The Impossible Task… Ranking the Pixar Films

There is no studio quite like Pixar. Not only have they been the gold standard for cutting edge animation, but they have also routinely given us heartwarming stories that are entertaining for moviegoers of all ages. With 20 films under their belt, I decided to try my hand at ranking them. Full disclosure, making this list was like splitting hairs as most of them are sensational. Nevertheless, here is my countdown of all of Disney/Pixar’s full length films.

20. CARS 2

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Easily the black sheep of the Pixar family. While it’s more boring than terrible, this unnecessary sequel is neither thematically profound nor is it clever. Making Cars sidekick, Mater the lead and shifting the plot to being a spy film rather than focusing on racing were two mistakes that made it feel like a direct to DVD Disney film rather than a Pixar masterpiece.

Best Moment: Mater experiencing a Japanese toilet for the first time warranted a chuckle, I guess.

19. CARS 3

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The only Pixar movie that actually made me doze off upon first viewing. The story, which puts the focus back on Lightning McQueen being an athlete fading from his prime, is endearing enough. But the movie itself doesn’t have nearly enough humor or exciting moments to be considered entertaining for anyone other than young children.

Best Moment: The final race where Lightning McQueen coaches up Cruz Ramirez to victory was a nice touch.

18. THE GOOD DINOSAUR

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This movie was incredibly heartwarming and carried the Pixar torch of making audience members tear up. The problem is, it isn’t nearly original enough. A studio known for its unique characters and stories managed to make a film that ended up being a mashup of a bunch of other Disney movies we’d already seen.

Best Moment: Arlo and Spot go on a pretty wild trip off some poison berries.

17. BRAVE

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Princess Merida was a great character and her triplet brothers were hilarious. But this movie wasn’t particularly memorable. There wasn’t a ton of exciting moments and even though there were some good laughs, it can’t outweigh the fact that Brave isn’t nearly as rewatchable as many of the other Pixar movies.

Best Moment: Princess Merida makes a trip to see the quirky wood carver who moonlights as a witch.

16. CARS

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Sorry to pick on the Cars franchise, but these movies aren’t as great for audiences members of all ages. The first film in the trilogy was good, but not great. The plot was sound, and of course the animation was gorgeous, but there just wasn’t enough clever humor to make it a masterpiece. Most of the humor came from car puns and it kind of got old in this movie’s lengthy run time.

Best Moment: Guido performs the most epic pit stop ever.

15. RATATOUILLE

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The characters were fun and quirky and the animated food looked incredibly appetizing. But again, great film, not particularly memorable for being funny or exciting. This was one of those movies everyone should see, but it isn’t exactly one you’d be dying to own.

Best Moment: Remy cooks up a dish so spectacular that it makes food critic and French curmudgeon Anton Ego reminisce to his childhood.

14. INCREDIBLES 2

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Pixar’s latest film is really fun and exciting. It’s arguably funnier than the first and the action scenes are some of the best in the history of animation. But as plots go, this is probably Pixar’s weakest non-Cars story.

Best Moment: Baby Jack Jack vs. the Raccoon

13. MONSTERS INC.

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Baby Boo was adorable and Sully and Mike were a fantastic onscreen duo. It’s almost crazy to me to put this movie so low on the list, but it isn’t quite as funny or thematically groundbreaking as the movies above it.

Best Moment: “Welcome to the Himalayas! Snow cone?”

12. TOY STORY 2

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One of the few animated sequels that lived up to the hype. But in hindsight, it’s the weakest of the Toy Story trilogy. Jessie and Bullseye were great additions to the franchise and there are plenty of laughs in this film. But I can’t help but feel like Buzz Lightyear and the rest of Andy’s toys took too much of a backseat to Woody in this one.

Best Moment: Buzz Lightyear #2 vs. Zerg

11. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

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I was surprised at how much I loved this movie. The collegiate theme to the movie was a great aesthetic. It made the film feel more unique than any Pixar sequel and managed to create more depth and nuance to Mike and Sully’s already wonderful chemistry.

