Cole’s Lists: Ranking Pixar’s 20 Feature Films

Logo for Disney Pixar

Written by Cole Wissinger Pixar
Images courtesy of Pixar.com

I’m gonna rank things!

Some of my colleagues, like @Madison-Drew-Daniels, don’t like ambiguous rankings.

I live for them.

I will rank literally anything, and it’s not just a front for my magazine or radio musings. The laptop I write this on has my running ranking of 2018 movies I’ve seen, favorite game shows of all time, and current NFL quarterbacks based on past performance and potential.
All coming solely from what I think and not compounded by silly statistics or ratings.

My opinions on all things are resolute and subject to change.

So in honor of the release of a recent top 12 Pixar movie, and their 20th movie overall, I would like to share my thoughts on the Pixar canon.

I’m just gonna rank the movies.


*Spoiler alert*: When I say the Incredibles 2 is top 12, I mean I think it is number 12. I’m not going to make you click ‘Next’ 12 times just to find it either! Scroll down to that portion for a short review. I haven’t written it yet, but it will probably be the longest section since it is the genesis/excuse for why I am writing this.

Brave Poster (Pixar)

20. Brave (2012)
Did you know there was a day when Disney DIDN’T advertise their entire release schedule five years in advance. But after a fantastic run from Pixar in the late 2000’s I researched (well I went to Wikipedia) and found their future projects. One of them was “The Bear and the Bow” and it sounded amazing. Fast forward to its release in 2012 as Brave and it ended up being a kind of standard Disney Princess Movie™. Still being the worst Pixar movie ain’t that bad. It was probably the best animated movie that year against such competition as The Lorax, Madagascar 3, Ice Age 4, Rise of the Guardians, and Amazing Spider-Man which let’s admit looked pretty badly animated.
Let’s call this first group of movies the Pretty Bad For Pixar, But Would Be Great For Any Other Studio Group.

Good Dinosaur Movie Poster
19. The Good Dinosaur (2015)
Yeah, yeah this one doesn’t have a great story or anything, but wow is it beautiful. I can imagine a college animation major putting this movie a little higher on their list than people like me that care about little things like story structure and character development. This might have been better served as just a Pixar Short than a feature length movie. Also of note, this was the first non-sequel/prequel since Cars to not win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, and it wasn’t even nominated.

Monsters U Movie Poster
18. Monsters University (2013)
That last tidbit had a prequel caveat because of this movie. Also it stinks that the studio that taught us that sequels could be not only be not trash but maybe even better than the original with Toy Story 2 ended up making so many mediocre sequels. On paper I love this idea. A prequel that explores the unlikely friendship that we take for granted in the first one. They got the character motivations and conflicts right. I like the title being shortened to Monsters U in the same vein as Monsters Inc. The movie itself just isn’t funny or emotional or anything enough to highlight that good concept. This is maybe the most disappointing Pixar Movie.

Cars 2 Movie Poster
17. Cars 2 (2011)
Dear Rotten Tomatoes and your 39% rating of this movie, IT’S NOT THAT BAD! Maybe your Top Critics just didn’t grow up watching the Blue Collar Comedy Tour like I did, or maybe they don’t appreciate an unwitting protagonist stumbling through a spy satire, or maybe they were just holding Pixar Movies to an unsustainable standard after their great end of 2000’s run. Whatever it was, this movie was branded as Pixar’s Failure when it’s really a cute movie with a big fun adventure-y plot that a lot of their movies don’t have. However much I try to defend it though, this still isn’t a great movie and it rounds out the bottom section on my list.

Ratatouille Movie Poster
16. Ratatouille (2007)
And so begins the I Have No Actual Problems With These Movies, But They’re Missing…Something group. Ratatouille is a story about a little underappreciated rat that showed everyone that he can be whatever he wants. My nickname in high school was Rat. I was little and looked over for a lot of things. I should have latched on to this movie like a life preserver but it just didn’t connect for me. The story is solid, the animated food looks delicious, the voice acting is good, but nothing is great enough for me to put Ratatouille higher. I did learn how to spell some dumb French dish’s name, so that’s something.

Cars 3 Movie Poster
15. Cars 3 (2017)
A beautiful tour of a fictional world of anthropomorphic automobiles. It’s not a sports movie or spy thriller like the first two. It’s just an honest look at a main character past his prime, as we all will be some day. There is a generational divide in the world today and Cars 3 captures how scary it can seem but also shows how understanding and just an adventure spent together can bridge the gap.

