Pixar movies from the worst to the best

This is the 20th year since Pixar took the first shy step into the movie industry with “Toy Story”. The course that the company followed after that is known of course, since it has grown numerous generations with its movies while at the same time it brought back to the hearts and minds of adults some of their missing childhood.

Recently the company’s 15th film, called “Inside Out” was released. So it is a great opportunity to make a list of the rest 14 movies that we’ve seen so far. The list starts with the less successful movie and ends to the best one.

14. Cars 2 (2011)

This was most likely Pixar’s weakest moment from every aspect. Larry the Cable Guy was Cars’ secret weapon, lending his blue-collar earthiness to a character whose regular-folks demeanor had real pathos and sweetness. But that didn’t mean we wanted to see Tow Mater in a James Bond spoof. Give Cars 2 points for audacity: The follow-up shifts away from the original’s small-town, homespun charm to become a sleek, globetrotting action-thriller focusing on Lightning McQueen’s country-bumpkin sidekick. And then take away those points because Cars 2 proves that even the mighty Pixar can't transcend the central problem with sequels: You can make everything bigger, but you can rarely replicate what was novel and charming about the original.

13. Brave (2012)

Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald) has come of age, and her parents, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), stage a grand tournament to find her a husband. Never mind that she’s handier with a bow and arrow than any man in the kingdom: doing her duty, Queen Elinor insists, is non-negotiablem, so Merida flees into the forest. Merida flees into the forest, where a log-whittling crone (the spit of Spirited Away’sYubaba) offers her acharmed cake that will “make the Queen change”. Inevitably, it does just that, triggering a curse that both daughter and mother – in her new, shaggier, snufflier, ursine form – must work together to dispel. While Brave lacks the sheer kaleidoscopic wonderment of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s work and can’t match the drumskin tightness of Pixar’s own Ratatouille and Toy Stories, there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to both its storytelling and 3D visuals that few animation studios could match.

12. Cars (2006)

By 2006, Pixar had been making features for more than a decade, and so a backlash was inevitable; perhaps overdue. Into that awaiting storm walked Cars, a sweet, modest family comedy. Essentially Doc Hollywood starring a cocky stock car, the film imagined a world ruled by living automobiles, wringing laughs from a hot-rod-out-of-water scenario in which ultracompetitive racer Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) gets stuck in a Podunk filled with ordinary folks like good-ol’-boy tow-truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). Cars is Pixar’s most nostalgic work, lamenting the sleepy communities and small-town values lost to the endless march of progress, which may explain why the movie feels so recycled, drawing from different genres without the studio’s usual freshness. Still, it’s consistently amusing — and for a whole generation of car-loving boys who grew up on it, Cars is as important as Star Wars or Batman.

11. Monsters University (2013)

Maybe our expectations were simply too high, considering how much we loved Monsters, Inc. The prequel added a handful of compelling characters (Helen Mirren as the menacing Dean Hardscrabble was an inspired choice) and had its share of laughs. In the end, it was just...fine.Essentially this amounts to an underdog tale, although what the plot may lack in innovative fizz, it makes up for with charm and quiet wisdom.

10. A Bug’s Life (1998)

We might be in the minority preferring that year’s Antz — which was famously part of a race between Dreamworks and Pixar to make computer-animated insect movies — but this is still a charming, ultimately harmless little tale that basically has the same plot as Antz but is aimed more squarely at children. As the years went by, Pixar became unusually skilled at making movies as appealing to adults as they were to kids, but the scale is still being balanced here: This is not one adults will rewatch, like The Incredibles or Toy Story. It still wins big points for having the queen of an ant colony voiced by Phyllis Diller.

9. Toy Story 2 (1999)

Honestly, when it comes to ranking the Toy Story films, they’re a bit interchangeable. All of them are great, and Toy Story 2 impossibly so. The film was entirely reworked just months before release, with John Lasseter taking over as director and crafting a completely new story that riffs on the culture of toy collectors while also expanding the Toy Story mythology in a way that feels organic. Moreover, the “When Somebody Loved Me” sequence laid the foundation for the emotionally tough territory that Pixar would continue to mine in its subsequent efforts.

8. Up (2009)

All right, all right: We know this is lower than you think it should be. But take a step back and try to remember what comes to your mind when you first think of this movie. Yes, the wondrous image of the balloon raising the house into the air, and yes, maybe the cute dog that keeps being distracted by squirrels. But plot-wise, this whole film is completely overshadowed by the heartbreaking preamble, in which we learn the crushing story of Carl and Ellie’s life together. Yes, this will make you cry — just watching it again choked us up — but in retrospect, the rest of the movie is your fairly standard cute-kid, cute-dog, central-casting villain story. We’re not sure the whole movie should have been as powerful as those opening minutes — we might still be weeping — but take that away and this movie is a lot thinner than you remember. Sorry.

7. Ratatouille (2007)

As close as Pixar will get to an art movie, this story of a rat who is secretly the greatest chef in all of Paris is a delight, owing largely to a generous heart, a witty, Richard Dreyfuss–esque vocal performance from Patton Oswalt, and some legitimately democratizing notions about art and the act of creation. It’s not quite as viscerally thrilling as some other Pixar films — the main setpiece is about impressing a food critic — but it is funny and almost compulsively likable. After this film — which, we repeat, is a comedy about art and food and rats in Paris — became a huge hit and won an Oscar, it seemed as though Pixar could do no wrong.

