These 20 Pixar Movies Have Very Meaningful Life Lessons

Ever since Toy Story was released in 1995, Pixar has established itself as Hollywood’s main children and family entertainment studio. However, there’s much more to these movies other than its innovative computerized animation techniques and hilarious iconic characters. If you analyze the films closely, each one of them comes with deep life lessons that are valuable both for youngsters as well as for adults. Let’s take a look at 20 Pixar movies with the most valuable lessons. So if you thought that animated movies were only for children, you couldn’t be wronger!

#20. Cars 3

Cars is one of the most successful animated trilogies in history. All three are comedy-adventure films that feature a group of cars who embark on different sort of adventures. In the third and last part of this trilogy, racing car Lightning McQueen sets out to prove the world that he is still the best race car in the world, despite his adult age. However, the movie is also quite deep.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

One of the movie’s main themes is to never give up, not even in the face of adversities. In this sense, the movie shows how Lightning McQueen attempts to compete with much younger and newer race cars which are way more technologically advanced compared to him. However, the movie shows that if you work hard and dream big, you can achieve your goals. This is embodied in the pep talk that Sally Carrera gives McQueen right when he was about to give up: “Don’t fear failure. Be afraid of not having the chance, you have the chance!“.

#19. The Good Dinosaur

The Good Dinosaur was released in 2015, and even though it hasn’t been as popular as most of the movies included in this list, it definitely has some pretty meaningful teachings. This animation focuses on the unlikely bond between a young caveboy named Spot and a green dinosaur named Arlo. Isn’t Arlo the cutest little creature you’ve ever seen?

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

In spite of their differences, these two fellas work side by side in their attempt to navigate the many landscapes of an alternate planet. Thus, the film tries to highlight the importance and value of friendship. It is also interesting to mention that at the beginning of the film, both characters were lost and terribly scared. But as the days went by, they began enjoying their journey home. Therefore, the movie also teaches us to enjoy every moment in life.

#18. Brave

Everyone remembers Disney’s Frozen, but are any of you familiar with the film Brave? This was nothing less than Pixar’s first female protagonist film. The story takes place in the Scottish Highlands, and it tells the story of a young princess named Merida who defies an age-old custom and brings chaos to her kingdom for refusing to be betrothed against her will. By reading the movie plot, you can already imagine what its main theme was.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

The movie talks about independence and gender equality. Merida doesn’t want to rely on a prince charming all her life; on the contrary, she wishes to make a name for herself and be acknowledged for her own skills and talents. Thus, Merida is a perfect example of Girl Poweras she sets out to prove the world that she is just as brave and adventurous as the man she’s expected to marry.

#17. Monsters Inc.

All of the movies included in this list are great, but the people who came up with Monsters Inc. are plain geniuses. This original movie tells the story of Mike and Sully, two monsters who make a living scaring young children at night. However, little children are actually toxic to the monsters, so when a little baby girl named Boo escapes the human world and gets through to the monster world because of their fault, Mike and Sully find themselves in big trouble.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

The movie’s most obvious theme is not to judge a book by its cover. Most monsters judge Sully because of his intimidating size and tease Mike because of his far from good looks. But in spite of such prejudices, these fellas are extremely kindhearted, loyal, and loving creatures. What’s more, Boo appears to be a little innocent toddler, but in the end, she proves to be the bravest of the group. Apart from this, the movie shows the value of friendship and the importance of teamwork. After all, Mike and Sully work well as a team and would be nothing without each other.

#16. Toy Story 2

There is no doubt that Toy Story is one of the best animation sagas in history, if not the best. And even though the second part of this trilogy is maybe the least famous one of all, it is definitely worth watching. In the film, Woody the cowboy has to decide whether to stay at home with his owner Andy and the rest of the toys or enjoy a new life at a museum.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

The film teaches us that sometimes taking major decisions can be extremely difficult, and more often than not, the right one can be the toughest. In this case, Woody had to choose between staying with someone he loved knowing that in the end he would be discarded, or escaping to a world where he would be famous and pampered forever but without the love of his friends. This raises a crucial question: would you choose to live forever without love? Woody’s choice teaches that without love, life is just not worth it.

#15. Monsters University

Seven years after the release of Monsters Inc., Pixar announced the release of a sequel, which proved to be just as good as the first one. The film goes back in time and shows the relationship between Mike and Sully during their days at Monster University when they weren’t exactly the best friends ever. They join the same team and compete in the Scare Games, but they both try to show off their personal talents and as a result, they keep getting disqualified in the first round of the competition.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

These two fellas begin improving their performance only when they begin working as a team. So just like in Monsters Inc, this film is about the importance of solidarity, teamwork, and above all, friendship. Also, the movie teaches us that everyone has its own strengths and unique features, so there’s no point in comparing your strengths to someone else’s. In fact, these fellas ended up doing well on the competitions by scaring kids in very unconventional ways.

