There isn't actually a chronological order to watch the animated classics. So unless you're having a Toy Story marathon, the best way to binge the Pixar back catalogue is in order of release, charting well over two decades of beautifully animated tugs at your heartstrings...
Having said that, you may have heard about the Pixar Theory popularised by Jon Negroni, but despite it becoming popular - and it being very convincing - theories of a shared Pixar universe, isn't actually an official thing.
The PCU is subtle, based on the idea that there are clues throughout all the 24 films creating a linked universe. We've now added Pixar's new movie Luca as well as Soul below, but as both reference the other movies in a loose way (Soul references Up, but there aren't many more timeline references) they haven't made the timeline yet.
Disney Plus has the full collection of films on the platform (bar Onward). You can sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year.
Scroll to the bottom of the article to vote for your favourite Pixar movie of all time in our poll.
What order should you watch the Pixar movies?
If we assume for a second that the Pixar Cinematic Universe is real then you can watch the movies in a certain order to back the idea up. There are puzzles, clues and little hints dotted about to back the theory up.
There are a few theories about how the films like but the Pixar Theory is the most popular. The basic idea is The Good Dinosaur sets up the universe. An asteroid narrowly misses Earth and the dinosaurs survive. Earth is then controlled by dinosaurs, then humans, then machines and then intelligent animals. The films build on each era in the timeline.
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The Pixar Theory movie order
If you want to watch this order we've listed the films (spoiler-free) below.
- The Good Dinosaur (2015)
- Brave (2012)
- The Incredibles (2004)
- Incredibles 2 (2018)
- Toy Story (1995)
- Toy Story 2 (1999)
- Finding Nemo (2003)
- Finding Dory (2016)
- Ratatouille (2007)
- Toy Story 3 (2010)
- Toy Story 4 (2019)
- Up (2009)
- Inside Out (2015)
- Coco (2017)
- Cars (2006)
- Cars 2 (2011)
- Cars 3 (2017)
- Wall-E (2008)
- A Bug's Life (1998)
- Monsters University (2013)
- Monsters Inc (2001)
There are a few issues with this order of course. First, Riley is seen visiting the Marine Life Institute in Finding Dory so there's an argument for watching Inside Out before Finding Dory.
Pixar Movie order of release
Toy Story (1995)
Not only Pixar's first full-length effort but the first entirely computer-animated feature film, Toy Story still holds up as one of the best animated films ever made. While those who saw the film as kids will be approaching their 30s now, generation after generation has fallen for the charms of Buzz, Woody and co, with the franchise still going strong with a critically-acclaimed third sequel in 2019. It also marks the first appearance of the Pizza Planet truck and Luxo Ball - which have driven Easter Egg hunters wild by appearing in nearly every Pixar film so far...
A Bug's Life (1998)
Famous for competing with the similarly-themed Antz at the 1998 box office, A Bug's Life has arguably stood the test of time better as part of Pixar's legendary catalogue. The story sees misfit ant Flik recruit circus troupe bugs to fight greedy grasshoppers, and developed Pixar's formula of exploring the secret life of everyday objects and animals. It's also one of the few worlds yet to be revisited for a sequel - better late than never Pixar?
Toy Story 2 (1999)
An animated sequel!? Universal can't stop pumping out Minion movies these days, but back in the 90s animated sequels were strictly regulated to cheap and cheerful direct-to-video Disney films. Leave it to Pixar to not only make a fully-fledged theatrically-released follow up, but one which is widely regarded to improve on the original.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
A groundbreaking technical achievement given Sulley's two million animated hairs, Monsters Inc introduced us to the endlessly iconic duo of Mike and Sulley as they uncover a conspiracy after befriending adorable child Boo. Keep your eyes peeled - you might just spot the trailer from A Bug's Life, as well as some very familiar toys...
Finding Nemo (2003)
Still the best-selling DVD of all-time, in the early 2000s the world went crazy for meek clownfish, vegetarian sharks, and a certain amnesiac voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. The dentist's office is a treasure trove of Pixar references - look out for a Buzz toy, a Mr. Incredible comic, and one of Boo's drawings.
