Pixar’s Films, A Definitive Ranking

Review and Comparison of Pixar Films.

Pixar's Films, A Definitive Ranking

James Hoekstra, Writer

Pixar has made many movies, ranging from Dumpster fires to cinematic masterpieces, today we will be ranking all 23 of them. 

23: The Good Dinosaur. It goes without saying that this is the worst Pixar movie. It’s basically Finding Nemo, roles reversed, and with all emotion, creativity, and fun removed, and he never even finds his dad. And it lays the foundation for the Satanists known as ‘Pixar Theorists’. It’s just a bland movie that is not worth watching. This is the type of movie you get as a birthday present for a fake friend who you don’t actually like. This movie takes the oxygen out of the room and makes you wish the oxygen was actually leaving the room so it’s over quicker.

22: Cars 2. This movie is really awful and ruins all meaning of the first Cars movie. Despite this, it’s still a fun movie. It’s kinda completely crazy, but it knows this and runs with it and that’s what makes this movie better than the blandness of The Good Dinosaur.

21: Toy Story 4. A prime example of going out with a fizz instead of a bang. This poorly written movie feels like a bad fanfic with good animation. The writers are so moronic they invert the characters’ arcs, while upending the messages, and even usurping the timeline. On its own, this was an okay movie, enjoyable at the level of a small child with many learning disorders, but, when it’s meant to be the finale of the legendary Toy Story franchise, it falls flat.

20: Brave. This is why Disney is the princess studio. Pixar’s effortless attempt angles more into what one would expect from a DreamWorks movie. Complete with the following: shallow characters, over the top comic relief, 50+ butts, and poor writing that follows the exact plot of Braveheart and has the theme from the most hated X-Men film, “Inside every person, there are two bears”(The New Mutants). With this movie failing to live up to the princess expectations set by Tangled, it’s no wonder Frozen got so popular. People were desperate for a good princess film after this one failed so hard the year prior. 

19: Onward. Much like Brave, this movie falls short of its potential. This movie is about two brothers on a quest to save their dad. Despite the fact the casting is just Disney’s way of flexing, it’s still amazing. What’s not amazing is the mediocrity of this film with the endless assault of cliches and the ever-changing rules of magic in this half-hearted world. The one constant rule shown with magic use is that it works for the plot and nothing else. Plot bending, bending the world and characters to further the plot, usually at the expense of quality and/or consistency, is so extreme in this film that the climax ends complete with physical representations of the plot holes. This could have been a good movie if the world-building wasn’t set up worse than when my elementary-aged sister plays Barbies.

18: Cars 3. This movie is literally Cars released 11 years later. It has a nice generational message, but beyond that, it’s literally just the plot of Cars. The only reason it’s this high is because of how terrible the movies below it are. It may be unoriginal, but it’s copied off of something pretty darn good.

17: A Bug’s Life. Finally! A good one. This movie, while not very memorable, is still good and has moments that stand out. “I’m a beautiful butterfly!”. With this being one of Pixar’s earliest films, the animation is different than today’s standards, yet still, nothing to scoff at. It has some amazing visuals, delivered in a clean-cut plot, all portraying a meaningful message about being unique.

16: The Incredibles. This being so low might shock some people but beyond the few adult themes, this is nothing to admire. The climax is shown 30 minutes into the movie, and I don’t mean foreshadowing, I mean Mr. Incredible defeats the robot the exact same way twice. It’s a nice reflection of how little character growth there is for every character, as well as the overall story. Also, this is a blatant rip-off of Fantastic Four. I imagine the only reason there aren’t lawsuits for plagiarism is that Disney owns everything. The only reason it’s this high is Frozone and his wife, even with her offscreen, shines in ways Bob and Helen could never. “Honey, Where’s my super suit?”. Classic.

15: Soul. This is a convoluted film, complete with messages it doesn’t quite know how to handle. Read my full review here (soul, not mind). It is not sure what it wants to be, however, despite the confusion, the characters bring the movie to life and the beforelife is just clever enough to catapult this movie to 15th place.

