2021 Pixar Movie Rankings

Three years ago, inspired by The Ringer and to commemorate the arrival of The Incredibles 2, I shared some totally subjective rankings of the Pixar films. And I was summarily told, “go watch those movies again, Jacob, because you’re wrong.”

Fortunately, Disney+ arrived on the scene and my now two children love the Pixar films and watch them all the time. So (again inspired by The Ringer) in anticipation of Luca and after many (many) more viewings of these films, here are my updated Pixar Movie Rankings.

Abominations Made in the Name of the Almighty Dollar

23. Toy Story 4
22. Cars 3
21. The Good Dinosaur
I cannot overstate how much I loathe Toy Story 4. It undermines basically every good lesson and story line from the previous three films. And it only kind of tries to hide that fact that Pixar only made it for the money. I literally stop my kids from watching this movie. As for the other films here, they only exist because House of Mouse wants to make more $$$.

Solid, but Not My Favorites

20. Ratatouille
19. Brave

Both of these films are solid entries that I enjoy, but for whatever reason, they’re not my favorites. My siblings ruined Rataouille for me with endless watchings back in the day. And while I appreciate the message of Brave, I’m neither a mother or daughter. Again, I’m not saying these are bad movies (unlike the previous category). But this is where they fall for me.

The Sequels

18. Incredibles 2
17. Cars 2
16. Finding Dory
15. Monsters University
14. Toy Story 2

All of these movies are solid and enjoyable (though some are better than others). The fact that they’re sequels plays for and against them. Some of the stories really suffer, though they receive a nice nostalgia boost because of the well-known characters. I also tend to think of these movies as filling a particular niche service. Do I want to reminisce about college? MonstersU it is. Am I feeling up for spoof-y humor? Toy Story 2 coming up. Do I want to watch a James Bond film without James Bond? Cars 2, at your service.

Let’s Watch Them Again!

13. A Bug’s Life
12. Cars
11. Up
10. Onward

These are movies that I really enjoy and would happily watch with you right now. And they come from different parts of my life. A Bug’s Life was a childhood favorite. Cars was a fun way to connect with my younger siblings while I was in high school. Up came out the year I went off to college and began to figure out my own life’s adventure. And Onward was a tough movie for a tough year that I love for my kids to watch because of the love between Ian and Barley. My only regret with these movies is that I can’t rank them higher.

Supremely Thought Provoking

9. Soul
8. Coco
6. Inside Out

Like the previous category, I’ll watch these movies with you right now. But these films get a boost because we can talk about what they’re communicating after we watch it. As a pastor-theologian, these are some of Pixar’s most conceptually thought-provoking films. Soul and Coco are great tools for thinking about death, the afterlife, purpose, and memory. WALL-E raises great questions about what it means to be human and what care for the world should look like. And Inside Out is superb for helping us visualize how our minds, emotions, and memories work. Someday, I’m going to teach a class on the Theology of Pixar. But until then, I’ll constantly use these films to help explain key concepts about what it means to be human.

The Best of the Best

5. Monsters, Inc.
My criteria for this level of movie is that it gets better with each viewing. And Monsters, Inc. passes the test. John Goodman’s Sully and Billy Crystal’s Mike Wazowski are easily Pixar’s second-most iconic duo.

4. Finding Nemo
Moving. Creative. Funny. An accurate representation of what parents will go through for the sake of their kids. I loved Finding Nemo when it came out, and I’ve come to love it even more since. Since 2018, it’s dropped a spot, but it’s still great.

3. Toy Story 3
Perhaps the best sequel ever made aside from Empire Strikes Back. For me, two moments sum up the storytelling power of this movie: when the characters (I can’t just call them toys!) are in the incinerator and when Andy leaves for college. Pure gold that keeps getting better the older I get.

2. The Incredibles
I first saw The Incredibles when I was a teenager. The story captured my attention, and was one of the first films I recall being aware of the second-level, more-for-adults humor that Pixar does such a fine job of weaving into their movies. Plus, super-extra-mega-bonus points for having the best scene of any Pixar movie.

1. Toy Story
The one that started it all, both for Pixar and for millions of moviegoers around the world. Toy Story was the first movie that I remember seeing in theaters, which helped make it the first movie that was “mine” rather than something my parents put on for me. Buzz and Woody, the lessons of friendship, the captivating animation style (that still looks solid almost three decades later)—Toy Story has it all

What do you think? What am I too high on? What am I too low on? Let me know in the comments!


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

One thought on “2021 Pixar Movie Rankings

  1. I really really love monsters university, but I get you can have the prequel without the original. Toy story 1 is for sure number 1! Overall solid list!

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