The Best Pixar Films Ranked 1-23
Which Pixar film is your favorite? It’s like choosing which child or pet you love the best, isn’t it?
Everyone has a preference here, and no answer is wrong.
After putting some thought into it. I came up with my own list. Here’s how I would rank all 22 Pixar films.
22) The Good Dinosaur
Out of all the movies listed here, only two didn’t do much for me. And I still grade both of them as B/B+ titles.
This statement exemplifies the underlying quality of all Pixar titles. Even the lesser ones are better than most Hollywood releases.
The Good Dinosaur felt like a doomed project for a long time. When I finally watched the film, I just didn’t care about any of the characters, a first for me with Pixar titles.
21) A Bug’s Life
The charm of A Bug’s Life is that the circus gets confused with a group of heroes. One mistaken critter believes they can defend an ant colony from menacing grasshoppers.
The story doesn’t play out that way, though. The hero was right there all along, a trope that Pixar has used in several of its films.
I liked A Bug’s Life when it came out. However, it hasn’t aged especially well, at least visually.
20) Monsters University
Something that will become apparent is that I’m ambivalent about many Pixar sequels.
Don’t get me wrong. Everything on the list from this point forward gets at least an A- from me. However, Pixar sequels are rarely as imaginative as the new IPs.
They’re like a comfortable visit from a good friend. It’s wonderful due to the comfort, not the novelty.
With Monsters University, Pixar’s missing the most magical ingredient from Monsters, Inc. Boo was always the secret sauce that made everything else work.
Even a hysterical bit of voice work by Nathan Fillion isn’t enough to make Monsters University especially memorable to me.
19) Toy Story 3
This one is cinematic heresy to some. Toy Story 3 won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and many people would list it in their Top Three for Pixar.
I like the movie, but I think that it features two similar scenes at the end that take away from the drama. I feel like the tales of Woody and Buzz are done better in other Toy Story films.
18) Cars 2
I’m a Bruce Campbell fan, and I love that Mater gets a chance to shine in Cars 2. So, I like the movie better than most. Pixar’s just having fun here, and that works for me.
17) Cars 3
However, I love the depth of Cars 3. Lightning McQueen’s story comes full circle when he’s no longer able to compete at the highest level.
McQueen accidentally stumbles on a protegee, and their relationship elevates the story. Also, the destruction derby scenes are quite entertaining.
16) Inside Out
A couple of the films I’ll discuss here fall into a weird category. In another life, I was a movie critic with a Rotten Tomatoes page and everything.
Sometimes, I’d stumble on films that I admired more than I enjoyed. Inside Out definitely falls into that category for me.
I love all the characters and think that the script is brilliant. Even so, the thing that I remember the most from the film is the pineapple pizza gag.
Well, Bing Bong’s final act of heroism lingers in my mind, too. However, it’s there because my wife recently re-watched the movie, and I caught that scene.
Inside Out would probably make her top five of Pixar. For me, it’s a film I recommend to others passionately but not one I adore.
15) Finding Nemo
I love the idea of Finding Nemo so much. The character of Dory is so noble and pure in her desire to help a stranger.
For a long time, Finding Nemo was the most popular of all Pixar titles. I always wondered why because I thought it lacked the wit of other films.
So, my opinion here is especially strange. I ride The Seas with Nemo & Friends several times per Disney trip, but I’m not in love with the movie.
What I’m thinking as I type this is that Pixar’s success is inimitable. We’re not even to the top half of their catalog yet, and I’m already talking about profound movies.
Brave, which I knew as The Bear and the Bow for many years, tells the story of a noble but frustrated Scottish princess. Pixar changed the title since it gave away too much of the film.
Merida wields a bow, and her mother gets turned into a bear. While the princess attempts to restore the queen to human form, the two rely on one another in a way that bonds them.
Before Brave, Pixar had received tons of criticism that it was too male-focused with its storytelling. After Brave and Inside Out, nobody would argue that now.
Pixar has created two of the seminal female-perspective animated movies of all-time. I prefer Brave, but both titles are marvelous.
13) Finding Dory
There’s a moment in Finding Dory when a lost soul realizes how hard her family has tried to find her. Whenever I think of it, I nearly tear up.
Ostensibly, Finding Dory allows Marlin to repay a debt owed to his friend. However, the real story is how parents never give up hope for their children. And it’s almost too beautiful for the human eye to behold.
PS: Every film from this point forward got at least an A from me.
When I grade films, I always struggle with recency bias. For example, I knew that I liked Frozen 2 more than the original.
With Onward, I’m not quite sure where to rank it among the best of Pixar. I know that I loved the film.
As a longtime fan of fantasy stories. I smiled from beginning to end. I’ve also watched it several times, which is remarkable for a movie that’s three months old.
You can read my full review here.
11) Toy Story
We’re about to hit a Toy Story run. So, I’ll be brief on each one.
No, the graphics don’t hold up well for Toy Story (Pixar anniversary editions are a thing that needs to happen). However, Joss Whedon’s story premise still shines.
Also, Sid is still my favorite Toy Story villain.
