25. Cars 2 (2011)
This is the one movie that it seems like Pixar is trying to get people to forget. You rarely see merchandise that is uniquely from Cars 2, nor do you see themes in Disney Parks that are unique to Cars 2. That is because this movie was simply not good. I would say it is the only movie of all Pixar films that I actually don’t enjoy watching at all, whereas with the other films I just enjoy watching some more than others. Cars 2 didn’t work because of a combination of lazy writing and cliché themes that basically make the fact that our main characters are actually living Cars an irrelevant side note. Every character could have easily been a human and not much would change at all. Pixar sold so much Cars merch that they figured it would be easy to catch lightning in a bottle twice and unfortunately they fell on their face in the process. Just goes to show that funny sidekicks should stay funny sidekicks. Don’t try to turn them into the main characters. ( I’m looking at you Minions movie.)
24. Turning Red
Turning Red marks the directorial debut of Chinese-born Canadian animator Domee Shi (most known for Bao). It displays a style of animation never before seen from Pixar. From a distance it looks almost Luca-esque, using simple and round-shaped character styles. In action, there is something very anime about the way the characters interact and some of the gags they use. I really enjoyed the style and the way they introduce all the characters! However, once you get into the movie and they start shoving a very questionable message down your throat, I was out. The controversy basically centers around the main character Mei, and how the message of the film is that she shouldn’t let her mom tell her what to do, and that she deserves to be able to make her own choices. She is 13, and by the end, she tells her mom “My Panda, My Choice” and her mom just basically gives in. If you are seeing the movie from the perspective of a parent, the message is downright toxic, telling kids not to listen to their parents and that their friends are more important (even at 13 years old!). If you are seeing the movie from the perspective of Mei, I can see how you might feel very seen and heard if you grew up in a house with a very overprotective parent and had a burning desire to experience some freedom, and I totally respect that. It’s just hard to overlook the message it tells kids in the process.
Finding Dory is an example of a movie that for me was doomed by the hype. It had been rumored to have been in the works for years so by the time it came out fans were in extreme anticipation. I wouldn’t call this a bad movie or even an unenjoyable one for that matter, it just felt a lot more like a little kid’s movie than most Pixar movies. Nothing about it really grabbed me as particularly interesting, or new to animation or even all that funny. If I were to describe Finding Dory in one word it would be “Eh”.
22. Monsters University (2013)
We are already starting to get into some really enjoyable movies!! These next five movies are all so close to each other in my mind that it is really tough to order them. However, I put Monster’s University at number 20 just because to me there isn’t anything that stands out about this film when you put it next to other Pixar movies. Pixar is known for their original animated screenplays and unique themes but Monsters University is really not a unique idea, it’s just the fact that it takes place in the Monster world. Other than that, it’s not all that different from An Extremely Goofy Movie or a plethora of Disney tv shows. That being said, it is quite funny and does a good job of providing an origin story for the friendship of Mike and Sully.
21. Brave (2012)
Brave is a movie that I was pretty apathetic about the first time I watched it but I warmed up to it a little bit after seeing it a couple more times. It is still a movie that I tell people they probably don’t need to go back and watch if they aren’t huge Pixar fans, but there is a nice message and some really cool theming going on to make it more than just a lackluster film by Pixar standards. The plot moves pretty slow and there is no real antagonist. This rarely ever works out particularly well (unless you’re Inside Out), but Brave pushes a theme of acceptance and family that warms the heart a little bit in the end. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a movie with some Irish/Scottish theming.
20. Wall-e (2008)
Ah, Wall-e….probably the most controversial movie Pixar has ever made. By that I don’t mean politically controversial, I was referring more to the fact that nobody seems to be able to agree on this movie. It seems like the majority of Pixar fans have Wall-e in either the Top 5 or Bottom 5. For me, it’s the bottom 5. I don’t dislike Wall-e, as it was the first Pixar film to really flex its muscles when it comes to animation. They used the movie to show off the kind of technology they had been working on and it turned into more of an artistic and sophisticated piece than a silly and fun animated film like we had grown used to from Pixar. So I can understand why some people rate this movie so highly, but at the same time, I think that it is rather boring. It’s not a good sign when a movie that is only an hour and 38 minutes longs feels like two and a half.
19. Cars 3 (2017)
I actually just got around to seeing Cars 3 last November and I didn’t have huge expectations going in. I was definitely happy to see that John Lasseter made a point to get the Cars franchise back to its roots for the third installment of the franchise. Unfortunately, nothing really made this movie special compared to other animated movies. It is simply a decent sequel with a pretty cheesy ending. However, when compared with Cars 2 it would seem like Cars 3 deserves an Oscar Nom.
