The Best Movie Ever | Pixar

It was 20 years ago this week that Pixar changed the world of animation forever. Toy Story, the first feature-length CG-animated movie, was a box office smash and a critical success that has become an all-time classic. What’s more, Pixar followed the original Toy Story with one rousing hit after another, developing an incredible reputation for quality that has earned the studio generations of fans, tons of awards, and a place in artistic history.

But what is the best film Pixar ever made? That’s the question that matters here on Crave’s Best Movie Ever. We asked Crave’s film critics William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold, and Collider’s Brian Formo, to choose just one Pixar movie that they think stands head and shoulders above the rest. And as usual, they couldn’t agree on a single thing.

Find out what they picked, let us know your favorites, and come back next week for an all-new installment of Best Movie Ever!

William Bibbiani’s Pick: WALL-E (2008)

Disney

What I admire most about Pixar is their ability to adapt high concepts into deeply emotional stories. It was hard for me not to select either of the Monsters movies for this particular assignment. I love the way Monsters Inc. uses the idea of monsters actually living in your closet to tell a tale fatherhood, propaganda and diminishing resources, and I get a real kick out of how Monsters University uses the college comedy genre to explore the personal impact of failure.

I could go on like that. Practically every Pixar film is a fun idea that gets transformed into something sensitive, if not profound. (Sorry, Cars movies, you’re the exception.) But WALL-E isn’t just a fun film with a heart, it’s powerful science-fiction. It’s the story of a society that neglects the call to meaningful action in favor of constant escapism, told via a member of the underclass who cleans up after mankind’s many messes. It is also the story of two robots in love.

WALL-E is pointed satire, beautiful animated (as always), and driven by an unexpected storyline that builds from the apocalypse, soars into the stars, and culminates in hope. Many fans love the opening, nearly dialogue-free portion of the film and decide that the journey into outer space, and the realization of what the human race has transformed into, is a frustrating change. But having watched WALL-E, over and over again, I see no other direction the tale can go. It is a story of consequence that works backwards, one that transitions from hope amidst a lifeless landscape to a vibrant but unsettling dystopia.

It is unlike any of the studio’s other films. It is unlike most films altogether. It is strange and special, and it touches the intellect and the heart in equal measure.

Brian Formo’s Pick: Toy Story 3 (2010)

Disney

When Pixar began (in 1995), I thought I was too old for animated movies. It took me a while to figure out that I was wrong. You see, Disney made movies that would appeal to kids and those kids would grow up to be adults who would have fond memories for them (and when those kids became parents they’d take their kids to Disney theme parks, and buy them Disney lunchboxes, notebooks, etc.), but a Pixar movie would loft jokes for the adults, while entertaining their kids. Pixar has gotten so good at entertaining adults, when I was watching Inside Out—and feeling sorry for my adult partner who was dealing with moving with me for my job, thousands of miles from her friends—I wondered out loud, what would children like about this movie with all these psychology jokes?

Toy Story, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, was the first film from Pixar. And it’s genius. What can entertain a child but also wink at the adults who brought them? Classic toys who don’t understand the new, loud toys that the audience’s children are playing with! But Toy Story taught adults that new toys are okay and it taught children that hand-me-down toys—and their own imagination—have value. Win win.

But kids can’t understand Toy Story 3! No way. That’s why it’s the best! Sure they might like all the different toys Woody encounters as he tries to escape from daycare, but they’ll never understand that this is an animated remake of The Great Escape (except Woody is our inner nerd—totally unsure of his physicality—and not the supercool motorcyclin’ Steve McQueen-heartbreak-machine). Nor can they comprehend the passage of time, broken relationships, or what it’s like to be discarded by someone who once loved you more than anything. But they do get Mr. Tortilla Head. And that, friends, is why Pixar is great. It gets adults’ heads swimming with cinephile and psychological thought—and makes kids giggle around them.

Witney Seibold’s Pick: Inside Out (2015)

Disney

Generally speaking, I find it critically irresponsible to declare any film from the last, say, five years to be the best of anything. I see this a lot in the critical world: A new gigantic hit film is released, and some critics – and many fans – immediately declare it to be the best film of all time. Usually it doesn’t take very long for consensus to cool, and usually within two years, few are talking about that picture anymore, and the rest are now caught up in the newest best movie ever. Immediate enthusiasm is not a good barometer to judge a film when seeking the greats.

So I beg complacency when I declare the best Pixar film to be one that was released a mere five months ago. Yes, dear readers, I declare that Inside Out is the best Pixar movie. For a studio that takes great stock in shifting perspective on familiar things (toys, closet monsters, cars), Inside Out has the highest concept yet. It is a story told from the perspective of an 11-yer-old girl’s emotional beings, represented by glowing person-shaped pixies that live inside her head. The emotions take turns controlling their human vessel, but the plucky Joy (Amy Poehler) always manages to remain the leader. And what does Sadness (Phyllis Smith) do? She’s often asked to sit in the corner. 

Inside Out is one of the best children’s films I’ve ever seen on the topic of growing up. Other kid flicks tend to stress that growing up is the same as learning to handle sadness with dignity, and to get over it. Inside Out declares that sadness is a part of our makeup, and that true maturity is, when the time comes, the creation of Bittersweet. One cannot live for happiness. One has to live for the entire spectrum of emotional states. Inside Out is not just an amusing, high-concept Chuck Jones-ish string of clever psychology gags (although is it that). It’s also an unexpectedly rich film about the function of the emotions that control you (and, yes, emotions control us). This is also a film that offers a new perspective on your own emotional state. And that, I would say, is a grand success. 

Top Photo: Disney

Previously on The Best Movie Ever:

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