All the Toy Story Movies: RANKED!
VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Just when you thought playtime was over, the spork awakens! We've all got our favorites, whether it's the first Toy Story for the nostalgia, the third because you were growing up alongside Andy, or Toy Story 4 because you brought your own kids to it, it's hard to make a definitive rank of all of these beloved films. We're looking over every feature-length, theatrical installment in the “Toy Story” saga, ranking them from worst to best. Of course, we should make it clear upfront that even the weakest offering from this franchise goes to infinity and beyond. Join MsMojo as we rank the Toy Story Movies.
Toy Story Movies Ranked
Just when you thought playtime was over, the spork awakens! Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be ranking all four of the “Toy Story” movies.
For this list, we’re looking over every feature-length, theatrical installment in the “Toy Story” saga, ranking them from worst to best. Of course, we should make it clear upfront that even the weakest offering from this franchise goes to infinity and beyond.
#4: “Toy Story 4” (2019)
Before you jump to any conclusions, “Toy Story 4” is by no means a disappointment. If anything, it almost immediately dashes any doubts fans might’ve had going in. The previous installment capped off the franchise on such a fitting note. So why try to top what was already perfect? While “Toy Story 4” doesn’t surpass what came before it, the film does build upon the series in new, inventive, and heartwarming ways, earning its spot in the pantheon. Bo Peep was the one major character who didn’t get a proper curtain call in the last chapter. “Toy Story 4” delves into what happened to Bo, and let’s just say that the film will have you crying within the first five minutes. Bo does eventually encounter the gang again, presenting Woody with a difficult decision that keeps us guessing every step of the way. The reason “Toy Story 4” ranks lowest on our list is primarily because it has more characters than it knows what to do with. We don’t get to see much of Rex, Hamm, or Mr. Potato Head, whose voice actor – Don Rickles – passed away before he could record any new dialogue. In their place, however, we are introduced to several engaging new characters, including a spork going through an existential crisis, an antique doll struggling to find her voice, and a Canadian daredevil who’ll leave you saying, “whoa!” Plus, we’d be totally down for a Ducky and Bunny spinoff! The film’s emotional core lies within the love story between Bo and Woody, which takes the franchise to bittersweet and at times unpredictable places.
#3: “Toy Story 2” (1999)
When “Toy Story 2” came out, animated sequels were primarily associated with the home video format. As a matter of fact, “Toy Story 2” was initially conceived as a direct-to-video release, but Disney deemed the project worthy of the big screen. When the film was upgraded to a theatrical release, Pixar felt it was necessary to bring back much of the original film’s creative team to do the sequel justice. Scrapping a majority of the work that had already been done, the team rewrote the story over a weekend and – even more impressive – completed the film within nine months. You’d think this would’ve resulted in a rushed, sloppy cash grab. In a true testament to Pixar’s unparalleled talent, however, “Toy Story 2” was hailed as “The Godfather Part II” of animated sequels. Everything was expanded upon in this follow-up, from the cast, to the world, to the emotional depth. In the first film, Woody had to adjust to the idea that he may no longer be Andy’s favorite toy. This film takes the overarching theme of change a step beyond, forcing Woody to contemplate what’ll happen when Andy grows up. Hilarious, touching, and full of wonderful character moments, “Toy Story 2” proved that this franchise was anything but a one-hit wonder. Furthermore, the film demonstrated why animated sequels deserve much better than the direct-to-video treatment, influencing other franchises like “Shrek” and “How to Train Your Dragon” to also aspire to greatness. Of course, no animated film series has hit quite as many bullseyes as “Toy Story.”
#2: “Toy Story 3” (2010)
Where “Toy Story 2” became the third animated feature to win the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, “Toy Story 3” went down as the third animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. While it didn’t win the top Oscar, “Toy Story 3” did mark the franchise’s first victory in the recently created Best Animated Feature category. This third installment connected with so many people for a variety of reasons. If you grew up with the first two films, chances are you were around the same age as Andy when “Toy Story 3” hit theaters. Maybe you were even getting ready for college around this time, making Andy’s decision on what to do with his childhood playthings all the more poignant and personal. What’s more, the film tapped into a theme that’s only become more widespread in mainstream media since 2010: nostalgia. There’ll always be a part of us that wants to cling to our past, but there comes a time when we all have to adapt to change. It’s a lesson that doesn’t come easily to Woody or Andy, but both grow as individuals upon finding the strength to let go. “Toy Story 3” treats its audience like adults, featuring some of the darkest moments in the series, as well as arguably the most tear-jerking goodbye. The emotional scenes are balanced out with a load of laughs, particularly from a Spanish-speaking Buzz Lightyear.
#1: “Toy Story” (1995)
Each “Toy Story” sequel improved upon the first film in some respect. “Toy Story 2” was a stronger ensemble piece, “Toy Story 3” took the characters to more grownup places, and “Toy Story 4” showcased just how far CGI animation has some since 1995. Yet, the original classic remains the franchise’s finest hour. Why? Because none of the sequels broke new ground for animation quite like the initial “Toy Story” did. As the first feature to be completely computer-animated, “Toy Story” revolutionized the medium and made CG the new norm. Even if you took the game-changing technology out of the equation, though, the film still would’ve left a significant impression thanks to its extraordinarily well-written characters. The film’s dialogue and humor felt modern while also being timeless, helping “Toy Story” to become the first animated feature to receive an Oscar nomination for its screenplay. The writing and the animation set a new precedent for animation features that continues to this day. More importantly, it set a standard not only for the “Toy Story” franchise, but also the entire Pixar library. Had it not been for the film’s success, we likely wouldn’t have gotten “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” or any of the other universally-acclaimed movies from Pixar. It’s also safe to say that modern Disney films like “Zootopia” and “Wreck-It Ralph” would never have come into existence. “Toy Story” found the perfect balance of humor, heart, and hard-hitting morals, shaping animation into the powerhouse it is today.