*DISCLAIMER: This list is based purely off my own opinion*
When it comes time to write these rankings, I usually already know roughly where a film will sit. Having grown up with both the Star Wars and Middle Earth sagas, I was already fully aware how each one of those films made me feel. The PIXAR Collection is another beast entirely. Not only is the list comprised of 23 individual films (a far cry from the 9 and 6 I had already done) but each film is a different type of film. Star Wars is all space opera and the Middle Earth instalments are all heroic fantasy but PIXAR films range from comedy to action to romance to fantasy. This was no easy task, and let me assure you before reading that you will almost definitely disagree, but this is my list. As far as I’m concerned, even the “worst” film on this list is only mediocre and numbers 9 through 4 are practically interchangeable to me. The top 3 however, will most likely continue to hold their positions.
If you were wondering what the early 2000s country music scene was like then look no further. Cars has proved to be the most dated of PIXAR’s films, but the only real flaw it has is how childish it is. Yes, it’s a children’s film but so is every other film here and they seem to have more decorum. To be fair, I was oversaturated with this one because it was my sister’s favourite so I’m probably a little biased.
22. The Good Dinosaur
This is what many consider to be PIXAR’s lowest moment, and I think that’s a little harsh. The animation is stunningly realistic in places and, although the plot meanders, that’s not a bad thing. I think that pacing is probably the worst aspect of The Good Dinosaur but considering the hell it went through to get made, it’s perfectly a reasonable result.
21. Cars 2
With a more Mater focussed plot, you’d think this would be my least favourite Cars instalment, but no. It gets credit from me for being a spy film in the same campy vain as Pierce Brosnan’s Bond with a stellar performance by Sir Michael Caine. Any film that is willing to go so ham with its plot is always a positive for me.
20. Toy Story 4
The original Toy Story trilogy is near perfect, as far as I’m concerned, however all the friendships and character development of those 3 films feel relatively absent here. I’m fine with having a solo Woody adventure but I kind of wish the film had allowed itself to do that instead of clinging to characters it practically ignores. I still get swept up in this one, just not as much as I would like.
The most recent addition to the PIXAR portfolio is good, but I feel like the ending lets it down. I’m also not convinced that there was enough jazz or time spent with Joe before he falls into The Great Before. Soul isn’t bad, it just doesn’t really hit me like that.
I’m a sucker for fantasy, world-building and stories centring on siblings so Onward was starting at an advantage. It’s a lot of fun, and has a lot of heart, but it feels the need to stick to the “buddy comedy” plot which I feel holds it back a little bit. Also, I really like the running gag about the Gelatinous Cube.
17. Finding Dory
Like Toy Story 4, Finding Dory chooses to focus on one character, but unlike Toy Story 4, it dedicates enough time to other characters too. Marlin and Nemo are never forgotten about or watered down as characters, but it allows so much more depth to Dory. Hank the octopus is also really well developed, with an understandably cynical edge, and they got Sigourney Weaver.
Braveheart is a fine film but when it and all the historical inaccuracies seem to be the primary representation for your home country, it starts to get a little boring. Luckily, Brave is an excellent depiction of Scotland with a suitably lore-heavy plot to boot. It doesn’t do for the country what Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand but I think it should have.
15. Cars 3
I think I’m starting to get sentimental, because the latest Cars film focuses on older versions of the classic characters and it’s my favourite of the trilogy. It’s also a fairly simple plot, unlike Cars 2, and doesn’t have to burden itself with the introduction of a whole tow, like the first. It could also have something to do with the Demolition Derby.
14. Inside Out
As far as handling the depiction of depression for a child audience, I think Inside Out does a superb job. It also fills the story with likable characters, an abundance of imagination and plenty of colour. Despite being relatively new in the grand scheme of PIXAR, Bing Bong has become a favourite character of mine.
13. Monsters University
To date, this is PIXAR’s only prequel and that’s fascinating to me. In all honestly, that’s probably the only route they could have gone down with a follow up to Monsters Inc because a true sequel would have risked cheapening the ending of the original. As prequels go, this one is rather inventive and demonstrates how the “here’s how we all met” plot can be done well.
I don’t think there’s anything in Coco that isn’t beautiful. Between the animation, the plot, and the soundtrack there is so much to fall in love with.
11. Incredibles 2
I love The Incredibles, and I liked the video game sequel, but this really knocks it out of the park in terms of action. It is an excellent demonstration of the evolution of the superhero genre, but it never loses that familial element that made the original so good.
10. Finding Nemo
There is such scale in Finding Nemo, making the ocean look incredibly vast and seemingly empty at times, but when there is ocean life, it is beautiful. It also has what remains to this day the darkest opening to any of PIXAR’s films, and the impact of that opening is never lost, regardless of how funny Finding Nemo can be.
Many people are of the opinion that this is PIXAR’s best film and some have even referred to it as their Magnum Opus, which may be true. Personally, I enjoy the following 8 films more, but we have now hit a point in the list where the numbers are kind of irrelevant. Objectively, Ratatouille is as well made as the rest and it has the added complication of our protagonists being unable to speak to each other, which is handled sublimely.
The first of PIXAR’s films to be helmed by Pete Doctor and he absolutely nails it on his first try. A lot of emphasis is placed on those opening 8 minutes, as it should be, but the rest of the film is just as good. An old man, a young boy and a talking dog is an odd dynamic, but it works well here. The late Christopher Plummer is also oodles of fun as the villain.
“Actions speak louder than words” has never been as true as it is in the case of Wall-E. With our protagonist having a limited vocabulary and often nobody to speak to, the film relies on telling its story with his surroundings, and aces it. There is straight up no dialogue for around 15 minutes, which would turn people off if done poorly, but it was used to the films benefit by allowing us to soak in Wall-E’s surroundings . Truly spectacular.
6. Toy Story 3
This works as a standalone film, and as the conclusion to perhaps PIXAR’s most popular story; it is such a perfect bookend, down to the very last frame, and you can tell how much love went into making it. Toy Story now exists as a quadrilogy but there is no denying that 1-3 told a complete story, and having grown up with that story, I love the ending.
5. Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 is so good that it started development as a direct-to-video sequel which was upgraded to a proper theatrical release, and well deservedly. From the action to the character to the endless Star Wars references, I can only find enjoyment here. Don’t ever let anybody tell you that sequels are never as good as the original.
4. Monsters Inc
This film could be this high on the list for nothing more than how impressive the animation is. They had to write brand new codes to make some of the textures work, and it’s as good now as it was then. It just so happens to also have a fantastic plot, perfectly camp villain and excellent chemistry between the two leads.
3. A Bug’s Life
This film really sticks out to me because PIXAR have never really made anything similar. Everything else has a sequel or human characters but A Bug’s Life doesn’t, and that makes it really special to me. I also just love a good adventure story, and of all the films in this list, I think this one might be the funniest. The grasshoppers alone make this worth watching, as does the darkest ending I think PIXAR have ever done.
2. The Incredibles
I love superheroes, and the classic superhero aesthetic, and the grand sweeping theme songs. The Incredibles embodies all of that. It feels like a classic “comic book movie” in the very best sense of the term and that familial message really strengthens the story. It is pure unbridled superhero fun and I adore it as much now as I ever did.
1. Toy Story
Let’s be honest, it was only ever going to be Toy Story for the top spot. This isn’t an Objectively Best Movies list, it’s a list of my personal favourites and I’ve lost track of how often I’ve seen Toy Story. This film had an entire group of animators staking their career and, I think, as a result Toy Story feels like it was made from love. It’s witty and dark in all the right places and is a true testament to just how far the plucky little PIXAR Studios has come. I love it.