Two years ago, I released a ranking of the then-22 Pixar films that had been released. Since that post, there have been three more Pixar films released exclusively on Disney+. These run from “Toy Story” in 1995 to “Turning Red” in 2022. I’m going to re-rank the now 25 films based on my personal preferences.
25. The Good Dinosaur
I don’t know if there’s a truly bad Pixar movie, but there are some that are just average and this is the most average of the bunch. Its premise of dinosaurs not being destroyed by an asteroid had potential, but it just doesn’t really hit the mark for me.
24. Cars 2
Sequels are a tricky business and, while Pixar has proven it can hit it out of the park with “Toy Story 2,” “Cars 2” feels more like the straight to video sequels Disney churned out to its Renaissance hits. It deserves credit for not just remaking the same movie and I would love a different spy film from Pixar. But, this one just doesn’t cut it.
Pixar attempts to make a Disney Princess movie with Brave and it’s not bad. It’s just not great. It’s overall enjoyable, but something feels like its missing. Brave feels more like a Walt Disney Animation Studios film, while that year’s Disney release, “Wreck-It Ralph,” feels more like a Pixar film. It was an odd change and I definitely believe Disney came out ahead of Pixar in the deal.
22. Finding Dory
Objectively, this movie is perfectly fine. Like “Brave,” it’s not bad at all, but it does nothing for me. I don’t know if it took long to make the sequel or if there’s something missing in the story. It’s not exactly like “Finding Nemo,” so it avoids that sequel trap, but there’s something I just don’t get about this film and I can’t quite place my finger on it.
21. Cars 3
This is essentially a remake of “Cars” with Lightning McQueen sliding into the Doc Hudson role while welcoming Cruz Ramirez as the new Lighting McQueen. It’s a good time, but nothing spectacular about it. Given the time between “Cars” and “Cars 3,” it makes sense, it’s just unnecessary and further cements the series’ reputation as Pixar’s toy cash cow rather than one that evolves the field of animation.
The most recent Pixar movie to make it to Disney+, “Onward” is a lot of fun, but nothing sticks with you. I know I watched the movie and laughed along with the film’s humor. But, there’s no quotable lines. I know I’ll watch it again and still enjoy myself, but its staying power is lacking.
This one is going to ruffle some feathers. I, genuinely, don’t like Wall-E. I’m bored watching it. I understand the message it’s trying to convey and appreciate the need for the lesson. But, to me, it feels like it’s trying to be subtle while coming across as very heavy-handed. It’s like the Dave Matthews Band of movies. It has a lot of fans who think I’m nuts, but I don’t like it.
18. Toy Story 4
This is the epitome of an unnecessary film. It’s not bad, but it’s completely unnecessary. The toys’ story was wrapped up cleanly in “Toy Story 3,” yet we’re back again. It’s a cash grab more than a next chapter. It was still fun. It was still, objectively, good. But, I still don’t know why Pixar felt this needed to be made. Honestly, it’s only this high, because Tim Allen and Tom Hanks make a perfect comedy duo.
17. The Incredibles 2
As I said before, sequels are a tricky business. And, it’s very difficult to follow up one of the best Pixar movies with a sequel that lives up to the hype. “The Incredibles 2” just can’t live up to the legacy of “The Incredibles.” The long wait, the anticipation, the director’s refusal to just make any sequel for more money built this film up and while it didn’t fall flat, it fell short of its predecessor.
The 2020 Christmas release is an enjoyable look at existentialism and fear. Plus, it has a beautiful incorporation of music. But it, at times, tries to be too grown up for a film studio that usually makes films that appeal to the entire family. This film, more than many others puts too much emphasis on appealing to adults.
15. Turning Red
The film has an excellent metaphor and can certainly be used for pre-teen and early teenage girls as they experience the changes that come with growing up. But the target audience can feel narrow. It’s a genuinely good movie, but it lacks the universal appeal of other Pixar films.
If you watch the first 10 minutes of this movie and don’t cry, you have no heart. This movie hits you right in the feels and keeps going back to the well just enough to make you cry, then laugh, then cry again. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, but it’s one you have to be in the mood for. If not, it can send you into overload.
