Talk Film Society's Pixar Top 10
Believe it or not, there’s another Toy Story coming our way. To mark the return of the characters that helped launch Pixar into a powerhouse, we here at Talk Film Society got together to rank our collective top ten favorites from the animation studio. Take a look at our choices below:
10. Toy Story (1995)
Pixar’s first film is also the first entirely computer-animated feature film. Toy Story is a landmark achievement; truly a classic in the medium. If Pixar had gone out of business after the release of Toy Story, they’d still go down in history as one of the best ever. But, hey, they ended up creating a few more masterpieces right after its ground-breaking start. Filled with a touching plot, a wonderful voice cast, smart character work, and a sweeping score and songs, it’s a miracle the movie runs a little over 80 minutes and manages to pack so much in. Toy Story set the stage for an entire new generation of animated filmmaking and, 24 years later, it still earns that distinction.
- Marcelo Pico
9. Toy Story 3 (2010)
I grew up with the Toy Story films. More than that, I identified with them before I even knew what that meant. Making up adventures with toys with my brothers and cousin are some of the most fond and formative memories from my childhood, and that’s the kind of experience these movies tap into and what makes them so loved. This didn’t fully occur to me until I was in a theater watching Toy Story 3. Andy is now leaving for college and he’s mostly outgrown his toys; his friends. Throughout the film, Woody slowly realizes that Andy doesn’t really need them anymore, but that doesn’t have to be the end. The film is funny and exciting throughout, with some of the most existential themes so far in the series. But it’s that scene toward the end that, for me, makes this film one of the most emotionally resonant of Pixar’s filmography. Woody writes a note for Andy telling him to donate the gang to Bonnie, and as Andy introduces his friends to their new kid it would take a heart of stone not to be moved. Learning to let go is one of the hardest lessons in life, but Toy Story 3 helps us know that gone does not mean forgotten
- Sam Van Haren
8. Coco (2017)
It’s the golden standard of most Pixar films: will it make you cry? Coco bases its story around the Latino tradition of the Day of the Dead, where our lead character Miguel visits the Land of the Dead to uncover a family secret. In dealing with the living and the dead and the importance of family, all with a heart-wrenching soundtrack, it’s impossible not to shed a tear, or even just feel something by the film’s emotional finale. Personally, it struck a chord with me, growing up as a Latino with traditions similar to what’s on screen, but, as with all great works, the experience is something anyone can grasp and be touched by. In terms of other golden standards, it turned out to be yet another Oscar-winning effort from Pixar, and undoubtedly one of its best.
- Marcelo Pico
7. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy Story 2 had an impossible task: follow up one of the best and most original animated movies ever made. But what was supposed to be direct-to-video ended up being a perfect sequel, opening-up the world to new characters and ideas of what toys (and life itself) are supposed to be. This new scope is partially due to a huge technological improvement from the first film four years earlier and it’s evident in every sequence from the opening galactic Buzz Lightyear story to the climactic airport chase scene. The improved animation brings new life to the existing characters as well as the new ones, like the Woody’s roundup crew and Barbie & Friends. Pixar has possibly taken on too many sequels in the past few years, but their first will always be their best.
- Mark Watlington
6. Monsters Inc. (2001)
Before the deluge of sequels, Pixar was known for their original ideas, and one of the best was the concept behind Monsters, Inc. Remember that scary beast that lived under your bed or in your closet when you were a kid, the one that your parents assured you wasn't real? Well, they were real and they were merely factory workers producing Scream Energy for their world. At its heart, Monsters, Inc. is a buddy comedy, and why it works so well, with John Goodman and Billy Crystal’s terrific performances as James Sullivan and Mike Wazowski. It's fun, quotable, and action packed.
When I was growing up monsters were pretty much the coolest thing, whether it was the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Godzilla, or King Kong, if it could be described as a creature feature, I was into it. Even though Monsters, Inc. was released at the height of my “I'm too cool and old for cartoons phase” (good lord, teenage-me sucked), you're damn right I went to see it. I was blown away then and I still love it now. It's the perfect mix of fun characters and a great story, and it's also one of Pixar's best.
