A couple of weeks ago, the movie Brave came out in the theatres, and I took my kids to see it over opening weekend. They both loved it, as did I.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it mostly positive reviews, but, honestly, I’m surprised it’s not more highly rated. Although I don’t consider it the best feature length movie produced by Pixar Animation Studios, it’s pretty high up there.
At least, that was my gut reaction upon seeing the movie. Since I’ve seen all thirteen movies that Pixar has put out, I figured it only fair to actually try and rank them from best to worst. I’m sure some people will disagree with my placement of some movies on this list, but hey… Let’s have some fun with this, shall we. So here’s my list, in order from best to worst Pixar movies:
1. The Incredibles. Brilliant story, amazing plot, and animation that truly blows you away. It’s one of the most exciting cinematic rides I’ve gone on, animated movie or not…
2. Cars. You don’t need to be a fan of racing to appreciate this story (and I’m not). It’s simultaneously a parable about the fleeting nature of fame and popularity, combined with a cinematic exploration of Charles Kuralt’s arguments about how the Interstate Highway System enables you to drive across America without seeing any of it.
3. Brave. If I have any real complaints about the script and plot of this movie, it’s that they could have done more to explore how the characters learn to understand each other. There’s no shortage of movies out there about the sometimes tenuous relationship between mothers and (adolescent) daughters, but this one hits on a lot of the best points about it.
4. Ratatouille. What a truly clever concept! Well-thought out, and one that, it could be argued, doesn’t necessarily have the good guys actually, you know, winning. The food critic’s review at the end of the movie is truly inspiring. It’s also a good parable about balancing responsibilities to yourself, your family, and your career.
5. Up. Sometimes I joke that all computer animated movies these days, no matter what the production company, are attempts to make a statement akin to “Hey! Look at what our animation technology is actually capable of!” And having a house being lifted into the air by who-knows-how-many independently animated helium filled balloons is definitely one of those things that are amazing from a technology perspective. Add a compelling storyline and you’ve got a real winner. A minor plot ding has to go to this movie because, if we’re being generous, there’s still a fifteen year age difference between the two elderly gentlemen who have to fight each other at the end.
6. Monsters, Inc. This is an excellent play on the whole concept of every child’s fear of a monster that hides in their closet. Like with Up, above, the animation of the hair on one of the main characters is a marvel in animation technology. It’s kind of refreshing to see that corporate responsibility issues in the monster world is by and large the same as in the real world.
7. Finding Nemo. A good father-son tale about learning to let go, despite our fears of doing so. The beautiful seascapes and colors in the animation make this a truly breathtaking movie. I have to call out one scene that has a bit of dialogue that not only was unnecessary, but it also was proven wrong with no apology: when Marlin meets up with the sharks and explains that Nemo was taken by some divers, one of the sharks remarks that the diver was “Probably American.” As it turns out, the diver was Australian. It’s an unnecessary line and probably should have been edited out.
8. Toy Story. The grand-daddy of them all, the first ever feature length computer animated movie. While the animation of this movie isn’t as good as just about all other movies put out by Pixar, this movie works as a proof of concept over and above all else. One of the problems I have with this movie is the fact that literally every toy shares in the irrational fear that a child will stop playing with them only on birthdays and gift-giving holidays, ignoring the obvious fact that a child can and will stop playing with a given toy at literally any time.
9. Wall-E. Truly a marvel in animation to the point that it’s almost photorealistic, especially when the only two characters we see are Wall-E and Eve. It makes no apologies for the process by which Wall-E (and almost all of the other robots to a lesser extent) have developed a personality while performing their directives. This movie loses a lot in the ranking because of all thirteen Pixar movies, it probably has the most glaring hole in its plot. Specifically, if 700 years before the time when this movie is set, the president of Buy N Large sent a message back to the Axiom (and all other ships out there, I would assume) not to make any attempts to re-colonize the earth, then how and why did EVE go back to Earth still looking for vegetation samples? If Otto knew that there was a risk, however small, of an EVE probe coming back with something, then shouldn’t he have prevented the probe from going out in the first place? (I also doubt that the Captain would have been able to win any fights with Otto if he had literally never walked before…)
10. A Bug’s Life. This is a good movie, to be sure, but it feels like it tries to cram too much into too small a space. Is it about a pack of traveling flea circus performers? Or the ants’ struggle against the grasshoppers? I like the message about how one person with a dream can change society, but overall, it’s too overwrought and convoluted. One of the arguments between Flik and the performers is particularly forced.
11. Toy Story 3. Despite the amazing animation (especially the furnace at the end), I can’t help but get over the thought that this movie is both an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the original Toy Story while simultaneously pull on our heartstrings more than any other Pixar movie.
12. Toy Story 2. Okay. I might be biased here. This was actually the first Pixar movie I saw, and I can’t begin to express how underwhelmed by this movie I was. I honestly could not empathize with any of the characters as they were portrayed in this movie. It’s almost as if this movie goes out of its way not to be challenging to anything.
13. Cars 2. What a horrible follow-up to such a good movie to begin with.
An interesting thing about this list. I had no trouble putting together my top 5 and I had no real problems coming up with the bottom 2. It’s ranking the six movies in the middle that was quite problematic. Even as I post these words, I get the sense that maybe Toy Story 3 is too low and that Wall-E is too high on the list. (Even though the latter still belongs lower than the former…)
Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry entitled “List of Pixar films” contains a grid that outlines all thirteen movies and which can be sorted by rankings both at metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. There is near universal agreement that Cars 2 was the worst of all of the Pixar movies. I’m honestly surprised that Wall-E places as highly as it does on both lists and, for that matter, that Toy Story 3 places higher than the original Toy Story in the Metacritic rankings.
Bring on the disagreements!