Disney is giving us a Christmas treat with their Disney+ debut of Pixar's latest "Soul." But, why stop there? Give yourself a proper binge of Pixar movies with our countdown of the animation studio's complete oeuvre.
Dim-witted tow truck sidekick Mater takes the lead in Pixar's 12th, as a convoluted spy plot gets in the way of this sequel that aimed to expand the universe of "Cars." It also left a litany of unanswered questions as to how this universe works. For starters, who or what are the buses and taxis shuttling in a world filled solely of anthromorphic modes of transportation?
21The Good Dinosaur
Pixar's 16th outing certainly has a lot of heart, but this story of two lone souls in a world where dinos are the ones that evolved into farmers, and humans are the "critters," never really morphed into something more than the sum of its parts.
The Good Dinosaur
Animated / 2015 / PG
After the box office success of "Cars 2," Pixar went all in on revisiting their popular movies. Here, the monsters from "Monsters, Inc." flash back to school in this prequel that has plenty of funny moments, but still fails to reach the heights and heart of the original.
In a modern fantasy world that left magic behind, two elf brothers embark on a journey to find any remaining wizardry for the chance to spend one more day with their late father. While other Pixar journeys are deeper, there's still enough charm between the voices of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland to keep you entertained. It's still a shame, though, that the Covid pandemic thwarted any hopes for this film's box office success.
Parr family matriarch Helen/Elastigirl takes the lead in this much-anticipated follow-up to Pixar's 2004 superhero hit "The Incredibles." Instead of carrying the story forward, the sequel finds the super Parr family back at square-one, as the supers are still hoping to regain public trust, and the family struggles once again as one member (Helen this time) goes off on superheroic adventures. In spite of its narrative flaws, "Incredibles 2" does stand as Pixar's highest grossing movie to date.
After the globetrotting spy adventure from "Cars 2," Pixar's octane-charged threequel takes a U-turn with this more grounded sports drama. Red racer Lightning McQueen seems past his prime here as he struggles to stay relevant in a racing world with growing technological advancements. Just as McQueen becomes a reluctant mentor to newcomer Cruz Ramirez, "Cars 3" properly pays homage to McQueen's own reluctant mentor Doc Hudson (and, in turn, the late Paul Newman, who voiced the race car in the 2006 original).
While the sequel to "Finding Nemo" might seem like a cash-grab (and maybe it is in some ways), the story actually came to director/writer Andrew Stanton somewhat organically after watching an anniversary screening of the first film. Who is Dory and where is she from? These questions are answered in this sequel that properly builds on the first, and whose title works in both a literal and metaphorical sense.
The original "Cars" gets lots of flack. It also doesn't help that the story is largely a rip on the 1991 Michael J. Fox rom-com, "Doc Hollywood." But, for all its faults, it's still quite an endearing story about the need to slow down and embrace life, as race car Lightning McQueen gets his kicks back on Route 66. Not to mention the film's earwormy cover of "Life is a Highway" by Rascal Flatts.
Pixar's 13th outing gave Disney its 11th princess (who was later playfully roasted in "Ralph Breaks the Internet"). "Brave" is also notable for a few firsts: the first Pixar film with a female protagonist, the first Pixar fairy tale, and the first Pixar film from a female director (even if director Brenda Chapman was replaced mid-shoot with Mark Andrews). While the story itself is not as groundbreaking as the rest of Pixar's peak, the film still continues to be warmly embraced by its target audience: kids.
13Toy Story 4
"Toy Story 3" was a hard-hitting, emotional conclusion to a franchise that Millenial kids grew up loving, and featured a wonderful passing of the torch, from the now college-age toy owner Andy to pre-K scamp Bonnie. But, there is always more to tell. This fourth outing proves its worth as a fitting epilogue, giving an equally emotional goodbye to the franchise's main protagonist Woody.
If the film's title is enough to make your mouth water, maybe you should think again when you realize who -- or what -- exactly made the titular French dish. Pixar deserves a lot of credit for making a rat just as lovable as Disney's more famous rodent mascot.
