Updated: Aug 13
Pixar is a name that brings to many memories of some of the best and emotional experiences in Cinema. Not only do kids who grew up watching Pixar films love Pixar, but adults also share that same love. As the years gone by, Pixar continued to evolve as a studio and further honed their craft. With every new movie, some become instant classics, while others are more forgettable. Here’s our categorization of all twenty six Pixar movie that have been released thus far from best to worst.
Initially, I would describe Soul is Inside Out for adults. While Inside Out is an amazing movie that I would recommend to anyone, I cannot get over how masterful Soul is. Pixar shines best when it talks about adult issues through an animated medium, and Soul is the perfect epitome of this. For anyone who is artistically inclined but faces an unsupportive family, this film will be all too relatable. But besides that, Soul teaches people what it truly means to live life to the fullest and enjoy the life you have, and that is something that no other Pixar film on this list has portrayed. This movie will truly touch your soul, pun intended.
This movie has one of the oddest pairings: an old man and young boy. While this may seem like an unlikely leading duo, Up is not a movie to be glossed over. Although I wasn’t keen on seeing it when it first released primarily because I thought the kid was annoying, I wished I saw it sooner. Up tells the story of learning to move on from loss and look for the adventure in your life. In a way, this movie is similar to Soul, but focuses more on reigniting your childhood curiosity for life rather than exploring what it truly means to live. This movie is not only one of Pixar’s best films, but truly a classic animated feature film.
There are very few movies like Inside Out. It tackles a very serious subject with much nuance and humor. This is a film that has the ability to start a conversation and bring families closer together. Of course, it’s a Pixar movie so it tugs at all the right heartstrings; but it turns that part up to 11, bringing out emotions I had not felt since I was a child. But these heartstrings bring on waves of nostalgia as they deal with the growing pains of change and how to deal with emotions in a healthy manner, not by denying them but embracing them.
If there’s one thing that is not addressed enough in film, it's familial love. When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought that it was going to be a Spirited Away rip-off. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While I watched Coco on disc, I wished that I could’ve seen it in theaters. The sheer imagination of the spirit world and visuals were already enough to take my breath away! But the film’s story is just as, if not stronger than its visuals, as if that’s even possible! The end will not only pull at your heart strings, but also make you want to spend more time with your closest family members.
If you asked a seven year old me what was my favorite film, I would have told you Finding Nemo. Now is it still my favorite? No, but that’s because my taste in films grew exponentially over the years. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Finding Nemo is still one of my absolute favorite Pixar films. Most films emphasize mother-child relationships, but Finding Nemo humanizes the father in the picture. As someone who spent most of his life raised by a single parent, I can relate so much to this film. This was one of Pixar’s earliest films and the first one to focus on the importance of family and tackle the difficulty of parenting. Finding Nemo is not only a film I will keep enjoying, but also one I will recommend to families everywhere.
Now this may come off as a bizarre film. A talking rat goes to Paris and becomes a cook through controlling a dude through his hair. Despite this bizarre premise, Ratatouille tells a story about what it means to follow your dreams, regardless of what others think of you. But besides this theme, the characters are some of the most likable that Pixar has produced. While Remy the rat is relatable, my favorite character has to be Linguini, son of the most famous chef in all of Paris. However, unlike his father, Linguini has no talent for cooking. As someone who never excelled at anything in particular, I find Linguini as a character to be very sympathetic. With excellent storytelling and characters that shaped the future of Pixar, Ratatouille is a film that should not be overlooked.
This film is better than half the MCU with action-packed fight scenes and threatening villains. But besides this, The Incredibles is helped by having a good cast, from the relatable Parr family, to the comedic Edna Mode, the cool (pun totally known) Frozone, and Syndrome, one of Pixar’s most evil creations. The film also is probably Pixar’s darkest film, with guns, implied mass murder, attempted child murder that is treated with a grim seriousness, and a very realistic portrayal of familial issues. It’s also blends humor with its bleaker elements, like the ‘no capes’ speech (which is also one of the darkest jokes Pixar has ever written), which perfectly encapsulates the film as a whole: both dark and fun.
