The animated film business is booming at the moment, and with Disney’s Moana having just been released in the US and soon to be released in the UK I thought now would be a perfect time to celebrate one of my favourite genres of film. I’ve done a fair amount on Disney films recently, so I’m going to focus on one of the studios they own, Pixar. They are one of the absolute giants of modern animated filmmaking. As there are so many Pixar films now these are going to be relatively short pieces on each one if it can be helped. So here is my definitive ranking of all 17 Pixar films, from my least favourite to my favourite.
17) Cars 2 – Cars 2 is the only truly bad film in the Pixar canon, there have been some disappointments by their high standards, but nothing as bad and uninteresting as the sequel to Cars. Designed purely to sell merchandise to children, and with a nonsense plot about Mater tackling international espionage there was nothing to really grab me as a Pixar fan. It’s dull, silly, and lacks the heart that you expect from even Pixar’s more disappointing films. A true dud.
16) The Good Dinosaur – The Good Dinosaur felt like something of an afterthought coming out in the same year as Inside Out. It’s like their creative juices had run dry and Pixar cobbled together a very forgettable rehashing of Land Before Time, with some Dinosaur and Ice Age thrown in on top. It looks stunning, but is by far the most forgettable film Pixar has ever made, a mediocre film fading into obscurity.
15) Cars – I never really gravitated to the Cars franchise at all, but whilst the plot is a fairly typical one of a self-centered character learning to think about others, it has those moments of real Pixar heart. For me there were never really any great stand out characters in Cars, and a lot of the humour misses, but it’s not a bad film, just poor by Pixar standards.
14) Ratatouille – I have to confess that Ratatouille probably came along at exactly the wrong age for me, and given some of the great things I’ve heard about it from some of my friends it is probably worth me revisiting it. I don’t remember much of the film, and didn’t see it in the cinema. So it just has to place so low on my list because I just don’t remember it that well.
13) Brave – Is this films about 40% ridiculousness with magic bear baby’s running around? Sure. Do I look more favourably upon it because of the Scottish connection? Probably. But ignoring that there is actually a very lovely mother and daughter story in there, and a story where Merida stands up for herself as a woman, and doesn’t need a man to run her life. It’s a great message that does get a little lost, which is why the film can’t manage to breach the top 10, but I probably like Brave a lot more than most people.
12) Monster’s University – Talk about perfect timing for sequels. I must have the perfect age when Monster’s Inc came out because MU was released right around the time that I was off to University. It doesn’t come near the brilliant of Monster’s Inc, but it’s a lot of fun. And throwing Nathan Fillion into a film is never going to hurt my opinion of it.
11) A Bug’s Life – I was quite young when A Bug’s Life came out, and so it’s always held a place in my heart for nostalgic reasons. I actually think that Kevin Spacey’s Hopper may be one of the best villains in the history of Pixar, and he could be genuinely scary for children. It’s clearly a film with some fairly left wing themes about the working majority standing up the powerful few, and that may colour your perception of it. But I love A Bug’s Life, and I wish it got more recognition from film fans.
10) Finding Dory – The latest Pixar film is probably the cut off to their really great work. I love the story of raising a child with some form of mental health issue, in Dory’s case memory loss, and that message alone really justified the film’s existence for me, and not just a cash grab. Sure the finale is a bit silly with marine life driving a truck, but I think it easy to overlook that with some great new characters, especially Hank.
9) Toy Story – The original Pixar feature film, the one that kick started one of the great animation filmmakers. I was too young to see Toy Story in cinemas, but it’s still a masterpiece. The plot has been redone so many times (although I’m sure Pixar were not the first people to tell the story, they just told it the best) because it’s such a great simple story with so much heart and emotion to it. It also brought us many of the great characters in animation, including our central two, Woody and Buzz.
8) Up – The opening sequence alone is enough to merit a high finish for Up on this list. It’s such a beautiful and heartbreaking way to encapsulate a whole life and relationship. But beyond that there is a heartwarming story of Carl learning to move forward with his life, some great characters (how can you not love Dug?), and some genuine laugh out loud moments. SQUIRREL!
7) Toy Story 3 – Toy Story 3 is such a perfect ending to such a great trilogy (which is why we don’t need a fourth Pixar). It was hard not to tear up at the end. But the rest of the film is great too. Perfectly timed for people who saw Toy Story as a child, like them Andy is going to college, which just adds another layer for much of the audience. The addition of the day care, and the corruption is a brilliant fresh idea, and Spanish Buzz is one of the funniest things ever put to film. A brilliant end to a brilliant trilogy.
6) Monster’s Inc – I feel like Monster’s Inc sometimes gets forgotten, but it shouldn’t as it is still one of Pixar’s finest works 15 years on from its release. There are so many great characters; Sulley, Mike, Boo, Randall, Roz, and hilarious background characters as well. It’s one of the funniest Pixar films, but it’s also incredibly moving, and built on the second best friendship in Pixar’s history (come on nothing can touch Woody and Buzz).
5) The Incredibles – There is a bit of joke that The Incredibles is the only good Fantastic Four film ever made, but this reveals what makes the Incredibles such a great film, the brilliant capturing of what could be an ordinary family, just with some superpowers and world saving thrown in. Not only are the central characters great, but supporting characters like Syndrome and Edna Mode are so memorable as well. The Incredibles is right up there, not just as one of the best animated or Pixar films, but also Superhero films.
4) Toy Story 2 – I know number 2 wouldn’t be everybody’s pick for the best film in the Toy Story franchise, but it is by far my favourite. They built upon a great original premise and expanded the world so brilliantly. The introduction of Jessie is a masterstroke, and When She Loved Me is such a heartbreaking moment that really defined just how moving Pixar was capable of being. I love the Star Wars parody with Evil Emperor Zurg, I love Woody questioning whether it would be better to be adored as a museum piece or played with, and love the introduction of the Prospector as a villain. Toy Story 2 gets a little under appreciated in my eyes.
3) Wall-E – This is probably the single most ambitious film Pixar has ever made, and also quite possibly the most visually stunning. To create a film targets at children and families and have almost no dialogue in the first half of the film is such a huge risk, but boy did it pay off. Wall-E is such an incredible character, capable of being so expressive without really any dialogue. The scene where he and Eve dance in space is beautiful. All of the films in this top 5 deserve to be remembered as part of the landscape of cinema, but maybe none more so than Wall-E.
2) Inside Out – Inside Out was the best film of 2015 in my opinion and the strongest entry that Pixar had delivered in quite a few years. It managed to take what could have been a very difficult and confusing concept for children and made it easy to understand, without really dumbing it down. As with all the best Pixar films there are so many great jokes, really emotional moments, and a great message. The only reason it’s not top is that it’s so recent that I’m not sure if I’ll still love it in another 10 years time.
1) Finding Nemo – Finding Nemo was the film that I included in my Top 5 animated films, and that’s simply because as a Pixar film I think it has all the ingredients that’s needed. The film has a great central premise about an over protective father who has to learn to trust his son, probably the biggest and best collection of characters, hilarious moments, and incredibly moving ones. Finding Nemo is a masterpiece, and whilst I may one day put Inside Out on a similar pedestal, for now Finding Nemo is my number one Pixar film.