Ranking Every Pixar Film

A ranked countdown of the Pixar film catalog is the most basic of lists for a critic—something he or she could break out every year or so when the world’s foremost animation studio shares with us, the world, its next stroke of creative genius.

And it’s that fawning fanboy attitude that’s prevented me from sharing or even much thinking about a ranked master list of Pixar’s filmography. These movies are all my children, and what better way to celebrate your children than ranking every one in descending order of preference!

It used to be that my favorite Pixar film was often one among five or six that I loved beyond words and simply watched more recently than the others. But I’ve revisited and read deeper analysis of a few (I’ll link you out to some quality pieces), and this is the list I feel most comfortable with—one I’m happy to finally share.

*****

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14. Cars 2
Cars 2 is the kid who has it all and doesn’t apply himself. He’s a little entitled and not nearly as funny as he thinks he is.

*****

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13. Cars
Cars is good. I like it. It doesn’t work for adults the way it works for kids. That’s just a fact. But it’s still a fine enough movie.

*****

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12. Brave
Brave isn’t quite as feisty as it puts on, but it’s very sweet and one of the two or three most beautiful films on this list. (Click here for my full Brave review.)

*****

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11. A Bug’s Life
I enjoy A Bug’s Life in the moment, but it doesn’t leave a particularly strong impression. Even now, having watched it again not that long ago, I don’t remember much about it or its characters.

*****

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10. Monsters University
I think most people went into this one expecting the worst. On the heels of Cars 2 and with sequels to Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3 announced, the film community was feeling both fatigued with and concerned about Pixar. All that said, I think Monsters University is better than it probably should be. It’s really funny and looks fantastic. Fun new characters, too. (Click here for my full Monsters University review.)

*****

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9. Toy Story 2
A sufferer of middle child syndrome, but in a family full of prodigies, that’s still an OK thing. It’s as a good an example of world-building as any film we’ve seen before or since.

*****

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8. Monsters, Inc.
Arguably the most imaginative film in this bunch.

*****

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7. The Incredibles
It took me a while to really fall for this one the way I know so many others have. I’ve always enjoyed it, but it was a notch or two below the studio’s best offerings. Recently, I “got” it. (This piece from The Dissolve “gets” it, too.) Brad Bird is a gifted filmmaker.

*****

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6. Ratatouille
These top six are the elite of the elite, and it’s with a heavy heart I slot Ratatouille a few notches lower than I had kind of expected going in. And it’s not like I found something problematic on what must have been a tenth viewing of Brad Bird’s second of two Pixar films, one that I’d give four stars to again and again. It just didn’t register the same way as the films above it.

(That said, the theme of fearlessness still resonates to me in a major way. I wrote about it a year or so ago for Sound on Sight.)

*****

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5. Finding Nemo
This is, for my money, the best looking Pixar film to date. Some of the environments created by Pixar’s animators (under the direction of Andrew Stanton) are simply incredible.

*****

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4. Toy Story
You always remember your first time. As a wide-eyed seven-year-old, it was one of my formative filmgoing experiences. And it didn’t stop when my family and I left the theater. It was games. It was t-shirts. It was toys. Everything was Toy Story for a little while in my life, but what’s truly amazing is how the film still speaks to me all these years later.

*****

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3. WALL-E
If the final 30 minutes were half as good as the first 30, this would be the number one film on my list. That it still places as high as it does ought to speak to how magnificent those first 30 minutes are. Put them up against any extended scene in the last 20 years. (Click here for my full WALL-E review.)

*****

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2. Up
I’d put Up‘s opening right up there with WALL-E‘s. Both scenes speak to the importance of hooking the viewer early on. This one just wrecks you, but the story that’s told is so easily and deeply felt. From there, like WALL-E the film becomes more conventional and action- and suspense-oriented, but this one hangs on and uniquely develops its emotional core in a more satisfying way than its studio’s immediate predecessor. (Click here for my full Up review.)

*****

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1. Toy Story 3
Three years in a row, Pixar topped itself leading to its best film in 2010, a threequel (of all things) to its first film, which came out 25 years earlier. (Click here for my full Toy Story 3 review.)

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5 Responses to Ranking Every Pixar Film

  1. Wendell July 5, 2015 at 10:17 am

    I’m cool with most of this. To nitpick, I’d probably drop WALL-E a couple notches because I dislike the last half of the movie that much. To nitpick I’d switch the two Cars movies. Hated the first, thought the second was meh. Nice work.

    Reply
  2. Steven Chaitman June 20, 2015 at 11:14 am

    I’m feelin’ you on most of this list, though I would’ve had Brave higher and Ratatouille lower. Call me a traditionalist. Also, WALL*E would be my No. 2. Love that movie.

    Reply
    • John Gilpatrick June 20, 2015 at 11:27 am

      I’ll admit to not giving Brave a rematch before making this list. Maybe it deserves another shot.

      Reply
  3. Andrew June 19, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Nice ranking. I’d probably place Nemo at #1 with Toy Story 3 narrowly behind it. Pixar truly has had some major highs. I’m hoping that Inside Out is one of them.

    Reply
    • John Gilpatrick June 20, 2015 at 11:28 am

      Sounds like it very well might be. I’ll find out in the next couple days. Very excited!

      Reply

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