2. The Incredibles
From an objective critical standpoint, The Incredibles is Pixar’s smartest, most insightful feature. It tackles a myriad of highly relevant themes, all while telling one of the single best superhero stories of the 2000s. It may, in fact, be the best superhero film ever released.
At the very least, it’s the most intelligent one (and I say that as someone who loves the genre). Bird doesn’t tell a story with superpowers just for the sake of action, but because superheroics are highly relevant to the themes of the project. The Incredibles is, first and foremost, a poignant allegory about the nature of family. Few films wish to acknowledge this, but being a family – living among and loving unconditionally a select group of people every day of one’s life – is never easy. It is a struggle, with one’s own issues as much as anyone else’s, and to my mind, no movie has ever captured the omnipresent difficulty and ultimate grace that comes with being a family unit as well as The Incredibles.
Moreover, The Incredibles carries a wildly bold, subversive message at its core: That if everyone is made to be special, then no one is allowed to truly be great. The Incredibles is a commentary on society’s increasing deification of mediocrity, and Bird’s genius is that he is, without sounding bitter or resentful, able to craft a compelling argument for the need to foster greatness. Some people in this world are special – represented in the film by the superheroes – and when we orient society around trying to make everyone the same, we fail to do anyone any good. Those who can achieve greatness are stifled, and those who would benefit from what others have to offer are robbed.
As I grow older, and I realize just how many barriers there are – not just in education, but in general social norms – to expressing my own talents or intelligence, this part of the film speaks to me more every day. I do not believe in elitism, and I don’t think Bird does either, but The Incredibles has the bravery to question why we ask those who are exceptional to sit down and stay anonymous, and I think that is a discussion absolutely worth having.
All this, and I have not even mentioned the groundbreaking animation, or the remarkable action set pieces, or Michael Giacchino’s single greatest musical score, or the wonderful vocal performances from Craig T. Nelson and Helen Hunt, or Bird’s brilliant deconstruction of the superhero and espionage genres. The Incredibles is a film of impossible riches, and the critic in me says it is Pixar’s most accomplished work.
But in ranking these wonderful films, I find I must go with my heart, and my heart tells me there is only one option for the number one pick…
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