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Pixar's 15 films from worst to best
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Toy Story (1995) - photo by Travis Poppleton
Inside Out was released recently to the critical accolades and audience adoration reminiscent of Pixars early days. Some critics said it was without question the best thing Pixar has ever released and went as far as to call Inside Out the studios masterpiece.

That could be a bit much though, couldnt it? Inside Out was absolutely a great film, but Im not sure its time to join in crowning it the definitive studio accomplishment.

Instead, lets take a look at the entire library before proclaiming the king of Pixar Mountain.

Beginning with the weakest and working our way to the top, lets take a look at the 15 films of Pixar.

But really quick before we do, Id like to point out movies on the bottom of the Pixar pile are still better than many studios crowning achievements. Im just saying this now because my hearts going to break a bit each time I place truly fun and beautiful films toward the bottom of a movie list. I mean, its an elite list most animator would kill to be part of, but I still figured it was worth mentioning.

OK, we can continue now.

The 15 films of Pixar:

Cars 2

Cars 2 is a sequel to one of Pixars least popular movies, making it the only title relatively easy to rank. Maybe the idea of having Mater become an international super spy was John Lasseters way of bringing more excitement to the Cars universe, but somehow, it made the follow-up even more boring than its predecessor. To be fair, any other studio would kill to have a movie as financially successful as Cars 2 as its low bar, but were talking Pixar here. At the studio where story is everything, why did Cars 2 feel more like a two-hour product promo?

Monsters University

Monsters University was a fun side note in the life of Mike and Sulley, but at the end of the day thats all it really amounted to. Following a beat-for-beat story template, University was the project that made fans wonder if Pixars best days were behind them. Not because it was a terrible film, but because it followed a chain of sequels that were good but not Pixar good. University probably wouldve made a great short film alongside the superior Monsters chapter, Mikes New Car, but as a feature film it never managed greatness.

A Bugs Life

A Bugs Life is an oft-overlooked chapter in Pixars history. Maybe thats because humans dont naturally connect with insects, or because Kevin Spacey is just too creepy for little kids, but ultimately A Bugs Life is to Pixar what Bashful is to the seven dwarves that one you love but can never recall. Still a beautiful little movie, but "forgettable" is not an adjective youd expect to use when describing a Pixar film.

Cars

Cars may not have been universally accepted as one of Pixars greats, but the love letter to simpler times and forgotten towns was at the very least sincere. There are fans who would, and I suspect will, argue Cars was Pixars biggest misfire, but the films got heart. Also, I can endure a slower pace from Lasseter if it means California Adventure gets another area like Cars Land a few years down the road.

Toy Story 3

Critics seem to like Toy Story 3 a lot more than audiences do, which isnt to say moviegoers werent fond of the third feature length Toy Story chapter. The film had a lot to say, managed to find a heartwarming farewell to Andys relationship with Woody and Buzz, and introduced new favorites like Ken and Chatter. On any other great movie list, Toy Story 3 is going to rank very well. On a Pixar list, though, a sequel to a sequel will always have a hard time competing with the string of studio originals. Still, very few trilogies are as solid as the Toy Story series.

Brave

I absolutely love the cast of Brave. When it comes to character development, the relationship between Merida and Fergus is a shining example of what is right with Pixar. But when the film took an adventurous, free-spirited archer and told her to babysit a bear for an hour, Brave was handed the title of Pixars greatest missed opportunity. Dont tell us you didnt know this was a bad idea, Pixar. There wasnt a single trailer admitting Brave was simply a sequel to Adventures in Babysitting.

WALL-E

WALL-E is probably the most divisive Pixar project to date. The bizarre mixture of live action and CG coupled with the decision to include almost no dialogue, at least for the first half, left some audiences scratching their heads. Other moviegoers, however, saw a brilliant little science fiction piece in the 104-minute post-apocalyptic adventure.

WALL-E finds itself on the bottom half of this list because it never really found its audience, especially among younger viewers. Thats not necessarily indicative of the films quality, but on a list of films aimed at entertaining families, how often a child asks to watch it again has to be taken into consideration.

