All 19 Pixar Movies, Ranked

Image: Nerdist

In the past two decades, computer animation studio Pixar has captivated audiences all over the world with an abundance of original stories, unforgettable characters, unique settings, and complex emotions. Pixar makes films that aren't just great animated films, but great films period. So ranking them is damn near impossible. Obviously, I've done it anyway.

There's no way you're going to agree with all of my rankings, so tell me -- politely, if you can stand it -- how you'd rank them in the comments!

19) The Good Dinosaur

Calling something "The worst Pixar movie" is like "the worst rainbow." Even a bad one is still pretty good. And so it goes for The Good Dinosaur, a film about a dinosaur who befriends a young boy on his way home to find his family. As visually gorgeous as the film is, the story is equally bland. More egregiously, the fact the dinosaur is the lead character adds nothing; the film could have just as easily been about a boy with a pet dinosaur instead of the other way around. The whole movie plays it way too safe. So, despite a few good moments, it's still Pixar's biggest, blandest stumble.

18) A Bug's Life

A Bug's Life, also known as "Pixar Made That?", also isn't a bad movie. In fact, the kind of Seven Samurai story of ragtag bugs defending their home is ultimately pretty charming. The issue with the film is it's a Pixar movie, and stacked up against these other Pixar movies, A Bug's Life is simply not as memorable or emotionally stirring. It's good, and there are some funny, unique characters throughout. The film is just missing that unique Pixar magic. If it were made by any other animation studio, this would be one of its best movies. But since it's made by Pixar, you forget it almost instantly.

17) Cars 2

Like A Bug's Life, Cars 2 is missing that Pixar magic. That's because it's basically a straight-up spy action film, just with the characters from the Cars universe. And while The Good Dinosaur and A Bug's Life have heart, an element Cars 2 is certainly lacking, there's still something exciting about seeing a globe-trotting, car chase action movie starring cars. Really, it's like a Cars TV special that somehow accidentally got on the big screen.

16) Brave

If the first half of Brave was the entire movie, it would be among Pixar's best. The story of Merida, a young warrior princess who has no desire to be normal, is empowering and thrilling, but... that's not really what the movie is about. Actually, the movie becomes less about Merida fighting the status quo and more about her bonding with her mother, who has been turned into a bear. If the bear part of Brave was the whole movie, it would be at the very bottom of this list, because it's much too slapsticky and so tonally jarring. But since that first part is so damn good, Brave gets a slight bump up.

15) Cars 3

Cars 3 was released only a few months ago, but nothing much about it has stuck. That, itself, is a mark against the film. But the sentiment of the film remains a bold one. Pixar took a hugely expensive animated franchise and turned it into a story about growing old and passing the torch through franchise protagonist Lightning McQueen. It's a story older people can connect and relate to; kids, however, probably don't have a fear of getting old and becoming irrelevant just yet. Exploring that in a Pixar movie was a surprising choice, and an admirable one. But beyond its subject matter, there's little else to say about Cars 3.

14) Cars

Yep, more Cars. The first movie has the best elements from its two sequels: lots of action, but it's also pensive and nostalgic. It's about living life in the fast lane and realising that slowing things down from time to time is the key to true happiness. The Cars franchise gets a lot of crap -- and obviously, it's the weakest of Pixar's franchises -- but this is a charming, fun, free-flowing first movie that works on several levels.

13) Monsters University

Personally, I love Monsters University. Pixar's prequel, which is basically Revenge of the Nerds for kids, is a hell of a lot of fun with a great twist. However, it's a follow-up, so it loses a few places there, and the fact that it is so influenced by college comedies of the '80s and '90s often makes it feel clichéd. By the end, it rises above that, ultimately giving a surprisingly realistic message that not all dreams are attainable -- but at its core, Monsters University is just more of what made the original good in the first place.

12) Finding Dory

Finding Dory is kind of the platonic ideal of Pixar movies. The film has everything that Pixar does so well: huge adventure, moments that make you cry, massive surprises. For me, there is very little that doesn't work in the film. Lots of people dislike it, though, because it's so unsurprising -- if you know Pixar films, you inherently know everything that's going to happen in Dory. Without the originality that marks Pixar's best works, it has to be ranked below the films that paved its way.

