Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Ranking Pixar Movies

I got a kick out of this post by Daniel Drezner —

“My completely idiosyncratic but definitive ranking of Pixar movies by feels”

So, to celebrate our country’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of sweet sadness or something, my way to rank the Pixar canon is simple: How much did the film give you the feels? Did the movie make you well up with so many tears (of joy, or sadness, or melancholy about the passage of time) that your 15-year old son had to put his hand on your shoulder and ask if you were okay? (Just to pick a random example of feels.)

You know, I am so out of touch I didn’t even know that Pixar had a new movie out. Evidently “Inside Out” is really good? I am usually a year or two behind everyone else to see everything.

Drezner evidently things the second and third Toy Story movies should be ranked high, at least in terms of quote “feels” unquote. This doesn’t necessarily accord with the way he’d rank ’em according to sheer quality:

So there it is. To be clear, I’m not saying that “Toy Story 3″ is a better film than “The Incredibles,” because I don’t think that’s true. And the discussion of this list provoked many fierce debates at the Spoiler Alerts dinner table; one child who shall remain nameless is still upset that I’m slighting “WALL-E” and “Up.” But it’s a credit to Pixar that they can produce films that provoke such deep feelings.

I dunno. I’m more inclined to rate Pixar movie by sheer excellence rather than feels, personally, and I put “The Incredibles” and “Up” right at the top. Not sure which I’d put as number one, but I think it’s true that “Up” has more feels than “The Incredibles.”

Anyway, cute post. And I probably should see “Inside Out” sometime.

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12 Comments Ranking Pixar Movies

  1. Mike S.

    “Inside Out” is very good, and I’d definitely recommend it. There are all sorts of clever details and hidden depths that make me keep wanting to go back and see it again. (Though I suspect that it’ll be out of theaters before I actually do so. When it comes out on disc, though…)

    And just so that you aren’t blindsided again, there’ll be another Pixar movie, “The Good Dinosaur”, out in November. :-)

    Rather than rank them individually, I’d put the Pixar movies into tiers:

    Tier 1: Toy Story; The Incredibles; Up; Toy Story 3; Inside Out

    “Up” packed such an emotional punch that I haven’t been able to rewatch it since. (Which makes it six years now, I see.) I think I’m just about to the point that I might be able to.

    (But I’ll have to do it when L. isn’t around, because it wrecked her for the entire length of its running time and she’s made it clear that she’s not putting herself through that again. :-) )

    “The Incredibles” isn’t in the same league as the others far as feels, but gets points for being the single best superhero movie yet produced.

    Tier 2: Toy Story 2 (though the musical number “When She Loved Me” is Tier 1); Monsters, Inc.; Finding Nemo; WALL-E (I could probably be persuaded to move this up a tier); Brave (I could probably be persuaded to move this down one.)

    These are all solid, but they didn’t blow me away the way the Tier 1 films did. (To some extent, this may be Pixar being a victim of their own success.) WALL-E and Brave both lose points for me not believing in their resolutions.

    (The humans are so much better off on their space cruise ship than trying to reboot subsistence farming on a barely recovering hellscape. “Brave” tells us a marriage alliance is necessary to keep the peace, then blows off the whole question because something something bears and maternal reconciliation…?)

    3: A Bug’s Life; Cars; Ratatouille; Monsters University

    (I haven’t seen Cars 2. I suppose I should for completeness, but…)

    These are all perfectly fine. I enjoyed watching them, but they don’t stay with me like the higher-ranked Pixar movies.

    I know Ratatouille is widely considered a masterpiece. And I love food, so I’m not sure why I find it merely good (I mean, it’s still Pixar). The scene in which the critic has his Proust moment doesn’t carry the emotional weight for me that it feels as if it’s supposed to. And I can’t get past the fact that the ending blithely ignores the problem that drove the rest of the movie.

  2. Kristina

    “Inside Out” left me weepier than any movie in years. My son happens to be the same age as the main character, so it resonated for both of us. I am not ashamed to admit that he and I both cried for Bing Bong.

    And as the parent of a child heading to middle school at the end of the summer, the destruction of the preschool “landmarks” in Riley’s memory also hit me hard. Thank you, Pixar, for making me melancholy the rest of the day.

  3. Rachel

    Well, if I see “Inside Out” in the theater, I guess I better remember to bring extra kleenix. That’s certainly one plus of watching the DVD at home; infinite supplies of kleenix. And I guess it’ll be a must-see movie, too.

    “The Good Dinosaur”? Thanks for the tip. Which dinosaur is considered “good”? Ah, I see: Wikipedia says a Brontosaurus. Well, they say an Apatosaurus, but I believe the original name is gaining traction again these days and I prefer it. A Brontosaurus, then. With a boy named Spot; that’s cute.

    Tiers: I don’t think I liked the original Toy Story as much as some people. I know I didn’t like Finding Nemo as much as a lot of people. But I sure liked Ratatouille more than you, Mike. But then I don’t really care about the implausibility of the ending.

