(Updated on May 3rd, 2017)
This was a tough post to write, just because there really isn’t a horrible Pixar film. Even my least favorite Pixar film, “Cars 2”, isn’t a terrible movie. Therefore, to rank these films almost feels like a crime. To call any of them better than another is difficult. The middle of this list was probably the hardest to sort. I know which ones are my favorite and which ones are my least favorite. It’s hard to rank them, because there will inevitably be someone who loves each one and will call me out on ranking it a certain way. I’ve talked with people who have very different opinions on where each one should go. In the end, these are the way I would put them.
I will start at the bottom, with my least favorites to my favorites.
17. “Cars 2” (7/10)
The closest movie to receiving a rating of lower than a 7/10 from me was “Cars 2”. I don’t love the film, and it is the worst of the Pixar films. But it’s also better than a lot of animated films that are released, and even this less-than-stellar effort from Pixar still has its place among watchable animated films.
16. “Brave” (7/10)
I really liked the setting of this movie, which may alone have pulled it above “Cars 2” for me. But the story takes a twist about 45 minutes in that kind of ruined the epic atmosphere for me. It was the story that they wanted to tell, but it didn’t quite work for me. This is still a beautiful film with a message for women-younger and older alike.
15. Monsters University (7/10)
This is Pixar’s first attempt at a prequel. It feels a little strange to see these characters when they were a little bit younger, and its successor, “Monster’s Inc.”, is a much better movie overall. And Pixar’s staple friendship movie, “Toy Story”, has already nailed the topic of friendship. This movie is innocent and not bad, but it may be the most unnecessary movie in the Pixar library.
14. “A Bug’s Life” (7/10)
“A Bug’s Life” certainly isn’t a bad film. I kind of liked how the conflict started; with a really bad incident that set these ants behind. It is a story of failure turned to redemption. Nothing wrong with it. However, it suffers from being only mildly impacting in the end. It’s probably the least original of all of the Pixar films. Saying that makes it sound bad, though. “A Bug’s Life” is still a better film than Antz and most other animated movies.
13. “Ratatouille” (7/10)
This may have been one of the funnier Pixar films, and the setting is cool. But, it didn’t seem to have a great story. I didn’t care much for the ending, though. Nonetheless, this movie is still a good one. I just can’t put it higher than any of the others.
12. “The Good Dinosaur” (7/10)
One of the most different Pixar movies, in terms of its feel. Like “Wall-E”, there are some longer sequences without much dialogue. It doesn’t have the charm of other Pixar movies like “Wall-E” or “Up” or other movies higher on my list. And yet, there are some amazing things about this movie. It has absolutely stunning animation. One really wonders if they took actual camera footage and just animated the dinosaurs over that at some points in the movie. There are a few really unique characters that Arlo runs into and the jokes are well written to match those characters. The music is also very unique, abandoning just the traditional orchestra for other instruments to spruce up the feel. But the main story and the screenplay written around that story is not nearly as good as Pixar’s other finer titles. Still, this is one of the best Pixar movies with a ‘7 out of 10’ rating.
11. “Cars” (8/10)
This was one of the only Pixar films I didn’t see in theaters. I regret not seeing it in theaters. I got around to watching it, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. It has a very good way of humbling the main character to the lifestyle of the people he is (somewhat) forced to live with. The film does well with its length, which seems longer than some of the other Pixar films. As time has gone by, so many lesser Pixar films have come out. It’s refreshing to see the simplicity of the story at work here.
10. “Toy Story 3” (8/10)
Maybe this movie’s greatness hasn’t hit me yet. It has one of the strongest endings of any Pixar film made. I am not so convinced by the body of the story, though. It didn’t think it was terribly funny or terribly rewarding throughout the body. The ending makes the film worthwhile, but a better body would have elevated this film higher on this list.
9. “Wall-E” (8/10)
“Wall-E” is in the same boat as “Toy Story 3”. It’s a really good film, that does surprisingly well with a chunk of the film having no spoken dialogue. It’s interesting to watch and experience, but it’s not an extremely stellar film in my opinion. I’ve met people who would vehemently disagree with me. To each his own; I just can’t bring myself to put this film above the next six films.
