Every Pixar Movie, Ranked
A comprehensive guide to the Pixar films, ranked from worst to best.
Known for their innovative worlds of wonder, tear-jerking reminders of childhood, and thoughtful gazes into the future, Pixar has emerged as one of the top animation companies in the world. Even more than that, they've become a top company in all of cinema.
More than 20 years ago, Pixar revolutionized the animation industry with new technological developments. With each movie released, the animation gets better and better. However, above all what makes Pixar so special are the creative characters and worlds they employ, putting imagination and wonder back at the forefront of storytelling.
22. Cars 2
Colorful, creative, and fun, Cars 2 is by no means a bad animated movie. However, it is definitely a bad Pixar movie.
Pixar sets the bar high for expectations and this movie falls woefully short. It is the only Pixar movie to be given a "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes with a 39% on the tomatometer and a 49% audience score.
This 2011 sequel follows the original film's comic relief character Mater as he travels with Lightning McQueen to international racing tracks. Along the way he accidentally gets involved with international spies who are trying to thwart a group of criminals attempting to disturb the races by causing the gas in the racer's tanks to combust.
The heart of the movie is a message about friendship and appreciating people for who they are, which in itself is a great message. However, it's one that gets shoved in our face repeatedly as Mater makes a continuous fool of himself and Lightning McQueen gets increasingly irritated with him. Along the way people keep trying to explain to McQueen that Mater is great the way he is and shouldn't have to change.
McQueen eventually believes that too but the question is... why? Mater is annoying and his manners are horrible. McQueen is in a professional environment that is highly publicized, his moves and the moves of his friends could have an effect on his career. Mater should be more respectful of that (at LEAST have better manners, come on!).
Adding onto that mess - the side characters were forgettable, the action scenes confusing in terms of the rules of the Cars world, and the comedy overly slapstick-based.
Brave was a movie I was excited for, the first female-led film for Pixar with stunning graphics to boot! The 2012 movie me gave expectations of a story full of adventure and high stakes, with a brave protagonist to reflect its title.
However, instead of a brave protagonist we are given a whiny princess trying to escape her fate with a quick fix from a witch instead of really dealing with it herself.
The fix turns her mother into a bear and the rest of the movie is dedicated to trying to fix her mistake, which she doesn't see as her fault for 80% of the movie. Not until the very last moment do we see any character growth from her or any real emotion from the movie (yes, technically this isn't a bad plot, but it's not original and not what we have come to expect from Pixar).
This, combined with stakes that the movie can't quite get you to care enough about, a half-assed villain, unremarkable side characters, and a few gags thrown in just because, leads to a shoddily crafted plot and a severely mediocre movie.
That being said - the graphics are stunning, with Merida's red hair in particular being an absolute marvel. The Scottish landscape is sweeping and gorgeous. The music is fitting and pleasant, and some of the jokes do manage to land.
20. The Good Dinosaur
With some of the best animated nature scenes I've ever seen, The Good Dinosaur (2015) is in no way a bad movie. However, whereas it's lifted by its nature animation, its character animation is what drags it down to mediocre.
The cartoonish dinosaurs set against hyperrealistic water graphics and stunning landscapes are very jarring, so much so that you leave wondering - was that intentional... or just weird?
The story itself is again, mediocre and at times odd. Its main character, Arlo, is an anxious child who is scared of everything. His father tries to help change this trait and in doing so, is accidentally killed. Through another accident that leaves him far from home, Arlo is pushed into a long journey back with a human boy, Spot. Although hostile at first, they become friends and overcome adversity on the long journey home.
The plot is a bit overused, a young boy on an unexpected journey, having to overcome tragedy and learn his strength through trusting himself and others. Nonetheless, although it's not something new, it's still something worth seeing and enjoying for what it is.
As the newest Pixar movie (released February 2020), and one of the few original (non-sequel) movies released by the company recently, Onward had lofty expectations. Were they met? Eh... not really.
Onward is a fantasy adventure that follows the elf brothers Ian and Barley who are given a wizard's staff belonging to their long-deceased father. With it, comes a spell to bring back their father for a day and the discovery that Ian can wield magic (something that has been nearly lost in the world with new modernizations like cars and electricity).
