Every Pixar Movie, Ranked
From 'Toy Story' to the groundbreaking animation company's most recent, 'Soul.'
Choosing a favorite Pixar movie is an impossible task we wouldn't wish on anyone—not even Sid, the toy-torturing bully first introduced to audiences back in 1995. But with the release of the life-affirming, genuinely experimental Soul on Disney+, we revisited all 23 Pixar feature films that have made us laugh and (especially) cry over the past 25 years to assess them from worst to best. Grab a hanky—things are about to get kid-friendly but emotionally devastating!
Also see: Pixar's Short Films, Ranked
23. Cars 2 (2011)The stamp of Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter, who took a leave of absence in late 2017 over sexual misconduct allegations and has now left the company, will always be imprinted on the Pixar legacy. Specifically, his love deep love of automobiles. And after the middling Cars netted $10 billion in merchandise sales, Pixar pushed the inevitable sequel into production. Cars 2 is essentially a show floor for Happy Meal toys, doubling down on Larry the Cable Guy’s insufferable Mater by sending him on a global spy mission. Nodding to Connery-era Bond and packing in more action couldn’t prevent Cars 2 from clunking out.
22. Cars 3 (2017)Cars 3 delivers exactly what you'd expect from yet another Cars movie: more cars! Facing new competition from a souped-up sports vehicle voiced by Armie Hammer, and struggling to connect with an excitable new trainer (stand-up Cristela Alonzo), intrepid series hero Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) must recover from an accident, go through a bunch of Rocky-style training scenes, and make peace with being washed up. It's an odd premise for a family movie, especially a series as kiddie-friendly as this one, but the writers don't seem interested in pushing the idea in any deep or strange directions. Instead, you get more warmed-over nostalgia, including a back-from-the-dead voice cameo from Paul Newman, and some colorful racing sequences. Might be time for this franchise to head to the great junkyard-in-the-sky.
21. Brave (2012)The studio’s only "princess" movie is so determined to avoid Disney’s past clichés that it never figures out what to do with the fiery Scottish lass, Merida. Set in a 10-mile radius of the Highlands, Brave is a daughter-mother road movie that only kicks off 30 minutes into its runtime. Rousing bagpipe music goes a long way.
20. Monsters University (2013)The sequelization of Pixar's universe has been somewhat dispiriting to watch unfold, given how trailblazing the studio’s best work tends to be. Technically, this is a prequel, a campus comedy about how Mike and Sully first learned to scare together. Were fans really itching to learn this backstory? Probably not. But you can tell the writers had a lot of fun slyly parodying elements of Animal House and other college classics. Despite some lame bits, it earns a passing grade.
19. Cars (2006)As aforementioned, the Cars franchise seems to be a shared labor of love between Lasseter and Disney’s accounting department, but the first movie does have a light, nostalgic touch to it that separates it from some of the company’s more critically acclaimed, existentially bleak films. The presence of Paul Newman’s gravelly voice as Doc (in his final non-documentary role) lends the film a layer of poignancy, and the animation team’s rendering of desolate American roads makes the predictable plotting and occasionally overbearing gags glide by like a good road trip should.
18. The Good Dinosaur (2015)Pixar is not in the "kids' movie" business. Its characters are bubbly, the stories are simple, but the stories are designed for all ages, all minds, all senses of humor. The Good Dinosaur is as close as the company's come to a feature for the wee ones—and it thrives for it. Sharing DNA with The Lion King, the prehistoric feature follows a young, anxiety-ridden apatosauruses named Arlo who loses his father, loses his way, and becomes an independent lizard with the help of his pet human. The Good Dinosaur is a road movie, a sweet one at that, with hyperrealistic backdrops, cartoonish characters, and childlike wonder. It's not for everyone because it's not supposed to be.
17. A Bug's Life (1998)Stuck in never-ending, media-devised competition with Dreamworks’ Antz, which premiered just a month prior, this micro-riff on Seven Samurai is low-key and noble. The straight adventure doesn’t glow like Pixar’s emotionally meaty movies, but with eccentric characters and a scrappy heart—courtesy of NewsRadio-era Kids in the Hall alum Dave Foley—the movie has a taken-for-granted kid’s movie quality: fun.