8. “Up” (8/10)
“Up” probably deserves to be right in the middle of this list. It’s a very good film that does quite a lot with the film’s simple premise-a man takes off in his house of balloons. If you only watched the trailer, you might think this film has little substance. That is quite the contrary. “Up” has some powerful scenes the open the film and nearly close the film, but there’s so much Pixar goodness wrapped around it that it’s hard not to like this film and leave the theater disappointed.
7. “Finding Dory” (8/10)
While not finding itself near its incredible prequel at the top, “Finding Dory” still proves to be a great effort by the Pixar team. While a few jokes fall flat, and one of the chase scenes feels a bit unnecessary, the movie shows how family and home aren’t always what you think it is on the onset. A place that once wasn’t home can now feel like “home”, and this movie shows both the characters and the audience what this means. This is one of Pixar’s better films, and it’s a shame that it wasn’t nominated for a Best Animated Film Oscar!
6. “Inside Out” (8/10)
This is one of the strongest written and best edited Pixar films. The progression is extremely focused on the topic of emotions and how they play out in our lives. It was said to have been well researched, and one can certainly feel that the writers did their homework before putting it to a screenplay. It helps with strong performances and a great curve of emotions where even while we can tell that things are spiraling downwards, Joy, as is the definition of her character, tries to keep everything afloat. It’s this very plotline that keeps the film extremely well knit, as we also want to feel some joy despite the circumstances becoming increasingly bad. The movie never feels like it gives us a perfect message, but we can at the very least relate to the human, Riley, that these emotions embody. And by the end, the resolution is as natural as it could be for Riley, as she is young, and it is hard to process all of these emotions. In the end, it is difficult to walk out of this film unsatisfied, except for maybe thinking that as strongly as the movie had begun, that the ending could have been just a bit better. Still, there’s a lot of clever humor, as is standard fare with Pixar, and we don’t have to doubt that even in this world there are some very creative scenes to be had.
5. “Monster’s Inc.” (8/10)
This was a very good movie that may be slightly under-appreciated among the Pixar films. It has great humor, a great ending and tells a tale of friendship like no other. Well, except for maybe…
4. “Toy Story” (9/10)
Monster’s Inc. was very good, but Toy Story was a great movie. Friendship is a strong and consistent theme throughout this movie, and it wraps up very lovely in the end. Aside from that obvious theme, though, Toy Story is so incredibly interesting. Woody and everybody knows they are toys, almost in the same sense that us humans see them. Buzz is the only one who doesn’t get it at first. The movie plays out well because the toys know their place. They have meetings about their roles in Andy’s life, and it all makes sense to the viewing audience, who would like to believe that toys aren’t alive.
3. “The Incredibles” (9/10)
The scope of this film is probably the greatest of all of the Pixar films, perhaps closely eclipsed by “Wall-E” and “Up”. Not only is the scope great, the movie plays well as a movie of many genres-action, thriller, comedy and drama. As one of the longest Pixar films, at nearly two hours, it still had a very good pace to it and tells a wonderful story of not only family, but one’s role in life. For being surprisingly gripping, this film is way at the top of this list.
2. “Toy Story 2” (9/10)
It’s hard to do better than the original movie, but boy does “Toy Story 2” truly deliver. This film broadens its scope that began the series by introducing lovable new characters and an unexpected plot that takes the toys out of their safe home. This story has a wonderful character arc for almost all of the characters, but most especially Woody. He undergoes several transformations throughout the film, and it’s interesting to see all of them. This movie elicits a wide range of emotions. I’ve met someone who says she always cries during the film’s main song sung by one of the new characters; it tells her story very delicately. The film’s short(er) length doesn’t leave the audience feeling gypped. There is a lot packed into this 90-ish minute film, and it’s all good stuff.
1. “Finding Nemo” (9/10)
I could talk forever about this movie. I love, love, love this film. I had to humble myself to take “Toy Story 2”, one of my most beloved films as a child, and concede that Nemo is truly the better film. The directing is so incredible here. There are some lines that will probably go by some people. In fact, entire scenes may seem to be rather frivolous. I mean, why should we care about two fish stuck inside of a whale? The scenes inside this whale are actually incredibly well-woven. I love when Marlin asks Dory how she knows that something bad won’t happen. Her answer? “I don’t”. We get themes of trust, undeserved friendship and the concept of just being able to let go. Seek this one out. The kids will love it as much as the adults.
So, I wonder how “Cars 3” will fit on this list…