7) Up (2009)
What initially sounds like Pixar’s dumbest premise — here’s an old man, here he is tying a bunch of balloons from his day job to his chimney, here he is on an adventure in South America with a chubby boy scout and talking dog — blossoms into its most tragic. And it takes just about ten minutes from the opening title card. Up is remembered most for that opening montage of Carl (Ed Asner) and Ellie’s decades-spanning romance, and rightfully so — it is buoyant and hilarious and soul-crushingly sad.
But what Pete Docter’s second directorial Pixar flick deserves a standing ovation for is managing to book-end such a universally powerful first act with goofball ideas like floating houses, bi-plane piloting talking dogs, and a nefarious octogenarian hunting for a mysterious six-foot tall bird creature, and making it all work. By the movie’s hair-raising final battle, aloft in the clouds and living up to its title, Up transforms into a good old-fashioned adventure yarn with good guys and evil minions and stomach-churning high-altitude swashbuckling. Best of all? Like everyone watching, it never forgets its tear-stained opener.
6) Ratatouille (2007)
Neither particularly emotionally powerful nor packing any deep messages, Ratatouille is simply one of Pixar’s best out of sheer delight. Following the travails of French rat Remy (Patton Oswalt) and his dreams to work in a high-end Parisian kitchen as a cook himself, the movie is tripping over itself in charm (Remy’s Paris is one of Pixar’s most ogle-worthy creations, especially the visual representations of the little guy’s taste buds) and effortlessly laid-back European humor.
The movie’s emotional high-point sees implacable food critic Anton Ego buckling at the knees for Remy’s interpretation of the titular dish — and it’s a humorous and touching moment — but won’t exactly leave you as butter in your seat. And that’s okay — that’s why Ratatouille is so high on this list: it manages to entertain with its fast-paced visuals and dialogue (director Brad Bird’s hand showing there) without any true emotional vivisection. It is, essentially, one of the few great Pixar movies you can watch ad nauseam without any threat of doom-and-gloom. Ratatouille, like the dish itself, is comfort food, pure and simple.