The 5 Best Pixar Movie Endings

By CB Staff 2012-06-25 11:50:52discussion comments
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Now that most of you caught Brave over the weekend, we can safely say it has one of the better endings in Pixar history. The moment … well, we're not going to tell you what the moment is in case you missed the movie, but suffice it to say that it stands up right next the many tearjerkers in the studio's history.

It’s not the first time Pixar has saved its “gotcha” moment for the final scenes. And it got us thinking: What are the five best endings in Pixar history? We put it to a vote, and the CB staff came back with these selections (as well as explanations as to why these endings work so well). Agree? Disagree? Hit us up in the comments section below:

1. Toy Story 3
Growing up sucks. You’re forced to become more mature, take on more responsibilities, and your desire to eat ice cream for dinner every night begins to dissipate. But nothing is harder than giving up your toys. While you may not have thought about your Legos or your Batman action figure in years -- let alone played with them -- they are still the ultimate representation of childhood. Holding an old toy, you flashback to all those times you lied on your bedroom carpet and went on awesome imaginary adventures. It’s a powerful, universal feeling, and it’s the reason why the end of Toy Story 3 is so damn amazing.

As we watch Andy hand off his beloved toys one by one to the precious Bonnie, we are aware of every emotion that is going through his mind. He doesn’t dump the box on the front lawn, get back to his car, and drive off for college, but instead invites the young girl into his own imagination, explaining the evil of Dr. Porkchop, the ferociousness of Rex and the mad love between Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. By the time we reach Woody at the bottom of the box, our collective hearts sink as we see Andy’s face transform into the perfect mix of pain and love. It’s heartbreaking, emotional, and the best ending that Pixar has made.


2. Ratatouille
After a bravura comic sequence of rats running a kitchen, it's the moment of truth for Remy, Linguini, and the entire staff of Gusteau's. Remy has taken a crazy gamble by preparing ratatouille, a "peasant dish" as Colette calls it, for the terrifying food critic Anton Ego. What Ego says matters so much for the restaurant, but also for the movie, which has told us over and over that Remy is a brilliant chef, but now must prove he's capable of a miracle. It's a moment for big speeches, for swelling music, for the kind of filmmaking that screams "important."

But Brad Bird does the opposite. From a tight close-up on Ego's face we zoom back and into his past, where Ego becomes a little boy roughed up at school, coming home with tears in his eyes a comforting bowl of ratatouille. It's a high-wire, perfectly executed combination of a gag and a triumph, a wordless sequence that gives our hero his victory while embracing the so-called villain. Ratatouille is a film about genius coming from humble origins, and by going small and intimate with the movie's most important shot, by bringing such cinematic wonder to what's supposedly a "children's film," Brad Bird exemplifies what Ego himself says: "Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere."


3. Monsters Inc.
The end of Monsters Inc. delivers a reversal of roles. Neurotic worry-wart Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) now ranks as company MVP thanks to his ability to make kids laugh. Meanwhile, former “Big Man On Campus” Sulley (John Goodman) wears a subdued, sad expression, barely hiding how much he misses Boo, the little girl who drastically changed both their worlds. But Mike has one last surprise up his sleeve. A door, once shredded, has been painstakingly reconstructed. All it needs is one last sliver of wood … a sliver that Sulley keeps taped to his clipboard under a drawing Boo made for him. He completes the door, and steps through.

Monsters Inc. isn’t trying to be one of Pixar’s most emotional journeys. It doesn’t chase after sweeping, emotional issues like growing up (the Toy Story series) or growing old (Up). It’s mainly about weird monsters scurrying through a rapidly-paced, imaginative adventure. So when it connects with an uppercut of loving sentiment in its final seconds – “Kitty!” says Boo, and Sulley’s face lights up like the sun – it’s unexpected, devastating, and totally awesome. The Monsters end is so effective, Pixar’s afraid to follow it. So next year, they’ll give the franchise a prequel rather than trying to come up with a more satisfying ending than the one they came up with in 2001. Wise choice.


4. WALL-E
Everybody always talks about the beginning. And sure, WALL-E’s silent opening stretch is quite an achievement, and perhaps what pushes the film from great to genius. But make no mistake, Andrew Stanton also sticks the landing. After winning our hearts as a lovable tramp, our hero experiences love at first sight and his dull, day-to-day routine turns into an all-out romantic adventure. The trash-compacting knight’s quest takes him all the way to outer space. But in the end, he’s the one ready for the heap.

EVE rushes the crushed hero to Earth, joined by his cockroach companion, and manages to put him back together. But it’s not WALL-E -- just another Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth Class. The Hello Dolly-loving hero even gets to hold her hand (finally!) but it’s too late. EVE leans in to “kiss” him goodbye and “It Only Takes a Moment” for the spark to take effect. WALL-E’s eyes regain life (just as yours well) and the tramp realizes that he’s finally got the girl ... by the hand. Say what you will about the action-adventure or overbearing moral(s) aboard the Axiom spaceship, but the robotic couple’s love story remains one of the most touching romances in recent years, complete with an ending “to be loved a whole life long.”


5. Up
Movie characters often are defined by their words. They’re given big speeches and touching conversations to express their innermost thoughts. Carl Fredricksen, however, sucks at talking. He’s never been good at expressing himself, and when he does decide to speak, the wrong thing comes out more often than not. He’d be a horrible motivational speaker and an even worse preacher. He thrives on one-sentence-complaints the way others do coffee or energy bars, but when it comes to quiet loyalty, Carl is as fierce and determined as they come.

Up is a movie most often talked about for its opening sequence. Carl and Ellie’s waltz through life may well be the most touching, tear-jerking and beautiful scene Pixar has ever written. But in many ways, Up’s curtain call is its most fitting five minutes. As awkward and as short on words as ever, Carl shows up to Russell’s ceremony and offers not only his presence but the most touching honor a man could ever bestow: the Ellie Badge. Entrenched within its core are decades of selfless love and a lifetime’s full of unrepentant dedication. Carl might not be able to express his admiration for Russell in poem, blog post or text message, but with that grape soda memento, he gives his vow to always show up … the truest way to see into the old man’s heart.  

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