14) Cars 2
Should literally be on the bottom of everyone’s list. Even if you feel that A Bugs Life isn’t a strong effort, Cars 2 was ultimately a cash-grab, and expanded Larry The Cable Guy’s screentime far beyond anything tolerable. The plot is bizarre, the idea that Mater could be a spy is a huge stretch. This was the easiest placement on my list.
13) A Bugs Life
I don’t hate A Bugs Life. In fact, I think, even though it is ranked low on this list, it still has a stronger core than any of the Madagascar entries, most of the Shrek series, Rio, and a lot of other animated features produced by rival studios. It does pale in comparison to Pixar’s other works, which is why they have never discussed a sequel, and it isn’t as good as stronger rival efforts like How To Train Your Dragon or Rise of the Guardians.
Your opinion of Cars is likely influenced also by Cars 2, which isn’t entirely fair. This film had a much stronger core story, about a young hotshot racecar who has to get in touch with what’s important, and Paul Newman playing the role of the wise old car that teaches him the ways of life. Also, Bonnie Hunt brings an unexpected realness to the love interest role. She’s not some hot young thing that gets in the way, she feels grounded. It’s not the strongest effort, but it is leagues better than its sequel.
11) Monsters University
It lacks the humor of the original, and the spark of originality. It’s a decent follow-up for characters you already adore, but it doesn’t strike out on its own, the way Toy Story 2 did by adding Jesse to the franchise. Monsters University is just a way to see a few of your favorite characters on another adventure, like Shrek 2 (which is a perfectly fine sequel also).
They decided to have a strong female role model, and the film has a ton of heart, as a daughter and a mother learn to compromise, and grow a stronger bond because of it. It still feels like a step down from some of their other films, but it was a completely different story than Pixar used to tell.
9) Monsters Inc
Funny, original, and memorable, it was really hard for me to rank this film so low, except to say it didn’t have the same lasting impact on me as some of the other Pixar works have had.
8) The Incredibles
Much for the same reason I ranked Monsters Inc lower, I have to put Incredibles lower, simply because while it is definitely original, it doesn’t stay in your heart the way other Pixar films do. I just lack the same fondness for this series than I do the other films.
7) Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3 does have a great character introduction with Lotso, and even with Ken, and the ending does pack a little bit of a punch. But the core idea of the first two is gone. The first two films had a Buzz and Woody dynamic that the third film lacks, because now they are on the same team, working for the same goal.
6) Toy Story
The first Pixar film, now 18 years old, doesn’t feel dated at all. Toy Story remains an achievement, and is exactly the reason that Pixar remains a driving force creatively today.
It might not be your favorite film, but the film about a small mouse named Remy, who decides that he will become the greatest Chef ever, and denies the notion that he should be content with eating garbage for the rest of his life, is a story about dreaming big, and rising up against adversity. I love watching, and rewatching this film. It never loses its charm.
4) Finding Nemo
The first time since Toy Story that a Pixar effort had Oscar Buzz. Many people even hoped Ellen DeGeneres would become the first person nominated for an Oscar for voice over work. It swept the nation, and everyone fell in love with the story of a father who would do anything, and overcome his deepest fears, to rescue his son. The idea that Pixar is making Finding Dory makes me sad, because the heart of the story is the father/son relationship, and elevating Dory to the center of the story seems like the same mistake they made with Cars 2, by elevating Mater to lead status. Supporting characters should remain thus.
3) Toy Story 2
Jesse has become a beloved character since her introduction in the sequel, which is incredibly hard to do. Think about how many animated films have come along, and how many sequel-introduced characters actually are still around, and are fan favorites. Really, only Puss In Boots comes to mind, other than Jesse. She was the heart of this story, as the doll who had been discarded. Woody had only known one life, that of a toy who was forever loved by his boy, but Jesse’s story was heartbreaking. She was the first toy left behind, and it struck a chord with audiences. She becomes rather useless in Toy Story 3, and basically is relegated to Buzz’s love interest, but this is where she shines strongest.
The first segment of this film is one of the best segments in any film, animated or not animated. Two kids meeting, becoming mismatched friends, falling in love, living through life, and loss, together until the end. If you didn’t at least tear up, you might not have a soul. The story of an old man, set in his ways, making one last journey with an unlikely sidekick is one of the least “kiddie” animated films you’ll see. It’s a story for adults, and for anyone who has ever lost something they can’t get back. The final scene, with the presentation of the bottlecap, gets me everytime.
A largely dialogue free film featuring a showtune loving robot, and his pet cockroach, doesn’t seem like the kind of film that would make the top of this list. But this isn’t just a simple robot cartoon, this is one of the greatest love stories of all time. The dynamic between Wall-E and Eve is so expertly crafted, that when the end comes… your heart is left broken, hoping that the film couldn’t possibly end this way. To be so invested in two characters that can’t communicate through dialogue is a work of art. Not only is this my favorite Pixar film, it is one of my five favorite films of all time.