If the idea of a rat making French cuisine bothers you, don’t watch this movie. If not, it’s downright adorable. It’s a fun time but when you leave, there’s still better Pixar movies. It gets bonus points for me, because my oldest son shares a nickname with the main character’s name.
12. Monsters University
I love college films and Pixar taking on the tropes of the college films and turning them on their heads to make the film clean for kids is amazing. I love having Mike and Sully on my screen in any form, and I love the idea that they weren’t just gifted students who automatically got in as scarers, but worked their way up from the very bottom to become the best.
11. Toy Story 3
This film provided the perfect closure for Woody, Buzz and the gang and ended the second best trilogy in cinematic history. While the third film in a trilogy can be a bit rough, Pixar sticks the landing with the toys being passed from Andy to Bonnie and it’s where this story should’ve ended.
10. A Bug’s Life
The second Pixar movie is an enjoyable romp, despite the controversy surrounding it and fellow film “Antz” that was released at the same time. It also provides Pixar’s resident voice, John Ratzenberger, his largest role in any Pixar film to date. The man who has appeared in every single Pixar movie still says PT Flea is his favorite Pixar role.
Full disclosure: This is my favorite Pixar movie and I want it to be number one, but objectively speaking, I know it’s not. My enjoyment comes from nostalgia more than the film’s quality. I love racing and racing movies, so this hits me where I live. My dad grew up about 20 miles from Historic Route 66 in Missouri. He grew up in one of the small towns that got pushed by the wayside when the interstates moved in and helped people bypass them. It hits home for me in the way no other Pixar film can. It’s subjectively great, but objectively, there are better Pixar films.
Of the three new additions on this list, this is my favorite. I love the sea monster aspect as well as learning not to hide your true self just because others are frightened by the unknown. Plus, I understand why they want a Vespa. It’s more fun and has more of a universal appeal than some other Pixar films.
This is a really good movie that did a great job learning about the Mexican culture and incorporating it into the film. To use a baseball analogy, the creators were swinging for the fences with this one. If they didn’t do their research, they were going to strike out. Thankfully, they did and turned this one into a home run.
6. Inside Out
This film has one of the most emotional moments in the entire Pixar canon when Bing Bong gives up himself for Riley. This film is basically “what if feelings (and imaginary friends) had feelings.” But, it does a great job with the premise. It’s a good time that falls just short of my top 5.
5. Finding Nemo
This film has become iconic for some. I think I’ve heard “just keep swimming” every day of my life since this film was released. As a father, myself, I can certainly understand Marlin’s need to get to his son. It’s a great story that keeps the viewer engaged beginning to end.
4. Toy Story
It’s the very first Pixar movie and it holds up, overall. The animation is a bit outdated when you see how technology has advances in the past 25 years, but this story remains the gold standard. It introduced us to lovable characters who multiple generations recognize instantly. It’s plot is a bit simplistic compared to later Pixar efforts, but it was exactly what Pixar and Disney needed to begin a lucrative partnership.
3. Monsters Inc.
Billy Crystal actually turned down a role in “Toy Story.” After seeing how great “Toy Story” was, he begged Pixar to give him a role in a later film, and be honest, can anyone picture a better Mike Wazowski? Billy Crystal and John Goodman have excellent chemistry that shines through their performances as Mike and Sully. It’s a film I have to watch every time I see it on. And, one I hope everyone else enjoys as much as me.
2. Toy Story 2
Much like “Empire Strikes Back” is the best movie of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, “Toy Story 2” is the best movie in the original “Toy Story” trilogy. The plot is more complex than the original “Toy Story,” making it a better film. We get Woody’s backstory, amazing new characters and the airport scene ups the ante on the car chase scene from the original film. Also, Tim Allen and Tom Hanks, come on.
1. The Incredibles
This is the only good “Fantastic Four” movie. The story of a family with superpowers that aren’t allowed to use their superpowers but the dad can’t stop using them may be played out now, but it was awesome when “The Incredibles” was introduced. It gives us great lines (NO CAPES!), a good plot and a believable villain. Also, who doesn’t love Samuel L. Jackson asking for his supersuit?
There you have it, my ranking of Pixar movies from worst to best, so far. We’re not all going to agree and that’s okay. But, what is your favorite Pixar movie? How would you rank them?