- Pixar Animation Studios has produced 21 official films since 1995, and nearly all of them have gained critical acclaim.
- “Toy Story” (1995) and its highly-praised sequels dominate the top of the list with perfect and near-perfect critic scores.
- “Cars” (2006) and its sequels have received lower critic scores than most other Pixar films.
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Throughout the years, Pixar’s 21 animated films have made audience members of all ages laugh and cry.
Even though most of the studio’s works are widely viewed as masterpieces, not every movie it has made is unanimously beloved by critics.
Here are the eight best and the eight worst Pixar animated films ever made, according to critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes.
Note: All scores were current on the date of publication and are subject to change.
“Toy Story” (1995) earned love from critics for its unique story and boundless humour.
Critic score: 100%
Synopsis: After being the favourite in Andy’s (John Morris’) toy chest for years, Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) finds an unexpected rival with Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) when Andy receives the shiny new astronaut as a birthday present.
Critics immediately fell in love with Pixar’s first cinematic release, calling it a humorous and sincere story that appealed to all ages.
“With ‘instant classic’ written all over it, ‘Toy Story,’ the first full-length feature entirely composed of computer-generated animation, is a visually astounding, wildly inventive winner,” wrote Michael Rechtshaffen for The Hollywood Reporter.
“Toy Story 2” (1999) is tied for the highest-rated Pixar film of all time.
Critic score: 100%
Synopsis: When Woody (Hanks) is separated from his friends by a nefarious toy collector, Buzz (Allen) and the rest of Andy’s toys band together to rescue their friend from danger. The toys save the day and introduce Jessie (Joan Cusack) and Bullseye to the toybox.
Praised as colourful, funny, and inventive, many critics who enjoyed the first “Toy Story” instalment said that the sequel held up to the original.
“Toy Story 2 is a brilliant example of that rarest of Hollywood phenomena a sequel to a major hit film [that’s] as good, if not better, than the original,” wrote Paul Clinton for CNN.com.
“Finding Nemo” (2003) created a visual spectacle, according to critics.
Critic score: 99%
Synopsis: Overprotective father Marlin (Albert Brooks) is an anxious clown fish who never lets his son Nemo (Alexander Gould) wander far. But when Nemo is suddenly captured by a diver, Marlin stops at nothing to reunite with his son.
“Finding Nemo” gained sweeping praise from critics, with reviews highlighting the film’s dazzling animation and family-focused story.
Neil Norman from the London Evening Standard wrote, “‘Finding Nemo’ offers as much in terms of thrills, frights, humour and psychological insight as it does in pure technical skill, proving that a movie can be art without being an ‘art’ movie.”
Critics called “Inside Out” (2015) one of Pixar’s most heart-warming stories.
Critic score: 98%
Synopsis: Plucky 11-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is led by the five emotions living in her head – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) – as they try to help her navigate moving to a new house and school.
Critics said that by centering its arc around Riley and exploring the complexity of human emotion, “Inside Out” doled out a universal story that every viewer could connect to.
“[The] ordinary trauma of an 11-year-old girl coming to terms with a new life and school while losing all her old, comforting, childish certainties has become a glittering, bravura piece of cinema, a comedy both wise and tender,” wrote critic Kate Muir for The Times.
“Up” (2009) moved many critics to tears.
Critic score: 98%
Synopsis: After his wife passes away, Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner) attaches thousands of balloons to his house on a mission to fly to South America. But at the last minute, Carl realises that he has a stowaway: an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai).
“Up” was warmly received by critics who said the picture had a winning mixture of goofy humour and sentimentality.
“‘Up’ is buoyant with thrills and spills, yet it’s anchored, quite movingly, in the acceptance of mortality,” wrote Independent critic Anthony Quinn. “This rollercoaster ride will leave everyone on an up, even those of us who’ve crested the apex and now, like Carl, see life’s curve heading all the way down.”
Critics loved the poignant heart at the centre of “Toy Story 3” (2010).
