This weekend, Pixar released their 25th animated feature-length film Turning Red on Disney Plus (you can read our review here). Since 1995, Pixar has been pushing the boundaries in regards to what technology can accomplish when it comes to animation. Their movies are often in the upper echelon of not just animated films, but movies in general; frequently telling stories that are compelling for people of all ages and backgrounds. They pull at our heart strings, make us laugh, and remind us what it is like to view the world through the eyes of a child. Even the worst Pixar film is better that some of the best from other animation studios.
In celebration of their latest release, I thought it would be good to take a look at all of the movies in their illustrious line up and rank them from worst to best. Keep in mind, this is just my list, so let me know if you would rank them differently! Also, this probably goes without saying, but just incase: spoilers below!
25. Toy Story 4
Toy Story 3 did the amazing job of concluding a trilogy of near-perfect movies; culminating in wonderful end points for the characters we have come to know and love over the years. Toy Story 4 completely undid that by splitting up Woody and the rest of the gang by the end of the movie. The Woody we knew from the first three films would never, ever go against what Andy wanted. And Andy wanted him to stay at Bonnie’s house with the rest of the gang. Not to mention the fact that the movie was too long, a bit boring and slow in parts, and just a tad too bizarre with some of the character choices.
In many ways, I wish Pixar would have stuck with the perfect conclusion in Toy Story 3 and then extended the franchise by continuing their mostly excellent shorts, giving us glimpses into the toys lives after leaving Andy. I like to pretend like this movie doesn’t exist.
24. The Good Dinosaur
To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember a lot about this movie. Which is why it is as low as it is on my list. Featuring a forgettable story, bland character design, and a drab world that feels incomplete, The Good Dinosaur is no where near the level of excellence Pixar has been able to achieve historically. The movie feels like it came straight out of the early 2000s from Disney’s mediocre computer animated films catalogue, which is not a good thing when you consider Pixar’s pedigree.
23. Turning Red
In short, Turning Red is a shocking misstep that hides a compelling story about dealing with generational trauma and the conflict between traditional and modern sensibilities in a package that is extremely one-note and alienating. It is decidedly un-Pixar in all the wrong ways, which is a shame because the central premise of a pre-teen girl turning into a giant red panda when she feels any strong emotion is a clever one. While not Pixar’s worst film, it is their most sexually explicit, which is a sentence I never thought I’d say. The only reason why it isn’t dead last on this list is because there are some bright spots in the film: the characterization of Meilin and her interactions with her friends, and the depiction of early-2000s boy band fascination being chief among them.
22. Cars 2
This movie gets a lot of hate, but I think that most of it is undeserved. Yes, it is an unnecessary sequel and yes, it follows the common mistake of taking a popular side character and developing a whole movie around him, but there are some fun parts to this movie. It’s the most kid-focused movie of Pixar’s repertoire, but that doesn’t make it a horrible film. It just didn’t reach the heights of other Pixar films on this list.
I really wanted to like this movie. An original concept (Pixar is at its most creative when they are diving into a new world and not one that they’ve already created) and a stellar voice cast; it would have been very hard for this movie to miss. And yet, it did. I can’t quite put my finger on what is missing here, it just feels as if they didn’t inject the movie with as much life as their other films usually have. There is a procedural quality here, a notion of just checking things off of a list and moving on to the next project. To be fair, if this were a Dreamworks or an Illumination movie, I wouldn’t be judging it nearly as harshly and would be ranking it a lot higher. It just is missing some of that Pixar magic.
20. Finding Dory
A lot of the back half of this list is focused on sequels, and that doesn’t mean that I don’t like a sequel. I just feel that Pixar is at its best when it is inventing a new world and new characters, not revisiting concepts they’ve moved on from. Finding Dory is one of their most uninspired sequels, featuring a storyline that is just a character-swapped version of the vastly superior first film. Unimaginative, reductive, and unremarkable, this feels like the Disney Studios sequels from the late 90s.
19. Cars 3
A return to form for the Cars franchise, Pixar took everything that made the first film work, added to it what they learned from making the second film, and created what should have been Cars 2. A genuine character arc for Lightning McQueen as he passes the torch to the next generation, it mirrors the first film nicely but expands upon the premise and offers a deeper look at what makes these characters tick. Unfortunately, at this point in the franchise it kind of felt like “so what”.
18. A Bug’s Life
With Pixar’s sophomore effort, there is still quite a bit that the young studio was trying to figure out. Vastly different from Toy Story and featuring a deeper, more intricate world for the characters inhabit, the story is light here and doesn’t quite hit the emotional depths that Pixar would later become known to reach. It’s a quaint, cute story, to be sure, but it is not something I would recommend as a must-see to anyone who has never watched a Pixar movie before.
17. Monsters University
A rare example of a sequel that mostly works, Monsters University takes the characters we love from the first film and imagines how they met in Pixar’s first and only prequel (until Lightyear, that is). The university setting was different enough from the scare factory setting of the first film that it made this sequel feel like its own thing more than a double dip of the first movie. This movie was knocked down a couple of pegs because it seems to undo some of the character history established in the first film, a major no-no for someone like me who loves consistency across films.
Pixar’s only attempt to do a Disney-style princess film, Brave doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. Featuring stunning animation and a surprisingly deep story, this film isn’t able to quite reach the heights of classic Disney princess movies. There is a reason why Pixar avoided the princess well for so long and haven’t visited since. Stay in your lane, Pixar.
When I first watched Soul, I was in a covid-induced catatonic state and couldn’t remember anything about the film once I had recovered. I just remembered not liking it. I watched it again so I could make this list, and it honestly is a pretty good movie. I don’t think it quite sticks the landing and the message of the story doesn’t deliver the promise of the set up, but the world they created is absolutely stunning, with some of the most inventive and creative animation I’ve seen in years. I also am a sucker for a fish-out-of-water movie, so I particularly love the scenes with 22 stuck in Joe’s body.