A Bug's Life Movie Poster
14. A Bug’s Life (1998)
Before the Cars movies came around to take the brunt of it, this was the forgotten movie of the Pixar Canon. Woody Allen didn’t exactly help in the remembering-this-movie department by releasing a stupidly similar movie the same year. Bug’s Life is definitely better though and I posit that it has the best voice over by a bad guy in all of Pixar if not the best VO cast entirely. This is a movie that leans on its fun and unique characters and in a movie about how worker ants should just keep their heads down and be the same, I think that has something to say. Or did I just describe the plot of Antz?

Inside Out Movie Poster
13. Inside Out (2015)
From a movie with a ton of characters to a movie with sort of one, if Bug’s Life doesn’t have the best voice talent in Pixar, Inside Out does. Also Inside Out probably has the best music for Pixar (notwithstanding the movie that is ALL ABOUT the power of music). I get people that rank this one higher, it makes you laugh, cry, and feel all the emotions; but really, shouldn’t it? It’s a movie ABOUT emotions. Just like the movie about music has the best music, the movie about emotions has the most emotions.

Incredibles 2 Movie Poster Teaser
12. Incredibles 2 (2018. Literally now. GO SEE IT)
Don’t believe the marketing that tells you this is the first movie ever to joke about dads staying at home or old people not understanding new math. Those are important elements, but the movie doesn’t obsess about them. Incredibles 2 is funny and imaginatively animated.
All the CGI in the world isn’t going to allow the MCU to show off their heroes’ powers the way this did. It also featured bits from other comic book stories. It opens with a ground level view of the destruction from the previous movie the way BvS:DoJ did, it gave us a look at the supers that can’t just go into hiding in plain sight the way the Parr family can like the X-Men’s Morlocks, and it even had Elastigirl stretch under a door to unlock it the same way Mr. Fantastic does in Fantastic Four (also that scene is great for a spoiler-y reason too, so keep your eyes open).

Incredibles 2 had a lot of good things to say about families and about unjust laws that make a certain kind of person illegal, and it said it all well. Still, it retreads one of the parents getting an opportunity to be a hero, but ultimately needing the family’s help. And you can tell that Disney owns Marvel and Pixar now because the villain is boring. Badum-Tsss. It’s good and funny and new, but not as good as the first one. Kinda like…

Finding Dory Movie Poster
11. Finding Dory (2016)
It is good and funny and new, but not as good as the first one. I remember a lot of great parts to this movie. The octopus was amazing. The Baby Dory flashbacks were not only heckin’ cute but also great narrative points to highlight the adventure. Sigourney Weaver played a great Sigourney Weaver. All those good parts didn’t build to a quite cohesive enough story though, and the ending was a little too ridiculous for my taste.

Coco Movie Poster
10. Coco (2017)
Pixar makes great emotional family driven movies. Even when (and maybe I’ll say especially when) they are about something serious like death. A good kids movie should teach a bit of a lesson at the level of a child, be entertaining enough that they will watch, and have a narrative sufficient that an adult won’t roll their eyes the whole time. Honestly, that describes most of Pixar, but definitely Coco. My favorite part of this movie is the cultural depths it went to. They reanimated the mouths to sync up with the Spanish language ‘dub’. Really, the English version could be considered the dub because it came out in Mexico first, about a Mexican tradition, with a predominantly (John Ratzenberger excluded [second parenthetical, a best performances by John Ratzenberger might have been an easier list]) Mexican cast.

Up Movie Poster
9. Up (2009)
The These Ones Are Really Good category starts with the story of an old guy that won’t sell his home to a developer tying balloons to the roof and flying the whole house to South America with a stow-away boy scout where he finds exotic chocolate loving birds and talking dogs. Maybe they just pitched the opening five minute montage and got lucky it worked after that. Adventure is out there for sure.

Finding Nemo Movie Poster
8. Finding Nemo (2003)
There aren’t a lot of great father-son movies out there that aren’t about baseball. Marlin isn’t a perfect father, but he tries so hard. This is another one of those great kids movies that changes completely when you watch it as an adult because it not only has a well written kid protagonist that has an adventure, but also has an adult with uniquely adult motivations and fears.

