The new Pixar movie Coco is a sight to behold: From the FX skeletons to the fantastic world-building revolving around Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), it’s a formidable addition to their decades-spanning roster of stellar animated films. That’s why it’s high time we did a roundup of Pixar’s most memorable characters to date, based not only on their commercial appeal, but also what they brought to their respective narratives:
15) Flik, A Bug’s Life
Flik is a man (or a bug?) of the people—he understands and empathizes with the systematic oppression of his ant colony, but is too clumsy to effect any real change. But you know what they say…the good guys only need to get lucky once, and Flik finally gets his win in the end.
14) Mater the Tow Truck, Cars
You know, like “tuh-mater,” but without the “tuh.” This lovable hunk of metal is easily one of the dumbest characters in the entire Pixar franchise, but his loyalty to Class-A douchebag Lightning McQueen is nothing if not heartwarming.
13) Marlin, Finding Nemo
Move over, Liam Neeson—Marlin here was the first to go on a mission to find his spawn. While he may not have had a “particular set of skills,” what he did have was a pair of cojones big enough to cross oceans to save Nemo. Definitely one of the best Pixar dads ever.
12) Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story
We gotta admit that this guy has a tendency to be shallow and self-centered (who can forget when he said “There seems to be no sign of intelligent life anywhere”?), but in the first Toy Story film, he spirals down into an existential crisis, realizing he’s worth much less than he thought he was. Philosophical commentary for ’90s kids? Sign us up!
11) Mike Wazowski, Monsters, Inc.
The iconic green monster is the easiest character on this list to draw (and therefore, recall), and his sarcastic one-liners are the bread and butter of the Monsters, Inc. franchise. His fake, low-budget company play “Put That Thing Back Where It Came From Or So Help Me” is one of the funniest gags we’ve ever seen in an animated film.
10) Violet Parr, The Incredibles
What makes Violet so captivating is she doesn’t realize she’s the most powerful Incredible in her family—she’s in high school, after all, and she’s too caught up in crushes and classes to fully harness her seriously impressive invisibility and force-fielding skills. We’re hoping we’ll see her at the top of her game in the upcoming sequel.
9) James “Sully” Sullivan, Monsters, Inc.
Who can resist a big guy who’s actually a real softie? Sully used to be Monsters, Inc.’s ‘top scarer,’ until he meets the little girl Boo, who sparks his protective, fatherly instincts. He defies authority and risks alienation from society for her, which is all-around admirable.
8) Sheriff Woody, Toy Story
For a toy that’s supposed to represent the cowboys of the Wild West, Woody is hilariously petty and manipulative, stopping at nothing to ensure his place as Leader of the Toys. Like many of us, he has selfish and attention-seeking tendencies, characteristics that strike a harder chord with audiences than a heroic do-gooder ever could.
7) Merida, Brave
It’s about time Pixar had a feminist icon! As Pixar’s first Disney Princess, Merida definitely set the bar high: her realistic body type, her defiance of authority and female etiquette standards, and her archery and swordfighting skills make her a valuable addition to the likes of Mulan and Pocahontas.
6) Remy, Ratatouille
One day, a bunch of Pixar writers said, “Let’s take the last animal people would ever want to see near their food, and make it cook the food.” Concept-wise, who okayed this?! But Remy is earnest, genuinely loves to cook, and is relentless at wanting to follow his dreams, even if it means hiding under the hat of a mediocre chef.
5) Edna Mode, The Incredibles
This stout, heavily accented designer will turn her nose up at most anything—but even if she has no powers, she’s one of the most celebrated characters in The Incredibles, so much so that some of the biggest names in the actual fashion industry appeared in a video tribute to her.
4) Dory, Finding Nemo
Initially, Dory is the last person anyone would want tagging along on a cross-ocean adventure to find your son, but eventually Marlin realizes he never would have found Nemo without her. Despite her short-term memory loss and tendency to pester, Dory is lovable because her kindness is uncorrupted and unbiased. Now that’s a true friend.
3) Sadness, Inside Out
As part of Pixar’s first attempt to tackle mental health, Sadness was an incredibly important character to nail. At first, Joy had difficulty understanding why Sadness was ‘ruining’ Riley’s good memories, but the latter’s very existence proves the complexity of the human condition—and that the idea of curing depression with excessive amounts of joy is unrealistic and problematic.
2) Carl Fredricksen, Up
At first glance, Carl Fredricksen is another one of those disillusioned “Get off my lawn!” types. But Carl isn’t hateful of the youth; he’s devastated from the loss of his wife, and he’ll do the craziest things—like send his house floating in the air with 10,000 helium balloons—to keep his promise to her. It’s characters like him that tug at the heartstrings and remind us of the power of love beyond the grave.
1) WALL-E, WALL-E
This lonely little waste-collecting robot has been alone on Earth for hundreds of years, and all this solitude means he’s had time to morph into a sentient being. And what better way to explore that newfound sentience than to fall for a fellow robot? Even with minimal dialogue, limited movements, and a scarce cast of characters, WALL-E makes an impact that no human Pixar character ever could. He shows us love is boundless, even in the most impossible circumstances. The titular character of this acclaimed box-offce hit is without a doubt the best character in Pixar history.
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