14. Monsters, Inc.
I missed this movie when it came out in theaters–maybe I thought I was too old or too cool to see a kid’s movie as a college student. I quickly grew out of that phase, and absolutely loved this movie when I caught it on DVD years later. It’s another simple, small story that has a lot of heart, but that is where Pixar shines the most. The only reason it is so low on the list is that it lacks that special quality that really elevates the best Pixar films, but 14th on the list is really nothing to be scared of (see what I did there?).
13. Incredibles 2
The sequel fans begged for for years finally came out and… it actually delivered? It didn’t quite reach the heights of the excellent first film, but it built upon that world in new and exciting ways and delivered more of the incredible action and heart of The Incredibles. Also, as a dad myself, this is one of the most relatable films in the Pixar catalogue.
12. Toy Story
I’m probably going to get some hate for putting this movie here, but have you watched it recently? It is starting to show its age, and not in a good way. The characters lack the spark of life behind their eyes, surfaces are rough and the animation, while revolutionary in 1995, doesn’t hold up today. This movie is a little dirtier (aesthetically) and meaner than other Pixar films, which is why I don’t love it as much as other people do. Yes, it is historically important, but other than that, it doesn’t exceed two of the other three sequels in this franchise.
Again, maybe another controversial placement, but I absolutely love Cars. I love the slow pace of the film, and the time they take to really build the characters and Radiator Springs. This is a real slice-of-life movie that isn’t some big huge concept, and I love spending time with Lightning McQueen, Mater, and the rest of the gang on Route 66.
10. Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 improved upon the original in every possible way. The animation is lightyears ahead of the first film, the characters are deeper, the story is more emotional, and additions to the cast are absolutely stellar. Toy Story was the outline upon which Toy Story 2 expanded and took to infinity and beyond.
I love Up, from the music to the emotional story to the odd-couple pairing of Russel and Carl–this movie is just a beautiful film. The only reason why it isn’t any higher is because of the nonsensical and honestly out-of-no-where left turn of dogs flying airplanes at the end. I can suspend my disbelief for a while, but that just brings me right out of the movie.
8. The Incredibles
The Incredibles is not only a great Pixar film, it is a great superhero film and a great family drama all rolled into one. Come for the superheroics, stay for the story of parents with kids just trying to fit into a world that no longer appreciates them for who they are.
WALL-E is Pixar at its boldest. A movie that blends live-action and computer animation; starts off with about twenty minutes of silence; and features a song from the musical Hello Dolly! as one of the main musical motifs–this is a weird movie. But it just works. Wall-E is an absolutely loveable character and the visuals, especially when it gets to space and that beautiful space-dance with Eve, makes this movie really shine.
Pixar’s second most recent movie is also one of its most nostalgic films in years. No, I’m not a secret sea monster who can turn in to a human, but we’ve all had those friendships as a kid that burned so bright for a while and then just fell off after a while. Beautifully animated and featuring some of the best music from any Pixar film to date, this movie grabbed me by the heart and didn’t let go until well after I stopped watching it.
Another weird concept by Pixar, Ratatouille was a gamble on so many levels. A movie about a rat that likes to cook that has a title that no one can pronounce? Yet somehow, Pixar made it work. Their first true romantic movie, Ratatouille beautifully realizes its Parisian setting and features an absolutely stunning score. Also, for some reason the ending makes me cry like a little baby, every single time.
4. Toy Story 3
Speaking of crying… let me introduce you to Toy Story 3. This movie takes everything we have come to love about Andy’s toys and puts a loving period at the end of their time together. The scene with Andy saying goodbye to his toys is equal parts beautiful, hopeful, nostalgic, and bitterly sad at the same time. Add to that the fact that this is one of the funniest Pixar movies ever, and it is a thrilling and emotional conclusion to one of the most iconic stories of all time.
Before we move on to the top three, I have to give a small caveat here. My top three can really change at any time. I genuinely consider each one of these movies to be perfect masterpieces, each one telling me something about myself and the world around me that I didn’t know before going in. It was hard to pick a top three, but if I must, they’d be in this order:
3. Inside Out
An absolutely beautiful story about the complexities of growing up, Inside Out is a fascinating look at how we become who we are as we transition from childhood into teenage years into adulthood. This movie works like a textbook analogy as to how memories are made and stored and how aspects of our personalities are built and encouraged over time. Not to mention the fact that it features some of the most inventive scenes outside of Soul, one of the most beautiful scores of any film period, and some of the best voice acting I’ve ever heard in an animated film. Inside Out is a true joy from start to finish.
2. Finding Nemo
Pixar really hit its groove when it released Finding Nemo. This movie is the pinnacle of what would become the Pixar formula for years to come: come up with a simple story, create a world around that story, and really invest in the characters and their surroundings to create something beautiful. Stunning visuals, a moving story, phenomenal performances, particularly by Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, Finding Nemo is one of the greatest animated films ever made.
There is something special about Pixar’s first and only musical. The attention to detail the animators and writers put into the story to make it feel authentic oozes out of every single frame of this film. And what a beautiful movie, visually and conceptually. Featuring a twist that I genuinely did not see coming and that makes subsequent viewings so much more emotional and resonant, Coco is one of those rare films that isn’t just a great animated movie, it is a great film, full stop.
Mark Pereira is a senior writer for Boss Rush Network. He loves all video games, but his top three favorites are Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3D World and Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can find him on Twitter where he’s usually talking about Nintendo, video games, movies, and TV shows.
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