Wall-E is a prime example of visual storytelling, using no dialogue to endear us to a robot protagonist and give us a 3 dimensional character. While they do have lines later in the film, almost the entire first act is prime Pixar animation and world building. While its environmental message is very obvious, we have to remember it is a kid's movie. But it could also be like Terminator but for kids if you think about it. Anyways, Wall-E is Pixar storytelling and animation at the top of their game.
Pixar began diversifying their films with Coco, to massive success. Five years later, they decided to make Turning Red, about a Chinese family living in Toronto. The main character, Meilin Lee is a middle school student who discovers she can turn into a giant red panda which is a hereditary blessing. While Pixar’s themes of exploring familial and friendship bonds are present in many of their other films, Turning Red also adds in the message of balancing your inner wild side with your orderly side. With these strong themes in addition to relatable Asian characters living in North America, this movie is a film that needs more attention.
Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 does what a good sequel should. It expands upon the first film by bringing in more existential ideas through Woody’s discovery of his character’s origin and through the devastating backstory of Jessie, which takes the premise of living toys to a logical and very real place. The rest of the cast has a fun ride to give the audience, and the humor of the film lands as well as its heart. The film honestly outclasses the first in humor and has the better emotional beats and even a more compelling antagonist.
Toy Story 3
With the plot setup done in the second film, the plotline of Andy growing up was the natural way the story would progress. The over ten year wait for the third would make good on this with a story about moving on into a new stage of life, with an ending that brought a lot of tears to many. Lotso the Bear is another one of Pixar’s best villains and the cast continues to be fun to watch and just plain memorable. The humor is still on point and the film proves to be surprisingly tense, especially in the third act.
This is a film that I initially didn’t really care about, and one that I had no desire to watch at all. However, I was bored one evening and decided to give it a go when I saw it on Disney+. After a viewing, I have to say that Onward isn’t that bad of a film. With a strong story revolving around two brothers trying to reunite with their dad and solid performances by both Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, two actors that I’m not really a fan of, Onward is a solid film but with no major surprises or new ideas. Although it features a fascinating world of magic and mythical creatures such as Elves, Orcs and Manticores among others, the story is rather linear and predictable.
The first ever feature length computer animated movie by Pixar. At the time, Disney animated movies about princesses falling in love with princes were the rave. To the uninitiated, Toy Story may appear to follow those trends, however, it is far from a typical Disney flick. The film explores two individuals becoming friends through undergoing mutual challenges. More importantly, Toy Story was the first film that asked the question, what would happen to your toys when you left your room? Despite Toy Story being Pixar’s first major success, it doesn’t quite stack up to some of their later creations.
Toy Story 4
Toy Story 4 continues Woody’s story by introducing Forky, the toy spork going through an existential crisis who gets lost on a road trip and the two have to make it back before the family leaves. We also get the return of Woody’s girlfriend Bo Peep, who further contributes to Woody’s development. The film also introduces Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key who both elevate the comedy. We also get a good tragic antagonist, something which is normally overdone in film, but here feels natural. The ending is one of the most emotional endings in a Pixar film, however, Toy Story 4 has the lowest stakes out of the entire series and honestly doesn’t reach the heights of 2 or 3 nor have the influence and impact of the first film.
Luca is about a young sea monster named Luca, who journeys to the surface with his new friend Alberto and goes through a life changing journey. The setting is well constructed and feels very alive. This is aided by a strong cast of characters and a strong emotional core of Luca and Alberto’s friendship and later Giulia as well. If you have ever watched one of Miyazaki’s more relaxed films, like Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro, then you have an idea of how the film feels overall, having much more down to Earth scenes and conflicts. While fantastical, the film gets across very real feelings about friendship and acceptance of those who are different from everyone else.
So Cars was predictable and Cars 2 was…itself so no one really went into Cars 3 expecting anything. Instead we get a film that is actually not that bad. This film feels like the sequel this series needed, dropping the spy stuff and focusing on Lighting trying to prove that he can still race with a new generation of racers with the help of new character Cruz. The direction it chooses to go in proves to be actually an interesting story about aging and passing the torch, that hits pretty well and has a lot of weight to it. In many ways, Cars 3 feels like Creed to Rocky, making it the best of the trilogy by far.
