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The best Pixar movies, ranked worst to best - from WALL-E to Up, Lightyear to A Bug's Life, Toy Story and Turning Red

For decades, Pixar has offered some of the best animated movies around; here's how we feel about what they delivered

Pixar Inside Out
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Inside Out 2 is out now, charged with revitalizing the Pixar brand after a handful of years where the shine has seemingly started to fade from its box office crown as the leading light in CGI animation. Judging from early reviews, it looks set to do that very thing, which is good for the studio at a time when it needs some good news, but it’s worth pointing out the truth behind all of this: Pixar hasn’t really lost its way to the degree many believe.

Sure, there have been some missteps — hi, Lightyear — and, yes, not every movie the studio has worked on in the past few years has been a box office smash. Despite these things, though, Pixar has continued to produce movies that show what animation is capable of, by focusing on more than just the animation. As good as these movies have looked, after all (and they’ve always looked good), the heart of a Pixar movie has always been the story and the performances bringing that story to life. With that in mind, let’s offer up a ranking of the best Pixar movies.

As with all of our rankings, let’s get some things out of the way early. Firstly, this is an entirely subjective ranking, which means that it’s all about my taste and you’re almost certainly going to disagree with some of the placements. (Especially if you like the Cars movies.) That’s why we have comments sections. Secondly, we’re only including the feature-length Pixar movies, which means the shorts — many of which eclipse some of the features, let’s be honest — and the Disney+ shows are off the table. Also off the table is Inside Out 2, which is too new to slot into place just yet; let’s let that one sit for awhile before revisiting.

With all that in mind, let’s make like Remy and set the table. Ready to eat? Let’s get started.

Pixar Movies: Ranked Worst to Best

27. Lightyear (2022)

Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Even trying to explain what Lightyear is — is it the in-universe movie that inspired the toys from Toy Story? Is it the 'real life' version of events that the toy is based on? — proved to be confusing and over-complicated, which should have been a clue that this extension of the Toy Story IP was a step too far. It flopped, and for good reason: in a very real sense, nobody actually wanted a slightly-more realistic version of Buzz Lightyear in the first place.

26. Toy Story 4 (2019)

Toy Story 4
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Talking about extending a franchise too far, I think there’s a very strong case to be made for arguing that we didn’t need a fourth Toy Story movie, as well. The third installment essentially finished the story (such as it was; it’s not like there was a genuine three-act story built into the franchise in the first place), so there wasn’t really an artistic case for a new movie… but the intellectual property must flow, which would explain why there’s a fifth movie in the works for 2026…

25. Cars 3 (2017)

Cars 3
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

I’ll be honest: I don’t get the Cars movies at all. I think they just are rooted in a particular nostalgia that I don’t have, with easter eggs for a culture I don’t share — this movie has a lot of NASCAR voice cameos, apparently; I struggle to even pretend to care — leaving me entirely cold. So by the time you get to the third installment in a series that is, again, all about a race, I’m pretty ready to check out entirely. There’s only so often you can get excited about cars that talk and the same old puns over and over again, after all.

24. Cars 2 (2011)

Cars 2
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

See what I just said, although I’ll admit to enjoying listening to Michael Caine’s British super spy “Finn McMissile” in this one, though; and John Turturro is impressively ridiculous as Italian car Francesco Bernoulli. That said: this is the movie in the series that has arguably the worst writing, not least of which is the absolutely wild “alternative oil” Macguffin. What was even happening there…?

23. Monsters University (2013)

Monsters University
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

The first Monsters, Inc was a workplace comedy that hit all the right notes, so obviously the way to follow it up was… a prequel in which we got to see how Mike and Sulley first met framed around a university sitcom? It was a choice that doesn’t necessarily pay off, perhaps informed by the concern that the first movie had done away with the core idea of monsters scaring kids by the end of it. But… this was where they went as an alternative?

22. Toy Story 3 (2010)

Toy Story 3
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

If the first two Toy Story movies had worked on a basis of, “they’re toys, but they have real feelings just like the rest of us,” then this one decided to double down on that by adding, “and their owner will eventually grow up and get rid of them,” because who doesn’t like a smidgen of existential angst with their animated comedies? It’s a swing that basically connects, though, and a movie that brought the series to a satisfying close… until the series inexplicably started back up again nine years later.

