A few months back I questioned whether or not Pixar’s dominance was slipping away. Recently we’ve learned that, because of delays, 2014 will be the first year without a Pixar film since 2005. Pixar’s last film was also their first prequel, Monsters University, which was warmly received by critics and made plenty of money at the box office. While there is no doubt that Monsters University is a good film it simply isn’t in the same league as many of Pixar’s older films. With all that in mind I decided to look back and see how the recent Pixar movies stack up against their classics by ranking Pixar’s films from worst to best.
14. Cars 2
Simply put Cars 2 is Pixar’s only bad film. If Pixar ever sold out it was here. As Mel Brooks once said “merchandising is where the real money from the movie is made” and that is the sole reason that Cars was the first Pixar movie to get a sequel since Toy Story 2 in 1999. The plot is generic, the characters don’t progress at all from the first film and without Paul Newman it feels hollow.
The first sign of real trouble at Pixar. Unlike previous Pixar movies, which adults could enjoy just as much as kids, this one was more kiddish than any before; it simply isn’t as deep as most Pixar films. Cars failed to deal with many of the more complex issues that most Pixar films address. In fact the best part of the movie was during the credits when we got to see “carified” versions of other Pixar films. Cars is still a decent movie but it remains far below the company’s standards.
Brave probably had the best opening scene of any Pixar movie, so much so that I felt ashamed of myself for doubting that the film would be less than amazing. Unfortunately the rest of the movie just reaffirmed what I thought in the first place; it just wasn’t as good as most Pixar films. Brave certainly had its share of magical moments, but they were too few and far between to overcome the boring and predicable plot.
11. Monsters University
I was pretty nervous to see this one. Anyone who has watched Attack of the Clones or Dumb and Dumberer knows how prequels usually turn out. With that said Monsters U may be the best prequel I’d ever seen. It wasn’t perfect but it managed to recapture some of the magic from the original while also bringing something new. Unfortunately like all the films listed so far its plot was somewhat generic, following the traditional college movie formula pretty closely.
10. Monsters Inc.
It feels strange to put a movie this great so low on the list, but basically everything from here on out are among the best animated movies ever made. Like a lot of Pixar films Monsters Inc. took a well known concept, monsters scaring kids, and showed it to us in a way we’ve never seen before. The film is equal parts innovative, heartwarming and hilarious.
The premise for the film, a rat who wants to be a chef and controls a human like a puppet to cook, was bizarre to say the least. If another studio had tried to tackle it I can’t help but feel that it would have been a disaster, but under Pixar the film was a work of art. The film touched on all kinds of important themes and whenever I write a review I try to think back on Anto Ego’s speech about critics towards the film’s end.
8. Finding Nemo
The movie is built on a simple concept, a father looking for his lost child, who by the way are fish. One of the most beautiful films ever made, the underwater landscapes are unlike anything released before or since make it worth seeing on its own. Of course what really made Nemo a classic are the relationships between characters. Marlon learns that he may be too overprotective when he deals with Dory and Nemo learns about trusting his father from his new friends.
7. A Bug’s Life
Pixar’s second film, sandwiched between the releases of the first two Toy Story films, A Bugs Life is easily Pixar’s most underrated film, so much so that it’s the only one of the Pixar films released prior to brining in outside directors not to get the sequel treatment. Yes I know that some may consider putting Bug’s Life ahead of Finding Nemo sacrilege, but the fact of the matter is that A Bug’s Life is one of the best telling of the hero’s journey in decades. Oh and it’s also partially based on Seven Samurai, which is pretty badass.
6. Toy Story
I have no idea how many times I watched this on my old VCR back in the day. To say that I have fond memories of it would be an understatement. Pixar’s very first film is still one of its best; Toy Story is a landmark in animation. It’s an amazing buddy film that will surely bring out the inner child in even the most cynical person. The movie has a lot of impressive morals about growing up and responsibility.
One of Pixar’s greatest strengths has always been to take things we don’t care about; toys, bugs, monsters and rats, and use them to touch us. Here they manage to tell one of the best love stores in film history with a pair of nearly silent robotic protagonists. What’s even more amazing about this is how the film uses machines to touch on what it means to be human, to appreciate and create beauty in the world, and of course to love.
4. Toy Story 2
It’s rare to see a film as impressive as Toy Story have a sequel that rivals the original, but that’s exactly what has happened here. It’s even more impressive when one considers that this was originally supposed to be a crappy direct to video sequel. Toy Story 2 takes the themes from the original and expands on them, as well as introducing new elements. The characters from the original also continue to grow and develop while we are introduced to a number of new iconic characters as well.
If Wall-E is the perfect romance then Up is the perfect bromance. Its message is a unique one for children’s movies that sometimes we need to give up our dreams. The film’s villain, Charles Muntz, wastes his life and does terrible things in pursuit of his dream. The hero gives up his dream to do what really matters. It’s also much more mature than most of Pixar’s films, only the second from them to earn a PG rating.
2. Toy Story 3
The one thing rarer than a sequel that surpasses the original is a third film that is the best of them all. Toy Story 3 makes the trilogy one of the greatest of all time. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I nearly cried twice during the movie. Aside from being an amazing caper movie and a filled with equal pats comedy and drama, Toy Story 3 is a movie about moving on and saying goodbye to what, or who we love. For Andy, myself, and millions of others who grew up with Toy Story this movie was a bittersweet farewell to our childhoods.
1. The Incredibles
For the first time Pixar hired an outside director, Brad Bird of The Iron Giant, and the results were nothing short of amazing. There is nothing not to love about this film. The Incredibles calls back to the comics and films of the sixties reminding us of the classic superhero teams like the Fantastic Four. The film touches on some of the most complex themes ever in a American children’s movie, many of which like adultery would only be caught by older viewers. Most importantly, however it’s a movie about what we do for the ones we love, the mistakes we make and forgiveness. Plus it’s the only Pixar movie with Samuel L. Jackson and that has to count for something.