Every Pixar Movie, Ranked Worst To Best

15) Cars 2 (2011)

Cars 2

As a follow-up to what was already considered Pixar’s least narratively cogent endeavor, Cars 2 had a lot, ahem, riding on its shoulders. A bit too much, most agreed of the John Lassetter-directed sequel, which saw a head-scratching decision to shift malapropism-loving Mater to the lead role in an espionage-inspired quest around the globe to stop a nefarious oil company from world domination.

The film is silly, loud and – what ultimately stings the most – entirely meaningless, with the story’s biggest message amounting to the same heft and impact of a locally-produced Earth Day commercial. It’s not entirely without its endearments, however, with a handful of nifty set-pieces and a full-fledged commitment to its own zany weirdness (Michael Caine plays a James Bond-esque car named Finn McMissile). It’s bottom-of-the-barrel Pixar, but I’d still take it any day over the superficially inane Smurfs movies — the first of which debuted the same summer.

14) Cars (2006)

cars pixar

Ah, Cars. The first Pixar movie to not sit anywhere above a 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and which a lot of people in general weren’t sure — and still aren’t sure — how to interpret. Telling the story of race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his turbulent descent into a small town-loving southern gentleman (gentlecar?), the movie is sort of all over the place. It’s a sports movie, a rom-com, a buddy adventure, an indictment of the American Interstate Highway System, and an easy way for Disney to make a hilariously large sum of money off of bed sheets and toy cars.

It’s easy to get lost in the negativity of that last thing and forget the small, simple pleasures Cars presents in fleeting bursts (Lightning and Sally’s drive to the Wheel Well Motel, the implacably honest Ferrari-loving Luigi and Guido, the shiny tangibility of all the cars), but it’s ultimately a movie whose endearing positives are ceaselessly outweighed by its shrill negatives.

A negative mostly found in the casting of tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and his subsequent good-ol-boy, dimwit-with-a-heart-of-gold tangential rants that, while harmless and occasionally endearing, lack any of the edge or refinement expected from the studio. The fact that all of this also resulted in the longest Pixar movie to date — a somewhat butt-numbing 116 minutes — doesn’t exactly help matters.

13) Monsters University (2013)

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Comedy sequels decades in the making are almost always duds. Animated comedy sequels coming 12 years after a much-beloved original, doubly so. And that’s the mountain Monsters University had to climb in 2013, but only really made half the trip. Reuniting fan-favorites James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) and Michael “Mike” Wazowski (Billy Crystal) for a coming-of-age story set in the hallways and dorm rooms of their Alma mater — the titular university — MU keeps the jokes flying and the gags belly-aching (frat mom Sherri Squibble’s unexpectedly dark musical taste is arguably one of Pixar’s all-time best sight gags) but it all feels disappointingly empty.

Prequels live and die on devoting care to situations of which the audience already knows the outcome, and Monsters University never fully leaves the shadow of they’re going to be best friends in the end anyway. Bonus points for a double-header of anti-kids movies messaging in arguing that perhaps college isn’t for everybody and, most memorably: sometimes the dream you’ve been dreaming about your entire life just isn’t for you, and that’s okay.