Pixar dominate the Oscars and the annual box-office charts with their releases. The films have now become synonymous with animation and are global events in of themselves. But have all the films been unequivocal successes? Here’s our ranking for all the 20 Pixar movies released so far by the studio, starting with the worst five…
20 – Cars 2 (2011)
There’s something that just doesn’t quite sit right about the talking vehicle franchise alongside the rest of the Pixar oeuvre. This ranks as the worst example of Pixar opportunism and desperation in selling toys. Additionally, a foray into different parts of the world feels a tad forced, as if the series is trying too hard to appeal to every demographic.
19 – A Bug’s Life (1998)
The Pixar movies formula was far from established at the time that this film was released. To be fair, A Bug’s Life was only the second feature release from the studio, and the technology had significantly leapt forward in the years between this and Toy Story. The Pixar movie was ultimately overshadowed by the similarly-themed Antz (1998).
18 – The Good Dinosaur (2015)
If ever there was a Pixar movie that felt like it was a direct-to-DVD effort, then it was this clunky talking dinosaur effort. On the plus side, The Good Dinosaur may well be the best looking film the studio has ever released. Critics have claimed that this feels less like a Pixar movie and more like a Disney release from the 1980s, which is not a compliment.
17 – Cars 3 (2017)
The franchise that keeps rolling on and on. Kids love it, and there’s an even worse spin-off called Planes (2013). The idea of talking cars doesn’t have the depth of other Pixar movies, especially when done with a distinct lack of class and panache.
16 – Cars (2006)
Ok. Let’s be objective here. The Cars series is aimed squarely at younger members of the viewing public and as such it does serve a need. The first film also had some heart to it thanks to the voice acting of Paul Newman, but one film should have been more than enough.
15 – Monsters University (2013)
A decent sequel which delves into the backstory of the main characters from Monsters, Inc. The problem? We don’t need to know the backstory, especially when the material would barely stretch to a couple of scenes in the original.
14 – Finding Dory (2016)
An odd sequel and one where the Pixar formula began to grate most. The nonsensical final act which saw sea creatures drive a truck around the California coast felt like a giant step backwards for the studio.
13 – Toy Story (1995)
The original Pixar movie and an undeniable milestone in the history of cinema. Time, however, hasn’t been kind to the film, and at time the barren backgrounds and rough animation make this painful to rewatch.
12 – The Incredibles (2004)
When The Incredibles was released in 2004, the superhero genre was still finding its feet. This was a time before Batman had begun, the Dark Knight was yet to see the light of day and the Avengers were entirely disassembled. Perhaps the problem was that the film trying too hard to blend the disparate genres of espionage and superhero movies…
11 – Up (2009)
Easily one of the best opening sequences ever put on screen, the rapid-fire depiction of a romance from start to tragic finish is a tough act to follow. Up tries its best, but can’t quite live up to its own highlights reel.
10 – Toy Story 3 (2010)
We’re at the business end of the list now, and there’s not much between the best of the best that Pixar have released. The only downside here is that a well-tuned finale feels like it has been undermined by the announcement of another sequel. Toy Story 4, set for release next year, does seem unnecessary.
9 – Inside Out (2015)
This clever movie would have been a lot higher on our list if it wasn’t for the existence of the intolerable Bing Bong character.
8 – Brave (2012)
Another Pixar movie that is underrated is this 2012 effort that is deeply entrenched in Scottish heritage and mythology. The female lead predates the characters from Frozen (2013) and Brave offers up a tremendous dynamic between mother and daughter.
7 – Finding Nemo (2003)
An early big-hitter in the Pixar catalogue, Finding Nemo took on the challenge of creating an underwater world with aplomb. The fast-paced narrative and vast array of likeable characters are a joy to watch, and the opening sequence is another classic tearjerker.
6 – Incredibles 2 (2018)
There were concerns that the 14-year gap between the original and sequel were going to hamper this film, but if anything the time away has helped. The superhero family are more sure-footed here and the internal dynamics of the Mr and Mrs Parr marriage are incredibly well-timed. All the superhero movies that have been released since 2004 feel distinctly insular as a result.
5 – WALL-E (2008)
Pixar rarely ventures into the sci-fi genre. Animation can sometimes struggle to capture the vast, emptiness of outer space and in WALL-E the detachment is compounded by the lead character (a trash-collecting robot) being on his own for the majority of the film. What carries the story along is a superbly enchanting soundtrack and innovative character design.
4 – Ratatouille (2007)
Perhaps overly favoured by critics due to the standout monologue about the nature of criticism, the rest of the movie is actually very entertaining too. Who knew a rat with outstanding cooking abilities would be such a star?
3 – Toy Story 2 (1999)
The best Toy Story movie and the ultimate Pixar sequel, Toy Story 2 maintains the whimsy of the original but adds genuine heart. If we were unsure about computer-animated characters being able to convey emotions before, we weren’t after watching this movie.
2 – Coco (2017)
An unexpected treat that bucked the trend of sequels and tired scripts of the more recent films that Pixar have released. There’s a dark tinge to the story, but also an engaging collection of characters and a cracking soundtrack. Back on form with a bang.
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1 – Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Cinematic perfection delivered in the Pixar style. John Goodman and Billy Crystal are perfectly cast as the monsters of the title, and the charm and inherent innocence of youth is wonderfully captured in the form of Boo. Heart-melting entertainment from the studio, and one that is unlikely to be bettered.
Incredibles 2 is the 20th feature film released by Pixar. Since their second film, A Bug’s Life, the studio has also attached a short film to the majority of the longer form releases. These are used to highlight new filmmakers, advancements in technology and technique, and to occasionally bridge the stories between sequels.
Below are all the Pixar films that have been released in chronological order. We’ve also included the short films that were attached to these movies, and highlighted the ones that were retroactively added to the films on theatrical release.
Toy Story (1995)
A Bug’s Life (1998) – Geri’s Game
Toy Story 2 (1999) – Luxo Jr., originally made in 1986
Monsters, Inc. (2001) – For the Birds
Finding Nemo (2003) – Knick Knack, originally made in 1989
The Incredibles (2004) – Boundin’
Cars (2006) – One Man Band
Ratatouille (2007) – Lifted
WALL-E (2008) – Presto
Up (2009) – Partly Cloudy
Toy Story 3 (2010) – Day & Night
Cars 2 (2011)
Brave (2012) – La Luna
Monsters University (2013) – The Blue Umbrella
Inside Out (2015) – Lava
The Good Dinosaur (2015) – Sanjay’s Super Team
Finding Dory (2016) – Piper
Cars 3 (2017) – Lou
Incredibles 2 (2018) – Bao
The Adventures of André & Wally B. – 1984
Luxo Jr. – 1986
Red’s Dream – 1987
Tin Toy – 1988
Knick Knack – 1989
Geri’s Game – 1997
For the Birds – 2000
Boundin‘ – 2003
One Man Band – 2005
Lifted – 2006
Presto – 2008
Partly Cloudy – 2009
Day & Night – 2010
La Luna – 2011
The Blue Umbrella – 2013
Lava – 2014
Sanjay’s Super Team – 2015
Piper – 2016
Lou – 2017
Bao – 2018
Incredibles 2 is on general release now