Best Moment: The snail monster “rushing” to class.

10. INSIDE OUT

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Now we’re really starting to split hairs. I absolutely loved this movie. That it barely cracks the top 10 is a testament to Pixar’s films since it’s release. A creative story and a beautiful message about the importance of every emotion manages to outweigh the lack of laugh out loud moments in comparison to other Pixar films.

Best Moment: If Bing Bong’s epic sacrifice doesn’t get you in your feelings, you have no soul.

9. A BUG’S LIFE

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One of the most rewatchable animated movies ever. The characters are fun and quirky. The story is smart and funny. And, above all, Hopper is a sensational villain and the studios best antagonist to date.

Best Moment: Hopper demonstrates why the grasshoppers need to keep the ants in line after one of his foolish subordinates suggests taking time off.

8. WALL-E

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Sure, there isn’t a lot of dialogue. But I’ve watched and enjoyed several silent films, so that doesn’t bother me. This movie is arguably Pixar’s most endearing and manages to be smart and humorous despite its unconventional method of storytelling.

Best Moment: WALL-E adorably tries to woo Eve with dancing and a flower.

7. FINDING DORY

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This movie was as heartfelt as it was hilarious. It successfully built its narrative around the previous film’s incredible supporting character. It is a model of how you make a sequel while placing a different character at the forefront (Looking at you Cars 2).

Best Moment: Hank the octopus experiences Dory’s short term memory loss for the first time when trying to get her tag.

6. COCO

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One could make the argument that this is Pixar’s best film and I wouldn’t argue with you. It doesn’t have as many laughs and memorable characters as other movies in the gallery, but it is still an absolute masterpiece. The visuals, the tear inducing story, and the beautiful representation of Mexican culture should all be applauded.

Best Moment: Mama Coco remembers her father when Miguel plays “Remember Me”

5. TOY STORY 3

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This movie had a lot of elements from Toy Story 2, but with better execution. Transplanting Jessie’s arc to the villain was an upgrade, and the movie gave Buzz Lightyear and the rest of Andy’s toys, a fun and humorous arc. For anyone who ever had a favorite toy, the finale is still enough to bring even the toughest of personas to tears. This movie was so good that I have no desire for Toy Story 4.

Best Moment: The toys in the furnace is a gut punch of emotion.

4. UP

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No opening scene in cinema has a more gut punching intro. From there, Up set the stage for one of the most endearing stories to date. Even without the heartwarming elements, this movie would stand the test of time for being a fun, family adventure.

Best Moment: The opening montage with Carl and Ellie… duh.

3. TOY STORY

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The film that started it all. Great characters. A ton of memorable, hilarious moments. A great story with a good lesson for people of all ages. Toy Story had it all. Over two decades old and it still holds up as a cinematic masterpiece.

Best Moment: “Don’t you get it! You see the hat! I am Misses Nesbit!”

2. FINDING NEMO

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The beginning may not be quite as tear inducing as UP’s, but it isn’t too far behind. (Disney sure likes killing off parents). Finding Nemo has one of the best assortments of supporting characters of any film ever made. Despite having a ton of characters, every single one that comes on screen leaves a mark. It paces seamlessly and provides some fantastic laughs throughout making it as close to a perfect movie as one can fathom.

Best Moment: The initiation of “Sharkbate”… or anything involving Dory.

1. THE INCREDIBLES

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Maybe I’m biased because superheroes are my favorite, but no animated film is as rewatchable for me as this one. The characters are fun and unique, the laughs are plentiful, the music is sensational, and the design is flawless. Throw in a well paced story, some exhilarating action, and a fantastic villain and you have Pixar’s most fun and memorable film.

Best Moment: Dash escapes Syndrome’s henchmen is a close second… but superhero costumed designer, Edna Mode steals the show.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Concerns? Let me know what Pixar films make your Top Ten.

