Infinity And Beyond: All 21 Pixar Movies Ranked

Over 25 years, Pixar Animation Studios has become one of the most powerful movie studios in history. Before 1995, the notion of a computer-animated feature seemed next to impossible. But then, Toy Story, the shrewdly written, crisply animated story of toys that come to life when their owners leave the room, opened everyone's eyes to the possibilities of telling lively, action-filled stories in a new way.

This past week marked the arrival of the fourth (and possibly final) Toy Story film, meaning there's no better time to rank all of Pixar's 21 features. Remember, these rankings are final and legally binding, so let's get to it.

21. Cars 2 (2011)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

Really, your enjoyment of Cars 2, Pixar's first non-Toy Story sequel, relies on how much you like Mater, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy. If you don't like the actor or character, this movie is a very rough sit. It looks as remarkable as its predecessor, as Mater becomes a spy on a globetrotting mission, but the story is lifeless and hollow. In short (and I'm not even sorry for this), this movie did not git 'r' done.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

Before we find out why Mater travels around the world to get recruited into a spy mission by Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine), we meet Finn as he (it?) races around an oil tanker in the middle of the sea and tries to evade nefarious hench-cars. It's a swiftly paced sequence that tips its hand to the film's best element, its inventive car chases. The animation is remarkable enough to remind you of how great a Pixar film looks, no matter the story.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"Whatever you do, do not eat the pistachio ice cream!" That's from Mater, who doesn't realize the wasabi he's eating at a fancy Japanese soiree is...well, wasabi. If the idea of Mater eating wasabi and not realizing what it is makes you laugh, this movie's for you.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Eight years later, Cars 2 seems like an aberration in Pixar's filmography. An incredibly animated aberration, but an aberration nonetheless.

20. The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

In some ways, The Good Dinosaur is the most daring film Pixar has ever made, focusing on a cowardly figure who gains a backbone. The film, presenting a world in which dinosaurs never became extinct, had a famously shaky production that translates to its story. But where The Good Dinosaur succeeds is in its amazing photorealistic animation. Though the dinosaur and human characters have elastic faces, the settings in which they reside are brought to life so well that it's as if Pixar filmed the vistas of the American West and placed characters within them.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

Arlo is paired with a feral human boy he names Spot who's also lost his parents. Eventually, after various scrapes, Arlo realizes a mysterious call he's heard is that of a caveman and his family who are willing to take Arlo in. The separation scene, culminating in a brief connection between Arlo and the cave family, is eerie and haunting in ways the rest of the film isn't.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"Sometimes, you gotta get through your fear to see the beauty on the other side." Arlo has to learn this lesson, imparted by his dad, to move past his crippling neuroses and embrace what life has to offer him. Though the bromide may feel basic, there's something about presenting a main character's struggle as so internal that's bold for Pixar.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

It's rare for a Pixar film to feel like it just didn't come together, especially one of their original projects. Disappointing though it may be that The Good Dinosaur is such a rare case, it's good to see them still taking chances 20 years into their run of features.

19. Cars 3 (2017)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

Though Cars 2 made over $550 million worldwide, it was clear that a third film should focus more on Lightning McQueen. Thus, Cars 3 backgrounds Mater, as Lightning becomes a mentor just like the late Doc Hudson. Cars 3 is an overdue corrective for Pixar, since few of its characters are played by non-White actors. New character Cruz Ramirez, a Hispanic female car, is attempting to reclaim her chance to be treated as seriously as Lightning, in an arc that makes this a more successful film than its predecessor.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

The role reversal for Lightning McQueen is fully crystallized in a climactic race where Cruz takes his place on the track. As Lightning embraces his role as trainer, Cars 3 achieves a tricky goal: being a sequel that has a purpose aside from making money. Getting to see Lightning take a backseat to someone else is a satisfying payoff for a character who started out so self-involved.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"The racing is the reward! Not the stuff!" This is a near battle-cry from Lightning that works because he's finally channeling Doc Hudson in reminding someone else that all of the sponsorships, gifts, and perks mean nothing if you're not on the racetrack.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Even though Cars 3 is a step forward from Cars 2, the damage of the second film was done. The box office was surprisingly low; to date, it's Pixar's second-lowest-grossing film domestically. While this movie isn't the best in the series, it was more thoughtful than expected.

