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Every ‘Toy Story’ Movie Ranked Best To Worst

Toy Story first premiered in 1995 and went down in history for its innovative 3D animation. To this day, it is still considered one of the best-animated films ever made and has grown into a bustling media franchise. The Toy Story franchise has produced 6 films so far—Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, and Toy Story 4, as well as the spin-off film Lightyear. Another spin-off, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins, was a straight-to-video release in 2D animation.

The basic premise of the Toy Story series is that toys, unbeknownst to their owners, are actually alive and have exciting adventures. Throughout the Toy Story films, the toys deal with a slew of problems like being there for their owner, their owner outgrowing them, finding new children to give them purpose, and facing competition and jealousy from new toys. However, the toys often learn valuable lessons of acceptance, friendship, embracing change, and the beauty of imagination.

The Toy Story films, which stretch from 1995 – 2022, all still resonate deeply with audiences today. The humor is still on point, the voice acting performances from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are still phenomenal, the animation is groundbreaking, and the stories are wholesome, sweet, and imaginative. Here are all the Toy Story films, including the two spin-offs, ranked from best to worst.

1. Toy Story

Tim Allen and Tom Hanks as Buzz and Woody in Toy Story

Toy Story premiered in 1995 and made history as the first ever fully computer animated feature film, as well as Pixar’s first film. The film follows Woody (Tom Hanks), a devoted and loyal cowboy who prides himself as being his owner Andy’s (John Morris) favorite toy. However, his position as Andy’s number 1 is threatened when Andy gets a spaceman toy, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Woody’s jealousy leads both toys into the grasps of the sadistic neighbor boy, Sid Phillips (Erik von Detten). The two must learn to work together and put aside their differences if either of them ever wants to see Andy again.

Not only was Toy Story historical animation-wise, but it offered strong performances across the board, a unique plot, and Randy Newman’s masterful original score. Some Toy Story fans have literally been singing Newman’s iconic “You Got A Friend in Me” for 27-years and still aren’t tired of it. Toy Story is a timeless story that never seems to age. Nearly three decades later, it’s as relatable to kids and adults today as it was in 1995. Meanwhile, it set a precedent for every computer-animated film that would follow it and showed the world what Pixar and computer animation could truly accomplish. Other Toy Story films may rival it in quality, but none can top the historical achievements of the first film.

2. Toy Story 2

Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye in Toy Story 2

Toy Story 2 premiered in 1999 and was the highly anticipated sequel to Toy Story. The film follows Woody (Hanks), who is mistakenly placed in a garage sale by Andy’s mother (Laurie Metcalf). He is then stolen by a toy collector and the rest of the gang quickly sets out to save him. Woody, though, learns that he’s a very valuable collectible, inspired by a TV show, Woody’s Roundup. He also meets Jessie (Joan Cusack), Bullseye, and the Prospector (Kelsey Grammar), who are all also part of the Woody’s Roundup toy collection. As he delves into his history, he questions if he truly wants to return to being Andy’s toy.

Toy Story 2 did what seemed impossible and established itself as a very worthy sequel of Toy Story. The film is beautifully animated, captures the tone and imagination of the first film, and still provides a story that was original, unique, and differentiated itself from the first film. Even just four years later, the improvement in animation is extremely noticeable in Toy Story 2. Meanwhile, the story may even outshine the first in sophistication as it delves into Woody and Jessie’s pasts and the way they fear rejection from their owners. The score is once again top-notch and the Randy Newman-written song, “When She Loved Me” was almost as iconic as “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

3. Toy Story 3

Lotso, Buzz, and Woody in Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 premiered in 2010 and explored what happens when Andy Davis (Morris) outgrows his toys. In the film, Andy is 17-years-old and headed to college. While he hasn’t played with his toys in years, he plans to take Woody (Hanks) to college with him and leave the rest in the attic. However, the toys are accidentally thrown in the trash by Andy’s mother (Metcalf). The toys, believing Andy threw them away on purpose, donate themselves to a daycare. Their adventure becomes a fight for survival and the toys must decide what they want for their future.

Toy Story 3 is the first and only Toy Story film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. An animated film being nominated for that award is exceedingly rare and hasn’t occurred since. The film boasts all the same positives as the two previous films—a script with emotional depth, top-notch animation, phenomenal voice performances, and a masterful score from Newman. Toy Story 3 is also one of the funniest films, especially when Buzz is accidentally switched to his toy’s Spanish mode. Lastly, it had the perfect ending and saw Andy’s toys passed on to give another child happiness.