The Incredibles (2004)
Released just as the superhero craze was starting up, The Incredibles eschewed using comic book characters in favour of creating their own super-powered family. And what a move it was - the film was a critical and commercial smash, and even now is one of the best superhero films ever made.
One of Pixar's biggest franchises - if mostly due to toy sales - Cars stars Owen Wilson as an anthropomorphic car attempting to win the Piston Cup. If you subscribe to the Pixar Theory, this film takes place after humans have left a polluted Earth - an important plot point further down this list...
Somehow managing to make rats seem cute and relatable, the cleverly named Ratatouille follows rodent Remy as he pursues his unlikely dream to run an award-winning restaurant. Appropriately enough French Incredibles villain Bomb Voyage can be glimpsed in this movie - keep a close eye on the newspapers and mimes...
Having explored the secret lives and feelings of everything on Earth, Pixar turns to space and manages to somehow melt hearts with a rusty-old trash compacter - and criticise consumerism, waste management, and obesity while it's at it. WALL-E follows a robot left to clean up an uninhabitable Earth who accidentally saves humanity while pursuing a love interest - but the real miracle is keeping kids entertained with barely any dialogue in the first half-hour. WALL-E's corporate creators Buy N Large pop all over the Pixar universe - from Buzz's batteries to a racing track in Cars 3 - and some theorise they are behind a lot of events in the Pixar universe...
Infamous for having one of the most heartbreaking opening ten minutes ever, Up tells the story of an elderly widower who ties thousands of balloons to his house to travel to South America, only to accidentally bring a young boy with him. Up holds the rare distinction for an animated film of being nominated for the Best Picture Oscar - and if that doesn't convince you, the film also has talking dogs.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Pixar took a big risk by developing a sequel to their most beloved franchise over a decade later - but it's a risk that paid off big time. With owner Andy off to college, the toys face an uncertain future and are donated to a nursery - resulting in one of the greatest threequels of all time, and a perfect end to the franchise (well, so we thought). It's also chock full of Easter Eggs - it's hinted that Andy knows Carl from Up, and children who look suspiciously like Boo and Darla...
Cars 2 (2011)
A rare critical misfire from Pixar, there's still plenty to like in this sequel - including Mater traveling to good ol' Blighty to spoof Bond films with a little help from Michael Caine. It also suggests that Earth was recently cleaned by robots - wonder who that could be...
Pixar changes tactic and goes Game of Thrones in this fantasy adventure, which sees reluctant princess Merida fight to save her mother from a beastly curse. Look out for the carvings of Sulley in the witch's cottage - some theorise the witch is even Boo from Monsters Inc all grown up...
Monster University (2013)
The studio's first prequel, Monster University takes us back Mike and Sulley's student days when the two didn't exactly see eye to eye. There are Easter Eggs galore in this one, from cameos from the first film to the mandatory Pizza Planet truck to personal references to the director's childhood.
Inside Out (2015)
Given that this one is about sentient human emotions, it's only appropriate that Pixar brings the feels. Inside Out follows a young girl called Riley - specifically, the five personified emotions in her head - as she struggles to adjust moving house. Monsters Inc fans will lap this one up - it suggests why laughter is more powerful than screams, and there are theories Bing Bong is actually Riley's memories of her childhood monster...
The Good Dinosaur (2015)
Pixar goes back their farthest yet with The Good Dinosaur, an alternate history adventure where the dinosaurs weren't wiped out and a shy Apatosaurus forms an unlikely friendship with a caveboy. However this isn't the first time you'll have seen these characters - a toy Apatasaurus can be seen in a child's bedroom in Monsters University, and Forrest Woodbush appears in a memory in Inside Out.
Finding Dory (2016)
A long-awaited sequel, Finding Dory rightfully shifted the focus to the first film's breakout star as she searches for her long-lost parents. Look out for Riley visiting the Marine Life Institute, as well as several references to Pixar's short film Lava.
