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Ranking the Pixar movies: what's the highest-rated on Rotten Tomatoes?

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This week, we've been graced with not one but two teaser trailers for Pixar's Toy Story 4. It's released next year and continues the adventures of beloved characters Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen).

So what better time to recap Pixar's highest-ranked movies on Rotten Tomatoes? Scroll down to find out what comes out on top...

13. Cars 2 (39%)

It's the lowest-rated Pixar movie but there's still a great deal to recommend the Cars sequel. As with its 2006 predecessor, the concept of a world populated entirely by cars is an imaginative one, allowing the animators a lot of fun by stylising classic models with an assortment of different faces and expressions. The return of Owen Wilson as race car Lightning McQueen is welcome and there's sturdy support from the likes of Michael Caine as suave Aston Martin secret agent, Finn McMissile. That said, it's never going to rival Pixar's classics.


12. Cars 3 (68%)

The third and most recent Cars movie is rated higher than its predecessor, with critics and audiences agreeing that Lighting benefitted from some added nitro in his tank. With some dynamic and genuinely exciting racing sequences, plus the usual vibrant animation and scene-stealing vocal performances we've come to expect from Pixar (Chris Cooper and Armie Hammer are among the new additions), it was undoubtedly an upgrade. The movie went on to gross a strong $383 million worldwide.


11. Cars (74%)

In pole position as far as the Cars trilogy is concerned, the first movie remains the freshest and funniest of the bunch. At the time of its release in 2006 the movie was something of a visually arresting departure for Pixar. Jettisoning any kind of human or animal heroes in favour of humanising our favourite automobiles, it gathered acclaim as an imaginative visual concept, even if the screenplay and jokes didn't quite come up to Pixar's usual gold-plated standard.


10. The Good Dinosaur (77%)

The Good Dinosaur was one of the studio's most troubled productions. Midway through production the movie went through a complete conceptual overhaul, hitting the reset button on its character design, aesthetic and voice cast (John Lithgow and Golden Globe winner Frances McDormand were among those finding themselves extinct). What remains is a charming if cutesy and atypically simplistic story of the prehistoric bond between apatosaurus Arlo and caveman infant Spot. It's a beautifully imagined Pixar offering but one that struggles to lodge in the memory.




9. Brave (78%)

Pixar have delighted in taking us into a variety of different landscapes. It was feudal Scotland proudly on display in this rousing story of rebellious Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) and her ongoing battle to prove herself worthy of her clan's fiercest warriors. The visual rending of the undulating Scottish lochs and mist-laden glens is spectacular, even if the characters (barring Emma Thompson's poignant Queen Elinor, Merida's stern mother) don't quite reach the same heights. Even so, it is notable for being the first Pixar movie to be co-directed by a woman, Brenda Chapman.


8. Monsters University (79%)

2001's Monsters Inc. is an enduring Pixar classic, and many of us were curious to find out how bickering monster pals Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) first met. The answer is revealed in this charming prequel story, exploring their first meeting at the eponymous Monsters University as they tap into their eventual scaring abilities. Both embracing and sidestepping the more unsavoury aspects of uni life (there's nothing alcohol-related, although we do glimpse Sully getting his student dance on) it was better than expected, but inevitably fell short of Inc.'s impossibly high standards.




7. A Bug's Life (92%)

As a concept, the Pixar movie was still relatively fresh back in 1998. With audience expectations not as frenzied as they are now (we couldn't have imagined the masterpieces to come), the field was wide open as to what stories they would tackle. One of their offerings to skew notably younger was this insect-laden kids adventure, perhaps most notable for casting Kevin Spacey as the villainous Hopper. It also generated a degree of controversy for being released in the same window as DreamWorks' rival animation Antz.


6. Finding Dory/Incredibles 2 (=94%)

We were all alarmed when we heard Pixar were making a sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo. It remains one of their shimmering, most emotionally deep masterpieces, and the last thing we wanted was a redundant follow-up treading water. Fortunately they proved us all wrong, expanding the gorgeous underwater world of the earlier movie and developing further poignant undercurrents by exploring the life of forgetful Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). It was met with critical acclaim and became the second of Pixar's movies to cross the $1 billion box office milestone (the first being 2010's Toy Story 3).

And continuing with the sequel theme, this is where we currently find Incredibles 2. It's not easy measuring up to what is widely considered one of Pixar's greatest movies, but consensus is the movie bucks the trend. The original was a dynamic blend of family drama, mid-life crisis movie and rollocking, retro superhero adventure. Reviews have indicated Brad Bird's follow-up stays true to that infectious style while making a case for increased gender parity (this time it's Helen, not Bob, who becomes the face of a new superhero initiative) – and yet there's one character who steals the show, in the form of young Jack-Jack. His powers were barely glimpsed in the first movie, only emerging in the climactic fight against the villainous Syndrome, but now the character's visual and comic capabilities are unleashed with eye-lasers, inter-dimensional travel and lots more. Is it too much to ask for a future spin-off?


