Mania Picks: 10 Best Pixar Films (

By:Mania Staff
Date: Friday, June 18, 2010

With Toy Story 3 coming out swinging today, Mania takes a look back at the incredible run Pixar has had so far. This company, with groundbreaking computer animation and All-Star voice talent, never forgets to tell a great story and makes movies that are entertaining for both young and old. Probably the best and easily the most consistent filmmakers out there, our staff did our best to try and rank these movies. Not so easy when you look at a track record like Pixar's.  


10. Cars

Following the critical and financial success of 2004’s The Incredibles, Pixar announced their next animated adventure was two years away and would center on Cars. The announcement was initially met with doubts from insiders and fans, who wondered how something so impersonal as vehicles could translate to the silver screen magic we’ve known from the studio. But with Pixar being who they are, co-directors John Lassiter and Joe Ranft sculpted a masterpiece of the human spirit, the drive for competition and the longing of friendship. All in a decidedly non-human environment. Not only launching a billion dollar merchandising empire, Cars is the first non-Toy Story out of Pixar to expect a sequel in 2011.

9. Monsters, Inc.

Pixar movies thrive on taking us to worlds we didn't know existed. Oftentimes they are right under our noses but Monsters, Inc. may present the most wildly divergent Pixar world of them all; a world on the other side of our closet door. Sully and Mike may look fearsome, but they're just working-class schlubs in their monster-oriented world. Their job is to elicit the screams from human children that power their society. But when Sully accidentally brings toddling Boo into the monster world, they slowly realize that everything the authoritarians have told them is wrong. While the powers-that-be would have us focused on fear, our heroes discover that there's much more to be gained by helping others find joy.

8. A Bug's Life

One of Pixar’s animated adventures that frequently is forgotten by fans, A Bug’s Life had the unfortunate bad luck to be sandwiched in between the studio’s first critical success in 1995’s Toy Story and the film’s sequel in 1999. Even with the dubious title of lowest-grossing Pixar release, it still scored well with critics and fans earning 91% on the old Tomatometer, thanks to director John Lassiter capturing the age old dilemma of bullying oppressors. Showing off the American spirit of individualism within us all, our hero ant Flik (Dave Foley) crawled out victorious against the evil Mr. Hopper (Kevin Spacey) in a style that keeps both adult and children enthralled.

7. Finding Nemo

The greatest stories are the ones that speak to us on a fundamental level of human understanding. Finding Nemo's heart-rending opening finds the lovable clownfish Marlon suffering every husband and father's worst nightmare: the violent destruction of his family. So when Marlon's sole surviving son Nemo is stripped away from him we're hyper-empathetic about his need to do the impossible: find his son in the vastness of the ocean. While Marlon battles a variety of obstacles (not to mention his own crushing anxieties), Nemo has to meet an assortment of challenges for the first time without his father's constant protection. The pair find that facing life's trials is the way to growth and maturity. For all the beautiful ocean scenery and exotic creatures that dazzle and amuse us on their journey, it's the insightful depiction of the problems that every father and son confront that make Finding Nemo a movie to watch over and over again.

6. Toy Story 2

The best sequels use the original film not as a blueprint, but as a starting point: a place to expand and enhance the characters in ways the first movie couldn’t. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Toy Story 2, a film originally intended for straight-to-DVD status until the filmmakers realized they had something very special on their hands. At its heart is a surprisingly grim question--what happens to a toy when its owner has set aside childish things?--which Woody the cowboy has to look straight in the eye. Does he let himself become a museum exhibit, unloved but kept safe forever? Or does he rejoin his friends--braving no small amount of peril to reach him--for the fleetingly temporary happiness of Andy’s room?  The emotional core of that equation elevates Toy Story 2 to the ranks of the greatest sequels ever made. 

5. Ratatouille

Brad Bird’s second Pixar flick found yet another way for the creative team to up the ante; let’s make society’s least favorite rodent, somehow adorable. Ratatouille pushes the story of following your heart all through the perspective of French countryside rat, Remy, who travels to Paris to meet his cooking hero and becomes a culinary Cyrano De Bergerac to Linguini, a hapless garbage boy turned chef.  With themes of tolerance and acceptance of people no matter what fur color one may have, Ratatouille never hammers you over the head with the message, but like a fine meal, uses just enough of the to compliment and excentuate. After watching, Ratatoulle just makes you want to go in the alley and hang out with the rats you've judged so harshly in the past.


4. Toy Story

Did we really know what we were looking at when Woody the cowboy first glared enviously at his spaceman rival from the confines of Andy’s room? Toy Story took years to bring to the screen, and if it had tanked, the cinematic landscape might look very different today. Lucky for us it didn’t, and thus was one of the medium’s most impressive winning streaks born. Toy Story lacks the thematic sophistication of Pixar’s later works, but makes up for it in its elegantly constructed plot and characters. The storytelling skill on display set the tone for every Pixar film to follow, while the figures onscreen have rattled off two additional animated masterpieces without even pausing for breath. 


3. Up

When most people watched the trailer for Up, they probably thought Pixar had lost it. Nobody likes movies about old people. A flying balloon house?  Then of course, the first five minutes into the movie, unless you are a heartless bastard, Up had you crying like a newborn. The movie sets up America’s favorite curmudgeon, Carl Hendrickson’s life in such a wonderfully heartbreaking way, he could have been shooting kittens the rest of the film and the audience would have forgiven him.  But it doesn’t stop there, Up takes you through an emotional journey without holding the audience hostage dealing with such heavy topics aging, death, life after loss and flying dogs.


2. The Incredibles

2004’s The Incredibles is arguably the best superhero film ever made.  While Pixar’s fifth film was not actually based on any comic book, it may stand as the movie that's been the most true to the spirit of the comic book super heroes we all know and love. It proved that powered crime-fighters don't have to be watered down to find acceptance among the broader movie-going audiences. Colorful costumes, super powers, giant robots, secret headquarters, a shared universe of heroes and a rich back story.Creator Brad Bird (The Simpsons, Iron Giant) clearly influenced by The Fantastic Four but blended the Marvel quartet with a late 50’s, jazzy style and themes from Ayn Rand novels, showing how society drags down “super” people. 





In the midst of Pixar’s dazzling storytelling prowess and profound insight into human nature, it’s easy to forget how gutsy some of their work can be. WALL*E serves as the ultimate case in point: the world’s first post-apocalyptic romantic comedy, featuring no real dialogue from either of the principle characters. If anyone else attempted such a feat, the studios would stone them to death on sight. But Pixar makes it look so easy, creating a whimsical statement on the power of love set in a chillingly plausible world which humanity has polluted to near-extinction. WALL*E nails those disparate halves so perfectly that they feel made for each other, a peerless blending of tone and technique that even the greatest directors in history might have struggled with.


Let us know what you think Maniacs. Who is your 10-1.  While you are at it, check out our version of Carl Hendrickson,  Rob Vaux's review of Toy Story 3


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