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It's safe to say that Pixar has come up with and perfected the formula for creating strikingly beautiful animated features whose art direction is only outdone by the emotional storytelling found in each of the studio's movies. There is just something about Pixar movies that find a way to penetrate even the hardest and coldest of hearts and turn everyone into a blubbering mess by the time the credits roll. And it's no different in the studio's latest offering, Onward, which tells the heartbreaking story of two brothers who just want one final day with their long-dead father.
After watching Onward, I began to think about the best Pixar movies and the emotional elements that pulled on my heartstrings. With more than 20 movies to choose from, coming up with a list of the best 10 Pixar movies that made us cry was no easy task. It took a lot of strength, thought, and tissues. Lots and lots of tissues.
So, without any further ado, let's take a look at the 10 most emotional Pixar movies that made us cry. And just a heads up, this article contains spoilers from each of the selected movies, including Onward**.**
10. Wall-E (2008)
It's hard to believe, but Pixar found a way to create an animated movie about a lonely robot on an endless mission to clean up a deserted and polluted Earth that tugged at our emotions. The 2008 feature WALL-E, directed by Andrew Stanton, is one of the most enjoyable movies to be released by the studio, even when it doesn't feature any humans until halfway through its runtime (except for the Buy-N-Large advertisements).
We instantly feel an emotional connection to WALL-E as he traverses the infinite wasteland, searching for trash and companionship. It's heartbreaking to watch the lonely robot end each day by holding his own hand while watching a romantic movie, night after night. The emotions go into overdrive after WALL-E is brought back to life by EVE, only for him to have no recollection of the robot he was so obsessed with earlier in the film. The sorrow quickly turns to pure joy upon EVE's kiss, which restores WALL-E's memory and personality as robots and humans once again begin to populate the desolate planet.
9. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
On the surface, the 2001 Pixar film Monsters, Inc. is about two monsters, Sulley (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal), who are tasked with returning a child, Boo (Mary Gibbs), after she enters the monster's power plant through a portal in her closet. Dig a little deeper though and you will find a story about giving people (and monsters) a chance, no matter how different they may seem.
By letting go of their fear of things they don't understand, Sulley, Mike, and Boo all learn to love and care for each other, even though they originally saw one another as frightening and repulsive beings. And by the time Sulley and Mike return Boo back to her home and destroy the door that led from their world to hers, we've grown as close to the characters as they did with one another. The shot of Boo opening her closet door just to see her clothes remains just as heartbreaking as it was nearly 20 years ago.
8. Inside Out (2015)
Who knew a movie about emotions could be so emotional? That's exactly the case for Inside Out, a 2015 Pixar film about the five different personified emotions inside a young girl's brain and how they guide her through some pretty traumatic life changing events. The film mostly follows the misadventures of Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) as they try to restore Riley's (Kaitlyn Dias) core memories from her childhood.
Over the course of their journey through Riley's mind, Joy and Sadness are forced to work together and overcome their shortcomings if they are to save the girl they care so much about. One of the most memorable and emotional memories they come across is that of Riley's old imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind). After Joy and Bing Bong get trapped in the Memory Dump, Bing Bong sacrifices himself so that Joy could escape and get back to the headquarters and restore Riley's memories. The look on Bing Bong's face as he fades away from Riley's memory is about as emotionally gutting as it gets.
7. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Jessie's story, do I need to say more? Toy Story 2, the 1999 follow-up to Pixar's first animated feature gave us one of the saddest moments in the studio's short history at the time of its release. While we spent the entire first movie and about half of the second movie dealing with Woody (Tom Hanks) getting over himself, meeting a tragic character like Jessie (Joan Cusack) was a nice, yet heartbreaking addition.
The waterworks really start going into overdrive by the time Sarah McLachlan starts singing "When She Loved Me" as we're taken through scenes of when Jessie still had an owner. As we watch the passage of time through Jessie's eyes, we see her owner go from a toy-loving child to a teenage girl obsessed with makeup, teen heartthrobs, and friends. By the time Jessie is abandoned at a donation truck, we're already out of tears.
6. Onward (2020)
I will be the first to admit that I am a sucker when it comes to movies that have any trace of a father/son element. I can't watch Field Of Dreams, About Time, or Big Fish without turning into a blubbering mess and wanting to talk to my dad. Well, you can add Pixar's latest feature, Onward to that list.
