20. ZOOTOPIA (2016)
Zootopia is bitingly of-the-moment, not just in the creativity of the complex world it draws but also in how smart it is about the caustic effects of xenophobia, racism, and intimidation in civilized society. All that, and one of the greatest performances within animation since Robin Williams’ work in Aladdin, from Jason Bateman.
19. MEET THE ROBINSONS (2007)
One of the most amusing time travel movies this side of the Austin Powers sequels, Meet the Robinsons emboldens the vision of Walt Disney’s optimistic future and reverse-engineers it to tell the touching and funny story of a young boy learning where he belongs in the world and the importance of always moving forward.
18. MONSTERS, INC. (2001)
Somewhat dwarfed by the gargantuan success of that same year’s Shrek, Pixar’s parallel-universe tale of two monsters who find themselves suddenly taking care of a human child has plenty of its own charm and merits, none greater than the performances from Billy Crystal and John Goodman.
17. KUNG FU PANDA (2008)
The rich premise of a panda who’s revealed to be The Chosen One and clashes with his disciplined trainer and co-fighters lends itself to a strong storyline. The voice acting is top-notch — Dustin Hoffman, particularly — and the story finds the sweet spot between saccharine and cliché where good movies can thrive.
16. WRECK-IT RALPH (2012)
Appealing equally to mass audiences and a specific niche market is a difficult task indeed, but Wreck-It Ralph tackles it with aplomb. Video game fans will find countless references to catch, while even those that could never master Tetris will find plenty to love about the best proof villains can be heroes since Megamind.
15. TOY STORY 3 (2010)
The perfect ending to a trilogy that grew up with both its human characters and its core audience, the “final” tale of Woody and Buzz is powerful enough to turn every grown man and woman who watches it into a blubbering baby by the heart-wrenching climax and coda.
14. TANGLED (2010)
Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons may have signaled the start of the current period of animated Disney success, but Tangled was where it all truly clicked again. A smart repackaging of Rapunzel with their catchiest music in years, it’s the Little Mermaid of Disney’s current heyday, expertly setting the stage for the greats to follow.
13. CARS (2006)
The most underrated Pixar movie and one of their most ageless, Cars takes place in the most intricate and clever alternate universe of their films. It may share a plot with Doc Hollywood, but Cars has some of the strongest voice ensembles of a Pixar picture and a plot so rewarding it was remade just a few years later, as Planes.
12. ICE AGE (2002)
After DreamWorks proved in 2001 that Pixar didn’t have a monopoly on computer-animated comedies, every studio tried to be the next Shrek. Ice Age, starring the trio of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and a scene-stealing John Leguizamo was the only successor to come close, creating an impressively tight prehistoric comedy that can’t even be tarnished by its litany of unnecessary sequels.
11. FINDING NEMO (2003)
Pixar makes two types of movies: dual-level ones, with additional layers for adult viewers, and straightforward movies aimed at those too young to be buying their own tickets. Finding Nemo does ultimately belong in the latter group, but it’s the very best of those movies and has the unstoppable power of worming its way into even the most closed-off of hearts.