#24. Cars 2 (2011)
Starting off our list of Pixar films is the first sequel for Cars. This is by far the worst Pixar movie ever made. Coming across as a blatant money-grab, it lacks everything Pixar is known and loved for. The story is half-hazard put together and held by loose strings. The small-town truck done good, Mater, is the star of this sequel as he meets a British intelligence agent. McMissile. Finn McMissile. He’s a poorly written cliche of James Bond, who recruits Mater to save the world! While Mater is off with McMissile, McQueen is racing around the world and not part of the story much. This movie was awful. The animation, its only salvation, is top-notch as expected from Pixar. I almost wanted to exclude this movie from the list due to how out of character it is for them. Every other Pixar movie took a very long time to decide on placement.
#23. Cars 3 (2017)
Cars 3 oddly enough is a great end for the Cars franchise. We watch Lightning McQueen’s character arch come full circle as he becomes more outdated, struggling to keep up with the new younger, faster, stronger cars. McQueen struggles in adapting to his new sponsor owner’s advanced simulator training, eventually quitting and training on a sand track nearby. Spending most of his training time teaching his trainer, Cruz, how to drive on the sand, and being threatened with retirement by the new owner, he heads out to find Doc’s old trainer inviting Cruz to go with him. When the final race of the movie starts he can’t beat the new up-and-coming race star, opting to deck out Cruz to take his place in the race and coach her from the pit. With McQueen coaching her she races and in dramatic fashion wins! McQueen now following in the footsteps of his beloved trainer and legendary racer The Hudson Hornet, Doc Hudson.
Cars Sequels Clause
The Cars sequels really don’t belong on a list of Pixar movies. While Cars 3 was not as blatant of a money grab movie and did offer a nice end to the trilogy, both are poor examples of Pixars stellar and galactic abilities to weave a classic lesson or important life explanation into a captivating story. These are the only movies that hold little to no value in the Louvre of Pixar. The placement of each movie from here to the number one position is my opinion.
#22. A Bug’s Life (1998)
A Bug’s Life Coming off the heels of Toy Story is a good film. Teaching the lesson of following your dreams and standing up to adversity no matter what. While also showing the consequences that could ensue from the adventure one must take to carry out the tasks and how some things come down to good ole fashioned dumb luck. It lacks the certain flair and originality of other Pixar productions but is a must-see for the children of the kids who first saw this great sophomore effort from the studio that would make itself a resident in our hearts for years to come.
#21. Toy Story 4 (2019)
In the final installment of the first Pixar series, we meet the gang as they are given to a little girl named Bonnie. Woody has been the leader for so long has trouble adjusting to not being played with and Jessie being given his badge. A spork found in the trash is made by Bonnie into her new favorite toy Forky. Who in the throes of an existential crisis from the moment of creation is constantly attempting toy suicide by throwing himself into trash cans. The main focus of the story, Woody ends up playing psychiatrist and confidant for Forky. Learning that he is struggling with the same issues due to him not being the favorite toy anymore. In the end, Woody is reunited with Bo Peep and joins a traveling carnival in hopes of finding the toy prizes good homes. Visually it is a more refined Toy Story on the same level as Toy Story 3. Randy Newman returned for the score and did a great job as he has always done. It is a good movie, but coming off the heels of Toy Story 3, it feels money grabby and unneeded.
#20. Finding Dory (2016)
Essentially rebooting Finding Nemo this movie gives us the same plot, but with Marlin and Nemo on a mission to rescue Dory. In the first half of the movie the two Clown Fish accompany Dory to find her parents at an aquarium in California, far away from their home, upon arrival Dory is separated from them and the plot begins. We do get a lot of back story on Dory and do learn she can actually “speak whale”, along with the return of side characters the “tank gang” and crush, yet the movie does leave a lot to be desired. Visually Finding Dory is miles above its predecessor, the detail in the waves and sunlight pushing to the depths of the ocean is incredible.
#19. Monsters University (2013)
While Monsters Inc. was released in 2001 when many of us were small children ourselves Monsters University released in summer 2013 as so many of us were getting ready to head off to college in an homage to the fans as we took another step into life. We meet up with our two favorite monsters when they first meet in college to discover that they weren’t always best buds. The intense rivalry between the two is forward and unrelenting throughout the film and of course, they realize that the only way to win is to work together and conquer the challenges. A great movie about teamwork and learning that in getting know your enemy you may just find a friend.
#18. Incredibles 2 (2018)
To save the day once again the Incredibles family returns with more focus on Pixar’s super mom. Elastigirl is recruited by a wealthy businessman to take on the initial missions in a P.R. campaign to re-establish the public trust of the supers. Leaving Mr. Incredible to take care of the family, this starts off well but drifts into sitcom-style realizations of how hard it is to do mom’s job. Helping with Homework, teenage heartbreak, and a toddler with superpowers. After Elastigirl captures the new supervillain she comes to realize that it wasn’t actually that person and it was one of her employers, in a massive twist. Overall the movie is really good and visually the animation, especially during the action sequences is superb, the soundtrack is similar to that of the first and pays homage to the noir style jazz of superhero movies.
