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I like a good challenge. So for our fist installment of Yahoo Picks — where my fellow Yahoo Entertainment staffers and I share our pop culture favorites, from movies and shows to music and podcasts to books and games — I decided to take on the impossible task of choosing my top Pixar movies.
Among all film studios, you’d be hard-pressed to find one with a better batting average than the animation wizards at Pixar. They’ve released 27 full-length features, and have only missed what, maybe three times? That’s to infinity-and-beyond a Babe Ruth-level mastery of the craft.
When Lightyear came out last year, I asked its voice actors Chris Evans, Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer and Uzo Aduba for their Pixar faves. The discourse carried over to Twitter (er, X), too. And if there’s one thing I learned from the exercise (beyond the tribe of us who recognize Coco as the most underrated Pixar pic), it’s that everyone’s choices are wildly different.
As for mine? I’m fully prepared for any blowback along the lines of the critical zings directed at Lightyear. I have “little soul, spark or moving moments?” Sure. Bring it on. Then share your own recommendations in the comments. These lists are purely objective, and this is a democracy, not a dictatorship.
5. Toy Story 4 (2019)
Let’s get my most controversial pick out of the way. First there was 1995’s Toy Story, which revolutionized digital animation; 1999’s even better Toy Story 2 proved the medium could spawn mega-franchises; and 2010’s even even better Toy Story 3 delivered an emotional knockout punch that perfectly capped a near-flawless trilogy — becoming one of only three animated films ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar along the way. "Why even make a fourth installment?" they asked. Team Pixar understood there were more worthy stories to tell about Woody, Buzz and friends. Under the inspired direction of Josh Cooley, Toy Story 4 combined all the elements that make these movies so wondrous — the heart, the charm, the humor, the adventurous spirit, the emotion. It’s the funniest, most whip-smart, forkiest (“Trash!”) Toy Story by far, which is what pushes it over the edge for me. I was laughing so hard my daughter told me to be quiet. Most people will tell you the threequel still reigns supreme. I get that. But I contend that Toy Story 4 is the Toy Story 3 of Pixar movies.
4. Up (2009)
Up turned us all into blubbering pools of tears within record time. Five minutes in and we witness a man and woman falling in love and growing old together, only to be separated by mortality. But its genius doesn’t stop there. Up’s also one of Pixar’s greatest adventure movies (and another of the studio’s offering to be honored with a Best Picture Oscar nod), with one of its most inspired motley crews: a cranky old man, a cheery Boy Scout (sorry, wilderness explorer), a talking dog named Dug (“Squirrel!”) and a giant bird named Kevin navigating South America in Pixar’s blissfully weird swashbuckling riff on The Goonies or Romancing the Stone. The film is a pure triumph, and the sight of Carl’s air-ballooned house floating into the bright blue yonder might remain the studio’s greatest one perfect shot.
3. The Incredibles (2004)
The Incredibles isn’t just one of the best Pixar movies of all time, it’s one of the best superhero movies of all time. Released in 2004, Brad Bird’s rousing, visually dazzling action-comedy not only predated the genre’s box-office explosion launched by 2008’s The Dark Knight and Iron Man but The Incredibles also proved that action sequences can be best executed in cartoon form (you can see the influence of The Incredibles on such 2023 hits as Across the Spider-Verse and Mutant Mayhem). The Incredibles is also a pitch-perfect metaphor for the individuality, eccentricity and, yes, power, each member of a family possesses that makes the unit stronger. In fact, we might say this is the definitive “family film.”
2. Ratatouille (2007)
Pixar could anthropomorphize anything and still hit us squarely in the feels. (To prove this point I even pitched Elemental’s creators a few of them, like “Covie,” boogies and ringworms.) Sure, the studio has had success with such abstract standouts as emotions (Inside Out), souls (Soul) and elements (Elemental). But for me, nothing in the Pixar canon tops Ratatouille, which makes us love, root for and even get some hunger pangs over… a rat preparing gourmet dishes. Just stew on that premise for a second. We’re a species that freaks out over a single hair near our food. But that’s the power of the Patton Oswalt-voiced Remy, and the deliriously entertaining and tender storytelling in this film, inarguably one of the greatest cinematic odes to the culinary world. Heck, it’s so good that it even inspired a cookbook and a TikTok musical.
1. Coco (2017)
It was one of the most spiritual experiences I ever had in a movie theater. My father had just died, and it was the first time my family went to the movies after “returning to normalcy.” By the time the credits rolled, my daughter was sitting on my lap, and I was crying my eyes out. In the years since that night, I’ve revisited Coco plenty, and every single time I’m floored by the film’s emotional power, its seamless blend of the visceral and the fantastical, its visual beauty, its sharp observational humor, its cultural specificity yet universal resonance, and its sweet, sweet music. Just el mejor of all things Pixar.
Phew, we made it. But in case you want more Pixar films to stream (and there are so many more) we have a quintet of honorable mentions: Inside Out, Finding Nemo, Soul, Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 3.