Perhaps the greatest animation studio of all time, Pixar has very rarely created anything short of an excellent film. In their 23 feature-length films, it has 16 Academy Awards and has four films that have a worldwide gross of over a billion dollars. They were doing things back in the early 2000’s that other animated studios could only dream of. Just look at Finding Nemo for instance. It has animation that would still look great, even if it were released today.
Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Cars are probably the five most popular Pixar films of all time. Because of this success, these films have had sequels (or in one case, a prequel) to capitalise on the success and nostalgia that the original films brought. However, Pixar still has several fantastic films that are currently standalone. Here are my Top 5 Pixar standalone films that you should watch.
5. Coco (2017)
Inspired by the Day of the Dead, a traditional Mexican holiday, Coco is the story of a 12-year-old musician named Miguel, who is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead. He must go in search of his great-great-grandfather, a famous musician, to get his blessing to return to the living world.
Coco, like most Pixar films, is visually outstanding. It also has an incredible film score, with a distinctly Mexican vibe. This film is a perfect example of how Pixar has something for everyone, as although it isn’t a personal favourite of mine, FinalBoss’s Shaun would rank it as his second favourite Pixar film of all time.
4. Up (2009)
Carl Fredricksen is a widow whose home is under threat of demolition. Missing his departed wife dearly, he undertakes an epic journey in his floating house to fulfil his wife’s dream of seeing Paradise Falls. He picks up some companions on the way and the adventure starts to really balloon once they get to South America.
Perhaps remembered primarily for the heart wrenching first section of the film, this film encapsulates something that Pixar is incredible at, which is their willingness to trust and explain emotions to children that they would usually be shielded from. The story of an old man losing his wife and then being stomped on by a world that is moving faster than he should be a completely alien concept to a child. However, Pixar expresses these hard topics with eloquence and boldness, trusting in children to understand. I think this film did a lot, for many, to breach the divide between the young and their older relatives.
3. A Bug’s Life (1998)
Flik, an ant that doesn’t fit in with the rest of his colony, causes an event that angers the grasshoppers, their evil overlords. He is tasked with leaving the island, an incredibly scary proposition for any from the colony, to find tough “warrior” bugs to defend his people. What he ends up with, quite frankly, is a bunch of clowns.
I think this is a really underrated film. Nowadays, people might dismiss this film because of its relatively poor animation. However, I think it holds up just as well as the early Toy Story films and doesn’t look too bad considering it was released 22 years ago. It’s funny, heartwarming and shows that even the smallest of us can stand up to oppression and achieve great things if they work as a team.
2. WALL-E (2008)
A lonely Waste Allocation Load-Lifter: Earth-class (or WALL-E for short) spends his days cleaning up a completely uninhabitable, hostile Earth that humans have abandoned. When an Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator (EVE for short) robot appears on Earth to see if any signs of life can be found, WALL-E falls hopelessly in love with the new arrival. WALL-E is on a besotted mission to “get the girl”, who he follows across the stars to be with.
A particular favourite of FinalBoss’s James, WALL-E is an incredible film that is just as relevant today, if not more so now, as it was when it was released. The strong message of what could happen to the planet if we don’t look after it and the dangers of totalitarian commercialism are incredibly current. Another fantastic feature of this film is there really isn’t much dialogue, but Pixar still does a brilliant job of conveying emotions, applying a real feeling body language to a robot. WALL-E genuinely has a greater visible emotional range than most Hollywood actors/actresses. It’s because of this that the love story and struggle of the main characters really, really works.
1. Ratatouille (2007)
In theory, the story of a rat (named Remy) loving food and cooking in a restaurant that serves humans should make me shiver and cringe. I don’t like rats. They are probably the only animal that I would outright say I detest. Yet, somehow, this film has become one of my favourite Pixar films and I absolutely adore it. This film should be my worst nightmare but every time I watch it, I love it a little more.
Ratatouille tackles very human issues in a child-friendly way again with this film. There’s living up to expectations placed on you. There is breaking through limitations and barriers that have been placed in your way. There is admitting that you are wrong when your life has been geared towards a certain mindset and there is acceptance of something that you would otherwise not, among other life lessons. It really crams a lot of things into a silly little kid’s film. The comparison between Remy and Linguini is also very interesting. Remy comes from a background that expects him to never push himself or learn new things. Linguini must live up to lofty expectations that are set up to him when he isn’t capable of achieving them. They are at opposite ends of the scale and it’s only together that they can achieve each other’s goals.
I also love the aesthetics of this film. I don’t know much about the professional kitchen environment, but I believe the kitchen scenes when I see them play out. The movie displays Paris in the beautiful, romantic, passionate way that I think Paris is stereotypically thought as. A city, like this film, that will whisk you away. The single most underrated thing about this film, though, is the music. Tracks such as “Le Festin” and “Anyone Can Cook” have a distinctly French feel to them and sets up the feel of the film beautifully. With songs like “Wall Rat”, you can almost see what Remy is doing just by how the music sounds. It’s a beautiful score that is recognised enough.
Many of you might be screaming, “Where is Inside Out?” or “Where is Soul?”. Well, to tell you the truth, I didn’t like either of them. But that is ok. Pixar does an amazing job of really encapsulating everyone. For us geeks, Onward can feel like a truly special film with nerd culture being represented in a fantastic way. For young people that feel like their parents don’t give them any freedom, Brave can speak to them in ways that other films can’t. Up can be a really emotional film for the elderly and/or the widowed. Pixar truly has mastered the art of the “family film” in not just the sense of direct relations, but also in regard to us all being in one big “human family”. Name another studio that does this better than Pixar. I’ll wait…
If you enjoyed this article, check out more of our movie content!