11A Bug's Life
Pixar's second is an unfairly forgotten journey into the world of bugs and insects. It's also a playful take on the premises of "The Magnificent Seven" and "Three Amigos," as a group of circus bugs are mistaken for warriors and are called upon to protect an ant colony from a group of marauding grasshoppers. Comparisons can be made to DreamWork's similarly bug-focused "Antz," which came out at around the same time, but clearly Pixar's charm wins here.
Just as "Soul" will take us on an existential journey into what makes us human, so too did Pixar dive into our minds with "Inside Out." The studio's knack for delivering tear-jerking moments is on full display too (#RememberBingBong) as 11-year-old Riley's life is uprooted when dad moves the family across the country to San Francisco. Emotions literally get the best of her through wonderful performances by comedians Amy Pohler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Lewis Black (Anger), Bill Hader (Fear), and Mindy Kaling (Disgust). "Inside Out" went on to become the second highest grossing animated film of 2015, and won the Oscar that year for Best Animated Feature.
9Toy Story 2
Pixar's first sequel had a tough act to follow, but everything clicked into place. Following on from 1995's ground-breaking "Toy Story," we find Andy's toys on a rescue mission to save Woody before he's shipped off to a Japanese museum. We also learn more of Woody's backstory, who is a toy-tie-in to a popular '50s kids Western. And, we are introduced to Woody's fellow sidekicks, the spunky cowgirl Jessie and the trusting steed Bullseye. With Pixar announcing a Buzz Lightyear origin story due for 2022, we hope that maybe they will also dive into the archives and give us the compete "Woody's Roundup" series for Disney+.
Don't be afraid of things that go bump in the night, especially if those sounds emanating from your closet are the lovable monsters from "Monsters, Inc." Pixar's fourth actually owes a bit of debt to their first, as inspiration drew from what other things besides toys coming to life do kids believe? Monsters! "Monsters, Inc." is another visual feast that works for people of all ages. The film's commercial and critical success led it to being nominated for Best Animated Film in the first year the Oscars introduced the category -- though it lost to "Shrek." The prequel we previously covered was inevitable, and its story will continue next year in a Disney+ series that serves as a direct follow-up, with Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprising their respective lead roles as one-eyed Mike and big and hairy Sully.
7Toy Story 3
Disney and the Best Animated Film category have since become synonymous, but "Toy Story 3" is one of only three animated movies to be nominated for Best Picture. The other two are also Disney films: "Up" (which we will soon cover), and "Beauty and the Beast." Debuting more than 10 years after "Toy Story 2," the threequel had a lot going against it. But, Pixar produced an extraordinary follow-up, and an effective conclusion to the saga of Andy's toys. Disney should learn a lot from "Toy Story 3." The film doesn't lean too heavy into fan service, and even works as its own self-contained story that introduces new characters in a very meaningful way -- and this is what made it work so well. "Toy Story 3" knows its audience and doesn't pander to the people that grew up with the franchise, while still opening the door to a new generation of kids who will come to love these toys just as much as Andy did.
The incredible feat of "The Incredibles" is just how ahead of its time it really was. Pixar's sixth outing debuted in 2004 - four years after Fox's "X-Men," two years after Sony's "Spider-Man," and just one year shy of WB's even more groundbreaking "Batman Begins." The cinematic superhero renaissance was in its infancy, and Pixar was right there in the beginning with this kid-friendly, lighthearted, unofficial homage of sorts to Alan Moore's "Watchmen" and Marvel's "Fantastic Four." In a story fitting for young and older audiences, superheroes are underground in an alternate 1960s, as the super Parr family make their way through the doldrums of life, hiding their powers due to government mandates. The film then plays on the motifs of middle-age crisis, as Parr patriarch Bob/Mr. Incredible finds a way to get back into action.
