With the recent release of Incredibles 2 in theaters, and it being Pixar’s 20th animated film, I thought it would be fun to rank all of the Pixar movies. The history of Pixar contains movies that have become instant classics for us, as well as those that are best forgotten by some. A very special thank you goes out to Eric Lancy, Jay Hart and Taylor Katcher for their participation in ranking all of the Pixar films below. OK, here we go!
20) Cars 2 – We only had one unanimous decision on our list, and that was Cars 2. It came out dead last on everyone’s list and it really was no surprise. This movie should have just been called Mater: The Movie because in no way was this a proper sequel to Cars. Prior to the release of Cars 2, Pixar was on such a role with their movies. There was a time when Pixar stated that they would not do sequels and focus on original stories and content. Granted that Toy Story 2 was the first Pixar sequel, but that seemed like an exception to the rule. But when Pixar decided that the time was right to begin making sequels to some of the classic Pixar movies, which movie did they feel demanded a sequel more than any other? For some reason it was Cars. Cars 2 was a definite cash grab. I don’t know if it was Disney or Pixar that made the decision to start pumping out sequels, but the end result is Pixar lost a little bit of its shine and integrity. The characters of Cars were always very popular with kids, especially Mater. Mater is fine in small doses (which is debatable), but to have a movie focus specifically on him was never going to work. By no means was Cars 2 a financial flop, but for the general consensus of Pixar fans, Cars 2 is by far the worst movie in the lot. There are just no redeeming qualities for the film, other than we saw less of Mater in Cars 3.
19) The Good Dinosaur – Right out of the gate, The Good Dinosaur met with controversy. The original director was removed from the project and the incoming director had to salvage what was done and work on changing the story. I know most people are not fans of The Good Dinosaur, but there are some nice things to like about the film. The most impressive parts of the movie are some of the beautiful landscapes and backgrounds. They are really jaw dropping at times, but I think that doesn’t help with one of the big problems of the movie, which are the design of the characters. I just was not a fan of the cartoony look of the dinosaurs, nor was I fan of the majority of the voice actors. The story is a nice coming of age story in which Arlo must overcome his fears and learn to rely on himself to survive. There is also a very nice story of friendship between Arlo and Spot. But making the dinosaurs farmers and cowboys, just did not feel right and a bit silly. I think this would have worked much better if they told a similar story in a more realistic way, and also had a better design for the dinosaurs and to not have the dinosaurs talk at all. They should have taken a lesson from Wall-E where it showed that characters can express emotions without having to speak. If you haven’t seen this movie, I still say you give this one a shot one day. You may be surprised.
18) Cars 3 – After Cars 2, I felt that in no way did the Cars franchise merit an actual trilogy. But someone at Pixar must really love Cars and low and behold we received another sequel to Cars. What kind of bothered me is when Pixar released the first teaser trailer; they made it appear that there would be a significant upgrade with the design of the cars and backgrounds, but that was not the case at all. It was the same exact look as Cars 2. Similar to what Lucasfilm learned with Jar Jar Binks and The Phantom Menace, Pixar listened to the fans and Mater’s role in this film was significantly reduced. It seemed like this was going to be Rocky for Cars, and it was to a degree, but then there was a bit of a twist, and a questionable ending. After three Cars movies, I’m pretty sure this is the last we will see of Cars on the big screen.
17) Monsters University – It’s not a Pixar sequel, but just as bad, a Pixar prequel. The problem with this movie is that Monsters Inc. just ended so perfectly. Sully got the last piece of the door in order to see Boo one more time, and although we never see Boo, we do hear her say, “Kitty!”, and then we see Sully’s face light up with a great big smile. No one could have asked for a better ending! Who really wanted to see a movie when Mike met Sully? Give us an original movie instead of sequels and prequels. As far as a prequel or sequel goes, other than the Toy Story ones, Monsters University is one of the better ones. The humor for the most part works and it is a fun movie to watch at times. A special thanks to Eric Lancy for pointing this out to me, Pixar loves to substitute the main character with the secondary character in most of their sequels, and they need to stop going that way. Or just stop making sequels all together.
16) Finding Dory – Again, another movie in which the secondary character becomes the main character. Like Mater in Cars 2, Dory is best in small doses. When you push secondary characters into starring roles it makes their previous performance less special, and they start to get annoying real fast. Finding Nemo is one of Pixar’s best, and like Monster’s, Inc, it ended perfectly. We really did not need a sequel to Finding Nemo, and again, it just seemed like a cash grab and a bit of laziness instead of Pixar creating new original films and content. I went into this movie expecting it to be at the level of Cars 2, but thankfully, it wasn’t. Finding Dory is definitely a watchable movie, but I don’t think it has much rewatchability. I hope we don’t see a Finding Marlin in the future.
