Recently, a friend of mine pointed out a list of what was considered to be the best Pixar films of all time. I looked through the list and immediately see the most disappointing and incorrect list imaginable. Why incorrect? Cause obviously my opinions are more important! Just kidding.
Anyway, I thought to myself – based on the Pixar films I’ve seen, how would I rank them. What follows are my rankings with my reasonings why. We’ll go from my least favorite to my favorite.
Note: I have not seen the following Pixar films, therefore they will not be included in my ratings: Up, Finding Dory, Inside Out, or The Good Dinosaur. My kids had no desire to see them and I did not care enough to see them on my own – hence never seen them.
13. Finding Nemo – I am one of the few people on Earth, it appears, who did not like Finding Nemo. My wife insists that may make me heartless, I disagree. The movie opens with a traumatic murder of the mother, akin to Bambi. I don’t like Bambi either, because the tragic just off-screen murder made the rest of the movie harder to watch as it was now clouded by this initial sorrow. Then there’s the entire “moral of the story” – which is that the handicapped are important and have a great role in society, so don’t pick on them. Great message, except for the fact that it’s entirely undermined by Dory. The entire plot includes a complete mockery of Dory’s mental condition, which appears to continue in all the ads I’ve seen for Finding Dory. She’s mocked for her slow nature and short term memory loss. This mockery of her handicap which is done by everyone entirely detracts from the moral, in my opinion, and rips out the heart of the movie.
12. WALL-E – WALL-E suffered from two major crimes – it was incredibly boring and it was overly preachy about environmentalism. Yes, I said it – it was too preachy on the environment and this coming from a man who spends his days cleaning up the environment as an environmental engineer. The animation, like all Pixar films, was stunning. The plot, the characters, everything else was boring and uninteresting. Even when you finally had conflict, I just couldn’t find it in me to care.
11. Ratatouille – A movie about a rat infested restaurant. But, the rats have hearts of gold and can cook. And in the end the rats continue to live in a new restaurant where they cook you food. I mean, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t all that good or interesting in my opinion. I know a lot of people loved it and it won an Oscar, but I never got the love for it. I enjoyed it more than WALL-E and Finding Nemo, but that’s not saying much. In the end the biggest crime of Ratatouille was that I found it infinitely forgettable.
11. A Bug’s Life – Speaking of forgettable, let’s talk about A Bug’s Life. Notice, it’s tied for 11th place with Ratatouille. It’s a movie about ants, grasshoppers, and other bugs. It was passable, but uninteresting. I don’t really know what else to say about that.
9. Cars 2 – Everyone seems to universally hate Cars 2. I don’t know what their problem with the movie was. It was a cheesy spy flick for little kids using characters they were already familiar with. At times it pushed the envelope, but in the end it was still fun and filled with bad car puns. It wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but it was cute enough and my kids enjoyed it. To me, that’s the mark of a decent film.
8. Monsters Inc – This is probably going to ruffle some feathers as I put this after of Monsters University. Monsters Inc was fun, clever, and incredibly entertaining. It gave you a look at monsters in the closet being real and powering their entire universe based on fear. It was such an interesting concept and the execution was excellent. I loved the film, I just enjoyed Monsters Univeristy more. Why? I’ll tell you in the next bullet.
7. Monsters University – Monsters University was one of the first movies I took my oldest two children to; we saw it at the Drive-In. I remember them staying awake to keep their eyes open to watch the entire film. It really did an amazing job of further fleshing out the “Monsters” universe giving some back story to the characters. It also despite itself did some great character building for both Sully and Mike, but especially Mike. It taught you a lesson which is not often taught these days – sometimes you can’t do everything you want. That seems like a weird lesson to be excited about, but no other kid’s movie I know actually tackles this issue. You are wonderful just the way you are, but that doesn’t mean you can do anything. There are some things you can never do, but that does not mean you are not able to contribute. In the end, your knowledge and abilities can and do help others to make them shine. Even if you are in the background, you can still shine by helping others. That’s a message I would love to see more frequently: the spotlight isn’t the only path to greatness.
