Here is Première’s incredible Pixar top.
How to classify masterpieces? How do you decide that an ultimate melo is better than a great comedy? Clearly, how to list the 15 Pixars from worst to best? First, by seeing them all again (in three days, it’s possible). Then, by mixing a serious critical mind, a keen sense of the context of production and a pure feeling – with perfect awareness, therefore, that it will annoy some (yes, Toy story 3 is VERY low, BUT we explain why). And then by deciding that the top 5 should sum up the house “spirit”. That the 5 best films must, each, embody an aspect of the founding principles of the lamp studio. So there is an authentic and undeniable masterpiece, a conceptual wonder (the slope Vice versa), a punk comedy, a film-monde and a pure trip of “emotions”. It was an impossible mission; here are the 21 Pixar (without Forward, it’s too fresh) sorted in ascending order. Obviously, all these films can be found on the Disney + streaming platform, which has just arrived in France.
21 – Monsters University
Not the worst Pixar, no. The worst. With the worst story (a rotten origin story), the worst gags and the worst staging. Produced as a mediocre Dreamworks. The real studio stew. If the error is human it is also Pixar.
20 – The Voyage of Arlo
Released the same year as Vice versa, the contrast between this Arlo’s journey and Pete Docter’s mental film is striking. Arlo’s Journey only has the “pixarien” logo of the pre-credits. The story of this little dinosaur who traces his Odyssey to find his family is bathed in a fun Western atmosphere, but is light years away from company standards. Contrary to Monsters u which really looked like what it was (a sequel thought of as a by-product), Arlo is an authentic fiasco. The incredible photo-realism of the decorations (which raised the question of the superposition of this hyperrealistic aesthetic with the very look cartoon of dinos) and the emotional power of the end never manage to redeem the abyssal naivety of the secondary characters, the absence of stake and the glaring inexistence of the weak hero. We know the complicated history of production, but no excuse: Arlo is Lasseter’s first true (economic and) artistic disaster which blurred the dividing line between Disney and Pixar at the time.
19 – Toy Story 3
For most people Toy story 3 is the latest big Pixar. The peak before the fall. Here, we rather think that it is the first true fail from the studio, an easy and cheap movie. Too many characters, too many scenes, too many Sick Grand-corps, too many Ken, too many Barbies, too many Ken & Barbies. And all this too quickly. Review it: NT3 gives the impression that Lasseter recycles uninspired Pixar formulas. A train scene (The Incredibles), an escape (Nemo), a character who reboots (Wall-E), escape (Nemo) and the summary of a life in 2 minutes (Up there). “Why?” is the question that comes up often. Why two escapes? Why adopt Andy’s point of view in the last 5 minutes? Why didn’t the toys get dusty? Why Woody’s getaway at Bonny’s? The worst part is not that the film NEVER answers these questions, but that it ultimately doesn’t say much. Between the moment they enter the boxes (college or the attic?) And the moment they exit 90 minutes later, the toys will have experienced an adventure that will never have transformed them. Will have been useless. The problem is the mythological redundancy, the inability of Lasseter to justify his film before the last 10 minutes (staggering, ok) which should have worked as a short film. Toy story 3 ? A 3, a number 3. Certainly not the end of a trilogy.
18 – Cars 3
At Pixar the two are (sometimes) better. All three do not work. While we are desperately trying to impose the electric or drive clean, Pixar recycles its old rusty harpoons. It is not necessarily in the old pots (not even catalytic) that we make the best jams, the proof with this lazy and indigent opus which examines the existential crisis of Flash McQueen (mirror of that of the studio? That of the boss ?). The film puts on the clichés (fatigue of the champion, emergence of a new hero, rebirth), tries to evoke the internal problems of the company (the absence of girls at Pixar, the need to regenerate), but never succeeds to create the slightest emotion. As smooth as a Nascar body, the film has only one merit: it spins quickly. As fast as he forgets himself.
17 – Toy Story 4
Was it really necessary to continue? This is the big question that surrounds Toy story 4, the final installment (so far) of Pixar’s founding franchise. The beautiful idea of the film is to tighten the intrigue on the existential quest of Woody, now deprived of his role as leader (can he invent a new life and think of him before the others?). A rhythmic interior adventure, which however seems to have a panic fear of its own dramaturgy, systematically defused by randomly funny comic passages (the duo of whimsical fluff dubbed by Key & Peele). More annoying, the director Josh Cooley seems to have no ambition to tell anything through the action scenes, which are transformed in the second part of the film into repetitive adventures, intended to lengthen the sauce and give a few secondary characters a reason to exist. Remains a high-end entertainment, visually breathtaking and very touching in its last minutes. The contract is fulfilled but we would have liked to see Toy story 4 dig deeper subjects, like the one barely touched on the decay of toys (what would become of Forky if we took it apart?) and their life expectancy.
