Disney Pixar is arguably the most consistent studio in the world of cinema, with their filmography bursting with an abundance of successful and adored films that have won the world over. From personified emotions to racing cars, monsters to superheroes and robots to toys, their inventiveness never ceases to amaze, inspire and impress. Almost every film is a critical and commercial home run and rarely do they put a foot wrong - but with so many successes, how do they compare? In preperation for their seventeenth film, Finding Dory, I have ranked their other efforts to find the ultimate winner. I must stress now, that each of these films are in their own way watchable (and enjoyable) and this was one of the most difficult lists to compile; still, I have finalised my thoughts, so let me know what you think.
Now updated with Finding Dory, awaiting the release of Cars 3
Without further ado...
17. Cars 2
Pixar's weakest is by no means a bad film - a testament to the studio's continual high-quality and originality - but it is merely forgettable. In order to create this ranking, I needed a plot-refresher and even that wasn't quite enough for me to recall the whole thing, and never once was I compelled to watch the film again. Pixar's biggest missteps simply does not have much of a story to tell and what it does is not handled to the best of studios ability, with characters that do not connect and a paper-thin story. Whilst the production remains stunning, with thanks to the beautiful landscapes, Cars 2 is as close to a fail as Pixar has gotten.
Summary: Cars 2 is the definition of mediocre, and because of Pixar's high standards and quality, it feels even worse than that.
Cars 2 cannot get all the stick, because quite frankly, it's the sequel to a film that is only a shadow of what Pixar can do. Cars introduces some potentially interesting characters, most of which are completely jeopardised by the thinly-written and plotted story that never feels as natural as it should. Beautifully animated (as we always expect) but that can only distract for so long enough from the otherwise underwhelming and relatively weak film (and franchise branch). With Cars 3 coming soon, I can't say I'll be racing to the cinema, given the 'failure' of the two previous instalments.
Summary: Cars features possibly interesting and warm characters, unfortunately jeopardised by a poor story that fails to compel.
15. The Good Dinosaur
Pixar's latest, The Good Dinosaur, is the only other mis-step outside the Cars franchise mainly because it lacks the heart, emotion and humour of other offerings. The interesting premise - dinosaurs living alongside humans - has so much potential that is simply not explored as profoundly as you would hope, feeling terribly limited in the audience is targets which reflects the minor box office revenue (for those who do not know, the film became Pixar's first true 'flop' when it was released late last year).
Summary: The Good Dinosaur feels strictly for children, defying all that Pixar has worked towards, including their usual four-quadrant appeal.
14. A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life has the basics of what makes Pixar so special but given that this is just their second instalment in their filmography, the film rarely progresses past that. The characters and story both generally serves their purposes, without ever going above and beyond that. It is not as charming as it could be, or should be, and feels more squarely aimed at children, opposed to the adults that are watching it with them, and inspires little enthusiasm. Still, many other studios would hope to produce a film that is this watchable so early on in their lifetime.
Summary: A Bug's Life captures Pixar's basic magic but does not progress past that, given that it is so early on in the studio's filmography,
Brave defied my expectations and offered a generally inspiring and empowering film set in the Scottish Highlands. With a surprising serving of heart and deft, despite the slightly audacious mid-point twist, Brave surprised me in the messages it delivered that demonstrated the importance of family relationship and communication. While never as original or formidable as you would like or expect, the solid cast - who truly bring to life these characters - are enough to make you laugh and fall in love with them, providing an entertaining watch.
Summary: Brave summons an excellent cast and wonderful animation to combat a story that unevenly wavers between being too generic and too insanely off-key, in an otherwise inspiring tale.
This is where it begins to get difficult, as Ratatouille is a completely enjoyable film but not as memorable as it needed to be to be further up this list. The unusual protagonist defies what one expects of a 'hero' figure and the strange pairing are really quite charming, encouraging you to engage in their challenges and hurdles they must overcome. The one thing lacking in the film though is balance - it feels more geared towards kids than adults (something Pixar usually master and balance completely)
Summary: Ratatouille is not a complete success like many of Pixar's other films, but still serves up a dish of charm and entertainment captured in the beautiful Parisian setting.
11. The Incredibles
The Incredibles power lies in its themes - the importance of family, celebrating uniqueness and unity - and crafts a tale far more enjoyable that I initially suspected. Driven by its wit, ability to have a lot of fun and humour, The Incredibles story-telling and narrative is a big charm the film has, much like the central superhero family, but loses its way a little as we approach the bombastic finale. I wanted the film to do more, and perhaps the upcoming sequel in 2019 will deliver, but it is otherwise another entertaining gem in Pixar's filmography. It is only so far down the list because of the insane competition....
Summary: The Incredibles is a whole lot of superhero fun with strong moral messages and themes at its core, but it feels like too many cooks spoil the broth (but only a little) and leaves you wanting more.
10. Monsters University
Pixar undeniably have a lot of fun with Monsters University, acting as a prequel to the original. I would happily argue that this is their most stunningly animated film to date, bursting with colour and an abundance of beauty with a plethora of old favourites and new characters who are just as compelling. It (very occasionally) ends up feeling a little repetitive and the need for the prequel is sometimes question, but if it allows us to spend more time with the lovable leading pair, who is really complaining?
