to her family magically becoming bears and having to undo the curse. While she does get a bonding experience with her mother, once it all happens it is entirely predictable to see where the story is going from there. This film is lower on the list due to its predictability and lack of originality from other Disney princess films and sadly it isn’t memorable enough.
The film that started the Cars franchise is actually a decently made film albeit one that doesn’t blend all of the humor, heart, and story efficiently. The message about taking time to slow down and enjoy the finer things in life in a fast paced world is a great message and one that could actually be praised and talked about in this day and age. The journey getting there is a little rough with characters that are thinly written and plot mechanics that are just there to waste time until some exciting things can happen. It’s not a film that makes you laugh out loud, and invest you with memorable characters but rather a film a lot of people would refer to as “cute”. It’s not enough to keep the movie’s legacy afloat but it is okay for a once in a while watch.
17. A Bug’s Life
A Bug’s Life follows the successful and groundbreaking Toy Story and revolves around a group of ants striving to survive against a horde of grasshoppers. In watching this film again, there is some decent enjoyment to be had with the film and the message of uniting together is a decent one to give to people of all ages. The problem with this film is that it doesn’t really hold up in the long run with its characters, jokes, or themes. I can’t even remember what some of the characters’ names were nor could I tell you what they are trying to represent. It’s something of a forgettable movie in the long run but decent entertainment in the moment. It’s hard also watching this film immediately after the first Toy Story but still it just goes to show how much weaker this film is in the long run.
16. Finding Dory
Another Pixar sequel that couldn’t match the majesty and wonder of its original but still managed to tell a well crafted story with new characters. It’s to the film’s success and detriment that it focuses upon Dory more and her search for her parents, but it also sidelines the iconic characters from the first film that made it so special. The new characters aren’t that memorable, and the jokes can be a bit outdated, but the story of finding Dory’s parents is full of heart and emotion that will definitely tug at your heartstrings. The animation is still impressive, but it also lacks the awe of being in the vast ocean when compared to a confined aquarium. Needless to say this is another movie that feels good in the moment but doesn’t do well in terms of its rewatchability.
15. Monsters University
Pixar sequels and prequels weren’t a huge success in the span of the studio’s lifetime, but they are entertaining and heartfelt enough to be remembered. Following Mike and Sully’s time in college in trying to be the best “scarers” they can be, this film finds a lot of its humor in poking fun at the college experience and the jokes still hold up today. The burgeoning friendship between Mike and Sully is heartfelt but also diminishes a lot of the conflict since we know where these characters are going to end up. Finally, the message of paving your own path no matter what others think is a solid message to deliver that makes this a great B level Pixar film. It’s certainly not as good as the original but it is very entertaining to watch.
Ratatouille is a smart and thoughtful film but it also lacks some of the heart that we have come to expect from Pixar. The premise is wickedly clever with a rat controlling a human’s body in order to express his passion for cooking and there is a lot of fun at seeing this duo navigate the kitchen. The story is certainly wacky and unique and while its ending does have one of the most viscerally human moments, it doesn’t really have the true emotional weight that it thinks it does. I give a lot of props to this film for its cleverness and ingenuity!
While Pixar’s latest outing had to be switched to Disney + due to the unfortunate circumstances of COVID-19, it remains a great film nonetheless. The tale of two brothers fighting against the clock to see their late father is a powerful motivator we can get behind and the journey is filled to the brim with magic and monsters galore. The movie does lack a bit in its humor and doesn’t fully realize its ambitious setting that it has surrounded its story in. However, the heart is there and re-watching it makes you appreciate the film from a new perspective.
You may think that this movie is too low on the list and perhaps it is, however it becomes increasingly harder to rank these excellent films against each other. Up features a brutal opening 10 minutes that emotionally punches you in the feels to make you feel something that you thought you would never experience in an animated G rated movie. However, after that the movie isn’t as interesting as you think it to be. The story of Mr. Frederickson and Russell trying to save an endangered bird in the middle of South America gets too wacky and frankly a little boring during the second act of the film. It’s hard to feel invested in that quest when the quest to get the house to Paradise Falls is the one we are more invested in. The movie does stick the landing in the end, but the journey getting there isn’t as interesting as we initially were tricked to think.
When I first watched this movie, I was unimpressed and thought it was one of the most boring films I have seen. Re watching it again, I now see why so many critics praise this movie. The story of a robot taking care of Earth due to our pollution and misuse of Mother Earth is profoundly honest and a little too real at times in our day and age. Seeing where humanity is in the midst of this conflict is very accurate and paints a haunting picture of what life could be for us. But its the burgeoning romance and connectivity Wall-E feels for EVE that makes this film stand out, and the desire for love and companionship in the midst of loneliness is a powerful theme that is effortlessly felt throughout the film. It can be a little weird at times, but it is a transcendent Pixar film.
10. The Incredibles 2
The sequel to the astounding superhero flick was long overdue by the time it came out but it wasn’t necessarily worth the wait. The film excels in its great action and animation sequences supplemented by a hilarious family dynamic that gets you rooting and on the edge of your seat. The big misstep of this film is that it unfortunately does separate the Parr family taking away the keen commendatory we saw from the first film. The villain twist isn’t as clever as the film makes it out to be, but the tension, animation, and hilarious antics of Jack-Jack make this one of the more memorable Pixar sequels.
