Every Toy Story Movie Ranked, Including Lightyear

Buzz in Spanish mode in Toy Story 3.
(Image credit: Pixar)

Whether you grew up in the ‘80s (like me) or in the 2000’s, I’m pretty sure that the Toy Story franchise has been a part of your life in some way, as how could it not be? When it comes to ranking the Pixar movies, all of this franchise's films are pretty high, which is fitting, since the original was the movie that put Pixar on the map.    

After 28 (!) years, however, since the first movie, and with Toy Story 5 on the way (which has actually received some backlash), I thought it time to rank all of the movies, including the spin-off, Lightyear, which actually lost money for Disney.   

Now, I just want to start this off by saying that there are no bad Toy Story movies. In fact, it's probably one of the most consistently good franchises in Hollywood history. Instead, this list is just to determine the best Toy Story movie. To infinity…and beyond! 

Ducky and Bunny meeting Woody and Buzz in Toy Story 4.

(Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

5. Toy Story 4 (2019) 

In the most recent movie, Andy is away at college, and the toys are now solely in Bonnie’s possession. Bonnie, being an imaginative child, creates a new toy in Forky, which is actually a spork. Well, the toys go on a road trip together, and through a series of mishaps, they get separated from Bonnie, and Woody reunites with Bo Peep, who has been hardened since she’s been on her own. What follows is a surprisingly existential adventure in which we learn what it truly means to be a toy.  

The highly rated Toy Story 4 is a very good movie with the kind of heart and humor that you expect from this series (I especially like the Key and Peele reunion with Ducky and Bunny, and who doesn’t love Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom?). However, it has the problem that I’m afraid Toy Story 5 is likely going to have, as it feels like it doesn’t need to exist.  

You see, the third film had pretty much the perfect conclusion. And, if you’ll allow me to make a video game comparison, TS4 feels like DLC. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as there is some video game DLC that is just as good, if not better, than the base game. That said, while it has some stellar moments (like that creepy doll scene), it’s overall the weakest in the franchise since it doesn’t feel like the movie moves the needle with any of the characters, aside from Bo Peep, of course. Still, an 8 out of 10 movie is pretty damn good.   

Sox in Lightyear.

(Image credit: Pixar)

4. Lightyear (2022) 

Lightyear is a strange movie in the franchise, as it really doesn’t need to be seen as a fan. In fact, if you’re not into sci-fi, it might even be a bit of a hard watch, since it’s surprisingly very sci-fi, as it deals with things like time dilation. In the story, which is a movie within a movie, Buzz Lightyear gets his crew stranded on a planet, but then goes vastly forward in time in trying to correct his mistake. He goes so far into the future that the planet is now under the command of Zurg, who we learn the true identity of (it’s actually quite shocking). In the end, Buzz saves the day, and his new crew go off on another adventure together.  

Apparently, this is Andy’s favorite movie, but it’s not mine. Our very own Dirk Libbey wrote an interesting article questioning why Disney doesn’t make better sci-fi movies, and I think Lightyear, which is actually quite good, might be an indication that people certainly perceive that Disney doesn’t make good sci-fi movies, since audiences mostly didn’t turn up for this one (or Strange World, which really upsets me).    

Honestly, while it isn’t humorless, I do think that it could have been a bit more lighthearted, especially coming from the Toy Story brand. Even though I like it for the most part (the action is really good), I honestly have a hard time believing that this is Andy's favorite movie, as my own kids can’t even finish it.  

Bullseye, Jessie, and Woody in Toy Story 2

(Image credit: Pixar)

3. Toy Story 2 (1999) 

Being only the third Pixar movie, we didn’t have to wait long for Toy Story 2, which raises the stakes even more for Andy’s playmates. In this banger of a movie, Woody is taken by a toy collector, and now it’s Buzz’s turn to lead the toys on a rescue mission for him. But, when Woody learns that he’s actually quite valuable – and he meets new series staple characters like Bullseye, Jessie, and er, Stinky Pete? - the cowboy starts to realize that maybe he wouldn’t mind being owned by a new collector. Drama ensues.  

You know, there’s a part of me that sometimes wishes that Toy Story was one of Pixar’s non-franchise movies like Turning Red, because I kind of like the idea of them working on a new project with each subsequent film, which would have saved us from low points like Cars 2. However, I think back to how if we didn't have sequels from Pixar, then we wouldn't have Toy Story 2, and that makes me sad. 

What makes it so good is that it really runs with the notion of identity. Woody believes he will be forgotten by Andy once the kid grows older, and he’d rather be preserved than be a has-been. But, he learns that one’s worth is really only dictated by oneself, rather than by others, and so, even though this is definitely a kid’s movie, it probably feels the most adult out of all of the TS films. 

However, that’s why I’m putting it here on this list. While I definitely appreciate it more now as an adult than back when I was 16, I also think it really is more of a movie for adults (like Pixar’s Soul) than for children. My own kids are a testament to this, as this is their least favorite installment (aside from Lightyear). So, it’s an excellent movie, but probably more for adults than children.  

Buzz falling with style.

(Image credit: Pixar)

2. Toy Story (1995) 

The movie that started it all. Despite the VERY early-looking CG, the original Toy Story still holds up. The story concerns a toy cowboy named Woody who has a little boy named Andy who he adores. 

That said, Woody becomes plagued with jealousy when Andy gets a brand new toy for his birthday named Buzz Lightyear. What follows is jealousy getting the best of Woody, and him having to work with his enemy (and ultimately become his friend) as Andy moves to his new home. 

I bring up the original every year whenever I teach story elements to my students (I’m also a teacher), because this movie has it all. You have your easily recognizable characters, your protagonist (Woody) and his clearly defined conflict (jealousy). You have your setting (Andy’s bedroom, and then Sid’s), and you have your themes (even enemies can become friends).

Hell, you even have a very clear and compelling B-story with Buzz, who is having an identity crisis. Quite frankly, there’s a reason why the first movie made everybody stop and take attention of Pixar. It genuinely is that good. However, it’s not the best one. That would, of course, be… 

Lotso in Toy Story 3.

(Image credit: Pixar)

1. Toy Story 3 (2010) 

Toy Story 3 is the best Toy Story movie, bar none. The story is quite simple, but super effective. Andy is going off to college, and he’s questioning which toys he wants to take with him. He settles on Woody (for emotional reasons), but the cowboy ends up being taken to a daycare center, where the movie suddenly turns into a prison break flick. It’s super strange, but also wonderful. 

What makes this the best one is how it is the perfect conclusion to the series. The toys are closer here than they’ve ever been before (or since), and they all have their moments of questioning their ultimate purpose in life. What ties it all together is how Andy is also deeply impacted, like the audience itself, by the idea of leaving his childhood behind, but also always keeping it deep in his heart. I’ve seen this movie at least five times, and I’ve cried each time Andy gives his toys to Bonnie. Even with there being a fourth (and soon a fifth), this will always be my conclusion to the franchise. It just works on so many levels.

Those are my picks. What are your favorite Toy Story movies? For more news on all things Pixar-related, make sure to swing by here often!  

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.