Pixar: Making Adults Cry Since 1986

Since Pixar debuted into the hearts and souls of cinema goers, it hasn’t failed to create ingenious shorts and stunning features over its 34-year existence. From the bugs of A Bug’s Life, the monsters of Monsters, Inc., as well as the fish of Finding Nemo, all the way to the cars of the Cars trilogy, and everything in between, Pixar has become a household name with its 22 feature films having a distinct affinity for making viewers weep into their popcorn.

With state-of-the-art visual effects immersing viewers into lifelike animated landscapes and original, raw storytelling making allow us to empathize with characters, animation has earned a soft spot in the hearts of audiences of all age groups. It’s clear with Pixar targeting human emotions and relationship why these movies break us down so naturally. 

Soul, the studios next film, is set to release Nov. 20, and is sure to be a tearjerker. The story will follow a man’s soul as he tries to gain entry back into the physical world while his body remains in a coma. Soul, which will feature Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey and Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs, aims to tackle themes that remind us who we are as people and the importance we hold in the joys life has to offer. 

If you’re looking for a good cry before Soul is released, then we’ve got you covered. Here’s a look at some of Pixar’s most notable animated delights that are guaranteed to put your tissues to good use: 

  1. Coco

Who else jumped for joy when Coco earned Oscars in 2018 for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song? With this emotional masterpiece, Pixar successfully wowed audiences with moments chock full of catchy music and beautiful visuals. 

The film, which spotlights Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that honors relatives who have passed away, pays homage to the culture and entices audiences to continue watching as it tackles death and the effort we put forth remembering lost loved ones. The film is a flawless example of the way Pixar tugs at viewers’ heartstrings and makes them invested in their characters.

However, fans — myself included — are still taken aback by the extent of how touched the movie left us. Regardless of your relationship with your own family, you will be hard pressed not to feel connected to main character Miguel and his lineage.

With plenty of small heartwarming moments peppered throughout that only intensify your investment in the storyline, the encore of emotions comes soon before the final credits. If you are watching for the first time, have your tissues within an arm’s length for the last 10 minutes. Coco will definitely make you cry, but it may also inspire you to reach out to someone you have lost touch with before it’s too late.

  1. Up

With one of the most memorable, heartbreaking openings in cinematic history, Up presents a montage of a couple’s life together within the first 11 minutes. Creators made the bold decision to incorporate issues that most animated films had not previously tackled, including infertility and the lingering grief one feels after losing their lifetime partner. Through this decision, the movie is humanized to an extreme degree.

And now I’m crying just thinking about it. 

Besides the sudden tear-soaked opening, the two-time Academy Award winning film wells eyes up often with small moments that hold immense significance. Despite this, directors Bob Peterson and Pete Docter manage to incorporate lighthearted humor and endearing animal characters. Nevertheless, it very well may be that the best parts of the movie are also the most downcast. 

Having an animated film showcase that life is imperfect and messy helps this one stand out from the rest. Characters Carl, Russell, and Ellie seem as though they could be physically real because the feelings they evoke are so painfully palpable.

First time spectators: be ready for a flood of unexpected emotions from a movie where colorful balloons carry a house into the sky. The visual beauty of Up will draw you in, but the sentiments is what make it one of Pixar’s best.

  1. Toy Story 3

Spanning from 1995 to 2019, the Toy Story franchise has made its mark as a beloved fan favorite. Those who were children when the first film was released have been given the unique opportunity to grow up with their favorite characters. Director Lee Unkrich, as well as other directors who have worked on the franchise, use that to their advantage as they age Andy with each sequel. Between the second and third chapter we witness the biggest age jump of 11 years with Andy headed off to college.

The first in the Toy Story franchise to earn a Best Picture nomination, it’s hard to argue the prominence of the film and the bundles of wet tissues left surrounding viewers by the end of the film.

Unkrich proves to viewers yet again that he has a remarkable talent when it comes to managing our emotions. There is a portion of the movie that feels poignant, dark and hopeless, followed by a gut punch of emotions in the final scenes containing Andy and our favorite toys. However, in true Pixar fashion, fans are left with a sense of hope and delight once the tears subside in Toy Story 3.

  1. Onward

Pixar’s most recent effort delves into a fantastical world where magic has been overrun by technology. While it doesn’t sound too far off from our reality, characters in Onward include lazy mermaids, pesky unicorns and modern day elves, among other fantasy characters.

While the film is not lacking in funny moments and stimulating visuals, the story is a bit darker than most. Focused on a family of elves who had their patriarch pass away years prior, two siblings are trying to find a way to bring him back for 24 hours. 

The movie is jam-packed with surprises, including a moment that will make you weep. Screening this masterpiece with family is recommended, although be prepared to hold onto each other a bit tighter afterwards.

Look out for possible Oscar nominations for Onward at the 2021 Academy Awards. 

  1. Inside Out

This gem boasts one of the most impressive groups of voice actors in Pixar’s rich history. With Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader providing vocals, their range sets the stage for a sidesplitting film that begins as inspired and fun. 

Viewers are introduced to emotions in the shape of amusing characters as well as other visuals involving our brains and memories. Yet, Inside Out takes a perilous but calculated turn. 

For the remainder of the film, a stressful journey unfolds that is full of wail-worthy moments. From revisiting imaginary friends to watching a tween struggle to recognize her newfound depression, viewers are taken on an emotional roller coaster with scenes making you laugh or cry and at times both simultaneously. 

Despite the hefty emotional toll the movie wrestles with, Inside Out is another fabulous film from director Pete Docter. The film deservingly received an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film and a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.


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3 years ago

Not sure if this is meant to be a ranked list or not, but if so I highly approve of Coco being placed at #1. Those last 10 minutes really are insane in this department, even by Pixar’s standards. Also, shoutout to Finding Nemo and Toy Story 2.

3 years ago

Ryan, it wasn’t, but Coco may be the one on this list that makes me blubber the most. I made the mistake of watching it for the first time ever on an airplane, imagine that. Thanks for the comment!

2 years ago

Thank you for the list!



Written by Kendall Tinston

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