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Lightyears ahead of the game

By Paul R. Sell For The Spokesman-Review

With the release of Pixar’s newest film, “Lightyear”, now is a good time to look back at the best films from the best animation studio. All of its films have at least some merit and are endlessly entertaining.

But some of the Pixar films are better than others. So here are my picks for Pixar’s ten best.

No. 10: “Soul” (2020) – Like so many of Pixar’s other films, “Soul” is as contemplative as it is heartfelt, though this one is probably the most thought-provoking film. It tackles mature questions of what happens after we die and the meaning of life in an imaginative, beautiful and mature manner that even kids can comprehend. It can be slow at times and the villain is less than memorable, but the ending is one of the best tear-inducing moments in all of Pixar.

No. 9: “Inside Out” (2015) – This one is Pixar at its most creative. Its world building is phenomenal, crafting this colorful, fantastical portrait of our minds and how emotions and memories work together. I love concepts of how dreams are put together like a scripted television show. But I especially love its message about the importance of feeling sad in a family movie. As far as films depicting the mind like a business, this one is the best.

No. 8: “Monsters, Inc.” (2001) – I’ll always have a special place in my heart for “Monsters, Inc.” I saw this one at a young age, and it made a big impression on me by showing monsters in something other than a scary light. It certainly helps that John Goodman and Billy Crystal’s chemistry is still top-notch even to this day. Plus, the cutest character in any Pixar movie with Boo.

No. 7: “Toy Story 3 (2010) – This is a perfect conclusion to the best Pixar movie series. I had a difficult time deciding between this and “Toy Story 2”, but because of memorable scenes like the elaborate chase in the opening, the heart wrenching climax, and the final goodbye with Andy, I think this one has to be on any list of the best Pixar films.

No. 6: “Coco” (2017) – “Coco” is one of the many reasons why I adore cinema so much – it gives the entire world a chance to experience a culture and a side of life people could never experience otherwise. I was entranced by its whimsical and loving depiction of Hispanic culture, personal beliefs and ideals. I’m also pretty sure that this movie invented entire new colors, so it’s worth seeing just for that.

No. 5: “Finding Nemo” (2003) – Now we come to what I consider the Pixar elite. Not just Pixar’s best work, but some of the best animated films ever made. “Finding Nemo” excels in nearly every category, but especially in terms of animation and visuals. The ocean itself becomes a character in this movie and has never looked better. Throw in an Marlin’s endearing journey to rescue his son, and you’ve got one of the best adventure movies.

No. 4: “The Incredibles” (2004) – The older I get, the more I appreciate “The Incredibles.” When it first came out, I related to Dash and Violet and trying to grow up in a world that doesn’t get them. Nowadays, I relate to Bob and Helen’s mature struggles of finding their identity. And as more Marvel films come out, the more I keep coming back to the thoughtfulness of “The Incredibles.”

No. 3: “Up” (2009) – The first 15 minutes of “Up” is one of the best sequences in all of cinema. If there was ever a way to sum up a life and all of its happiness, struggles, wonders, sadness, love and regret, all you’d need is the first scenes of this movie. No dialogue, just the marriage and life of Carl and Ellie. That is cinema at its most powerful – all visuals, and yet it is able to communicate an entire life’s worth of ups and downs.

No. 2: “Toy Story” (1995) – I remember seeing this in theaters when I was 5 years old, and even then, I was blown away by how lifelike the animation made Woody and Buzz feel. And even as Pixar’s animation became more lifelike and detailed, there’s something about the joy of watching toys come to life that gives this film a timeless quality.

No. 1: “WALL-E” (2008) – If “Toy Story” created the Pixar style and environment, then “WALL-E” perfected it. “WALL-E” is not only my pick for the best Pixar film, but the best animated film of all time. It is a visual masterpiece in scope, storytelling, world-building, characterization and emotions. This film is if you stretched the first 15 minutes of “Up” into an entire movie, while including a poignant message that still resonates today, like all good sci-fi does.

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