Ian tries the spell but leaves it incomplete, with only their dads legs materializing. Barley convinces Ian to go on a quest with him to recover the rest of their dad's form, one that follows a path seen in Barley's favorite role-playing game. Along the way they learn more about each other and what they mean to one another.
Onward is beautifully animated and has a great voice cast, but the world doesn't seem like it was explored enough - odd for a Pixar movie, which usually excels in world-building. The story is also quite boring, with the beginning and middle dragging on and on until the more exciting climax.
Will this age better after a few rewatches? Maybe, but for now I remain very underwhelmed by this movie.
18. Monster's University
Animated sequels (or in this case, prequel) usually fall into two categories. First, a genuinely good movie that deserved to be made because it extends beyond what the first movie portrayed. Second, a "filler" movie made purely because the first movie was profitable and the studio wanted to add onto that.
The 2013 prequel movie Monster's University follows our old protagonists Mike and Sully as they enter college to become "scarers". However, Mike soon learns that heart and hard work isn't enough to make someone scary and Sully (100% a frat boy stereotype), learns that raw talent alone isn't enough either. Together, they and a misfit fraternity compete in the college scare games to prove themselves, with mixed results.
The beginning and middle of the movie follows the "filler" pattern of being goofy and fun, with little else. Luckily, it is saved by the end of the movie where we can see a smidgen of growth in the characters and end up with a surprising resolution, one that perfectly sets up the original movie Monsters, Inc and finally lives up to its moral - that failure is necessary in life and will actually help you in the long run.
So what category does Monster's University fit into? Well, probably the second. But definitely on the better end, if at least for its resolution and the fact that the movie is overall enjoyable to watch.
17. Cars 3
Cars 3 is a movie that I think of fondly. I like the new characters, the message, and the animation. It excels in that it's able to share the same feeling of nostalgia that the first Cars movie had - a hard feat, seeing that this movie is more about modernization.
The 2017 movie follows an aging Lightning McQueen trying to cling onto his career while younger, faster cars begin to beat him. He is allowed one last chance and through this, meets a new coach (Cruz Ramirez), who attempts to help him modernize. He resists this and tries to show her "the old ways," leading to Cruz becoming an excellent racer and McQueen to understand that maybe it's time to step aside and let someone else shine.
The connection between Cruz and McQueen is one of the strongest parts of the film. However, the film drags until they're able to reach this connection, which we have to wait until halfway the movie for.
By that point, you begin to wonder... why was this made? It doesn't seem like there was a lot that Pixar had left to say with this movie (in contrast, look at the Toy Story franchise), and that they only kept making the Cars franchise to sell merchandise.
On the other hand, ending a franchise with Cars 2 is just painful. Therefore I'm completely fine with Cars 3 being the much better end. As long as it is the end.
16. A Bug's Life
This is a good movie, make no mistake, it just tends to fall in the category of forgettable. It does this for one main reason - it simply hasn't aged all that well.
A Bug's Life was made in 1998, making it Pixar's second animated feature film. At the time it was reasonably successful, showing off the latest updates in animation, complete with a solid plot and memorable characters.
Now, the animation looks very dated and the plot, while still solid, is overused. The movie follows Flick, an outcast who leaves his home in order to find help to fight against the antagonist grasshoppers who threaten his colony. Replace bugs with people and it's something you've seen dozens of times.
Ironically, keep the bugs, and it's still something you've seen before. During its creation, A Bug's Life fought against the new animation company Dreamworks and their release of the movie Antz. Dreamworks was founded by one of the ex-chairmen of Disney who left on bad terms, and Pixar firmly believed that he had heard the pitch for A Bug's Life and stole it, thus producing Antz and causing an immense controversy.
Interestingly enough, although A Bug's Life at the time performed significantly better than Antz, nowadays I would say that I prefer Antz. That's due to another pitfall of A Bug's Life - that it catered to children, whereas Antz could appeal to both children and adults (like Shrek, which came later from Dreamworks).
