Last night at the Golden Globe awards, Disney/Pixar’s most recent blockbuster, Inside Out, took the accolade home for Best Animated Feature Film. Having seen the movie earlier this year, I have to agree with the decision 100%, but this also inspired me to create another of my famous (nefarious) Top 10 lists.
Pixar is a studio I hold great respect for. They have managed to dominate a growing market and deliver piece after piece of consistent quality and great storytelling, through movies that are enjoyable not only for children, but adults as well. So, in the spirit of homage such great work deserves, here we go:
Top 10 Best Pixar Movies Ever!
Number 10: Toy Story
The first Pixar movie ever made, Toy Story pioneered the concept of CGI animation and opened a new door for creators and viewers all around the world. The opportunities were unfathomable, and the potential something nobody could predict. Toy Story earned the heart of children all over with its array of cute characters and the childlike wonder of a world where toys actually come to life when their owner is not looking. As a debut, it clearly stated that Pixar would be a force to be reckoned with in the animated world. However, this movie failed to capture older audiences and, although entertaining, the characters where (pardon the wordplay) decidedly cartoonish. This mistakes landed Toy Story in our number 10, but for a training-wheels movie, it was indeed something.
Number 9: A Bug’s Life
A Bug’s Life is a simpler yet more developed piece than Toy Story. It presents viewers with characters that are more diverse, and introduces a profound message among all the comic relief and silliness that crowds it. The simple content appeals to younger audiences, but the reference to the problem of bullying, physical and psychological abuse, and the notion that you can stand for yourself, and you can ultimately defeat your abusers, takes the story to a deeper level. It created a standard of hidden meaning that went on to become traditional to almost every other Pixar movie. This said, A Bug’s Life is simply too crowded at times. The story is all over the place, and still not developed enough as to go beyond the tag of “children’s movie.” The wide success of its successors in achieving that which this movie introduced sadly acts against it, and lands it in number 9 of our list.
Number 8: The Incredibles
Action, comedy, older main characters and great special effects are the prize offered by The Incredibles. This movie is one of my Pixar favorites because it tackles the overused concept of superheroes, but spins it around to create something that is fun, yet endearing and appealing to all ages. You have the full package with this piece, complete with the crazy gothic lady and the supervillain bent on controlling the world. And yet, the creators make it so that, despite all the superpowers, fighting sequences and exploding things, the core of the movie remains paramount: a family that holds together against anything and everything, and faces all challenges by helping and supporting each other. Although the movie doesn’t delve beyond the “entertaining” level, with a story that is incredibly (couldn’t help it!) simple and a bad guy laughable in his lack of depth, it’s still a very satisfying “entertaining.”
Number 7: Cars
Cars follows along the line of The Incredibles as another of Pixar’s attempts to capture more mature audiences. It works. With more developed dialogs and introductions of a sassy sarcasm on the main character’s side, the film is funny without being overly complicated, and it takes on a topic that is old but still relevant: not everything is about winning. Cars is one of Pixar’s many films that includes a character arc, but with Lightning McQueen, this is masterfully done. At the beginning, we have a person that is essentially not very likable, selfish, arrogant and self-centered. The story of his change and his learning curve about how to appreciate others and “slow down” a little bit is very compelling, and the fact that at the beginning he is not really “hero material,” give this story many thumbs up. Sadly though, whatever mastery McQueen enjoys is sorely lacking in the rest of the characters, who are pretty much one-sided complements to the lead, instead of complex entities by themselves.
Number 6: Monster’s Inc.
Monster’s Inc. reuses the concept introduced and developed successfully in Toy Story, that of the main character and his sidekick/best friend. Mike and Sully are a great pair indeed, seeming to see eye to eye in everything. The friendship topic of this movie is slightly different than the one in Toy Story though. Monsters, Inc. puts the friendship to test when one of the characters questions his own beliefs, and at the same time introduces in the viewer the notion that not everything is right or wrong, and the grey areas are also important. The movie is all about compromising and the learning that sometimes, the things you take for granted are not quite so. It’s about growing and adapting, and this message is transmitted in a seamless way that makes it easy for children to understand and adults to appreciate. Overall, Monsters, Inc. is probably one of Pixar’s most educational movies and one both children and parents should pay attention to.
