The A.V. Club's 11 favorite Pixar movies to stream right now on Disney+

·8 min read
The best Pixar movies on Disney+: Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Inside Out, Turning Red, Coco
The best Pixar movies on Disney+: Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Inside Out, Turning Red, Coco

Clockwise from top left: Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Inside Out, Turning Red, Coco (Disney/Pixar YouTube)

Pixar has become synonymous with two cinematic tropes that rarely intersect elsewhere: dazzling technical prowess and heartstring-tugging emotion. The former has been a studio standard since 1995, when the pre-Disney experimental tech company spent years creating Toy Story, the first fully CGI-animated feature film. But ask pretty much any fan about their favorite Pixar memories, and they’ll likely talk about those scenes that left them crying their eyes out.

In honor of Lightyear, which marks the animation studio’s 26th feature film (read our review here), we’re rounding up the most powerful, magical Pixar titles you can stream now on Disney+, according to the expert voices of The A.V. Club. Read on to discover our favorites, from Toy Story to 2022’s Turning Red. And for more deep dives on these films’ enduring impact, check out our series The Pixar Moment.

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1. Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story (1995) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Toy Story is the first-ever computer-animated feature film. That alone makes it a landmark work—maybe the most important animated movie in the 83 years since Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. But nobody watches Toy Story because of its historical significance. And nobody really paid to see it in 1995 because it represented a technological breakthrough. (I remember thinking Toy Story was going to look cheap and polygonal, like the Canadian TV cartoon Reboot.) Instead, then as now, people watch Toy Story because it’s a fun, imaginative, beautifully assembled piece of filmmaking. After the past 25 years of technological advances, the original Toy Story now looks thin and clunky, but you stop noticing that within five minutes... Toy Story is eternal—a wellspring of sequels and theme-park rides and actual toys that never quite gets old. Maybe that’s because it’s great art. [Tom Breihan]

2. Toy Story 2 (1999)

Toy Story 2 (1999) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

The unwritten rule of sequels is to paint exactly the same picture, only bigger, brighter, flashier, and more crowded. The result, with precious few exceptions, is diminished returns, a hollow second- or third-generation copy without the soul that made the original worth sequelizing. Toy Story 2, the sequel to Pixar Studios’ groundbreaking computer-animated debut, instead gets everything right, applying the bigger-and-louder rule to a fresh, funny, sharply written story that effectively appeals to every possible demographic... [Stephen Thompson]

3. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Monsters, Inc. (2001) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

In (the Monsters Inc.) city of Monstropolis, James P. Sullivan (a furry hulk voiced by John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (a walking eyeball voiced by Billy Crystal) are on the fast track, rising stars in a field crucial to their city’s survival. Goodman supplies the muscle while Crystal coordinates activities behind the scenes. Their business: energy production. Their raw material: the screams of frightened children... [Keith Phipps]

4. Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo (2003) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Finding Nemo gives the sense that if it weren’t limited by its borders, it would eventually reveal them all. But never mind Pixar’s characteristically impressive visual accomplishments. Given the steady advance of technology, it’s not that much of a surprise that the studio can match its past efforts even while attempting more daunting scenarios with each film. (Here, most of the action takes place underwater, with all the shimmering currents and play between light and shadow that the setting demands.) What’s more impressive, and in the end more important, is the high standard of storytelling that Pixar continues to meet by locating both humor and emotional depth in worlds created out of lines of code... [Keith Phipps]

5. The Incredibles (2004)

The Incredibles (2004) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

With The Incredibles, an endlessly clever riff on superhero tropes, Pixar furthers a tradition of personal, character-driven storytelling that has the speed of a Warner Bros. cartoon, but doesn’t rely too heavily on verbal gags to hang together. Written and directed by Brad Bird, who also contributes the funniest vocal performance as an artsy designer for the cape-wearing set, the film expands the possibilities of what computer animation can accomplish. But for all the artisans involved in putting it together, The Incredibles doesn’t feel machine-processed: Like Bird’s superb The Iron Giant or the films of Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), it rings with the small, idiosyncratic touches of a single auteur. [Scott Tobias]