Cars Movie Poster
7. Cars (2006)
Ignore the hate the sprang up around Larry the Cable Guy and these sequels and you will see one great movie at the start. Not only a great animated movie, but a great sports movie. The cocky protagonist goes to a small town and meets a legend that teaches him a new move that the newly humbled protagonist uses in the big game at the end of the movie. Think Karate Kid combined with Bull Durham, but with car puns!

Monsters Inc. Movie Poster
6. Monsters Inc. (2001)
Buddy comedies are only great when the chemistry is great, and Billy Crystal and John Goodman are great! This movie was also at the height of Pixar’s great concepts period. What if the monster in your closet was just at his day job. Honestly their fourth ever feature had the best looking crazy animation sequence (until Incredibles 2) with a sometimes invisible antagonist fighting our heroes on racks of teleportation doors.

Toy Story Movie Poster
5. Toy Story (1995)
We have made it to the Okay, These Are The Crème Of The Crop tier of Pixar Animation and it starts with the movie that started the whole thing. Side note, one of the writers was none other than Joss Whedon! A movie about identity and friendship and how to confront the big (or small) changes in your life. It was surprising when I revisited Toy Story recently just how many lines I could still quote without thinking about it. What I didn’t remember was that Woody was practically the antagonist until the very end when he passes the buck to Sid. It’s a brave movie and one of Pixar’s best. It is also only ONE OF the best in its own franchise. To be continued…

Incredibles Movie Poster
4. The Incredibles (2004)
Of course I remember what year this came out because our county jazz band in middle school played the theme song. Oh and millennials can’t shut up about their 14 year wait for the sequel this weekend. The Incredibles balances family drama with its superhero plot perfectly. It features one of the best motivated villains of all superhero movies and was able to poke fun at villain quirks like monologuing before it was cool to make everything a joke. I don’t have an argument against people that call this the best Pixar movie. Seriously all five at the top are amazing movies, let alone kids cartoons.

Toy Story 2 Movie Poster
3. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Allow me to take you back to a world where every Disney movie since the dawn of time was getting a direct to video sequel. They were all terrible. Without exception. Even cinematic sequels to serious movies rarely measured up to the first one. Toy Story 2 proved that it is possible to expand your universe, tell a new compelling story, and continue to explore growth in your characters beyond the first movie. The single best song in a Pixar movie (Oscar winning Kristen & Robert Lopez, Randy Newman, and Randy Newman can take a back seat) is Jesse singing her heartbreaking backstory written by Randy Newman. I loved Toy Story 2 the most when it came out, until…

Wall-E Movie Poster
2. Wall-E (2008)
Okay bear with me for one more non-Toy Story entry first. Pixar is known for their great feature films, but also their great shorts that play beforehand in the theatre. These are often silent and emotional. Other times they are loud, obnoxious, and 22 minutes of a stupid snowman from a movie that isn’t even Pixar! Anyway. The first half of Wall-E plays like a short; introducing setting, establishing character, and creating conflict with just two words of dialogue. And I love dialogue. If Aaron Sorkin ever wrote a Pixar movie it would be at the top with these, but sometimes you can tell more with what you don’t tell, and that’s what Wall-E gets. It would be my favorite if it wasn’t for the perfect conclusion to the perfect trilogy.

Toy Story 3 Movie Poster
1. Toy Story 3 (2010)
It really isn’t fair to the other Pixar movies that such a perfect franchise has to exist next to them. It isn’t fair that I grew up with Andy and had just graduated high school the week before I saw this movie. It isn’t fair that I had a toy box growing up with Woody, Buzz, RC, Green Army Men, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, and countless other characters. I will always love these movies for these nostalgic reasons along with a hundred story structure and technical reasons as well. The only thing that could dinge my view of this perfect trilogy is if they made a fourth one trying to explain exactly why Bo Peep wasn’t in the third one, when it worked really well that she wasn’t because it was just another loss leading toward the inevitable break up of the old gang. Sorry. Maybe it will be okay. Please don’t ask me to do this again next summer. I’m scared.

And that is a ranking of the best and the rest of all the Pixar movies. It’s a BuzzFeed world and I’m living in it.

Madison, you can come visit anytime you like.

While you’re at it, check out some more Family Films!