11) Coco

Pixar's latest film nearly cracks the top 10. Where Dory did everything Pixar does well in a mostly expected way, Coco is the opposite. It's always surprising you. The music-driven story of a young boy going to the Land of the Dead is vibrantly colourful, thematically dark, and culturally significant. Oddly, Coco might also be Pixar's most disturbing film, but that's just one of its many levels. Coco is truly a wonderful movie.

10) Inside Out

Inside Out is a journey through the mind of an 11-year-old girl, with its main characters being the personifications of her emotions. Through them, Pixar tells a universal story of discovery, maturity, and compassion. It's also incredibly funny, super-surprising, and will likely make you cry your eyes out multiple times. In a way, it's fitting that one of Pixar's most original movies is about an active, growing mind, because so many of their films come from the same place.

9) Toy Story 2

Personally, Toy Story 2 is my favourite Toy Story film. But, at the same time, I also understand why it's slightly less beloved than the other two. (Spoiler: The other two are coming up.) What makes Toy Story 2 great, is how out of the box -- quite literally at times -- the story is. Instead of being a story about the toys and their owner, it's about what happens to toys themselves when they become collectible and vintage, a transformation used to strengthen the bonds between the iconic, established, and most beloved characters. But it's especially poignant and cool if you are someone who loves nostalgia and collecting, like me.

8) Up

Up is like the super amazing version of Brave. While Brave is half amazing and half so-so, Up is mostly an amazing movie with an undisputed masterpiece as its beginning. The first 12 minutes of Up might be the best thing Pixar has done. It's the heartwarming, then heartbreaking tale, of Carl and his wife Ellie meeting as kids, falling in love, growing old together, and her ultimately passing away, told almost totally without words -- and it happens before the story even really starts. The main story itself is about Carl flying his house to South America and saving an endangered species. Which is great, and the movie ends up being quite sweet and delightful. But that first sequence alone makes it one of Pixar's best.

7) Ratatouille

"So there's a rat who cooks and he uses a human as a puppet to become the best chef in France" is not a movie idea that sounds like it should work. But Pixar pulled it off with Ratatouille, not just one of the most original movies the studio has done, but also a charming love letter to life, culture, and cuisine. Thanks to its sumptuous visuals and music, the whole movie is just kind of... well, delicious. Its story, about finding your place in the world and achieving your dreams even in the most unlikely of circumstances, is universal. Ratatouille is a movie that sometimes gets forgotten in the mix of great Pixar movies, but it shouldn't.

6) Monsters Inc.

There are a million reasons why Monsters Inc. is so extraordinary. The characters are excellent, the setting is wonderful, and the music and visuals are both top-notch. But like most Pixar movies, the idea is what really stands out. In the case of Monsters Inc., Pixar took the primal fear children have of things lurking in the dark and made it logical, basing an entire hidden world around it. It's a flat-out genius idea for a movie that's matched by its expert execution.

5) Toy Story

It's hard to overstate how important the original, 1995 Toy Story is -- not just to Pixar, but to cinema and history in general. It was the first feature-length, computer animated film, both creating and pioneering the medium. Even if it weren't a drum-tight film that set the bar for Pixar's formula in the years to come, using high-end technology to create emotion and excitement, its cinematic significance would put it near to top of this list. There's a reason that most people involved in making the movie have gone on to mega success -- and why Woody and Buzz Lightyear became two of the most recognisable characters ever.

4) Toy Story 3

And yet, when you talk about Toy Story films, few would disagree with the sentiment that Toy Story 3 is the best of the bunch. It simply does everything better in a franchise that had already done everything well. It manages to tell a unique, incredibly moving story while building upon and masterfully wrapping up the entire trilogy. You're made of stone if you don't cry when Andy, the boy the toys have been with for almost 20 years, gives his prized possessions away to Bonnie in one of the best animated sequences in history. Before Toy Story 3 came out, some people wondered how a new instalment could be anything more than a cash-grab. After it came out, no one can imagine the franchise without it.

3) Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo was Pixar's fifth film, released in 2003, a few months after Monsters Inc., and it set a new bar for the studio. The jaw-dropping visuals, the massive scope, the unforgettable characters, the shocking surprises, the hugely emotional moments -- Finding Nemo has it all in an astonishingly well-wrapped package. It's everything a movie should be... and yet, Pixar has done even better.