    Tier 1: The Incredibles, Up, Wall-E

    Tier 2: Monsters Inc, Ratatouille

    Tier 3: Brave, Finding Nemo, Toy Story

    Tier 4: Cars

    Not seen: Toy Story II, Toy Story III, Monsters U, A Bug’s Life

  4. Mike S.

    It’s not so much a question of plausibility (in a movie with a sapient rat who can control a human like a puppet by pulling his hair :-) ). But

    (do we need SPOILERS?)

    as of the penultimate scene, Anton Ego may be fine with a rat being the best chef in the world (once he’s won over), but demonstrably no one else is. Ego loses his critic job, the health department closes the restaurant, and it’s all over.

    And then, in the very next scene, they’ve opened another restaurant, with the rats openly participating? Did the health department return to its home planet?

    What changed between those two scenes? How did the world’s attitude towards Remy and the other rats cooking change when they had no place to demonstrate it and their only booster had lost his megaphone? No matter how many times I see it, it feels as if there’s a missing transition there.

    Re brontosaurus: it looks like the current line is that both it and apatosaurus exist as closely related separate species.

    “Generally, Brontosaurus can be distinguished from Apatosaurus most easily by its neck, which is higher and less wide,” says lead study author Emanuel Tschopp, a vertebrate paleontologist at the New University of Lisbon in Portugal. “So although both are very massive and robust animals, Apatosaurus is even more extreme than Brontosaurus.”

    In case you’re interested (and can receive it now that the leaves on the trees are interfering with reception), the one-minute teaser trailer for “The Good Dinosaur” they played before “Inside Out” is available on YouTube.

  5. Rachel

    Oh, thanks for the trailer. I’ll watch it at (gasp!) work.

    And yes, but I’m just assuming that no one officially knows the rats are in the kitchen of the new restaurant. Don’t look too closely at the reasonableness of this assumption…

  6. Malcolm the Cynic

    This is my Pixar list: https://malcolmthecynic.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/ranking-the-pixar-greats/

    As for “Ratatouille”, the issue was never rats getting accepted by humans. It was Remy getting accepted by his family, and the critic rediscovering why he fell in love with food in the first place.

    At the new restaurant Remy and his rat family all work together, supporting both each other and Remy’s dream, and the critic teams up with them, a critic no more, because now he’s around food he loves all the time.

    As for the health inspector…eh, I guess they hide when he shows up.

    But all of the character arcs are successfully completed. The only flaw is the milquetoast love interest.

    “Toy Story” is deceptively moving. The scene where it finally registers for Buzz that he’s just a toy is completely gut-wrenching.

  7. Rachel

    Thanks for the link, Malcolm! You know, I think my life is complete without bothering to see “Cars.” But I’m also getting the idea that just possibly I should eventually watch “Toy Story II and III”.

  8. Craig

    I don’t love the Toy Story movies as much as the consensus seems to — but yes, all three are very much worth seeing. And Inside Out really is a return to form for Pixar; it’s worth going to the theatre if you can.

    I wasn’t really bothered by the Ratatouille lacuna; rather more so by the WALL-E ending — I sure hope the spaceship was better equipped than it looked for helping them jump-start civilization.

  9. Mike S.

    The WALL-E end credits show them succeeding wildly (IIRC, it’s a bunch of stills of the characters in various historical art styles depicting them as having reached the contemporaneous tech level), so I guess it was.

    Personally, I’d encourage anyone who wanted to to have fun colonizing a planet that’s thus far managed to produce one detectable plant in however many square miles, and ordered another Cupcake in a Cup from AUTO.

    One thing I find interesting: the implication is of course that the Axiom passengers’ sedentary lifestyle is bad for them. And it may be morally or spiritually (though since they still come through with courage and gallantry immediately upon being faced with a crisis that requires their efforts, maybe not).

    But when we see the pictures of previous captains, the dates (which are presumably either their lifespans or the term of their commands) are all substantially north of the century mark, even once they start getting all doughy. The current captain’s immediate predecessor lasted 128 years.

    (And they could all have stayed in that environment, if only they’d listened to AUTO!)

  10. Malcolm the Cynic

    But when we see the pictures of previous captains, the dates (which are presumably either their lifespans or the term of their commands) are all substantially north of the century mark, even once they start getting all doughy.

    Well, yeah, that’s the question the movie asks: Is a long life of safe luxury better than returning to our own home and rediscovering our love of Earth?

    Its the moral and spiritual dangers that are the issue.

  11. Rachel

    I vote for a long life filled with actually doing stuff. Luckily, I suspect the ship does in fact have lots of useful stores that can be used to keep going while coaxing the planet back to life. Also, wasn’t there a scene at the end where we saw more plants growing? I may be making that up in my head, though.

  12. Mike S.

    WALL-E doesn’t really ask the question so much as assume the answer. The captain doesn’t have remotely enough information or understanding to make an informed choice. (He’s seen One. Plant. And his idea of farming is “[h]umans would put seeds in the ground, pour water on them, and they’d grow food, like, pizza!”) No one else on the Axiom is even asked.

    (Of course it works out, because this is a Disney movie and not a bleak 50s cautionary tale. But that’s even more “then a miracle occurred” than people suddenly accepting a rat-operated restaurant in Paris. :-) )

    I love WALL-E for it’s long silent courtship between the bots, for its imagery, and for its comedy. But its theme and moral is probably the one that speaks the least to me of any of the Pixar movies. Subsistence farming without the least preparation or experience, vs visibly successful, comfortable, and to all evidence sustainable space colony? Put me down for the latter.

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