Nostalgia has become the basis for any number of pop culture sensations, including movie reboots and TV show remakes.
Before the trend truly exploded, Cars took the same approach from a more human perspective. It’s a genteel tale about a bygone era when people would get in their cars and experience Americana through small towns.
Radiator Springs isn’t real, but Pixar imbibes so much life into the community that it feels true to life.
I think Cars is one of the underrated gems of the Pixar library.
PS: Every film in the top ten is one that I’d grade as an A+.
9) Toy Story 2
I find Toy Story and A Bug’s Life somewhat antiquated in their look and feel. I have no such complaint about Toy Story 2, which explores Woody and Buzz’s history in remarkable depth.
Also, the story pokes at the ridiculousness of buying a toy that you leave in the original packaging. I’m grateful for that.
Out of the entire Pixar collection, nothing shows off 4K/UHD television better than Coco. The colors are absolutely brilliant on your living room set.
Coco’s beauty is more than skin deep, too. The story tenderly explores family bonds.
A boy literally enters the Land of the Dead to meet his ancestors, one of whom he believes is his father.
Coco is a touching examination of a child’s search for identity. Oh, and the music is sublime.
7) Toy Story 4
Yes, my favorite Toy Story film is the most recent one. In a way, it’s a love story, but that’s almost beside the point.
Toy Story 4 functions as a family reunion, only with a few newly invited guests. We get to see our old friends while marveling at Ducky, Bunny, and Duke Caboom.
The entire movie is like a comfortable blanket, but it’s extraordinarily funny, too.
6) The Incredibles 2
The Incredibles acknowledged sexism in comics, but its sequel leans into the premise. It demonstrates that Helen Parr is a rock star of a superhero.
She’s a mom who can also stop a runaway train from derailing. As for her husband, he’s experiencing the same work from home struggles that the rest of us are right now.
Mr. Incredible isn’t Mr. Incredible Babysitter. He does have a pretty good excuse, though. If you think your kids are uncontrollable right now, imagine if they had superpowers!
Of course, the best moments in the film involve Edna Mode’s sage advice. She’s a font of wisdom.
Are we all becoming the humans in WALL-E? I can’t help but wonder as the pandemic forces us to dine on whatever’s readily available.
I don’t evaluate such a change as a bad thing. The humans in the WALL-E are innately kind and helpful. We could use more of that right now.
The movie shows that anyone can make a difference, even an abandoned cleaning robot. And the romantic, zero-G moment in this movie is one of the best scenes Pixar has ever done.
4) Monsters, Inc.
The genius of Monsters, Inc. stems from its message. The film starts with the notion that scaring children empowers society the most.
Later, we discover that the laughter of children leads to vast rewards, ones that dwarf the scare tactics approach.
Yes, Monsters, Inc. has hidden a training exercise within its storyline. And Boo is quite possibly the most adorable child in cinematic history.
A lot of people don’t like this movie. They’re squeamish about the idea of a rat cooking food and never can get past it. I totally get that and understand why.
Personally, I think that Ratatouille tells one of Pixar’s most daring stories. Humans are in the movie as primary characters, but the protagonist is a rodent.
Remy, the rat, loves food and wants to share his gift with others. Alas, his brother and other rats don’t have much of a palate.
So, Remy joins forces with Alfredo Linguini to become the perfect human/rat cooking hybrid. The human plays the dummy here, while Remy works as the puppeteer. It’s pure Pixar magic that this premise works.
What is someone strapped balloons to their house?
As far as elevator pitches go, that one’s hard to top. It’s so ludicrous in nature, yet it immediately triggers such imaginative ideas.
The remarkable part of Up is that it never loses that creative energy. A house flies a lonely widower to a remote location. Only, a stowaway mucks up everything.
That kid becomes the child that refills the old man’s empty heart, the emotional core of the story. However, Pixar throws in oversized birds, talking dogs, and a mid-air battle for good measure.
In terms of ambition, Up represents the best of Pixar. But I’m a family guy…
1) The Incredibles
“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”
The idiom’s intent is that we should all practice empathy because everyone we meet is fighting their own battles.
The Incredibles stretches the idea to its logical extreme. Even families led by superheroes have problems raising the kids.
Bob and Helen know each other as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl but fall in love and become the Parrs. This married couple has given up superpowers to start a family.
Their kids offer…unique challenges. One is young and unwilling to slow down to the pace of his parents. The other is a high school student who doesn’t just feel invisible. Sometimes, she actually is.
The enemy is someone who hates Mr. Incredible for rejecting an offer of teaming up. This person believes that if everyone is special, then no one is.
That thought process is darker and more challenging than any comic book movie that had been offered until that point in 2004.
Since then, it’s been explored a few times by impersonators. Nobody does it as well as Brad Bird, though.
I consider The Incredibles the first genuinely great comic book movie that wasn’t comic book-ish in tone. 1989’s Batman seemed great for its era, but it’s somewhat ridiculous today.
Sixteen years after its release, The Incredibles has stood the test of time. I still care about the Parr family, and I’m pretty sure I would love them just as much without their superpowers.
So, that’s my list. Which are your favorite and least favorite Pixar movies?