16 – Rebel
Big production problems (director Brenda Chapman was fired along the way) have badly damaged Rebel, to date the only real “film-sick” of the studio. The beautiful mother-daughter relationship and the story of female empowerment do not save this long schizo, which never manages to take stock of its subject. In terms of comedy, Rebel is never satisfactory (too long, poorly paced despite the 3 hilarious brothers). As a mythologico-Homeric epic (the 4 Kingdoms, the King Bear, the mother and its tapestry) the film is weak, sealed by a writing which lacks breath and especially of narrative coherence. The incredible design production remains. At Pixar, the decor is also a subject of film (Cars and Ratatouille). Here it runs empty.
15 – 1001 legs
Released at the same time as the Ant from Dreamworks (probably better), 1001 legs is the big forgotten filmo Pixar. Design has aged, so has history. There remains the declaration of intent. Released just before, Toy story infused the Disney spirit into a big 8 anar. 1001 legs recalls that the Pixar identity also has its roots in the cartoon geniuses – Chuck Jones and Tex Avery – and in Jim Muppet Henson. With its brilliant concept – filming the infinitely small in an epic way (with the bonus of a flamboyant score by Randy Newman) – and its nonconformist morality (gendered uncertainties) the film works above all on a programmatic level (announced from the title VO, A Bug’s Life, bug, like the grain of sand in the machine). In any case much more than by what we really see on the screen. Proof that real house masterpieces are those that transcend their note of intent.
14 – Cars 2
Cars 2 is far from the unanimously hated cynical and mercantile crust. Once admitted that it is the opposite of the 1 (fast-paced, traveler, centrifugal), its spy-flick coolness and its aesthetic genius definitely win the piece. After the main street of Radiator Spring, Lasseter offers us the world, its cars, its traffic signs, its architecture with a passion for fetishism that borders on neurosis (Tokyoooo!). It’s a bit long, sometimes bushy, but the film has two fatal weapons. 1 / Having evacuated Flash to make Martin – the tow truck who remained – the real hero of the film. When the thriller takes precedence over the race, when McQueen understands that he is no longer the boss, something crazy happens: you become like Flash. You suddenly want to know what’s going to happen. And 2 / if Paul Newman is no longer in the game, the British super spy is overtaken in OV by Michael Caine. Very classy. Come on: one last argument for the road (ah ah). Cars 2 has by far the most horny opening of any Pixar (Finn McMissile on the oil rig). Don’t you want to see him there again?
13 – Dory’s world
Funny film that industrializes the prototypical idea at work in Cars 2. At Pixar, rather than capitalizing on a preexisting universe, for suites, we prefer to start all over. The team does not make sequels, but films that reverse the concepts of the previous one. The emotional curve and the ideas of the Dory world are therefore exactly opposite to those of Nemo’s world. There where Nemo was an adventurous ride that put the character and the spectator in the immensely large and epic, here, we start from the Ocean to end up playing in riquiquis pools; the adventure takes place in an aquarium and time slows down. Thanks to his great central character, Dory should have explored the great Pixar notions (time, transmission, death), but Stanton prefers to focus on his heroine and his memory treasure hunt. Like a B side of Vice versa, or as an animated version of King Kong (the aquatic center looks like Skull Island), Dory’s World is a new, somewhat crazy conceptual exploration, a startling mental drift.
12 – Coco
Pixar looks death in the eye. A pretty little fable, sometimes really touching, but which plays it “safe”, by regurgitating themes already extensively explored by the studio. There remains this visual splendor at all times and the beautiful idea of making eternal rest a technicolor world.
11 – The Incredibles 2
Fourteen years later, Brad Bird picks up his scepter of animation king. And to drive the point home (as if nothing had happened since the first film, NOTHING in 14 years) The Incredibles 2 begins where the original ended. The story maliciously surfs on the major themes of the moment (mental load, women’s empowerment) but, by dint of sweeping away too many subjects, Bird does not always get to the end of his ideas – what we would have liked to have seen Mr. Indestructible’s film stuck at home! It’s a bit like the political point of view that you never clearly decipher. Bird is a libertarian with strong ideas on the subject and he even made a film around this theme (the underestimated In pursuit of tomorrow). Here, his point of view is not always very clear: the population lives at a time of a media dictatorship (where opinion polls are the law) but no one is thinking of freeing itself from it; the superheroes want to leave the closet, but above all claim the right to be able to CHOOSE their destiny freely; and at the same time the villain (with confused motivations) wants to show people that superheroes prevent them from realizing their own lives and that they are only catharsis on which one cannot really count.
