Since revolutionizing popular animation in 1995 with the release of Toy Story, Pixar has become arguably the most beloved studio working today.
With the upcoming release of their latest film Onward, we took a look at some of the best moments in Pixar’s movie history, from the inspiring, to the heartbreaking, and everything in between.
10. The Family Style – The Incredibles (2004)
Though Edna Mode might advise to ‘never look back’, the now‐iconic costumes donned by the Parr family in The Incredibles take clear inspiration from the golden age of comics, and the demonstration of their new outfits is one of the most memorable moments of the movie.
We’ve had the powers of each Parr demonstrated to us before, but this campy reminder of each of their abilities feels straight out of the pages of an early Batman comic.
Violet’s suit turns invisible with her, Helen’s suit can stretch as far as she can, and Jack Jack’s is essentially indestructible – a feature they’ll later find useful.
It may not be the most dramatic scene of the movie, but it’s the one that best captures its tone.
9. Toys Under The Bed – Toy Story (1995)
The closest that Pixar have come to horror (aside from the disturbing baby in Tin Toy, perhaps) is in their first ever feature, and they arguably haven’t come close to true nightmare fuel since.
After hanging out with appealing, kid‐friendly characters like Slinky Dog and Mr. Potato Head, Toy Story takes a hard turn into the uncanny, presenting us with a fishing pole with legs, a jack‐in‐the‐box with a hand, and worst of all, a spider with a baby’s head.
Though we come to learn that these chimeras mean no harm, the shock of their initial introduction remains impactful. Kids can be cruel, and there’s no better demonstration of this than the terrors of Sid’s toy collection.
8. The Door Chase Scene – Monster’s Inc. (2001)
Let’s talk about the brilliance of the climactic chase scene in the studio’s fourth movie Monster’s Inc. Up until this point, the doors used to enter the rooms of children have been visited individually, with Mike and Sully safely returning to the Monster world after each visit.
This is complicated somewhat when Boo is stolen by Randall, resulting in a mind‐bending, gravity defying scene in which countries and continents are messily traversed in seconds.
The variety of environments is beyond impressive, especially for 2001, and placing the lead pair into each one provides some great quick gags.
7. Synaesthesic Strawberries – Ratatouille (2007)
For years, Ratatouille seemed to live in the shadows of the more popular, toy friendly Pixar properties, so seeing its recent re‐evaluation as one of their best movies has been particularly satisfying.
Much of the joy of this movie comes from its gorgeous, Ghibli‐esque depiction of food, so we decided to go with an early moment of simple culinary experimentation – Remy eating a strawberry, then a chunk of cheese, then the two together.
With his eyes squeezed shut, we experience these taste sensations through bursts of color behind him and improvised jazz that combines when the palette is more complex.
Remy moves onto more sophisticated recipes later, and this scene signals the spectacular meals to come.
6. Happy/Sad – Inside Out (2015)
The best concept in a movie loaded with brilliant visualizations of complex ideas is the scene that turns the movies central premise on its head.
Up until this point, Riley’s emotions have been separate and contained – even when she’s sad, it’s straightforward enough to understand.
That is until she returns home after running away, where the relief of the situation can only be expressed as a compound emotion of sadness and joy. Riley’s growing up – her life is becoming more complicated, and she needs to mature emotionally to handle this.
Joy doesn’t always win out, and one of the best messages of any Pixar movie is that it doesn’t always have to.
5. Losing Everything – Finding Nemo (2003)
While the crux of this title may be Marlin’s search to find his only son Nemo, the tragic event that precedes Nemo’s birth lingers beneath the surface of the whole movie.
Starting sweetly enough, with Marlin and his partner Coral attempting to name their many, many eggs, we’re soon struck by complete tonal whiplash as a barracuda arrives and wipes out everything that Marlin holds dear.
We move away from wide shots of the dangerous waters into the comfort of the cavern where Nemo, the only survivor, resides, Marlin’s words comforting both him and his son.
This grief hangs over the rest of the movie, but is eventually overcome as Marlin learns to embrace life, even when it seems completely impossible.
4. Remember Me – Coco (2017)
This one is a real tear‐jerker. Leaving behind the extraordinary land of the dead, Miguel returns home to his great grandmother Coco, hoping to invoke memories of her long lost father before he fades away entirely in another realm.
He does so with a song, seemingly one of the most famous in their world, but with a difference: he plays knowing it was always for her.
Slowly she remembers, softly singing along with her great grandson, as the generations in between watch on in awe.
This scene, especially with the knowledge that music is often used to help people with Alzheimer’s recall moments of their life, is possibly one of the best Pixar have made in recent years.
3. Growing Old Together – Up (2009)
No Pixar list would be complete without a mention of this bittersweet scene that launched a thousand short movies.
Carl and Ellie’s relationship is a universally relatable snapshot of a shared life, from first meeting to final goodbye, and Pixar manages to convey it in the time it takes for most films to establish the character’s first name.
It’s perfect to the point of cliché; a classic romance that overshadows the rest of the movie with its pain, joy, and pathos.
2. When She Loved Me – Toy Story 2 (1999)
This scene earned Pixar an Academy Award nomination for best original song, and rightly so.
Jessie’s sepia toned past with her previous child Emily, set to Randy Newman’s moving ‘When She Loved Me’, adds another layer of depth and darkness to Pixar’s filmography before they had become pros at creating this kind of heartache.
In summary, this moment makes you want to go home, gather your old toys together, and beg for forgiveness.
1. The Ravaged Earth – WALL‐E (2008)
Perhaps the most prescient scene on the list, the opening moments of WALL‐E abound in cognitive dissonance, allowing the twinkling tune of Hello Dolly to play as we try to recognize the ruined Earth onscreen as our current home.
The use of post‐War music to suggest the apocalypse has become popular, most notably in the Fallout games, but it’s particularly striking as the opening to a film supposedly for children.
Despite the jolly soundtrack, and Wall‐E’s optimism as he trawls through the trash for treasure, this entire intro is a gut punch, and a grim reminder of where environmental damage that has characterized the past hundred years will eventually lead us.
Onward is out in movie theaters now!