Centered around Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) on their quest to bring back their dead father for 24 hours, Onward takes the audience on emotional and sentimental quest as the two brothers learn the true meaning of family. I was full of emotion throughout the entire final act of this fantastical movie, especially the scene where Ian makes one of the biggest sacrifices we've seen in a Pixar movie. Sometimes it's hard to say goodbye.
5. Toy Story 4 (2019)
I have been lucky enough to see all four Toy Story movies in the theater. I was in the second grade when I saw the first film with my childhood best friend, with my older brother for the second installment, sitting among my college buddies for the third movie, and with my wife and oldest child for the fourth entry. All that being said, I had a suitcase of emotional baggage going into Toy Story 4, and I knew I was going to be a mess.
Over the years, I've lost touch with those friends, don't see my brother as much as I'd like, but watching Woody and Buzz Lightyear say "To infinity and beyond" as they go in two different directions allowed me to realize that sometimes people drift apart and that's okay. I still get misty eyed thinking about the adventures that Woody and Buzz had over the years, mostly because it allows me think about the good times I shared with the people I love.
4. Up (2009)
Up is one of those movies that is mostly remembered for its opening scene. Over the course of the film's first 10 minutes, we watch as a young Carl Fredericksen (Ed Asner) meets a girl named Ellie, falls in love with her, marries her, renovates their childhood clubhouse into a home of their own, and grow old together. And just before Carl and Ellie are about to fulfill their lifelong dream of visiting Paradise Falls, Ellie falls ill and dies.
The movie could have ended there and categorized as one of Pixar's phenomenal short films that play before the studio's animated features, but no, it continues to push forward like Carl to see his dream through and visit the mysterious Paradise Falls. The opening montage is an emotional rollercoaster that rips your heard in two, but by the time Carl reaches his dream, our worn and tattered hearts are sewn back together. In addition to making us cry from sadness, Up also gives us the opportunity to cry because we're happy for once.
3. Coco (2017)
I first saw Coco when I was still getting over the death of my dearly beloved grandmother, so I was a wreck once I realized what the movie was about. At first, I thought it was just going to be another fun and fantastical Pixar film, but as the story progressed, I realized that I was mistaken.
The film follows Miguel, a 12-year-old musician who has to hide his guitar from his family due to his family believing that his great-great-grandfather, a musician, abandoned his family many years ago. After being trapped in the Land Of The Dead, Miguel meets a spirit by the name of Héctor (Gael García Bernal) who wants to get back to the Land Of The Living. By the end of the film, Miguel learns that Héctor is his real great-great-grandfather and rushes back in time to play "Remember Me" for his dying great-grandmother Coco. The scene where Coco remembers her long-lost father gets me every single time.
2. Finding Nemo (2003)
Anyone who has lost their child in public can relate to Marlin (Albert Brooks) in the 2003 Pixar classic Finding Nemo. Centered around a single father on an epic underwater adventure to rescue his son who has been captured and taken as a pet, this film is all about the hell parents will go through in order to protect their children.
The scene where Marlin loses Nemo in the beginning is always harrowing, but their eventual reunion at the end of the movie just brings it out me with each viewing. But it really wasn't until I was a parent myself that I began to feel the pain of losing a child and the absolute joy of being reunited with them.
1. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Other movies on the list really pulled on my heartstrings, but nothing has ever affected me the way Toy Story 3 did when I first saw it opening night in 2010. I was in college and had slowly been letting go of pieces of my youth. Friendships, memories, and cherished belongings were all slowly being lost to the ages, much like is the case for Andy and his collection of childhood toys.
All of the Toy Story movies are about letting go of something, and this couldn't be more true with the third installment of the franchise. Through the movie, Andy and Woody both must let go of one another and come to the sad realization that over time, we begin to lose touch with the objects of affection from our childhood. It's just how life works. And once both characters come to terms with this truth, both have the strength to move on and let someone else have a turn. As a college student in his early 20s, this movie shook me to my core. And it still does.
Who would have thought that 10 animated movies would bring so much emotion out of us? Did any of these movies resonate with you? Did we forget your favorite Pixar movie? Let us know in the comments below.