#17. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Best friends Woody, Buzz, and the gang are back for a third appearance this time finding themselves imprisoned in a daycare run by an evil stuffed bear. After escaping the daycare prison and finding themselves at a landfill, the gang helps the evil bear reach an emergency stop button for the conveyor belt that leads to the incinerator only to be betrayed. The friends realize they will be destroyed and gather together hugging and crying, accepting their fate. They are then saved by the aliens using the claw machine. Whoo! Set ten years after the first sequel the animation is much more refined and looks great, the story is engaging and beckons to a forgotten piece of yourself. Randy Newman returned to do the score and does a phenomenal job once again.
#16. Cars (2006)
The only stand-out film from the Cars franchise provides a silly look at the world. Cars perform mundane human tasks and act essentially the same as we do, working at jobs, watching sports and movies, seeking love, and having egos that rival the size of cars. When an up-and-coming rookie race car Lightning McQueen gets stranded in the small town of Radiator Springs he must learn how to humble himself and learn what he can from the town’s simple and loving cars. Meeting the retired Doc Hudson, a famous and legendary race car, in the town along with some help from love-interest Sally, he starts to learn his lesson. The animation looks superb, especially during the race scenes and a nighttime montage filled with neon signs. Overall Cars is a good movie.
#15. Toy Story 2 (2019)
Possibly the only good sequel in animation history, Toy Story 2 introduces new characters and the back story behind our favorite wild-west Sheriff Woody. After mistakenly being found by a creepy toy collector at Andy’s family yard sale Woody is stolen and brought to his evil lair, where he meets Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete. The trio reveals that Woody is part of the same toy set as them based on a 50s T.V. show called Woody’s Roundup. Woody is determined to get back to his beloved Andy and attempts to escape only to be stopped by Jessie and Stinky Pete reveals that a museum in Japan will buy them, but only if they are a complete set and need Woody, otherwise they will be put back in storage. The whole time Buzz and the gang are coming to save Woody and many crazy and wacky mishaps and moments happen along the way bringing a bright side to the overall dark tale being spun. The animation is much better than Toy Story, Pixar has made A Bug’s Life between the two movies, and has refined their skills more, Randy Newman doing the score rekindles the love of the first score in this one as well.
#14. Coco (2017)
Visually and musically wonderful, Coco shares the story of an aspiring musician, Miguel, in a family that hates music. We enter the underworld during Día de Muertos to find Miquel’s favorite musician who is believed to be his great-grandfather. The animation of the bustling city is incredible the detail put into each person as they flock to the gate to meet with their families on the one day of the year they can is awe-inspiring. The twists and turns in the plot while searching for Miquel’s great-grandfather are heavy and sharp creating a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
#13. Up (2009)
Undeniably the saddest Pixar film, showing the blossoming of a life-long loving relationship between childhood friends who bond over a sense of adventure, only to rip it away in the first ten minutes of the movie. It then rebuilds a new friendship between the old man and a grandson-like child as they travel far away to Paradise Falls to plant his home as a final monument to his dead wife. Many ups and downs occur throughout and it does end on a happy note but is such an emotional roller coaster the re-watch ability is pretty low, reserved for a certain kind of mood or if someone has never seen it.
#12. Luca (2021)
The most recent piece to come from Pixar is absolutely visually stunning. The transformations are flawless and the detail put into them is astonishing. The story is fairly basic and follows in the footsteps of other classic children’s movies, don’t judge a book by its cover, not all monsters are monsters, etc. Where the story sets itself apart is the bond that the two friends form and how one encourages the other to not live in fear of the unknown. The artist went above and beyond for this one and the score is phenomenal.
#11. Finding Nemo (2003)
Diving into the sea of things a father will do to keep their child safe. We follow the story of Marlin, a Clown Fish, and his new friend Dory, a Regal Tang, as they search for Marlin’s son Nemo. Nemo in an act of rebellion against his overbearing father swam out to sea to “touch the butt” and is captured by a diver. The animation in this oceanic epic is incredible as expected the reef detail from the various schools of fish and all the coral is great. The range of emotion in the film is vast as the ocean as well, from the sadness and desperation portrayed by Marlin to the happy go-luckiness of Dory and everything in between. Hilarious side characters run wild from Nemo’s new friends in the dentist’s tank to everyone met along the journey by Marlin and Dory including the group of sharks who invite them to their AA meeting with the mantra “Fish are friends, not food!”. A great movie to complete the Torah of Pixar films.
#10. The Good Dinosaur (2015)
What could the world be like if the meteor hadn’t killed the dinosaurs? Pixar gives us a beautifully animated possible answer, as we join Arlo and Spot on a legendary adventure about conquering fear and the courage a good friend gives you. Along the way, we are met with borderline photo-realistic landscapes from dense forests to rushing rivers. Filled with great side characters and an all-star voice cast to match. Giving the grand villain of all dinosaurs, the T. Rexes, a chance to be the good guys, as a family of ranchers. Combining all these aspects gives us a quintessential Pixar movie, filling that place in your heart nothing else can fill.
