Ranked: The Top 10 Pixar films
James R | On 01, Jul 2018
Pixar’s back catalogue is one of the best in Hollywood, bringing us everything from vivid sea life to endearing bugs, not to mention one of the greatest cinema trilogies of all time. The arrival of The Incredibles 2 this summer reminds us just how diverse the animated studio’s work can be, ranging from superhero action to tender Scottish family drama.
Below, we rank the top 10 Pixar movies, plus where you can watch them online:
1. The Incredibles
Pixar’s best film to date, The Incredibles combines family drama, superhero pastiche and a genuine sense of peril. The latter, in particular, is a rare thing in a family movie, and it rears its head in a fire-lit cave on a tropical island, as Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, on sprightly form) tells her kids Dash (Spencer Fox) and Violet (Sarah Vowell) there’s a very chance they, or their father – Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) – could die. It’s a bold move, and one that’s even bolder because of what it follows: a stunning action sequence that ranks alongside Hollywood’s best live-action set pieces, as superpowers, explosions and oceans combine to prove, perhaps for the first time in a Pixar movie, that animation in itself isn’t a genre, and that adults and kids alike can find things thrilling. All laced together with Michael Giacchino’s note-perfect homage to John Barry, and directed with verve by Brad Bird, this affectionate actioner came along just before the comic book movie boom. The fact that this colourful, witty and vibrant blockbuster still stands out from the crowd is testament to its brilliance – a superhero outing that manages to serve up heartfelt family drama amid jaw-dropping visual designs. The jokes about capes and villain monologues are the icing on the cake.
2. Toy Story 2
“You never forget kids like Emily, or Andy, but they forget you,” says Jessie the Cowgirl, who brings the heart to match Pixar’s trademark humour in a rare sequel that manages to be better than (or at least as stunning as) the original. Watch as Woody finds himself the unexpected star of his own TV show. Giggle as Rex gets sucked into a meta-video game about Buzz Lightyear’s nemesis, the evil Emperor Zurg. Cry as Jessie reflects on the transient nature of childhood. And marvel as the whole gang’s earnest quest to rescue everyone’s favourite cowboy from a cynical toy collector expands into a jaw-dropping combination of pizza restaurants, talking aliens and a set piece at an airport. Astonishing.
3. Toy Story
“You are a child’s play thing!” cries Woody (Tom Hanks) at the deluded Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), the new arrival in Andy’s bedroom, who thinks he’s an actual space range. “You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity,” comes the deadpan reply. It may be decades since Toy Story was released, but Pixar’s classic tale of friendship, toys and the infectious nature of childhood imagination never gets old. The fact that it broke ground in terms of technical achievements just adds to the reasons why this film is lodged firmly in everyone’s memory.
4. Toy Story 3
“C’mon. Let’s go see how much we’re going for on eBay.” It took Pixar four years to come up with a flawless sequel to an instant classic. Toy Story established an entirely new form back in 1995, its technical innovation easily matched by the excellent Toy Story 2. In 2010, Lee Unkrich faced the challenge of continuing that warmth and humour into the third entry of the trilogy. Is 11 years enough time to give Woody and Buzz a proper final outing? You bet it is. A nostalgic whiff of playtimes past and an optimistic look to the future that comforts younger toy fans and reassures older parents (even the most hardened adult will be reduced to big floppy wet tears). It’s a wonderful reward for sticking with these toys for 15 odd years. The best part? Your response will grow with the film, making it just as special in another 15 years’ time.
5. Inside Out
Pixar’s masterful animation takes us on a tour through the head of a young girl, Riley, as she comes of age. As we move from the once-overriding emotion of joy to a mixture of sadness, anger and disgust, the resulting portrait of growing pains is both dazzlingly complex and entertainingly simple.
“A lady does not place her weapon on the table.” That’s Queen Elinor (Thompson) speaking to Princess Merida (Macdonald), a wild child who wants to change her fate from one of fancy dresses, formal duties and fake smiles. Pixar’s tiny gem may look like a story about an archer versus a bear on the surface, but it emerges as a sweet and simple tale of one daughter and her relationship with her mother.
7. Finding Nemo
Young fish Nemo gets taken from his dad, Marlin, by fishermen in this utterly charming comedy, which balances parental concern and the fear of the unknown to the power of loyalty, the inspiration of soldiering on, and the loveable laid-back vibes of passing turtles. From the beautifully rendered ocean to Marlin’s hilarious sidekick, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), Finding Nemo is sweet, stunning and gloriously silly.
Silent Running meets stunning CGI in Pixar’s mature sci-fi about a droid left behind by humans to tidy up a polluted planet. That’s the simple, but powerful opening to WALL-E, a near-silent, poignant masterpiece about a tiny robot attempting to reverse the damage humans have done to the Earth. While the overrated Up bailed on such a similarly moving introduction, WALL-E works by sticking to its guns and following its themes and plot through to an epic, but no less sincere, conclusion.
9. Monsters, Inc.
Are monsters more terrified of us than we are of them? That’s the cute starting point for Pixar’s fluffiest flick, which sees John Goodman and Billy Crystal play a double-act of scarers, whose job is to make kids scream to generate power for the city. A beautiful piece of world-building – watch out for a jaw-dropping sequence set in a factory room full of cupboard doors – and a cute slice of emotion make this a unique Pixar adventure that’s definitely not terrifying.
It’s rare for a family film to tackle death, almost as rare as it is for a movie to capture the magic of making, listening to and sharing music. Coco manages to do both, as we follow Miguel, a young musician who finds himself in the vibrant Land of the Dead, where he unlocks the story behind his family history, and chases his dreams of becoming an accomplished guitarist like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. The result is a vivid celebration of family and memories that never fails to resonate with your insides.
Close contender: Ratatouille
This caper about a rat who secretly helps a junior chef become an expert cook in a Parisian restaurant serves up a delectable slice of childlike joy in the face of grown-up cynicism, but winds up with a finale stuck in the same place as its opening set-up, which undoes the wistful magic just enough to stop it ranking in our Top 10.
Close contender: Up
Pixar’s tale of an elderly widower who floats away on a balloon-covered home to South America to see the paradise he always dreamed of visiting with his wife starts out a heart-breaking portrait of loss and grief. What a shame, then, that the movie chickens out of that profound, melancholic 15-minute masterpiece, going on to introduce a contrived villain and irrelevant final act.