In the world of animated feature films, no studio has pushed boundaries more than that of Pixar. Time and time again the animation team has proven that they are the leaders of the imaginative, the creative and the unique. They seamlessly blend dazzling animation with superbly crafted stories in every title they’ve created, not to mention the wonderfully built ensemble voice casting they have by their side.
Pixar has been releasing feature-length movies for more than 20 years now, a fact that might be hard to believe to some of our older readers. During that time they’ve come out with 16 different titles and, while some are better than others, there really isn’t a terrible one in the bunch. We’re judging this list on past Screen Rant scores for each individual film, as well as their impact on cinema and pop culture as a whole.
With Pixar still going strong with the release of Finding Dory this June, here is Every Pixar Movie, Ranked.
16 Cars 2
When Cars debuted in theaters it was welcomed with enormous commercial success thanks to children everywhere being captivated by the imaginative universe it was built upon. However, its weak character development kept adults from fully embracing the film, and unfortunately Cars 2 suffers from the same kind of formula that just doesn’t stack up when compared to other more sophisticated Pixar films.
This second installment has the two returning characters of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Tater (Larry the Cable Guy) become enwrapped in a mysterious and action-packed plot full of spy-antic espionage. The protagonists flip-flop from the first movie, with most of the focus being on Cable Guy’s Tater, who honestly gets much more screen time than he should.
While the action in Cars 2 is handled rather well, the immature jokes and average plot keep it from becoming anything more than popcorn fun. With its contentedness to just be standard fare, “instead of a great film, Cars 2 is just a mediocre film.”
Brave is Pixar’s first attempt at a full length princess fairy tale story, a formula that has become a staple in various Disney films. While the animation studio uses the idea effectively, it isn’t enough to push the envelope, and it pales in comparison to some of Pixar’s more mature features.
Set in Scotland, Brave tells the story of Princess Merida, a tomboy that is more comfortable on horseback and shooting arrows than dressing up for a formal dinner. After causing disastrous results from her encounter with a witch, Merida sets out to make things right and begins her journey through the realms of action and adventure. While entertaining and a fun ride, the plot points in Brave are easy to predict, and frequently borrow from familiar kid-friendly tropes we’ve all seen before.
The end result is a thoroughly enjoyable film, but perhaps one that we’ve seen countless times done before. While it no doubt dazzles younger viewers, "the experience might be a little underwhelming for older viewers who expect Pixar to continue pushing the boundaries of animated film storytelling.”
14 The Good Dinosaur
One of the few films by Pixar to be considered a misfire for its less than stellar box office returns, The Good Dinosaur isn’t as sophisticated as other entries, but on a primal level it’s still just as charming. The production, which took years to get off the ground, offers the interesting take on what would have happened if the dinosaurs were never wiped off the face of the Earth by an asteroid.
The result is early humans living in the same realm as dinosaurs, and this is where our two heroes, a small dino named Arlo and a human boy companion he names Spot, meet and form a strong friendship. The two companions travel across harsh terrain and encounter deadly enemies as they try and make their way back to Arlo’s family, high up in the mountains.
While the story and plot beats leave something to be desired, the sweeping visuals in The Good Dinosaur are its saving grace, which are “as gorgeously-rendered and visually-crafted as any movie Pixar has produced.”
13 Monsters University
A prequel released 12 years after the original, Monsters University is Pixar’s long awaited follow-up to its much beloved Monsters Inc. It tells the previously untold story of how professional Scarers Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) met and became best friends. The story doesn’t seem like one that is begging to be told, but this prequel is elevated beyond just a Pixar cash-grab thanks to the studios obvious talents for storytelling.
While it doesn’t blow the door off of the hinges creatively like Monsters Inc., this prequel is still a quality film by Pixar, featuring a compelling narrative with interesting and relatable characters. To compliment the enjoyable story, which is reminiscent of early college comedies like Animal House, are the always stunning visuals which have put Pixar in a league of their own.
Although this Pixar entry might not stand the test of time quite as well as its predecessor, “the final result is a cute, funny, and (still pretty) smart prequel story from the animation studio.”
A popular trend that Pixar loves doing, and with great results, is giving voices to those animals or objects that normally have none. In a universe with hypochondriac fish and sarcastic toys, it was only a matter of time before the studio made a feature length film that delved into the secret lives of cars.