- Matt Curione
5. Wall-E (2008)
Out of all the directors who have worked at Pixar, Andrew Stanton might be the most underrated. For my money, his output rivals even that of Brad Bird. His first directorial effort at the acclaimed animation house was the beloved Finding Nemo, and his follow-up has some of the best filmmaking of the lot. Wall-E tells the story of a long obsolete robot who spends his days collecting trash on the long-abandoned Earth. The opening sequence showing Wall-E’s solitary existence is truly one of the single greatest sequences in the studio’s history. The central characters don’t speak beyond a few “words” and yet you come to care for them deeply. Ultimately, Wall-E tells a beautiful, hopeful, and human story about the importance of loving the planet, and I love it dearly.
- Sam Van Haren
4. The Incredibles (2004)
Honestly, there’s probably nothing more that needs to be said about The Incredibles than: “Brad Bird”. The action direction here takes full advantage of the medium, with close family moments and harrowing action sequences all directed more beautifully and engaging than most live-action films. Bird and Pixar crafted some all-time memorable sequences with surprisingly intense action, including a death-by-plane that rivals Raiders of the Lost Ark in its ability to disturb 8-year-old-Me to my core.
The Incredibles was also Pixar’s first time focusing on an all-human cast, and the animation still holds up. Its quite a feat, considering how far they’d come from the terrifying alien-human-hybrids of the original Toy Story less than a decade prior. Perhaps its greatest accomplishment though, is still feeling fun and vital even in 2019, when superhero stories are a dime a dozen. Of course, The Incredibles is so much more than its genuine, heartfelt family’s costumes.
- James Barrett
3. Finding Nemo (2003)
This underwater adventure is my favorite Pixar movie for several reasons. For one thing, it can be breathlessly funny with clever sight gags, charismatic characters, memorable catchphrases, and energetic voice performances. But it’s also a really touching story about fatherhood and growing up. It’s the kind of movie that means different things to people at various stages of their lives. The animation is gorgeous, highlighting the beauty and horror of being under the sea. In general, I can’t resist anthropomorphized animals and so the various aquatic species and their personalities are just perfect to me.
The conceit that Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) has short term memory loss is genius, providing the film both with its funniest moments and most heartwarming. DeGeneres’ iconic performance as the forgetful Dory is the highlight of the movie, as her bizarre tangents and golden heart make her an endearing character (I even enjoyed the successful but underrated Finding Dory). Finding Nemo is full of exciting scenes and a thrilling climax, but it’s really the relationships between the characters that cement it as a Pixar classic.
- Manish Mathur
2. Inside Out (2015)
I grew up like most children, loving animated films, particularly from Pixar. Each new Pixar movie was an exciting event that I eagerly anticipated. And then Cars 2 happened.
I hated Cars 2 so much that I not only took a big break from watching Pixar’s films, but I was put off by animation as a whole for multiple years. Is it really that bad? I don’t know, and I never will (if you think I’m ever watching that movie again you’re out of your mind). But what I do know, is that Inside Out is great. It single-handedly got me back on board with Pixar and became possibly my favorite movie of theirs to date. I connected deeply with Riley’s internal struggle of learning to tamper and ultimately harness her many complex emotions. Each of these emotions is personified with beautiful animation and great performances from the likes of Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith, but Inside Out helped me in ways far larger than just “I like Pixar movies again.” It helped me understand myself and my emotions better. Its the one movie that I wish I had while growing up.
- Marcus Irving
1. Ratatouille (2007)
Fresh off the success of The Incredibles, director Brad Bird continued his path towards being one of the best in the field of animation with 2007’s Ratatouille. Banking on the voice talent of Patton Oswalt (a truly inspired casting decision) as Remy the rat, Ratatouille combines some truly breathtaking visuals with a story to which we can all relate. Who among us has not desired a life above our station? In Remy’s case, he simply wants to cook, and is inspired by famous chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett) and his catchphrase, “Anyone can cook.”
Through a series of misadventures, he’s able to work his way into an actual restaurant kitchen. Ratatouille uses beautiful animation, emotion, slapstick comedy, and slowly built relationships to provide a film experience that not only matches Pixar’s best, but surpasses it. In particular, the animator’s willingness to experiment with style manages to achieve the feeling of taste, which is no small feat. Remy’s journeys; cooking, friendship, and especially family, all manage to travel on parallel paths without feeling contrived. Ratatouille is an animation and culinary achievement that will continue to be difficult to match.