Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
I’ve got to be honest here. Pixar is a studio that I hold near and dear to my heart. No studio has ever pushed boundaries quite like Pixar has. Movie after movie, the animation icons have proven to be leaders of the creative, imaginative and the exceptional. Through 20 years of filmmaking, Pixar has effortlessly blended stupendous animation with wonderfully crafted stories in every title released, along with some pretty incredible voice acting. 20 films later, Pixar is undoubtedly still going strong and without further-a-do, here is every Pixar movie ranked from worst to best!
20. Cars 2
This should not come as a shock to anyone. Any Pixar ranking list you see on the internet will have Cars 2 at the bottom and for good reasons. It baffles me that this was directed by John Lasseter, one of my favourite directors ever and one of the geniuses behind Pixar, but here we are. Cars 2 is the only Pixar film I can say I did not enjoy on any level. Despite beautiful animation and a stacked cast, the second installment in the Cars series puts more focus on Mater and less on Lightning McQueen and I don’t know who thought this was a good idea because it wasn’t… at all. Frequently looked at as the worst film in Pixar history, Cars 2 opted for a spy movie premise and includes immature jokes, a thinly written plot and just does not stack up to its predecessor.
19. The Good Dinosaur
The film that had one of the most troubled productions out of any Pixar film, The Good Dinosaur had an interesting premise that was simply not executed properly. Based on the trailers alone, this film looked to be another win for the hopping lamp film studio but once the film was released, it was apparent that the story continuously leaves something to be desired. This is probably the most average Pixar film to date as it has middling voice acting but also includes some of the most beautifully crafted animation in modern cinema. Seriously, the film is gorgeous, but that’s all the film has going for it.
18. Cars 3
Cars 3 is a mixed bag. It’s a definite improvement over Cars 2, but it’s nowhere near as good as the other films Pixar has put out. It’s gorgeously animated and has some great performances from Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo and even Nathan Fillion. Unfortunately it wastes the talent of Armie Hammer and is so all over the place that you can never feel the emotion the film is trying to convey. There’s something here for kids and long-time fans of the franchise but overall, it’s just fine.
17. Monsters University
The long awaited sequel to one of the most beloved animation films ever, Monsters University has an enjoyable story but is nowhere near as incredible as the film that came before it. The movie follows the story of how Mike and Sully met and eventually became best friends. While Monsters University is still a quality film, it’s missing the heart that made Monsters Inc. the iconic film it is today and maybe my expectations were too high for this film. The plot was formulaic but still mildly entertaining and also had solid performances from Billy Crystal and John Goodman but, in the end, the film turned out… just fine.
Cars is ever so slightly underrated in my opinion. The film is certainly better than the movies listed above but definitely not as good as the one’s that will follow it on this list. It’s the exact middle ground for Pixar. With beautiful animation, solid performances from Owen Wilson and Paul Newman and a lot less Mater than Cars 2, 2006’s Cars proved to be a better film than previously thought. I’ll never understand how Cars became a franchise instead of The Incredibles, but I guess selling toys are more important than filmmaking. Regardless, Cars has great music, beautiful animation and will have you wishing that the series ended here.
Brave is the one of the most out of the box films Pixar has made. Being the first princess film (surprising since Pixar is owned by Disney), Brave does some pretty unique things, starting with its fantastic protagonist, Merida. While she’s interesting and captivating, the film ranks here simply because its actual story is fairly unoriginal. A female protagonist rebels against her uptight family, gets everything she has always wanted and learns nothing from her experience. Still, the film is gorgeous and Merida ranks as one of Pixar’s greatest creations.
14. Finding Dory
Finding Dory is an example of a long awaited sequel actually working out despite still not being as great as its predecessor. Similar to Cars 2, Pixar took a supporting character that carried a lot of popularity and built an entire story around them. Finding Dory is a better Cars 2. The film makes Dory a relatable hero with a disability. The character is emotionally inspiring and she’s someone that millions of viewers can relate too in some fashion. It’s got fun callbacks to Finding Nemo and includes the right amount of nostalgia. Better yet, its got some of Pixar’s funniest supporting characters in Ed O’Neil’s Hank and Katlin Olson’s Bailey. In what should not come as a shock to anyone, the film looks stunning.
