Pixar has always been a cutting edge leading studio, not just with animation, but with narrative. From Toy Story, the first full length computer animated film to Wall-E, a 2001: A Space Odyssey for families, Pixar is one of the rare studios that make films that actually do appeal to everyone. With Pixar’s latest release, Inside Out, already winning over the hearts of critics everywhere, we look back to not just the good Pixar releases, but the very best of the best. The films below, I feel, represent the studio at the height of their technological and storytelling prowess.
This little fish has splashed waves across the hearts of moviegoers for almost 12 years since its initial release. The gorgeous water textures combined with clever humour, lovable characters, and a road movie plotline that juggles heartbreak with happiness. Featuring the voice talents of Albert Brooks and the always funny Ellen Degeneres, this is ever bit a movie that will make children laugh while engaging the minds of the grown up audience.
Director Brad Bird cemented himself as one of the top visionary directors of contemporary times with this brilliant, original take on retired heroes. This now classic movie followed a family of heroes who have been lambasted by the media for being a danger to society. Trying to integrate into normal society, the family is forced out of retirement by a sinister fan turned villain. The case can easily be made that The Incredibles changed the superhero genre. A movie where the reckless actions of superheroes destroying cities to fight villains has enormous repercussions, the anxieties of the general public towards superhuman powers and their safety, and even bands of superheroes with different powers teaming up despite their personality clashes, The Incredibles paved the way for films like Watchmen, The Dark Knight, and The Avengers to connect better with larger audiences.
Animated food has never looked so appetizing. This coming of age tale about a rat following his true passion to be the top chef in Paris is filled with the most awe-inspiring camera movements of any film I’ve seen, and not just animated ones. The film also works because it firmly grounds itself in reality. The unlikely duo of a human chef and a rat who can’t communicate with each other through dialogue are forced to come up with their own version of cooking together. Combined with a finale that throws back to the classic days of slapstick humour, Ratatouille is a perfect rags to riches story that will make you become an instant foodie if you aren’t already one.
While one could argue for any of the films in the trilogy, Pixar would not be the revolutionary powerhouse it is today if it weren’t for the film that started it all – the original Toy Story. Not much more can be said about Woody and Buzz Lightyear, two characters who have cemented places for themselves in cinema history. Filled with recognizable toys from almost every infant’s playpen, Toy Story is every childhood fantasy brought to life. The witty humour, constantly moving storyline, and understanding of real human emotions has been a staple for which Pixar has based almost all its films, and it has kept them at the forefront of filmmaking for twenty years.
Pixar’s most ambitious film, Wall-E is a mostly dialogue-free encounter of the cutest robot ever as he cleans up an abandoned Earth filled with sewage and waste. The film embraces subtle social commentary and tackles environment issues in a much more poetic way than Avatar ever could. Wall-E never loses momentum. It’s pure visual storytelling at its finest.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Up tells a better love story in its first ten minutes than Twilight did in five movies.” That is absolutely true. The first ten minutes of Up will make you smile, laugh, and cry as it encounters a young couple from childhood to adulthood, marriage, sickness, and death with hardly a single word spoken. It solidifies a relationship between protagonist Carl and his wife Ellie that carries through the entire film. As the film becomes an adventure with a floating house, a pudgy kid, parrot, and a talking dog, Up is at its heart a film that celebrates wisdom, life, and seizing every opportunity you can. It’s rare that a film can make such an emotional impact with audiences, but Up did just that.