9. Monster’s Inc.
I love Monster’s Inc. solely due to its clever premise and setting that immerses you in a world that can feel relatable to anyone. Lots of people once feared monsters in your closet and what if they actually needed those screams to survive? The movie makes the most of this premise and its hilarious to watch the situations that Mike, Sully, and Boo all get themselves into while trying to get Boo back home. It is funny, heartfelt, intriguing, and it is Pixar at its finest and in its most original state.
8. Toy Story 2
I bet you were wondering when I would get to these films, and here we are kicking it off with Toy Story 2. This film expands upon its setting established in the first film and challenges the characters of Woody and Buzz to greater lengths. We see Woody dealing with the sense of his legacy and how he wants to be remembered by children in the midst of getting broken. We see Buzz desperately making a rescue attempt for his best friend and stepping into Woody’s shoes when he is gone. It also supplements with some fantastic new side characters like Jesse and Zurg to keep adding to the fun and excitement. While most Pixar sequels tended to be unfocused and bland, this film got it right by expanding its mythology just enough to put our favorite characters in wacky new circumstances.
7. Toy Story 4
I love this film so much that I could talk about it for days and the reason why I love it is that it was a film that no one needed but it does feel like we did in the long run. It completes Woody’s journey from sole loyal protector of Andy to learning that he can live for himself and the desires that he wants to live out. It’s a powerful message to send out and it is supplemented by some excellent new characters that I still love to this day. Duke Caboom, Ducky and Bunny, even the return of Bo Peep brought a lot of laughs and smiles to my eyes. While it certainly does diminish the ending a little of Toy Story 3, I see it as a completion of the loyal cowboy Woody.
6. Finding Nemo
This film was the first film I ever saw in a Drive-In theater and it certainly is one of Pixar’s best films to date period. The story of a father traveling across the entire ocean just to find his son is such a powerful and heartfelt journey that you can’t possibly help but root for during the runtime. The characters they encounter along the way are all iconic and the way the animated sea and creatures look is astounding. This is a breathtaking Pixar film and one that has ages tremendously in the years since its release. It is one of the best stories ever told.
5. The Incredibles
Before the rage of superhero films that bombard our theaters today, there was The Incredibles. A simple yet complex look into the life of a retired superhero that never fails to deliver amazing thrills. It features one of the best villains from superhero stories, is wickedly funny (“where is my super suit???”), and definitely stands out from the rest of the superhero movies today. It is bold to retire your main superhero character in the first 10 minutes, but its boldness and alacrity to development engages audiences and make this film one to be remembered.
4. Inside Out
This was a genius film for Pixar and was the film that showed me that animated movies can have just as powerful if not more powerful stories and emotions than regular movies. The idea of someone controlling your emotions in a control center in your brain and the conflict between those people is what causes weird emotional states is a wonderfully novel idea that Pixar mined to its maximum potential. The adventure that Joy and Sadness take (voiced excellently by Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith), is hilarious and clever from start to finish allowing people of all ages to connect with either the adventure or the message it is trying to tell. It’s about being happy, letting go, getting uncomfortable, and ultimately learning that it is okay to be sad. This film got real and certainly did not disappoint.
Explaining the concept of death to a child is not an easy task, but Pixar embraced that challenge with superb results in Coco. The story of a young boy trying to gain his family’s approval while also doing what he loves is heartfelt and honest. Family is everything, and everyone’s has their own successes and faults for why they are that way. The music in this film is very catchy and I still find myself singing it to myself to this day. The infusion of Spanish culture and language was effortless and invited viewers into a new cultural experience. But the heart of following your dreams and fighting to remember those who came before is why I love this movie so much and cry every time the ending comes on. It is one that I believe will continue to be remembered as one of Pixar’s best.
2. Toy Story
This film was the first computer generated animated film ever made and while it is certainly a memorable achievement, there are so many other reasons why this is so beloved and cherished by many people. The films holds up extremely well today with fantastic comedic timing, a heartfelt story about jealousy and overcoming differences, and some of the most iconic characters to ever grace the big screen. Woody and Buzz’s adventure invites them to look at the purposes of their lives and embrace the change that is coming for them. It’s an honest look at humans told through the lens of a toy and it still remains the staple of why Pixar is such a household name. If nothing else, re watch this film and you will still appreciate it and be transported back to childhood memories.
1. Toy Story 3
This is Pixar at its finest giving the most human, most hilarious, most heartfelt, and most tear-jerking animated film of all time. Everything in this film works and succeeds and there isn’t one aspect of this film I would change. It shows just how far a child’s imagination can wander with just a few toys. It’s an insightful look at our mortality and how things sometimes must come to an end. It’s a heartbreaking story about being remembered, and an emotional one about the heartache in moving on. It features some of the most hilarious antics such as spanish Buzz, breaking out of a daycare, and embracing the life of a toy. It is by far the most memorable and real ending a film could possibly have with Andy passing his toys down and moving on to the next stage of life. Nothing has been more powerful for me than seeing Woody take one last look at Andy and say “So long partner”. It is a masterpiece and by far Pixar’s greatest film to date.