Our 5 favorite Pixar movies from Toy Story 4 wait to Coco

We’re faced with an abundance of classics, and now it’s time to make those challenging decisions. Our 5 favorite Pixar movies from Toy Story 4 wait to Coco

Among all the film studios out there, Pixar stands tall with an extraordinary track record. They’ve gifted us with 27 full-length features, and their misses can be counted on one hand, maybe even less. It’s a level of mastery in the craft that rivals the legendary Babe Ruth in baseball.

When Lightyear graced our screens last year, I had the privilege of asking its voice actors—Chris Evans, Taika Waitaki, Keck Palmer, and Uzi Adobe—for their personal Pixar favorites. The conversation spilled over onto Twitter (or should I say, “X”). One thing became abundantly clear through this exchange (beyond discovering the tribe of us who believe Coco deserves more recognition): Everyone’s choices when it comes to Pixar films are wildly divergent.

As for my own choices, I’m bracing myself for any criticism akin to the sharp jabs Lightyear received. Do some say my selections lack “soul, spark, or moving moments”? Well, sure, I can handle that. Lay it on me. And after you’ve shared your own recommendations in the comments, remember that these lists are entirely subjective. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship.

With Elemental, Pixar’s 27th release, already breaking streaming records and poised to arrive on home entertainment next week, let’s dive into this seemingly impossible task:

Toy Story 4 released in 2019

TOY STORY 4, from left: Woody (voice: Tom Hanks), Forky (voice: Tony Hale), 2019. © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

Let’s address my most divisive choice right off the bat. Initially, there was the groundbreaking 1995 film, Toy Story, which forever transformed the world of digital animation. Then came the exceptional Toy Story 2 in 1999, proving that this medium could give rise to blockbuster franchises. Finally, in 2010, Toy Story 3 arrived and delivered an emotional punch that served as a fitting conclusion to an almost flawless trilogy. It even secured a spot as one of only three animated films ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. At that point, many questioned the need for a fourth installment.

Yet, Team Pixar recognized that there were more compelling tales to be woven around Woody, Buzz, and their companions. Under the inspired guidance of Josh Cooley, Toy Story 4 seamlessly combined all the quintessential elements that make these movies truly magical: the depth of emotion, the irresistible charm, the humor that never missed a beat, the unwavering sense of adventure, and above all, the heart. In fact, Toy Story 4 is the funniest and most intellectually sharp entry in the series, with memorable moments like Forky’s cry of “Trash!” that had me in fits of laughter – so much so that my daughter had to remind me to keep it down.

The majority of people may argue that the third installment still reigns supreme, and I can respect that perspective. However, I firmly maintain that Toy Story 4 is the Toy Story 3 of Pixar’s illustrious filmography.

 Up (2009)

UP, from left: Dug (dog), Kevin (bird), Russell, Carl Fredricksen (voice: Ed Asner), 2009. ©Walt Disney Co./courtesy Everett Collection

Up managed to evoke tears from all of us in record time. Within just five minutes, it masterfully depicted the heartwarming love story and lifelong journey of a man and woman, only to separate them through the inevitable passage of time. However, its brilliance extends beyond the emotional rollercoaster. Up stands as one of Pixar’s finest adventure films, earning a well-deserved Best Picture Oscar nomination. It boasts one of the studio’s most eclectic ensembles: a grumpy old man, an enthusiastic Boy Scout (my apologies, a wilderness explorer), a talkative dog named Dug (“Squirrel!”), and a colossal bird named Kevin, embarking on a delightfully bizarre and swashbuckling adventure through the landscapes of South America. The film is an absolute triumph, and the iconic image of Carl’s house soaring into the endless blue sky remains one of the studio’s most unforgettable moments.

The Incredibles (2004)

THE INCREDIBLES, Elastigirl, Dash, Mr. Incredible, Violet, 2004, (c) Walt Disney/courtesy Everett Collection

The Incredibles stands not only as one of Pixar’s finest creations but also as one of the most exceptional entries in the superhero genre. Released in 2004, Brad Bird’s exhilarating, visually stunning action-comedy not only preceded the genre’s explosive rise at the box office, epitomized by 2008’s The Dark Knight and Iron Man, but it also established that action-packed sequences could excel in animated form (a legacy evident in 2023 hits like Across the Spider-Verse and Mutant Mayhem). Beyond its thrilling spectacle, The Incredibles serves as a poignant metaphor for the unique individuality, quirkiness, and inherent power possessed by each family member, ultimately strengthening the familial bond. In many ways, it can be regarded as the quintessential ‘family film’.

Ratatouille released in 2007 is a beloved animated film.

RATATOUILLE, Remy (voice: Patton Oswalt), 2007. ©Walt Disney Co./courtesy Everett Collection

Pixar has an uncanny ability to infuse heart and emotion into almost anything they anthropomorphize. To illustrate this point, I once pitched some unconventional ideas to the creators of Elemental, like Covie, boogies, and ringworms. While Pixar has had success with abstract concepts like emotions (Inside Out), souls (Soul), and elements (Elemental), in my opinion, nothing in their repertoire surpasses Ratatouille. This film manages to make us adore, cheer for, and even stir up our appetites for gourmet cuisine, all through the perspective of a rat. Pause for a moment and consider that premise. We’re a species that panics over a single stray hair near our food, yet the magic of Remy, voiced by Patton Oswalt, and the captivating, heartwarming storytelling in this movie make it undeniably one of the finest tributes to the culinary world in cinematic history. It’s so remarkable that it even sparked the creation of a cookbook and a Tikor musical.

Coco released in 2017 is a heartwarming animated film.

COCO, from left: Miguel (voice: Anthony Gonzalez), Mama Coco (voice: Ana Ofelia Murguia), 2017. © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

It stands as one of the most profoundly spiritual experiences I’ve ever had within the confines of a movie theater. This poignant moment occurred shortly after my father’s passing, marking our family’s return to normalcy and the first time we ventured to the cinema together. As the credits gracefully rolled, my daughter nestled on my lap, and I found myself overcome with tears. Over the years, I’ve revisited Coco countless times, and with each viewing, I remain awe-struck by the film’s remarkable emotional depth, its flawless fusion of the tangible and the fantastical, its breathtaking visual aesthetics, its keen and witty observational humor, its celebration of cultural uniqueness while touching on universal themes, and its enchanting music that tugs at the heartstrings. Coco undoubtedly stands as the pinnacle of Pixar’s artistry.

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