To date, Pixar Animation Studios has produced 25 feature films. As with a lot of other studios in modern Hollywood, Pixar has created its fair share of franchises, meaning that several of Pixar’s most popular films have spawned equally, if not more popular sequels. We’ve seen four Toy Story movies, three Cars films, and everything from The Incredibles to Finding Nemo has seen at least one sequel.
However, nearly half of Pixar’s output is a series of “standalone” projects. These movies are not franchise films, they’re just films. Some of them might get a sequel one day, and a few of them are so new, like the recent Turning Red, that it’s far too early to know if a sequel could be on the way. It’s easy to think that sequels never came for these movies because they weren't as good, but that’s far from the case. But which one is the best? Let’s rank Pixar’s non-franchise movies.
12. The Good Dinosaur
The Good Dinosaur was a movie that had trouble out of the gate. While it’s not uncommon for animated films to change drastically over their production, this one was basically completely gutted and started over again. We’ll likely never know if the end result might have been the better movie, but it wasn’t one that stayed with audiences. The Good Dinosaur eventually found an audience at home, but it saw Pixar's lowest box office take of any movie not influenced by a global pandemic.
11. A Bug’s Life
A Bug’s Life was Pixar’s second release, following the original Toy Story, and while it was largely overshadowed by what would become Pixar’s biggest franchise, it’s a good little movie in its own right with a fun story boasting a wide variety of characters. It’s probably a better movie than it gets credit for, despite some of its retroactively problematic casting, but it’s still maybe not as good as several other Pixar films that have come out since then.
Onward feels like a movie that could have been the first entry in a franchise. Its world of fantasy creatures in a suburban setting certainly could be explored more in-depth, and Onward is a good movie, to be sure. The biggest issue was that it got kneecapped by the pandemic, but audiences also simply didn’t respond to Onward in quite the same way that they often do for Pixar movies.
Up has one of the greatest and most heartbreaking opening sequences not just for Pixar, but in film history. Everybody remembers how Up opens, and it’s beautiful. The rest if the movie is still pretty good, and Ed Asner is perfect in the lead role, but it’s hard to keep the quality level that high when you’re going that hard at the beginning.
Luca, like Onward, is so new that it’s impossible to know if we might still see more movies in this series down the road. And while there are no box office numbers to compare to get a gauge for success, this movie clearly found fans on Disney+. The friendship between Luca and Alberto in this story is something that feels special in a way that other Pixar relationships just do not.
Pixar’s first female protagonist was Brave's Merida. It was a long time coming, and the mother-daughter story resonated with a lot of people. Not only did Brave have a deep enough lore that could have been revisited in sequels, but let's not forget that Merida was christened an official Disney Princess, though that wasn't without its hurdles. She's the only Pixar character to gain the honor, so it’s more than a little surprising we never did see more from this one.
Ratatouille may have recently gotten its own theme park ride at Walt Disney World, but it’s never received a sequel to its original hit film. Maybe that’s a good thing, as the original is a truly excellent piece of work. The story of a rat who loves French cooking sounds completely wild, but that’s part of why the movie works so well.
5. Turning Red
Pixar’s newest movie is way too new to have any guess what the future may hold for it. We certainly could see multiple sequels over the next few years if the response is strong enough. The movie has the heart that we know and expect from any Pixar film, but it also has an entirely different sort of energy that is incredibly refreshing and fun. It is truly a unique movie and hopefully a sign of what is to come from Pixar in the future.
Pixar has never made an animated musical like Disney frequently churns out. The closest it’s come to that so far is Coco. The music is fantastic, but the visuals take it to another level. It’s literally a beautiful film, a visually stunning spectacle of animation. The Day of the Dead infused story gives Coco a look and feel we had not seen before from Pixar. It's truly one of the best.
3. Inside Out
It’s hard to even think about Inside Out without saying anything that hasn't already been put out into the world. The movie is an emotional journey in every conceivable sense of the phrase. An amazing set of characters come together in a story that anybody can relate to because we all understand the core of the emotions involved. This is another one that certainly could spawn more stories, but all we've seen is an animated short.
It’s hard to imagine what a sequel to Soul would look like. Once you’ve contemplated life and death, what exactly is left? The good news is that this one gave us so much the first time that there’s likely nobody really asking for more. Soul is a powerful story about what it means to live and realizing what’s truly important.
If there is a Pixar movie that has never received a sequel, that doesn’t need one because the original is utter perfection, it might be Wall-E. The movie is absolutely magical. Its lead characters don’t speak, and yet they say volumes. So much of the story is told through beautiful visuals alone. Even the trash is majestic. It has something to say about the wider world and one simple relationship, and it says it all without a word. It lets the emotions do the work.
Between the possibility of future movie sequels still happening, and the fact that with Disney+ in the mix, the odds of seeing more from any one of these worlds is only increasing. There’s a good chance several films on this list could still become franchises one day. Even so, that won’t diminish the power each of these movies has. Each one has something of value to share, and maybe, because we haven’t seen sequels to these yet, that makes each one just that little bit more special.
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