Worldwide icon-chevron-right The 10 best Pixar movies of all time
Toy Story 2
Photograph: Pixar Toy Story 2

The 10 best Pixar movies of all time

They’ve rewritten the rules of animation to infinity and beyond, but it’s still possible to rank the best Pixar movies

By Joshua Rothkopf and Time Out contributors
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The studio that redefined what animation could do, Pixar, has been turning out masterpieces for 25 years straight, since Toy Story in 1995. Most of them could lay claim to a spot on a list of the best ever animated movies. Even more astonishing than its consistency is its famed ability to weave stories and create characters that resonate and chime with kids and grown-ups alike, tackling the chewiest topics (death in Coco, ecological apocalypse in Wall·E) with a lightness of touch, wit and kaleidoscopic visual style few can match. The hard part is trying to figure out which of them is best. But Pixar does have its ten best movies of all time – we’ve ranked them below.

1. Wall•E (2008)

Film Animation

Fourteen years in development and costing a reported $180 million, Wall•E was Pixar’s biggest risk when it came out in 2008: a politically-charged story about a lonely robot cleaning up a devastated, trash-covered Earth and falling in love with the first sentient being he meets. And for the first 45 minutes, there’s no dialogue at all. But the result is delirious – romantic but technological, funny but sad, and the peak of Pixar’s craft. After all, there are not many animations that can pull off an underlying message of impending ecological catastrophe without completely killing the vibe. This daring, dazzling, winsome movie is definitely one of them.

2. Toy Story 2 (1999)

Film Animation

It’s the holy grail for all franchise builders: a sequel that enriches and improves upon the original. While the first film addressed kid-friendly ideas of friendship and trust, this time the themes are far more grown-up: It’s all about self-worth, beautifully and simply expressed through the concept of ‘collectability’. The fact that Toy Story 2 is also filled with witty asides and one ‘Star Wars’ riff for the ages doesn’t hurt a bit either. Altogether now: ‘No, Buzz. I am your father!’

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inside out
inside out
Photograph: Disney Pixar

3. Inside Out (2015)

Film Animation

We expect sophistication from Pixar – they make animated movies for the parents, not just the kids. And still, even competing against its own daunting back catalogue, the studio emerged with one of their all-time greats: daring, honest, psychologically complex. Not merely a movie about the voices in a girl’s head, it’s about the inevitability of sadness. It suggests we should savor that ache as part of our whole selves.

4. Toy Story (1995)

Film Animation

Nothing less than the first shot in what would become a revolution, this gamechanging but simply-told yarn turned adults into happy children, naysayers into believers, and computer animation into the dominant expression of an entire industry. Pixar’s debut feature is its most beautiful thing – with the emphasis on ‘thing’: The genius idea here was to embrace the stuff of toys – to imbue plastic and cloth with solidity and tactility.

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5. Up (2009)

Film Animation

Even after Ratatouille, even after The Incredibles, even after Wall-E, we weren’t expecting this. Up is Pixar at its most profound and risk-taking, opening with a devastating montage of love and loss before proceeding with the tale of a grouchy elderly man who makes the decision to fly his entire house to South America using helium balloons. En route, the movie flits from stoner humor to genuinely affecting age-gap bonding.

Best Pixar films: The Incredibles
Best Pixar films: The Incredibles
Photograph: Pixar

6. The Incredibles (2004)

Film Animation

Firing on all cylinders, Pixar’s first film to earn a PG rating signaled a grabbing of the brass ring: Yes, the studio’s computer animation was peerless, but could it also do marital malaise, middle-aged belly spread and sneakily ambitious philosophy – all of it tucked into spandex? Director Brad Bird’s masterpiece makes us believe in heroes, but more importantly, it reclaims the virtue of heroism itself: a blessing, an ideal, a curse.

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7. Finding Nemo

Film Action and adventure

Pixar’s beloved shaggy-fish story may not have managed to crack the top slot at the box office – it was up against The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – but its success both at the multiplex and on home video (it’s still the best-selling DVD of all time) heralded a new age of animated blockbusters. And it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving film, the warmest, most universal of all the Pixar home runs.

Best Pixar films: Toy Story 3
Best Pixar films: Toy Story 3
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8. Toy Story 3 (2010)

Film Animation

It took 11 years for Pixar to make a third visit to the playroom. Much of the original team went back to the drawing board and came up with a narrative that saw Andy, the toys’ owner, about to go to college and the toys escaping the terrible fate of the attic and heading instead to a day care center – which turns out to not be the paradise they’d hoped for. The mix of darkness, energy and emotion was as sophisticated as ever.

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The 25 best feelgood movies on Netflix: Ratatouille (2007)
The 25 best feelgood movies on Netflix: Ratatouille (2007)
Courtesy: Pixar

9. Ratatouille (2007)

5 out of 5 stars
Film Animation

Perhaps there’s no better example of the boldness of Pixar’s approach to story and character than this one: Ratatouille tells of Remy, a food-obsessed French rat washed down a sewer only to emerge in Paris, where he begins to help an awkward young kitchen worker cook incredible food in a top restaurant. The story is as mature and original as the animation – which, as ever, was groundbreaking.

10. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Film Animation

Perhaps more than any other Pixar flick, Monsters, Inc. cuts loose with the possibilities of animation, harking back to the golden age of Looney Tunes for its wild, dimension hopping action sequences and wealth of background gags, cramming the screen with color, life and wit. And the script is packed with memorable one-liners and fuzzy warmth. Credit, too, to screenwriters Andrew Stanton and Dan Gerson’s premise: a masterclass in world-building smarts.

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