Number 5: Up
Up is a movie that takes Pixar to another level, because is their first piece that introduces the concept of death and what death means in the minds of children. Up makes this concept not only an integral part of the film, but also the moving force that sets the whole plot in motion. The movie reaches a deeper level thanks to that, because, by telling about it from the beginning, it automatically sets the mood of the story as “not a happy one.” Up is about losing and yet, still being able to enjoy life at its fullest, and comprehending that, although those we love might not be with us any more, we still need to keep moving forward for their sake. Despite the seeming lightness of the rest of the film, Up is a very adult movie, not quite suitable for children to watch alone. It requires the presence of a parent to explain the message of it all to the child, and why the grasping of it is important.
Number 4: Brave
Princess Merida’s amazing special effect, soundtrack and unique fantasy plotline take up number 4. With Brave, one can definitely notice just how far Pixar has come in its story crafting. The arc in Merida’s tale is complex and human; it’s about making mistakes and fixing them, and not only doing whatever you have to do to protect your family, but also about understanding the motives behind their actions. It’s about maturing and realizing what is truly important beyond what you want or think you want. Brave is a great example of a teenage/coming of age story and the motives behind Merida’s and her mother’s actions are both believable and relatable. It’s first and foremost a story about family, and how, despite the fact that they may not always see eye to eye, family is forever, and they will always be there when you need them.
Number 3: Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo is most likely Pixar’s most successful movie of all times. We have a hero that has to learn how to be one in order to recover the son he’s lost, a sidekick that not only helps the hero but also carries a lot of the weight of his psychological stability on her (less than reliable) shoulders, and a full on quest of epic proportions, motivated by the strongest loyalty of all. Finding Nemo hits all the right buttons with their viewers. It offers stunning colors, great music, and fun characters to keep the kids happy, and for the parents, it gives them a story they can completely relate to, with a conflict that it’s scary beyond measure because it’s completely real: the fear and anguish of a parent that has lost his child, and the drastic lengths he would go to get him back. With a great arc, and main characters that are in no way “fishy,” Finding Nemo is a definite home run.
Number 2: WALL-E
For our silver laureate we have the greatest show-don’t-tell story of them all: WALL-E. The concept of a silent character is one that is not uncommon in animation. However, this movie applies it with a mastery that is both enviable and awe-inspiring. With a main character that never speaks, and yet you always understand, WALL-E is the most remarkable example there is of superb animation, and the good use of all literary resources and devices. Viewers of the movie never resent the lack of dialog, because the simple yet meaningful actions of this small robot are enough for the movie not only to be understood, but also enjoyed and be enchanted by. The sweetness, modesty, and quiet courage of WALL-E are traits not often found in science-fiction heroes. However, considering how much this Pixar classic touched the hearts of thousands upon thousands of viewers, one can’t help but ask if shouldn’t it be.
Number 1: Inside Out
First place goes to the winner of the night (or is it the week?), Inside Out. As I watched this movie, I remember myself thinking: this is the best movie Pixar has produced as of yet. It is. During their acceptance speech in the GG ceremony last night, creators of the film commented that they had wanted to make a movie about growing up, and I have to say they achieved their objective superbly. Inside Out is not only fun and endearing, it’s also educational and deep. It’s about learning, and changing, and goes the extra mile to help children understand themselves and why they think or act the way they do. Back to that “shadows of grey” concept we talked about upstairs, Inside Out picks up where Monsters, Inc. left it and teaches viewers that there’s nothing wrong with feeling sad or angry or fearful, that life is complicated and that sometimes, it’s okay to cry. It teaches about maturity and loss, and coping with things that may be hard to understand. Inside Out takes on every other message introduced in every other movie before it, and brings it forward in a great, cohesive piece, that’s not only remarkable, but also a true work of amazing literature to be admired by all.