13. A Bug’s Life
While Dreamworks studios had Antz, Pixar released A Bug’s Life and honestly A Bug’s Life is better. Way better. The second ever film to be produced by Pixar, A Bug’s Life had a lot riding on it considering it was the follow up to the cinematic masterpiece that is Toy Story and it did not disappoint. The film manages to give ants, grasshoppers and caterpillars charming and relatable character traits as we watch our hero, Flick the ant, overcome his fears and fight for little bug. While it may not soar to the heights of some of the Pixar films that followed it, A Bug’s Life still delivers gorgeous animation, great voice acting and showed that Pixar was a force to be reckoned with.
RATAOUILLE IS A CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED FILM. Sorry for computer yelling but it’s an undeniable truth. Directed by Brad Bird, Ratatouille is a film that proves that Pixar is not just for children. The film deals with themes and ideas that aren’t watered down for a younger audience. The drama is real, the humour is crafty and cultured and builds one of the most creative atmospheres ever seen in an animated film. Patton Oswald is the star here as Remmy the rat who rebels against his garbage eating family and aspires to be a chef in a five-star restaurant. The narrative has you on the edge of your seat and is yet another home run for the acclaimed production studio.
Up has the greatest opening sequence out of any Pixar film. No doubt about it. The opening sequence chronicles the life of Carl and Ellie to the tune of Michael Giacchino’s critically acclaimed musical score. The reason why it is ranked at number here is because while the opening ten minutes of the film are a 10/10, the rest of the film is more of an 8.7-9/10. This doesn’t change the fact that Up pulls on your heartstrings throughout its entire runtime, with an incredible premise, phenomenal animation and a love story for the ages. Winner of the 2009 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Up pushes the boundaries of mainstream animation as director Pete Docter demonstrated that he knows how to capture audiences and deliver an fantastic life story for a multifaceted and fascinating protagonist.
10. Monsters Inc.
Leave it to Pixar to make a film about the monsters that scare kids from their closets. The common question being, where do they go after all that scaring? The answer: they go home to their massive monster filled city while the screams of children are used to power the city. Sounds scary? It really isn’t. Monsters Inc. gives viewers a strikingly crafted story with phenomenal animation and some of the best voice acting ever from the studio. John Goodman plays the immensely scary but loveable Sully who works with his hard-working best friend Mike Wazowski, played by the always wonderful Billy Crystal. Eventually, they meet a human named Boo who found her way into the monster world and what follows is one of the most emotional stories every made for the silver screen. The relationship between Sully and Boo is spectacular and the chemistry between Goodman and Crystal rivals only Tim Allen and Tom Hanks as Woody and Buzz.
9. Toy Story
The one that started it all. Toy Story is a film that almost nobody guessed would work since it moved away from classic hand-drawn animation and opted for computer animation. Boy was everyone wrong. Toy Story holds a sense of wonder and magic like none other in every single scene. From the wondrous animation to the near perfect casting to the incredible score delivered by Randy Newman, Toy Story captures that special feeling of being a kid again. It is a timeless classic that, even 22 years later, still looks incredible on re-watches. The story about loyalty and friendship is one of the finest two hour stories ever seen on screen and without it, the other films on this list wouldn’t exist today.
8. Incredibles 2
This movie has the makings of one of the best Pixar films, even superhero films for that matter. Was the wait worth it? I think so. Apart from Toy Story 3, this is the only film to recapture the same magic as its predecessor after such a long time between productions. Overall, this film provides great entertainment value in its rich action, emotion, and subtle comedy. Fantastic musical score and animation complement the entertainment significance, for Incredibles fans and the casual viewer.
Coco is basically another demonstration of why Pixar is a leader in cinematic animation. Boasting stunning visuals and combining it with a thought-provoking narrative that asks hard-hitting questions about life, family and death, Coco is an engaging Pixar epic that plays brilliantly with components of Mexican heritage and legends. Being Pixar’s first venture into musical territory, the film is one of the company’s most creative endeavors as director Lee Unkirch’s passion project is a wonderful salute to Mexican culture that is also incredibly moving and a visual masterwork.
