The Toy Story Movies Ranked
Besides being the only good thing(s) Tim Allen has ever done (OK, fine, GALAXY QUEST  too), the TOY STORY movies rank as some of the finest animated stories put to screen. I have incredible fondness for the franchise that kicked off Pixar’s mostly incredible two-decade-plus run, and now that I’ve finally caught the (potential) final film in the series weeks after its release, I’ve ranked ’em. Giving you a heads up, it’s pretty straightforward.
#4 — TOY STORY 4 (2019)
D: Josh Cooley
Look, nostalgia’s going to play a big part in this whole thing here. I can’t pretend I’ve fully incorporated my thoughts on TOY STORY 4 since I’m writing this approximately an hour after I saw it. That being said, in spite of the final emotional moments and incredibly clever writing and new characters, the plot circles back around itself over and over. The same form of problems keep appearing, and by the third time this happens, it feels a little more stale. Still, the animation and beautiful surroundings of a small town and its carnival feel so fresh for the series, and the additions to the voice cast are incredible. This is even though the series mainstays get kind of sidelined, including most notably Buzz, in this (maybe temporary) conclusion.
#3 — TOY STORY 3 (2010)
D: Lee Unkrich
All the things people are saying about TOY STORY 4’s existence (namely, that it didn’t have to, exist that is) ring a little shortsighted for me. Yeah, they ring (sound) shortsighted (vision). You ever write words and keep ’em in a piece even though they read stupid. Anyways, yeah, I don’t love that trope of a phrase: “this didn’t need to exist!” TOY STORY 4 doesn’t wipe out the past experiences of the series, and it’s good to boot. All this being said, man was TOY STORY 3 such an effusive final chapter. Coming 11 years after its predecessor, its built-in nostalgia and commentary on growing up were incredibly potent for this kid who grew up with the first two films. But its emotional resonance was not shallow, or easily drawn out; TOY STORY 3 earned its praise with well-written evolutions of our favorite characters and a new, kind of terrifying villain. And the furnace scene? Fuggedaboutit. Bella was the perfect figure for Andy to pass the torch to. Her character in the sequel, by the way, is unbearably cute and the true heart of the thing.
#2 — TOY STORY 2 (1999)
D: John Lasseter
I remember being blown away by TOY STORY 2, although I must have seen it in close succession to the first. The animation was so improved, although the first’s still did and does hold up, and it opened up the world of the toys in a really smart way. The story lines of Woody’s and Buzz’s own “lineages” are compelling, placing them into a larger narrative that contextualizes the weird kind of physics and structure of this world. And the new toys are great characters. The Jessie flashback? Are you kidding me? Tears. Al as a force and character design is threatening yet open to ridicule (he’s a real Comic Book Guy-type character), Zurg is this weird almost neutral threat, and of course, the turning of Prospector absolutely shocked me as a kid. It’s almost a fully improved sequel, and in fact, a lot of people think it better than the original.
#1 — TOY STORY (1995)
D: John Lasseter
But I just can’t resist the relative simplicity and absolute comfort of TOY STORY. I will never get Sid’s fucked up toys out of my head, and besides that, the story of new and old coming together (represented by Buzz and Woody) really states how I felt about my toys at the time. Being introduced to the diverse and well-cast group of toys for the first time was a delight. And sometimes, you just can’t beat what is essentially a buddy film. I don’t have many words for TOY STORY, except to say that it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. That about sums it up.