Mei discovering her panda form in Turning Red
(Pixar)

The 10 Best Pixar Films, Ranked

They've got a friend in me.

Ever since 1995, Pixar has been delighting viewers with its innovation and imagination. Pixar launched with the debut of their first film, Toy Story, which was also the first ever wholly computer-animated feature film. This studio truly set a precedent for every computer-animated film to follow it. Meanwhile, despite the historical achievement of their first film, Pixar never ceases to top the quality of each successive film.

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For over two decades, Pixar has been on the cutting edge of computer animation technology. Additionally, each film they’ve produced has boasted sophisticated emotional depth. One film might explore the nature of friendships, while the next might feature the experiences of a widowed father, or a girl’s transition into womanhood. Both socially and technologically, Pixar tends to stay on top of the latest trends and developments.

Few of Pixar’s films have failed to delight audiences. But we still have our favorites. Here are Pixar’s top 10 best films, ranked.

10. Monsters, Inc.

The animated cast of Pixar's classic Monsters Inc. standing together.
(Pixar)

Monsters, Inc. premiered in 2001 and is an animated monster comedy film. The film follows two monsters, James P. “Sully” Sullivan (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) who live in the monster-run city of Monstropolis. The two work at a factory called Monsters, Inc. where they generate energy by scaring children, whom they believe to be toxic and dangerous. However, their lives are turned upside down when a toddler, Boo (Mary Gibbs), infiltrates the company and takes a liking to Sully.

Monsters, Inc. was a critical and commercial success that received numerous accolades, including four Academy Award nominations. Monsters, Inc.‘s animation is top-notch and detailed, down to the very wisps of fur on Sully’s body. Randy Newman’s score is, as always, on point, as well. Meanwhile, the film tackles how people are often not what they appear to be—some monsters are very good, children aren’t as dangerous as the monsters have been misled to believe, and some corporations are hiding nasty secrets. And it, more importantly, brings home the point that joy is way more powerful than fear. It’s a feel-good film that encourages you to embrace others, as well as yourself.

9. Finding Nemo

Bruce from Finding Nemo
(Pixar)

Finding Nemo premiered in 2003 and marked Pixar’s 5th film. The film follows Marlin (Albert Brooks), a clownfish living in an anemone in the Great Barrier Reef whose wife, and almost all of their eggs, are killed in a barracuda attack. Just one damaged egg remains, which Marlin names Nemo (Alexander Gould). Years later, aside from a stunted right fin, Nemo is a typical kid who gets defiant when it comes to his overprotective father. However, when Nemo is captured by a scuba diver, Marlin crosses the ocean in search of him and gets some help along the way from Dory (Ellen DeGeneres).

Finding Nemo is one of the highest-grossing animated films of all time and was Pixar’s first film to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Film. Finding Nemo is nothing short of visually breathtaking with its beautiful, magical underwater animated premise. Plus, it’s cleverly funny and provides characters that both children and adults will relate to well. DeGeneres’ voice acting performance as Dory was also nothing short of iconic. The film is a beautiful tale of a father’s love that simultaneously warms and breaks your heart.

8. The Incredibles

Incredibles 2 review
(Pixar)

The Incredibles is a computer-animated superhero film that premiered in 2004. Taking place in the 1960s, the movie follows married couple, Bob (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen Parr (Holly Hunter), who used to be superheroes known as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, respectively. Due to a government mandate, the two hide their powers and superhero identities, and live a quiet suburban life with their children, who also have superpowers. However, Bob can’t quite give up his glory days as a hero and the double life he starts leading will propel his whole family into danger and require them all to embrace their superhero identities, as well.

The Incredibles performed exceptionally well and made history as Pixar’s very first film to feature an all-human cast. Hence, the animation was once again groundbreaking, innovative, and different from anything viewers had seen from them before. Additionally, the film is very fun and absolutely nailed the comic book feel of it. The Incredibles is also an extremely sophisticated animated film that tackles marital struggles, the challenges of child-rearing, and the necessity of being true to oneself. I believe it’s not only one of Pixar’s top films but also, one of the greatest superhero films of all time.

