Pixar is one of the most consistent studios out there. Twenty-five movies...and one of them is rotten on Rotten Tomatoes. It is insane how great their movies are. Top to bottom, it is just classic after classic after classic. I have so much nostalgia for Pixar. Toy Story and Finding Nemo and The Incredibles and Ratatouille and Monsters, Inc. are my childhood. I love those movies. And, because of that, this was one of the toughest rankings I've ever had to do. The top ten are all movies that I adore. With that said, Cars 2, Brave, Monsters University, The Good Dinosaur, and A Bug's Life are not on this list. I've seen Brave and Monsters University, but I don't remember them at all, so it would not be fair to include them on this list. That said, here is my ranking of the Pixar movies that I've seen.
Cars is easily the least creative and most boring Pixar film. While Pixar is a studio known for its original and unique stories, Cars uses tropes and plot beats that have been done countless times in better movies. As soon as Lightning McQueen arrives in Radiator Springs, the story decides to meander for the middle hour of the film. It wears you out with its slow pace and slightly annoying humor, overshadowing a good character arc for McQueen himself that ends with satisfaction. Overall, Cars is a mixed bag that will entertain kids ages one through ten. Otherwise, this is a Pixar film you can definitely skip.
On the complete opposite side of Cars, Soul feels like a deeper and more experimental film. It's definitely unique, exploring more mature themes about death and how to savor life. However, I think that this film is too adult-ish and too philosophical for its own good. It tries so hard to be this very deep and thought-provoking movie that it loses the heart that a Pixar film should have. The story is also sidelined for the philosophy, and I just think it doesn't work that well. The animation is beautiful and the themes are great, but otherwise, Soul feels like it's missing the magic that makes most of Pixar's films amazing.
I like every other film on this list after Soul. Luca explores a fantastic friendship with a simple story and great central characters. While it does borrow heavily from Rocky and The Little Mermaid, Luca is a solid movie. Not top-tier Pixar. Definitely not a great movie. But you can still feel the passion that the filmmakers felt while creating Luca. I do wish Pixar would get back on their A-game, and hopefully we get that soon with Lightyear, but, for right now, I can accept Luca as a good but not great entry in Pixar's filmography.
This is definitely a controversial opinion. Up is good. It is not great. The first ten minutes of this film is honestly a cinematic achievement. It's a landmark in visual storytelling. It is heartfelt and loving, but slowly becomes devastating as you see Ellie die before she is able to complete her dream. This gets the tears flowing and is truly a great sequence. But after that, Up becomes a light-hearted adventure that is a little bit confusing. The central storyline involving Kevin is a bit too convoluted for a kids movie. I also don't think that Carl is the most likable protagonist. Russell and Dug definitely balance him out by being absolutely hilarious and adorable. Overall, I think people confuse the masterclass that is the opening sequence of Up with the rest of the movie. But it is still a good film.
16. Cars 3
Cars is definitely Pixar's weakest franchise, however, Cars 3 feels more like a movie and less like a merchandising opportunity for Pixar. I always like stories about a faded-out star, and I appreciated that they did that with Lightning McQueen in this film. They use realistic things like advances in technology as plot beats, which I found clever. I also like the expansion of the Cars universe, with the Demolition Derby and Doc's partner. Cars 3 doesn't have anything new to offer to the big screen, but it is a well-done version of a story template that we've seen before.
15. Turning Red
Turning Red was one of the strangest Pixar films to date. It feels like, with Soul and Luca, Pixar is kind of shifting their brand. Soul felt experimental. Luca felt too safe and un-original for Pixar. And Turning Red is incredibly niche. This is still a good film. The story is fun. The world-building is nice. I love how they represent Asian culture. It's a weird movie, though. Reactions and reviews for this film are all over the place. People are either loving it or hating it. I'm in the middle. I like it. But I really hope Lightyear is great. Pixar is on a down-slope lately.
Onward felt more like a straight-up Disney movie than a Pixar film. We have a sprawling fantasy adventure with magic, monsters, curses, and more, but at the center of it is a tight bond between two brothers. I think Tom Holland and Chris Pratt fit their roles perfectly. I think that the film delivers some great emotional sequences. The quest itself is fun to watch. Where Onward falters is the tone. I think that a storyline revolving around seeing your dead dad again is a bit too dark for a kids movie. There's a certain sad weight that the film carries around, bogging it down and making it not as much fun as it should be.
Another controversial opinion. People love WALL-E. And I get it. This film is definitely one of the most artistic and well-made Pixar films to date. Unlike Soul, I think that the experimental nature of this film works. It is an homage to classic Hollywood as well as sci-fi films such as 2001 and Star Wars. While I can appreciate the art that this film is, I don't find it to be one of the more rewatchable Pixar movies. It isn't extremely entertaining, which is definitely a criteria that I need met when watching a movie, especially when it's Pixar. Still, a strong entry in the Pixar canon.
12. Finding Dory
Finding Dory can't hold a candle to Finding Nemo, but it is still a fun dive back into the ocean with our favorite fish. Dory is able to carry her solo outing. Her character arc is done extremely well. It adds layers to the search that Finding Nemo perfected. It also makes Dory a very relatable character. Even though she is this cooky fish that can't remember anything, she has a sympathetic backstory and a goal that everyone can relate to. I really think that Marlin and Nemo hold the film back. Adding them as a subplot takes away from Dory's quest and her character, which is the strongest part of the movie.
