Fire up the Randy Newman and grab all the tissues, gang. With this week's anniversary of “Up” and the forthcoming release of “Toy Story 4,” we're ranking every single movie from the studio's catalog, from worst to best.
21. 'The Good Dinosaur' (2015)
Calling this a “huge misfire” barely does this disappointment justice. More plot-driven (and therefore less emotionally engaging) than previous Pixar efforts, “Good Dinosaur” ambles along on an occasionally amusing but ultimately wasted road trip about a lost dino and his caveboy friend, in a world where dinosaurs were never taken out by a big, ol' meteor. That novel premise is all but wasted in this film, plagued with behind-the-scenes production issues. And the animation style -- very cartoon-y characterizations interacting with very photo-real landscapes -- is problematic at best. In between weird tonal shifts (that predator bird sequence!) and episodic storytelling, there is only one pure Pixarian moment -- when the boy and the titular creature have a heart-to-heart involving primitive communication.
20. 'Cars 2 (2011)
If the original “Cars” was the first Pixar film to receive a somewhat lukewarm critical reaction, then the response to the 2011 sequel was downright chilly. While boasting impressive animation quality, “Cars 2” lacked that trademark Pixar soul. But, hey --at least it brought in plenty of merchandising money to fuel Pixar's more ambitious projects.
19. 'Cars' (2006)
If the “Cars” franchise proves anything, it's that Pixar can sometimes be a victim of their own success. This 2006 entry is an entertaining watch, sure, but it lacks that special creative spark or strong emotional tether that so many of Pixar's other films.
18. 'Finding Dory' (2016)
Sure, this unnecessary sequel made piles of money, but it did so without the heart or solid storytelling intact from the beloved original. Dory works best as a supporting character, as her short-term memory loss gets old as the filmmakers keep milking the one-note joke for most of the feature's length. And the ending, where the real world is exposed to that of Pixar's talking fish, doesn't quite shake hands with the rules of this franchise -- a franchise we hope stops at part two, or else risk sullying the brand of the first film further.
17. 'Cars 3' (2017)
“Cars 3” is all about selling the billions in merchandise, but at least this threequel course-corrects for the previous installments' problematic storytelling. Here, the filmmakers invest this “just okay” effort with a surprising amount of heart and thematically sound storytelling, resulting in the best “Cars” movie yet.
16. 'A Bug's Life' (1998)
15. 'Monsters University' (2013)
12 years after “Monsters, Inc” Pixar finally revisited this world and explored the formative years of aspiring scarers James Sullivan and Mike Wazowski. Though not as clever or inspired as the “Toy Story” sequels, “Monsters University” proved to be a fun addition to Pixar's growing lineup.
14. 'Brave' (2012)
Pixar opted for something a little different with this 2012 film about a headstrong Scottish princess and her unusual mother issues. And even if “Brave” didn't quite hit a bullseye critically, Merida quickly took her place among the ranks of the great Disney princesses.
13. 'Monsters, Inc.' (2001)
This 2001 film introduced one of the studio's more memorable concepts -- a world where monsters terrify children in order to harvest the power of their screams. Luckily, it wasn't nearly as morbid as that sounds. While “Monsters, Inc.” shows its age in some ways now, it still remains a Pixar classic. And who doesn't love Boo?!
12. 'Toy Story' (1995)
Pixar's first film is responsible for the all-CG animation revolution, which had a significant impact on audiences. The clever premise about anthropomorphic toys, and the then-revolutionary computer effects, enhance an engaging tale of two unlikely enemies-turned-best friends. “Toy Story” is the 24FPS equivalent of being a kid again, while setting the standard for all future Pixar projects. (And a shout out to script doctor Joss Whedon for giving Buzz and Woody a lot of the funny stuff.)
11. 'Up' (2009)
“Up” is a film that dares viewers to make it through the opening montage without crying all the tears. This tale of a retired widower finally realizing his dream of traveling the world is one of Pixar's funniest and most resonate films, even if it does occasionally get too caught up in its own silliness toward the back half.
10. 'Wall-E' (2008)
From “Finding Nemo's” Andrew Stanton, “Wall-E” is a testament to Pixar's animation skills and the power of non-verbal storytelling. The first half of this film, a largely silent love story between two robots in a post-apocalyptic Earth, is as strong as anything they've ever produced. And while the latter half doesn't quite live up to that standard, it still makes for an exceptional movie experience.