5. Monsters Inc/Ratatouille/Wall-E (=96%)

We all had a fear of monsters in our room when we were younger, so trust Pixar – the geniuses who depicted our toys coming to life – to take this universal experience and turn it on its head. When young girl Boo discovers a portal into the world of Monsters, Inc., a factory that harbours energy from childrens' screams and fear, it opens up one of their most relatable and delightful scenarios. Buoyed by vocal performances from John Goodman and Billy Crystal as Sully and Mike, it remains one of the studio's most imaginative and moving offerings, guaranteed to strike a chord with anybody who is still a kid at heart.


Then we have another wonderful expansion of Pixar's imagination in Ratatouille. One of the toughest sells in their canon, this only serves to make its success all the more triumphant. Honestly, how could we have imagined that the story of a culinary genius rat in a Parisian kitchen would make for one of their tastiest concoctions? But it works, a deft reminder that Pixar, in their best films, never sacrifice character, humour or a sincere moral message. The film was the second Pixar offering from Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles.


And then there's Pixar's bold, devastating Wall-E, another reminder they're among the most experimental animators in cinema. By sacrificing dialogue in its entirety during the opening half-hour, instead throwing emphasis on robot Wall-E's movements in the manner of classic silent slapstick, it's a movie that honours a powerful cinematic heritage. When it later soars into space, buoyed by Thomas Newman's Oscar nominated score, it becomes a tender ode to unexpected romance and the need to protect our planet. This messaging sneaks up on us in ways that are subtle and all the more powerful as a result.




4. The Incredibles/Coco (=97%)

If you're a Fantastic Four fan, you may be wondering when we're going to get the definitive movie take on Marvel material. The answer, of course, is we got it back in 2004, courtesy of Pixar. Their riotously entertaining The Incredibles takes the broad concept – a superhero family, each of whom are possessed of remarkable abilities – and runs with it. First mining the story for massive laughs (ever wanted to see what domesticity is like with stretchy arms?) and later for exciting, James Bond-esque panache, it earmarked Brad Bird as one of the studio's most vibrant creative brains. The sequel arrives on 13th July 2018.


Then there's Pixar's latest masterpiece, Coco. The movie's respectful awareness of Mexican culture, lilting soundtrack (from regular Michael Giacchino) and pleasing air of diversity have won over reviewers, and it's taken a mighty $700m worldwide.


3. Up/Inside Out (=98%)

Whatever Pixar movie you're getting into, it's always wise to take some tissues. Never was this more true than at the start of Up, which delivers one of the most shattering openings of any animated movie – in fact, any movie full stop. Following the aforementioned married life montage (given tender poignancy by Michael Giacchino's Oscar-winning score), the story then expands into a breathtaking adventure that soars like the balloons attached to pensioner Carl Fredricksen's (Ed Asner) house).


Even so, it's got competition in the heart-wrenching stakes. 2015's triumphant Inside Out clinched the Oscar for Best Animated Film and it's not hard to see why. Nothing less than a dazzling psychology lesson wrapped in a colourful, family-friendly adventure, it exposed audiences to ways of engaging with their own emotions in a manner that's quite dazzling. It's since become hard for us not to visualise a group of bickering emotions arguing over a dashboard within our own craniums.


2. Finding Nemo/Toy Story 3 (=99%)

Pixar have visualised a host of different landscapes, from outer space to the inside of our own heads. Even so, few are as beautiful as the underwater environment of Finding Nemo, every frame bursting with a multitude of different marine life, rippling shades of light and shadow and gargantuan open spaces that stretch to the horizon. That the visuals are anchored to some of Pixar's most engaging characters and an emotionally resonant screenplay is ultimately the reason why it's endured all this time.


Completing one of the greatest movie trilogies in film history is Toy Story 3. If Toy Story 2 acted as an impressive follow-up to Pixar's feature debut, the third was nothing short of miraculous. An emotionally mature masterpiece, it not only appeals to young 'uns but also those older viewers who first met Woody and Buzz as children, and who have grown up with the characters as a result. It not only boasts some of the studio's funniest sequences (Spanish Buzz, anyone?), but also one of their most devastatingly truthful resolutions.


1. Toy Story/Toy Story 2 (=100%)

It's perhaps not surprising to see Toy Story and its sequel taking top place on the list. After all, the first film is where Pixar began, and continues to cement all that is magical about their formula: dazzling conceptual imagination, eye-widening animation and memorable characters. It also continues to prove that the simplest ideas are often the most profound – we were all children once and so who could resist the notion of our toys coming to life behind our backs?


No matter what your age, both movies continue emotional truths that resonate throughout our lives. Such a message deepens and darkens in the lauded Toy Story 2, in which cowboy doll Woody (Tom Hanks) is forced to confront his own obsolescence, mirrored in cowboy Jessie's (Joan Cusack) heartbreaking ode, 'When She Loved Me'. At the same time, it never skimps on Pixar's desire to deliver maximum belly laughs and entertainment value – another of the many reasons why they remain esteemed to this day.

What's your favourite Pixar movie? Tweet us @Cineworld and if you're after more rankings of your favourite films, check out the highest-rated Marvel movies on Rotten Tomatoes.