Eppler: Ranking all the Pixar movies
"The Incredibles 2," which comes out this weekend, is the 20th Pixar movie. We're ranking the rest from the animation studio.
"The Incredibles 2" is the twentieth full-length movie from Pixar Animation Studios, which revolutionized animated movies and developed a reputation for quality filmmaking - at least, for the most part. Several Pixar movies are bonafide masterpieces, others are far above average, but the studio also has its share of throw-aways and money-grabs.
Of the nineteen already released, I think the top 10 are all excellent movies with the top five attaining classic status. The bottom nine is more of a mixed bag ranging from enjoyable larks to forgettable efforts and strained sequels.
19. "Cars 2"
The only Pixar movie I actively dislike - choosing to focus on the Larry the Cable Guy character from the first "Cars" movie who was only funny in small doses. This signaled a turning point for PIxar: its first bad movie. It ushered in an era of mediocre movies like...
18. "The Good Dinosaur"
Remember this movie? No one does. It's a cute tale about a talking dinosaur and his pet human boy with a clever conceit in how the language barrier works, but otherwise there's not much here worth keeping.
17. "Monsters University"
Pixar tried to change it up with a prequel to one of their hits that really just turned out to be a "Revenge of the Nerds" knock-off (or maybe homage to put it nicely). It was a breezy, fun little movie without much staying power. Harmless.
The story felt like typical Disney pablum, but I did like the new princess introduced with Merida - a no-nonsense feminist hero with a personality as fiery as her red hair. The animation is also top-tier.
15. "Finding Dory"
This sequel followed the "Cars 2" model by focusing on a supporting character from the first movie, but this one actually had some heart and clever writing. It holds a special place for me because it was the first movie I took my son to see in a theater.
Speaking of my son, he's a huge fan of the "Cars" series (like most boys, it seems). I like Paul Newman's voice work as the retired racer, but I pretty much view all these movies as disposable efforts to sell toys (believe me, I know from all the times I've stepped on them barefoot). The way I look at it, the "Cars" movies allow us to have the "Coco's" and "WALL-Es." Fair trade.
13. "Cars 3"
Considering my apathy toward the "Cars" series, I was pleasantly surprised with the third installment being the best of them. Producers learned their lesson from the "Cars 2" debacle (keeping Mater on the sidelines), returning to the world of racing and introducing a new female character in Cruz Ramirez, who may lead the series into the future.
12. "A Bug's Life"
Pixar's second movie after its landmark debut with "Toy Story" could be viewed as a let-down but it's actually a pretty cute satire of show business, and it furthered the studio's animation craft in a significant way.
You may think this is too far down on the list. While the first 10 minutes of this picture is a masterwork of short-film storytelling, images, mood and music that absolutely wrecks me - the rest of the movie... is not. It's a movie with a lot of heart and lovely animation, but a drastic shift in tone doesn't deliver on the opening scenes. Ed Asner's voice work is pretty wonderful, though.
10. "Toy Story 2"
Pixar's first effort at a sequel added more depth to these classic characters and their relationships and managed to comment on different themes from the first.It's notable that Pixar's best sequels all come from the same series. These characters and stories were built to last.
9. "Monsters, Inc."
A pretty ingenious idea about the monsters you always feared were in your closet wrapped in a sharp satire of Big Energy and tucked inside a sweet story about learning to be a parent. If only it had addressed the environmental effects of energy consumption, "Monsters" would have had it all. But Pixar addressed that issue later in a much better film (see #1).
8. "Finding Nemo"
Perhaps Pixar's best adventure story - this odyssey through the ocean has well-developed characters, eye-popping animation and a dark sense of humor. Just about everything works - save for one character who occasionally grates the nerves who later got her own sequel.
7. "Toy Story 3"
The boldest sequel Pixar has developed with beloved characters forced to face their own mortality - dark stuff for a family movie. It's also a fantastic prison escape movie and with an ending that is one of the most poignant scenes Pixas has committed to the screen. The reason "Toy Story 3" is so excellent is because it doesn't feel like an afterthought, but rather a needed continuation of the themes it started exploring years prior.
6. "Inside Out"
A gorgeous and incisive movie with an ingenious script. Its observations about human psychology are simple, yet deep. I wish I could have seen this movie at a younger age because I think it can help kids understand themselves just a little bit better.
5. "The Incredibles"
One of the best takes on the superhero genre ever - examining toxic fan culture before it really became a thing. The characters are deeply-written and given real-world problems in this fantasy world. My appreciation for this movie has only grown over the years.
An important step forward by ways of diversity inclusion, it's also a loving tribute to a specific culture and the things it holds dear. On top of that, the animation is stunning, the story takes genuinely surprising turns, and its treatment of such dark and morbid subject matter is handled with care and love. It's a marvelous movie in love with art and music.
Another movie about art - specifically art appreciation. My son calls this movie "the rat that cooks," but I want to tell him it's so much more than that: it's about the transformative nature of fine arts education, the need for constructive criticism and the ability of art to change world views. But my son is 4. We'll have that conversation later.
2. "Toy Story"
Pixar's landmark first movie is still one of its best - a masterpiece. There's so much to unpack from this movie on a psychological level about identity, modern values, and notions of masculinity. But it's also so easy to get lost in this world, the adventure, and characters we know so well. No matter how many times I've watched it (a lot) I always get caught up in it.
Pixar's bravest movie is also one of the best pictures of the 21st century - a tribute to classic silent comedies, musicals and science fiction films but with a forward-thinking mentality. It's a blistering environmentalist satire that feels even more pertinent today than when it came out ten years ago. I still kinda can't believe it got made: a kids' movie with very little dialogue, a Kubrick sensibility, and a challenge to consumerism and societal norms? Really? Yes. It's a miracle of a movie.