That time came in 2006 when Pixar released their animated adventure about a hot shot race car and a ne’er-do-well pickup truck, which was appropriately named Cars. Owen Wilson plays the part of Lightning McQueen, a cocky race car who dreams of making it big. Along the way he meets Larry the Cable Guy’s Tater, a rusted out truck, who teaches Lightning a thing or two about how to live life.
As usual the animation is always something to behold, and Wilson and Cable Guy are backed up by a wonderful range of supporting players played by the likes of Cheech Martin and Paul Newman. This Pixar affair might be slightly bogged down by it’s longer than average runtime, but it’s a solid entry in the studio’s ever growing catalog.
11 A Bug’s Life
After Toy Story launched the Pixar brand into superstardom, audiences couldn’t wait to see what the studio was cooking up next. The follow up project turned out to be a movie called A Bug’s Life which took insects like ants, caterpillars and grasshoppers, and were given charming personalities and relatable character goals.
The hero of the story is Flick, an ant with his head in the clouds. While the rest of his colony is off being busy bodies, Flick comes up with kooky inventions and out-of-the-box ideas that challenge social order. When the colony is attacked by ruthless grasshoppers, it is up to Flick to save the day with a ragtag group of warriors, who are really just failed circus insects in disguise.
Like most Pixar productions, the combination of brilliant casting and animation works wonders here. David Foley is perfect as the oddball Flick, and veteran actor Kevin Spacey is certainly commanding in his role as head grasshopper enforcer Hopper. The real standout of the show is a dry-witted Dennis Leary, who plays a hostile male ladybug everyone confuses for a woman. While it doesn’t soar to the heights of some of the Pixar productions that follow it, A Bug’s Life still delivers with stunning animation and protagonists we can really root for.
Pixar proves time and time again that their films aren’t just for children. While the animation is certainly something that children will be amazed at, Pixar also writes in resonating themes and ideas that aren’t dumbed down for audiences, and Rataoullie is no different. The humor in this production is sly and sophisticated while building upon their universe to give us one of the most creative atmospheres in their roster.
Comedian Patton Oswald plays Remmy, a rat that defies his garbage eating expectations, and has aspirations of becoming a five-star chef. Despite being a rodent, Remy takes a chance by scurrying himself inside one of his idol’s restaurants. At the same time a clumsy human named Linguini is hired, who Remmy inadvertently makes a master chef out of.
Every character in this film is amazing. The viewer completely forgets that they’re watching a “kid’s” movie and instead becomes so wrapped up in the narrative that you’re on the edge of your seat to find out what happens next. Of course this film shouldn’t be looked at as a movie geared at kids, but at anyone who loves a good movie. In a nutshell, “Pixar knocks another one out of the park with this extremely smart, touching and funny movie.”
9 Toy Story 2
Toy Story certainly holds a special place in any cinephile’s heart who grew up in the 1990s. As the first major computer generated animated productions, the film captured audiences’ imagination with its breathtaking visuals and relatable characters. When a sequel was inevitably released 4 years later in 1999, fans were worried that Pixar would be unable to create the same level of charm from the original.
Luckily, fans had nothing to worry about, as Toy Story 2 has just as much heart and humor as its predecessor. This adventure has hero Woody stolen by a toy collector who plans to sell the toy to Japan. Along the way he finds out that he’s one of the most collectable toys on the planet, and debates whether to stay in a glass box or return to Andy’s bedroom. Meanwhile Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang send out a rescue mission before they lose Woody forever.
The movie brings back all the fantastic voice actors from the first Toy Story while throwing in some new additions to the mix. Most notable of them is Joan Cusack, who plays the rambunctious Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl. While it might not be remembered as fondly as the first or third entry, Pixar’s first sequel is still one of its strongest after all these years.
8 Monster’s Inc.
In 2001, the team at Pixar came up with another intriguing concept for a film: Where do the monsters in your closet go after they’re done scaring the beejeesus out of you? The answer: They go back to their day jobs, which, as it turns out, is harvesting children’s screams in order to power their gigantic city.
John Goodman plays the towering monster Sully, who is the top Scarer in his division. His best friend and working buddy is Mike Wazowski, a short green cyclops. Together, the two are the Monster Inc. dream-team that is eventually thrown for a loop when an adorable young girl crosses over into their world. Sully and Mike are forced to bring the girl, who Sully names Boo, back to her home while becoming increasingly emotionally attached in the process.
