Best Pixar Movies Disney+ Credit: Pixar
credit: Pixar

Picking out the best Pixar movies is like picking a favorite child. It’s wrong and uncomfortable, and undoubtedly shame and guilt will follow. With so many options, it can be hard to narrow down which ones are really worth seeing.

But thankfully, streaming platforms like Disney+ make it easy to binge some of the better ones. Between personal reasons and viewer ratings, below are fifteen of the best Pixar movies that fans should watch.

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15. Coco (2017)

One of the more recent films, Coco is a beautiful story about Miguel who goes on a journey to find his great-great-grandfather in a magical land, the Land of the Dead.

As he tries to find his ancestor, Miguel realizes the lies within the stories and begins unraveling the secrets. Coco inspires the importance of family, and the need to honor memories and share family history with others. It also sparks the idea of death and life, a topic that is not often brought up in children’s movies.

14. Turning Red (2022)

Best Pixar Movies; Turning Red
Credit: Pixar

As one of the newer additions to the Pixar franchise, Turning Red does a wonderful job of creating a beautiful story while talking about intense themes. Created by Domee Shi as her directorial debut, Turning Red follows a 13-year-old girl named Mei Lee, who does her best to keep up with her mother’s expectations.

But of course, Mei Lee is trying to become her own person and struggles between finding who she is and staying in her mother’s good graces. When an unexpected turn of events takes place, causing Mei to become a giant red panda, her world is flipped upside down.

One obvious theme for those watching is to never hide who you are and embrace your uniqueness and personality. There is also a strong message to the parents watching to try and let their children explore their personalities, and to be more accepting and relaxed with childhoods, as it’s their only one.

13. Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story is one of the quintessential films of Pixar, and made the company one of the leaders in animation. Focusing on a group of Andy’s toys that come to life when he’s not around, cowboy Woody starts to get jealous when the new spaceman toy Buzz Lightyear gets introduced to the toy box.

This movie teaches children about their imagination and wonder about the world, and how even though two characters can start on the wrong foot, they can become one of the best duos in animated history. Toy Story has continued on a path of success, leading to several sequels and shorts on Disney+.

12. Inside Out (2015)

Best Pixar Movies; Inside Out
Credit: Pixar

Another film that talks about staying true to who you are, Inside Out explores the idea of personified emotions. The simplified version of these emotions shows viewers that each person has a main emotion that controls their body, and each one is different. It creates a unique look into how everyone takes on their daily lives in their own way.

The film follows Riley, a girl who is dealing with the hardships of change in her life and how each emotion plays into her every moment. When core memories are corrupted in Riley’s mind, the emotions work to try to protect her, creating a unique string of events. This not only teaches children that every emotion is important but that it’s also okay to feel all emotions, even the ones that are labeled as ‘negative’.

Adults can take this movie and see how every emotion is beneficial, and let children feel the way they do, because most of the time it isn’t a bad thing, and it might be needed. It’s not only an enjoyable movie, but it’s a great learning experience for all ages.

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11. Toy Story 2 (1999)

Toy Story 2 remains the best in the Toy Story franchise.

Toy Story was the movie that made Pixar numero uno in big-screen animation. Despite being left open-mouthed by Toy Story, its sequel was the better movie. For me, the Roundup Gang, Woody’s origin, and the lovable Bullseye are the pinnacle of this series. Together, they’re a flashback to the classic Western era and collectible toys that tap into my nostalgia. Whenever something can do that, I can’t help but become attached. 

10. Monsters University (2013)

Best Pixar Movies; Monsters University
Credit: Pixar

I was so excited when I first learned they were creating a sequel to the Monsters, Inc. film, and the fact that it’s about Mike and Sully during college is even better. Instead of being best buddies in college, Mike and Sully became competitors in the Scare School, where Mike only seemed to fit in with the misfits and Sully was part of a frat and a celebrity at the school. But they must come together after they both get kicked out of the Scare program, trying to win the Scare Games to get back into the program.

There is a lot kids can learn in this movie, the most important being the power of friendships and coming together to achieve a goal. Sully and Mike didn’t start as friends — quite the opposite. But they had to set aside their differences and learned that they made a pretty good team together which is what we see in Monsters, Inc.

9. Finding Nemo (2003)

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” I love Dory and Marlin’s relationship in Finding Nemo, and although the movie is sad because Marlin must find where Nemo has been taken, it shows how far a parent would go to protect their children. From interacting with sharks, turtles, and anglerfish, Marlin and Dory travel across a vast amount of sea to find Nemo, who has been taken to a pet store.

Kids can see the importance of friendship in this movie, but also the importance of not giving up. Marlin could have given up several times in his search, especially when he almost gets killed, but his love for Nemo is too large to ignore. Plus, who doesn’t love watching Dory interact with Marlin? It’s hilarious!

8. Finding Dory (2016)

Best Pixar Movies; Finding Dory
Credit: Pixar

Unlike the Toy Story series, I cannot pick my favorite movie between Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. They’re both great, so it came down to which has my favorite characters — and that’s definitely Finding Dory. First, we have Gerald the sea lion, who gets barked off a rock by Idris Elba and Dominic West (also sea lions). What’s fantastic is later Gerald gets on the rock, and his face is worth the one million memes it became.

Then we have Becky, who in all honesty needs her own movie. She looks crazy, acts crazy, and caused me to cry raspberry tears at the movie theatre. Disney and Pixar need to add a hazard warning “do not watch Becky while drinking.”

