It’s one of the most successful and legendary animated film studios of all time and helped revolutionize the industry by introducing computer generated animation to the masses. Since the premier of “Toy Story” in the mid-90s Pixar has become a respected trend setter in the industry earning nine Best Animated Picture Oscars, eight Best Animated Film Golden Globes and a best Musical or Comedy Film Globe as well a numerous awards for its music. The studio releases its landmark 20th film this weekend with “The Incredibles 2”, a long awaited sequel to one of Pixar’s best. But what really is their best and most notable film to date? Well to celebrate the long-awaited release of “The Incredibles 2” and the twentieth release by the studio that has defined a generation I took on the very difficult task of answering that question. These are my picks for the Top 10 Pixar Films to date.
For this list I looked at all 19 films Pixar has released so far and considered many different factors including their lasting appeal and legacy, their overall quality and fan service, their individual legacies, their critical scores and my own personal preference added in for spice. That said just because a film has a higher score than others on Rotten Tomatoes that doesn’t mean it will be higher than its competition. The movies had to leave a lasting impression as well.
I put no limits on this list other than movies having to be Pixar films. All sequels and/or spinoffs are fair game.
With so much gold coming from this legendary studio I’m bound to miss some big ones here. So I want to know, what is your favorite Pixar movie so far? Post you’re thoughts in the comments below and look for my review of Pixar’s latest offering, “The Incredibles 2”, this weekend.
The newest Pixar film on this countdown 2017’s “Coco” left an immediate impact upon its release sporting beautiful visuals and an incredible music-theme narrative all set along the backdrop of Mexico’s Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. The story focuses on Miguel, a young aspiring musician whose family has banned music years after their patriarch, a traveling guitarist and singer, allegedly abandoned them. In a twist of fate Miguel gets to connect with his ancestors during Day of the Dead and must work with them to get back home while struggling to earn acceptance for his dream. The film earned two Oscars in 2018, including Best Animated Feature, and was considered a return to form for the studio after a few missed opportunities and/or sequels. Colorful, imaginative and emotionally charged “Coco” is a gem that reminds us Pixar is still the best in the business. I personally loved it so much it was the only animated movie to make by Best of 2017 list.
9. “Monsters, Inc.”
Released in 2001, “Monsters, Inc.” took a unique look at the old “monster in the closet” cliché. Introducing now beloved characters like Sully and Mike, “Monsters, Inc.” was just as colorful and imaginative as we had expected a Pixar film to be by that point. It solidified the studio as the real deal after the success of “A Bug’s Life” and the first two “Toy Story” films and brought Pixar its first Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. “Monsters, Inc” embraces Pixar’s penitent for original stories with kid friendly atmosphere and an adult friendly moral center as it explores concepts like embracing alternate energy. It was such a massive success that it spawned a prequel, “Monsters University”, which explores the origins of its two main characters. However the first film has a better story and feels sleeker and more refined than its successor. If nothing else “Monsters, Inc.” proved that Pixar was not just a one or two trick pony. They had much more up their sleeves as you will see in this countdown alone.
While not necessarily my favorite Pixar movie personally, that doesn’t mean I think it’s bad and fans would agree this film is wildly underrated compared to the competition. “Ratatouille” was the third Pixar film to win the Best Animated Film Oscar and the fourth to be nominated in that category. The story focuses on a rat named Remy who holds on to a dream of becoming a chef. He soon teams up with the son of one of his favorite chefs to make his dream come true. This heartfelt story will make you believe anything is possible despite the limits the world sets on you and the film’s main protagonist Remy has become a symbol of dreamers everywhere trying to accomplish something great. Considered by some to be among the greatest movies of the 21st Century, “Ratatouille” may not be quite as popular as other Pixar creations but it has earned its place among the greatest animated films of the last twenty years. At the time of its release “Ratatouille” also became the third highest grossing Pixar movie (it would be surpassed by several still to come on this list) and solidified Director Brad Bird’s place within the company as the second successful film he wrote and directed. Speaking of Brad Bird…
7. “The Incredibles”
Brad Bird’s first Pixar project is also the predecessor to the film that inspired this very list. The 2004 classic “The Incredibles” is considered one of the most popular mainstream Pixar movies and in some circles is also considered one of the greatest superhero films ever created. The movie follows the titular family of superheroes in a world where such heroes have been outlawed and forced to live their lives as normal citizens without using their powers. A mysterious villain arrives on the scene that forces the family out of retirement and threatens the existence of supers around the world. One of Pixar’s most spectacularly animated films, “The Incredibles” became the one of Pixar’s highest grossing hits prior to 2010 and earned the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Pixar’s second consecutive such award and second overall. As a follow-up to 2003’s “Finding Nemo”, “The Incredibles” wasn’t the studio’s most original picture but it did prove the studio could take an old idea and make it feel fresh and new. It’s popularity led to a long-lasting call for a sequel that will finally be answered this weekend.
Pixar has made a huge name for itself through original and colorful storytelling, fluid animation and memorable characters. All of those factors are present in one of the studio’s deepest and most emotionally resonant movies to date. The film tells the story of a grouchy old man names Carl who escapes the city being built around his home by flying away using millions of balloons. He sets off on a journey to explore the South American wilderness, a mission he established with his late wife, and is joined by a Wilderness Scout named Russell with whom he eventually bonds. “Up” grossed over $735 million at the box office and won Pixar yet another Best Animated Feature Oscar, but it was a very different nomination that helped it stand out as a history making achievement. It became only the second animated movie after “Beauty and the Beast” to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination, an honor that speaks to the quality of the narrative and animation style that captivated audiences worldwide. With a story that tugs at the heartstrings and sports a family friendly message as well as a fun and engaging adventure “Up” still remains a modern animated classic that holds up nearly ten years later.