15. Finding Dory
Finding Dory is the 2016 sequel to Finding Nemo, one of Pixar's most highly acclaimed movies. As such, it had a lot to live up to. Was it as good as its predecessor? No, but it was still a good movie that was able to build on the world and characters that Finding Nemo introduced.
The movie follows Dory as she pieces together bits of her memory in order to find her parents. Along the journey of being separated from Marlin and Nemo, meeting new friends, and facing large challenges, Dory has to learn how to help and trust herself in order to find her parents.
My favorite aspect of Finding Dory is that it touches more on mental health than most other animated movies I've seen, showing that those with mental illnesses can live complete lives with just a bit of understanding from supportive friends and family.
On the other hand, although Pixar does a great job of showcasing this message, it seems to rely on it a bit too much. It stands more on emotions and less on actual storyline, which at the time of watching can still be enjoyable. However, over time the movie becomes forgettable and average when compared to other Pixar movies, still too much in the shadow of its predecessor.
Cars is a middling movie in Pixar's repertoire - which still means that it's pretty damn good.
This 2006 movie follows Lightning McQueen, a rookie race-car who's desperate to win the big Piston Cup and gain more impressive sponsors. In his hurry to beat the other racers, he accidentally falls out of his truck and finds himself in a small town in the middle of nowhere. He's forced to stay until he can repair the damage he inflicted on their main road and during his stay, he befriends the townspeople and realizes there's more to life than winning and prestige.
The plot itself is not unknown to us, a protagonist with attitude issues getting lost and learns what's really important in life. That, and the fact that there really isn't a lot at stake in the movie, are really the main shortcomings. But even then these are only small annoyances that get pushed aside by the overall enjoyable nostalgia for small town America and "the simple life" that the audience is treated to.
The characters are compelling, the world-building is interesting (even if it has a few holes), and the storyline is endearing. Cars is an overall lovable film stuck between the greats and the not-so-greats in Pixar's film history.
13. Toy Story 4
Will I ever forgive Pixar for not ending the Toy Story franchise on Toy Story 3, with Woody's final words -"so long, partner"?
No, absolutely not. That ending was perfect beyond words.
However, that doesn't mean that Toy Story 4 was bad. In fact, it was a very good movie with terrific animation and new insights onto Woody's character.
This 2019 movie revolves around Woody trying to cope with not being a favorite toy anymore and the loss he feels. When he and the toys go on a rode trip with their human Bonnie, he meets Bo Peep, an old flame from the past who shows him another side to being a toy. He continuously struggles with his preset guidelines on what a toy should be and eventually joins Bo Peep as a lost toy and says goodbye to his friends.
Woody has always been the main protagonist in these films, but Toy Story 4 really made him the solo shining act - and it's done well. It's a story about feeling that your journey is over, but realizing it's only the beginning. The movie has high stakes, and because of this it ranks fairly high on this list. But those high stakes also contribute to why it isn't higher up...
The new characters introduced can't hold a candle to the older ones and seem like unnecessary comic relief fodder (looking at you Ducky and Bunny). This creates an imbalance in the film that it struggles to recover from and instead tries to make up for with ramped up emotions.
Adding to the struggle, the other characters we know and love get lost in the background with boring side journeys and uninspired dialogue. Even Buzz gets pushed to the side and just becomes part of the comic relief - making this the "worst" Toy Story.
12. Incredibles 2
Finally, the 2018 sequel everyone was dying for! Did it live up to expectations? Well... mostly.
Incredibles 2 picks up exactly where the first left off. The family fights a villain and destroys part of the town, getting in trouble for it and shutting down the superhero relocation program. Their future looks bleak, but an offer for hero-work comes in from a millionaire. He loves superheros and wants to use branding and marketing to help them gain their status and freedom back. His ploy for this is to use Helen (Elastagirl), as she is the most controlled and has the best statistics.
As she settles into hero-work, Bob (Mr. Incredible) faces being a stay-at-home dad and how that can be even harder than hero-work. After a new threat to the superhero movement, the family realizes they're stronger together than apart.
