There are few movies as enduring and beloved as the original 1995 Toy Story. It’s hard to believe the movie came out when it did, given its huge leap forward in terms of CGI animation, but it really has been that long since Woody, Buzz, and their friends entertained us with their antics. Toy Story also represented a sea change for the movie industry, ushering in the age of 3D animation and ensuring that hand-drawn art would take a backseat, for better and for worse. If you’re looking for some movies to watch after exhausting Toy Story, we’ve got you covered. Here are 15 great movies like Toy Story to check out!
1. Toy Story 2
Obviously, the first choice we’re going to aim for here is Toy Story 2, the 1999 sequel. It expanded the first movie’s mix of emotional pathos, gorgeous animation, and great voice acting, introducing new cowgirl Jessie and telling a story that revolves around Woody (although Buzz and the other toys get their fair share of screen time as well). Toy Story 2 is a beautiful story about purpose and belonging, and it showed promising things in Pixar’s future as well.
2. Toy Story 3
Oh, boy. Here come the waterworks. Toy Story 3 was a movie aimed not at children, but at the adults who were once children when Toy Story came out. It revolved around Andy growing up and moving out, thus rendering the fates of his toys unknown. Toy Story 3 is darker and more involved than its predecessors, and its gut-wrenching finale will have even the strongest and most stoic of movie-goers in hysterical tears by the end. Don’t expect this one to be as light and breezy as the first two movies.
3. Toy Story 4
When Pixar announced its intention to create a fourth Toy Story movie, reactions were mixed. On the one hand, great – more Toy Story. On the other hand, Toy Story was a perfect trilogy, and messing with perfection felt like a bad idea. In the end, it turned out we had nothing to worry about. While Toy Story 4 was unquestionably a more slight and inessential entry into the series, it was nowhere near the disaster we were concerned it would be. It’s worth checking out if you loved the first three.
In many ways, Lightyear is the first Toy Story-adjacent production that can truly be called “inessential”. That’s not the criticism it sounds like, though. This isn’t a bad movie, it’s just a weaker one than its predecessors, which isn’t difficult given that the Toy Story series is one of the strongest in cinema. Lightyear has a rather odd conceit; it’s the in-universe movie that sparked Andy’s obsession with Buzz Lightyear as a character, so it turns out that Buzz Lightyear is himself based on a fictional character. Argh!
Much like Toy Story, Pixar’s 2001 classic Monsters, Inc. imagines that a childhood fantasy – in this case, the monsters under your bed or in your closet – is real. What follows is an endearing, adorable journey through the lands of monsters and humans alike, one that suggests that maybe the monsters are just as scared of you as you are of them. It’s not quite as universal as Toy Story, but it once again boasts a knockout song by Randy Newman, as well as great vocal performances by Billy Crystal and John Goodman.
6. A Bug’s Life
For many people, this Pixar movie is not essential viewing, but those people are severely underrating it. A Bug’s Life is classic Pixar; in Tom Waits’ words, “there’s a world going on underground”, although in this case, it’s aboveground (but only just). Flik is a young ant looking to save his colony from a corrupt grasshopper gang, but the help he finds turns out to be completely inept, meaning that he must train them up if his colony is to stand a chance of surviving.
7. Inside Out
If you love Toy Story 3 and its examination of real adult emotions, then Inside Out is a must-watch for you. It tells the story of Riley, a young woman displaced from her home and forced to adapt to new surroundings. The drama, though, is going on in Riley’s head, quite literally; the movie revolves around her emotions as they try to make sense of what’s happening in her mind. Considering this is a movie aimed at kids, it displays a startling level of insight into human emotions.
Wall-E gets short shrift from many Pixar fans, who suggest that the first part of the movie is the best and the rest of it is inessential. While we can certainly see the logic behind this – the first half an hour of Wall-E is a tour de force in terms of filmmaking – the rest is necessary in order to instil a sense of hope and tell a story that won’t leave kids wailing and gnashing their teeth as they exit the theatre. Wall-E boasts sumptuous animations, great character work, and some truly astonishing cinematography.
For the most part, Ratatouille is not exactly quintessential Pixar. It’s a movie about a rat chef who controls a human, helping him to make incredible dishes and wow the clientele of Paris. This one doesn’t quite have the bulletproof setup that many Pixar movies boast, but it does have one or two absolutely knockout-punch moments that will get you right in the gut. Of course, it also has the trademark great animation and strong dialogue for which Pixar is known.
In essence, this list is basically “Pixar’s entire oeuvre”, but there’s a good reason for that; if you love Toy Story, then you should want more of what makes the company special, right? Finding Nemo is a 2003 Pixar classic that revolves around young clownfish Nemo and his father Marlin as the latter attempts to find the former. It’s a story about finding your place in the world, understanding where strength comes from, and overcoming adversity, so it’s got all the things kids love about Pixar (and parents, too!).
You might want to wait a little while until you show this one to your kids. Up is a real heartbreaker of a movie, and it requires some empathy in order to fully understand; the opening five minutes alone tell the entire story of a couple’s relationship from childhood to old age, and they do so completely silently, which is an incredible feat of storytelling. The movie then settles into an adventure groove, but it never forgets the heart and soul that permeated those first few minutes.
Cars is probably the first real Pixar movie that wasn’t completely essential to watch. Preceded as it was by Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., and The Incredibles, Pixar was on a stellar run of form, so Cars just being “very good” was almost a failure for the company. It’s still great, though, so make sure to check this one out if you’re looking for something a little more fun and bubbly than Pixar’s usual emotionally devastating fare. The sequels suffer a little from diminishing returns, but they’re still enjoyable in their own way.
Again, you might want to make sure that your kids are emotionally equipped to handle Coco before you sit them down in front of it (or, indeed, that you are emotionally equipped to handle it yourself). It’s the story of Miguel, a young boy who accidentally travels to the Land of the Dead and who must enlist the aid of his deceased grandfather to fix his family’s problems. This one is a real heartbreaker, aided in no small part by the showstopping song “Remember Me”.
As part of the Dreamworks renaissance, How To Train Your Dragon married stunning animation with a genuinely heartfelt message about acceptance. Hiccup is a Viking living in the town of Berk (yes, really), the inhabitants of which have lived in fear of the terrifying Night Fury dragon for many years. When Hiccup encounters a Night Fury, though, it turns out to be the adorable Toothless, who then accompanies Hiccup on an unforgettable adventure. The sequels are great too!
The Lego Movie is not quite what you think it is. We don’t want to spoil it, but suffice it to say that if you’re going into this one expecting a conventional animated adventure, you’re not going to get it. Well, that’s not entirely true. You will still get a great animated movie, but you’ll also get a surprisingly touching and heartfelt story about parental bonding and the ability of toys to overcome all sorts of boundaries. Yes, it’s a little sentimental and corporate, but The Lego Movie is hugely fun, so check it out if you want something that’s got a similar emotional weight to the original Toy Story trilogy.