#14. Ratatouille

Ratatouille boasts one of the most original movie plots in the history of animated films, and it justly received the Academy Award for Best Animated Film in 2008. The story follows the fortunes of a rat called Remy, who dreams to be a chef, and a restaurant worker named Linguini, who knows nothing about cooking. Together, they team up to become one of the best chefs in town.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

This loveable rat’s perseverance shows us that you can achieve anything you put your mind and effort to. But the film proves that there are three conditions that must be met in order for you to accomplish your goals: to be persistent, to believe in what you do, and to make sure that the things that you do make you happy. And above all, don’t let anyone tell you what you dream to be, and trust yourself even if people look down on you, as they did on poor little Remy.

#13. A Bug’s Life

A Bug’s Life is one of the most adorable Pixar movies of all time. The main character is Flik, a misfit ant, who attempts to recruit a group of tough bugs to help him save his colony from the cruel grasshoppers. However, these bugs turn out to be far from tough and are actually an inept crew of circus performers.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

Sorry for spoiling, but Flik ends up being the movie’s hero, thus conveying that size doesn’t matter. But if we think in a more abstract level, the film also tries to teach us to question and deconstruct our own prejudices and not to discriminate people based on their physical appearance. Moreover, Flik struggled to be accepted by the other ants at first. But after he saves the colony with the help of his friends, he gains his colony’s respect. This proves that a strong leader doesn’t lead because of his power, but by example.

#12. Cars 2

We’ve already talked about Cars 3but what about the rest of the trilogy? Cars 2 is just as amusing as its sequel, and in this movie, race car Lightning McQueen and his tow truck friend Mater head to Japan and Europe to compete in an international championship. However, plenty of obstacles come in their way, and the worst of them all is that Mater is sidetracked with international espionage. But what did this film teach us?

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

Throughout the film, race car Lightning McQueen is often embarrassed by his friend Mater. He doesn’t behave properly in public, he doesn’t stop talking for a second, and as you can see, his looks aren’t that good – on the contrary, he kind of looks like an abandoned garbage car. And I’m pretty sure all of us have a friend that doesn’t dress in a conventional style or who acts silly all the time. However, we won’t stop being their friends because of that, won’t we? The movie teaches us that it’s not fair to ask people to change, and we should accept our friends for who they are.

#11. The Incredibles

The Incredibles is one of the most successful animated films in history. In fact, it is one of the only animated films to win two Academy Awards: one for Best Picture, and another one for Best Achievement in Sound Editing. The film centers on the Parrs, a family of superheroes who is forced to keep their identities hidden from their neighbors and from the rest of the city.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

However, the five members of this family struggle in their effort of acting normal. Thus, the movie teaches us that there is no point in denying our own identity. In other words, if we hide our special talents, we are also hiding a key aspect of our own personality. This means that we should learn to be ourselves and accept us for who we are, which includes being proud of our skills and strengths. But did you know that this movie has a sequel?

#10. The Incredibles 2

14 years later, The Incredibles 2 was released. Even though it didn’t receive as many awards as the first one, it also contains several significant life lessons. In this movie, the Parrs had to overcome a new villain named Screenslaver, who was determined to make things impossible for all those with superpowers. But this is no ordinary villain since he tries to defeat his enemies by resorting to very modern methods, with the aid of technology.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

As a consequence, the movie tries to criticize certain aspects of the new technological developments of the 21st century and the way people use them. In other words, the movie tries to convey that it’s not healthy to spend all day in front of a cell phone, a tablet or a television. Instead, we should prioritize face to face interactions and learn to live the moment.

#9. Up!

Most people remember Up! for its heartbreaking opening scene, where the main character’s wife passes away. The old man, named Carl, spends almost every day of his life thinking about her wife and the adventures they had planned together until he finally decides to embark on an adventure on his own. He heads to South America, and a young boy scout joins him. Now, what do you think the movie’s themes are?

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

One of the movie’s main themes is that you should always pursue your dreams and that you are never too old to fulfill your life goals. The film is also about learning to move on and to face a loss. But no matter the obstacles that life throws on your way, you must never give up! It’s impossible not to feel identified with Carl, isn’t it?

#8. Wall-E

Wall-E has become one of the most popular animated films in history, and it has received six Academy Award nominations, which is a record for an animated film. It tells the story of a robot that spends his whole life picking up trash from the ground on a deserted Earth until he falls in love with a visiting probe. Without a doubt, the film has several relevant themes.

Photo: Courtesy of Diario La Prensa

To begin with, the film shows us a dystopian world where the planet is filled with garbage and completely destroyed by mass consumerism. Thus, Wall-E tries to shed light on what can happen if we continue to mistreat our environment. In other words, it can be interpreted both as a criticism of the lack of political will to tackle environmental issues as well as a wider criticism towards the capitalist system.

