Pop Quiz: How many times has Pixar won Best Animated Feature? To some, the notion is to believe that it has won every time out of the gate. However, as noted yesterday, this fact may not be entirely true. While the studio has earned an impressive 7 of the 14 wins, there's been a few that have missed the cut, including Monsters Inc. and Cars - and some didn't even get nominated at all. However, with Inside Out coming out Friday and looking to be a strong contender for an eighth victory, it feels like a good time to not necessarily rank all of Pixar's films, but only those that have won an Oscar. Who comes out on top? You'll have to read on to find out.
1. Toy Story 3 (2010)
*Also nominated for Best Picture
*Also won Best Original Song
There's very little more synonymous with Pixar than Toy Story and its subsequent franchise. While many were wondering if the third installment, 10 years after the previous one, could live up to the hype, nobody was really ready for the results. While the cast had slimmed down, it still featured many beloved characters going on one of the most exciting and gut wrenching entries in Pixar's entire canon. It is also a testament that the film is so good that it makes the question of "Best Toy Story movie" into a three way argument. It is a film packed with emotion and great moments that reflect the studio at the height of their power. The only question is if Toy Story 4 (scheduled for 2017) will manage to impress us at all like this one did.
2. Up (2009)
*Also nominated for Best Picture
*Also won Best Original Score
The late 00's may as well be considered Pixar's hot streak. While the studio had an impressively unanimous run from 1995-2010, it seemed like the studio was only getting started. In the case of Up, it managed to find a brilliant balance between comedic characters like Dug the talking dog and the tragic Edie, who appears momentarily in one of the studio's most popular first acts. Thankfully, it is an action-adventure film with all of the wonderment and complicated story telling that we have come to expect from this studio. It also helps that Ed Asner gives a perfectly curmudgeon performance as Carl: proving that the studio could make old characters that are crotchety and also lovable.
3. Ratatouille (2007)
While the film has become one of the more underrated entries, it was Brad Bird's second Pixar film, and one that continued to challenge the studio's pallet. With the lovable Remy the rat learning how to cook in one of the finest Parisian restaurants, it is a story full comedy, action, and heart that ranks up there with the best of them. While it may be lacking in too many memorable side characters, it does manage to feature some of the best gags and proves that Pixar is just as much of an animated foodie as you are.
4. The Incredibles (2004)
It seems indicative that until Big Hero 6 last year, this was the only superhero film to win a major (read: not technical) Oscar outside of acting. With the debut of crowd favorite Brad Bird, it is one of the most action packed entries on this list and one that also serves as a nice family drama. For many, it has a nice blend of family and fun, choosing to exploit what the superhero genre could be if it actually tried to be interesting. With a planned sequel coming soon, it seems like a good time to remember everything that this film did right as we reach superhero culture overload this summer. Here's hoping that Bird can deliver more inspired gems.
5. Finding Nemo (2003)
It is the first Best Animated Feature winner in the studio's canon, which seems odd considering everything that has happened since. Following the journey of two fish as they travel through the vast ocean to find a lost son, it is an impressively animated film that turns aquatic peril into family fun. Is it the studio's best? Maybe in terms of pure entertainment. It definitely has a few too many silly jokes to be considered a complex masterpiece, but at least Pixar proved that even five films in, it could continue to wow audiences and take them to places that we literally have never been before. With a planned sequel, there's a chance that this film may be seeing another entry on this list sooner than later. For now, it will serve as a great, unique trip under the sea.
6. WALL-E (2008)
There will be those who argue that this is the peak of Pixar's technique. While it ranks pretty low on my list, it is more because I don't enjoy sci-fi stories. The film itself is the studio's most ambitious effort and one that tests audiences' willingness to go with them. With a silent first act and an environmental message, there's a lot of elements that are unlike any mainstream animated film to have come out in the past few decades. It makes it even more of a unique achievement and one that may be borderline arthouse at times. It is beautiful in its creativity and one that even if you don't enjoy it, it is hard not to admire it from a narrative technique that proves Pixar's ability to do anything and do it very well.
7. Brave (2012)
The studio's most recent visit to the Best Animated Feature victory circle is also their literal red headed stepchild of a movie. With many questioning the studio's ability to entertain, this film has somehow been forgotten in the mere three years since its release. It could be that the animation style was a little different from the familiar character models and that Scottish folklore isn't always the most appealing. However, it still remains proof that the studio is willing to challenge viewers and make entertainment that goes outside of comfort zones. Is Brave overdue for a public reconsideration, especially as it was supposed to be Pixar's answer to the Disney Princess? Maybe. But for now, it remains the odd one out and the low point for their major winners.
Coming Tomorrow: A category by category look at all of the Oscar nominations and wins in Pixar's vast history.