This third installment is a great film, but it lacked just a tiny bit of the magic of the first two films. Lotso (Ned Beatty) is too predictable of a villain and has little depth due to pretty much just being plain evil. Also, some aspects of the film seem repetitive and revisit points already explored in the first two films – e.g. toys having abandonment issues after being outgrown and Buzz thinking he’s a real spaceman.

4. Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear in Lightyear.

Lightyear premiered in 2022 and is a spin-off of the Toy Story film series. Lightyear is a film inside of a film as Andy Davis watched Lightyear in 1995 and it was the action movie that inspired the toy Buzz Lightyear. In the film, a young Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) is stranded on a hostile planet with his crew. However, the biggest threat comes when a robotic army invades the planet, led by the evil and mysterious Zurg (James Brolin).

Lightyear is beautifully animated, boasts a clever and suspenseful premise, and pays homage to classic sci-fi films. Not only that, but it boasts an A-list cast who gave compelling and strong voice performances. While Lightyear is a very good film, it still isn’t a match for the Toy Story series. It isn’t particularly historical or groundbreaking and it lacks the depth and emotion of the Toy Story films. The plot definitely lacks substance and the screenplay is the film’s biggest flounder. Also, the lack of connection to the Toy Story films is certainly disappointing to fans of the franchise. Overall, it’s a beautifully animated, retro sci-fi film that is certainly entertaining, but feels conventional and thin.

5. Toy Story 4

Woody and his pals go to one last round-up in Toy Story 4.

Toy Story 4 premiered in 2019 and rounded out the Toy Story series. The film sees Woody (Hanks) struggling to adapt to being Bonnie’s (Madeleine McGraw) toy. He misses his long-lost friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts), is seldom played with by Bonnie, and struggles to give up his leadership to the previously established leader of Bonnie’s toys, Dolly (Bonnie Hunt). He also spends a lot of time trying to keep Forky (Tony Hale) alive as the toy made of trash continuously tries to return to the trash. When a road trip goes awry, the toys find themselves unexpectedly reunited with Bo Peep. Woody will ultimately need to decide if wants to remain with Bonnie or stay with Bo Peep.

The film’s animation was visually astounding, the voice performances strong, and the script both humorous and boasting emotional depth. It is particularly sophisticated in its plot by exploring existential crises and Woody’s desire to live a fulfilling life. The end will leave viewers in tears as they see the toys split up and choose different paths.

Toy Story 4 is a fantastic film quality-wise, but it wasn’t really necessary. Toy Story 3 had the perfect ending. It was happy and hopeful, saying that though one childhood ends, another is always beginning. Andy could enter adulthood at ease, knowing his toys were delighting another child . Toy Story 4‘s ending was much sadder and toppled all of Woody’s previous ideals and convictions. Woody had previously decided to enjoy Andy while it lasted, accepted being outgrown, had the idea for the toys to be donated to Bonnie, and promised Buzz they would be friends for infinity and beyond. The ending of Toy Story 4 went against Woody’s beliefs and the franchise’s pre-established themes, as Woody walked away from his friends and family.

6. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
(Buena Vista Home Entertainment)

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins released in 2000 and served as a spin-off film of Toy Story. The film opens up with the Toy Story gang getting ready to watch the same movie we’re watching—Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command sees Buzz (Tim Allen) and his partner Warp (Diedrich Bader) searching for some lost Little Green Men (LGM). They track the LGM to Zurg’s (Wayne Knight) hidden lab. While they save the LGM, Warp is killed in the process. Buzz now must contend with Zurg, while also struggling with the idea of working with anyone else after the loss of Warp.

The film went directly to video and served as a pilot to the TV series of the same name. It’s not particularly good. It is cheaply made with poor animation and an uncompelling story for Buzz. At the same time, though, it isn’t terrible for a direct-to-video TV series pilot. Obviously, the standards are quite different and the film still did boast strong cast performances and was entertaining. When not put up against the Toy Story franchise, it’s a decent 2D animated film. Also, surprisingly, it does share some similarities with Lightyear. It’s purely coincidental but shows even this film was on the right track when it came to Buzz’s origin story over 20 years ago.

(featured image: Pixar)

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.