14: The Incredibles 2. Believe it or not, this movie is actually better than its predecessor. Sure it is basically the same story, but with a twist villain literally, everyone guessed. But in this, they actually feel like a real family. In addition to the improved family dynamic, the fight scenes are on point. Like when Frozone holds off all those mind-controlled heroes so the Parr children could escape, or when Violet fights the portal girl, those are fight scenes Marvel could learn a thing or two from.

13: Up. A perfect 15 minutes, but after that, the movie fails to follow the setup quality. The movie is really good, with realistic characters, a steady plot, and is packed with comedy. Yet by showing off, rightfully so, in the opening scenes, the rest of the movie pales in comparison. It’s objectively good throughout, but its tone is just too inconsistent.

12: Ratatouille. Ignoring the recent attention garnished by the disaster of a musical, signed, a theater kid possessing intellect and taste, Ratatouille is a really good movie. This brilliant movie about following your passions is incredible. And much like the Incredibles, it’s main message is for the normal people to step aside for those gifted. Talent beats hard work apparently.  But in Remy’s case it’s different, Remy has to deal with man’s hatred of rats, and his own colony and family’s hatred of anything human, even walking as humans do. Highlighting his struggles is what sets this apart from the Incredibles, which focuses on privilege and theme first (and only) attitude.

11: Cars. This is the first, and only, movie to turn racing into something exciting and interesting. When Lightning McQueen is stranded in Radiator Springs, he learns about actually enjoying life, not just winning at it. He makes meaningful friendships and even falls in love. Not to mention the grand finale—and the high stakes that it instills. All this under an incredible soundtrack with one bop after another.

10: Monsters Inc. Bringing up the top 10 is Monsters Inc. It’s an emotional film under a simple good vs evil archetype of a story. It’s such a fun movie with almost whimsical world-building and that amazing chase scene when they use dozens of doors as portals. Sully and Mike are a dynamic duo to rival Woody and Buzz, and they push through their disagreements about humans to end up doing the right thing. It has a semi quaint happy ending with laughter, of course, being ten times more powerful than screams. But aside from that

9: Toy Story. No one is surprised at the high ranking of this film. It’s the first Pixar film and the first 3D animated movie. This groundbreaking movie making technique has more than paid off with many of the top-earning animated films following its lead. Beyond being braver than the movie literally titled as such, this is an amazing movie about accepting others regardless of differences and is just a very fun and funny movie with fantastic characters, loved by all, and sets up a fantastic franchise(except the fourth; we pretend that one doesn’t exist).

8: Toy Story 2. For as genius as the first one was, the second one pushes the boundaries further with the toys going up against evil toys and people alike in a sequel with natural character development under a clear and high-stakes plot. Woody is forced to choose between his friendship with Buzz, Slinky, and even Andy, vs. his newfound connection with the Roundup Gang. 

7: Coco. A beautiful story about Mexican culture, as seen through the eyes of a child whose family won’t accept him for who he is. Miguel is swept away to the land of the dead where he meets his dead relatives and learns the extent of his family history. But what really sets this apart is the soundtrack. Filled to the brim with incredible songs, this movie packs an emotional punch with themes about memory and being gone, but not forgotten.

6: Monsters University. This might honestly be the bravest of all Pixar movies. The main message is about how sometimes you fail, And. That’s. Okay. What’s amazing is how despite not taking the typical path, Mike and Suley wound upright on top of the scary world. This movie takes the typical college hijinks and actually makes it enjoyable. And the scare games scenes are some of the most exciting and just awesome moments in any movie, ever.

5: Finding Dory. A beautiful story about memory more powerful than Coco! This sequel good enough to rival any original movie is about a fish with short-term memory loss and her journey to find her home. Dory befriends a septopus, an octopus missing a limb, named Hank, and works with him to navigate a SeaWorld style ocean animal rescue and rehabilitation to find her parents. While this movie reaches a bit more than its predecessor, i.e. having more land scenes including an on-road finale, it counters that comedy with a heavy amount of heart. The tears are yanked from your eyes every time they show baby Dory, (who by the way, is ten times cuter than baby Yoda,) and how she was separated from her family. Beyond that, the reunion scene when Dory finds her parents by following a trail of shells to a little fish home, where it’s clear her parents have searched for her for years, never giving up for hope Dory would find her way back to her.

