Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Cars 3 is the 18th feature film released by Pixar Animation Studios, and quite possibly the least-anticipated one yet. That said, we’re still going to celebrate, by sharing our picks for the five best films in the studio’s 22-year history; a harder task than it seems, given how many of those 18 put in a claim to being among the best animated films of the modern age.

In addition, Tim brings Train to Busan to the worth mentioning segment while Carrie and Rob catch-up with Beauty and the Beast (2017).


The Incredibles (2004)
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Toy Story (1995)
Finding Nemo (2003)
Up (2009)


Up (2009)
Toy Story (1995)
Finding Nemo (2003)
WALL·E (2008)
Inside Out (2015)


WALL·E (2008)
Ratatouille (2007)
Up (2009)
Toy Story (1995)
Inside Out (2015)

22 Responses so far.

  1. J.S says:

    I hope none of you put the VILE film Pixar made in 2004 on the list.

    • Not Fenimore says:

      It’s the best Fantastic Four movie ever made, and I just ignore the Objectivism.

      …he says, after hypocritically spending last week’s list tearing Rain Man a new one.

      • Carrie Jarosinski Carrie Jarosinski says:

        The only movie that came to mind when I read “vile” was ‘Wings’ which incidentally was far worse than ‘Planes’, but then neither of those were Pixar, so then I was just lost.

  2. victor says:

    1. “WALL-E” – The only movie I’ve ever watched more than 40 times (it’s our 2-year-old’s favorite). I could seriously quote the whole thing, but in the case of “WALL-E” that’s not really saying much (“No… John.”). Anyway, it holds up after more than three dozen viewings is the point and the epilogue still gets me. Plus: 500 bonus points for putting a live-action Fred Willard in a cartoon.

    2. “The Incredibles” – Not sure what other movie Pixar made in 2004 that was so bad? Because “The Incredibles” is awesome.

    3. “Monsters Inc” – This still cracks me up no matter how many times I watch it, with so many quotable moments. And fur.

    4. “Ratatouille” – High concept meets high laughs on Brad Bird’s culinary dream getaway!

    5. “Up” – has all the feels but those annoying talking dogs almost ruined it for me. Get back in your crate, Dug.

    Can we do our top-5 Pixar animated shorts, next? That would be even more difficult, I think. Mine would probably just be listed in chronological order, from earliest to newest (skipping over “Boundin'” of course, which…. errgghh…….).

    • Carrie Jarosinski Carrie Jarosinski says:

      In what world do you get lucky enough for your 2-y/o to have WALL-E as a favorite?

      We get Air Bud and Sing. Although I love Sing, so we’re 50% lucky. I’m almost there on memorizing all the lines, but the dance moves, I’ve nailed those.

      • victor says:

        We have yet to catch “Sing!” fever around here, but upon Tim’s recommendation, our kids did watch “Trolls!” and half of them liked it (the split seemed to be pretty well defined along age lines). If you’re looking for a quiet respite from Air Bud with something that will appeal to younger kids, the Julia Donaldson adaptations on Netflix and Amazon Prime are very good (“Room on the Broom”, “Stick Man”, “Gruffalo” and “Gruffalo’s Child”).

        • Carrie Jarosinski Carrie Jarosinski says:

          Oh my gosh, see “Sing”!

          And thanks of the recs, we just couldn’t handle another re-run and attempted “Kubo and the Two Strings”. Big, BIG mistake. Nightmares for days.

  3. Billy the Kid says:

    1) Finding Nemo – finally a children’s movie that seems to speak for children instead of for their parents.
    2) Wall-E – pretty much flawless
    3) The first 20 minutes of Cars – no need to keep watching after he lands in the small town, but until then, it’s gorgeous to look at and the opening car race is both suspenseful and funny.
    4) Inside Out – who ever thought Herman’s Head had such potential? (Dennis Miller used to joke, “Tonight, a very special Herman’s Head,” but damn it, it turned out a very special Herman’s Head was possible after all!)
    5) Brave – especially valuable after Cars underlined how underrepresented females are in these films by having every single car a male except those few cars that HAD to be female to avoid homosexual content (the love interest, the groupies, the spouse of another car) and to make one joke about the lines at women’s restrooms. Given how many car-enthusiasts refer to their car as “she,” it was pretty striking how few female cars there were in Cars. Brave went a long way in compensating, and was a solid film to boot.

  4. 1) Wall-E: For being the most loving tribute to Charlie Chaplin and Stanley Kubrick while simultaneously managing to be a Pixar film. It may be true that the first half is better than the second, but I love the whole thing just the same (plus, the second half has WALL-E and EVE dancing in space with a fire extinguisher, which is just adorable)…

    2) Ratatouille: For presenting such a subtle message into a sophisticated story (about a rat who wants to be a chef, that’s the genius of Pixar). Patton Oswalt is perfect as Remy (likable and relatable while still sounding like he could potentially be a rat) and Peter O’Toole’s final monologue has always hit the spot for me as an amateur critic.

    3) Inside Out: For changing the way I relate to my emotions and presenting the conflict between society’s expectations to always be happy with our own need to simply be sad sometimes, in very clear, creative, moving and very funny ways. Plus, I adore the world-building in this movie and the way it becomes a depiction of what one has to lose along the road of growing up.

    4) Finding Nemo: For its colorful characters, beautiful setting and for the way it tackles disability and prejudice. This is the story of a father who, in order to find his son, has to get over his prejudice that the world around him is out to get him (because, while the world is dangerous, there are still fish out there who want to lend a helping hand). And Ellen DeGeneres… enough said!

