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Ranking every Pixar film so far

Inside Out Animation Pixar
I’m hardly the only one to think of this, but with Pixar putting their new film Inside Out into theatrical release today, what better time is there to rank all of their works to date? I’ve obviously seen all 15 films, from Toy Story and A Bug’s Life all the way to this week’s Inside Out. Again, with a list/ranking, my take is not the definitive one, so just keep that in mind. Especially with Pixar, everyone has a different favorite. I do hope you enjoy my version though, and remember not to miss Inside Out, which is a real special flick of theirs…

Here now is how I’d rank every Pixar movie so far:

15. Cars – Not a bad film, per say, but a strangely un Pixar-like outing. By and large, this follows the same beats as Doc Hollywood, which I much prefer. Here, it’s the voice of Owen Wilson subbed in for Michael J. Fox, which is a downgrade. Oddly enough, the highlight is Larry the Cable Guy. It’s nothing to boo and hiss at, but it’s perhaps their most disposable movie.

14. Brave – Rarely does Pixar play it safe, but it felt like they did here. Their take on a Princess movie doesn’t have the brain of their best work, even if it’s among their most visually stunning. Aside from the look of it, you really have a hard time remembering any of the plot details. It’s not as smart as they usually make their movies, so again…it’s not something you avoid, but it’s clearly part of their lower end of the Pixar spectrum.

13. Cars 2 – Notable to me mainly for just how odd it is, the sequel was an improvement on the first one, but not an undisputed success either. A spy movie this time out, it’s closer to a Bond flick than anything else, which sounds insane, I know. As such, it only sometimes works, but the bold direction does help distinguish it a bit among the bottom tier of their movies.

12. A Bug’s Life – This early Pixar entry has a lot of the ingredients that would go into their classics, but at this point, the meal was still a bit raw. I don’t really have many complaints about this one, though part of my lack of cheerleading for it has to do with my preference for the edgier Antz, which came out around the same time. Still, it’s not like watching this will make you suffer in any way, shape, or form.

11. Monsters University – I enjoyed this sequel for what it was, but it doesn’t have much in the way of passion. It also has a possibly troubling message about college not being especially important to your career or even well being, but aside from that, it’s more time spent with Billy Crystal and John Goodman, and how can you go wrong with that?

10. Ratatouille – From here on out, we’re basically talking about classics. This one doesn’t rank quite as high for me as it does for most, but that takes nothing away from its entertainment value. I wish I knew why it wasn’t among my absolute favorites, considering how much I like food, but that’s just one of the quirks of making a list like this one.

9. Monsters Inc – A bit fluffier than I like my Pixar movies, that’s basically the only thing keeping this super fun lark from being higher on my list. The aforementioned Crystal and Goodman were an instantly iconic duo here, which goes a long way towards making a successful animated flick. It seemed like an advancement for them, and a sign of things to come. Boy was that right.

8. Finding Nemo – I came to this one late, but did finally see what all the fuss was about. Ellen DeGeneres gives one of the better animated voice performances ever here (the sequel next year is rightly focusing on her character), with Pixar also showing their deft hand at emotion when dealing with death, something they’d continue to hone over the years. It’s lower than most would put it, but again…this is my list, after all.

7. Up – The opening sequence of this one, depicting the life of a couple in love, is possibly the best sequence that Pixar has ever done. The rest of the movie doesn’t hit that level, but it’s still fueled by that early moment to really soar the whole way. When the plot calls back to it, it’s rather hard not to get choked up in a big way.

6. Inside Out – Their newest, this is in some ways Pixar’s most mature so far. I wrote a bit about it earlier in the week, but I’ll reiterate that their choice to allow complex emotions to be shown as essential to life is an art house decision if ever there was one. This is what Pixar was born to do, so it’s a pleasure to see them do it so well. As a bonus, it also ends on a joke that involves animals and is as funny as anything I’ve seen this year.

5. The Incredibles – One of the better superhero movies out there, regardless of its original nature, this was a home run by Pixar. Again, some might take issue with me having it a bit on the low side (its popularity is evident in that a sequel is finally on its way in the next few years), but being an action epic and in my top five has to be good enough, right? It’s great, so don’t assume that it’s due to a lack of love. I just love four of Pixar’s other films a bit better.

4. Toy Story 2 – The first sequel from the company, it managed to be just as good (and in a few instances, better) as the first. I give the nod to the latter just because it came first, but this is basically a tie. Featuring one of Pixar’s best Original Songs (When Somebody Loved Me), it showed that these toys could sustain further adventures. It’s almost unbelievably good.

3. Toy Story – It all changed for Pixar with this one. Essentially, they were able to become a company because of it. Nearly perfect, with Tim Allen and Tom Hanks doing great voice work, it’s an absolute classic. This one set the standard not just for the company, but essentially for the whole genre of animation. High praise, I know, but it’s well deserved, to say the least.

2. WALL-E – The first half of the film is my favorite silent movie of all time. The second half becomes a bit more traditional of a Pixar flick, but the first act and change is experimental, daring, and haunting in its quiet emotion. Having a robot character lead the way is unconventional, obviously, but they aced it here. Not getting into Best Picture was a huge snub for this one.

1. Toy Story 3 – Pixar’s best never fails to make me cry. Even just today, writing this up, I tried to watch the end and was reduced to a puddle of tears. This is an absolutely perfect piece of cinema, a full meal, with laughter, joy, and tears in equal measure. If you combine the best parts of the first two, you get a hint of the power here, but it needs to be seen in order to be believed, plain and simple. This is the pinnacle of Pixar if you ask me.

Be sure to check out Pixar’s newest one, which is Inside Out, in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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