18. Cars (2006)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

The first Cars felt a little familiar, both in its setup of a slick go-getter learning to slow down and appreciate life's calmer moments (weirdly reminiscent of the 90s comedy Doc Hollywood), and in its depiction of old-fashioned life. But Cars did inspire sequels, spin-offs, and a themed land in Disneyland. But if you're not into NASCAR, Larry the Cable Guy and the like, Cars is an experiment without much payoff.

What makes Cars stand above its sequels is Paul Newman's performance as the grizzled Doc Hudson, who'd rather forget his own race-car past. Newman makes even the corniest line ring true, because...well, he's Paul Newman. His presence is enough to make this first film a bit special even if all three Cars movies are at their most fascinating when you wonder how the hell this world exists.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

When Lightning and Sally go on a drive near the otherwise-abandoned Radiator Springs, it's a showcase for Pixar's animators. The scene has little purpose outside of letting Lightning relax. But the animation, inspired by the real Route 66, is so incredible that the movie earns having its lead character drop its literal jaw at the natural beauty surrounding him.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"Speed. I. Am. Speed." This line cuts to the heart of Lightning McQueen, who learns to stop and smell the roses by the end of Cars. Rare is the film that boils its character down to four words, heard as soon as the story begins.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

You really have to like cars to like Cars. If you see cars as a functional part of life, but not the kind of function that could turn into real, animate objects, this movie is a photorealistic curiosity.

17. Finding Dory (2016)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

A sequel to Finding Nemo felt both unsurprising and concerning. On one hand, Finding Nemo is one of Pixar's most creatively and financially successful films, and Ellen DeGeneres had a career revival in part thanks to her charming voice work as the forgetful Dory. But Finding Nemo felt closed-ended, so any follow-up had to meet a high bar of quality. Finding Dory did make a boatload of cash, but isn't at the same level as its predecessor.

This time, Dory has a spark of memory, realizing she's been inadvertently abandoned by her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). So she embarks on a quest to find her parents, bringing her, Marlin, and Nemo to a cutting-edge aquarium in San Francisco. Finding Dory, directed by Andrew Stanton, doesn't copy the first film beat for beat — the title is a reference to her internal journey than being lost physically — but it doesn't leap above the original.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

At the aquarium, our heroes encounter, among others, a couple of sea lions voiced by Dominic West and Idris Elba. They're vastly more interested in ragging an out-of-it sea lion named Gerald, who just wants space on their favored rock. This gag works primarily because West and Elba are delightful to listen to with Cockney accents.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"Sigourney Weaver is going to help us!" Weaver's cameo as the aquarium's narrator is the oddest avenue down which Finding Dory travels. The fish have no idea who or what Sigourney Weaver is, which only makes Dory's proclamation here all the more delightful and loopy.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Finding Dory was the first of four consecutive summer sequels from Pixar. Though the film was a massive hit, it served primarily as a reminder that its filmmakers excelled when telling a story with more freshness.

16. Brave (2012)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

Pixar had featured female characters before, but Brave was their first with a sole female protagonist. Originally, the film had a female director, Brenda Chapman, who was inspired by her relationship with her daughter in telling the story of Merida, a feisty Scottish princess who'd rather tool around with a bow and arrow than prepare to be the next queen of her clan.

Chapman eventually left the project, but was credited as co-director and co-writer. The story does feel shakier than usual, even in the core connection between Merida (Kelly Macdonald) and her mother (Emma Thompson), which is upended when Merida's mom is transformed into a large bear. Even though the twist doesn't feel unnatural, it doesn't fully get reckoned with. The film's cast is game, and the animation and design are impressive and lived-in. But Brave is a story in search of its original author.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

Probably the best moment, which approaches what Pixar may have wanted the whole time, occurs when Merida first encounters the witch (Julie Walters) who gives her the bear-transformation potion. Merida sees glowing blue whill-of-the-wisps in the Scottish Highlands, tentatively following before seeing the witch and her wooden hut. It's an eerie moment out of an old-fashioned fable.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen, firing arrows into the sunset!" This line isn't courtesy of Merida, but her father Fergus (Billy Connolly) doing a very good job of role-playing as the fire-haired heroine, scratchy brogue and all.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Brave is, like The Good Dinosaur, a movie you wanted to do well: it's original, it has a distinctive voice, and it's well animated. But like The Good Dinosaur, Brave had a rocky production that led to a rocky film.

