As excited as we are for The Incredibles 2 (just check out that teaser trailer), there’s something particularly magical about a Pixar original release. Thanks to the studio’s uncanny ability to create entirely new worlds, drop us in and make them feel instantly familiar and lived-in, we can’t help but want to stay.
That is definitely the case in Pixar’s latest, Coco, which hit theaters this past Thanksgiving weekend, and rightfully earns its place among the studio’s upper echelon.
In honor of its release, we’ve ranked all 13 Pixar originals from worst to best. Spoiler: even their worst isn’t really that bad.
13. ‘The Good Dinosaur’
Though weird and wacky in its own right, the central boy-meets-dinosaur emotional arc is such low-level Pixar you’d think it’s something from the likes of DreamWorks. Still, the beautiful photorealistic landscapes are enough to make even the bottom of the list not a total loss.
Arguably one of the biggest disappointments to come out of the Pixar originals canon, this folk tale hinged on a mother-daughter relationship was just too simplistic to carry any emotional weight. Merida’s hair did look great, though.
Don’t even get me started on the sequels, but the original Cars did manage to wring out some pathos and pleasant themes about nostalgia and small town camaraderie. Even the shtick of Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater hadn’t grown old yet.
10. ‘A Bug’s Life’
While probably best remembered as squaring off against the other animated insect movie released at the same time, DreamWorks’ Antz, this second feature following Toy Story definitely should not be counted out. It continued to set the standard of inventive plotting and emotional stakes Pixar became known for.
9. ‘Monster’s Inc.’
Among the most wholly original world created by Pixar bursting with boundless possibilities (second only to Inside Out), this might also be considered one of Pixar’s funniest movies thanks in large part to the undeniable chemistry between Billy Crystal and John Goodman.
For some, this may rank higher; however, taken as a whole, the zany adventure of a mismatched boy scout and grumpy old man –- throw in a talking dog for good measure –- can’t hold a candle to other recent Pixar originals. But that show-stopping, 10-minute romance-turned-tragedy that opens the film? Masterful.
Imagine that montage from Up blown up into a full-length feature. You’d get something a little like this visually splendid and emotionally rich meditation on death and coming to terms with your family. It’s also likely the closest we’ll get to a Pixar musical.
6. ‘Finding Nemo’
An imaginative underwater adventure, this entry created some of the most memorable characters including Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory who later received her own starring sequel. There are plenty of stories about finding your family but what makes this one so unique is the literal search for Nemo and the unpredictable and sometimes harrowing turns the journey takes.
5. ‘The Incredibles’
Super powers as a metaphor for family dynamics and dysfunction? Incredible indeed. Slick, clever and action-packed, the direction from Brad Bird is the standout in this high watermark in the Pixar canon. At a time when superhero fatigue was just barely setting in, this was already a breath of fresh air.
4. ‘Inside Out’
A profound statement on adolescence, specifically female, and the importance of feeling sad within our gamut of feelings. The thought of turning specific emotions into characters seemed daunting, even for Pixar, but the studio pulled it off and created one of the most exhilarating and heart-breaking stories they’ve ever told. It will also go down as one of Amy Poehler’s best, and perfectly fitting, roles.
3. ‘Toy Story’
There’s a very solid argument out there why this should be #1, but hear me out. While it’s an absolute classic and among Pixar’s crowning achievements, a debut out of the gate that become an undeniable cultural touchstone, the studio still went on to do even better things. And that’s saying a lot.
Perhaps the most adult movie from Pixar yet considering its heavy themes on the manmade destruction of our planet, it still manages to contain such childlike wonder from its main protagonist, a trash-collecting robot. The movie’s 45-minute dialogue-free opening is breathtaking and poetic, and it crescendos into a surprising, deeply felt romance not even between humans.
The second Pixar feature from Brad Bird takes all the best elements of what the studio created over the years and culminates it into an unassuming masterpiece, which managed to rank even among the best live-action films of its release year. The simple story of a rat — named Remy, not Ratatouille, as fans will remind you — with aspirations to become a world-renowned chef evolves into something profoundly sublime. Beyond just perfection of craftsmanship — the slapstick scenarios and breathless chase sequences — it becomes a meditation on living up to your ambition and what it means to be an artist.