16. Finding Dory (2016)Sometimes the best supporting characters are second bananas for a reason: they exist to prop up the hero on his or her journey. Luckily, the forgetful bluefish Dory is the rare sidekick who can swim on her own. While it hits many of the same emotional and story beats of the original—this time Dory is the one looking for her parents, leaving Marlin (Albert Brooks) to track her down to a fish rehabilitation center in California—this clever sequel delivers enough memory-loss gags, light parental trauma, and show-stopping, Fast and Furious-style set pieces to keep adults entertained and kids enthralled. Sure, it lacks the poignant, manipulative power of the Toy Story sequels, but there's still a surprising amount of depth to this DeGeneres deep dive.
15. Onward (2020)After two straight years of sequels, Pixar finally returns to original material with Onward, an adventure story about two elf brothers and their father's legs. Yes, you read that correctly. Not their father. Their father's legs. On Ian Lightfoot's (Tom Holland) 16th birthday, his mother gives him and his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) a gift from the father he never really knew. It's a wizard's staff and a spell so that the brothers can spend one more day with their long dead dad. Unfortunately, the spell only half works—leaving them with a parent sans torso and head—so they have to go on a quest to restore their pop's full body before time is up and they never get to see him again. The driving concept behind Onward's setting is basically: What if people in Middle Earth got technology and stopped practicing magic? And it's a clever one that doesn't necessarily feel realized to its full potential. Barley, a perfect role for Pratt, is a true believer, which looks something like a D&D obsessive. However, Ian is the one who possesses a gift he must harness to get to meet his father for the first time. Onward veers from near horrifying absurdism—the legs are really freaky—to goofy earnestness to tear-provoking emotion. And while it never reaches the transcendent heights of the studio's best work, it's a lovely story of trying to connect with a loved one after loss.
14. Incredibles 2 (2018)After over a decade in hiding, Brad Bird's Incredibles, a superpowered family of neurotic do-gooders, return for a sequel that takes a little while to get going but still delivers the visual goods. Following a pair of live-action blockbusters, including the ridiculously entertaining Tom Cruise vehicle Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Bird's animation come-back displays a commitment to making his action sequences as kinetic and thrilling as possible. There's a train rescue mission led by Holly Hunter's Elastigirl in this movie that would make James Cameron and George Miller weep. Unfortunately, some of the connective tissue that gets us from spectacle to spectacle is distractingly flimsy—Screenslaver, the masked villain of the movie, is a dud—but you might be so knocked out by the frenzied set-pieces that you don't even notice.
13. Monsters, Inc. (2001)After imagining toys have rich inner lives, it was logical that Pixar would give complex emotions to another childhood trope: the monsters hiding in your closet. Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) are the creatures assigned to harvest the screams of a cute little girl named Boo, but what makes the movie more than just a cleverly executed trifle is the commitment to world-building. Even if Crystal’s humor can grate at times, the richly imagined parallel city of Monstropolis is worth getting lost in again and again.
12. Toy Story 2 (1999)Pixar’s first sequel did more than reverse the original’s equation. Examining mid-life crisis, Pixar spliced sci-fi adventure (introducing Buzz’s nemesis, the oft-mentioned Zurg) into the sorrowful story of Jessie the Cowgirl, a toy whose owner grew up and gave her away. For a retread, the Jessie flashback scene set to Sarah McLachlan’s "When She Loved Me" is as crushing as the most championed Pixar moments.
11. Coco (2017)Following the disappointing The Good Dinosaur and two sequels to old properties, Coco was a much-needed jolt of originality. There are certainly elements of previous Pixar movies in this story centered around a young boy's journey on the Day of the Dead—the vision of the afterlife is a bit like Monsters Inc.'s nightmare world, the generational divide will likely remind you of Up, and the emotionally brutal finale is as mournful and psychologically fraught as Toy Story 3's climax—but director Lee Unkrich and his collaborators approach every aspect of the tale, from the world-building to the slapstick dog gags, with gusto. Taking a page out of the traditional Disney playbook, this is the first Pixar film to heavily rely on original songs, and they're stunners. The sequence built around "Remember Me," the Oscar-winning song performed by multiple characters, belongs in Pixar's tearjerker Hall of Fame.
10. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Sequels generally suck, and don’t even get us started on third installments. Yet much like its predecessor, Toy Story 3 proved exceptional. Buzz and Woody were peopled with equally memorable new faces like tyrannical Sunnyside Daycare tyrant Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear and a dandyish Ken doll who sounds suspiciously like Batman. Much like the previous iterations, toys are an allegory for a certain stage of Andy's life—in this case, he's college-bound and has outgrown his old playmates—and the film is shot through with themes of death, abandonment, and decay, resulting in the sort of constant oscillation between laughter and tears that only Pixar provides.