21. Finding Dory (2016)

Finding Dory
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Coming up with a sequel to Finding Nemo seemed like an impossible task — surely Nemo couldn’t get lost again — but the approach taken with Dory shows an inventiveness and playfulness that makes it pretty impossible to reject. Yes, it’s a spin-off more than a sequel, and yes, it’s arguably got at least one “action” sequence too many, but, honestly, this is a pretty great movie.

20. Incredibles 2 (2018)

Incredibles 2
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

A follow-up to The Incredibles simply shouldn’t have worked — the original movie definitely seemed to say everything it needed to in and of itself — and yet, somehow, it really does; Brad Bird (writing, directing, and for all we know, bringing coffee and donuts in every morning) brings a clarity and purpose to proceedings that gives the movie a reason to exist that lets it stand outside not just the original, but every other on-screen superhero team that had come up in the interim. Plus, of course, this one has more Jack-Jack, and that’s always a win.

19. Cars (2006)

Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Like I said, I don’t get Cars as a whole, but I can’t deny that the first movie is full of some good ideas, great designs, and — maybe most importantly — the shock of the new behind the wheel to give it some more power. There’s something to be said for getting there the first time, as opposed to countless repeat journeys, after all.

18. The Good Dinosaur (2015)

The Good Dinosaur
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Is this the forgotten Pixar movie? I feel as if no-one talks about this alternate reality take where humans and dinosaurs co-exist, with particularly cute examples of both species having to work together to get the eponymous Dino back home. That’s a shame, because it’s actually pretty good — but maybe the lack of pop culture zing that audiences expect from Pixar movies might make it seem a little generic compared with expectations.

17. Luca (2021)

Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

There’s a lot to love in this underrated fish-out-of-water-literally coming-of-age story, including some absolutely lovely visuals, but it’s hard to shake the feeling throughout the whole thing that there’s another, better movie underneath it all that’s been toned down in order to achieve as mainstream an impact as possible.

16. Elemental (2023)

Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

The biggest sin that Elemental and Onward both make, truly, is that they feels like movies that Pixar could have made a decade earlier, or like movies that someone would make up if challenged to create a generic Pixar movie. That’s potentially a sign that the studio has a strong voice and some recurring themes, neither of which are inherently bad things, and yet… both movies, while actually good movies, still feel curiously… familiar in a way that leaves the audience wanting more.

14. Soul (2020)

Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Soul is a movie that’s arguably more ambitious than it can practically live up to, but it’s really fun watching it try. Especially fun is seeing the movie try to come up with new visual languages for what are ultimately very abstract concepts — and, for the most part, succeeding. It’s a nice reminder of just what animated movies are capable of.

13. A Bug’s Life (1998)

A Bug's Life
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Sure, so many other Pixar movies are more technically accomplished — this is the second full-length feature from the studio ever, after all — but there’s a sense of purpose and experimentation to A Bug’s Life that’s hard to resist, especially coming on the heels of Toy Story. Plus, the voice cast of this one is wild in the very best ways: Phyllis Diller? Richard Kind? Madeline Kahn? We should be so lucky to see this kind of talent all together again.

12. Toy Story 2 (1999)

Toy Story 2
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Given the troubled production behind the scenes — it was rushed into theaters, after starting life as a direct-to-video sequel, and reworked entirely after the decision was made to release it theatrically — it’s amazing that this movie is any good at all… and yet, it’s not just good, it’s great. Building out the world of the first movie with wit and style, Toy Story 2 doesn’t just succeed on its own terms, it makes the first movie seem better, as well.

11. Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Who would have thought that a movie about bad parenting could be so entertaining? To be fair, Marlin more than makes up for any earlier mistakes through the course of the movie, but let’s really focus on what makes the heart of the movie work here: the voice casting. As beautiful as the animation and story is, there’s no way this movie would be even half as successful without Albert Brooks in the lead role.

10. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Monsters Inc.
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

That no-one had thought of Monsters Inc. before this movie seems astonishing in retrospect, which speaks to just how good an idea it really is — and also how well Pixar can key in on simple ideas and make the most out of them. Let’s shout out the voice casting on this one again, as well: who knew that Billy Crystal and John Goodman would be the ideal double-act before this movie? And yet!

9. Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

There have been multiple takes on the core Inside Out idea long before this movie was made — let’s give the Numskulls the attention they deserve! — but the combination of fun slapstick gags, interplay of an epic adventure on an intimate scale, and the big heart at the center of the movie makes Inside Out a truly irresistible movie.

8. Coco (2017)

Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

To paraphrase Stefon, this movie has everything: magic, love, music, and heightened emotions that felt straight out of a fairy tale — or, perhaps, a telenovela. It’s funny, smart, and moving, and on every level, a potent reminder of what Pixar does best: tell stories that somehow speak to everyone despite coming with such amazing specificity.

7. Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

It’s hard to overstate how amazing Toy Story felt when it was first released: the first full-length computer animated movie was enough of an event in and of itself, but what was almost more shocking was how quickly the novelty of the animation wore off, because the writing and vocal performances were so good. No matter how it had been constructed, Toy Story would have won over audiences young and old.

6. The Incredibles (2004)

The Incredibles
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Arriving ahead of the MCU dominating pop culture, The Incredibles remains one of the finest superhero movies of all time — a distillation of the tropes, the concepts, and the characters that made up the superhero comics that would shape the next twenty years of cinema, far ahead of the curve in so ways. Beyond that, it’s also an exciting, smart, and funny action movie that works no matter what you knew or didn’t know about comics, superheroes, or anything else.

5. Brave (2012)

Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Do I love this movie so much because I’m Scottish? Maybe a little — some jokes certainly land a little harder, I have to admit— but mostly it’s because the movie finds such a playful way to deal with subjects surrounding responsibility, self-identity, and (of course) how to deal with bears both metaphorical and literal, while still working as a story for an audience that isn’t paying attention to any metaphors at all.

4. WALL-E (2008)

Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Sometimes, you need some anthropomorphized robots to teach us about the best parts of humanity, even as the actual humans in the movie are avatars of… well, if not the worst parts, then certainly some of our laziest. WALL-E stepped outside of the Pixar tradition to do something new (for the studio) and old at the same time: a near-silent movie that’s a romance, an adventure, and the spirit of classic slapstick comedy made new for today’s audiences.

3. Up (2009)

Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Of course I cried at the opening sequence, because who didn’t? But it was the fact that the movie builds from that point — and in such a wonderfully organic, if screwball, manner — and never manages to lose sight of its emotional core that makes it so utterly winning. Well, that and Dug, of course. Dug would make any movie ever made better.

2. Turning Red (2022)

Turning Red
Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Turning Red is everything Pixar can do writ large: a deeply personal story that is so specific that it’s almost impossible not to believe in and empathize with, given fantastic form with a core metaphor that’s as funny as it is visually spectacular. Add in character design that pushes the (admittedly, occasionally generic) Pixar form in a more idiosyncratic direction, some very silly but wonderful jokes about boybands, and the fact that it never once loses control of its pace even as it switches things up repeatedly, and you have an all-time winner that everyone needs to revisit and remind themselves of its greatness.

1. Ratatouille (2007)

Image credit: Pixar/The Walt Disney Company

Pixar has made a lot of genuinely amazing movies; the majority of movies on this list are, in fact, really, really great, despite their placement on this list. Ratatouille is, perhaps the greatest of them all: hilarious, wise, silly, sentimental, kind, and with a sense of style, purpose, and scale that almost any filmmaker should take the time to study on a regular basis. All this from a story about a rat with ambitions they never expect to achieve. There’s a lesson there — which is kind of the point, really.

Want to know what's coming up next in pop culture? Check out our guides to upcoming movies, upcoming TV shows, upcoming comics, and upcoming comic conventions. If you're looking for specific franchises or genres, we have all the upcoming MCU, upcoming Star Wars, upcoming Star Trek, and upcoming DC movies & TV for you. If you're a fan of superheroes and not specific to just Marvel or DC, we have overall guides to all the upcoming superhero movies and upcoming superhero TV shows (and new seasons) as well.

Graeme McMillan

Graeme McMillan: Popverse Editor Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.


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