Instantly recognizable for the anthropomorphic lamp that graces the screen before each film and its stunning, progressive animation, Pixar is a production studio that has truly taken the world by storm. It can be challenging to determine which Pixar film is the best of the best, but these 12 are certainly contenders.
1. WALL-E (2008)
The last robot left on Earth spends his days completing menial tasks, passing time the only way he knows how. One day, a probe named EVE sent from the starship Axiom crosses his path. Axiom houses hundreds of thousands of humans who rely on robots for their every move.
The movie follows WALL-E and EVE as they explore the world, become friends, and help some humans along the way. Though regarded as a bit ahead of its time with regard to its awareness about pollution and environmental issues, WALL-E remains a timeless classic.
2. Toy Story (1995)
What’s a kid without a favorite toy? Toy Story revolves around a boy named Andy and his myriad toys. When Andy is out of the room, the toys come alive.
Toy Story is lauded for its groundbreaking 3D animation style. The story became the first full-length animated film to implement CGI, and the animation alone stunned the audience when the movie first dropped in 1995.
3. The Incredibles (2004)
A common misconception is animation is only for kids. Sure, some movies market themselves as children’s films, but The Incredibles appeals to everyone. The Incredibles tells a tale of banned superheroes forced to live “regular” lives to blend into society. Of course, some kind of evil needs to ensue in superhero movies. Determined to save the day, this family of incredible superheroes steps up to the plate.
The Incredibles does a fantastic job of establishing well-rounded characters in an already blossoming world. Other Pixar movies fall flat in this regard, seeming to begin and end within the film. With The Incredibles, we know that the Parr family had a life before and after the movie.
4. Coco (2017)
Coco is a sensitive piece aimed at those who’ve experienced profound loss, those who struggle to find closure, and the quest of this wondrous journey we know as life. Plus, it has the best soundtrack in Pixar history.
Coco follows 12-year-old Miguel, who is set on uncovering the truth behind his family’s musical embargo. Miguel slips into the Land of the Dead, discovering revealing information about his family’s history.
5. Soul (2020)
Soul is a newer Pixar release that proved popular with adult audiences. The meditation between music and death offered an interesting lens not explored in Pixar before.
For several audiences, Soul captured their feelings about life and aging. With questions such as “Am I the person I'm supposed to be?” posed throughout the film, viewers can't help but look back on their own lives. It's a powerful, beautiful movie with gorgeous animation and striking music.
6. Turning Red (2022)
Turning Red is one of Pixar's latest releases and has been praised for its cultural diversity and accurate representation of teenagers. The main character, Mei, is Chinese Canadian, and along with dealing with crushes, growing up, and the challenges of middle school, she has to deal with turning into a giant red panda every time she experiences strong emotions.
Turning Red resonated with audiences for its portrayal of puberty and the awkward stages of adolescence, and the dynamics of generational trauma and healing struck home for many.
7. Ratatouille (2007)
Remy's journey from being a literal street rat to becoming a renowned chef makes Ratatouille a much-beloved Pixar release. The movie is widely recognized as a comfort movie for many, and it even did the rounds on TikTok, where fans created a musical for the film.
While watching scenes filled with tantalizing food and gorgeously lit settings, we follow the journeys of Remy, Linguini, and Colette as they navigate the Paris food scene and learn the age-old lesson that “anyone can cook.” The story is enough to turn the hearts of even the most cynical food critics (looking at you, Anton Ego).
8. Brave (2012)
Set in the Scottish Highlands, Princess Merida defies her kingdom's traditions and refuses to marry for political gain. She declares she will marry for love or not at all and wins her hand in marriage by outdoing every potential suitor presented to her in an archery contest. Naturally, Merida's mother is less than amused, and an argument ensues. Merida seeks the help of a woman who meddles with woodcarving and obtains a cake that will change her mom from her strict ways.
The cake does indeed change Merida's mother… into a giant bear. Filled with Scottish folklore and a fair bit of humor, Brave is remembered for its emphasis on restoring family relationships.
9. Luca (2021)
Sea monsters? Check. Humor? Check. A beautiful story about the challenges of friendship and growing up? Check.
Luca follows its titular character and his best friend, Alberto, as they leave the ocean behind to take human forms on the Italian coast. While hiding their sea-creature identity and going on adventures, they meet Giulia, who encourages the boys to join her in a triathlon to win money for a Vespa. The boys, with dreams of going around the world with their Vespa, eagerly join. In the time leading up to the competition, Luca and Alberto struggle to remain friends in their changing world.
10. Up (2009)
Up tells the story of Carl Fredricksen, an aging balloon salesman who uses his wares to fly his house to South America rather than move to a retirement home. He accidentally brings Russell, an eight-year-old scout hiding on Carl's porch during takeoff. Once in South America, they pick up talking dog Dug and exotic bird Kevin, who becomes the subject of interest for a greedy researcher.
Carl, Dug, and Russell work together to save Kevin, and along the way, Carl works through his feelings about the loss of his beloved wife. Up is a beautiful story about grief, change, and adventure that's resonated with audiences since its release.
11. Inside Out (2015)
Emotions can get intense, especially for teenagers. Inside Out follows the five primary emotions — Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger — that control teenage Riley's mind. When faced with the challenges of moving states, houses, and schools, Riley begins to feel depressed and loses touch with the very things that make her her. Joy decides to go on an adventure into Riley's mind, with Sadness in tow, to rescue Riley's core memories and restore her to the girl they all remembered.
While working to help Riley, Joy learns it's okay for other emotions, even Sadness, to take the lead sometimes. Inside Out is a powerful movie that educates audiences on the impact and importance of feeling their feelings.
12. Cars (2006)
Cars has gained a lot of fans over the years, and Lightning McQueen has become a cultural icon. The touching movie about community and friendship is told through the differences between the race cars and the cars that live in their small, sleepy town. When Lightning McQueen is stranded in a small Route 66 town, he learns that being the best racer of all time isn't all that there is to life and that family and friends are more important than winning.