What are the best Pixar movies? The name that revolutionized computer animation, Pixar is a leading figure in the genre and is the studio responsible for some of the most wholesome and downright heart-breaking movies ever aimed at kids.
With its debut film and the world’s first CGI feature, Toy Story, changing the way we see animation completely, Pixar is a studio that’s always pushed for new artistic possibilities and continues to spark the imagination of kids and adults alike with the best family movies ever made. Pixar’s superiority is pretty much undeniable at this point, with the studio dominating the Oscars scene each year and gathering waves of acclaim from critics and animation connoisseurs.
So, keeping that in mind, the real question is: how do you pick the best movies from this catalog? Well, we’ve managed to find the best of the best in the sea of Pixar magic. So, if you’re ready for top-tier animation, here’s our expanded list of the best Pixar movies of all time.
17. Lightyear (2022)
Lightyear has the ignominy of being bottom of this list, and yes, of all the films to come out of Pixar, it’s probably one of the worst, but that’s more a comment on the general quality of the studio’s output, not on Lightyear itself. Because let’s be honest, Lightyear does have a few things going for it.
The animation is superb, and it was interesting to see Pixar try a more photorealistic world after the more abstract designs used in Luca and Soul. Similarly, Chris Evan was a great choice to play Buzz, even if we’d probably have brought Tim Allen back. Plus, it gave us Socks the Cat, and if you don’t like Socks, then you don’t like joy. Read our full Lightyear review here.
16. Elemental (2023)
The Good Dinosaur director Peter Sohn’s second time at the helm has produced something really charming – Pixar’s ode to the best rom-coms in history. Set in a city populated by the four classical elements, it follows the romance between a water element and a fire element against the wishes of their parents.
It’s a movie that radiates warmth – and not just from the fiery characters – while delivering a complex and poignant allegory about the immigrant experience. You can check out our Elemental review for more of what we loved about the newest Pixar adventure.
15. Toy Story 4 (2019)
Did we really need Toy Story 4? Absolutely not. were we sad to play with Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toy box again? Absolutely. Yeah, I know we’re suckers for nostalgia, but honestly, Toy Story 4 does the impossible and manages to be just as heartfelt and entertaining as its predecessor. Plus, we missed Bo Peep in Toy Story 3, so seeing her reunite with Woody here made us feel all warm and fuzzy.
14. Luca (2021)
An underrated gem Luca is a beautiful fantasy film that’s nominally about sea monsters but really about the power of friendship. It’s a shame this film had to be released on Disney Plus because I genuinely believe that had it had a theatrical release, it would be considered one of the best animated movies of all time.
What’s particularly striking about Luca is how gorgeous the animation is. Now Pixar’s never made ugly movies, but the sheer effort that went into animating this film is visible in every frame. It’s breathtaking, it truly is, and if you haven’t seen it, well, I recommend you watch it tonight.
13. Coco (2017)
Vibrant and spiritedCoco may be about death, but that doesn’t mean it’s this wonderful film isn’t one of the liveliest Pixar movies in recent memory. Coco follows 12-year-old Miguel as he explores the Land of the Dead in the hopes of bringing music back to his family.
Despite its potentially morbid themes, Coco manages to be both thought-provoking and surprisingly family-friendly, boasting some of the best songs in an animated movie this side of the magic kingdom. A word of warning, though, don’t make the mistake of watching it without a box of tissues nearby. You’re going to need them.
12. Turning Red (2022)
Giving a feature directorial debut to Domee Shi after she wowed with the Pixar short Bao, Turning Red is a hit of nostalgia for those of us who grew up with the best 2000s movies. Pixar’s homage to the best teen movies follows a 13-year-old girl who finds that she transforms into an enormous red panda at times of high emotion. And we’ve all been teenagers, so we know that’s unavoidable.
It’s a charming movie and one in which Shi draws heavily from her heritage as a Chinese-Canadian woman. It also benefits from a willingness to confront slightly more mature topics than previous Pixar movies, showing the studio is still innovating even after more than two decades.