2) The Incredibles

There's one word that describes The Incredibles; I'll give you three guesses, and none of them count because the answer is obviously "incredible." Again, the story is king. Here it's a world of persecuted superheroes and a superhero family dealing with those implications by forcing themselves to hide who they are. Plus, The Incredibles was Pixar's first film to star human beings. While the others films allowed audiences to project their feelings onto loveable creatures, seeing and relating to real (but still immensely loveable) people changes everything. Then, of course, there's its subversion of the superhero genre, its dissection of comic book tropes -- and so many other things going on, too. But ultimately, The Incredibles is about family, and that gives it its own superpower.

1) Wall-E

If Finding Nemo is where Pixar finally hit their stride, Wall-E is where it shot to the moon. Wall-E is a film that, again, has everything the greatest Pixar movies have, but it's also stunningly bold. It's legendarily cinematic. It's a film that has no fear of being something bigger, and something wholly unique. It dares to go without dialogue for massive chunks of time. This is a kids movie. Released by Walt Disney. It shares more in common with the great silent comedies of actors like Charlie Chaplin than those of its parent company, and yet it's still so much more than that. Wall-E is a movie about humanity, the environment, the future, and real-life issues people struggle with on a daily basis -- and its messages are delivered organically through a tiny little robot. Truly, Wall-E is almost unspeakably good. It's not just Pixar's masterpiece, but one of the greatest films of all time, period.

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Comments

    Good list. I would have had inside out and up a little higher.

      Same. I enjoyed Ratatouille in particular so I would personally rank it higher.

    Ranking Pixar films numerically is a flawed system in itself, as to say any of your top 4 are intrinsically are better than the others is doing a disservice to them all.
    What you should have is a tiered system...

    ...with Cars 2 at the bottom.

    I don't disagree with most of the list, but I'd rearrange your top picks just a touch.
    moving Wall-E down a little and slotting inside out between TS1 and 3

    -The Incredibles
    -Finding Nemo
    -Wall-E
    -Toy Story 3
    -Inside Out
    -Toy Story
    -Monsters Inc
    -Ratatouille
    -Up
    -Toy Story 2

    Wall-E at number one? I am very okay with this. If I could only ever watch one pixar film for the rest of my life, it would definitely be Wall-E.

      Have children. I think I spent about two years watching Wall-E. Still kind of like it.

    Wall-E and The Incredibles at 1 and 2 is perfect. I'd put Monsters Inc at 3 however. I'd also move A Bug's Life up and Ratatouille down. People are too hard on Cars, I quite liked it but perhaps it helps if you're a motorsport fan.

    Pixar don't make bad films. Great ones and merely good ones but no bad ones.

      "Pixar don't make bad films."

      Cars 2 proves that statement wrong.

        As I said, I don't mind the Cars series so I don't consider it a 'bad film'. It's not one of their best but I enjoyed it none-the-less.

        i dont' think it's a bad film at all. but it is very unlike cars 1 & 3.

    no way good dinosaur last place.

      Yes that puzzles me.. personally I don't know why everyone is so harsh on Good Dinosaur, but even allowing for it to be not that good how can you have anything below Cars 2?

        Good Dinosaur should be slightly higher for technological reasons - parts of that film looked amazing - but I agree the story wasn't among Pixar's best.

    Yeah it's going to be tough to agree on this one.

    Agree with all the cars ones nearer the bottom. I would also put the Toy Story ones lower, they just never got me as much. I'd have Up as my favorite. The one with the rat would probably be second, then perhaps Wall-E just because its so different and clever.

    The opening sequence of Up has almost mythical reverence these days and has the film much higher than I think it deserves. Maybe I need to watch it again but I don't remember so much of the film outside of that sequence. Cut that 12 minute intro and it would be near the bottom of the list
    I have always liked cars so think that is too far down the list personally. Also give it additional credit as it is of the first of the films you can show to a young child, has very little in it to scare them

      Yep totally agree. Not a huge fan of Up myself except for the start.

      Definitely agree. It had lots of promise, then it became a lame action movie where belief was constantly strained. An almost complete tonal backlash from the wonderful premise of the start.

    I also don't understand all the love for ratatouille

    You got the bottom exactly right, but there’s no way in hell Inside Out is worse than Up. I can’t even remember much of the plot beyond the opening sequence (which has rightly mythical status). Inside Out is one of the few Pixar movies that doesn’t suffer from act 3 syndrome (Most egregious example: Wall-E). Just wonderful through and through.