The movie is similar enough to the first for people to be nostalgic, but different enough for them not to be bored. However, being not-bored is not the same as being thrilled by what you see on-screen. Since it has a similar premise, with Elastagirl taking the main spot instead of Mr. Incredible, nothing feels all that new with the action and hero work (even though animation-wise, it has some of the best action scenes Pixar has ever put out).
The main highlights of the movie are in the family dynamics, which takes much more of a center stage than it did in the first movie. Seeing Helen as a working mom and Bob as a stay-at-home dad creates an entirely new dynamic between the members of the family, showing the good, bad, and downright hilarious.
Adding to the hilarity, any scene with Edna or baby Jack-Jack showing off his new powers is absolutely killer. But even the humor can't 100% make up for the film's lackluster twist villain (another twist villain...), who is among Pixar's least memorable.
11. Toy Story
The one that started it all...
Here's the thing. I understand how innovative and risky the first Toy Story is. I mean, it was first fully 3D animated film after all! That's pretty incredible.
However, I think that this 1995 movie usually gets ranked higher than it should because of the technical innovations it had at the time. Whereas that's all well and good for then, if you watch it now you'll cringe at some of the animation - especially with the humans.
The first movie of the Toy Story franchise is an introduction into the lives of toys, with Woody living as the "head toy" for his human Andy. That is, until the new toy, Buzz Lightyear, comes into the picture. As the story progresses, Buzz takes on more of the comedic role in that he doesn't realize he's a toy and has to come to terms with his true nature. Additionally, Woody has to deal with his jealously over losing his leading place in Andy's heart and learn to accept Buzz.
Toy Story is above all else, a great concept. It's well thought out and detailed, with great voice work and memorable lines. It's a classic for a reason.
On the other hand, I will say that Woody's character sometimes gives me pause. He's the protagonist who acts like an anti-hero, but isn't really one, he's just extremely unlikeable. It's able to still work well for the movie because of the themes they're trying to get across and how they want the character to grow. But it's just such a shift from his personality in the sequels, it doesn't seem believable that what happened in Toy Story would make him change THAT much.
Pixar's first musical struck gold, exploring a largely unrepresented culture on the animated screen and showcasing the beauty of Mexican traditions through music, color, and family.
Coco tells the story of Miguel, a boy who is desperate to be a musician, even though his family is against it. After finding himself stuck in the Land of the Dead on Dia de Los Muertos, he seeks to gain acceptance from his deceased musician hero and return home with it. Along the way he learns about the importance of family and what it takes to be a true musician.
Although the 2017 movie drew some criticisms for its similarity to the 2014 movie The Book of Life, the similarities only really lie in that both heroes travel to and from the Land of the Dead on Dia de Los Muertos. That, and the protagonists are both musicians...
Either way, Coco is a enthralling story dedicated to family and it's why the movie shines. That, some great songs, a surplus of fun characters, and the truly gorgeous animation perfectly showcasing the colorful Day of the Dead makes Coco a force to be reckoned with.
The main pitfalls of the movie were that the downfall of the antagonist was predictable and that Miguel was incredibly annoying at times (an issue when that person is the main character). But of course, none of this matters once you see the scene where Miguel sings "Remember Me" to Grandma Coco (if you didn't cry during this scene, you're heartless).
9. Toy Story 3
Whereas each movie in the Toy Story franchise are emotional goldmines, Toy Story 3 is the one I connected with the most.
Toy Story 3 (released in 2010) picks up with Woody, Buzz, and the other toys anxious for playtime, something they rarely get now that Andy is almost off to college. Although Andy plans to keep all of his toys, his mom mixes up the bags and the toys eventually end up at a daycare. The daycare seems like a paradise with unlimited playtime, but the toys soon learn that there is something more sinister afoot.
While the toys struggle to find a way out, Woody is picked up by a little girl named Bonnie and experiences what life used to be like when he had a young child to care for him. With conflicted feelings about this new child, Woody makes it back to the toys and helps them escape. Finally, after facing a few more challenges, they head back to Andy with a message, leaving Andy to make a tough decision.