11. The Incredibles
Okay. Let me be clear: These next films are all films that I love. They are all absolutely incredible films in their own right. Pixar has made tons of great movies, so it was hard to narrow this list down. But, yes, I think that The Incredibles is great. In an age where the box office is dominated by the big blockbusters included in the superhero genre, The Incredibles manages to stand out amongst other superhero movies. It combines the big spectacle that is present in the MCU with a strong family dynamic as well as a James Bond-type vibe. I love seeing a different and creative superhero story. I do think that The Incredibles is injured by the overwhelming amount of superhero films that we have nowadays. It doesn't feel as unique as it once did, but it is still loads of fun to watch.
10. Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo is one of the most compelling animated movies ever made. The story is relatable and devastating, but also hopeful at the same time. I love watching Marlin and Dory's adventure across the sea. Each encounter that they have is so memorable: Bruce the Shark, the jellyfish, the angelfish, Crush and the turtles, etc.. The film also gets the waterworks running as soon as Marlin and Nemo reunite. Each character, from Gil to Dory to Crush is memorable. It also has the heart and creativity of the first Pixar films. As I'm writing this, I want to put Nemo higher. On most lists, this would be in the top three. But we've got nine more fabulous films we have to talk about.
9. Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 is just as good as Toy Story in almost every way: the animation is better, the characters are just as if not more compelling, the emotions are higher, and the story is complex. I love the introduction of Jessie and Bullseye. I also love the idea of Woody re-discovering his past as an icon. Buzz's determination to save Woody from being stolen is so good and plays so well after the events of the first film. Overuse of Star Wars references aside, Toy Story 2 is an almost flawless film.
8. Toy Story
A milestone in American cinema, Toy Story changed everything. 3-D animation became universal and Pixar was launched into the hemisphere as they began pumping out great film after great film. Woody and Buzz are fantastic characters that will live in the hearts and minds of children and adults for years to come. Woody's arc throughout all of the Toy Story films are great, but learning to accept Buzz in this one works so well. I don't think that the animation quite holds up. It can be distracting at times. But if you can get past that, Toy Story is an absolutely incredible movie.
I had seen the trailers for Coco. I was not a fan. I skipped it when it hit theaters. It wasn't until I watched it in my seventh grade Spanish class that I was exposed to one of Pixar's most emotional and resonant films. The deep themes of death work better than they did in Soul. Miguel is one of Pixar's most underrated protagonists. The chemistry he has with Hector is one of the best relationships since Carl and Russell in Up. The song "Remember Me" is absolutely heart-breaking after you learn what it truly means. Coco is truly one of the best Pixar films in recent memory. I absolutely adore this movie.
6. Toy Story 4
I don't think anybody wanted this movie. Toy Story 3 concluded the Toy Story franchise in awesome fashion, and nobody wanted it to be ruined by an unnecessary fourth installment. But then people actually saw Toy Story 4. And the nostalgia for the Toy Story films came back. This movie wrapped up Woody's character so well. To this day, I cannot watch the final scene all the way through. I stop it around the time that Jessie and Woody hug because I am not prepared to cry. This movie resonates with me so well. It cemented the Toy Story franchise as one of the greatest movie series ever.
One of the strangest animated films ever made, Ratatouille gets weird as we follow a rat controlling a garbage boy to cook while he receives imaginary instruction from the garbage boy's dead father. But this movie is just so good. Whether it's Remy and his feeling as an outcast amongst the rats or Chef Skinner's determination to expose Linguini and Remy, Ratatouille makes everything pop with Pixar's unique flavor. The animation is brilliant, as is Brad Bird's direction. I absolutely adore this film, and, once again, I wish it could be higher on this list. There are just so many great Pixar movies.
4. Inside Out
Inside Out is one of the most emotional animated movies ever made...literally and figuratively. I love the idea of watching an adventure where your emotions are actually the main characters. I was also surprised by the amount of depth that these characters have. It would be very easy to screw them up by just giving them one defining character trait, because they are emotions. But Joy has a great emotional arc. I love the way that the story tells the struggles of being the new kid in a new town and school, but shows it through the lens of the emotions.
3. Incredibles 2
Since it came out, I've begun to like Incredibles 2 more every time I watch it and The Incredibles less every time I watch it. I love the way that this film puts Elastigirl in the spotlight. She's a great character and I'm glad she gets her own movie. I also think that Screenslaver is one of the best and creepiest villains in the Pixar canon. This film ups everything that The Incredibles did so well originally: the spy vibe, the action, the villain, the animation, and the central story are all done incredibly well, and that's why I love Incredibles 2.
2. Monsters, Inc.
Monsters, Inc. is fantastic. Once again, Pixar uses the trope of monsters under your bed and in your closet and then turns it on its head to show us that from the monsters' POV. That's such a cool idea for a movie, and it's executed to perfection. Mike and Sulley are one of the best duos ever put to film. I love the cleverness of Monsters, Inc. and the irony of these big, intimidating monsters being scared by a little girl. This is easily one of the best animated movies ever made.
1. Toy Story 3
But coming in in first place is Toy Story 3. For my money, Toy Story 3 is the best animated movie of all time. Somehow, Pixar managed to make two amazing starters for the Toy Story franchise...and then Toy Story 3 just blew them out of the water. This film has everything. It makes you cry multiple times. It makes you laugh multiple times. It has a very compelling and kind of disturbing story. Lotso is the best Pixar villain. Toy Story 3 is one of the first memories I had of going to the theaters. Maybe it's nostalgia. But this is one of the best. I absolutely adore this film and everything about it, so it comes in at number one.