#9. Monsters Inc. (2001)
Wildly creative in every way with a free-form feel and packed with emotion from gut-busting laughter to tear-provoking sadness, Monsters Inc., was an instant classic. Pete Doctor had the most creative movie idea for Pixar to date with this one, flipping the tables on a childhood fear of monsters making the monsters hiding in the closest be much more afraid of you than you are of them. Only braving going into your room for the energy they need from your scream to power the metropolis they live in. Mike Wazowski providing hilarious quotable lines and acting bits throughout the film even out the heart-wrenching moments provided by Boo and Sully as they try to get her back home and away from the evil Randal. Randy Newman returns for the soundtrack providing a jazzy free-form score that fits well with the film.
#8. Wall-E (2008)
A seemingly silly story about a robot obsessed with the artifacts of humans left behind when they all exodus into spaceships to find a new home after destroying the earth. Leaves us utterly stunned at the end by how with little to no words from our sweet and loving protagonist we know so much about who he is, his hopes and dreams, interests, and personality. Along with all of this is Pixar’s most visually impressive and gorgeous film made to date. From the opening scene the features in each pile of trash as we close in on our beautiful robotic garbage man roving down a dusty path to the scenes in space as Wall-E and Eve float and fly around together in a dance reminiscent of birds cavorting in the forest. Each scene is altogether sensational.
#7. Toy Story (1995)
The movie that started it all, Toy Story, re-imagines every idea of how playing with toys as a kid worked and caused millions of kids across the world to play with their toys and then pretend to walk out of the room and try to catch them coming to life. Also, taking on important points of conflict such as jealousy, fear, and friendship. The story revolves around Woody, an old west sheriff doll, and Buzz Lightyear, a new space hero action figure, learning to set apart their differences to be the best toys they can be for their kid and after a long road becoming friends. For the time the animation is unlike anything seen before and set it far and beyond any other animated production at the time. Randy Newman writing and performing the soundtrack sets it apart as well, completely securing just how far and above every other movie at the time or previous Toy Story was.
#6. Brave (2012)
The first female lead in Pixar history. The first full-length Pixar film to be directed by a woman. Brave is in itself brave, bringing beautiful highly detailed animation thanks to the brand new Presto animation software that allowed for real-time movement. Along with Presto they also implemented the new Dolby Atmos giving the score 3-dimensional sound. This movie is incredible story-wise as well as we journey with a fiery Scottish princess on her quest to make her own destiny and defy the status quo.
#5. The Incredibles (2004)
Who doesn’t love a story filled with superheroes fighting supervillains to save the world from assured destruction? The detailed and complex yet easy to follow story found in this family drama, as we follow the real-life superpower-couple and their super-family on a mission of discovery, twists, and turns that take us full-circle, and character development make it an easy top five best Pixar movies. Along with it being the first to be directed by someone outside of Pixar, it is a knock-out-of-the-park homerun for Pixar.
#4. Onward (2020)
Myths, legends, magic, and honorable quests for salvation come to life in this new classic. Taking on the loss of a father and the various coping methods kids can exhibit. Set in a world filled with fantasy creatures and monsters who have evolved into a society not too different from our own. The story of two brothers learning how to be there for the other and support and build confidence in each other, while a single mother chases them down trying to keep them safe. A tale as old as cinema and filled with astounding magic scenes and heart-warming love throughout.
#3. Soul (2020)
Following Inside Out’s footsteps, Pixar tackles the concept of death and living without regrets while also tackling the courage it takes to live. Painting the story inside of exquisite animation that rivals that of Wall-E or Luca with psychedelic flair similar to Ratatouille. An unbelievable score to match, the music pairs perfectly with the story and as a centerpiece for the film. Take the journey into the great beyond and find a little soul for yourself.
#2. Ratatouille (2007)
“Anyone can cook” a phrase heard throughout the film and taken to heart by our friend Remy, who wishes to be a chef at his idle’s restaurant in Paris. Unfortunately, he’s a rat. The psychedelic animation visuals we see when Remy is explaining food to his family in the early parts of the film are awe-inspiring and serve as a tool to show the viewers how serious Remy is about his dream to be a chef. Eventually controlling a human to accomplish his dreams and after some major highs and deep lows, opens his own restaurant in Paris that rivals even that of his heroes.
#1. Inside Out (2015)
This movie SLAPS. Emotional on every level and in every sense of the term. Former Professor of Psychology at UCSF, Paul Ekman whose focus of study was emotions in interpersonal relationships. Along with his former student turned collaborator Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley Dacher Keltner. Both were consulted often throughout the film’s production and played a pivotal role in the movie being such a masterpiece. Masterfully explaining the role each emotion has in our lives. How they work together to form the core of our personality, and what happens when we lose sight of who we are. Wrapping it all up in the end by showing it is possible to find yourself again and form a stronger core. I honestly feel that watching this should be required in schools, it could be a great tool for the millions of children who don’t have anyone to explain something like this to them and end up losing themselves and going down roads that take years to repair when/if they realize it. Food for thought.