11. Finding Nemo (2003)
To this day, Finding Nemo holds the crown for the top underwater animated movie in terms of both story and art style. Animation-wise, Pixar outdid themselves, exceeding everyone’s expectations in the early 2000s, with the lighting and scale of the CGI sea impressing an entire generation of animation lovers.
The film also has a straightforward and simple plot of a clownfish going on a journey to find his abducted son. The clean script never takes away from the busy watery setting and is packed full of memorable one-liners that’ll leave you quoting the film for years to come. As you watch turtles ride bubbling currents or underwater mines exploding in a shark’s face, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the aquatic world when watching Finding Nemo.
10. Onward (2020)
Pixar’s CGI animation has recently been toeing the line between realism and cartoon. Backdrops tend to be lifelike, while characters are cute and colorful. Onward is Pixar’s first true success in bringing the two styles together, building a world that feels alive and draws you into the setting, instead of the two art styles clashing and making for an uncomfortable watch (we’re looking at you, Good Dinosaur).
The film is also, as we’ve come to expect from Pixar, an original story full of whimsy, and even sports a few Dungeons and Dragons references. The quest storyline of two brothers in a magical world is full of gags, childlike wonder, and easter eggs for fans of the best fantasy movies. We also get some stellar vocal work from Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, making Onward stand out as one of Pixar’s newest hits as well as the visual benchmark for modern animation.
9. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Toy Story 3 is a sentimental masterpiece and the perfect finale to Andy and Woody’s saga. Yes, there’s a fourth film, technically, but this was the title that completely rounded up the first two movies and left us all bawling in the cinema.
Its plot focuses on the natural progression of life, showing Andy now getting ready for college and saying a final goodbye to Woody and Buzz. At its release, the movie reflected its audience (as many were now the same age as Andy themselves) while also crafting a timeless story around the universal human experience of ageing. It’s pretty much Pixar performing at its peak, giving us colorful worlds while addressing hard life truths through a great script.
8. Ratatouille (2007)
Anyone can cook, even an anthropomorphic rat. Despite having one of the lowest opening box offices out of all Pixar films, Ratatouille is among Pixar’s most highly praised and beloved animations. The journey towards being a celebrated chef in Paris is an uphill battle for any rodent, and young Remi soon finds the odds, critics, and health inspectors up against him during his culinary quest.
Ratatouille’s story is so fantastic that it helped nab Best Animated Feature at the 80th Academy Awards. The intertwining of themes regarding prejudice, passion, and all the charming animated bursts of color during the scenes when both rats and humans experience the universal joy that is flavor, fit together so seamlessly that it’s easy to understand why critics love this film.
7. The Incredibles 2 (2018)
Brad Bird (director of The Iron Giant and Ratatouille) famously said he wouldn’t do an Incredibles sequel unless he were certain he could make it as good as the first – one of the best superhero movies ever made – and after 14 years, he didn’t disappoint us. Apart from some of the most imaginative fight sequences seen in modern animation in general, The Incredibles 2 shows a unique take on power and gender roles.
It’s about how being a hero isn’t just Elastigirl saving the day, but it can also be being a parent, changing diapers, and getting the kids to school. Being a family is shown to be heroic in itself, giving a fresh spin on the superhero genre and making The Incredibles 2 feel just as smart, original, and fun for the whole family as the first movie was.
6. WALL-E (2008)
Too often, family films follow the same lighthearted formula, steering clear of any stories on the bleaker side of the animated coin. Wall-E delivers dark themes, top-tier visual storytelling, and quite possibly the cutest robot you’ll ever see. At its core, it’s a movie about loneliness with a little animatronic being wandering around the polluted and deserted landscape of future earth.
The film’s first half features little to no dialogue, which shocked the public upon its release, as cheap jokes were replaced with Wall-E’s whirs. However, this relatively silent film truly showcases Pixar’s artistic chops, proving you don’t need slapstick or lengthy monologues to make someone laugh or cry. Wall-E is a movie that is expertly crafted, delivers points about global warming and consumerism in a digestible way, and is, all in all, just insanely adorable.
