Justine: Ranking Pixar’s Best (and Not)

Pixar and the Pixar Light (c) Walt Disney Studios.

Pixar and Luxo (c) Disney Pixar Animation

This past weekend, my husband and I took our children to see The Good Dinosaur, Pixar’s latest movie. On the way home, hubby started rattling off a variety of different rankings of the 16 Pixar movies, and surprisingly, none of them aligned with what I thought were the best. I think it goes without saying that opinions are subjective. Take the rankings from three different sites:

  • TV Guide (which did not have The Good Dinosaur ranked yet)
  • IGN (a movie, TV, and video game review and discussion site)
  • Rotten Tomatoes (the Tomatometer is the “go-to” for published TV/movie critic opinions of good/bad, shown as a percentage of positive reviews)

The rankings are all different. Not even the #1 movie is the same! All the movies below are ranked from worst to best.

TV Guide IGN Tomatometer (%)
Monsters University Cars 2 Cars 2 (39%)
Cars 2 Cars Cars (74%)
A Bug’s Life A Bug’s Life The Good Dinosaur (75%)
Cars Brave Monsters University (78%)
Ratatouille The Good Dinosaur Brave (78%)
Toy Story 2 Monsters University A Bug’s Life (92%)
Brave Monsters, Inc. Monsters, Inc. (96%)
Monsters, Inc. Ratatouille Ratatouille (96%)
Toy Story 3 Inside Out WALL-E (96%)
Toy Story Finding Nemo The Incredibles (97%)
Up Toy Story 2 Inside Out (98%)
Finding Nemo The Incredibles Up (98%)
Inside Out Toy Story Finding Nemo (99%)
The Incredibles Up Toy Story 3 (99%)
WALL-E WALL-E Toy Story (100%)
  Toy Story 3 Toy Story 2 (100%)

I’ve seen every one of these movies (in some cases, multiple times…like to the power of 10, as is the case with Cars when you have two small boys. I can quote the movie verbatim). There were some that I liked more than others, but I don’t really think I’ve ever analyzed WHY. So I’m going to take a stab at it. Here are my rankings of Pixar movies from “could use improvement” (I hate saying “worst”) to “pretty darn good.”

16. Finding Nemo

I realize that ranking Nemo last is akin to blasphemy for some, but I just couldn’t get into the little fish with the neurotic dad. Yes, it’s a story of growth and overcoming challenges for both father/son. However, the freaky sharks and stoner-like turtles simply didn’t work for me.

15. Cars 2

I have to admit, I really liked Cars and had high hopes for its sequel, but as one reviewer stated on a site I read, the sequel lost the heart of the original. Not even my kids liked it, and they’ll watch just about everything.

14. Brave

Kudos to Pixar for showing a damsel NOT in distress. However, the antics of Merida’s little brothers (as bear cubs) were a bit much. So was the witchy aspect of it. Which explains why I probably don’t read a lot of SFFP.

13. A Bug’s Life

I actually liked this movie, but when you start getting into the others Pixar has to offer, you have to make choices. I like the determination of the bugs to solve their problems (rather than letting coincidence solve it for them). When push comes to shove, I simply admire other Pixar movies more.

12. The Good Dinosaur

(c) 2015 Walt Disney Studios and Pixar

(c) Disney Pixar Animation

The reviews on this one are pretty good, but not stellar. Perhaps it’s the mommy in me that had my heart wrapped around the story from the start. My husband didn’t care for the movie much at all, but I thought it was great, and yes, I cried at the end.

11. Monsters University

Many times, sequels aren’t as good as the original (take Cars 2 for example). In this case, it’s more of a prequel than a sequel, as we learn how Mike and Sully ended up working at Monsters, Inc., and for me, it worked.

10. WALL-E

Yet another ranking that will probably cause some negative comments, but remember, this is my (completely emotional) list. Perhaps it was the lack of dialogue? The inhuman humans? Or the eerie premonition that this is where we’re headed? I’m not sure, but the best part of the movie for me was the cockroach.