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Finding Dory (Full Review)

Pixar is the gold standard of animated family films. Among their many classics, few movies are as beloved as 2003’s Finding Nemo. The story about a father searching for his disabled son and learning not to be overprotective was highlighted by a cast of great characters. Ironically, the most unforgettable character was the one who couldn’t remember anything. And now, 13 years later, the Disney animation goliath brings us a much anticipated sequel that follows Dory on an all new adventure.

Finding_DoryPixar proved it can follow one of its classics with an equally fantastic film with the Toy Story trilogy. But before you go thinking Finding Dory is a lock to be a great follow up, I have two words for you… Cars 2. With Dory, the Pixar filmmakers had the challenge of making a movie with just as much heart, while maintaining a similar message about cherishing family and overcoming adversity that could easily feel repetitive. They manage to succeed, with flying colors.

Finding Dory picks up one year after Finding Nemo. Blue tang fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) continues to suffer from short term memory loss and now lives with her best clownfish buddy Marlon (Albert Brooks) and his son, Nemo (Hayden Rolance). One day, a series of familiar phrases triggers her memories of her long lost parents (Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy) and Dory sets out on a mission to reunite with them. The journey may seem like a retread, but a fantastic set of characters make it feel like anything but.

Pixar’s ability to create memorable characters is often what sets their films apart. Well… that and flawless animation. Finding Dory is a magnificent follow up to a beloved classic mainly because of its large cast of new characters, each one hilarious and unique. There’s a near sighted whale shark (Kaitlin Olson), a beluga whale that thinks it’s sick (Ty Burrell), and a pair of lazy and bossy sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West). But perhaps no character is as critical to the movies fun and charisma as Hank (Ed O’Neil), a temperamental octopus trying to prevent being released from a safe and secure Marine hospital.

Sure, Ellen DeGeneres is once again endearing as Dory and Marlon and Nemo provide several laughs and valuable lessons, but without the new faces, the movie would feel like a good, but relatively unnecessary sequel. But these new characters make this heartwarming story about Dory overcoming her shortcomings and finding her family feel fresh and the missing piece we didn’t even realize we needed. I’ve always said, every movie doesn’t need a sequel, but sometimes… when the right people are behind it…. some movies most certainly do. And in the case of Finding Dory, despite being a bit more over the top than the original, it’s the sequel adults and kids have been waiting for.

FINAL GRADE: A+

My Top 15 Favorite Animated Films

You’re never too old to watch a good animated movie and the movies that make up this list are timeless and great for all ages. To make it easier on myself, I’m only doing movies that have come out since my birth (1988… sorry Brave Little Toaster fans) although I am including both classic hand drawn and computer generated films. I’m also not including any anime movies or straight-to-video features. So, without further ado, here are my (emphasis on MY) Top 15 favorite animated films since 1988…

15. Paranorman (2012)

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Without a doubt the film on this list that the fewest people have seen. But I couldn’t help but put this Academy Award nominated stop-motion film on my list. Incredible animation, fun characters, and a plot that molds classic horror films with a great message about being unique  even if everyone else thinks you’re weird.  If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you check it out. Favorite Moment: When one of the townspeople is approached by a zombie and must make a tough decision between running away and waiting for his potato chips to drop from the vending machine.

14. Shrek (2001)

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One of the funniest animated films I’ve ever seen. This fairy-tale satire pushes the boundaries of “children’s film” with a ton of clever jokes. If only they hadn’t driven the series into the ground with those last two terrible films. Favorite Moment: The “Welcome to Duloc” song

13. Mulan (1998)

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One of the last great hand drawn films. It’s got good action, pretty good humor, and one of the best female leads in Disney movie history. (Kudos to Eddie Murphy for being the comic relief in yet another film on this list). Favorite Moment: I know pretty much all of the lyrics to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”… judge away.

12. Aladdin (1992)

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One of the first movies I ever saw in theaters. It had amazing animation (still waiting on that 3D re-release announcement from Disney) and great music. And who didn’t have a crush on Princess Jasmine? Some may think this movie is too low on the list, but I subtracted points because the main protagonist is the dullest character in the movie. Favorite Moment: Aladdin escaping the cave of wonders on the magic carpet (Again… would look great in 3D. HINT HINT Disney!!)

