Normally with "best movies" lists, you have a pretty good idea as to what may take the number one spot. For instance, it will probably not surprise you that (spoilers) The Dark Knight tops our best superhero movies list. However, that's not the case when it comes to the best Pixar movies. You could feasibly argue for over a dozen of the animation studio's efforts, with several outings – from Toy Story and Finding Nemo to WALL-E and Monsters Inc. – all having a huge presence in our lives, whether that's wearing out VHS tapes as a wide-eyed child to nostalgia-fuelled binges on Disney Plus. It's almost impossible to pick a favourite. Almost.
Here at GamesRadar+ and Total Film, we've attempted the impossible by listing every single Pixar movie from worst to first. Yep, all 22, right up to 2020's Onward. So, join us as we go under the sea, screeching around racetracks, and fighting our inner feelings. These are the best Pixar movies, ranked!
22. Cars 2
The first Cars movie concerns an arrogant racecar who learns humility from a ragtag group of small-towners; a heartfelt take on the returning-to-your-roots trope. Its lesser sequel, however, drives a lesser gone path. Cars 2 takes the side-character Mater, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, and puts him front-and-centre as he becomes an unassuming spy. As a result, the series loses its found-family values – and its heart. Cars 2 became the first “rotten” Pixar movie on Rotten Tomatoes. Kachow?
21. Cars 3
The third and (thankfully) final chapter in the Cars saga finds Lightning McQueen in an existential stench. The former champion grapples with mortality after realising he can’t be the best race car forever. Confronting his own privilege, McQueen returns to his roots, saying one final “kachow!” to his hotshot persona. Whilst the Cars movies are far from the best Pixar have to offer, it’s hard not to be moved as McQueen takes one final victory lap. Cars 3 remains an exceptionally animated movie and marks a fitting conclusion to the tad forgettable series.
The studio’s first attempt at a Disney Princess tale, Brave follows Scottish heroine Merida as she fights back against her kingdom’s expectations as to who she “should” be – including dodging an arranged marriage. This journey leads to Merida accidentally turning her mother into a bear and the two learn a whole lot more about each other. Merida ends up perhaps one of the most fully realized of the Disney Princesses, and the stakes feel suitably high as the future of the kingdom rests on her shoulders. Unfortunately, though, compared to Pixar’s catalogue of innovative stories, Brave feels a little familiar.
What if toys could talk? Sure! What if ants could talk? Yeah, that’s fine. And cars? You’d be forgiven for thinking Pixar had run the imagination well dry by the time Cars screeched into sight in 2006. However, despite its shortcomings – including a plot that never leaves second gear – the genuine heart on show from an ensemble of instantly-memorable racers shows that the studio can still keep up with the best of ‘em. Cars also marks Pixar’s last movie before being snapped up by Disney and, as finish lines go, it’s far from being forgettable, despite not quite being worthy of a place on the podium.
18. A Bug's Life
Where Toy Story stunned audiences, Pixar’s second outing doesn’t quite soar to infinity and beyond. The muddy visuals of A Bug’s Life feel a little muted compared to the childlike wonder of Woody and the gang, yet a rip-roaring final act – featuring a fist-pumping showdown and a dogfight (antfight?) as the rain lashes down – makes for incredible viewing still to this day. A solid, if unspectacular, adventure that ultimately feels a little too formulaic when matched against its peers.
17. The Good Dinosaur
An anomaly of sorts in the Pixar catalogue, The Good Dinosaur remains perhaps one of the studio’s more forgettable movies and the lowest grossing of all Pixar’s efforts (minus Onward, which flopped due to cinemas being closed amid the Coronavirus pandemic). However, while lacking a truly engaging story, The Good Dinosaur certainly makes for one of the most beautiful Pixar movies. Vast, photorealistic backdrops elevate the journey of a young boy travelling across the American West with his dinosaur companion.
16. Finding Dory
While you would never typically call those imaginative brains as Pixar “predictable”, Finding Dory treads that thin line ever so slightly. The long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo is pleasant enough, with the story certainly packing a familiar emotional punch as Dory seeks her own parents. The plot may veer towards the fantastical a little too much, but thankfully that doesn’t undermine Dory’s heartfelt search, and the ocean looks pretty spectacular.
15. Monsters University
This college-set prequel to Monsters Inc. centres on the pivotal moment when Mike Wazowski and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan first met. Pixar brings the college green of Monsters University to vivid life, with fraternity parties and late night study sessions abound. Interestingly, the iconic pair don’t get along to begin with, and their fierce rivalry results in the two being expelled from the Scare Program, leading to a reluctant team-up. Monsters University packs a punch with its message: that hard work isn’t always enough to achieve your dreams. A little bleak for Pixar, but wrapped up in the whimsical world of the Monsters means it’s easy to stomach.
In Onward, two elf brothers attempt to bring their late father back to life for 24 hours using a spell. However, things don’t quite go to plan as they only get half of their father – and the bottom half at that. Cue a perilous journey with some dismembered legs to add a body to those pins. It sounds bizarre, but – like all the best Pixar movies – it truly tugs at the heartstrings. Oward’s setting is what really makes this fantastical adventure stand out: a world where magic has faded away, centaurs have forgotten how to run, and sprites have forgotten how to fly. The two brothers’ quest takes some fun turns, and the finale is expectedly tear-wrenching.
13. Incredibles 2
Incredibles 2 puts Elastigirl front and centre as she takes part in a new initiative to make superheroes legal again. However, where Elestagirl drives away on a flashy motorbike,Mr Incredible looks after the children at home. These domestic scenes are both self-aware and utterly hilarious, as Jack-Jack discovers his superpowers – which Bob has to deal with alongside a teenage daughter who’s dating for the first time and a bored pre-teen son. Most parents will contest this is just as hard as saving the world. The seamless action scenes and catchy score aid the whip-smart script in bringing the Incredibles to life once more, making this a worthy sequel.
Ratatouille proves that Pixar movies don’t require high stakes to maintain their usual brilliance. The 2007 flick excels at cooking up several rib-tickling moments of breathless intrigue – revolving around whether Remy, the rat-turned-chef, will be caught – and ties them together with a heartwarming tale about what it means to break out of the box. Each scene with Remy guiding Alfredo ranks up there with some of Pixar’s best physical slapstick, and shows that the studio can do anything – action, adventure, comedy, and everything else in-between – without missing a beat. Toy Story may have put Pixar on the map, but Ratatouille ultimately broadened its horizons.
11. Toy Story 4
Nothing Pixar does is pointless. After the Toy Story trilogy seemingly wrapped things in a neat bow, the announcement of a fourth movie was met with some understandable consternation. But this epilogue is far from a quick money-grab, offering up a sweet farewell to Woody and Buzz, while also giving Bo-Peep a much-needed chance to shine. It’s also probably the funniest of the Toy Story quartet, with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key’s Ducky and Bunny providing just as many laugh-out-loud moments as the first three movies combined. Two words: plush rush.