Top Pixar Movies (Updated)

As is usually the case on the internet,  my previous post on environmentalism sparked a side-discussion in the comments about Pixar movies.  I wasn’t able to enter the fray because I was a little busy helping deliver my second-born daughter into this world, but I couldn’t let the topic go without comment.  So what better way to get my blogging feet wet again after a little bit of a lay-off than a light post about the best Pixar movies.  So though this is neither a political or religious post, I ask for your indulgence.

It would be nice to say that my interest in Pixar movies was sparked because of my two-year old, but I saw all of these well before she was born.  We have most of the Pixar collection, but it’s not exactly a parental chore to have to sit through these over and over and over and over and over and over again.  Of course now she’s really into Shrek, which happens to be a Dreamworks production.  We also have a few movies from the Disney collection: The Princess Frog and Tangled being among her current favorites.  And her first love will always be Pooh, that silly old bear.  By and large, though, Pixar has been churning out the best of the 3D animated flicks.  In fact I’d put every movie on the Pixar list ahead of any movie on the Dreamworks list save Shrek (1 and 2) and Wallace and Gromit.

So with that in mind, here’s my rundown of the five best Pixar animated films.  I’d just mention that the only one I haven’t seen is the one that sparked the entire discussion: Cars (and now Cars 2).

Honorable Mentions: All of the ones not on this list.  Seriously, Pixar has not made a movie that I have not thoroughly enjoyed.

5. Finding Nemo:  I often overlook this one, possibly because it’s the only one we don’t own.  But it’s a sweet tale that has a couple of great characters voiced by Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres.  Favorite part:  “Mine!”

4. Monster’s Inc. This was one of the first heavy rotation movies for my oldest.  Despite repeated (and I mean repeated) viewings, it never gets tired.  Little Boo is probably the most adorable cartoon child ever, and reminds me of a little certain someone.  I’m also happy to hear that a sequel will be coming in a couple of years.

3. Ratatouille: This is the one that motivated me to write this post as someone mentioned that this was their least favorite Pixar movie.  I thought just the opposite, obviously.  It’s a clever movie that has one of the great monologues towards the end about criticism of art versus creation of art.  It also never fails to whet my appetite just thinking of all the great recipes Remy concocts.  As a matter of fact I could go for some brie right now.

2. The Incredibles.  This is a movie that should have been nominated for best picture – it probably should have won best picture.  It was certainly superior to Million Dollar Baby, and it had a far superior message to boot.  It’s always risky injecting politics into a movie, especially a cartoon one, but The Incredibles had a couple of themes that cultural conservatives would have nodded their heads in approval of, especially about the importance of family. This message would have been brought home even more had one of the deleted scenes been included – one where Helen Parr, voiced by Holly Hunter, is attacked for being a stay at home mother.  She defends herself by arguing that her job was tougher and more important than any other career.  Additionally, the denigration of the idea that “when everybody is super – no one will be” is a blow against the egalitarian ethos.  I particularly enjoyed it when Bob mocks the idea of a step-up ceremony or whatever it was that they called it when Dash simply moved up a grade.  More importantly, though, it’s just a great movie.

1. Toy Story trilogy.  It’s a bit of a cheat to include all of them, but it’s hard to separate them.  The last installment in particular was simply one of the best movies ever made, cartoon or not.  It’s actually quite dark, yet it’s not so dark that a kid is necessarily going to be frightened by it.  There is one plot hole that has always bothered me, and it was mentioned on the IMDB page of the first one: if toys act so as not to make humans aware that they are alive, and Buzz is unaware that he is a toy, then how come Buzz never reveals that he is in fact alive before he comes to know the truth about himself?  More importantly, why am I nitpicking a cartoon?

Update: I see that Stephen Greydanus tackled this subject, only he pondered the worst Pixar movies.  As I said, I’ve never seen Cars, and A Bug’s Life is one I haven’t seen in a long time, though I did enjoy it.

20 Responses to Top Pixar Movies (Updated)

  • Congrats on your newborn!

    I like all but Monsters Inc. (during which I fell asleep) and Toy Story 3.

    Ratatouille is my favorite.

  • Incredibles is at the head of my list. What does it say about the topsy turvy times in which we live that in the past decade the best depiction of a normal loving family is an animated flic about a family of superheroes?