Critic score: 98%
Synopsis: The toys are content to be relegated to the attic as Andy (Morris) gets ready to leave for college. But when Woody (Hanks), Buzz (Allen), and their friends are accidentally taken to a local daycare, they wonder if their future has more in store for them.
Critics were wowed by “Toy Story 3” and happy to revisit characters they had come to love decades prior.
“When teenaged Andy plops down on the grass to share his old toys with a shy little girl, the film spikes with sadness and layered pleasure – a concise, deeply wise expression of the ephemeral that feels real and yet utterly transporting,” wrote Eric Hynes in his review for The Village Voice.
“Toy Story 4” (2019) surpassed expectations for many critics.
Critic score: 97%
Synopsis: Now the faithful toys to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), Woody (Hanks), Buzz (Allen), and his friends try to keep a stressed new toy named Forky (Tony Hale) from losing control when Bonnie and her family hit the road for an adventure.
Some critics were afraid that Pixar wouldn’t be able to replicate the magic of the prior “Toy Story” films with its fourth instalment, but many were pleased with the wacky comedy and poignant ending.
“For millennial audiences who’ve grown up with Woody and the gang over years of toy stories, the movie may even seem a minor miracle – proof that faith can be kept in a faithless world,” wrote Ty Burr for the Boston Globe. “For the rest of us, it’s just grand, wise fun.”
“Coco” (2017) was praised as a visual gem full of warmth.
Critic score: 97%
Synopsis: Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) has long dreamed of becoming a musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), but his family banned music generations ago. Miguel’s desire to follow his musical dreams and unravel the story behind his family’s past takes him to the Land of the Dead.
“Coco” wowed critics by matching a sincerely moving story with a level of vibrant animation design that Pixar had never reached before.
“Every plot point and thematic implication slots into place, but the pleasures of Coco are above all visual,” wrote Jake Wilson for The Sydney Morning Herald. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a computer-animated film so rich in detail, or so dedicated to recreating complex and beautiful lighting schemes.”
Critics loved Pixar’s superhero film, “The Incredibles” (2004).
Synopsis: Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) and his wife Helen (Holly Hunter) were once the famous, crime-fighting duo Mr. Incredible and Elasticgirl, but now they are forced to live normal lives.
However, when Bob gets whisked away on a secret mission gone wrong, his wife and kids, Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Spencer Fox), have to embrace their superpowers and work together as a family to save him.
Critics were impressed with both the witty script and the sleek animation of the superhero film.
“As always, Pixar excels with its animation, but what makes this family film even more appealing is the smartness of the script, which is clearly written, end to end, to appeal to adults as well as children,” wrote Jennifer Frey for The Washington Post.
On the other hand, “Finding Dory” (2016) blew critics away but lacked the depth of some more well-received Pixar films.
Critic score: 94%
Synopsis: Marlin’s friend Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) goes on her own adventure through the ocean to find her family and restore lost memories from her past.
The film was praised for its colourful design and was highly-rated in its own right, but “Finding Dory” is still on the list of Pixar’s bottom eight films.
“While not as visually dazzling as its predecessor, the film is still colourful and immersive; the script, while predictable, puts an engaging spin on the issues of home and identity,” wrote Bruce Diones for The New Yorker.
“A Bug’s Life” (1998) gained positive reception for its allegorical story.
Critic score: 92%
Synopsis: When their community is threatened by a horde of bullying grasshoppers, clumsy worker ant Flik (David Foley) sets out to produce a new food supply for his colony with the help of some new friends.
Although it’s not one of Pixar’s top-rated films, “A Bug’s Life” still received a number of positive reviews for its writing, the unique character personalities, and the ambitious animation.
“‘A Bug’s Life’ may be the single most amazing film I’ve ever seen that I couldn’t fall in love with,” wrote Owen Gleiberman for Entertainment Weekly. “It’s so obsessed with wowing you, in every corner of every frame, that as a movie it doesn’t quite breathe.”
Critics weren’t blown away by Pixar’s latest film, “Onward” (2020).
Synopsis: Set in a magical version of suburbia, elf brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) go on a quest to resurrect their father for a day using a magical staff that Ian received for his 16th birthday.