Monsters Inc. gives us a wonderfully crafted story with visual marvels that come at a hundred a second. The almost endless monster designs in this film are creative and imaginative, but the real glue that holds the movie together is the undeniable chemistry between Sully and Mike, who are played by John Goodman and Billy Crystal, respectively. Monster’s Inc. is a unique blend of thrills, comedy, action, and of course, a whole lot of heart.
7 Inside Out
Released 20 years after their first feature length production, Inside Out is Pixar’s return to form that shows the animation studio has still got it. Boasting one of their most creative storylines in years, tag team directors Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen create an incredibly humane production that deals with the primal levels of human emotion.
Unlike some of their other films, Inside Out is relatively small in scale for what happens in the actual world. Most of the story takes place inside of a young girl’s mind named Riley, who has just moved to a new town. Naturally, Riley is feeling anxious, scared and shy, which makes the physical interpretations of her emotions inside her run rampant. Her five core emotions of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust clash with one another to determine the best course to take care of Riley.
Like every Pixar production the voice casting here is spot on starting with Amy Poehler as the bubbly, optimistic Joy, to Richard Kind, who plays the delusional imaginary friend Bing Bong. Although cartoonish, the film never loses its vision of providing heart-warming drama. After 2 decades of cranking out animated features, Inside Out proves that Pixar is “still king of imaginative CG animated storytelling.”
6 The Incredibles
Pixar delves into the superhero subgenre in this 2004 action/adventure, which was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and winner of 2, including Best Animated Feature Film. The Incredibles was Pixar’s most action packed film as of then, and might still be to date. Although there numerous spectacles like superheroes pancaking cars and blowing up giant robots, the film’s greatest strength is its seamless blend of comedy, drama and suspense to create once again something modern audiences can relate to.
Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter play married power couple Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, who are forced into retirement when the public gets fed up with their superhero shenanigans (not that much of a stretch from the story of Civil War). The two settle down in suburbia and raise a family, who are also blessed with miraculous superpowers. Eventually, Mr. Incredible gets fed up with his mundane routine of life, and he and his family come out of retirement to form Earth’s first family superhero fighting force.
The Incredibles works on a number of different levels. The one that ultimately resonates with viewers the most is the striking connection it shares with our everyday lives. While the Incredibles are endowed with powerful abilities, they face the same tribulations as average families do. The film is all about them overcoming their fears and aspirations, and it’s something that everyone can take a page out of. Couple that with some brilliant voice over work and blistering action sequences, and you get the visually impressive and meaningful experience that is The Incredibles.
WALL-E is the best of both worlds in the realm of cinema. It is both familiar, by providing a classic Hollywood tale, and daring, in that it creates a breathtaking sci-fi atmosphere in which it takes place. It is an underdog story at heart, and while the characters are surprisingly relatable the film delivers one of the most powerful messages in any Pixar production that will resonate with the viewer long after the credits are done rolling.
In a stark depiction of a possible future, humans have decimated Earth with endless pollution and have retreated to the confines of a structure hovering in space. On our home planet the last of a series of waste collecting robots finds some green life, which has thought to have been extinct. It is here where the journey starts, as WALL-E fights to show his findings to the remaining humans so that they may realize Earth isn’t beyond saving.
While the message about environmental safety might get a little overbearing at times, the story and imaginative characters keep the momentum ever pushing forward. WALL-E is some of Pixar’s best animation, with some glorious set pieces taking front and center stage. Dealing with themes of loneliness, teamwork, and friendship in a highly imaginative sci-fi world, WALL-E is one of Pixar’s most unique productions.
4 Toy Story 3
We’re now stepping into the realm of computer generated legends. Any one of these next four films are so good they’re basically interchangeable, but this is the order we feel best represents the magic that is Pixar. To start with is the film that could have easily been a potential disaster, yet turned out to be one of not only the greatest animated sequels ever produced, but one of the greatest sequels period: Toy Story 3.
This third entry that rounded out the Toy Story trilogy is a true testament to the amount of detail and structure the writers at Pixar put into their craft. Toy Story 3 is the perfect finale as it deals with the friendships and personal loss of the past movies, while bringing everything full circle in the end.
After being mistakenly donated to a day-care center, the toys from Andy’s room must break out and find their way back to their now much older owner. Along the way they meet new friends, as well as new enemies, and must pull together to make their arduous journey back home.