A Bug’s Life
Pixar’s second major feature film revolves around a colony of ants being terrorized by grasshoppers. Surely, a reference to the tale of the ant and the grasshopper. The grasshoppers in this movie also are very lazy and rely on the ants to prepare food for them! Besides that, the film is a rather linear hero’s journey of learning how to integrate into their community. While a solid message, I felt that the message of community could have been stronger. Although A Bug’s Life is by no means a bad film, it just doesn’t hold up to some of Pixar’s stronger films.
Have you seen Doc Hollywood? It’s a film about a doctor who after causing some property damage and paying by doing community service, bonds with a small town, grows humble and even finds love. Add some NASCAR racing, anthropomorphic cars and a theme of small towns being forgotten and you get Cars. While I’m not saying Cars ripped off Doc Hollywood, the film is painfully predictable in its structure and offers little else in return. The world of Cars is nonsensical when you think about it for more than a few seconds, and the cast is not really that memorable outside from Lighting, Doc and Mator, who can grate on the viewer after a while. Despite being directed by John Lasseter, and having an iconic end race, Cars lacks originality which costs it in this ranking.
While the first film is amazing, the long-awaited sequel is not as good. The story is still fun and the characters are still enjoyable with a good family dynamic, and a solid idea of the plot. However, the villain was a major downgrade and managed to be unpredictably predictable, making many wish the plain predictable choice was chosen instead. Screenslaver was a good concept, just not well executed. The film mostly exists in the shadow of the first Incredibles which combined with some pacing and story issues results in a weaker film.
Buckle down folks, I’m about to say something controversial: I don’t really care for this film. Now before you all try to run me out of town, let me explain my side of things. Monsters Inc. was the rave back in my day, and while over-advertising doesn’t necessarily destroy a film, in the case of Monsters Inc., I was just sick of seeing merchandise for this film everywhere. When I finally saw the film, I was kind of disappointed by the story and mostly annoyed by Boo. Even as a kid, I couldn’t stand her at all and wanted Randall to eat her. However, upon revisiting this movie, I actually think it's not too bad, at least compared to the rest of the films below it. Nevertheless, this is not a Pixar film I will be revisiting anytime soon.
Brave is constantly thought of as a Disney film rather than the Pixar film due to its presence of a princess with a controlling mother. Princess Merida and her mother have a good dynamic and seeing the two grow together is satisfying. However, the midpoint twist is shaky at best, and the plot feels very predictable. The comedy of the film is decent, albeit a bit crude at times. As a whole, the film is very by the numbers, and doesn’t do too much to stand out.
Monsters University/Finding Dory
Did these two movies need to be made? Both Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc. work as standalone films that didn’t need any sequels or unnecessary spinoffs. And both honestly don’t bring much to the table. Monsters University is the Pixar version of a college coming of age story with a good message about adaptation and persistence. Meanwhile, Finding Dory has good characterization and humor. However, both lack memorability and are average overall. While still competent, the two really don’t stand up with the rest of the lineup and are some the Pixar’s more forgettable films.
Speaking about pointless spin-offs, this is probably the best time to talk about Lightyear. When this movie was first announced, I thought it was a joke. Tim Allen didn’t return to voice Buzz since the action figure Buzz was based off of came from this movie which was Andy’s favorite movie at the time. Sorry Andy, but this movie really isn’t all that great. After I saw the movie, I thought it was subpar at best, and a Pixar cash-grab at worst. While Chris Evans does a good job as Buzz Lightyear, his character arc felt rushed. Then there is the character of Mo, who is almost as grating as Mater. Overall, this movie really isn’t worth your time, but some fans of sci-fi may find it enjoyable.
The Good Dinosaur
Well, the animation is really good, especially the landscapes and it also has a good message about facing your fears. But the film doesn’t have much else. While the general story is not bad, it just is not that compelling. The same can be said with the protagonist Arlo and his journey. In general, The Good Dinosaur is a very average kid's film, and really fails to be anything special. Definitely one of Pixar’s weaker entries.
Is this one as bad as everyone says it is? Probably not, but it is definitely safe to say that it is the weakest of all of Pixar’s animated arsenal. It may deal with a story of self-acceptance and embracing friends (I think), but it is lost underneath an unnecessary spy style that does not mold well with the Cars franchise and tone. While giving Mater a leading role is not the worst idea in the world, it was poorly executed; and don’t even get me started on the political message of “Oil Corporations are Evil.''
Co-Written: Owen Gonzalez and Noah Kloss