Cars 3 (2017)
Going back to the racing roots of the original, this threequel sees Pixar wrangle emotion out of cars as an older Lightning McQueen attempts to prove himself against high tech race cars at the tail (exhaust?) end of his career. Cruz mentions steering around crabs on a beach - prompting some to theorise that these they eventually mutate into the monsters of Monsters Inc...
Mexico's highest-grossing film, Coco proves that Pixar can even make a charming heart-wrenching tale about skeletons of all things. Coco follows a music-obsessed boy who is transported to the Land of the Dead and must learn to appreciate his (extended!) family in order to get home. Look out for Toy Story's Sid at the talent contest - looking a lot less alive than usual...
Incredibles 2 (2018)
While there's plenty of superheroic shenanigans in this ridiculously lucrative sequel, Pixar knows to keep the focus firmly on family once again as the Parrs struggle to balance crime-fighting with parenting breakout star Jack-Jack. Look out for the Chinese takeaway boxes the family use at the beginning of the movie - they've been popping up in Pixar films since A Bug's Life.
Toy Story 4 (2019)
The sequel we never thought we'd get or knew we needed, Pixar somehow did the impossible and justified a return to the beloved characters after the perfect ending of Toy Story 3. The child-friendly animation sees a sentient spork have an existential crisis - yes you read that right - while Woody reconsiders his life after reconnecting with a lost love. Of course there are a few Easter Eggs sprinkled in - including a painting of the dogs from Up playing poker, which can be seen in the poster above.
Pixar's latest offering was one of the many affected by the coronavirus pandemic, barely getting two weeks in theatres before making an early debut on VOD. It's well worth catching up with, however - Pixar hilariously sends up the fantasy genre, all while mixing in their trademark emotion as two elves try to bring back their late dad. Look closely at the pixies in the petrol station - they're holding Tripledent gum, the same brand with that theme song in Inside Out. While Soul come after Onward in release date terms, there's a reference to it in the movie so we can argue Onward comes after Soul.
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Soul tells the story of Joe Gardner, a middle-aged jazz musician who is still waiting for his break while he struggles as a school band teacher. When his break finally comes he falls down a manhole and "dies" sending him to his afterlife, which he sneaks out of into the "great before". He meets 22, a soul who can't find their "spark" which every soul needs to go to Earth. There are a ton of Pixar references to place us in a timeline here, the Pizza Planet Truck is in the "great before" when they go to explore the interests 22 might have in the "Hall of Everything". There are more general Pixar references (A113, Luxo ball) but there's a more specific movie reference on the subway. There's the joke in Monsters Inc when a hazardous material is brought back through the door to call "2319" we see those numbers on the side of the subway car. There's also a rat dragging a pizza slice who looks like Remi, but we think this is more for the Pizza Rat meme. If we really want to date Soul there's a poster for "Brang" which was the startup that drew Riley's dad to San Francisco in Inside Out (2015).
Pixar went for a more modest approach with this tale of two sea monsters who become friends and venture out of the water into the human world. The pair are able to look human as long as they don't get wet. The movie has references to a couple of Pixar classic Easter eggs - Luca takes a train ticket with A113 on it to Genova, the Luxo ball is seen on a roof and there's a few Disney movie references with the fountain in the piazza taken from Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. While that movie was released in 1954 placing it a lot earlier than the other Pixar movies it's harder to place Luca in the canon. Juliette has a stuffed Donald Duck on her bed and 'Le Avventure di Pinocchio' by Carol Collodi, which inspired the Disney 1940 movie, is in her room. However, there's also a later reference to the 2017 Coco. The boat that drives past Luca at the start is called Elena, a nod to Abuelita, whose name was Elena. Importantly, there's the Pizza Planet truck... so it's after Toy Story.
Where can I watch the Pixar films?
As Pixar is owned by Disney, all the Pixar films are available to watch on Disney Plus - with the exception of latest release Onward. You can sign up to Disney Plus for £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year.