5. “Inside Out”
Following the release of “Up” Pixar appeared to be out of original ideas worth viewing. They released a unique offering in “Brave” but this was bookended by three follow-up films, “Toy Story 3”, “Cars 2” (Pixar’s worst film) and “Monster’s University”. They also released the relatively bland “The Good Dinosaur” in late 2015. But in mid-2015 they finally returned to their prime with the magnificent “Inside Out”, a film that explores anthropomorphic emotions in the mind of a pre-teen young girl. The film was a huge smash hit making over $850 million at the box office and scoring a Best Animated Feature Oscar but most of all it was considered a prime example that Pixar could still churn out great original content. It also balances it very human emotional subtext quite well exploring the changing mental status of a young girl when a major change comes into her life. It’s enough to provide both a learning experience for young viewers and nostalgia for older fans making it a truly balanced viewing. “Inside Out” remains Pixar’s second highest grossing non-sequel film to date and is often considered a soon-to0be classic of the 2010s.
Pixar’s 2008 masterpiece is often seen as not just one of the studio’s best, but one of the best in animation in general and a highlight cinematic wonder of the 21st Century. “WALL-E” is an especially beautiful space-themed adventure that shows off Pixar’s passion for subtlety and well-paced storytelling. The film focuses on a trash compactor robot left on an abandoned and abused Earth that follows a more advanced female robot he falls for into space where humanity lives as an overweight colony that depends heavily on technology. The love story alone is an adorable tale to behold and once you add in the social commentary of the film that attacks issues like consumerism and promotes environmental awareness “WALL-E” becomes a rare mainstream animated film that has something to say and says it fearlessly without sacrificing a child friendly tone or feeling pretentious. Perhaps that’s why it made over $533 million at the box office, earned a Best Animated Feature Oscar and has been named by many groups, including Time, as one of the best animated films of its decade as well as being among many best of all time lists for both animation and cinema in general.
3. “Toy Story 3”
While it doesn’t sport the perfect Rotten Tomatoes score of its two predecessors, that in no way dampens the greatness that is the third “Toy Story” film. “Toy Story 3” serves as a full-circle experience for Pixar by exploring the final stage of Woody, Buzz and the gang’s time with their owner Andy. It was an instant classic and one of the greatest third films ever created for a series focusing on many dark and adult friendly themes with child friendly flair include the fear of abandonment, mortality, and the importance of companionship not to mention the reality of growing up. Upon its release “Toy Story 3” was a powerful experience for those who grew up watching Pixar films and like many of Pixar’s projects it touched audiences on an emotional and personal level. No surprise when you consider many who were children when “Toy Story” came out were just coming to grips with the same circumstances as Andy in the movie. In the end “Toy Story 3” became Pixar’s first billion dollar grossing film and earned the studio its second Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, the third for an animated film overall, and yet another Best Animated Feature award.
2. “Finding Nemo”
No it doesn’t have a best Picture nomination. No it didn’t make over a billion dollars at the box office. But, can anyone really deny the greatness of “Finding Nemo”? Released in 2003 “Finding Nemo” is one of the best examples of what Pixar has to offer taking viewers on a fun and emotionally charged adventure through the waters of the Great Barrier Reef as a clown fish named Marlin seeks his lost son Nemo. The movie introduced now classic characters like Dory and Bruce, the former earning her own sequel “Finding Dory” in 2016, and sports ultra-realistic animation that is now a standard for Pixar today. With a near perfect critical score “Finding Nemo” became Pixar’s highest grossing non-sequel or spin-off film earning $871 million upon its initial release and topping off at $940 million in total after a 3D re-release. It made history by becoming Pixar’s first film to receive the Best Animated Feature Oscar after “Monsters, Inc.” earned the studio its first nomination in the category. The legacy of this film is not to be ignored as it was named to many greatest films of all-time lists in the 2000s and is still considered among the best animated films ever, Pixar or otherwise. To top that all off it also holds the record for bestselling DVD of all time so yeah you can see why it’s here. However, and you all know it, there is one other Pixar classic that could not be anywhere else but number one.
1. “Toy Story”
The one that started it all. Nearly 25-years later “Toy Story” remains fully watchable and an iconic and revolutionary work that put Pixar on the map. It sports a rare perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, an honor it shares with its inferior but still awesome sequel, and grossed $373 million on only a $30 million budget, to date Pixar’s lowest production budget by far. “Toy Story” debuted classic characters like Woody and Buzz to the masses and captured the spirit of childhood like no film before had ever been able to do. Over the years it added two sequels, countless items of merchandise, several short film spinoffs, and even a recently opened theme park area at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with a fourth film on the way next year. It doesn’t have any of the awards or honors of its successors due to the limits of award shows at that time, but “Toy Story” has one bragging right none of the other movies here have. It was an evolutionary form of animated entertainment making history as the first ever fully computer animated theatrical film. “Toy Story” paved the way for not only Pixar, but other studios as well to explore a new form of animated entertainment and forever changed the landscape of the genre. As predictable as it might be there was never any other Pixar project that could be number one on this list.