  • Perhaps it is a testament to the high quality of Pixar’s product that people on both sides of the ideological aisle enjoy and find deeper meaning in the movies, but there seems to be a compelling case that there are “hidden” messages supporting the transhumanist or everything’s-a-person-except-the-unborn crowd. From Discover Magazine:

    The message hidden inside Pixar’s magnificent films is this: humanity does not have a monopoly on personhood. In whatever form non- or super-human intelligence takes, it will need brave souls on both sides to defend what is right. If we can live up to this burden, humanity and the world we live in will be better for it.

    An entire generation has been reared with the subconscious seeds of these ideas planted down deep. As history moves forward and technology with it, these issues will no longer be the imaginings of films and fiction, but of politics and policy. But Pixar has settled the personhood debate before it arrives. By watching our favorite films, we have been taught that being human is not the same as being a person. We have been shown that new persons and forms of personhood can come from anywhere. Through Pixar, we have opened ourselves to a better future.

  • Something I pointed out to my better half some time ago was that, although Pixar’s animation is stellar, what makes the movies popular is the story they tell. The animation could have been 2D and the movies still would have been successful because of the stories.

    My little boy loves Cars. I previously posted about how many things he has with Cars on it. I am partial to Cars because when I was a little boy, I loved playing with toy cars and watching Speed Racer.

    Toy Story 2 is the best one, followed by Cars, Incredibles, Monsters Inc. and Toy Story 3.

    Most of Dreamworks’ stuff isn’t as good, but their Penguins of Madagascar characters are the best of any of the new 3-D animation, by far.

  • Josh,

    There is clearly more than a subliminal message being pushed by Pixar.

  • Congratulations to you and your wife, Paul, on the new family member! Keep up the good work repopulating our society with good Catholic citizens!

    Great post, but I have to give you a big raspberry for completely forgetting the BEST Pixar movie ever made, especially for pro-life, pro-family Christians: UP! :mrgreen: Yes, it may have been distributed by Disney, but it is a Pixar film, through and through.

    I would agree on The Incredibles being the second best, as well, and for the same reasons I stated above, as did Paul in his original post.

  • Grats on #2!

    I still say The Incredibles was the best new movie I’ve seen in a very long time. The betrayal suspicions were beautifully done, and it’s a shame that such work doesn’t show up in “real” movies.* You might enjoy Cars– I half-watched it with Elf, he enjoyed it, I wasn’t hugely annoyed by it. (I really don’t enjoy most movies, or even TV shows. Not sure why, just feels like there’s no purpose to watching most of them.)

    *on a slightly related tangent, the Ricochet podcast mentioned after a lot of talk about the lack of pro-American movies that there IS a director who is pro-military, openly, and is hugely popular for it– his latest movie is “Transformers 3.” Reminded me that I fell in love with the Iron Man movie when they manged to get pitch perfect with the military kids at the beginning. Why do we have to go to fantastic fiction movies to get this kind of decent writing?!?!?

  • Hello,

    I enjoyed reading your piece on the monks of Tibhirine (Feb 27, 2011) as I was researching the film, OF GODS AND MEN, which comes out for digital download on Tuesday. Then I saw this discussion on Pixar movies, and I figured I found a film-loving crowd.
    I work for Film Fresh, and I wrote the short description for OF GODS AND MEAN that will be on our website on Tuesday (when the film will be released for home viewing), so I found some great background information on that entry. I was moved by the descriptions of the film and I look forward to seeing it on Tuesday since I missed it in the theaters. I thought I’d drop you a note to let you know we have it available. We’re an independent website that sells films for download – we’re so much smaller than Amazon and Blockbuster that we really make an effort to get great films like OF GODS AND MEN noticed by communities of people who care about the power of film with substance. Thanks!

    Katie
    katie@filmfresh.com

  • I’ll leave Ratatouille alone for right now, but there’s no way Monster’s Inc is a better movie than Wall-E. Wall-E is a tremendous film in part because it escapes the vapid environmentalism Cars 2 falls into at times (though having seen it, I think it’s less pro-environment then the reviews suggested). Simply put, Wall-E is not about the environment but more about consumerism and how a desire to fit in with the culture and consume what we’re told is dehumanizing. While this has an impact on the environment, the potency of the movie is more in exploring how the humans lost their humanity. It’s very well done artistically.