Toy Story 2

One of the few follow-up films considered more entertaining than the original, Toy Story 2 introduced the world to Jessie, Bullseye and Stinky Pete. Fans of the film know why it's our highest-rated sequel, and even non-fans will admit they teared up a bit during Jessies flashback. Toy Story 2 is one of those rare sequels where aiming for bigger and faster actually worked in its favor.

Ratatouille

The Pixar movie for foodies definitely chose an unlikely protagonist to tell its tale. Ratatouille might have asked a lot of its audience when it came to suspending reality, but the payoff was rich with glorious set pieces and a culinary display that rivals most live-action food fantasy. Ratatouille and A Bugs Life compete for greatest underdog story, but admit it, you already forgot we chatted about A Bugs Life, didnt you?

Up

Part of the reason Pixar is Pixar a studio that continues to captivate and connect with audiences in ways other studios only dream of is because a director like Pete Docter can walk into a story pitch meeting, bring up this idea hes having about an old man who ties balloons to his house and flies away, only to hear back from investors and fellow creators, go on. Up is a shining example of how Pixar takes the craziest ideas out there and injects them with more heart than Beaches, Bambi and Steel Magnolias even know what to do with.

Monsters, Inc.

Docter somehow ends up with three in a row on this list. His original story, Monsters, Inc. gave us the first non-terrifying CG baby in cinematic history. And while thats enough to earn any film top honors, Monsters didnt stop there. Freeze-framing any shot in this movie reveals an overwhelming amount of detail and creativity. Even if you didnt love top-scarer James P. Sullivan, youve gotta tip your hat to the guy who designed his chair and left a big hole in the back so Sulleys tail had a place to go.

Inside Out

Filmmakers are always trying to figure out clever ways to let us know what onscreen characters are thinking, but Inside Out ran with that idea in a direction that only appears on custom-designed Pixar compasses. I believe Ive gushed enough about this film in my recent review, but lets just sum up by saying Inside Out proves that a clever concept isnt enough for Pixar. Characters, relationships and the stories that change them are why we love this studio, and Inside Out reminded us of that in a new and compelling way.

The Incredibles

Lay the Pixar library out in front of me and ask me what Id like to watch, the answer is always The Incredibles. I will admit, the oversaturated superhero market has taken some of the shine off this perfect little family drama, but take the supersuits away from the Parr family, and I still want to watch what theyre up to for as long as director Brad Bird will let me. Heck, Id be content to sit in the backseat of a car listening to Lucius and Bob yammering on about yesteryear over the sound of a staticy police scanner. If this list were purely about favorites, The Incredibles would probably win by popular vote.

Finding Nemo

With the exception of maybe Cars 2, every single movie on this list was difficult to rank. However, The Incredibles vs. Finding Nemo cage match for the No. 2 spot was agonizing.

Both films are so, so good, but theres this one scene in Nemo that gives it the slightest edge.

You know the scene Im talking about: Nemo is in his little aquarium, defeated by his recent failure and the constant nagging feeling that no one will rescue him. Then Nigel comes flying in having heard through the aquatic grapevine that Marlin is coming for his little boy, and then Thomas Newmans understated theme starts taking over as Nigel recounts everything Marlin has done to cross the ocean to get to P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. And in maybe a single minute of screen time, Nemo goes from broken child to wide-eyed son to man of destiny. I can't be the only who gets choked up just thinking about that scene.

Toy Story

Toy Story may not be your favorite of the Pixar library, but Citizen Kane probably isnt on high rotation at your home, either. We call movies like these the greats not necessarily because we cant wait to see them again, but because they change things. They are the pioneers, the trendsetters; they create the templates that storytellers will use for decades to come because these movies were brave enough to be different.

Toy Story may not be my favorite Pixar film that honor belongs to The Incredibles, and maybe the first 15 minutes of Up but our favorite Pixar moments owe who they are to Woody and Buzz. These moments sit on the shoulders of that first computer-animated feature film that, after 20 years, kids are still asking to watch on car rides or falling asleep to during nap time.