15. Incredibles 2 (2018)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

Brad Bird always stuck by his guns when people asked if he would make a sequel to The Incredibles. He was open to it...if he thought of the right idea. Nearly 15 years later, after Bird's foray into live-action filmmaking, he returned to write and direct Incredibles 2, which picks up soon after the original, but shows signs of aging throughout.

Incredibles 2 shifts focus so Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is the stay-at-home character while his wife, Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter), shows off her superheroics as part of an extended PR campaign to convince civilians that superheroes have value once more. Yet some of the story feels lacking compared with its predecessor, specifically in the villain Screenslaver (since the film has a distinct 50s-era vibe, but everyone's obsessed with screens).

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

Where Incredibles 2 succeeds is in its slam-bang action sequences. A scene in which Elastigirl has to stop an out-of-control elevated train feels like an expanded version of an early rescue in the first Incredibles, but is handled with such panache that the familiarity doesn't matter.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"Hey, I had a mohawk, there's a lot about me you don't know." There is indeed a lot about Elastigirl we don't know, and this hint suggests her story is maybe more interesting than anything about her life post-marriage.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Incredibles 2 doesn't have the same depth of complexity as its predecessor, but where it counts — in staging superheroic action — Brad Bird takes flight.

14. Monsters University (2013)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

How did Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan become friends? Though no one needed the answer, this prequel goes in directions that are meta and compelling. The story is ostensibly about how Mike and Sulley become friends while at the eponymous educational institution, but could be read as a commentary on what it's like working at Pixar in the shadows of giants.

Mike, for instance, is convinced he'll become a star Scarer, ironically ensuring his journey in MU is one of embracing failure. Sulley, on the other hand, struggles to break out from the legacy created by his unseen family. The two mismatched monsters do bond and prove their worth, but only after they each realize they're not as amazing as they wanted to be.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

At the climax, Mike realizes a moment of triumph where he helped his ragtag team win a college game of scaring was faked. Sulley rigged a scaring system to ensure Mike's score would be high no matter what. Mike, infuriated, goes into the real world to prove he can scare a kid, into a summer-camp dormitory full of little girls who think he looks odd. The resulting scene, as both Mike and Sulley acknowledge their failings, is tender and sad in ways that Pixar films rarely get.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"I can't go back to jail!" This line, from one of the new monsters (Art, voiced by Charlie Day), works so well both because of Day's raspy performance and because it's goofy to hear from a character who's all legs.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Monsters University is not the best Pixar continuation, but the subtextual message of the film is a lot more heartfelt than might have been the case.

13. A Bug’s Life (1998)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

A Bug's Life has, over time, been relegated to a bit of a mental scrap heap for a lot of people. But it's a consistently charming, entertaining adventure. Though it's arguably slighter than Pixar's other originals, it boasts a brighter, more colorful and detailed palette than Toy Story, and has plenty of likable characters.

The story of a group of ants who eventually fight back against the bullying and ruthless grasshoppers who steal their food every year, A Bug's Life was inspired by both Kurosawa's Seven Samurai — in which a group of outsiders are hired to ward off bullies — and its comic counterpart Three Amigos. That similarity is perhaps what makes A Bug's Life just entertaining, as opposed to truly special. But the animation design — presented in CinemaScope-style widescreen — and the rapid-fire pacing help it hold up.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

The high point of A Bug's Life comes early, when we meet the circus bugs who the inventor ant Flik believes are warriors. As members of P.T. Flea's circus, the bugs are anything but, as they fail to put on a comic show in this brilliantly farcical scene.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"I'm the only stick with eyeballs!" Sometimes, dialogue is funnier with the right performer. Such is the case here, as a stickbug voiced by David Hyde Pierce of Frasier shouts frustratedly, with pitch-perfect timing, at his fellow bugs while being stuck amid tree branches.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

A Bug's Life is one of the more underrated Pixar films, while also not being incredible. It's fun, light, and one of the more straightforward films in the company's filmography.

12. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

Monsters, Inc. had a basic premise mirroring that of Toy Story and A Bug's Life: what if the human world, but with non-humans? Here, it's monsters whose job it is to collect the screams of children all around the world, and what happens when two of them (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) get stuck with a human child, all of whom are toxic to monsters. Monsters, Inc. is one of Pixar's more farcical films, but with a key difference. The chemistry between Crystal and Goodman, who recorded their dialogue together (a rarity in animation), helped create a duo as dynamic as Woody and Buzz.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

It's established that the eponymous factory houses an infinite number of doors that serve as a gateway for monsters to enter a child's bedroom. In the climax, the door factory and its complicated system serves as the location for a breathless, thrilling action sequence, as good as any live-action setpiece.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"Put that thing back where it came from, or so help me!" This line reflects the film's farcical nature. At this moment, Mike (who utters that line to Sulley) realizes other monsters are watching as they try to deposit the human girl Boo back in her room. That line turns into a faux-lyric in a fake musical Mike and Sulley pretend to put on, a sign of sweaty desperation on their part to maintain the status quo.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Though Monsters, Inc. isn't their best, it's a delightful farce with some rip-roaring action that helped Pixar elevate its game.

11. Coco (2017)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

The latter years of Pixar's output feel extratextual. Take the beautifully rendered adventure Coco, about a boy who goes on a journey into the Land of the Dead after taking a guitar from his dead musical idol. That boy, Miguel, eventually learns that his hero is a villain, having stolen the music from and all but murdered the boy's great-great-grandfather (Gael Garcia Bernal). Learning that your hero, who inspired you from birth to the present moment, is a stone-cold killer is basically the inverse of Ratatouille.

Even without that aspect, Coco is a generally entertaining film, steeped in Mexican culture and representing a true first for Pixar. The film's treatment of Mexican traditions feels genuine, and the striking colors and cultural bits of heritage give the animators a big chance to expand their horizons. The result is one of Pixar's most consistently enjoyable films.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

Once Miguel enters the Land of the Dead, he's shocked to see a phantasmagorical mirror version of society, starting with the administrative building where he tries to get back home only to be forced to renounce music by his great-great-grandmother. This initial scene, which revels in the humor of seeing how the dead would go through basic paperwork, is hilariously old-school Pixar.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"The music, it's not just in me. It is me!" This comes from the dashing but villainous Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). His evil aside, the basic principle of this line feels like Miguel's internal philosophy.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Though it's not quite the tops of the studio's storytelling, its buoyant score, exquisitely detailed design, and careful treatment of Mexican culture makes Coco a charmer.

10. Toy Story 4 (2019)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

How could Pixar top themselves after Toy Story 3? That's the challenge of Toy Story 4, an incredibly entertaining, charming, and quite daffy expansion. Toy Story 4 is a prolonged coda in which we both see our characters on another adventure — Bonnie and her family go on a road trip, where Woody re-encounters his long-lost love Bo Peep — and say goodbye all over again.

Josh Cooley steps into the director's chair, bringing a weird vibe to a lot of the new characters, from the sentient spork Forky, who serves as an unexpectedly important new toy for Bonnie, to a 50s-era kewpie doll and the ventriloquist dummies who do her bidding. The oddness is balanced by the focus on Woody, who struggles to find his place in this strange new world. As funny and exciting as the film is, Woody makes the experience bittersweet.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

The film's best new character is Canadian stuntman toy Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves). (You keep Forky. I'll have Duke Caboom.) Duke's tragic backstory is equally hilarious, as we see him get ignored by a child disappointed that the toy doesn't work as advertised. It's a funnier twist on the original Buzz Lightyear arc, sold almost entirely by Reeves' boisterous voice work.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"Trash." That word would seem anathema to toys, but it's what Forky keeps saying, because that's where it believes it belongs. The continued image of Woody forcing Forky out of the trash is one of the film's best gags.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Toy Story 4 keeps up an unexpectedly consistent elements of Pixar's filmography: their best sequels are all about the supposedly inanimate toys in a child's bedroom.

