Pixar is a name that means something in the world of animated cinema. It’s a stamp of quality unlike anything else the medium has seen. Throughout its history, there have been multiple runs where Pixar was clearly on a level far different than any other animation house. So, when you look at the films they’ve put out into the world, it’s classic after classic. Even beyond those movies, there’s a wonderful mix of some of the best animated works of all time. With the release this weekend of Elemental, it got my thinking…
Below, you can see my Pixar ranking. I’m grouping them into tiers. That way, you can see the similarities that some of the best (or lets say…lesser) efforts might share with each other. Mostly, it’s a new way to try out a ranking piece, since I did the DC one the old-fashioned way just yesterday. So, let me know what you think of this style!
Here we go…
Tier One – Inside Out, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, Up, WALL-E
These are the cream of the crop. The masterpieces. Pixar at their best. Highlighted by the first three Toy Story films, as well as Inside Out, Up, and WALL-E this is the studio at the height of their powers. Heart, humor, and storytelling of the first order. None of the inclusions here are particularly surprising, but when you think of Pixar flexing their muscles, these movies are pretty much what you’re thinking of.
Tier Two – Coco, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Onward, Ratatouille, Toy Story 4
Just shy of the greatness above, we have a mix of older and newer Pixar efforts. Some will undoubtedly quibble with Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille not being in the top tier, while others will find my placement of Onward too high. That’s okay, too. Such is the nature of the ranking beast, right?
Tier Three – Elemental, Incredibles 2, Monsters, Inc., Soul
Rock solid efforts, the lot of them, these have elements of the greatness above, if not in the whole package. There’s high concept emotional efforts like Elemental (currently in theaters) and Soul, as well as a long in the making sequel with Incredibles 2, plus an early classic with Monsters, Inc. This is sort of the gamut when it comes to Pixar, if you really think about it.
Tier Four – A Bug’s Life Cars 3, Finding Dory, Lightyear, Luca, Turning Red
Had it been anywhere other than Pixar putting these out, I think the receptions would have been stronger. They’re good to very good movies, but missing some of the special sauce the studio has long been known for (minus with A Bug’s Life, which was their inaugural release). We also have Lightyear coming in the aftermath of a run of Pixar’s work going pretty much straight to homes in the pandemic, highlighted by Luca and Turning Red not getting the same sort of attention they otherwise would have.
Tier Five – Brave, Cars, Cars 2, The Good Dinosaur, Monsters University
Finally, we have the relative disappointments. They’re certainly not bad, but they do feel like they’re not up to the standard Pixar established. Some of this is the Cars franchise just never really finding its footing or being on the level of everything else. Still, this tier is a good example that even at their lower ebb, Pixar still puts out easily enjoyable entertainment, just without the added emotional quotient.
Where do Pixar’s releases stack up for you? Let us know!