9. 'Toy Story 2' (1999)
And here is arguably where the studio started their “all the feels” policy, ensuring at least one good cry per movie. “Toy Story 2” Pixar's first sequel, is one of their best -- especially with the now-famous montage about Jesse's past scored to Sarah Mc. Despite the film's behind-the-scenes troubles and compressed development, this sequel managed to outdo the original. The animation was better, the story more nuanced, and the new characters a worthy addition to the franchise.
8. 'Incredibles 2' (2018)
Every bit as dazzling as its predecessor but slightly less emotional, “Incredibles 2” is one of the greatest, fizziest sequels Pixar has ever concocted and a total blast too. Picking up directly where the previous film left off, this installment sees Helen (Holly Hunter, magnificent as always) being assigned the adventuring, while Bob (Craig T. Nelson, even gruffer and more effective) stays home with the kids. Popping with action set pieces only a mad genius like writer/director Brad Bird could devise, along with some timely thematic concerns about our addiction to screens and the role of women in society, makes it something of an instant-classic. Hopefully we don’t have to wait another 14 years for part 3.
7. 'Coco' (2017)
Lee Unkrich’s follow-up to the unstoppable “Toy Story 3” was a beautiful and frequently bizarre take on the Mexican holiday known as Dia de los Muertos. In the Oscar-winning “Coco,” the annual celebration of beloved ancestors become a literal trip to the underworld, as living boy Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) finds himself in the Land of the Dead. Brimming with color and energy, “Coco” is one of the most nakedly emotional films Pixar has ever made (which is really saying something); originally conceived as a full-on musical, its remaining songs (particularly “Remember Me”) will have you wiping away tears and thinking of family members you’ve loved and lost. But, you know, in a fun way.
6. 'Ratatouille' (2007)
Another semi-troubled Pixar production (its original director was fired 18 months before the movie was due in theaters), director Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”) came in to help deliver one of the studio's tougher sells: A rat trying to become a world-class chef. The end result is a very underrated and thematically-rich film that only gets better with repeated viewings.
5. 'The Incredibles' (2004)
Is their anything Brad Bird can't do? Not only is “The Incredibles” one of Pixar's best, it's also one of the best superhero movies ever made. Bird creates a stunning new world that pays effective homage to classic superhero tales, while also boldly forging its own path. And we defy you to find a more inventive action scene in an animated film than the one that pits the Parrs against villain Syndrome's foot soldiers and their flying saw blades.
4. 'Finding Nemo' (2003)
Andrew Stanton's second Pixar film -- and the studio's fifth movie overall -- is a deserved fan-favorite The stunning underwater animation, coupled with the very simple, very identifiable tale of a widowed father desperate to track down his missing son, resonates long after the end credits roll. Righteous!
3. 'Toy Story 3' (2010)
Holy sh!@, that incinerator scene?! That tearful moment was worth the 11-year wait for this threequel, which proves that not all Part 3's have to suck. Woody, Buzz, and the gang struggle with abandonment issues when an off-to-college Andy moves on from his toys. What they find after being donated to a daycare center is a renewed sense of purpose, a new owner and one more chance for Andy to play with them. And no, we're not crying again. That's just -- someone must be chopping onions.
2. 'Toy Story 4' (2019)
One of Pixar’s most ambitious and complex films, full of narrative wizardry and emotional heft, and the perfect rebuke to everyone who said “but the first three movies end so perfectly!” Well, sure, they do, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t avenues that could be spun off and new adventures to be told, including this one. Since this is the newest Pixar movie, the less you know, the better, but just be sure to bring your Kleenex into the theater for this one.
1. 'Inside Out' (2015)
Our number one pick is arguably Pixar's first drama. “Inside Out” is everything we love about Pixar films -- it's funny, inventive, gorgeously animated and driven by a strong, emotional journey that appeals to both children and adults. It's character-first storytelling is truly transcendent; the script gives every scene the exact amount of whatever it needs, despite the challenging development process filmmaker Pete Docter faced in bringing this story about an 11-year-old girl's emotions to life. Much like one can't think about dinosaurs without thinking about “Jurassic Park,” you won't be able to think about feeling without imaginig the characters of Joy, Sadness, and Fear in your head.