The people that passed judgement on Pixar producing this sequel were automatically silenced when they sat down to watch the finished product. Toy Story 3 is both breathtaking, visually, and a juggernaut collection of emotional punches. The last 10 minutes are enough to get the most cynical viewer tearing up, transitioning effortlessly from “touching, to heartbreaking, back to touching and melancholy.” This is a sequel more than worthy of the Toy Story brand, and is a true testament to Pixar’s imaginative prowess.
It’s certainly a thing to behold when a movie gives us a more dramatic moment in its first 10 minutes than most movies do it their entire runtime. UP pulls on your heartstrings from the very beginning and refuses to let go for the duration of the film. While the premise is certainly otherworldly, its intentions are anything but. This movie resonates with anyone who watches it, and might just change your perception of how much raw emotion animated movies are capable of conveying.
Director Peter Docter understands how to capture an audience, and gives us our protagonist’s enitre life story in a stunning prologue which is simply gut-wrenching. At the end of his rope and fixated on the past, curmudgeon Carl Fredricksen decides to airlift his house to Paradise Falls using nothing but balloons. He soon finds a stowaway: his young neighbor Russell, who has come along for the ride. The two form an unlikely friendship, and along the way Carl finds the importance and spirit of living again.
Winner of not only Best Animated Feature but Best Original Score at the 2010 Academy Awards, UP is the culmination of everything that Pixar has learned with each new installment they had put out. UP is surprisingly mature in its subject matter while still providing a heartwarming tale with stunning animation. The result is an “adult-oriented story yet, slyly disguised in a fantastic adventure tale.”
2 Finding Nemo
Who knew fish could be so effortlessly captivating?
Pixar’s 2003 underwater adventure is one of their best examples of expertly written characters in a fully interactive and encapsulating world. Finding Nemo is a gem of a movie that proved to be praised by critics and mass audiences, generating over $800 million in worldwide ticket sales from a $94 million budget. The film has cemented Pixar’s place as the leader of computer generated animation making the characters from the movie some of the most recognizable in film history.
A story about the important bonds of family, seasoned actor Albert Brooks plays a clown fish named Marlin who is overprotective of his only surviving son, Nemo. After Nemo tries to test his limits and ends up captured by a scuba-diver, Marlin sets off across the sea to rescue his son. Along the way he meets Dory, a fish with short term memory loss played beautifully by Ellen DeGeneres, and the two fight sharks, dodge jellyfish, and even escape the insides of a whale on their quest to find Nemo.
A joyous blend of everything that makes Pixar so unique, Finding Nemo is hilarious and profoundly touching. The story arc of Marlin not being able to let go of his son’s security is something every parent can identify with. This might also be Pixar’s most visually impressive film to date. The ocean and every creature in it comes alive in this dazzling visual feast which places the viewer right on the edge of their seat as Marlin and Dory travel through currents with Galapagos turtles. Finding Nemo engages the imaginations of every viewer that watches, and would be Pixar’s crowning achievement if it weren’t for our top pick. If their track record is anything to go by, we can't wait for Finding Dory.
1 Toy Story
The film that started it all is still Pixar’s most widely recognized movie, and for good reason. The sense of magic that runs throughout the first Toy Story is captured in every scene, every detail, every line, regardless if you’ve seen the film 10 times or 100. It’s a classic movie in every sense of the word that combines breathtaking visuals, pitch-perfect casting, poignant writing, and even a fantastic score delivered by Randy Newman.
Toy Story captures that special feeling of being 10 again and playing with your favorite action figures or dolls. It’s a story that is timeless and endearing, played over a roller coaster ride of a narrative. Tom Hanks is absolutely brilliant here as Woody who gets some of the films best lines. Tim Allen is spot on as the one tracked minded Buzz, who goes through a character arc so profound it’s hard to believe he’s a toy in an animated feature. There are wonderful amounts of supporting players that play to Hanks’ and Allen’s chemistry, such as legendary comic Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head or Jim Varney as Slinky Dog.
The story and animation are really what give the performances a canvas to paint on, and what a canvas it is. Toy Story is a landmark in cinema history being the first animated full-length feature to be completely created by computer generated images. Even more than 20 years later the film still looks good on repeat watches. The story about friendship and loyalty is a timeless one, and it’s hard to say when or if Toy Story well ever appear dated. Simply put it is Pixar’s finest two hours they have ever put to screen, and is our pick for the greatest Pixar film for now, or possibly, ever.
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