9. Toy Story 2

This movie introduced two wonderful characters, Jessie and Bullesye, and a character I dislike — the Prospector. Perhaps it’s that like/dislike combo, but I thought the story was extremely entertaining and a bit of a nail-biter at the end.

8. Ratatouille

I love this movie for its originality. Who would have thought of a rat using someone’s hair to be a great chef? I certainly wouldn’t (which may explain why I’m still unpublished). I’d love to know the name of the person who came up with this great idea. I love how the characters overcome their challenges and surprise everyone in the process.

7. Toy Story

I rank this movie kinda high simply because of its groundbreaking nature. I remember seeing this with my dad and thinking, “Holy smokes! This is unreal!” That led to a debate about whether actors would ever be needed for a movie. Nearly 20 years later, I think we can say that actors are needed, but not because we need to see their face on the screen.

6. Cars

Okay, I’ll admit it. I love this movie. Most folks put it towards the bottom and I can’t understand why. It’s a great lesson in selflessness and pride and being kind to others — everyone else, not just those who can help you. Perhaps it’s because I watched this movie so many times with my kids, but I could watch it again any day, gladly.

5. Up

Probably the only reason I rank this movie so high is because of the 10-minute segment that starts the movie…I was in tears before that was through. However, I do also like the movie’s message — life isn’t over until it’s over. And Russel was cute without being annoying.

4. Toy Story 3

To me, this movie is amazing because of the way in which the characters get out of their trouble. It’s #19 from Pixar’s Story Rules at its best. I also love that in making a 3rd movie with the same characters, they didn’t just extend the same story. They made Andy grow up and move along in the word, and make difficult decisions about toys that are clearly an emotional extension of himself. (Heck, I’m tearing up just writing about it!)

3. Monsters, Inc.

What grabbed me about this movie was its originality. Just as with Ratatouille, I want to know who came up with this idea? It’s fantastic and very well done. Not to mention a heap of fun!

2. Inside Out

I waffled back and forth between #2 and #1, but ultimately, while Inside Out is great for same reasons as Monsters, Inc. (plus the “been there, done that, so-that’s-why-I-was-such-a-pain-in-the-butt-to-my-parents” moment I had at the end), I couldn’t give it top billing. Barely.

1. The Incredibles

(c) Disney Pixar Animation

(c) Disney Pixar Animation

Maybe it’s because I like Marvel and superheroes and original stories and Star Wars, but I absolutely loved this movie. My kids groan when I see it’s on and I change the channel. They’re over it. Holly Hunter is smashing as Elastagirl/mom and Craig T. Nelson plays the perfect superman/clueless dad. I like Syndrome’s hubris and Edna Mode makes a great “tell-it-straight” character. It’s action-packed, original (most Pixar movies are), and super-fun to watch. So, there is it! My ranking of Pixar movies. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Don’t care? What would be your #1 Pixar movie? Your #16?

3 thoughts on “Justine: Ranking Pixar’s Best (and Not)

  1. Confession: I haven’t seen any of these. I don’t have kids, and while I’ll go out to watch a play/movie/ballet/opera, I don’t watch much at home apart from sport. I’ll be on the sofa with a book every time.

    I should probably remedy that, thought, because many people whose opinions I respect go wild for the quality of storytelling in Pixar films – and there are the 22 rules, too, I bought those and had them framed. If you had to recommend one for me to try, which would you choose? Based on your post, I’m thinking Brave – I like a kick-ass heroine and I read a lot of FFP so I’d be happy with a little witchy flavor – or maybe The Incredibles.

    • Oh my, JIlly. You have to get watching! You really understand the Pixar rules more when you have a few of these movies under your belt.

      In all honesty, I’d start with “Inside Out.” Save “The Incredibles” for when you want something fun and fast-paced. But for great storytelling without breaking any rules? “Inside Out,” “WALL-E,” the “Toy Story” films (I’d watch #1 so you can see where Pixar started — it was their first movie — and also so you get a lay of the land regarding the characters, then skip #2 and go to #3), and “Monsters, Inc.” (for its originality).

      If you look at the Tomatometer and go with anything above 90% (which is almost all of them), you can’t go wrong. Even with neurotic fish.

      I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these films!

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