10 – Ratatouille
It’s with this one that we enter the Premium category. Starting from an archetypal story (a hero who refuses to comply with the codes of society and decides to fulfill his destiny) which he subverts by populating it with nightmarish visions (rats in kitchens! And who prepare food !), Brad Bird signs an inverted Pinocchio. Visual ecstasy, techno sleight of hand, kinetic enjoyment and adventure flush with the floor… Beyond the wrinkled : a beautiful reflection on the condition of artist and a mise en abyme. Rémy, it is the creators of Pixar, the types of Emeryville who promise a simple ecstasy, geniuses who attach themselves with the care of a chemist to the discovery of a new texture or a color that could thrill the pupils (well, it rhymes with papilla). Ah yes. There is also one of the most beautiful Pixar scenes ever : the Proustian revelation of Anton Ego. Now, the strong vintage varnish and the disneyified Pixar spirit still make it the worst animated Brad Bird.
9 – Toy Story
The founding act and a master stroke. Beyond the purely techno aspect of the project, of the birth of a new golden age of digital cinema, the film first marks the birth of the Pixar spirit (cynical and offbeat humor, a way of questioning the reality, intimate emotion…). Displayed objective: boost the Disney spirit punk. From this number 1, Lasseter imposes characters with overwhelming existential torments (Buzz who realizes that he is not a hero; Woody, metaphor of American history, who must mourn his beliefs) and invents by passing pop icons (these are not just toys !!). A must-see, urgently, to also rediscover the amblinesque irony of this film framed at the level of the lino which transforms humans and especially kids into headless monsters, predators wearing Nike shoes or slipper shoes.
8 – Wall-E
Technically, aesthetically, the first 37 minutes of the film are the craziest things the studio has produced. From its first seconds – one sinks over a desolate Earth – the matter of the world is concrete, familiar but strangely different. Our planet has changed in nature. It is this shock that founds the amazing relationship that we have with the beginning of the film. But to these crazy, Kubrickian images, in which Stanton put his visionary genius, the filmmaker adds this little heap of junk, this rusty box that travels like a bell, a wonder designed by the Gods of design (Ben Burtt, Ralph Eggleston … ). So for 37 minutes, Wall-E is a splendor, pessimistic and mute, melancholy and joyful, which combines an ecological disaster and the eternal solitude of a futuristic Pinocchio who had the misfortune to develop a sensitivity. But when Wall-E takes off in the space hanging from the rocket cabin, the viewer comes back down to earth and the film collapses – a little. The fable SF becomes green thinking, the men (with really ugly graphics) take control of the ship and the film which becomes an uninterrupted pursuit of collapsing robots. The vertigo of the beginning seems far away.
7 – Vice Versa
After a few road trips, the film of the return. Pixar back to Pixar. A Up there teen version, one Nemo where the ocean would have been replaced by the cortex, the Toy story emotions… With the added bonus, the art of caricature, the talent for synthesizing the most complex ideas through movement, volume and speed. In short, the trademark of Pete Docter, the best in-house author. We should buy everything, not ask questions and indulge in “emotions”. It’s made for. But two problems prevent releasing all restraint and completely swallowing the comeback storytelling. First, the characters, uni-dimensional and uni-emotional (Joy is joyful, Sadness is sad), which precisely serve to illustrate that human beings – and great films – are not. And then this idea of seeing the Pixar genius dialectized (and before, from Disney). Conductors of our emotions, brilliant manipulators of our brains, they manage to make their job a film that leaves a strange taste in the back of the throat …
6 – Monsters and company
High concept film (what’s going on behind the closet door?), Social satire (even among monsters, we don’t escape the Weberian work ethic), earth-shattering melo (the friendship between a little girl and her fears)… Monsters and company is a bit of all that, but first it’s a supreme comedy (Bob Razowski or the funniest character in the Pixar galaxy) and a balancing act film. By the grace of a door that opens, we want to laugh, as at Lubitsch, and want to cry, as at Chaplin. This nuance makes the richness of the film. There are some drops in pace, but Monsters … today sees itself as the blueprint of Up there and Vice versa. And then: the restaurant scene, the door scene, the incredible emotional moments between Sully and Booh … Did you notice that Monsters and Company is the first Disney to take place in business? Of infinite wealth we tell you.
