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When I was in middle school, a Disney/Pixar movie bracket went viral. Determining a winner for the Disney side wasn’t a challenge for me – those who know me are aware that I’m more than a little bit obsessed with Frozen; I just can’t let it go (I couldn’t resist). Determining the best Pixar film, however, was a much greater dilemma. I still recall sitting in a darkened theater and prying open a bag of Twizzlers as inconspicuous as possible as the faces of Woody and Buzz Lightyear flashed across the screen. I’m taken back to family movie nights watching (and crying at) Inside Out and to quoting Edna Mode from The Incredibles with my family. I smile as I recollect playful, yet heated arguments with my friends, debating whether WALL-E or Up is the superior film. Pixar shaped my childhood and their movies remain some of my favorites to this day—at their core, each one is just as profound and thought-provoking for adults as it is colorful and entertaining for children. After much thought and reflection upon the bracket that stumped me for so long, here is my personal ranking (from favorite to least favorite) of the Pixar films (or, at least, the ones listed on the bracket, linked here).

1. Inside Out – This film, in my opinion, is a cinematic masterpiece. Not only is it witty and intelligent, offering a creative interpretation of the brain and emotions (the train of thought, brain freeze, etc.), but it is a profoundly human story. Like Riley, the main character, we’ve all experienced change, loss, and confusion…and, of course, joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust. The film’s commentary on the beauty of emotion—not to mention the necessity of sadness—is fresh and heartwarming. 

2. The Incredibles – Superhero movies are always a blast. The Incredibles is no exception. The film checks off all the superhero movie boxes: Superhero backstory? Check. Mystery and suspense? Check. Vindictive and resentful villain? Check. Spandex? Lots of it. But in addition to being a fun and wild ride, The Incredibles truly has heart—watching the Parr family fight, bond, and work together is what makes this movie uniquely special. Not to mention, Edna Mode is my spirit animal. 

3. Up – When the first five minutes of a film make you cry—and when those first five minutes are entirely visual—you know you’ve witnessed something special. Up, at its core is a love story, and the romance between Carl and Ellie is nothing less than beautiful. Russell, Dug, and Kevin function not only as comic relief in this action-packed movie, but as reminders that at any age and stage there is adventure and love to be found. 

4. Monsters Inc. – This is yet another Pixar film that celebrates love: The love between best friends Mike and Sulley as well as that between the monstrous pair, and Boo, a human girl who sneaks into the monster world. Suspenseful, comical, and endearing, this is a Pixar film that is not to be missed. 

5. Ratatouille – As a lover of food and travel, this movie was a blast to watch. More importantly, however, Ratatouille reminds us to follow our dreams and be who we want to be, not who we are expected to be (even if our aspirations may violate a few health and safety codes).

6. Coco – Beyond being a beautiful film to watch, this film spotlights Mexican culture and highlights the persistence of memory. It raises questions of legacy, recollection, and familial connection. And, it is unpredictable to boot. A definite must-see. 

7. Toy Story 3 – This movie made me cry. So much. It is a beautiful story about growing up, change, and new beginnings. And, to me, it is the greatest Toy Story film in the franchise, showing us the best side of Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and our other stuffed and plastic friends. 

8. Cars – Lightning McQueen’s character arc from a self-obsessed racer to a kind, compassionate car is one of the best in Pixar’s portfolio. Mater is hysterical, Doc’s backstory and eventual relationship with McQueen is powerful, and viewers spend the film rooting for McQueen and Sally’s romance. The movie reminds me of the value of helping and connecting with others in an imaginative way (I can’t look at my car’s headlights and license plate without seeing a face anymore!). 

9. WALL-E – A gorgeously animated film, WALL-E is simultaneously frightening and inspiring. Its prophetic plotline emphasizes how crucial it is that humans treat our planet, our possessions, and ourselves with care. 

10. Finding Nemo – P. Sherman: 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney! A charming tale of a father learning to let his son grow up, accompanied by the hilarious Dory (who speaks fluent whale!), Finding Nemo will always have a place in my heart. 

11. Brave – Merida is the epitome of a feminist. When she cries, “I’ll be shooting for my own hand!,” I cheered out loud in the theater, much to the rest of the audience’s displeasure. While the storyline isn’t as airtight or cohesive as it could have been, Brave is still an entertaining film that spotlights the tumultuous yet loving relationship between a mother and a daughter and the balance that must be struck between duty and dreams. 

12. Toy Story – A classic. Toy Story gets points for introducing quirky and lovable characters and kicking off the Pixar tradition. However, to me, the film is not as deep, thought-provoking, or memorable as many other Pixar films, lowering its rank on my list. 

13. Toy Story 2Toy Story 2, in my opinion, didn’t add much to the franchise (besides a comical Star Wars reference). Jessie is a great character, but aside from her, I didn’t feel the movie was all that compelling. 

14. A Bug’s Life – This movie has great characters, but I wasn’t compelled by the plot. It was also pretty predictable. Not my favorite by any stretch. 

15. Cars 2 – While it was fun to engage with beloved characters from the original Cars movie, the sequel was simply all over the place. The plot came out of the blue, didn’t do much for character development, and wasn’t all that substantive. I appreciated the wasabi joke, though. 

16. The Good Dinosaur – Am I the only one who thinks this film is basically a Mesozoic version of The Lion King? While I appreciate this movie’s heart, I did not find it interesting and it was incredibly predictable. 

Alexis Bentz

Wash U '24

Alexis Bentz is a junior at WashU majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing and minoring in Spanish.
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