5. A Bug’s Life (1998)
Every ‘best of’ list needs a wildcard, and ours is A Bug’s Life, the underdog story about an ant who must find a way to save his colony from a gang of grasshoppers. Yes, the story is a bit predictable compared to its layered Pixar peers, but what truly makes A Bug’s Life so spectacular is its playing with perspectives and the larger-than-life world seen in its animation.
Witnessing mundane settings through the eyes of a bug turns the everyday sights into an exciting new spectacle. It’s a film focused on delivering enjoyment as you experience it, wowing viewers with a new take on our familiar world, while telling a story that’s full of jokes and strong characters with ample amounts of personality. It may not leave you an emotional wreck, but it’s a Pixar film that will have you smiling and appreciating animation as an art form.
4. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Pixar’s fourth film and the feature debut of Pete Docter (director of Up, and Inside Out), Monsters Inc. is a must-have on any top Pixar list. It’s charming, funny, has some of the best character designs seen in early CGI animation, as well as a banging Oscar-nominated score. Telling the story of a city of monsters who power their world via children’s screams (who they are also terrified of), Monsters Inc. is about overcoming fear.
It’s also a bit dystopian, hinting towards the horrors of capitalism and mass control, making it a script that all ages can enjoy. Although it lost out to Shrek for the Oscar on release, Monsters Inc. has gone down as both iconic and beloved after all these years, and — sorry Scooby-Doo fans — still has the best door/chase scenes to hit the big screen yet.
3. Soul (2020)
Probably one of Pixar’s most intellectual and surreal features yet, Soul is a film that will leave you sniffling in your seat while also contemplating the meaning of life. The film follows an aspiring jazz musician Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), who, after scoring a life-changing gig, has an accident involving a manhole, and suddenly dies. However, unwilling to go to The Great Beyond just yet, he and Soul 22 (Tina Fey) try to get him back to the land of the living.
Soul is about learning to appreciate our time on earth and finding a spark of joy in all the little wonders we take for granted every day. Its tackling of huge philosophical themes, the blending of 2D and 3D animation, and its existential and dark metaphorical imagery make it feel immensely impactful for all ages, and more mature and experimental than any other Pixar film to date.
2. Up (2009)
Few films are as wholesome or heart-breaking as Pete Docter’s Up. The movie tells the story of Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner), an elderly man who makes his home into a DIY aircraft so he can live out the remainder of his days in South America (his deceased wife’s lifelong dream). However, a stowaway boy scout, an exotic bird named Kevin, and a talking dog disrupt his plans, forcing Carl to face his pain and live in the present.
Besides the stellar voice work and its bright art style, Up also has one of the best soundtracks in cinematic history. Composed by Michael Giacchino, the Academy Award-winning score will leave you bawling as it accompanies the masterfully crafted story. With its deep writing, entertaining cast, and captivating atmosphere, everything about this Pixar film is practically perfect.
1. Inside Out (2015)
Inside Out is a unique animation that delves deep into the inner workings of our minds… literally. The movie embodies everything that makes Pixar an animation powerhouse. It’s inventive, full of likable characters, and isn’t afraid to sprinkle tragedy into an already moving story (R.I.P Bing Bong).
The plot centers around an 11-year-old Riley, dealing with the stress of a big move to a new city. Her emotions (now personified as cute characters) must work out their differences to help her through the stressful transition. Aside from a layered script that feels authentic in tackling complex human emotions, the film also sports a bright animation style inspired by ’50s Broadway aesthetics, making this Pixar masterpiece stick out among its peers.
Can’t get enough animation? Be sure to check out our list of the best animated movies and best anime movies. We’ve also got a guide to all the new movies coming in 2023, as well as detailed info on Pixar’s future efforts, including the Toy Story 5 release date and the Inside Out 2 release date.