The arrival of Toy Story in 1995 has forever changed, not just animation, but how we see movies in general. A little-known studio called Pixar Animation has burst into the industry and has rocked the medium of animation – a phenomenon that hasn’t happened since Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Pixar used a new computer technology to bring colorful 3D CG animation into the big screen, and the animation industry has been forever transformed.
However, it would be a huge disservice to say that Pixar’s legacy has begun and ended with technology. Pixar ushered in a new era of animated movies void of fairy-tales and overly kid-friendly stories with a more mature approach.
For this post, we celebrate the legacy of Pixar movies by highlighting some of the best titles the studio has created over its 32 years stint.
Top 12 Best Pixar Movies
Choosing the best Pixar movies for all ages was more difficult than I had imagined. But I am happy to say that I somehow managed.
12. Brave (2012)
Brave is Pixar’s first attempt to bring a strong heroine into the big screen, and to some extent, it was a successful attempt.
However, from the way Brave turned out, it seems that it had more Disney DNA than Pixar. The film stars the Scottish princess Merida as she boldly rejects all the marriage proposals that were sent her way. Due to some questionable decisions made by the heroine, her mother was turned into a bear.
Brave is not the best Pixar film out there but it’s still a solid adventure movie and a truly enjoyable romp.
11. Finding Dory (2016)
Sometimes, the supporting character is so good that it deserves its own movie.
Well, that surely happened with Dory, the sidekick who apparently can swim fine on her own. In Finding Dory, the titular blue tang (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) is now the one who’s in search of her family. A task that would have been a lot less tricky if only Dory doesn’t have a near-total short-term memory loss.
It’s rare to get a sequel that actually feels like an organic addition to the original story. Pixar managed to do just that with Finding Dory. The story feels deep in an unexpected way with lots of laughs along the way. A successful Pixar outing in every way.
10. Incredibles 2 (2018)
It took Pixar 15 years to release a follow-up to the superhero adventure The Incredibles – and it’s all worth the wait.
After over a decade, Brad Bird’s superpowered family finally returns to the big screen with a loud bang. Despite the costumed superheroes of Marvel dominating the box office, Pixar’s Parr family still managed to stand with the best of them. Once again, audiences were captured with death-defying adventures and kinetic action scenes while leaving room for funny and poignant sequences.
Yup, this might be an animated film but it tackles important issues like marriage, parenthood, and personal responsibility. Much like its predecessor, Incredibles 2 is an action-packed outing with frenzied set-pieces.
9. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Monsters, Inc. is a movie that has no pretensions up its sleeve. It wants nothing more than a shaggy monster adventure and it has wonderfully succeeded.
The tale of Mike and Sulley as employees of the titular kid-scaring company is one that is filled with laughs. This is especially true when they mistakenly let a child follow them back into their office. Despite the misunderstanding, they soon discover that it’s possible for monsters and humans to live in harmony.
It looks like another family-friendly romp from Pixar but there’s some serious heady stuff and subtexts in Monsters, Inc. It really is a perfect Pixar movie for all ages.
8. Coco (2017)
Coco is a follow-up to the Good Dinosaur and two sequels to old titles. Therefore, one can say that this movie is Pixar’s return to form.
Coco might be a colorful movie with colorful characters but it’s still pretty much centered around death. Based on the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, Coco is pretty much a thematic and visual departure for Pixar. This is one of my favorite Pixar movies because it managed to tell an airtight and detailed story while still feeling fresh at the same time.
Plus, Coco successfully honored a culture that’s not often highlighted in the movie industry. This movie will leave you in tears but with a big smile as it reaches its conclusion.
7. Up (2009)
Up to this day, Up is still fresh in my head because of just how heart-wrenching the opening scenes are. Pixar pulled a Saving Private Ryan on us with an opening sequence that will have you reach for a box of Kleenex.
Up is a perfect example of how Pixar tackles adult topics. The movie focuses on the story of an elderly man and his inability to let go. As per usual, Pixar brings in the heavy themes such as death, regret, aging, and friendship. However, there’s a sense of adventure that’s promised here and by the end of the movie, audiences were taken to the Tepui Mountains of Venezuela.
Up is one of the best reviewed animated films of all time and for good reason.
6. Toy Story 3 (2010)
By the third installment, most movie franchises would have reached beyond their sensible narrative limits or the producers would have simply stopped trying.
Pixar has made an exception to the rule with Toy Story 3. Once again, the studio told a heartfelt story about transitioning between childhood and adulthood. Toy Story 3 is not all about the dramatic overtones though. The movie brought the action-adventure but with a daring Great Escape-esque plot involving the toys busting out of the local daycare.
Toy Story 3 enjoyed more than a billion dollar in the box office along with five Oscar nominations and universal praise from critics. Toy Story 3 is a bonafide delight.
5. Inside Out (2015)
Pixar has always been the gold standard when it comes to animation that combines visual thrills with honest emotions. Inside Out has that in spades.
Who would have known that inside the mind of an 11-year old is a place of total riot and excitement? The movie focuses on the said 11-year old’s (Riley) five emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. They are all thrown into chaos when Riley has started to change. Joy and Sadness are both thrown into a quest to make things right.
Inside Out remains to be one of Pixar’s best-reviewed efforts and it’s easy to see why. There is no other movie that has managed to capture the melancholy beauty of growing up.
4. Toy Story (1995)
You can’t really list the best Pixar movies without listing the one that started it all.
John Lasseter directed the original Toy Story and it’s pretty much him putting all the company’s chips into one basket. And oh boy, did it pay out! The original Toy Story elevated animated stories as an art form. It’s also the first CG animated film that hammered the nail to the coffin of traditional hand-drawn works.
3. Finding Nemo (2003)
As it turned out, losing your child is more terrifying than the bottom of the ocean.
The adventure of the clownfish Marlin is one that is emotionally taxing and very exciting. Luckily, things are kept afloat with the addition of the silly Dory, the blue tang with short-term memory loss. What ensues is a tale of absolute emotion and delight.
Up to this day, Finding Nemo still holds up in terms of animation.
2. Wall-E (2008)
One of the most memorable Pixar movies involves a silent binocular-eyed robot.
It’s a remarkable tale that celebrates the old era of cinemas. All while delivering a message of protecting the planet. Pixar could have played it safe after creating eight incredible films but they sure can’t have that. Pixar threw a curveball and it proved time and time again that risks do pay off.
1. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Can you believe that Disney planned to release Toy Story 2 as a direct-to-video title?
However, Pixar meant business and they didn’t play around with Toy Story 2. The sequel proved that the toys have more than one story that’s worth telling, and it’s a better story than the first for sure. Toy Story 2 is a sequel done right and is one of the best animated movies of all time.
Pixar Magic Lives On
There you have it, twelve of the best Pixar movies to date. From the looks of it, the studio shows no signs of slow down.
Which Pixar animated movie is your favorite? Which movie do you think should have made the list? Feel free to let us know in the comments!