15) Cars – Although I’m not a fan of the Cars franchise at all, by far, this is the best entry in the series. I really enjoyed the first third of the movie, but not too long after Lightning arrived at Radiator Springs, it got kind of boring. For the time, the animation was nicely done, but each Cars movie after that didn’t really move forward in the animation department and they felt like they could have been home video releases. I liked in the beginning when Lightning was arrogant and competitive, but by the end of the movie, his character became so sugary sweet, that it removed all of the fun of the character. It’s like he was applying for sainthood. It just seemed like this movie was designed to specifically sell merchandise, and due to the film’s success, we had to suffer through two sequels. The biggest problem with the movie Cars is that it was just missing the magic that we had seen in previous Pixar movies. It was a good animated movie, but it just didn’t feel like a Pixar movie.
14) Brave – Similar to The Good Dinosaur, there was some drama during the filming of Brave, and the original director left the project and was replaced with someone else. And you can definitely see that during the progression of the film. The movie just seems very disjointed. I think the first half is really wonderful, but once they introduce the bear element, it goes off track really fast. The biggest issue for the bear element is that it was just too similar to the Disney’s animated film, Brother Bear. I still don’t understand how Disney or Pixar didn’t anticipate that the audience would make a direct comparison of the two films. It just felt like lazy storytelling. And it’s a shame, because everything else was done so well. Merida is such a great character and a wonderful role model for all children. Her CGI hair is still stunning to behold. I also appreciated that the movie was very authentic and respectful towards Scottish culture, and especially that there was not an American accent or slang in the whole movie (hello Frozen). I still enjoy watching this movie, but at times I find myself turning it off when the witch shows up because unfortunately, there really is nothing interesting to watch after that.
13) A Bug’s Life – Another film with some behind the scenes drama. Back in the day, Jeffrey Katzenberg was fired by Disney. He went on to form DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. One of DreamWorks first animated projects was Antz. Katzenberg had known that that Disney and Pixar were working on A Bug’s Life and he wanted to get his ant movie out first, and he did. And Antz stunk and A Bug’s Life was considered a masterpiece…..when you compared it to Antz. I really enjoyed A Bugs Life. It was basically your Seven Samaria or Magnificent Seven story, but with talking ants and villainous grasshoppers. Visually at the time, it was a big step up from Toy Story. I also felt it had a wonderful voice cast. To me, A Bug’s Life is a very underrated Pixar movie and it still holds up to this day.
12) Incredibles 2 – If any movie deserved a sequel more than any other Pixar movie, it was The Incredibles. I waited 14 years for an Incredibles sequel and I hate to say it, but I ended up being disappointed. Incredibles 2 is basically a rehash of the first Incredibles movie, where the Incredibles cause collateral damage; the public hates them again; Supers are illegal again; the family goes into hiding again; Elastigirl takes the place of Mr. Incredible; she’s ends up in trouble; the family go to rescue her; then they are all in trouble and even the ending is similar to the first one. ScreenSlaver was just an incredibly lame villain. That villain was no Syndrome. And Pixar added a bunch of Supers to this movie that were totally forgettable and weirdly designed. The whole movie felt kind of lazy and could have been a direct to video movie. And for director Brad Bird to have said that for years and years he was just waiting for a good story before he would even consider doing a sequel to The Incredibles, this story was not it.
11) Wall-E – OK, we are getting to the good stuff now! This movie just never gets old for me. The reason why this works so well is because of the character of Wall-E himself. This movie is a perfectly demonstrate that you don’t need a character to talk to express emotion and for audiences to sympathize and fall in love with that character. And for me, this is one of the most convincing romances ever shown in all of Disney history. Yup, you can throw in live action too. And that says a lot especially for two characters that barely talk throughout the whole movie. The movie does get a little weird once humans come into play and we find out that our future consists of us all being fat and lazy and that we basically have accepted life in a motorized recliner sucking our meals through a straw. But the whole movie is about focusing on Wall-E and what a lovable character he is and how much heart he has. The musical score by Thomas Newman is outstanding too. I love Wall-E, but really hope we never see a sequel in the future.
