Infinity and Beyond: All 21 Pixar Movies Ranked

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.

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