Ever since they first arrived on the scene, Pixar has been a force to be reckoned with in the realm of animated films. It seemed like one after another, Pixar could do no wrong with their releases, enchanting both young and old audiences alike.

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Decades later, it’s clear that some of their original movies have been stronger than others. The fact remains, though, that with strong themes and characterization, Pixar still remains a dominant force in the realm of animation.

10) Cars

Chick, Lightning and Strip go around the track in Disney Pixar’s ‘Cars’

Pixar really shines when it brings life to things otherwise lifeless. Doesn’t matter if it’s toys, bugs, fish, or even cars, Pixar finds interesting ways to tell a story. Cars is no different, and it’s one of the most inventive, if not weird projects the company has ever tried.

The first Cars film was essentially about challenging one’s hubris to find the things that are important in life. The fact that they were able to tell a story like this using anthropomorphic racing cars is a testament to their capabilities.

9) Coco

Miguel and Hector in Disney Pixar’s ‘Coco’

Disney and Pixar alike are skilled at highlighting stories from other cultures. In Coco, this meant telling the story of a Mexican family and their culture of the afterlife.

Another strong Pixar trait is the studio’s ability to tackle difficult subjects. Coco was a compelling story about grief, loss, and death that more children should be exposed to. Not to mention it had some great music, too.

8) Finding Nemo

Nemo, Dory and Crush in Disney Pixar’s ‘Finding Nemo’

The great thing about Pixar is that they always begin their stories with strong emotional and foundational themes. Finding Nemo was about conquering fear for the sake of love and family.

The great part about the film is that it approached this theme through two different narratives. Nemo had to conquer his fear of having a handicap, while his father Merlin had to conquer his own fear of losing his son, and challenging a dangerous world to find him.

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7) Ratatouille

Remy puppets Alfredo in Disney Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’

For a while, Pixar was so focused on making movies that focused on non-human characters that it was strange to see a film from them that added humans into the mix. Although Ratatouille was split between human and rat main characters, it was the relationship between them that made the movie so strong.

Another great thing about this film is the way it handles its ending. People have expectations about what they want from their films. Ratatouille doesn’t end in the way the characters want. Instead, it ends in a way the characters need, as they find their own happiness.

6) Monsters Inc.

The monster crew from Disney Pixar’s ‘Monsters Inc.’

Great animated stories take concepts and tropes that everybody is familiar with, and turns them on their head. For Monsters Inc., that meant having the monsters that scare children at night actually be part of a large corporation.

The great thing about Monsters Inc. is that it might be Pixar’s funniest film, which is ironic given the nature of the movie’s ending. It found a way to twist scary and funny in a way that didn’t just resonate throughout the movie, but also became a core of the story.

5) Wall-E

Wall-E holds hands with a nonfunctioning EVA in Disney Pixar’s ‘Wall-E’

It’s difficult for studios to make bold decisions, but it becomes easier after several successes. Most people would be turned off if an animated film started with a robot all alone on a world with no dialogue, but Wall-E pulls it off.

Besides being a clever sci-fi story though, Wall-E is also a compelling tale about overconsumption and the future of humanity. The film plays respects to its sci-fi roots by grounding its themes in a message of hope that resonates with audiences of all ages.

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4) Toy Story

Buzz Lightyear talks to Woody in Disney Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’

Toy Story was the Pixar movie that started it all, and it still remains one of its strongest. More than that, it also began the entire era of computer generated animation that still remains strong to this day.

With an impressive cast of voice actors and a story that brought animation back to its emotional core, Toy Story captivated audiences young and old. The fact that it’s still strong today is a testament to its success.

3) Soul

22 speaks to another soul in Disney Pixar’s ‘Soul’

Pixar doesn’t shy away from complicated stories, and Soul is certainly one of its most complex. It deals with a complex system of the afterlife, and a character that has to navigate through it.

Wrestling with such big questions as life and death is difficult for an audience of adults. Trying to accomplish the same thing with children is doubly challenging. Soul manages to convey its message through humor and heart, making it not just a great animated film, but a great piece of cinema altogether. 

2) The Incredibles

The Incredibles share a hug in Disney Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’

Telling an original superhero story is difficult enough, but trying to do it through animation is equally challenging. Yet, Pixar was able to tell a fun family adventure, while dealing with some pretty strong themes.

Having superheroes sued for their heroics and driven underground is a pretty mature story. Plus, The Incredibles was pretty much an homage to ’60s era Bond films. All this combined made for a very strong story, and one of Pixar’s best.

1) Inside Out

Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear from Disney Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’

Many of Pixar’s films are extremely ambitious, but perhaps none shot for the stars more than Inside Out. This story was incredibly complex, dealing with emotions and the subconscious of a young girl.

There were many ways in which this story could have gone off the rails, but a strong direction allowed it to stay the course and have some real growth of its characters. It’s an important film and message for any human being, not just children. The fact that Pixar was able to create a compelling adventure using emotions as characters means that Inside Out takes the top spot on the list.

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