Ranking Every Pixar Movie By How Much It Makes Us Cry
Warning: Even reading about some of these movies might cause you to tear up.
Toy Story 4 comes to theaters this week and along with exploring the looming possibility of a toy uprising against their human masters, you can pretty much guarantee that like nearly every Pixar movie before it, this is gonna make you cry. And in honor of Pixar’s unique ability to tug at our heartstrings, we decided to rank all 19 Pixar films based on how much they make us cry. We gave our blood, sweat, and tears (mostly the latter) putting this list together and, honestly, we’d recommend you have some tissues nearby before scrolling down, as even just reading about some of these devastating moments may cause you to get a little misty-eyed.
20-18. All 3 Cars Movies
The reason there have been more Cars movies than any other non-Toy Story Pixar franchise has more to do with toy sales than emotional resonance, so it should come as no surprise that they are at the bottom of the list. Even someone who cries during those Sarah McLaughlin commercials would probably not tear up watching Lightning McQueen and Mater get into their automotive antics.
17. The Good Dinosaur
You probably forgot that this was even a Pixar movie but even if you are one of the few Good Dinosaur apologists out there, you have to admit it’s not much of a tear-jerker. Sure, the goodbye between Arlo and Spot is a little sad but it doesn’t come close to peak-Pixar sadness.
16. Monsters University
The Monsters Inc sequel is a fun college romp but it is missing the key ingredient that makes its predecessor one of the most emotionally potent Pixar entries: Boo, the adorable little girl who helps Mike and Sully realize that maybe scaring isn’t as caring as they were led to believe. The closest this movie gets to traumatizing is when Mike realizes he doesn’t have the talent to be a scarer but that’s more sad in an existential way than the type of sadness that produces tears.
15. A Bug’s Life
Perhaps the most underrated Pixar film is criminally overlooked by fans but while it is hilarious and features the elaborate world-building that makes Pixar so beloved, it’s not really a sad movie. Even when Hopper and the grasshoppers threaten to kill the ants, it’s more frightening than sorrowful.
14-13. Incredibles & Incredibles 2
Watching Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and the rest of the superfamily battle evil features thrilling action, gorgeous animation, and a whole lot of laughs. But the ups and downs of the Parr family features very little sadness. The closest we get is Bob’s depression when he is forced to give up his days as a crimefighter to waste away his days in a cubicle but it’s hard to imagine anyone crying watching him deal with the mindless bureaucracy of the modern workplace.
A phenomenal film, to be sure, but in terms of sadness, Ratatouille just doesn’t keep up with the top tier of Pixar. Watching Remy and his father fight is definitely emotional but it is unlikely to ruin your entire day the way so many other movies on this list will.
The emotional core of Brave is Princess Merida’s contentious relationship with her mother, Queen Elinor, and watching the two learn to understand one another while also breaking the spell that turned Elinor into a bear packs a powerful punch. Still, this reconciliation is not on the devastating level of the other films on this list.
10. Finding Dory
Seeing how Dory was separated from her family and her subsequent journey to track them down is unquestionably sad and will likely have you reaching for a tissue but falls short of Finding Nemo in terms of breaking your heart into a million tiny pieces without a hint of mercy.
For being a movie all about death, Coco is a surprisingly upbeat movie that doesn’t have too many tear-inducing scenes. Still, it’s hard not to get choked up when Miguel plays “Remember Me” for his great grandmother to help her remember her late husband.
8. Toy Story
The original Pixar film is filled with complex emotional arcs, including Buzz coming to the realization that he’s just a toy and Woody struggling to accept Andy’s love for his brand new toy. But, with all due respect, none of these moments quite reach the emotional heights of the two Toy Story sequels.
Who would have guessed that a relationship between two robots could be so moving? Watching Wall-E and Eve fall in love is a delight, which makes it all the more devastating when Wall-E sacrifices himself to help the humans return to earth. And when he is repaired by Eve, she discovers that he has been rebooted, essentially robbing him of everything that made Wall-E such a lovable character. Fortunately, it all works out in the end but that doesn’t make it any easier watching Eve realize that she may have lost her one true love.
6. Finding Nemo
Now we are making the jump from sad to downright devastating and it all starts with the death of Coral, who was eaten by a barracuda while trying to save her kids. The loss shakes Marlin to his core and makes him an overprotective father to Nemo, which indirectly causes him to get taken. It’s a shocking gut punch that sets the tone for the entire movie and no matter how many times you’ve seen it, you’ll always get a little misty-eyed when Marlin wakes up to find Coral is gone.
5. Monster’s Inc
As mentioned before, Sully’s relationship with Boo is so damn heartwarming, as she brings out a tenderness in the monster that he didn’t even know he had. That connection is exactly why it’s so brutal when they are forced to say goodbye so that Boo can return home and the already sad moment reaches a whole new level when Boo tries to open her closet door to find Sully, only to discover her connection to Monstropolis is gone.
4. Inside Out
From the moment we meet Bing Bong, Riley’s long forgotten imaginary friend, it’s clear he’s fallen on hard times but nothing could prepare us for the moment when he stays behind in the Memory Dump so that Joy can return to Riley’s emotional headquarters, ensuring that he will be forgotten by the very child that so lovingly created him. It’s unconditional love in its purest form, as Bing Bong would give up everything in order to bring Riley an ounce of happiness.
3. Toy Story 2
When we first meet Jessie, she seems like an obnoxious roadblock in Woody’s quest to get back to Andy. But once we learn her backstory, she immediately becomes one of the more sympathetically tragic characters in movies. Seeing the sequence of her being the favorite toy of her owner, Emily, only to be donated and left alone in a cruel, unforgiving world is gut-wrenching, so much so that Woody agrees to give up his plan and head to Tokyo with Jessie and the rest of the round-up gang.
Many of you may have expected this to grab the top spot. After all, the film’s opening sequence of Carl and Ellie falling in love, getting married, and spending their lives together until death did them part is one of the most beautiful and tragic sequences in film history, bar none. But once you get past the opening 20 minutes, the rest of the movie really isn’t that sad. Sure, it’s bittersweet watching Carl learn to let go of the past and move on with his life but by Pixar standards, it’s pretty run for the course. If this was a list of saddest scenes, Up‘s opening would win easily but for movies, it falls behind one clear winner.
1. Toy Story 3
Where to even begin with Toy Story 3. There are so many heartbreaking sequences in this movie. The moment where Woody and the gang embrace death as they seemingly head towards a fiery fate. When Woody realizes that Buzz won’t be coming with him to college. When Woody writes a note to convince Andy to give the toys to Bonnie. And of course, the moment when Andy finally says goodbye to the toys that were there for him for his entire life. All of these moments stand alone as incredibly emotional but together, they deliver a potent message about the importance of letting go, even when every fiber of your being tells you to hold on.
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