10) Coco– Coco was the triumphant return of the Pixar. Pixar is at its best when they tell original stories and don’t rely on sequels. Coco is just an amazing film from beginning to end. The animation is beautiful and colorful and the story is fun, suspenseful and had an interesting twist. When Coco came out, it received a lot of comparisons to the animated movie, The Book Of Life. But other than dealing with the festival of The Day Of The Dead, these two movies are vastly different. And Coco was by far the superior movie. Similar to Brave, this movie is very respectful to Mexican culture. And Coco teaches us a wonderful lesson in which we should always remember our lost loved ones and that they will live on forever if we do.
9) Ratatouille – When I first heard that Pixar was making a movie about a rat that loved to cook, I instantly thought, here comes Pixar’s first flop. But boy was I wrong! I love this movie! The first thing that they got right was they made a rat into such a lovable character. Patton Oswalt was perfectly cast as the voice of Remy and the rest of the voice cast was fantastic as well. This was Brad Bird’s second Pixar movie, and to me, it proved there was definitely something special about him. Prior to Ratatouille, he had directed The Incredibles , and also directed the animated classic, The Iron Giant. The look of this film is just amazing, especially the food that is prepared! It’s hard to watch this film and not get hungry. Ratatouille encourages us to live our dreams and that anyone can cook! And once again, the musical score by Michael Giacchino is so well done.
8) Up! – I have heard from so many people that have seen this film that although they loved this movie, they could never watch it again. Pretty early on, the audience is hit very hard with the death of Ellie, and it definitely is very sad. It’s a shame that this does not get more repeat viewings because I think Up! is a fantastic movie and it really deserves to be seen multiple times because it is such a wonderful story. And for me, Russell is the stand out in this movie. He has so much enthusiasm and happiness for life, that it is just contagious. And Karl learns that he needed someone like Russell to show him just how much there is to appreciate in life. The animation is beautiful, especially the scenes with Karl’s house and all of the balloons and also the beautiful South American landscape. And it is yet another stellar musical score for a wonderfully animated film.
7) Toy Story 2 – Originally, Toy Story 2 was supposed to be released directly to video, but Disney execs saw a rough cut of the movie and they just loved it. They loved it so much that the films’ budget was increased and they felt it deserved a proper theatrical release. Toy Story 2 is right up there with The Godfather Part II as one of the best sequels ever made. What I love about this movie is that this story was not a rehash of the original movie. They introduced the idea of Woody being sold to a Japanese collector, and instead of possibly being forgotten by Andy, he would be forever admired in a museum. Definitely a tough choice for Woody. It’s just such a well made, well thought out story. I wish most of the sequels had this much thought and care put into them. Another thing that Pixar got right, was that they introduced so many new characters and they were all fantastic. That is indeed a rarity, especially for Pixar sequels.
6) Toy Story 3 – After the release of Toy Story 3, Toy Story was considered by many to be the best trilogy ever made. Yes, there is the original Star Wars Trilogy and The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, but I really believe the Toy Story Trilogy deserves to be in the mix with them. What I loved about Toy Story 3 is that it was really kind of dark. This movie was basically a nod to the movie, The Great Escape, and surprisingly it’s theme of escaping from of prisoner of war camp worked so well for Toy Story 3. When it comes to the Toy Story franchise, Pixar definitely has a knack for showing love to their characters and also does a fantastic job of introducing new characters in each film. Seeing Buzz and Woody and the gang about to be incinerated at the end is a scene I will never forget. For three movies, we grew to love these characters, and the possibility of their demise was so shocking to see. This was another perfect ending for a Toy Story movie and I really wish they would have ended it there. I really am not looking forward to Toy Story 4, and it sounds like that movie has been going through a lot of production troubles. The original story for Toy Story 4 was so bad that it was completely thrown out resulting in the release of Toy Story 4 being pushed back. Fingers crossed with that one.
5) Monsters, Inc. – Monsters, Inc. was the fourth movie that Pixar made and boy did this movie look incredible at the time, and it still does. The colorful world of the monsters is a site to behold. This one is definitely up there on my list because this was early Pixar, and that is when Pixar was at its strongest, and they constantly tried to outdo the movie that was done before. For me, Mike and Sully is the best comedic team in the Pixar universe. Change that, they are the best team, period, even surpassing Buzz and Woody. Billy Crystal and John Goodman display excellent chemistry together. You really believe these guys have been friends for years, whether it be Mike and Sully or Crystal and Goodman, And it is such a great story. Boo eventually does get to Sully and breaks the big hulking monster’s heart. And for me, Sully is the star in this one. He is such a wonderfully designed character, and his fur looks frightengly real at times. And we really learn to love this guy throughout the movie because he shows us just how much heart he has for Boo. The villains are great, the musical score is fantastic. And it has probably the best ending ever in a Pixar movie. Who could ask for anything more?