Mexican holiday Day of the Dead comes to vivid life in Pixar's 19th. The film follows a young boy who travels into the Land of the Dead to learn more about his family's history. Even though the film was conceived by Americans, great pains were taken to make it feel as authentic as possible, though it was not without its controversies. "Coco" still remains remarkable, being the first big budget animated film with an all-Latin cast. It's a loving tribute to Mexican culture and traditions, and its personal journey was universal enough to leave both critics and audiences deeply affected. The film went on to win two Oscars for Best Animated Feature, and Best Original Song ("Remember Me").
Speaking of personal, yet universal journeys, Pixar's fifth is a story that everyone can relate to as we all have experienced some kind of loss. The journey of "Finding Nemo" is not just of father Marlin searching for his lost son Nemo. It's also a journey within Marlin himself, who is still struggling with the loss of his wife and all his other eggs at the hands -- er, fins -- of a barracuda. This loss affects his parenting, which in turn becomes the root cause for Nemo to get lost in the first place. Yes, this is a story about fish, but it's also a universal story that surprised parents just as much as kids upon release. The nuggets of "Finding Nemo" came to creator Andrew Stanton not just on trips to aquariums (and even the dentist), where he thought how great it would be to animate these worlds, but also on a trip to the park with his son, where, like Marlin (and all parents for that matter), he found he was being too overprotective, and thus ruining what should have been a day of love and bonding.
Pixar's ninth is pretty prescient as we follow a garbage-collecting robot from a desolate Earth up to the stars. To perfectly set the mood, and introduce us to our robotic protagonist, "WALL-E" opens with nary a line of dialogue for roughly 30 minutes. To get this to work just right, creators Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter leaned heavily on classic silent films, specifically the works of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. The story itself gives us a worrisome view of our future, as man's overindulgent reliance on big box stores produces an Earth devoid of all its natural resources. The humans then seek refuge on an extravagant cruise aboard a starship, where their need to do things are all taken care of by robots. "WALL-E" is also notable for being one of the very few, if not only, Pixar movies that include live action, both with clips of 1969 musical "Hello, Dolly!" and the late Fred Willard as Buy-n-Large CEO Shelby Forthright. "WALL-E'' floored audiences and critics upon release, and unsurprisingly won Best Animated Feature that year. It continues to be named as one of the great movies of the 21st Century.
We covered Pixar's knack for producing silent, tear-jerker moments, but the studio wouldn't become known for this until their 10th picture, "Up." The film's marketing leaned heavily on its sense of adventure and the buddy comedy moments from grumpy elder Carl, young Wilderness Explorer Russell, and golden retriever Dug, whose collar allows him to talk. So, when audiences finally got a chance to sit down and watch the pic, they were left stunned at the heartbreakingly sweet and sorrowful backstory that sets up the movie and the character of Carl. It's the perfect intro. for what would turn into a wacky adventure as Carl attaches balloons to his house to fulfill a promise to his late wife to finally find the legendary Paradise Falls. As mentioned previously, "Up" went on to be the second of three animated films to be nominated for Best Picture, but it would ultimately win for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. While Pixar has rarely returned to the world of "Up," just recently they announced an upcoming series for Disney+, "Dug Days," that will premiere late next year focusing on the relationship between Dug and Carl.
"Toy Story" is the film that started it all. Not just for the studio, but for CG-animation as a whole. Without "Toy Story," we would not have "Shrek" or "Ice Age" or "Despicable Me." With computer animation in its infancy in 1995, Pixar took a big risk to create a feature-length, CG-animated movie. Luckily in their court would be actors Tom Hanks and Tim Allen (who would voice protagonists Woody and Buzz, respectively), and Apple CEO Steve Jobs. "Toy Story" worked not just because of it being the first, but because of the close bonds between all the characters that we all can relate to -- summed up perfectly in Randy Newman's Oscar-winning song, "You've Got a Friend in Me." The story was universal for kids and adults of all ages. After all, what kid doesn't believe that their toys come to life when they are not looking?
About the Author
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.