Those who grew up with close connections to their toys (and may even still have some), will connect with Andy and his struggle with losing important ties to his childhood. It's the first time that Pixar has made us resonate with any of the human characters in the Toy Story franchise, instead of having them as purely a side-piece that the main characters react to.
Bottom line - the beginning and end are emotional gold (you're going to need tissues). However, although the middle is interesting (with a new atmosphere for the toys and therefore the audience), most of Act 2 and the rising sequence falls just a bit short of the rest of the movie.
Also, Pixar really needs to stop with the trend of twist villains. It's overused. Nonetheless, I will say that at least Lotso is a twist villain where we can really understand and almost empathize with his choices (while still not agreeing with them).
8. Toy Story 2
Funny, action packed, emotionally gripping - it's the best Toy Story in the franchise.
Toy Story 2 starts with Woody getting his arm ripped and Andy leaving him behind for cowboy camp. Feeling rejected, he tries to save an old toy from a garage sale and in the process gets taken by a toy salesman and collector. When Woody is taken back to the man's apartment, he finds that he is a collector's item from an old TV show. While the rest of Andy's toys venture out to save him, Woody meets other toys who are also part of the show's collection. One of the toys, Jessie, tells him her story of a child's rejection and tries to convince him to stay. He initially agrees, still mad at Andy, but eventually is convinced to go back after his friends come to rescue him. However, the rescue mission goes sideways and they all have to figure out how to get back home to Andy.
Rejection is the poignant theme that dominates this movie and it was so successfully done, Pixar decided to use it in both of the following sequels (but none do it as well as this one). Woody's feeling of abandonment is mirrored perfectly by Jessie's sad montage of being left behind. It dives deep into what the creators imagine the psyche of a toy to be, making it 100% believable and empathetic.
Aside from the emotional aspects (of which there are a lot), the story is extremely well-paced, allowing us to feel sadness for the toys but not lagging in those moments. We get moments of mirth during Act 2 with Buzz and the rest of the toys, and a surprisingly intense chase scene in the end of the film. The movie is relentlessly fun and appealing to all ages.
This 1999 movie's only disappointments are that again, the animation (especially for humans) isn't aging well and can be distracting. Also, I find the villain to be boring. He's yet another twist villain in the Pixar saga and is one that we carry very little about or even remember after watching.
Some movies just make you feel good.
Up has perhaps one of the best openings in all of animation. It's a gloriously compact, near perfect introduction to what the heart of the movie is and will leave you sobbing.
The movie afterwards is still fantastic, but the opening does overshadow it a tad.
Up was released in 2009 and follows the story of the elderly Carl who has recently lost Ellie, the love of his life. In his grief he refuses to accept any other change and shuts people out. After a lawsuit, Carl decides to follow his and Ellie's dream of going to Paradise Falls in Venezuela by tying thousands of balloons to his house and floating there. The only thing is, the cheerful boyscout Russell accidentally floated away with him. Together they make it to Venezuela and learn valuable lessons about life and loss, all while trying to protect a rare bird that is being threatened by an old hero of Carl's.
The film is illustriously colorful and bright, filled with both childlike wonder and a sense of adventure. It leaves you with a wonderfully warm feeling and a positive outlook on life.
However, as mentioned before, the movie is just a bit less perfect than its opening. The movie is entirely centered around emotions and it does that well, we are 100% invested in Carl and Russell and their lives. But, for a movie that has the high stakes of the potential extinction of a rare bird, dogs that fall off cliffs, and dangerous chase scenes that could've easily resulted in death - it's just a touch slow at times.
Yes, this languid pace is what heightens the emotional factor for us and keeps the tears rolling, but for me I don't find Up as rewatchable as other Pixar movies. I enjoy it immensely when I do turn it on, but it's not something I actively seek out.
6. Monsters, Inc.
Who would've thought that a movie about a giant fluffy monster with purple polka-dots caring for a human child would be equal parts touching and hilariously fun?
