Incredibles 2 released today, nearly 14 years after The Incredibles introduced us to these beloved characters.
All that 2004 nostalgia got us thinking about the rest of Pixar’s catalog and how they all stack up. Why didn’t more people watch The Good Dinosaur? Which sequels measure up to the originals? Why is A Bug’s Life still so good?
Read on for our ranking of every Pixar movie.
Cars 2 suffers from sequel syndrome of the Iron Man 2 variety, and not just because they both involve racing. It’s fine, but Pixar is usually well past fine.
Brave is still the only princess movie ever produced by Pixar (no, Moana wasn’t), and it was a solid effort. The story played out very differently than the marketing led us to believe – we did not think the bear would be such a major element – but the themes suit Pixar to a T and Merida’s hair is #goals.
Better than Cars 2 but still struggling to live up to Cars, the motorized threequel leaned into the passage of time, letting Lighting McQueen move on to the next phase while welcoming an exciting successor. What a way to see him off (well, at least for now).
The Good Dinosaur
The Good Dinosaur got lost in the year that also gave us Inside Out and ended up as Pixar’s lowest-gross to date. Which is a shame, because it had a charming premise: What if the dinosaurs never died out? Maybe they’d do what Arlo does here, and basically adopt a human (“Spot”) as a pet.
It’s not a sequel, it’s a prequel: Monsters University goes back to Mike and Sulley’s college days, revealing just how these BFFs became, well, BFFs. In the process, it also puts a creative, monstrous spin on all those familiar college tropes.
Just when it seemed Pixar had told every story we could think of, along came the story of professional race cars who maybe need to learn a lesson or two about how to be better people. (Just go with us here.) Cars was a particular hit with young children – Lightning McQueen was the Elsa of his day – and spawned a nice little franchise.
Did The Incredibles really need a sequel, 14 years later later? We didn’t think so, but then Incredibles 2 came along to prove us wrong. The action is better than ever, Elastigirl is a heroine for the modern age, and Jack-Jack might just be the cutest baby we’ve seen onscreen since… ever. – Angie Han
Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 was Pixar’s first sequel, but anyone wondering whether this meant the studio had run out of ideas was quickly proven wrong. Losing Woody put the gang in dire straits and forced Buzz to become a leader in a way he never had before. We also met the adorable Jessie and cried many a tear at her tragic backstory.
This charming tale of a rodent’s culinary aspirations and his unexpected friendship with a floundering human chef would thaw even a New Yorker’s heart (albeit only temporarily). It also made us crave elaborate cuisine and think that maybe we shouldn’t give up on our dreams. After all, if a rat can pursue his passions, so can we.
The ocean came vibrantly alive once more as forgetful Dory challenged her memory to lead her back to her parents. Nemo and Marlon (the latter more reluctantly) returned to follow her on another emotional roller coaster full of fish friends new and old.
Superheroes are people too! Back in 2004, The Incredibles presented the delightful farce of a superpowered family trying to live incognito. We were rooting as much for Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl’s marriage as we were for the heroes to overthrow Syndrome – a storyline that led to some dark lessons about fame and rejection. We are so glad to have this gang back.
Maybe monsters aren’t scary – they’re just doing their jobs. The hilarity of creatures who frighten people for a living punching in and out and living their own adult lives was as enjoyable for parents as it was for kids. Mike and Sully felt like an alternate-universe Woody and Buzz, and we still want to adopt Boo.
2008’s cautionary tale about sedentary life and environmental corruption is, unfortunately, evergreen. WALL-E made us examine our harmful human behavior, through the eyes of an innocent and well-meaning robot. And while WALL-E and Eve’s love defies all logic, that doesn’t stop us from melting at their relationship.
A Bug’s Life
As a story about literal insects, A Bug’s Life was better than it had any right to be. Here we were, rooting for ants – bugs! – in their fight against the oppressive grasshoppers, because the world crafted by Pixar was so detailed and immersive that it was impossible not to get invested.
The thought of toys coming alive instantly turned fun instead of terrifying, especially to the film’s young target audience. Toy Story flipped the script even further by making Sid the villain and prompting morally malleable viewers to reflect on how they treat others (inanimate or not). Most importantly, Toy Story brought us the iconic duo of Buzz and Woody, two characters who made no sense on paper but formed a fierce friendship that we still look up to.
Coco‘s foray into the Land of the Dead was Pixar at its most jaw-droppingly beautiful – and it brought the emotion, too, with a tender tale of familial love and creative ambition. If you need us, we’ll be over here weeping over “Remember Me.” – Angie Han
We can’t talk about Up without talking about that opening montage, whose emotional devastaiton comes courtesy of Michael Giacchino’s score and the nefarious passage of time. This was a film about a curmudgeonly old man that gave us a window to his heart early on, then let us watch as he put his faith in fantasy and embarked on a last adventure. It’s a film for the kid in all of us, who never truly leaves.
Pixar changed the game again in 2003 by submerging us in the wondrous world of the Great Barrier Reef. We learned all about marine biology, we fell in love with a forgetful blue tang, and we found Nemo (spoiler) at the end of it all.
Emotions are the worst, as any adult can attest, but watching the human mind mature as richly as it did in Inside Out was truly spectacular. The Memory Dump? The Train of Thought? Bing Bong?? It’s all genius, and it just goes to show that mind and heart are linked forever.
Toy Story 3
With improvements in animation technology and the most heartwarming, heartbreaking script of the series, Toy Story 3 wrecked most of its now-adult fans as Andy bade farewell to his beloved toys and his childhood. Growing up can be rough, but the toys learn that you can get through anything with the right friends.
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