18. The Good Dinosaur (2015)
If I were to guess, a lot of you probably have The Good Dinosaur in the 20th or 21th spot on your Pixar list. I give it a little more respect not because I think it is super entertaining, funny, or even original, but because of the incredible quality of animation. It is simply the most visually stunning animated movie I have ever seen and I think it needs some recognition for that. Some of the wide shots of the mountains or the close-ups of moving water just made me double-take as to how that could actually be CGI. Plot-wise, it’s basically The Lion King, sorry to spoil it. But I don’t watch it for the story as much as I just love to marvel at how far animation has come.
17. A Bug’s Life (1998)
The old movies all have a little extra sentiment, don’t they? Growing up, I never actually enjoyed A Bug’s Life very much. The grasshoppers always scared me a bit and the thought of a bird coming in and eating our main characters seemed pretty dark to me. As I got a bit older and started re-watching some of these older films, I learned to appreciate this one a little bit more. It’s really a great film that has a lot of complexity to the different parts of the story arc as well as a lot of diverse characters. It’s never going to have that nostalgia factor that something like Toy Story has for me but it is definitely a quality film.
Perhaps the most unique film in Pixar’s catalog, Luca was just what the doctor ordered for many animation fans in the first summer post-pandemic. Though I would’ve loved to see this movie in theaters, I was still a huge fan of its playful and light-hearted style. The character animation seemed to be an homage to Aardman’s stop-motion stylings, while the set design and color palette reminded me a lot of classic Miyazaki films Ponyo and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Luca doesn’t hold up when compared to some of the innovative animation classics at the top of this list, but it is still quite fun and enjoyable for the whole family.
15. Finding Nemo (2003)
Another favorite of a lot of people, Finding Nemo was always one that I liked but didn’t love. It has good characters, a complex and original plot-line (Taken sort of copied it 5 years later), and a good mix of excitement and humor. I can’t explain why I never really fell in love with this movie but that is just how it resonates in my mind.
14. Toy Story (1995)
The movie that started it all, Toy Story, couldn’t quite crack my top 10 but it is still a favorite of mine simply because of some of the memories I have attached to it. Animation has come a long way since 1995, but Toy Story still finds a way to stand tall as one of the best. Producing beloved characters like Woody and Buzz Lightyear isn’t an easy thing to do and you would think this would make it deserving of a higher spot on my list. I just don’t quite find the story to be as exciting as the other Toy Story movies. It was hard to leave this one out of the top 10 but it had to be done.
13. Up (2009)
Who doesn’t love Up, right? This movie is so delightful and unique. It spends the first 15 minutes of the movie setting up the adorable relationship between Carl and Ellie only to tear your heart out at the end of a musical montage. Honestly, there isn’t anything wrong with the movie aside from it maybe being a little slow from time to time. Characters like Russell and Doug are so lovable and add some humor to the duller parts of the film. I have met too many people over the past few years that haven’t seen Up and that needs to change.
It’s hard to tell after just one viewing where Incredibles 2 will eventually settle in on my list, but for now, I am satisfied putting it at this position. In what may be the funniest movie Pixar has ever made, our favorite super family goes up against the ScreenSlaver. The movie is primarily centered on Mrs. Incredible (Elastigirl) and Jack-Jack, but all of our other favorite characters get plenty of screen time as well. I forgot to mention this in my review of the movie (which hopefully all of you have read), but when you are thinking of amazing action scenes in animated movies, I have never seen any better than the scene of Elastigirl chasing down a runaway monorail on her elasticycle. If you haven’t seen Incredibles 2 yet, put down your phone/computer and go do that before continuing to finish this article.
The only Pixar film to be released straight onto Disney+, Soul was a Christmas present to many movie fans that longed for all the movies that got pushed back in 2020. The message is as deep and thought-provoking as any other Pixar film and the animation is vibrant and colorful. It had the potential to be one of the elite’s in the Pixar catalog, but for some reason, it just didn’t grab me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the characters and was definitely touched by the message, but my emotional investment was surface level. The plot had quite a few unanswered questions and felt a little slow in pacing as well.
When it comes down to it, Onward doesn’t quite hold my attention throughout the entirety of the runtime like the Pixar legends of The Incredibles, Toy Story 3, and some of the other elites. It does, however, display the heart and messaging the Pixar has become so known for in the past. It is a fabulously animated film. It may not get the recognition because it doesn’t feature beautiful nature/space scenes and colors like say Wall-e, A Good Dinosaur, Moana, or Coco, but animation purists like myself can tell how incredible it really looks. With enough laughs to keep the kids engaged, and enough heart to make even the most heartless adults tear up, it’s a good time for the whole family.