7. Coco

Coco and Miguel with Guitar
(Pixar)

Coco premiered in 2017 and was timely released on November 22, the weekend before Día de los Muertos. Coco follows 12-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) who is an aspiring musician. The only problem with that is that his family has banned music (after his great-great-grandmother, Imelda (Alanna Ubach) and her daughter Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía), were abandoned by Imelda’s husband when he left to pursue a music career). When Miguel is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead, he must navigate his family’s secrets, learn the truth of his great-great-grandfather, and return to his living family before it is too late.

Coco is an incredible film that marked Pixar’s very first film to feature an all-Latino principal cast. Naturally, one of the best aspects of the film is its exploration and respect of Mexican culture. The film explores the traditions of Día de los Muertos and boasts beautiful songs in both English and Spanish. Michael Giacchino’s score, especially the song “Remember Me,” is nothing short of beautiful and dazzling. Meanwhile, the emotional depth of the film and the exploration of mortality, family, and culture make Coco one of Pixar’s most sophisticated films.

6. Toy Story 2

Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye in Toy Story 2
(Pixar)

Toy Story 2 premiered in 1999 and is the sequel to the 1995 film, Toy Story. The film follows Woody’s (Tom Hanks) adventure when he is accidentally placed in a garage sale and stolen by a toy collector. The gang, led by Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), quickly rally to rescue Woody. Meanwhile, Woody discovers he is a valuable collectible, inspired by a show called Woody’s Roundup. He meets the other toys—Jessie (Joan Cusack), Prospector (Kelsey Grammer), and Bullseye—who try to convince him to stay and join them as a museum display. As Woody explores his history, he will have to decide if he truly wants to return to being Andy’s (John Morris) toy.

Toy Story 2 is the only sequel on this list and that’s because it practically did the impossible. It’s almost on par with the masterful original Toy Story film. It boasts all the same positives as the first film—dazzling animation, emotional depth, iconic voice performances, a masterful score from Randy Newman, and a perfect original song: “When She Loved Me.” In fact, it may even exceed its predecessor in the quality of the screenplay. However, it simply couldn’t quite top Toy Story‘s historical and groundbreaking achievements.

5. Ratatouille

a rat dances with a carrot in ratatouille
(Pixar)

Ratatouille premiered in 2007 and marked Pixar’s 8th film. The film is set in Paris and follows an anthropomorphic rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt) who has a passion for cooking and idolizes the late chef Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett). When Remy is separated from his family, he is taken in and befriended by Alfredo Linguini (Lou Ramano), a young garbage boy at Gusteau’s Restaurant. When Linguini accidentally tampers with a soup, Remy secretly fixes it for him and gets Linguini promoted to chef. Linguini decides to keep Remy in his hat, where Remy controls him and cooks for him. This gives Remy a chance to show his skills to prestigious food critic, Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole).

Ratatouille was a critical and commercial success. The film is beautifully animated and was Pixar’s first time realistically depicting complex culinary dishes. Additionally, it boasts a masterful Paris-inspired score and very compelling voice acting performances. Ratatouille also gets bonus points for its creativity, emotional depth, and celebration of the culinary arts. It is a deeply satisfying and surprisingly sophisticated dive into family drama, the creation of art, and the nature of humanity.

4. Inside Out

Riley in Inside Out experiencing one of the many traumas she will have to go to therapy over
(Pixar)

Inside Out premiered in 2015 and was inspired by director Pete Docter’s daughter, when he noticed personality changes in her. The film follows Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) both from the outside and inside. Living inside her head are five personified emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). As Riley navigates growing up and moving to a new city, her emotions battle with one another to help Riley adjust. However, when Joy and Sadness get lost in the far reaches of Riley’s mind, they must work their way back as Fear, Sadness, and Anger take over.