6. The Incredibles (2004)

It was obvious, in retrospect, that director Brad Bird would move on to making live-action blockbusters: This is as exciting and riveting an action film as we’ve seen in American animation. If all blockbusters were like this one, we’d never object to a fifth Transformers movie. The key to The Incredibles’ success is its economy of action: We are introduced to an entirely new universe, meet and empathize with a likable and close-knit family, discover the parents’ quiet dissatisfaction with what their lives have become, and then watch as everyone unites to overcome an evil force that wants to destroy the planet. It does all this in under two hours and never seems to be rushing or cramming anything in. Take note, Marvel: You can create a world, balance a huge cast of characters, and still wow your audience without making them look up everything on Wikipedia afterward.

5. Toy Story 3 (2010)

While the first two Toy Story films are swell, the franchise really coalesced into something nearing perfection with Toy Story 3. The film addresses issues as dark as mortality, the passing of time, and broken relationships, and it really goes there with its villain (i.e. no redemption arc), all under the guise of an animated sequel to one of the most successful franchises of all time. Pixar and director Lee Unkrich refused to play it safe, and that decision pays off in spades as the film builds to not one but two emotional climaxes that tug at the heartstrings. These toys aren’t simply co-workers; they’re friends who’ve been to hell and back together, and Toy Story 3 really digs deep into that conceit. It’s also straight-up hilarious. Mr. Tortilla Head is one of the more brilliant ideas Pixar’s ever put on screen.

4. Finding Nemo (2003)

Made in 2003, the film doesn't have quite the reputation as the Toy Story series, its three-part cousin from the same Disney-Pixar stable, but it is every bit as delightful. It begins with a startling vignette that morphs from bliss to bereavement in the vicious snap of a barracuda's jaws, as Marlin, a house-proud clownfish, loses both his wife and their entire clutch of eggs, bar one. The lone, titular survivor grows into a happy kid, but further grief awaits when he's plucked from the reef and winds up in the fish tank of a Sydney dentist. Yet, despite plenty of moving moments, the parallel quests that follow - Marlin's odyssey towards his son, and Nemo's bid for the ocean – are anything but downbeat. In fact, seldom has any animated feature, digital or otherwise, offered such a combination of solid story and barrelling belly-laughs, or such a superabundance of lovely characters.

3. WALL-E (2008)

No dialogue for the first half hour, cinematography full of imperfections, and a major location change for the final two acts. It takes a certain skillset to make audiences fall in love with a robot, but co-writer/director Andrew Stanton pulls it off magnificently. While WALL-E is absolutely a critique on the apathy and wastefulness that plagues our current society, at heart it’s a love story betweenWALL-E and EVE. This is one of the most famous onscreen couples in history, and neither one of them speaks in complete sentences. The film also brilliantly subverts expectations, as WALL-E is neither a reluctant hero nor someone who’s always aspired to greatness. WALL-E is a kind, gentle soul who’s simply in love. He’s just been doing what he was built to do all these years on Earth, collecting things he finds interesting along the way and dreaming of companionship. He becomes the film’s hero in the end not out of confidence or a desire to win the heart of his maiden fair—he becomes a hero because he’s altruistic; because he’s kind. It’s a deceptively simple idea executed to perfection, and that’s why it’s Pixar best film…so far.

2. Toy Story (1995)

Twenty years after Toy Story’s release, some of Randy Newman’s songs come across as creaky, and the once-cutting-edge animation looks rudimentary. Otherwise, though, the best comedy of the 1990s remains perfect. Pixar’s first feature is still the template for every great movie the studio has made since: earned emotions; ripping action sequences; dead-on insights into human nature; and lots of giddy, witty, silly laughs. Toy Story is so funny because deep down, it’s actually a very melancholy film. Woody and Buzz’s battle for Andy’s love speaks to everyone’s fear of being replaced, our shared recognition that the innocence of childhood cannot last. As for the voice cast, they’re impeccable: Tim Allen was never better, and even though Tom Hanks has won two Oscars, it is very likely (and completely appropriate) that Woody will be the role that immortalizes him.

1. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Perhaps the most ingenious film of Pixar’s peerless opening salvo is this upside-down bedtime story from Pete Docter, in which monsters – eve ace child-scarer James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) and his flatmate Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) – are terrified of children. Scream power harvested from slumbering kids is what keeps the city of Monstropolis ticking over, but when two-year-old Boo wanders through her bedroom cupboard and into this alternative dimension, her arrival becomes a cause for panic: it’s like a nuclear rod has strolled out of the reactor. Right from the peppy, Fifties-style graphic opening titles, in which Randy Newman’s jazzy score has cupboard doors shuffling themselves like sentient playing cards, Monsters, Inc. sings with old-fashioned energy and optimism – and the climactic roller-coaster chase through the power plant’s seemingly infinite assembly line is like an animated love letter to modernism. Docter’s film was the clearest sign yet that Pixar understood where their art-form had come from just as well as where it was going.

Last Modified: Mar 26, 2019