    AND HOW IS “UP” NOT ON THIS LIST!!!! Talk about a beautiful movie. I can understand why you may not like Wall-e, but Up’s as good a movie as you can get. I’m curious why you don’t like it, or don’t like it as much

    If I had to do a Pixar list, it would be:
    1. Up
    2. Toy Story 2 & 3
    3. The Incredibles
    4. Wall-E
    5. Cars
    6. Finding Nemo

  • First of all, thanks all for you well wishes.

    As for Michael, well I like both movies you mentioned a lot. As I said, there’s not a stinker in the Pixar lot, and I would agree with your assessment of Wall-E. I debated putting Wall-E ahead of Finding Nemo, but flipped a coin (not literally) and went with the Nemo. As for Up, it might be a case where I simply didn’t watch it as much as the others and it hasn’t quite reached my favorites list.

  • Penguins Fan, I think you’re referring to Madagascar, which was a Dream works production.

  • Although I generally say Pixar consistently performs better than Dreamworks, there are a few cases where it’s pretty close between them; for instance, Prince of Egypt rivals the best Pixar films, and Road to El Dorado comes pretty close. Of course, these were classic painted cell animation productions.

  • I can respect that. I’m also going to say that Cars 2 is not a bad movie, but it is a bad Pixar movie, which is why it was skewered. Pixar was an exception in the mindless movie making that has dominated the summer (see Transformers) and to see it come down a lot for what was plainly an effort to makeup for lost merchandising with “Up” was disappointing.

  • I have trouble ranking them because they’re so different, but my favorite Pixar films roughly ranked would be:

    1. The Incredibles
    2. Ratatouille
    3. Up
    4. Wall-E

    I enjoy the Toy Story movies, but somehow the travails of old toys don’t do it for me as much as the others. (How a rat and a robot rate higher, I can’t provide a rational explanation, I’m just more into the priorities of the Wall-E and Remy characters than I am into any of the Toy Story ones.)

    Bugs Life and Cars I would definitely rate the lowest of the Pixar movies, with Monsters Inc. being a better movie than those two but generally pretty light weight.

  • The linked Toy Story scene:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy-1xI1nbao

    has always brought to my mind this Teddy Roosevelt quote:

    “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

  • Josh: Are you being serious? Is Discovery being serious? Because if so, then A.A. Milne was there a LOT time ago with Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore; and Beatrix Potter was there before that — as was Frank Baum (a tin man — oh horror!) and Lewis Carrol. Not to mention Herman Melville and that giant whale.

    Wall-E is my absolute favorite. I didn’t think it was environmentalist at all. It seemed obvious to me that the giant mess the world was in was an exaggeration about how children need to learn to clean up after themselves and take care of their things, just as all the people were like fat little children, drinking milkshakes and riding around on toys and watching television. The end was beautifully moving, not just the message about love, but the message that — no matter how messed up the world was — people belonged on it and not flying around playing games forever, no matter how much fun they were having. Being back on the world was a far greater adventure than space, and life is always worth hard work and risk.

  • Gail-
    Heck, forget Pooh, the Catholic Church was there a long time ago, with the whole rational soul thing. (ignoring special cases like the Trinity)

    I seem to remember one of the big thinkers did a section on dog-headed men being people, as a sort of thought experiment…..

  • And naturally this weekend my father-in-law did some DVD shopping and we’re watching Cars. Yep, definitely the weakest of the bunch. The “oh for the days when it took ten times as long to get places, dang you interstates” scene is the pinnacle of absurdity.

    What galls about such scenes is that you know 95% of the people associated with the film couldn’t give two figs about small towns, but at least it gives them all an excuse for moral preening.

  • Paul- if you look at it as a version of the desire for the time when people had to live, work and interact in their “community,” it makes sense. I think there was a big talk on this here a while back? I know “What’s Wrong With The World” had one about a month back.
    (Similar grouping, though– for every person who just wishes that folks would have a sense of community, there seem to be a dozen who really, really like controlling how other people are allowed to live.)

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