#7. Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo is one of the most successful animated films in all times, having received the Academy Award for Best Animated Film and for other nominations. The movie is about a clownfish named Marlin, whose annoying overprotectiveness leads his son Nemo to escape, and as a result, he is abducted by a scuba diver. In his quest to find his son, he is joined by Dory, a hilariously funny and forgetful blue fish.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

What do you think that Finding Nemo teaches us? There are some obvious lessons, such as the importance of listening to your parents as well as the dangers of overprotectiveness. However, a deeper lesson is to never give up. If you think about it, despite the dozens of challenges that Dory and Marlin faced, they never lost faith in finding Nemo. In this sense, it’s also important to remember Dory’s wise words: “Just keep swimming!”. When life gets you down, you must not give up!

#6. Finding Dory

Over a decade after the release of Finding Nemo, Pixar announced that there would be a sequel to the movie and that the loveable Dory would be its main character. As we already learned in Finding Nemo, the bluefish had been born with short-term memory loss, and in Finding Dory she spends most of the film trying to find her long-lost family.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

Nemo and Marlin obviously understand her condition and, with a great deal of patience, they help her find her family. Thus, the movie teaches us that our differences should be respected. It also offers an interesting look on disabilities and handicaps: in this sense, handicaps shouldn’t be conceived as a disease or an illness, but instead as a social difference and as part of human diversity.

#5. Cars

We’ve already talked about the latter parts of this trilogy, but let’s see what the original Cars movie is about. This film shows a world where automobiles can speak. The main character, Lightning McQueen, is a successful and prize-winning race car, but one day he ends up stranded in the middle of a desert town and spends several days with a humble team of vehicles who help him out.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

After spending some time with his new friends, the red race car is offered a millionaire sponsorship deal, but he turns it down and goes back to the desert town who he learned to love. Thus, one of the movie’s themes is the value of friendship and to remember those who had faith in you. The film also sheds light on the pros and cons of modernization, since the construction of the new asphalt highways had led to the bankruptcy and abandonment of this humble rural hamlet.

#4. Toy Story

There is no doubt of the fact that Toy Story marked a turning point in the history of animated films. To begin with, it was Pixar’s first feature-length film as well as the first film to be entirely computer-animated. It was also the first animated movie to ever be nominated for the category of Best Original Screenplay. The film tells the story of a cowboy doll named Woody, who feels threatened when his owner Andy purchases a new modern spaceman toy named Buzz Lightyear.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

The film centers on the value of friendship. There are many times throughout the film when it would have been easier for the gang to leave some of the toys behind, like when they were trying to run away from Sid. However, the toys always stuck together, showing the audience the importance of being there for your friends and holding on to those you love.

#3. Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 has become one of the most successful and iconic animated films in history and received a whopping five Academy Award nominations. In this film, Buzz, Woody and the rest of the gang must come to terms with the fact that Andy is too old to play with them. This teaches us that relationships continually change and that growing apart is sometimes part of this process. Work, family, studies, or life itself sometimes sets some distance between you and your loved ones. But growing further apart doesn’t mean that your time shared together was a waste.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

However, the drama really begins when they are sent to a daycare center by accident. From then on, they resort to all means to convince the day center’s toys that they had been sent there by accident. As the plot evolves, Woody and his gang realize that the whole toy community was subjugated to the tyrannical leadership of a purple bear named Lotso. Thus, the movie has a clear political message, which is reflected in Barbie’s brilliant quote: “Authority should derive from the consent of the governed, not from the threat of force!”.

#2. Inside Out

Inside Out is probably one of Pixar’s most intelligent, sophisticated and complex films ever made. The film talks about the emotional well-being of a young girl in her attempt to deal with moving to a new town. Five different characters – named Joy, Anger, Sadness, Disgust, and Fear – live inside the girl’s head and help to personify the things that she feels.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

The film tries to convey that every person has different emotions, and we shouldn’t suppress them or be afraid of experiencing them. In other words, it’s important to embrace emotions, including those that are difficult and tough. The film also shows us that life is not all about joy. On the contrary, it’s important to face moments and feelings of sadness instead of forcing ourselves to feel happy.

#1. Coco

Coco is one of the latest Pixar films to be released, and it was awarded the Best Animated Film Academy Award in 2018. The movie tells the story of Miguel, a Mexican 12-year-old boy who is accidentally sent to the Land of the Dead, and who eventually discovers that his grandfather had abandoned his family to pursue his goal of becoming a successful musician

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

One of the most obvious life lessons the movie teaches us is to respect your family and your heritage. While at first Miguel rebels against his family because they didn’t want him to be a musician, both he and his parents end up comprehending how important it is for a family to be united and for people to support and respect each other. It also shows us the importance of forgiveness in relationships. Last but not least, it teaches us to not give up on our passions, as shown in Miguel’s perseverance to become a guitar player despite his parents’ disapproval.

  • About Author

    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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