With Monsters University, Pixar is back in the great sequel business after the slight misstep that was Cars 2. Although technically Monsters University is a prequel to Monsters, Inc., it is an astounding piece of work that continues the animation studio's unparalleled run of excellence that began over a decade ago.
No studio has crafted a series of films with such quality in a short amount of time as Pixar has achieved. So, as Monsters University sets out to conquer audiences, Movie Fanatic decided to quantify the Pixar legacy with our Top 10 Pixar Movies. So, what’s number one? It is honestly one difficult task.
Our readers helped with our What’s Your Favorite Pixar Movie poll!
Although some felt that Brave was more of a Disney film than a Pixar specific movie and others were disappointed in the story direction, at the end of the day, Brave is a great film. It won Best Animated Picture in 2013 and that was no fluke.
The Scottish story was thrilling, fun, sweeping, and humorous and pushed the envelope of what is possible in animation -- all touchstones of a great Pixar work.
Only Pixar could make a story about a rat who dreams of being a great Parisian chef and have it cook on all fronts. Ratatouille also possessed another aspect that is classic for the famed Northern California studio, heaps of heart without drifting into sappiness.
8. Toy Story 2
All of the Toy Story movies are astounding pieces of work, but Toy Story 2 is the weakest… and that is not even the right word. We wonder whether filmmakers knew they would make a third Toy Story film when they made Toy Story 2, because this film is definitely a “middle” story in a classic film trilogy.
7. Monsters, Inc.
When Monsters, Inc. arrived in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks on America, experts would never had predicted that our comfort food, movie-wise, would be a story of two monsters and Pixar’s inside peek into the world that goes bump in the night and scares little kids. As most Pixar films do, it appealed broadly to both children and adults with a compelling story filled with messages that are equally enlightening and entertaining.
6. Finding Nemo
There’s cute tales, and then there’s Finding Nemo. When Marlin (Albert Brooks) gets separated from his son Nemo (Alexander Gould), he emerges on an adventure that touches the heart as only Pixar can. Also showing Pixar’s ever-growing clout when Finding Nemo debuted in 2003 was its all-star cast including Ellen DeGeneres (who stole the show), Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe, Emmy nominee Brad Garrett, Emmy winner Alison Janney and Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush.
5. The Incredibles
If there is a film in the Pixar canon that this writer wants a second movie for, it’s The Incredibles. The superhero family who must find themselves anew in a post-superhero world is as brilliant as any live action Marvel or DC Comic movie and goes even further than those two ever could dream of. Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter are “super” parents who, as the film begins, seem to have moved on from their previously heroic world.
Only, Mr. Incredible still dreams of the glory. When a world menace presents himself (Jason Lee), Mr. Incredible (and subsequently his family) are pulled into the drama and another triumphant Pixar film swings into action.
Up showed that there was no generation of protagonist that it couldn’t make into something that audiences would treasure. Ed Asner starred as Carl Fredricksen, a widower who only lived for achieving his late wife’s dream of going to paradise. As developers threaten his home, he literally takes off in his house being pulled by a legion of balloons and sets sail on the most unique of adventures.
The film is lush, luminescent and shows that life does not have to stop being interesting when one retires. Up also has all the hallmarks of Pixar in full effect including heart, hope and yes… hilarity. Squirrel!
Pixar and sci-fi proved to be a match made in heaven with the story of an exploratory robot and an Earthbound robot who find love after the world has proved inhabitable for humans. Wall-E caused audiences to fall in love and showed that when it comes to a solid story, anything can happen. And when it comes to Pixar and the films they produce, nobody pays attention to the power of the story as much as they do.
And the studio’s ability to craft social commentary masked in entertainment was also present in Wall-E. Just look at how they portrayed humans!
2. Toy Story
The first is almost the finest. Toy Story introduced us to a world where few storytellers had gone before. What happens when the room is vacated or the lights are turned off and the toys are left to their own devices? With Tom Hanks and Tim Allen voicing "the would become" iconic characters Woody and Buzz Lightyear, audiences were given a peek into the world once only the stuff of childhood dreams.
Pixar is nothing if not brilliant at giving a solid story to a world we thought we knew, but in truth… never did. Whether it’s insects (A Bug’s Life) or rats (Ratatouille) and even cars (Cars), Pixar proves that with a great story… any world is open to interpretation with intelligence and the brilliant beauty of animation.
1. Toy Story 3
The most recent Toy Story may have had a three at the end of its title, but Toy Story 3 is number one in our books. Few movies of any kind have the heart and emotional punch that this Pixar film possessed.
A Best Picture (not just animated!) contender and rightfully so, Toy Story 3 will stand the test of time. One can bet on the most emotional of responses to the tale of growing up and all that that means from even the most hardened of audience members.
Honorable mention: Cars, A Bug’s Life