9. Toy Story 3 (2010)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

The theme here is togetherness. Randy Newman's closing song is titled "We Belong Together", and the film emphasizes how Sheriff Woody can't really go off on his own; though his now-teenage owner Andy wants to bring the pull-string doll to college, Woody realizes his place is with his friends. That's what makes the last 25 minutes so emotionally cathartic, even if the second act of the film calls to mind Toy Story 2.

Director Lee Unkrich has a lot of fun with that second act, though, utilizing tropes of prison-break movies as Andy's other toys suffer at the cruel mercy of a Southern-fried plush teddy bear (drawled to life by Ned Beatty) who wants to subject them to preschoolers at a daycare center. Eventually, Woody, Buzz, and the rest find themselves in the hands of a new, caring owner named Bonnie, after sending Andy off into the sunset. For a while, it felt like the most natural conclusion.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

The theme of togetherness is at its height when Woody and the other toys literally stare death in the face. They've wound up in a fiery landfill. And they're prepared to go out with dignity, holding each other hand in hand, when they're saved by the little green aliens, who maneuver — what else? — a large claw to rescue their friends. It's an exceptional payoff to a 15-year gag.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"Sunnyside could be cool and groovy if we treated each other fair!" An ingenious touch here is pairing Barbie with a Ken doll, voiced hilariously by Michael Keaton. It's Keaton's delivery of this line that proves what a brilliant casting choice he was for this toy.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Defying all expectations, Pixar made a third film that wasn't a letdown. While it's not quite as good as its predecessors, Toy Story 3 is a rousing, emotional adventure that plays fair by its characters.

8. WALL-E (2008)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

The fact that a dystopian sci-fi romance about two robots who cannot speak English works as well as it does is genuinely remarkable. The first 35 or so minutes of WALL-E takes place on Earth, circa 2800, when it's become an abandoned trash heap. Its only denizen is the eponymous hero, a trash-compacting robot that's become quirky over centuries.

The common consensus is that WALL-E takes a qualitative step down once WALL-E and his sleek paramour Eve travel to the Axiom, a massive space cruise liner that houses the (outrageously obese) human race. While there's little doubt that the first section is the best, what transpires afterwards is entertaining, slickly paced, and uncommonly thoughtful. It's the studio's most ambitious film to date.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

The opening 5 minutes might be the true standout. As we gradually realize what's going on — that Earth is empty except for trash, a cockroach or two, and WALL-E — there's a sense of ominous portent matched by Thomas Newman's brilliant score. The film is mostly joyous, but director Andrew Stanton never shies away from emphasizing the terror of Earth as a junk heap.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

There's deliberately not much dialogue here, but "Define dancing" hits the spot. Spoken by the human captain of the Axiom, this demand of the ship's computer (voiced by Sigourney Weaver, in a brilliant reference to Alien) is goofy and earnest.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

WALL-E is as bold as Pixar's storytelling gets, and though it's not entirely perfect, it's a textbook example of how brilliant the studio can be.

7. Inside Out (2015)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

Inside Out is one of many incredible Pixar films with an extremely novel idea, in which we watch personifications of a young girl's emotions attempt to steer her through a challenging time in her life. Though each emotion is imbued perfectly visually and by its performer, the two leads are Joy (voiced exuberantly by Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith).

The two emotions go on a journey through the mind as their girl Riley struggles with moving cross-country. Joy, as her name would suggest, wants to keep things happy, while Sadness wants the opposite. Their exploration through Riley's subconscious, the centers of her happiness, and other distinct locations afforded Pixar the ability to get weird with animation. Inside Out is the kind of film any animation studio would kill to make.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

Joy and Sadness meet Riley's imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind), who offers to help them get back home. He takes a shortcut through Abstract Thought, which quickly goes awry as the three characters are broken into such thoughts. The visualization of this breakdown is nothing short of masterful, as we see the characters turn from three-dimensional to cubist to single lines.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"I loved you in Fairy Dream Adventure, Part 7. OK, bye, I love you!" Amy Poehler in Inside Out is delivering one of the three or four best voice performances in a Pixar film. This line, delivered as Joy fangirls out at a star of Riley's dreams, is a perfect distillation of Poehler's effervescent joy.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Inside Out is a perfect fusion of high concept, well-drawn characters, humor, and emotion.