Inside Out is a true masterpiece from Pixar. It is gorgeously animated, imaginative, ambitious, and truly moving. The film goes far deeper than most other animated films, truly encompassing what it means to grow up and the validity of every emotion. Inside Out is also Pixar’s first film to delve deeply into the topic of mental health. The film is actually perfect for starting important discussions about mental health with children. Additionally, the film boasts great voice performances across the board and an emotional, resonating score from Michael Giacchino.

3. Turning Red

Mei and her friends jumping at the moon
(Pixar)

Turning Red premiered in 2022 and had a straight-to-streaming release on Disney+. The film follows 13-year-old Meilin “Mei” Lee (Rosalie Chang), a Chinese-Canadian girl living in Toronto. Mei struggles through the typical trials of adolescence, along with pleasing her strict, overbearing mother, Ming (Sandra Oh). However, due to her family’s history, Mei also has a unique condition in which she turns into a giant red panda anytime she experiences strong emotions. She’s told to hide, control, and ultimately get rid of her panda. As time goes on, though, she begins to slowly embrace it as part of herself.

Turning Red is a beautiful coming-of-age story. It’s a cultural celebration, as well as a celebration of girlhood and womanhood, and a nuanced look at intergenerational trauma in immigrant families. There are literally layers of emotional depth to this particular film. Additionally, it is beautifully animated with an enchanting, nostalgic score and design. Viewers will instantly be transported back to their middle school years with how perfectly Turning Red captures the awkward, adorableness of that stage of life. Turning Red also perfectly encapsulates why we need way more films led by women that celebrate and represent womanhood and girlhood.

2. Toy Story

Tim Allen and Tom Hanks as Buzz and Woody in Toy Story
(Pixar)

Toy Story premiered in 1995 and was Pixar’s very first film. The film explores the idea that toys are secretly alive and have adventures unbeknownst to their owners. In Toy Story, Woody (Tom Hanks) prides himself as being Andy’s (John Morris) favorite toy. He’s a loyal and devoted cowboy who also leads the other toys. However, when Andy gets a new spaceman toy, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Woody feels threatened. He fears losing his spot as Andy’s favorite, as well as the respect of the other toys. When his jealousy gets him and Buzz stranded at the neighbor’s house, they must learn to work together to survive and get back to Andy.

Toy Story received critical acclaim and would go on to spurn a successful franchise. Additionally, it boasts iconic voice performances from Hanks and Allen. Toy Story also has a script that is clever, funny, and holds emotional depth. The themes of friendship and growing up still resonate with audiences today. Finally, Randy Newman’s score and iconic “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” round-out Toy Story‘s achievements. Toy Story set the course of Pixar’s future and it remains a timeless classic to this day.

1. Up

Disney Pixar's Up
(Pixar)

Up premiered in 2009 and is an animated comedy-drama adventure film. The film follows Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner), an elderly widower struggling with grief and loneliness. When his city tries to move him to an assisted living facility, Carl decides to fulfill he and his late wife’s dream of moving to Paradise Falls. He uses numerous balloons and lets his house fly away. It works, but unfortunately, an eager boy scout, Russell (Jordan Nagai), also accidentally gets taken along for the journey. He and Carl subsequently embark on a dangerous adventure that includes talking dogs, a bird named Kevin, and explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer).

Up received critical Acclaim and was Pixar’s first film to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. It was also the second animated film in history to ever receive that honor. Meanwhile, it’s not difficult to see why, as every aspect of Up is phenomenal. The animation is breathtaking, the premise is imaginative, and the story is simultaneously beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful. The film dives into topics of mortality, grief, loneliness, and aging. It encourages viewers to chase their dreams but to also understand that dreams can change over time. Asner offers a compelling performance as Carl and the film’s heavy themes are lightened by the comedic relief from Russell, Dug (Bob Peterson), and Kevin.

Ultimately, Up is the kind of film that appeals to audiences of all ages. Viewers will leave the film with a newfound sense of adventure and a hopeful perspective on grief and loss. It’s a film that delights throughout its duration and stays on the mind long after.

(featured image: Pixar)


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Author
Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, 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.