Monsters, Inc follows the team of Sully and Mike who work at a company that scares children and harnesses screams to make power for the city of Monstropolis. One night, a human child (later nicknamed Boo) finds her way into the monster world. Human children are terrifying to monsters so when word gets out that Boo is in the monster world, there is an expansive search for her. Regardless of this, Mike and Sully realize that Boo is not a threat and try to find her a safe way back to her world.
When you summarize the movie, it doesn't quite sound like the touching, feel-good romp that it really is. But then again, that fits in with a theme of the movie - that preconceptions of people/things can lead you to wrong conclusions.
Despite having issues with older animation (it was released in 2001 and at the time the animation was groundbreaking - especially with fur), Monsters, Inc ranks among Pixar's funniest movies. It just hits perfectly, especially with Mike. All of the characters are incredibly memorable, but truly Mike and Sully could rank among the most iconic duos in Pixar right up there with Woody and Buzz. This is due in part to the great character writing, but mainly because of the fantastic voice work of Billy Crystal and John Goodman.
The movie falters in that although Monsters, Inc has some really interesting world-building, it doesn't use it as much as it should. It relies on the characters to carry the movie, which is fine and does work well. But for how much they worked on creating the world of Monstropolis, they really should've delved into it more (which they thankfully did in the 2013 prequel).
5. Inside Out
Inside Out awed me when I first saw it in 2015. I thought it was one of the most original storylines I had seen in awhile, starting with an unusual but interesting premise and ending with a fantastic message.
All of these things are still true, but after a couple rewatches I began to notice some little pitfalls with the movie and with how Pixar thinks of their ideas.
Inside Out is a story about a girl named Riley, only the focus isn't on Riley, it's on her emotions. Her emotions - Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, control Riley's actions, words, and well... everything. One day after moving to San Fransisco from Minnesota, Joy and Sadness get lost in a different part of Riley's mind and have to find their way back to the control room. While they're missing, Riley can only feel Fear, Disgust, and Anger, and begins to lose parts of her core personality. On the journey to get back to Riley, Joy realizes the importance of all the emotions working together to create a well-balanced Riley - with a special importance on the role of Sadness, someone she had discredited since Riley was born.
It's a thought-provoking and engaging storyline, keeping us emotionally invested from beginning to end. However, it sounds a little familiar. Think about it, Pixar typically refrains from doing movies populated mainly by human characters. Their storylines go, what if cars had feelings? Or fish? Or monsters? Or toys? Or bugs?
See the pattern? For Inside Out, it's now - what if emotions had feelings, or, what if feelings had feelings?
It's still a fun thought to mess around with and created a great movie. But recognizing the pattern made the movie lose a little bit of originality for me. That and the fact that the humans are more appealing to me than the emotions (but have significantly less screen time) brought the movie down a bit.
4. The Incredibles
If you ask most people what their favorite Pixar movie is, I bet five times out of ten they say The Incredibles.
Is it because we've had a surge in superhero movies over the last few decades? Maybe. But I tend to think it's because The Incredibles has an undeniable "cool" factor.
It's exciting, interesting, and isn't overly emotional or heavy handed about the messages it tries to convey. In fact, I bet if you ask again what people think the moral of the story is, most would be confused and say something along the lines of "be nicer to your family," or even, "superheros are good?". This confusion is why the movie has been ranked a bit lower than most would like, but make no mistake - it's still in Pixar's top tier.
The Incredibles is a movie about a family with superpowers in a world where superheros have been outlawed. The father, Mr. Incredible, pines for the glory days of superheroes and jumps to take hero-work when it presents itself. However, as he and the rest of his super family find out, not everything is what it seems and the world does need their help.
Underneath the fun banter, action packed chase scenes, and blown up machines, you'll find themes about how kindness is not weakness, how you shouldn't take the people around you for granted, and how you need to learn how to love/accept yourself. Tying this all together is a really well-written family dynamic and a sharp animation style that more than makes up for the awkward human animation in the early Toy Story movies.
Although underrated, Ratatouille is probably the most "rewatchable" Pixar film. You can see it again and again and never tire of it.