9. Ratatouille (2007)
Possibly the most underrated Pixar movie, Ratatouille found its way to #9 on my list. This movie just has a little something for everyone. It’s got a good underdog story that has a message centered on the idea to chase your dreams. The movie stresses the idea that “Not everyone can cook, but a great cook can come from anywhere”. It also has an underlying message about the friendship between Remy and Linguini as well as family between Remy and his Dad. There are other messages you can take from the film as well but those are the main ideas. In a world that has fully tired out storylines that involve animals that talk amongst each over and interact very closely with humans, Ratatouille is a movie that really sets the standard for originality in that genre. It may not be the funniest or most action-packed Pixar movie but it is definitely still a great watch.
8. Cars (2006)
Cars has been a money-making machine over the years that has proven to be able to sell merchandise to primarily younger boys to almost the same degree that Frozen has been raking in the profits off of merchandise for little girls. Cars is such a classic feel-good story that families love to watch because it’s one of those movies that is fun for everyone without being too cheesy or emotionally taxing. The premise of the movie is not something I have never seen before (Thor, Seven Days in Utopia, and Doc Holliday all have pretty much the same plot), but it still manages to draw you in with lovable characters and aesthetic backdrops. Cars used to be outside of my top ten but I have actually warmed up to it the last couple times I’ve watched it.
7. Toy Story 2 (1999)
This Toy Story adventure involved Woody finding himself being held captive by crazy toy collector Al from Al’s Toy Barn. Buzz leads all the other toys to go on a mission to break into Al’s Toy Barn and bring him home. In the process, Woody meets the rest of Woody’s Round-Up gang and learns more about who he is. And who can forget the whole thing with the fake Buzz? This was my least favorite of the Toy Story movies until I re-watched them all last year and realized how much I actually like this one. It has all the characters we love from the first plus a few more and a slightly improved story-line.
While nobody really wanted a fourth installment to the Toy Story franchise, I sure am happy to have it. The story is much weaker than we experienced with Toy Story 3, director Josh Cooley still manages to generate an ending that tugs at everyone’s heartstrings and even may bring some to tears. While the original three movies feel like a trilogy, Toy Story 4 feels a little different. Maybe it’s because the Toys aren’t Andy’s anymore. Or maybe it is due to the fact that many new characters play a bigger role in the plot some of our friends like Jessie, Slinky, or Rex. Regardless, this movie is about Woody, and it explores some inner conflict that he deals with that might be quite relatable to a lot of the audience. Oh, and it also looks fantastic too!
I was super skeptical about how I would feel about Coco before it came out last November but it honestly blew me away. Pixar borrowed from Disney Animation’s toolbox of how to make a catchy movie soundtrack and gave us some really enjoyable mariachi tunes to sing along to. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse with this note of praise, but once again it’s really the lovable characters the make this movie so much fun to watch. In addition, the vibrant colors and incredible detail make Coco pure eye-candy for a fan of animation. I have even had a background from Coco as my phone lock-screen for six months now.
4. Monsters Inc. (2001)
What can I say about Monsters Inc. other than it is an absolute classic? Seriously, it is such a well-appreciated animated movie that kind of re-wrote the rules on how to put together an original animated movie. Not to mention the Laugh Floor in Magic Kingdom is one of my favorite things to do in Disney World.
3. Toy Story 3 (2010)
I really like all the twists and turns that this movie takes you on. In the making of Toy Story 3, John Lasseter had every intention for this to be the last time we see Woody, Buzz and the gang. For that reason he really wants the audience to feel the nostalgia as Toy Story 3 has quite a few references to the first two movies. Also, Lotso is definitely the best antagonist in the franchise. Once you get through the last few action scenes you are treated to a grand but sad send-off as Andy gives his toys to Bonnie. Then a few years later, surprise, there is going to be another one. Lasseter insists this is his best story of the four, so we’ll see.
2. Inside Out (2015)
I absolutely LOVE Inside Out. Pete Doctor put together one of the most unique and creative movies I have ever seen. This movie is the definition of a feel-good movie. Ironically, Inside Out makes its viewers experience so many different emotions and then brings it all together in a way that is sure to make even Eeyore smile. This is the only animated movie I have ever seen that has actually made me tear up. It is also an extremely funny and clever movie as well. “Who’s your friend who likes to play? Bing Bong, Bing Bong.”
1. The Incredibles (2004)
At #1 in my ranking of every Pixar movie is The Incredibles. It is just such a perfect family superhero story in every way and on top of that it came out right in the heart of my childhood. I probably watched it on just about every long car ride growing up and it still never lost its luster to me. Brad Bird will forever be one of my favorite directors for his work on The Incredibles as well as other classics like The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and even Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Sure he had a misfire with Tomorrowland but every great director has had a forgettable movie or two. Anyway, The Incredibles is #1 on my Pixar movie rankings and will likely remain there for a long time to come.
Well, that is all of them! Do you agree/disagree with the order? What is your #1 Pixar movie? Which Pixar movies do you still need to see? Would you like to see more of this type of article in the future? Let me know!
Want more Pixar content? Check out our draft of Pixar movies on the Banter? I Hardly Know Her! Podcast