4) Inside Out – Part of the reason why I asked my pals over at Nerd Alert to assist with the ranking of the Pixar movies, has to do with this movie. I just don’t like it. I didn’t think it was fair for me to rank it so low because I know how beloved this movie is among Pixar fans. I actually ranked this at number 14, but even with that low number, it still finished very high due to how it was ranked by the other guys. What kills this movie for me is the character of Sadness. If I had to be stuck on a desert island with either Sadness or Mater, it would be no contest for me. It’s Mater, every time. Sadness just constantly just did her own thing throughout this movie, regardless of how many times she was told not to disrupt the apple cart. And it was to the point where it got very annoying. I also felt that without the emotions of Joy and Sadness in Riley’s head, that the little girl was basically slowly going insane. She seemed to be going to dark places and once she was heading to the bus depot, I figured that if this was real life, no one would ever see her again. I get what Pixar was trying to do, but it just didn’t work for me. On the plus side, I liked the colors. LOL But I know I am definitely in the minority, so I’m glad it is ranked at number 4.
3) Finding Nemo – For me, this was my number two. The top ten is filled with such good Pixar movies that it was so hard for all of us to rank them. From beginning to end, I felt Finding Nemo was a perfect movie. Not only did Nemo learn a lesson, but so did Marlin. And you saw how drastic the change was for the character of Marlin throughout the film. Marlin first starts out as a fearful and overprotective parent, but once Nemo is taken from him, Marlin overcame his fears for the love of his son. Albert Brooks and Ellen Degeneris were both perfectly cast as the voices for Marlin and Dory. I cant imagine any other actors in their roles. The character of Dory could have been super annoying, but Pixar and Degeneris did an excellent job with her and she was very charming. But I still feel Dory did not deserve her own movie. The musical score by Thomas Newman was just top notch and is one of my favorite scores for any movie.
2) The Incredibles – The Incredibles came out in 2004, and for us Marvel fans, who were also Disney fans, this was the closest we were ever going to see Disney do a full out Marvel-like superhero movie. Several years later, Disney acquired Marvel, and boy did things change. The first family of Marvel Comics has always been the Fantastic Four, and without a doubt for most Marvel fans, The Incredibles is the best Fantastic Four movie ever made. Or more likely, what Disney could have done if they outright owned the movie rights to Fantastic Four instead of Fox. The Incredibles was also really the first time that Pixar ventured into the field of having their main characters being completely human. Sure, there was Boo, and some glimpses of human characters in Toy Story, but to dedicate a whole movie to just humans could have been disastrous at the time if they didn’t come off as believable. Pixar did a wonderful job of showing us a family dynamic that so many of us have experienced in everyday life. Each member of the Par family had their own super power, but also their very own and different personality. And when they finally came together as a team,The Incredibles were born. What always makes a great superhero movie is a great villain and Syndrome was that and more. Jason Lee did a great job voicing the character of Syndrome and the animators did an equally good job by matching his expressions with his voice. The Incredibles is a movie that really deserves repeat viewings and it just never gets old. It’s such a fun family movie and beautifully animated too. And it definitely deserves a very high position on this list.
1) Toy Story – No matter how good the other Pixar movies may have been, you just have to give the number one spot to Toy Story. Toy Story started it all and was the precursor for everything that came after it. Prior to Toy Story, we saw mostly hand drawn animation, and maybe some stop motion animation, but we never expected to see a full length animated film to be completely done with computer graphics. We had seen some shorts that Pixar had done, and they were very impressive, but it just seemed very risky at the time to go in this direction. The main reason why Toy Story was a success, not only critically but visually, was because the movie made us believe in the characters. We never once questioned if they were real or not, because to us they were. Having Tom Hanks and Tim Allen voice the characters of Buzz and Woody was just genius. Both actors have always been excellent with their comic timing, but they also found a way to make us feel empathy for both characters. And the supporting cast was also fantastic. I think most people will remember how they felt when they saw Toy Story for the first time because it really was something special. It was literally a historic event in the field of animation. We had never experienced anything like this before, and quite possibly will never experience something like this ever again. Toy Story is not only an animated classic but a classic that deserves a very high spot in the rankings of all movies in movie history.
What Pixar does best with all of their movies, is they make us feel. Sometimes it is laughter, or happiness, or sadness, or even disappointment, but it really is a gift to us that we get to feel these emotions by watching so many beautifully made and well told animated movies.