Picking out the best Pixar movies is like picking a favorite child. It’s wrong and uncomfortable, and undoubtedly shame and guilt will follow.
I could have made it easy by ranking all of Pixar’s movies, but these five are the best for personal reasons shared below.
Read on to see what did make my top five!
1. Wall-E (2008)
Wall-E is not only Pixar’s best-animated movie, but it’s also Disney’s. It’s a bold claim considering Disney’s body of work started in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and includes hits like The Lion King. What’s even bolder is that it’s only the movie’s first act that’s special.
If you haven’t seen Wall-E‘s first 30 minutes, stop what you’re doing and watch. It touches on nostalgia, keepsakes, daily grind, and the trepidation of making new friends. Its cinematic perfection and what Pixar was able to do with a trash compactor borders on witchcraft.
This doesn’t mean Wall-E‘s second and third acts aren’t great. They’re definitely fun, with a scary accurate social parody where humans are reliant on machines and obsessed with screens. It just never again hits the heights of those first 30 minutes.
2. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy Story 2 remains the best in the series.
Toy Story was the movie that made Pixar numero uno in big-screen animation. As an animation student, I remember watching Woody and Co. at the theatre thinking, “this is the future.” Considering the stories Pixar has told, I wasn’t wrong.
Despite being left open-mouthed by Toy Story, its sequel was the better movie. For me, the Roundup Gang, Woody’s origin, and the lovable Bullseye are the pinnacle of this series. Together, they’re a flashback to classic cowboys and collectible toys that tap into my nostalgia. Whenever something can do that, I can’t help but become attached.
In 2000, Toy Story 2 became the third-highest-grossing animated movie of all time behind The Lion King and Aladdin. It made a whopping $497.4-million at the box office and has a rating of 100 percent by critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
3. Ratatouille (2007)
Out of all the movies available, Ratatouille was the one my daughter watched over and over. Who would have thought a story about a cuisine cooking rat could grab a child’s attention, besides Pixar?
I have asked but she cannot remember why she liked it so much. Maybe it’s because the movie is about a rat-controlled boy. Regardless, it inspired my daughter to try cooking, and no other movie has ever turned engagement into motivation.
I know that letting my daughter repeatedly watch Ratatouille could be called bad parenting but each time she did, I’d get something baked. Thank you, Remy the rat — and Pixar!
The $47 million Ratatouille earned at the US box office made it the worst Pixar opening since A Bug’s Life. Despite this, the movie went on to gross $620.7 million globally and earned a rating of 96 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
4. Finding Dory (2016)
Unlike the Toy Story series, I cannot pick my favorite movie between Finding Nemo or Finding Dory. They’re both great, so it came down to which has my favorite characters — and that’s definitely Finding Dory.
First, we have Gerald the sea lion, who gets barked off a rock by Idris Elba and Dominic West (also sea lions). What’s fantastic is later Gerald gets on the rock, and his face is worth the one million memes it became.
Then we have Becky, who in all honesty needs her own movie. She looks crazy, acts crazy, and caused me to cry raspberry tears at the movie theatre. Disney and Pixar need to add a hazard warning “do not watch Becky while drinking.”
Finding Dory is a must-watch movie if for nothing more than to watch Becky eating a cup or chanting with Dory and all the other fish. Those two moments — and Gerald, of course — make this movie worth the Disney Plus subscription fee alone.
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Up has a similar structure to Wall-E, with its beginning being memorable for grownups. It’s a movie about loneliness, missed adventures, and lost love. Not once does it try to be for children; it only wants to connect, and it does.
Then Russell appears and the Pixar cuteness and comedy ramps up. It’s great fun, and Kevin, the female bird swaying with Russell between her legs, is the movie’s funniest moment.
Up is Pixar’s best story. It doesn’t have the impact of Wall-E‘s opening act, yet its ending is as poignant, heartfelt, and relevant as the movie’s beginning. It may not have the laughs of some of Pixar’s other movies, but it’s a must-watch for anyone with Disney+.
Up made $735.1 million globally, with $293 million coming from the United States and Canada alone. It also earned a rating of 98 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the second-highest-rated movie on this best-of-Pixar list.