Some critics praised the film for its sentimental and humorous plot. But others found it somewhat weird and certainly not up to the usual standards of the animation studio.
Brian Lowry wrote for CNN.com, “Only a true cynic could wholly resist ‘Onward’s’ deeper themes, but they come in the service of a movie that has to be classified in the mid-level tier of the Pixar file.”
“Monsters University” (2013) paled in comparison to the original but still earned some love from critics.
Critic score: 80%
Synopsis: Years before Monstropolis’ dynamic duo were working together as best friends, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) were finding their way through their college years.
Critics said that “Monsters University” didn’t quite reach the same level as its predecessor “Monsters, Inc.” (2001), but it was still charming and creative in its own way.
Trevor Johnston from Time Out wrote, “It has enough of the right stuff to haunt the imagination long after the immediate buzz of its fluffy-furred cuteness has melted away. For a mere prequel, that’s a result.”
Critics enjoyed “Brave” (2012), even though they called it one of Pixar’s less creative endeavours.
Critic score: 78%
Synopsis: Free-spirited Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is always at odds with her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), as she faces societal pressure to marry a Scottish lord. But when a misinterpreted wish causes her mother to turn into a bear, Merida goes to great lengths to reverse the curse.
Critics felt that “Brave” hit all the highs of a typical Pixar movie earning tears and laughs, but that it also felt a little formulaic.
“The story for this revisionist fairy tale, which promotes contemporary attitudes about parenting and gender equality, is less inspired than usual for Pixar, but the movie upholds the studio’s high standard of computer animation,” wrote Ben Sachs for the Chicago Reader.
Critics thought “The Good Dinosaur” (2015) was a cute, if trite, animated picture.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%
Summary: In a prehistoric world where the asteroid missed Earth, allowing dinosaurs and humans to roam together, Arlo the Apatosaurus (Raymond Ochoa) makes an unlikely new friend with a scrappy, young boy.
Critics felt that “The Good Dinosaur” missed the mark, even though it still delivered Pixar’s trademark humour and heart.
“‘The Good Dinosaur’ is by no means a bad movie,” wrote Christopher Orr for The Atlantic. “But it breaks new ground for Pixar in that it’s the studio’s first feature that is explicitly – and pretty much exclusively – a kid’s movie.”
For many critics, “Cars” (2006) was the first Pixar movie that they didn’t immediately fall in love with.
Critic score: 75%
Synopsis: On the road to compete in the Piston Cup Championship, speed-driven race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) finds himself taking a detour to the small town of Radiator Springs where he befriends Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and Sally (Bonnie Hunt).
Many critics marked “Cars” as the end of Pixar’s long reign of perfection, even though at the end of the day it still received a decent critic score.
“It had to end sometime,” wrote Paul Arendt for BBC. “After a run of standard-setting CGI movies, Pixar has finally delivered a dud.”
Critics considered “Cars 3” (2017) a by-the-numbers family film.
Critic score: 70%
Synopsis: Lightning McQueen (Wilson) finds himself pushed out of the world of racing by newer models, so he recruits the help of young technician Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) to get him back on his feet.
Critics didn’t love “Cars 3” as much as other Pixar films, saying it fell short and felt cartoonish at times.
“‘Cars 3’ could make a rental download for a rainy family holiday, but the imaginative spark has gone,” wrote The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw.
Called uninspired by critics, “Cars 2” (2011) is Pixar’s lowest-rated film.
Critic score: 39%
Synopsis: Lightning McQueen (Wilson) and his loyal friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) head overseas to compete in the first World Grand Prix where McQueen will race for the title of the fastest car in the world. But Mater gets sidetracked by a secret spy mission and has to save the day.
“Cars 2” is currently the lowest-rated Pixar film, but even critics who panned the movie still found a few things to like about it.
“The invention here is often still dazzling, the race sequences are invigorating and spirited voice work atones for the inexpressiveness of the cars themselves,” wrote Geoffrey Macnab for the Independent. “Even so, this isn’t Pixar at top gear.”