Toy Story 3 comes out this week and I am more than excited. I simply can’t wait to see how the film concludes the adventures of Andy’s toys and see all the great characters on the big screen once again. As both a Pixar and film fan, it becomes increasingly difficult to list the Pixar films due to them always being successful and simply the best. I am sure that once Toy Story 3 is released many will struggle to place them in their own lists. I will, however, try to rank my favorite Pixar films, starting with my all time favorite and ending with my least favorite. Note that all of them are great in their own way, and in no way I am saying that some of them are bad, just that I preferred some over the others.
Without any further delay, here are my top ten favorite Pixar films!
1. Ratatouille (2007)
To me, this movie has proven to be one of the most personal and inspirational of all time, all because of its message of being whoever you want to be if you work hard to achieve it. Ratatouille is fantastic on nearly every level. The animation is very stunning, with great uses of caricature as well as presenting us Paris in a romantic manner. The story, however, is the real winner here. All characters are very well written and developed, and the story handles its twists and turns valiantly. Everyone is presented evenly and even the ending (which isn’t fully traditional) is very satisfying. Its message (“Everyone can cook”) is a testament to how we can accomplish anything in life and be rewarded for our determination. For these reasons, Ratatouille is a magnificent film and my all time favorite Pixar film.
2. Up (2009)
Up is barely a year old, but has quickly become one of my all time favorite films. Up is a great mix of old and new Pixar traditions. You have both Pixar’s willingness to push strong concepts forward through great storytelling and their own unique brand of humor and heart. The characters, even the highly fantastical ones, feel very real and easy to relate, while the story handles issues such as the loss of someone special to idolizing false heroes with finesse. But its greatest message of all is that life, for all its bumps and obstacles, can be a great thing to experience. It celebrates both the grand moments as well as the little ones we come across often, and assures us that life is better spent with a friend that alone. Because of this, Up has become my second all time favorite Pixar film despite still being relatively young in the Pixar canon.
3. Finding Nemo (2003)
When Finding Nemo came out in the summer of 2003 I was obsessed with it. I knew every scene by heart and couldn’t get enough of it. It is considered to be one of Pixar’s crowning achievements, becoming the highest grossing animated film ever at the time of its release. This is thanks to both its heartwarming father/son story as well as the beauty of its creatures. The characters are instantly likable thanks to great voice work and its story is just as charming and complex as the rest of the Pixar features. The scenery is easily the best element of the movie, giving us an animated world that stays true to the beauty of nature while creating magical world under the sea.
4. Monsters Inc. (2001)
Monsters Inc. came out at a time in which the world was nearly paralyzed in fear. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 got a lot of people worried and scared about the fate of the world. Just a few months later after the attacks Pixar released Monsters. Inc, a movie all about conquering your fears, no matter how big or small they are. Sulley is one of my all time favorite Pixar characters, being both intimidating as well as lovable. His relationship with the little girl Boo is one of the highlights of the film. It pushes the belief that once we put aside our own false notions of reality we can discover something far more meaningful. Monsters Inc.’s heart is unrivaled in the animation world. Even if bigger successes have been created at Pixar Monsters Inc. still shines through thanks to its belief that often the things we fear the most are those that we know little about.
5. Wall-E (2008)
Easily the most controversial of all the Pixar films, Wall-E is bold and daring, creating an unabashed look at how Earth would look like if it was completely destroyed by mankind’s own greed. But what truly stood out for me was the relationship between Wall-E and EVE. Pixar’s first love story is highly successful thanks to its very quiet but deep scenes. The usage of the classic film musical “Hello, Dolly!” works great as a portal into Wall-E’s heart and deepens the beautiful love story. Whether you love the film or not Wall-E is sure to inspire discussions due to all the symbolisms it employs, a mark only some of the best films ever made are proud to display. It only takes a moment to fall in love with Wall-E.
6. Cars (2006)
At the moment, Cars is easily the most maligned project in the studio’s portfolio. Successful as a merchandise franchise the film received a lot of mix reviews, making people wonder if the studio was beginning to lose its luster. In my case, while I agree that the film does have some issues (like an uneven pace, superfluous characters and a slightly rough storyline) it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. Cars has a very enchanting and clever vehicle world, dealing heavily with progress affecting some of our smallest towns. Some of the characters are quite enduring despite their highly stereotypical personas, and overall Cars is a very fun film. If you can forgive its flaws you’ll be able to see this fact.
7. The Incredibles (2004)
I admit that I am not a big action film fan (though many movies are favorites of mine), and The Incredibles is very focused on action, almost to the point where it can be very tiring. But still, despite being directed by an outsider (Brad Bird), The Incredibles has some very fascinating character development and is edgy in that it isn’t afraid to put its characters in grave danger for our enjoyment. Super or not, The Incredibles is worth watching at least once.
8. Toy Story (1995)
The only reason this movie is down in the list is because I feel that Pixar has improved significantly in terms of story, and thus watching it again it feels very light. It’s a groundbreaking film that I really enjoyed back when it was released, but has been surpassed by its successors. Regardless, Toy Story is a very important film that paved the way for many of my favorite movies, and even being ten years old the film is still great fun and is very polished.
9. Toy Story 2 (1999)
If the movie improves significantly on all aspects of the original film why is it so low in the list? As much as I enjoyed this movie once again it never truly created the desire to watch again and again. It definitely deepens the story by focusing on a toy’s heartbreak after losing a child, and there are some unforgettable moments that shouldn’t be missed. It’s just that I enjoyed the other movies, Toy Story included, much better. But once again, it’s still an amazing film that is more than just a quick sequel made to capitalize on the movie’s popularity.
10. A Bug’s Life (1998)
Before Cars was released, A Bug’s Life was the one film considered to be Pixar’s weakest. Even if its success cemented Pixar as a powerhouse in the industry it just didn’t strike a chord with people, me included. The cast of characters are very charming and wonderful, but the story doesn’t stick to you as well as it hoped to do. It has some laughs and some thrilling scenes, but it’s all fluff in the end.
And these are my top ten favorite Pixar films. I can’t reiterate enough that ALL of these films are the best ever created and fine examples of how animated films should be. Movies are a very personal thing, and each Pixar film has different themes that resonate stronger in some people while doing nothing to another. All showcase great storylines with unforgettable characters. Some might be more effective than others, but all ultimately entertain and delight thanks to amazing visuals, wonderful music and storylines and characters we can learn from.
As long as Pixar keeps making great movies this list will always be changing. That is something we can all agree on.