For the past 17 years Pixar has delighted audiences with some of the best films ever made. Spanning numerous genres and covering a variety of subjects, Pixar's animated masterpieces have replaced Disney as the animated films of choice for a generation of young people. Unlike many Disney movies, though, which appeal far more to children than adults, Pixar movies transcend age and gender barriers, proving themselves enjoyable for people from any wakes of life. 13 films in, Pixar has had an incredible run. Ranking Pixar's movies is mostly an effort in choosing which masterpiece is more of a masterpiece, with only a couple duds among the bunch. Suffice to say that except for number 13 I would heartily recommend any of these movies to anyone looking for a great film to watch. Even the second worst film on this list is better than the top efforts of most other studios. So without further ado I provide you with my personal ranking of Pixar's mighty movies. Feel free to leave your rankings if you have seen all of the films.
13. Cars 2
The sole dud among Pixar's films, Cars 2 isn't a bad kid's movie but it is exactly that - a film that will appeal only to children. Highly preachy with a weak story that never sounds as genuine as it could be, Cars 2 is the only Pixar film I simply wouldn't recommend to adults. As a kid's film it is serviceable but Pixar can do much better.
12. A Bug's Life
The second Pixar movie is great as far as animated movies go but not on the same level as later Pixar movies. Telling the tale of an Ant trying to save his ant hill it is a relatively touching film that will appeal to kids. Still it lacks the complex relationships that define later Pixar movies. Don't doubt that it is brilliant, but keep in mind that comparatively to other Pixar films it doesn't hold a candle.
Brave is a film with stunning animation and a great mix of action and drama. Director Brenda Chapman brings a woman's touch to Pixar's films and the great female heroine Merida is a much better princess than any Disney has ever created. For once a movie with Disney involved features a princess who isn't falling in love. The only reason this film falls towards the bottom of this list is its preachy beginning. Hitting the audience over the head with morals isn't the Pixar norm and this heavy handed approach cheapens the film. Still it is easily the best Disney Princess movie ever made, and is the best animated film I've seen since Toy Story 3.
Cars for me is Pixar's most underrated film. It doesn't do anything as ambitious as the remaining 9 films but it is still a brilliant film that tells a touching story and has a great soundtrack. As I said at the start of this blog, every film on this list but Cars 2 comes with my highest recommendation, so don't take its low place as evidence that this film is bad. It is in fact one of the best animated films ever made. It just isn't as great as the next batch of films.
9. Monster's Inc
The second half of Monster's Inc is a powerful and wonderfully written tale that mixes messages about the bonds of friendship and the power a child can have over a parent. It is among the best pieces of animation ever made and is near the top of Pixar's work. But to get to that half you have to sit through the first half which is the second worst thing Pixar has done. In the end the amazing second half and unique concept outweigh the dull first part, but this film still sits near the back of the list.
8. Toy Story 2
Who says sequels are never as good as the first entry in a series? Toy Story 2 is a sequel done right. It is filled with action, humor, and drama including a hugely powerful montage that ranks among the most powerful 5 minutes of filmmaking I have ever had the pleasure of watching. That sequence alone makes Toy Story 2 better than the bottom 5 films, but don't forget the intriguing questions about death and mortality that serve as the backdrop of the film. While children will enjoy watching Woody and team going on another adventure, parents will appreciate the deeper messages the film presents in ways subtle enough that you may not even notice it.
7. Toy Story
Sitting at the halfway point is Toy Story the original Pixar movie. It's a film that is wholly universal. What person on this planet didn't grow up imagining that their toys were real people? Toy Story takes the magic of childhood and transforms it into a landmark piece of animation that changed the movie industry forever. It catapulted director John Lassetter to the top of the animation industry and is simply a great film all around. Though not as deep as the second film in the series I place it ahead of Toy Story 2 simply because of its place in film history as the first ever computer animated feature film.
Leave it to animation master Brad Bird to turn the story of a rat into a relatable tale of dreams untapped. I think this film is actually more enjoyable for adults than children. There is much less action than in other Pixar movies. Instead the focus is on the coming of age story of a young man and his pet rat. Touching and moving, Ratatoullie is a great film, no qualifiers needed.
5. Finding Nemo
The funniest Pixar movie also has its fair share of action and drama. The story of a father trying to rescue his son is timeless but the highlight is Dory a fish suffering from short term memory loss. Dory is a truly hilarious character and her interplay with Marlin, Nemo's father is brilliant. Finding Nemo is Pixar's second most successful film ever and there is a reason for that. The humor works great for children while the complicated themes about love, parenting, friendship, and letting go resonate with adults. Truly a masterful film in every regard, Finding Nemo is easily one of the greatest animated films of all time. That statement alone tells you something about the quality of the next four films.
4. The Incredibles
It's rare to see an animated film that resonates with middle aged men but Brad Bird's greatest success manages it almost effortlessly. There is the great Pixar mix of action, drama and comedy but the family dynamics at play here are so masterfully created that The Incredibles easily takes its place as one of the truly great family movies in film history. Honestly the only three animated films better than The Incredibles are the next three films on this list and maybe Disney's mighty The Lion King.
The first 10 minutes of Up may be among the greatest 10 minutes of a film ever. Pixar somehow managed in 10 minutes to tell a love story greater than those found in thousand page novels and mega movie series. The tragic end of this story sets the stage for Pixar's most affecting film. There is a point near the end of Up where the main character manages to move on from his loss. It's one of the most powerful scenes I have experienced in a film. Some may complain that the final third of the film has too much action, but seriously the 2/3 leading up to that are simply astounding and so stunningly powerful that they brought me to tears several times.
2. Toy Story 3
Leave it to Pixar to make the single greatest threequel ever made. Outside of planned trilogies there has simply never been a third film in a series even close to as good as Toy Story 3. It somehow is better than 90% of Pixar's original movies and easily eclipses the first two films in the series. The final third of the film is an emotional rollercoaster and the 2/3 leading up to it are filled with more humor and drama than most any live action film released this century. A lot of Pixar films involve letting go of something. Toy Story 3 is maybe the pinnacle of that message. For children who saw the original Toy Story back in 1995, Toy Story 3 comes at the perfect time as they enter adulthood. The parents watching this film were maybe seeing it with their parents 17 years ago, and their parents surely can't help but be moved by this film about growing up and moving on. This film is Pixar at the top of their game, and if they never reach this height again I think I can safely say that Pixar's perfect run ended on the perfect film, a closing of sorts for a generation that grew up experiencing the films on this list.
1. Wall E
It was a tough choice between this film and Toy Story 3 for the best Pixar film. In the end Wall E is in many ways simply perfect. The first third of the film is easily the greatest piece of animation ever created. Who would have thought that anyone could create such an amazing love story featuring two voiceless robots? But Pixar manages it. With no voices Pixar creates a romance for the ages. It then combines that with an amazing sci fi story filled with all the humor and action that Pixar is known for. Maybe in the end it isn't as solid all the way through as Toy Story 3, but when Wall E is at its best it is better than most any film I can think of. It's truly the pinnacle of a studio whose films seemed too perfect to be true. It is Andrew Stanton's crowning achievement both as a writer and director and it is the best animated film ever made.