6. Cars – Seeing Cars brought me back to my childhood. When I was little, I played with Micro Machines, but I played with them different. I had them talk to each other as though they were anthropomorphic beings with a consciousness. Cars became a step back into my own childhood in a way I will never forget. Also, it was a great story of humility where Lightning McQueen realizes there’s more to life than victory. Companionship, friendship, loyalty – those matter more. The moment when he stops racing to push the King across the finish line, is moving. I don’t care how much people hate the film, that moved me far more than WALL-E or Finding Nemo ever did.
5. Toy Story – This is going to be another controversial one. I loved Toy Story. It was an excellent film, but not a perfect one. Seeing some of the initial planned plot and seeing how mean they initially wanted Woody to be made the “tempered back but still at times super mean” Woody make sense. Still, his meanness was a bit overblown and the overall plot of a jealous toy wishing to prevent an astronaut toy from taking his place as the favorite felt like a rehash of the classic Muppet tale “The Christmas Toy.” I know it was not intended that way, but at times it hit many of the same beats as that classic which I loved as a kid. Toy Story elaborated in some great ways and being the original Pixar film, still deserves a high place on the list. But not at the top.
4. Brave – I only recently discovered there were people who didn’t consider Brave to be a treasure. I just don’t even understand people anymore. Brave was a wonderful film about family, mother-daughter relationships, transitions into adulthood, and family members turning into bears. It had whimsey, it had beautiful animation, and it had one of the most fun, independent Disney Princesses I can recall. It also had an intact family – no dead Mom for Merida, making it one of the only Disney Princesses to have a mother-daughter relationship we see on screen. I appreciated that and appreciated the fun plot/characters.
3. Toy Story 3 – Toy Story 3 had no reason to be a good film. Set 10 years after the release of Toy Story 2, a sequel to a movie about a surprisingly well done sequel to a film about toys which were alive should not have been as good as it was. And yet, there it was being awesome. The plot was well crafted. The expansion of the universe and character was well done. Seeing Andy growing up, seeing how we all treat our toys over time, seeing that transition into adulthood made for great cinema. And as a parent, it was hard not to choke up watching Andy play one last time with Buzz, Woody, and the gang with Bonnie was a tear inducing moment. It was well done.
2. Toy Story 2 – I am here to argue, briefly, that Toy Story 2 is the best of the Toy Story films. Toy Story was an excellent setup for Toy Story 2, establishing characters and the universe our gang live in. Toy Story 2 told us the history of Woody and really showed us an interesting glimpse into the fictional toy empire based on the character. It introduced us to Jessie, who was an excellent addition to the cast. Her sibling-like relationship with Woody was well crafted and executed. The concept of a toy being snatched by a toy collector at a yard sale to be sold to the highest bidder was such an interesting twist on the plot of the original. Incorporating the toy store into the plot was well done and those scenes where Jessie flashes back to her previous life with her previous kid still can bring tears to our eyes. It was the perfect precursor to Toy Story 3. This was a seamless sequel that was far better than I think any one of us expected out of something which was planned for a straight to video release.
1. The Incredibles – The Incredibles is a fantastic film about family. It is the Fantastic Four movie we all don’t necessarily realize we want or need. It is a tale about superheroes, but really it is so much more. It is a tale about family relationships. It is a tale about a husband and wife. It is a tale about growing up. It is an incredibly well crafted movie for the entire family. I honestly have not a single thing to complain about when it comes to this movie. Others may, I think they’re wrong. What makes the Fantastic Four so interesting after decades is how it focuses on family. That was what The Incredibles did so well. Seeing Bob and Helen’s relationship over the course of the film, seeing how they truly love one another, how Bob aches to go back to doing good, but is forced back due to legal constraints. There’s so much to work with there. And their relationships are all so well written. And then there’s Violet. Violet is the Incredibles’ universe version of Susan Storm. She is truly the most powerful among them, whether she realizes it or not. Her invisibility combined with her ability to create force fields could make her unstoppable. But, she’s timid, nervous, and unwilling to go all out. This fear is shown in her hair style, covering half her face. When she has gained confidence in her abilities and shows the world and herself her capabilities, the hair is no longer covering her up. There are many subtle symbols like this throughout the film to show the depths of the characters. I loved the Incredibles and look forward to a sequel.
So, there you have it. My thoughts on the top Pixar films. I’m sure you disagree. Feel free to argue in the comments.