5 – Up there
The most moving. From afar. Impossible not to crack when we discover that Ellie, all her life during, filled the photo album and that her most beautiful adventure will have been her couple. Or when Karl clears his house of all its furniture, all its past, to get some air – and some altitude. But before there was this prologue, the life of Karl and Ellie parading before our eyes. This heartbreaking but sweet passage shows how a whole life can be summed up in a few strong and cruel polaroids. Behind the fluffy line, behind the softness of the colors, hide such brutality and such emotions that the film should not recover (as Wall-E). This is almost the case. Almost: the adventure film in Patagonia would seem agreed (albeit: a chase between two grumpy old men on top of the world ?? !!), without the initial darkness. The melancholy of the opening boosts the epic of Karl and gives him an additional layer of reality which allows the viewer to connect, no longer with a fanciful universe or funny characters, but with a destiny. Whining.
4 – The World of Nemo
We hesitated for a long time between Monsters… and Nemo. And then, no. Nemo. In front of. Because it’s the craziest Pixar. The most adventurous. Comic ease, the roller-coaster adventure, the killer concept, the cartoon spirit. Everything is just right, moving when necessary, always quick and inventive. Constantly funny. Once the mother’s death is over (hello Bambi) you immerse yourself in the most beautiful film-universe of the last 20 years (with Avatar) to ride a truly magical Pixar. They are the runners of McCay’s Little Nemo, it’s the best Walt Disney, lined with a Kubrick suspense, armored with chases and movie winks (The Teeth of the Sea, Abyss). And above all: this unstoppable humor. The ga (n) g of sharks (“the fish are our friends”), Dory the amnesiac, Dory the investigator (“P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sidney”), the pelicans, the escape from the jar, the singing institute, the “bubulles”, the turtles, Darla… A film-world. Inexhaustible.
3 – Toy Story 2
Disney originally wanted it to be a DTV. Lasseter and his crew refuse and sign a meta masterpiece (the toys try to escape their becoming a “box”), a declaration of war at the Mickey studio (by overthrowing its values in a violent manner). And a marvel of staging. A random scene: Jessie’s song where we see Woody at the height of his existential questioning. The camera remains fixed on his face for very long seconds, watching his expressions, his reactions, his gaze. As in a large Capra or a beautiful Ford, Lasseter offers the public time to scrutinize, examine, guess the thoughts of the character whose face becomes a Monument Valley of emotion. This scene would forever change animated cinema. But what strikes you today is the subtext. The man in the Hawaiian shirt offers himself through his cartoon a satire on acute collecting and the spirit of lucre which agitates speculators. Crazy criticism of a sterile society (creatively) where anything and everything, including plastic toys, can enter the museum. Wow.
2 – Cars
Second on the finish line, for the power of the poetic oxymoron (the feeling of loss that roars under the hoods of winners), the chrome beauty and 50’s fetishism. Unloved and generally subscribed to the bottom ranking of Pixar tops, Cars is actually a real wonder if you accept its rhythm and its presuppositions. John Lasseter signs a great authoring whim, a flamboyant concept film (a road movie that does not move), a technological marvel (even today the race of the beginning was not surpassed) and a stunning ode to the Americana . This nostalgic trip is a conceptual dream of 120 minutes objectively closer to the Lynch d’’’A true story only Crazy steering wheel. Route 66, neon signs, zinc 50’s and Paul Newman… Pixar coasting, at its highest conceptual peak and at its technical top.
1 – The Incredibles
The truth. The only. The studio’s authentic masterpiece. What strikes you first is the ease (you should say elasticity) with which Bird moves from spy film to intimate drama, from technicolor classicism to cartoon design (office sequences). This is basically the ideal application of the first Pixar command: to transcend humanism and emotion in an overpowered achievement (action, fluidity and explosion: the Bird touch). All the scenes on the island are of jubilant perfection, playing on both total efficiency (the pursuit in the forest) and the effect of amazement of the spectator. The feeling of floating and suspension (arrivals in the base under a starry night), dizziness and speed (the game suffocating on the depths of field) is based on a simple, childish pleasure. But this fantasy, inherited from Chuck Jones, Miyazaki and the dumb, is never free and is constantly adjusted to its true subject (family, emotions and vacancies of superheroes). The Incredibles he’s the best James Bond. The best superhero film ever produced. One of the best films about adolescence (Violet is Riley with 10 years in advance). The best Brad Bird (yes, better than The Iron Giant). The Incredibles is the best Pixar.