4: Toy Story 3. This! This is how you make a sequel! Easily the greatest of the Toy Stories, this movie is an emotional rollercoaster with Andy going off to college, growing up, and leaving childhood behind, and as a senior…I’m not crying, you’re crying…Character development flows even more naturally than the silky smooth plot. But what really catapults this movie so high is Lotso. The greatest of all villains, ever. He’s sociopathic, manipulative, cunning, and just bone-chilling. All this from a stuffed bear who smells of strawberries. That, and the last scene when he once more shows his true colors and leaves the toys to die in one of the most emotional climaxes ever. It’s just incredible.

3: Finding Nemo. Dang. Where do I begin? The representation of mental illness that isn’t glamorized(I’m looking at you, Netflix) is always an amazing thing and how it manifests in so many different ways. Like Marlin’s PTSD, Dory’s short-term memory loss, and Nemo feeling inferior due to being teased for his disability, all this in a kid’s film. That’s to say nothing about the clear plot across the terrifying ocean with mines, sharks, and what horrified every five-year-old, that freaky angler fish during that deep ocean, dark water scene. Nothing beats Finding Nemo’s world. Yet despite its horrors(none of which are faults), it’s a moving movie that makes you laugh and cry. And it’s main theme of trust is powerful, as Marlin learns to trust others like Dory and even finds the trust he was lacking in his son due to his own fear of the world. Another thing that sets this movie above is that this movie was made as a clap back. Because of how unrealistically dumb the Lion King was(calm down Simps), this movie was made to be accurate, down to the animal behaviors and disabilities are seen on screen.

2: WALL-E. Robots. The Environment. Love. Hello Dolly. No one would ever expect these things to mesh so perfectly. While some of my colleagues obsess over cheesy Netflix romcoms with basic, two-dimensional leads, (i-don’t-need-a-real-girl-i-need-a-holiday)I obsess over a story about almost non-verbal robots learning to love. This is ultimately a romance movie with WALL-E traversing the universe to stay with EVE. And let’s not forget the most magical of all scenes, when WALL-E and EVE(yes I take any reason to write out their names) fly through space, EVE actually flying, and WALL-E using a fire extinguisher to float through space and make hearts out of the foam. This is such a creative and ingenious movie.

1: Inside Out. Taking a page out of Finding Nemo’s book with the non-glamorized mental illness(I’m still looking at you, Netflix, just more intensely than before) when Riley, a twelve-year-old girl is moved from Minnesota to San-Francisco and her life turns…inside out.

What’s most interesting about this is it’s the lowest stakes Pixar movie. It’s about this one character whose life is closing in on her and how she reacts to it. Every other movie has some external conflict, while this is just what Riley feels and how it affects her. Between her mom and dad is focused on the move and how their stuff is lost, they focus less on their daughter and her emotions turning on each other, with Joy and Sadness fighting over the core memories-the parts of Riley that make up her core personality.

If outside Riley’s head was grim with the loss of friends and the distancing of family, inside is even worse. Riley’s always been a happy child, with the personified version of Joy being her dominant emotion, over those like Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. When Joy and Sadness get sucked out of ‘headquarters’, the place where they control Riley’s emotions, they have to learn to work together to get back. 

Yet the worst comes when depression really kicks in and Riley decides to run away from home. With Riley running away the emotions left in headquarters are in a panic, yet none of them can make her feel anything, it’s only once Joy and Sadness get back and Joy realizes the importance of Sadness—people need to feel their feelings to move past them. Once Riley feels Sadness, she realizes how important her family is and that she doesn’t have to, and can’t, be their happy girl all the time. Now, that’s not saying people should feel sad all the time, but this movie acknowledges the stigma around being sad and people feeling forced to put on a happy face and shows that it’s okay, more than okay, and necessary to feel one’s feelings and communicate with loved ones. 

All this easily cements this as the best, and most important, Pixar movie. Oh yeah, it also has an amazing plot, genius visuals, fantastic characters, and all that other stuff I mentioned nailed 1000%. I just wanted to really show the powerful themes this movie has.