6. The Incredibles (2004)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

For The Incredibles, Pixar aimed high: they told a story entirely about humans for the first time. The film, still one of Pixar's longest, is more intelligent than most superhero films, depicting the midlife crisis of ex-super Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and his wife Helen Parr/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). In letting the parents and their superpowered kids don super-suits and battle against evil, it's also one of the most exciting superhero films ever made.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

Violet and Dash, Bob and Helen's kids, gradually accept their own superpowers throughout the film. Dash's moment of realization comes when he's beset upon by a group of faceless baddies, and he just...runs. The resulting chase is tense and giddy, as Dash laughs at the sight of himself speeding past the bad guys.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

The nefarious Syndrome, voiced by Jason Lee, reveals his plans to Mr. Incredible during a tense moment; when Mr. Incredible tries to get out of his clutches, the younger bad guy realizes what's up: "You got me monologuing!" It's hilariously meta and menacing.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

The Incredibles is a thrilling piece of evidence for the argument that animation does action better than live-action films do.

5. Finding Nemo (2003)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

The parent-child dichotomy at the core of Pixar's films was made literal with the snappily written 2003 film Finding Nemo, in which a nervous dad (Albert Brooks) is on a quest to rescue his son, with the help of a forgetful new friend (Ellen DeGeneres). The tiny wrinkle is that these characters are fish, and they're searching the ocean for the tiny, eponymous clownfish.

Director/co-writer Andrew Stanton, along with the animators, crafted a pitch-perfect adventure mixed with the genuine struggle of being a parent who learns to let go of his child. Just like the script for Toy Story, Finding Nemo had a carefully constructed, refined script, setting things up in the first act to pay them off perfectly in the third act, without making you aware of the payoffs to come. It's Pixar operating on a typical level of high quality.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

In one crucial moment, Marlin and Dory are on a Sydney dock, gasping for air, when a helpful pelican offers to save them from a group of seagulls who only say, "Mine!" The way the seagulls are characterized feels utterly apt, to the point where you can't believe no one else did it first.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"I know funny. I'm a clownfish!" Casting Albert Brooks as the intensely neurotic Marlin is a masterstroke. Marlin looks as cuddly as a clownfish, but with Brooks' distinctive personality, the character is concurrently hilarious and frustrating.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Finding Nemo is a mix of Pixar's earliest tropes and a hint of the depth to come in their future films. It's the best of both worlds.

4. Up (2009)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

It's another impossible concept from Pixar, about a grumpy old widower who grieves in the natural way...by lifting his house up via thousands of balloons and guiding it to a fabled place called Paradise Falls that he and his late wife always wanted to visit. Up has the same guiding principle as the Charles Lindbergh-esque hero who a young Carl Fredricksen idolizes — "Adventure is out there!"

The quixotic adventure takes inspiration from Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo in the design of the terrifying but alluring South American locale. And, as with the rest of Pixar's output, it's very funny in juxtaposing the elderly Carl (Edward Asner) with the upbeat Russell, an accidental stowaway. Once they land near Paradise Falls, Carl and Russell encounter more unbelievable sights, while achieving an incredible emotional conclusion.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

A deft touch is the characterization of Russell, who initially seems like a too-chatty faux-Boy Scout. But as Carl learns in a nighttime fireside chat near Paradise Falls, Russell is incredibly lonely, with a mother and stepfather who are apparently unable to deal with him. Russell, who's also one of the first non-White characters in a Pixar film, is a surprisingly complex character, even if he's just trying to put on a brave face, in this scene and elsewhere.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"SQUIRREL!" Pixar's filmmakers always figure out a brilliant way to verbalize ideas about the mundane that feel unique. This repeated word, shouted as various dogs seem to see something that distracts their attention, is a distillation of what a dog's mind must be like all the time.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Through its unexpected tonal shifts, Up remains one of the most thrilling and emotional films Pixar has ever made.

