With the release of Toy Story 3, I now feel confident enough to create a top ten list of my favorite Pixar films. Everybody has their own list of favorite movies from the most consistent studio in Hollywood and many arguments have been made over which film constitutes their “best.” Each of their films is crafted with such skill that arguments can not really be made over whether their films are structured and paced well. The bottom line is each person’s favorite Pixar film comes down to taste and personal connection. Based on that criteria, here are my top ten Pixar films.
Top 10 Pixar Movies
10) A Bug’s Life (1998)
Apart from Cars, A Bug’s Life is the one Pixar movie that I revisit the least often. It has a great story with lovable characters, but for me its too similar to the mediocre animated films from other studios and doesn’t bear Pixar’s brilliant stamp. I will also admit that it has been at least 4 years since I last saw this movie and I remember loving it, but it just didn’t have the same lasting impression that Pixar’s best films have had.
9) Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Some of the best voice acting performances of all of Pixar’s films come from Billy Crystal and John Goodman in this wonderful movie. This is also one of the Pixar films that does the best job of bridging the gap between the adult and children’s movie audiences. It tackles the common childhood fear of monsters in the closest and disperses that fear in a light-hearted and hilarious way. This also was a major turning point for Pixar’s animation as they discovered how to animate intricacies like hair.
8) Toy Story 2 (1999)
I can’t tell you how many times I shifted this list around because every Pixar film is absolutely fantastic and each has its proper place. Toy Story 2 was a fabulous adventure story with perfectly executed themes of loss and renewal. To me it didn’t emotionally connect the same way as the other Toy Story films, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t a wonderful film experience.
7) The Incredibles (2004)
This was the first Pixar film to deal primarily with humans and it established the cartoonish look that the studio has used to animate humans ever since. Pixar used well-established superhero archetypes to create a lovable family that has to fight against the odds to fit in. The film is also an over-arching metaphor of societal discrimination that could be compared to the Civil or Gay rights movements. It’s a film that can speak to everybody who is different and those who fear those differences.
6) Up (2009)
This movie features the best 10-minute musical montage that I have ever seen on film where it tells an entire life story through poetic images. It is the only Pixar movie to be nominated to Best Picture thanks to the expansion to 10-best picture nominees. One of the things that makes Pixar so brilliant is that they do not protect the children who are a big part of their audience. Their characters are real adults and children that have real problems and in Up, they are portrayed with tragic brilliance.
5) Toy Story 3 (2010)
The latest addition to the Pixar canon is another example of their expert storytelling and character development skills. I’ve already written significantly about this film so check out my full review.
4) Toy Story (1995)
I was 9 years old when the first Pixar film was released in theatres and I remember being filled with absolute awe and wonderment at the experience. Every child has that toy or blanket growing up that they are in love with and would fight to keep out of harm’s way. Toy Story presents the idea that those toys have the same love and would be willing to fight equally hard for you. When I re-watched the film I realized that the animation was a little rough and there were a few more technical flaws than their later films, but I didn’t care. It’s such a glorious nostalgia trip that I never want to stop taking.
3) Wall-E (2008)
I think that Wall-E could stand along side some of the greatest silent films of the 1920s. It combines Pixar’s indestructible formula with the comedic styles of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to create a fantastic film. This is also Pixar’s scariest film as it paints a portrait of a dismal future where human beings are essentially reduced to physical and intellectual mush. It may not have been Pixar’s intention, but they accurately lay out the perception that most of Hollywood seems to have of Americans – as fat, lazy, and willing to consume anything. They break down that prejudice by creating a work of art so stimulating, it can get anybody off the couch.
2) Finding Nemo (2003)
This may be the funniest of the Pixar films with a brilliant voice acting cast that includes Albert Brooks, Willem Dafoe, and Ellen Degeneres. Pixar shows their ability to take a world that we are already familiar with and brighten it visually and stylistically. It’s an incredibly moving story from the shocking opening scene to the heart-warming finale. I love Nemo’s “lucky fin” as it represents that one flaw that every child has that is the root of their parents’ worry. I believe this film may be responsible for bringing parents and their children closer together and I can’t wait to show it to my kids someday.
1) Ratatouille (2007)
Everybody has their own opinion on which film is Pixar’s masterpiece, but for me Ratatouille is it. It’s a brilliantly intelligent critique on the validity of art that is along the lines of the excellent films of the French New Wave. It is inspirational in its message that anybody who has the heart to do something great can accomplish, no matter what worldly limitations try to get in the way. Anton Ego’s final speech that features his take on what it means to be a critic struck a deep chord with me and is among my favorite movie monologues of all-time. The film is also about the importance of progress. Notice that Remy the protagonist rat is the only one of his kind that walks upright in a bipedal fashion as if to insinuate that he is more evolved than the others. The character with the most culture is the one who is most evolutionarily complete. It’s a message I wholeheartedly support and the reason that Ratatouille is my all-time favorite Pixar movie.
What are your top 10? Start the debate in the comments!