    5) Up: Yes, the Married Life sequence (my parents actually indulged me in seeing this one with me on their anniversary, turns out it was the perfect film for them), but also the sheer creativity that goes into its story and the way it connects all of these crazy plot points to a solid emotional core. That’s what makes Pixar Pixar (or did at least).

  5. WBTN says:

    1. Wall•E – admittedly, it never got better after the first time I watched it, when I wasn’t such an apologist for the hectic third act, but this was still an instant favorite from the get-go. It’s Pixar’s most go-for-broke movie: possibly the best science-fiction movie of the last thirty-plus years, all the way back to the best ever year for sci-fi movies, 1982; possibly the best romantic comedy for a similar amount of time; and also possibly the best capitalist satire/environmental fable made by a major studio for a huge sum of money (sorry Paul Verhoeven). That it manages to balance all of those elements into a cohesive whole is one thing, but it’s so, so gorgeous, and there’s some silent comedy in there to quiet down the nerds.*

    2. Finding Nemo – another Andrew Stanton one? Sure, why not. On any given day, I could probably swap this out for 3 or 4, but something about this one resonates with me a bit more than they do, perhaps even more than Wall•E, though that one still makes me the giddiest. And like Wall•E, the animation is unfathomably beautiful. No, that wasn’t a pun. Stop overthinking th

    3. Ratatouille – it helped me get out of a funk where I was watching a lot of nihilistic, violent films as a teenager, and realized, ‘oh, movies can also be good and pleasant, why didn’t I know this before?’ Exquisite character design and lighting, perfect casting, and a welcome, breezy tone – not that it isn’t without stakes, but they’re of a much different, lower nature than their other movies (Okay, I guess there’s still life and death stakes, but I also like that impending death is a casual joke here)

    4. Toy Story – the animation’s dated quite a bit, but who cares? Don’t think I can add anything to this, except that Tim Allen is a snitch

    5. Up – pretty close to perfect; it gets flak for everything that happens after the first ten minutes, and yeah, it’s not as good after that, but there’s still a great adventure movie in there. Shut up and have some wistful, tearjerking fun already

    *I’m one of those nerds, get off my back Tim

  6. M.C. Steffen says:

    Huh, same titles as Isaac, just slightly rearranged:

    1. Ratatouille
    2. Finding Nemo
    3. WALL-E
    4. Up
    5. Inside Out

  7. Yourself says:

    1.) Toy Story 3
    2.) WALL-E
    3.) Toy Story
    4.) Up
    5.) A Bug’s Life

    Although it should be taken into consideration that this list doubles as “the five Pixar movies I have seen”. I don’t even particularly like Up past the opening and haven’t seen A Bug’s Life since I was 6.

    The top 3 are still 10/10 movies, but without small children around I’m frequently lacking an excuse to watch Pixar rather than, say, Lancelot du Lac.

  8. Brian Fowler says:

    1. Finding Nemo
    2. The Incredibles
    3. Toy Story
    4. WALL-E
    5. Toy Story 3

  9. Wimsey says:

    1. The Incredibles
    2. Rataouille
    3. Wall·E
    4. Toy Story 2
    5. Up

  10. This is like choosing favorite children.
    Kids, daddy loves you all equally BUT triage is triage:
    1. The Incredibles
    2. Wall*E
    3. Finding Nemo
    4. Toy Story 3
    5. Inside Out

  11. Jessica says:

    1. Ratatouille 2. Finding nemo 3. Walle 4. Up. 5. Toy story 2

  12. Stevie says:

    Following up the easiest list in the world with the most difficult. I’ll say it’s been interesting to see people’s lists, the same titles in completely unexpected permutations. It’s quite unreal.

    No commentary. Played around with putting Inside Out here, except I need to have a second look at it before I decide that it’s the best Docter film. In the meantime, I have watched Up eight times now and sobbed every time I come to My Adventure Book. So there.

    (Hi Jessica, it’s your list basically.)

    5. Toy Story 2
    4. Up
    3. Finding Nemo
    2. Ratatouille
    1. WALL-E

  13. Alex Frith says:

    1) Inside Out
    2) Ratatouille
    3) Toy Story 3
    4) Toy Story 2
    5) Finding Nemo

    Part of me wants to put The Incredibles in there as the good parts are SO good, but the overall plot message just made me so mad when I first saw it that I can’t like the film. I wasn’t born with the innate ability to parse movies, does that make me a bad person from wanting to learn from Tim how to do it??

    Weirdly, neither of my children has fallen in love with any Pixar movie to watch it repeatedly – but they have watched the two ‘short film’ collection DVDs many, many times. Proud parent right here!

    • I agree with everyone mentioning it that The Incredibles has some terrible and terribly confused messaging. Aside from those morality play moments, though, it’s overwhelmingly my favorite thing Pixar has ever done. I waiver every time I watch it about whether that compartmentalizing is justifiable, but I always land on it being forgivable in light of the other more personal and honest themes. The pseudo-objectivist wankery kinda feels just shoehorned in there, either as a last-minute addition or a holdover from an earlier draft of the script.

      Can’t hold it against anyone who’s not able to watch with a bit of doublethink though.

    • That said, I haven’t seen the film in over a decade so I’m probably due for a nostalgia reevaluation one of these days.

  14. Brigdh says:

    This was a damn hard list!

    1. WALL-E
    2. Ratatouille
    3. Up
    4. Toy Story
    5. Monsters Inc

  15. 1. The Incredibles
    2. Ratatouille
    3. Toy Story 2
    4. Inside Out
    5. Monsters University

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