This 2007 film (named for the French stew), tells the tale of rat named Remy who loves food and cooking more than anything. This makes him an outcast in his pack, as rats aren't picky about their food. Remy doesn't let this deter him and continues his love affair with food, becoming a chef through his human friend Linguini. As the restaurant they work in becomes successful and the truth of who is really behind it comes out, the film's characters are left to face the reality that "anyone can cook," even a rat.
Ratatouille is a love song for art, artists, and all those who consume such crafts in their various forms. It addresses criticism in art and its pitfalls, while not actually degrading critics themselves. It serves as a reminder of what inspires critics and artists to make art their life, and why both artists and critics need to go hand in hand into the future with open minds about what art is and what it can be.
To put it simply, this movie is very well done. A sound and meaningful plot, great characters, fun world-building, beautiful animation, and a warm parting message. I occasionally consider it my favorite Pixar movie, as it's definitely the one I've seen the most.
People seem to forget about Wall-E, which is absolutely shocking to me, as it's one of the most important animated movies of the age.
Yes, part of this is because of the relevancy of the plot. You know, the whole "humans treated the world like a dumpster and now it's uninhabitable" warning, complete with obesity, robotics, and the importance of nature.
But that's only a small part of why it's such an important movie. Wall-E is groundbreaking because the main characters are two robots who can barely speak. The whole first half of the movie has nearly ZERO dialogue, and yet, we the audience are absolutely enraptured by it still. Dialogue keeps movies running and without it, the audience is meant to entirely rely on visual cues to keep themselves entertained. Thus, in Wall-E we rely on two robots to keep our attention. Robots, in most media we consume, are registered as "unfeeling" and cold. Thankfully, the Wall-E characters are anything but!
The movie (released in 2008) follows the protagonist Wall-E, a lone robot who has been left behind to clean up the earth. One day he finds the robot Eve, who is on a mission to find proof of life and bring it back to the human's spaceship. After finding a plant, she and Wall-E battle to keep it safe on her spaceship and fall in love along the way.
The story is flawless even without dialogue, the characters are lovable, the message at the end heartwarming, and the animation incredible. Also, the "Define Dancing" scene in space is hands down one of the most stunning scenes Pixar has ever created.
1. Finding Nemo
When Finding Nemo was released in 2003, it was hailed as one of the greatest animated films to have ever been made. Now, almost two decades later, its ranking has changed very little.
Finding Nemo follows the journey of an anxious clownfish named Marlin who journeys across the ocean to find his captured son Nemo. Early in his journey he meets the lighthearted, forgetful fish Dory and the two face odds that seem impossibly large for two very small fish.
The movie is visually stunning, dealing with a medium that many animators dread facing - water. You can tell that everything, down to the smallest ripple and pebble, was meticulously researched and crafted, creating a believable landscape for the underwater adventure.
But, however gorgeous the film is, the storytelling and character development is really where the film shines. For instance, instead of being told why Marlin is neurotic and fearful of everything, we see how he became that way and all the little ways it has changed him. Rather than using Dory's disability as a comedic crutch, we see how taking her and her intelligence for granted is wrong and will backfire.
The messages we see in the film - covering mental health, parenthood, friendship, trust, and getting over trauma, captivate and inspire us. The story keeps pace but is consistently fun and interesting, the jokes land well, and we never question any of the various character's actions, motivations, or fears. Truly, Finding Nemo is one of the greats.
Pixar has proven time and time again that animation is an art form that can be just as impactful as live-action cinema, sometimes even more so.
Animation itself is so powerful because we as consumers inherently trust it more than live-action, starting way back when we were children. Our familiarity of it at such a young age and the happy memories we attach to it allows animation to break rules that live-action cannot. For instance, we can watch a franchise about toys that come to life and not doubt the believability of it. Or about anthropomorphic cars that exist in a world where no humans do.
Of course, some of this is due to the cartoonish nature of animation itself and how the uncanny valley works, but that's a topic for another day.
This inherent decision we make to trust animation makes for easier viewing and permits our imagination to reign supreme over our logic. And in this day and age, we could stand to use our imagination more.