6. Ratatouille (2007)

Ratatouille (2007) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Toward the end of Ratatouille, Pixar’s latest animated romp, writer-director Brad Bird mounts such a cogent, feeling, pained deconstruction of professional criticism that viewers might almost suspect he’s had problems with persnickety critics in the past. But how is that possible, when everything he touches is wonderful? The writer-director behind The Iron Giant and The Incredibles (the former a critically beloved, poorly marketed underperformer, the latter a critically beloved smash) and an animation consultant on the likes of King Of The Hill and The Simpsons, Bird has a rare cinematic gift: the ability to stage slam-bang action sequences without neglecting the rich emotional resonance that makes for a great story. Ratatouille never hits the heights of The Incredibles, if only because it’s operating on a much smaller and less mythic, culturally resonant stage, but it’s solid enough to prove that Bird hasn’t let success, critical or otherwise, go to his head. [Tasha Robinson]

7. Wall-E (2008)

WALL•E | Trailer | Official Disney Pixar UK

Pixar...has continued breaking molds, and stayed ahead of the pack largely by focusing on story and taking risks. The latest stretch comes in the form of Andrew Stanton’s audaciously non-commercial WALL-E, an animated feature that adds in live-action footage, leans thematically on scenes and songs from a 1969 musical flop, and largely eschews English dialogue for half its runtime. It’s Pixar’s most daring experiment to date, but it still fits neatly into the studio’s pantheon: Made with as much focus on heart as on visual quality, it’s a sheer joy. [Tasha Robinson]

8. Up (2009)

UP Official Trailer

It took more than 65 years, but a Disney company has finally topped the death of Bambi’s mother on the pathos-and-childhood-trauma scale. Pixar Animation’s new Up begins with an efficiently brutal sequence encapsulating the life of a thoroughly lovely woman, from childhood to death: With the studio’s usual economy and depth of characterization, the film goes about making audiences love her, then takes her away for good. The point is to let viewers share the grief of her grumpy old widower Carl (Ed Asner), and to humanize him and explain his actions going forward. But as an ancillary effect, the sequence proves once again that Pixar is always more concerned about a well-told story than with hedging its bets about what’s safe for or even naturally appealing to audiences. [Tasha Robinson]

9. Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out - Official US Trailer

Inside Out...takes place almost entirely within the mind of a preteen girl, where five personified emotions struggle to guide her through a life crisis. Bucking the current company mandate of churning out lesser sequels and prequels, it’s not just a brilliant idea, but maybe the most conceptually daring movie the Bay Area animation house has ever produced. And that’s really saying something, what with WALL-E on the books...

The most radical thing, perhaps, about this ambitious family film is the profound case it makes—to kids, but more plainly to their parents—that feeling melancholy is not just healthy, but entirely necessary. Sadness, in other words, is as important as happiness. That’s convenient, of course, for Pixar to say, as Inside Out will reduce more than a few viewers to hot messes. Come for the high concept, stay for the lump in the throat. [A.A. Dowd]

10. Coco (2017)

Coco Official Final Trailer

At a glance, this musical fantasy of departed family members peering back on our world seems like an oversweet interpretation of Pixar’s sentimental themes, not to mention the perfectionist animation studio’s preoccupation with memory. (See: Inside Out, Finding Dory.) But Coco teaches a salient point: In the dead, we see ourselves. Their world bears more than a passing resemblance to ours—and to the plight of families separated by borders—because our anxieties about death mirror our worries about own lives. It’s one of a handful of challenging ideas articulated in a film that is, paradoxically, one of Pixar’s less challenging high-concept creations—a somewhat formulaic, busily animated adventure with a relentlessly tearjerking finale and a structure that brings to mind Disney’s renaissance period. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

11. Turning Red (2022)

Turning Red | Official Trailer

Puberty can get a little, um, hairy. In Turning Red, it transforms 13-year-old Meilin (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) into a giant red panda, which effectively doubles as a not-so-subtle metaphor for puberty in this Pixar allegory. The animated tale serves as handy story-time fodder seemingly meant to help parents of very young children explain in the abstract the physical and emotional changes one undergoes during this rite of passage... [Martin Tsai]