WALL-E might have the least amount of dialogue out of every film listed here, but that just further enhances its reason for being ranked highly on this list. Creating a breathtaking sci-fi setting, WALL-E is a story of an underdog who, despite being a robot, proves to be a character everyone can relate to. The film presents a very real possible future in which the earth is so polluted, humans are forced to leave to survive and all that’s left behind is WALL-E to clean up the mess. The journey begins here as we soon find out that Earth is slowly becoming habitable again and it’s up to WALL-E and EVE to get humans back home. While its overarching theme of environment awareness might be overwhelming for younger viewers, the film includes some of Pixar’s greatest set designs and doesn’t shy away from its smaller themes of collaboration, isolation and friendship as it becomes one of the best animated films ever produced.
5. Toy Story 3
As someone who grew up with the Toy Story franchise, I was extremely eager to see where John Lasseter and his group of animation geniuses could take a story that hadn’t been touched for over 10 years. This is one of those instances where I think I wasn’t at all worried about a sequel not being as good as the films that came before it. Toy Story 3 is not only one of the greatest animated sequels made, it’s one of the best sequels ever. The film that concluded the Toy Story trilogy, the third installment is the perfect finale as it brings the story fill circle. Dealing with loss, friendships and closure, Toy Story 3 is a visually breathtaking juggernaut that arguably has the greatest final 10 minutes of a film in animation history. The film tugs on every imaginable heartstring as we see Andy say goodbye to the toys he has cared for his whole life. So long, partner.
4. Inside Out
Pete Docter just really enjoys making audiences cry in the theatres I guess. Inside Out is not only an incredible film, it’s also a very important one. The film gave a rather accurate portrayal of the emotions a child faces when going through life altering moves. A simple story, the film takes place inside the mind of young Riley, who has just moved to a new town. Her five core emotions then clash over how to best take care of Riley and what ensues is pure cinematic gold. The voice acting is superb, its heart-warming vision stays consistent throughout and it shows that Pixar is still at the top of the animated storytelling game.
3. Finding Nemo
It’s just redundant at this point but if any film shows how incredibly gorgeous Pixar films are, it’s Finding Nemo. Get the tissues ready from the very beginning for this film because it’s an emotional rollercoaster. The story of a father searching for his lost son is already heartbreaking enough but Finding Nemo takes it one step further as Marlin goes across the ocean (along with his new found pal Dory) on a journey unlike any other to find his son Nemo in Sydney Australia. The characters are expertly fashioned, the film is incredibly touching and absolutely hilarious and cemented Pixar’s reign as the king of the animation industry. It engages viewers with not only an enticing story, but also has a deeper message about taking care of the oceans and aquatic life on our planet. Oh, and the entire sequence involving Marlin, Dory and Bruce the shark might be one of my all-time favourite movie moments. FISH ARE FRIENDS, NOT FOOD.
2. Toy Story 2
The greatest sequel Pixar has ever produced, Toy Story 2 is everything a sequel should strive to accomplish and more. Originally starting out as a direct-to-DVD feature, Toy Story 2 has even more heart and humor than the original. The story has Woody being kidnapped by an evil toy collector who wants to sell him to a Japanese museum and it’s up to Buzz and the gang to rescue him. The film brings back the entire cast from the first film and includes some impressive additions, most notably, Joan Cusask as Jessie. I mean seriously, you’re lying if you say you didn’t shed a tear at the “When she Loved Me” sequence where the film shows Jessie’s relationship with her past owner. From the animation to the voice acting, the film takes everything to the next level despite having an incredibly troubled production. It expands the cinematic universe while still keeping true to the heart of the first film and would have probably been ranked number one…. had it not been for a certain 2004 superhero film.
1. The Incredibles
Well, here we are, the greatest film Pixar has ever produced, The Incredibles. While the superhero genre was still getting off the ground thanks to Spider-Man and X-Men, Pixar decided to enter the game with the phenomenal film, The Incredibles. The movie revolves around what happens when the world rejects superheroes, or supers as they are called. The film follows Bob Parr aka Mr. Incredible and his mundane family life that soon changes when he decides it’s time to wear the super suit once more. The film is not only an incredible (pun intended) superhero film, it’s also a striking family drama and an action-packed blockbuster that excites at every turn. From eye-popping action sequences to extraordinary voice acting from the likes of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson, The Incredibles works on a variety of different levels. More importantly, it is a film that resonates with viewers as the family is shown to face the same regular problems that average families do. It’s a film that has long deserved a sequel and thankfully it is finally happening. I only have one more thing to say… WHERE IS MY SUPER SUIT??
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