11. The Princess and the Frog (2009)

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Disney’s somewhat failed attempt to revitalize hand drawn animated films. This movie, which was a bit of a box office disappointment, is HIGHLY underrated. Is it a bit too short? Yes. Does the love story feel rushed? Yes. But few animated films in history have more vibrant characters than this one does (Charlotte La Bouff, Louis, Mama Odie, and Ray). Extra points for being the first animated movie with an African-American lead. Favorite Moment: When Ray finally gets to be with Evangeline.

10. WALL-E (2008)

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Pixar’s most impressive film. Technically speaking, it is an absolute marvel. That it is entertaining with next to no dialogue for the first half of the movie, is a testament to its narrative.  Favorite Moment: Mo, the cleaning robot, realizes something isn’t quite right when WALL-E arrives on the ship. “Whoa, whoa, whoa.”

9. Kung Fu Panda (2008)

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2008 was quite the year it seems (Inside joke). One of the most fun movies I’ve seen which couples a great voice cast with a good story and some Grade-A kung fu scenes. Favorite Moment: Tai Lung’s escape from prison.

8. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

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Despite what some may think, this movie was released in theaters so it counts. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Dark Knight and this movie is essentially Batman Begins before Batman Begins. Coinciding with the critically acclaimed animated series that was my favorite of the 90’s, this film is so good it makes me wonder why they didn’t just use the script for a live-action movie. Favorite Moment: Any scene with Mark Hamill’s Joker.

7. Toy Story 3 (2010)

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Arguably the best third film in any film trilogy. If the final minutes don’t make you tear up just a bit, then you might not have a soul. Favorite Moment: Ken models his wardrobe for Barbie.

6. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

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A modern classic and one of the best musicals in existence. It also just happens to have some pretty good laughs too, not to mention one of the best and most hated Disney villains. Favorite Moment: Apparently no one does anything as well as Gaston.

5. Finding Nemo (2003)

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Another classic with a great father-son story. There are so many funny characters, from the sharks who don’t eat fish to the Dentist Office “Tank Gang”, but we all know it’s Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory that steals the show. If only we didn’t have to wait ‘til 2016 for the sequel. Favorite Moment: The school children share their handicaps with Nemo, one of which is particularly funny. “I’m Obnoxious!”

4. Wreck-It Ralph (2013)

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An absolute classic for anyone who has ever played a video game and one of the best 3D experiences I’ve ever had. Several times it felt like I could grab a controller and start playing with the characters in the movie. Even better, the film has a great story with a ton of heart. Favorite Moment: The Mario Kart-like final race between all of the characters in Sugar Rush.

3. The Incredibles (2004)

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This may be too-high to some, but with my love for all things super heroic, this is no surprise. A film that boasts a great soundtrack with tons of fun, original characters, this movie is everything that makes superheroes awesome coupled with a great family theme. Favorite Moment: Superhero costume designer Edna tells Mr. Incredible why she doesn’t approve of capes.

2. Toy Story (1995)

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The OG of computer generated animation. Groundbreaking for its time, this film single handedly started the demise of hand drawn animation. It helps that it had a unique story which included a fantastic “enemies become best friends” plotline. Favorite Moment: Buzz Lightyear is Mrs. Nesbit

And finally… Drum roll please…

1. The Lion King (1994)

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The classic of classics. I saw this movie six times in theaters as a kid. Every character is great. Every joke makes you laugh. Every song makes you want to sing. And Scar is one of the best villains of all time. Mufasa’s death is still the “Bambi’s mother gets shot” moment for anyone born after 1985. Simply put, no movie on this list is as timeless as the Lion King. (It also looks incredible in 3D). Favorite Moment: Two words… Hakuna Matata.

Honorable Mention: Despicable Me, Monsters University, A Bug’s Life, Up, Shrek 2, Toy Story 2, The Prince of Egypt

That’s it! Disagree? Feel like I left something off? Feel free to leave comments. More countdown lists to come