    My personal top 5 are:

    Up
    Monster's Inc
    Finding Nemo
    Inside Out
    Wall-E

    Simply because these 5 films made me feel the most emotions (or in the case of Monster's Inc, laugh the hardest). Everyone raves about Toy Story 3 making them bawl but I think the poignancy of that scene had been far overhyped for me, and I didn't feel much. Up, on the other hand, made a mess of me not once, but twice. I'll admit I should watch The Incredibles again sometime.

    I found a lot of Disney's non-Pixar animated movies have recently been on-par if not better than some of Pixar's work.

      yep these would be my top 5 too, and for the same reasons.

    Like a few others, I'd have Inside Out further up the list. Quite simply, its a brilliant movie to explain emotions to kids. It would make my top 5 on that alone, but combined with whats quite a complex story told well, and its cemented near the top.

    Toy Story 3 would be higher up as well, for similar reasons. Because everyone thought it was just a cashin, and it turned out to be everything but, it was always a success. When you add up the story, and the emotions to both kids of today, and everyone that grew up with Toy Story, it adds even more to a great movie.

    That would be a clear top 3 for me, just behind Wall-E and Incredibles.

      and everyone that grew up with Toy Story

      I remember standing in line at the cinema for TS3 and looking at the kids waiting to see it and thinking "You haven't had to wait for this like I have!"

      That delay, the growing up with first 2 movies, added a huge emotional core. It's a shame that such a small window of people got to experience it that way.

    I stopped at 19 and didn't continue when it didn't have Cars 2 there. This list couldn't get the worst movie right, what hope is there for the rest?

    i wouldve put Brave, Up and Inside Out a little higher, but I'm fine with Wall-e as no.1

    I don't know. All Cars movie should take the last places. Didn't they make a movie called Planes as well? Brave should be higher on the list just slightly. Monsters Inc should be ahead of Finding Nemo but everything else kinda checks out.

    Last edited 28/11/17 7:14 am

      Huh. Apparently it is actually a disney film, even though it was a spin off of cars. Pixar wasn't involved in it, another of the disney studios did it

    Fully agree with TGD taking last place. It's not that it was a bad movie; it was just... mediocre. I quite dislike the Cars movies but I'd never use the word mediocre to qualify them, while TGD feels so, so by-the-numbers. It felt like one of the less stellar movies from Dreamworks... a series of trite emotional cliches, cheap visual humour and completely forgettable and low-stakes plot. Brave does also belong in the bottom, despite its interesting premise. For me, Moana is Brave done right.

    As for the Incredibles, I might have to watch it again. It never clicked with me and barely can remember parts of it, but it constantly appear in "top" lists. My top 5 are Inside Out, Finding Nemo, TS 2 and 3 and Monsters Inc.

    I cant fault your top picks as any way you rate them I still like them all. But your bottom few... Look I think if you're American, you may be inclined to like the more American-ish story lines but for the rest of the world, these are the weakest movies. Lesson here is, make your movie less American and more "neutral". I'm not talking about the setting. These can be in America, but the whole American university culture in monsters university and the Southern American humour in cars 2 and again the american pioneers stuff in the good dinosaur are all just bad. Study this pattern pixar! And stop americanising your movies!

      People write about the shit they know well and tell stories far better when they have more direct or intimate knowledge or proximity to the topics, characters and locations they are writing about. For example, an English historian would tell a better yarn set in 1600's London than say, a former CIA agent. A guy who worked at NASA/Jet Propulsion Labs would write better books about being stuck on Mars than an NRL player. Even one that can actually write! See where I'm going with this? Since most folks at Pixar (an American company) are (funnily enough) American, the majority of their tales will always be set in America because it's what they know and have experienced. If they did a movie set in Australia and no one on the team was Australian or had no first hand knowledge of anything Australian (except for cliches and stereotypes... I'm looking at you Simpsons ) I bet it would turn out a bit shit. And just why should they do this, good sir? To cater to your anti-american bias? (before you ask, I'm indifferent to them. They're a bit silly and hopelessly egocentric, yes but I've meet some truly awesome yanks too). I'm sorry but I think your demands for where THEY Set THEIR movies are a little selfish and ignorant. No one in the history of ever should have to make something different to what they usually do just because some guy on the internet told them to. Did that clear that up for you? I eagerly await your snarky response...

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