3. Toy Story 2 (1999)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

Only four years after their first feature film, Pixar Animation Studios unveiled their first sequel. Toy Story 2 represented a true rarity: it was one of the few sequels in history to at least equal its predecessor. It tackled a weighty idea for Woody and Buzz, and all their friends: what would happen when Andy outgrew them? This idea plays out as Woody learns that he was once as popular as Buzz, with his own TV show and other merchandise.

Though Woody is tempted to stay with other toys from the Woody's Roundup show, including Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (Joan Cusack) and Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer), he accepts that his place is with Andy. This journey is combined with novel expansions of the first film, from Buzz encountering a toy version of the evil Emperor Zurg and another Buzz who still thinks he's a space ranger. Though it's an exceptionally slight step down, Toy Story 2 makes good on the promise of its predecessor, with hilarity, action, and emotion in equal measure.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

When Woody is abducted by the proprietor of a local toy store, Buzz and the others go on the rescue. They soon find that they're thiiiis close to getting into the store...as long as they can cross a crowded thoroughfare. They hide underneath traffic cones and survive, but only after causing a massive pileup and major damage to the road and its streetlights. The scene is breathless, funny, and extremely smart in how it plays fair with real-world rules.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"You have saved our lives. We are eternally grateful." This repeated gratitude comes from a trio of little green aliens from the first film. In the wild climax, after Mr. Potato Head instinctually rescues them, the aliens keep saying this to his consternation. (Don Rickles' annoyed/scared line reading of "Will you just leave me alone?" is a close second.)

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Alongside The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather, Part II, here's one of the greatest sequels of all time.

2. Ratatouille (2007)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

Though its premise could have inspired revulsion, Ratatouille is instead one of the finest, most intelligent, most complex animated films in decades. Featuring comedian Patton Oswalt as the thorny, passionate wannabe chef/rat Remy, Ratatouille is a coming-of-age story in which the young rat realizes the benefits of working with others while also realizing his distinctive talents. That he does so while hiding inside a chef's toque and manipulating a gawky human like a marionette simply feels right in such a wild story.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

Perhaps the most unexpected moment in Ratatouille comes courtesy of icy food critic Anton Ego. For a while, he seems like the true antagonist of the picture — if Ego doesn't like our hero's food, he's finished. Yet he gets to define the intrigue and purpose of criticism in championing Remy as "the finest chef in France". Peter O'Toole rips into this mature monologue with brio.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"Well, yeah, anyone can. That doesn't mean that anyone should." Remy's idol always said anyone can cook, but when we hear Remy say this to a ghostly version, it feels like it's coming straight from the mouth of writer/director Brad Bird.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Just as Ratatouille is the story of an artist from a most unexpected place, the film is an example of great art from an unlikely source. It's one of the studio's most rousing, intelligent efforts.

1. Toy Story (1995)

Ride Like the Wind: Overview

Pixar's technical skill has vastly surpassed the technology in the feature that started it all. But Toy Story is the proving ground for what the studio has accomplished in the last quarter-century. Their innate love of buddy comedies started here, as we see the mismatched duo Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear on an adventure of acceptance as they handle being the two favorite toys of a little boy named Andy.

All the toys in Andy's bedroom are distinguished efficiently in a script that's so economical that it ought to be taught in film schools. For an 81-minute movie, Toy Story has a lot of plot and emotion with which to dispense quickly, and it does so with aplomb. The blend of wit, irreverence, pathos, and more has not grown old over decades.

To Infinity and Beyond: Signature Moment

The first encounter the toys have with Buzz is one of Pixar's best scenes. It's got just enough dialogue for every character to establish his or her personality, and plenty of sharpish wit bouncing off against goofier dialogue. Fast, funny, and unexpected: it's Pixar's M.O.

You Got Me Monologuing: Standout Quote

"I just lit a rocket. Rockets explode!" Woody's realization of what's about to happen, right before a rocket strapped to Buzz's back does explode, is funny and terrifying all at once.

Just Keep Swimming: Conclusion

Toy Story was a massive hit, inspiring theme park rides, sequels, shorts, TV specials, and more. It's also one of the most quotable films of the last 25 years, and helped cement Pixar as a serious form of competition in the feature-animation game. They rule the roost because of this incredibly funny, touching, thrilling film.