Every Pixar Movie Ranked

25. Cars 2 (2011)

Budget: $200million
Box Office: $559.8million
Director: John Lasseter

The sequel born of dollar sign eyeballs bulging out of executives heads, Cars 2 took Lightning McQueen around the world for the first-ever World Grand Prix (just to target those non-US audiences who didn’t care about NASCAR). Along the way, McQueen inexplicably flies in planes (which inspired the direct-to-video non-Pixar adaptation, Planes – another cash-grab) to very humanoid cities to race a wider array of cars played by great actors like Michael Caine. All of this is important only because it ensured Disney had more opportunities to make toys.

Some of the animation is really great (especially for the year it was released), but the heart of the original is gone and so is any pretence that the film got greenlit for the love of the art. The celebration of the open road, the way the original was an archetypal road movie with a celebration of Americana at its core, is absent, and the skeleton of stereotypical characters and controversial character design remains. Like all Pixar films, there’s something to enjoy in here, but this was a sequel nobody asked for and inevitably forgot about as soon as the toys were cycled out and replaced by whatever came next.


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24. Onward (2020)

Budget: $175million
Box Office: $141.9million
Director: Dan Scanlon

Onward Review

Onward came around at a time when rival studios were attempting different styles of animation and centring their narratives on very contemporary topics (think Sony’s The Mitchells vs the Machines), and as such felt unappealing as a largely grey and beige 3D-animated Pixar film. The result, when combined with unfortunate release timing that coincided with the world’s first COVID-19 lockdowns, ensured big financial losses. In the film, two elf brothers traverse their humanoid world in an attempt to access magic that can bring their dead father back to life. It’s a typical Pixar road movie that hits all the beats that every other Pixar movie does, but it has heart and if you stick with it you’ll likely be forced to cry.

Imagination isn’t exactly in excess in the opening act of Onward, Pixar’s famous avoidance of human worlds and human stories well and truly forgotten about by 2020, but once the adventure gets underway and the characters find themselves in increasingly absurd situations, some hints as to Pixar’s once renowned ability to present wholesome imagination comes to the fore. This is the kind of film where metaphor comes to life, and familial love takes precedence in the narrative, so it certainly belongs among Pixar’s more appropriate-for-children films; but a lot of Onward is surface level at best, the good bits not quite good enough to make for a beloved Pixar release.


23. Elemental (2023)

Budget: $200million
Box Office: $492.3million
Director: Peter Sohn

Elemental Review

Elemental is a contemporary romcom about opposing elements presented with all the contrast (in colours, in brightness) of the great modern Pixar animations. In it, Ember (the fire element played by Leah Lewis) struggles to control her rage and accidentally causes an accident in her parents’ store, washing water element Wade (Mamoudou Athie) into her life. The unlikely pair with contrasting backgrounds and personalities then go on a mission to save Ember’s shop and the fate of the city, falling in love along the way.

Elemental isn’t a great or even surprising romcom; it doesn’t challenge convention or even replicate the best films of its type. Its class allegory, presented through the apparent xenophobia experienced by fire elements, isn’t very deep and doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It could certainly be argued that Elemental doesn’t even fulfil the potential of its premise. But, as a piece to reassert pre-existing beliefs about inclusion and to teach those to younger children not yet aware of discrimination, it works. It moves fast enough and hits enough romcom story beats to pull at your heartstrings. It’s far from Pixar’s best movie, but you could watch films that are a lot worse.


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