Finding Dory is a must-watch movie if for nothing more than to watch Becky eating a cup or chanting with Dory and all the other fish. Those two moments — and Gerald, of course — make this movie worth watching all the time.

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7. Elemental (2023)

Though this movie only came out last year, I loved the idea of turning elements into people who interact with each other. In Elemental, we see Element City, a place where fire, water, plants, and clouds interact and live. The main characters are Ember, a fire girl, and Wade, a water boy. Similar to any Romeo and Juliet story, the two are opposite elements and could hurt each other. But the main difference between this film and Shakespeare’s play is that Ember is the main deterrent, wanting to make her parents proud while simultaneously shoving down her dreams.

Elemental also covers the idea of immigrants and segregation with the placement of the fire town in comparison to the rest of the three elements, but the real draw to this movie is two teenagers falling for each other, in a world that might not allow it.

6. The Incredibles (2004)

Best Pixar Movies; The Incredibles
Credit: Pixar

It’s impossible to talk about the best Pixar movies without including The Incredibles. This movie is an iconic title for the studio, and rightly so as it not only is a laugh-out-loud film, but it also talks about serious and impactful issues.

Following a family that lives a double life as superheroes, The Incredibles does a great job of exploring important themes. While family is the main theme in this film, it also shows the importance of individuality. Staying together and working as a team brought a victory in the end, but it’s important to note that each child is dealing with their own struggles and was allowed to shine through their own strengths.

This film is not all lighthearted and good-humored though, as it can be extremely violent. It’s interesting to watch villains not hesitate to use any means necessary to stop the family, even towards the children, and for the children to not feel guilt or regret when enemies are taken down. So, while this Pixar movie is a great watch with the family, it also presents interesting and unique ideas, making it an enjoyable watch for all ages.

5. Up (2009)

Up has a similar structure to Wall-E, with its beginning being memorable for grownups. It’s a movie about loneliness, missed adventures, and lost love. Not once does it try to be for children; it only wants to connect, and it does. Then Russell appears and the Pixar cuteness and comedy ramp up. It’s great fun, and Kevin, the female bird swaying with Russell between her legs, is the movie’s funniest moment. 

Up is Pixar’s best story. It doesn’t have the impact of Wall-E‘s opening act, yet its ending is as poignant, heartfelt, and relevant as the movie’s beginning. It may not have the laughs of some of the other Pixar movies, but it’s a must-watch for anyone with Disney Plus.

4. Monsters Inc. (2001)

Best Pixar Movies; Monsters Inc.
Credit: Pixar

Another iconic name for the studio, Monsters Inc. took the world by storm and is still a fan favorite to this day. This film follows two monsters that work for Monsters Inc., a company that produces energy for the city by how afraid children are. At night, monsters will creep into children’s rooms and use their fear and terror as their fuel.

While this movie starts as a play on one of the most common fears for children, it soon turns into a lighthearted story as a little girl, Boo, infiltrates their headquarters, creating a silly and wholesome adventure of two supposedly scary monsters, doing their best to get her back home safely.

There are several themes at play here. While the main themes focus on the true idea of good vs. evil, as well as common assumptions and unusual relationships, it also encourages children to not be afraid of all unknown, and that the world is filled with more good than bad.

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3. Cars (2006)

In my opinion, Cars has to be in the top three of Pixar films. Between Mater’s amazing one-liners and the journey Lightning McQueen must take to return to the race course, there is so much depth to a film where cars are humanized. After being left on the road, Lightning McQueen gets stuck in Radiator Springs, a remote town where he must find connections with the locals in order to get back to the track.

There are several lessons in this film, including owning up to your mistakes, building friendships, and learning to be humble in the face of greatness. I am so glad that there are other films in the Cars franchise, so we could continue to see the stories of these cars unfold.

2. Ratatouille (2007) 

Best Pixar Movies; Ratatouille
Credit: Pixar

Who would have thought a story about a cuisine-cooking rat could grab a child’s attention, besides Pixar? With a disgruntled chef who aspires to own his own restaurant, combined with a rat who just wants to cook and become something more than his rat counterparts, there is a lot that can be learned from Ratatouille.

Linguini and Colette learn to not judge a book by its cover when they learn about Remy’s baking skills, and it allows them to stun a food critic, though the restaurant gets shut down later due to the “rat infestation.” There is also the idea of finding a place to fit in, both for Linguini and Remy as neither of their traditional groups wanted to accept them.

1. Wall-E (2008) / Best Pixar Movies

Wall-E is not only Pixar’s best-animated movie, but it’s also Disney’s. It’s a bold claim considering Disney’s body of work started in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and includes hits like The Lion King. What’s even bolder is that it’s only the movie’s first act that’s special. 

If you haven’t seen Wall-E‘s first 30 minutes, stop what you’re doing and watch. It touches on nostalgia, keepsakes, daily grind, and the trepidation of making new friends. Its cinematic perfection and what Pixar was able to do with a trash compactor borders on witchcraft. 

This doesn’t mean Wall-E‘s second and third acts aren’t great. They’re fun, with a scary accurate social parody where humans are reliant on machines and obsessed with screens. It just never again hits the heights of those first 30 minutes.

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Pixar movies are one of my favorites because they ask the “what if” questions and turn it into a movie. What if a rat became a world-class chef? Ratatouille. What if monsters used human screams for energy? Monsters, Inc. What if cars could talk and act like humans? Cars. These are the questions I like to ask in my writing and the real world, and whatever Pixar movie you decide to put on, you’re going to enjoy it.