Summary: Gorgeously animated with a lot of throwaway fun and fluff, Monsters University gives an impressionable backstory to Mike and Sully in a solid narrative, even if it isn't quite necessary.
Pixar are great at taking something completely recognisable and relatable - children's fear of the monsters under their bed - and twist it entirely on their head, bringing a whole new world to explore. Monsters Inc uses this fear to both legitimise it, and to mock it, while still managing to craft lovable characters in a narrative that could very easily been handled completely wrong; Pixar, of course, nail it and create one of the studios most popular franchises in the process.
Summary: Monsters Inc takes an intriguing and recognisable concept and creates cinema magic with it, through the lovable characters and cracking animation that populates it.
Pixar have always been known to take complex ideas and themes and present them in understandable scenarios that are more accessible by and for younger audiences; WALL-E takes some incredibly advanced themes and forms a running social commentary on the dangers of mass consumerism, the environment, increased volume of waste, technology and religion - themes which shouldn't really work in an animated film primary for children, but Pixar really make work. It is incredibly clever, benevolent and, in a number of ways, inspiring, all of which are presented through more lovable characters from the Pixar brand.
Summary: While possible not as family-friendly, WALL-E takes some incredibly complex themes - mass consumerism, environment and waste - and beautifully brings them to live through two robots that fall in love.
Finding Nemo takes things back to basics after some more concept-driven adventures, and that somehow makes it more enjoyable. The beautiful ocean setting makes it one of Pixar's most stunning animations to date and also encourages reflection on the role of family - a theme typically common among Pixar's filmography - as well as the importance of identity and growing up. It spends a lot of time developing even the most minor of characters, which makes them so compelling and audience's so invested (and what encouraged a certain sequel...)
Summary: Finding Nemo mixes a whole lot of fun in the sea with poignant themes, carried by some of Pixar's most popular and loveable characters brought to life by an excellently-selected cast.
6. Toy Story 2
The Toy Story franchise is one of the most consistent trilogies in the history of cinema, and splitting the three is an almost impossible task but Toy Story 2 wound up at the bottom of that list, but still cracking the top five of the overall ranking. Expanding on the original but sticking to the successful formula, TS2 gives us more of what we love, if playing it a little bit too safe. It is still an absolute delight, thanks to the fantastic characters and cast, and if this is the franchise 'low', you can only imagine its pinnacle.
Summary: A delightful second instalment in the Toy Story franchise - that could have very easily gone wrong - Toy Story 2 gives us more of what we loved from the first film with even more likeable characters than before.
5. Finding Dory
Whilst the gorgeous animation, impressive voice cast and technical skill are all incredibly important and central to the film's overall success, it is the subtlety in its inspiring themes that make Finding Dory work so profoundly. The plethora of messages - home, identity, love, family - gives something for all the family to appreciate, and learn from, without ever feeling heavy-handed or out of place. Finding Dory is an absolute gem and, rather controversially, I prefer it to Finding Nemo.
If it wasn't for Toy Story, the land of animation would be a completely different place today. It feels that, in a way, every nomination today has somewhat been inspired by Toy Story. Pixar's first offering was wise, skilful and developed beyond its years and introduces us to characters that have remained relevant and loveable twenty one years after the fact. A simple story, but one that revolutionised cinema, Toy Story carries so much charm that you can still feel it today.
Summary: The story that started it all (both the franchise and the studio), Toy Story revolutionised the world of animation (and cinema in general) and will hold a place in the heart of any Pixar fans.
From the first nine minutes alone, Up manages to craft a stunning portrait of life, giving audience's a taste of the multitude of themes present in the film - love, friendship, death and regret - all of which set the heartbreaking but life-affirming story in motion. Bringing together unlikely people, tolerance and acceptance are encouraged with genuine depth and the touching relationships, especially between Carl and Ellie and Carl and Russell, presented show yet again the character-driven element Pixar always do so well, often effortless. Up is a special gift, presented with thousands of balloons.
Summary: Up soars because of its touching and profound storyline, loveable characters and stunning themes which teach of the value friendship with Pixar undoubted magic.
Toy Story 3 will always be remember for the truly heartbreaking and harrowing furnace scene, which reduced people of all ages to tears - only Pixar could do that. These characters hold such a place in audience's hearts that their impending death has such an impact on them; everything down to the precise and profound world and character building and development, the moving storyline and plot and the sheer investment you have in the anthropomorphic character's lives. Toy Story 3 does what no one imagined it could - keep the standard of the franchise sky-high (and in my opinion, bettered them).
Summary: Toy Story 3 somehow manages to improve on the insane success of its predecessors, crafting an emotionally-driven story with characters we truly care about, ending the near-perfect trilogy on a high note.
1. Inside Out
Fighting off all competition to claim the top spot is the impeccable Inside Out, the studio's fifteenth film and proof that the company are still on the top of their game. Beautifully animated and stunningly narrated, the film takes place in the mind of a young girl, personifying each emotion and documenting their journey in realising the importance of joy, sadness and balance, brought to life through the incredible voice cast. Balancing humour and emotion, Inside Out is a heartfelt and sincere masterclass and a true emotional rollercoaster, standing out as an absolute gem that should be at the very forefront of Pixar's well deserved crown.
FULL REVIEW (also my first ever)