Throughout the years, Pixar Animation Studios has made some of the most iconic works ranging from the heroic world of The Incredibles to the imaginative toy land of Toy Story to the more abstract, conceptualized realities of Soul and Inside Out. Beginning as a part of Lucasfilm in the 1980s before their big breaks in 1984 and into 1986, Pixar was only a studio focused on creating valued shorts that pushed the limits of what animation could do. Since then, the studio continued to push out great movies like Ratatouille, Wall-E, Finding Nemo and more to this day with spin-off series like Doug Days (and Cars on the Road this Thursday!) that have already hit Disney+.
However, while these movies are beloved and acclaimed, there has always been that one scene that has tested the emotional willpower of Pixar’s audience, leaving filmgoers in awe, captivation, and sometimes, even worry. The teams behind each and every movie within Pixar’s slate work extensively to create a story that’s not only cohesive, but also heavily resonating with both kids and adults alike. We’ll be taking a look at the most power scenes from Pixar that have been cherished all over the world.
While some of these entries have been listed for their emotional weight and their impact on their overall stories and universes, the entries that are listed here aren’t here because they’re not good. Rather, these entries do contribute to the story, but their focus is set more on creating dramatic impact based on the atmosphere and visual/sound-work that these scenes are set in. Nevertheless, all of the entries on this list are really good and I wish I could add more if I could!
Beyond the Stars (Wall-E)
With a movie focused on showing the repercussions of humanity’s actions polluting and destroying the Earth (and their bodies), Wall-E is pretty stand-out with blending a robotic love story with its core themes.
In the beginning, we got to see WALL-E’s (Ben Burtt) bleak existence on Earth as he cubes and stacks masses of trash left behind after society took to the stars. However, after EVE (Elissa Knight) comes into WALL-E’s life, all the little robot can do is live a new life with the newfound searcher. Unfortunately, after WALL-E shows her the plant he’s found, EVE goes haywire and seeks to return to the Axiom to tell the humans to go home.
For an animated movie in 2008, the visuals in this scene are beautifully astounding as WALL-E ventures aboard EVE’s craft to retrieve his newfound friend. After EVE’s craft breaks the atmosphere, the music swells into childlike wonder as WALL-E reminisces his old life on Earth while speculating what else could be out there. With the scene continuing past the Apollo landing site and cosmic objects like the Sun and Saturn’s rings, beaming with light, the feeling of the peculiarity of space completely washed over me as the score imposes the majesty of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Overall, Pixar did a really good job making the realm of space into something that has a life of its own separate from the junkyard that is Earth in this movie and it still holds up today.
Creating The Perfect Soup (Ratatouille)
Pixar just decided to make Ratatouille a food craver’s dream and I’m all in for it.
When I was re-watching this scene along with the scene where Remy (Patton Oswalt) describes the details of tasting each ingredient, I just loved how Remy’s attachment to cooking overbears his rat-instincts to escape since you can tell he’s split between two worlds. With being so close to escaping yet sensing the soup could be better and taking the chance, the rush and intensity of Remy’s actions to fix the soup are so pleasing for the eyes (and stomach).
As Remy hunts for the right ingredients, the score softly swells with more peppiness and excitedness over each addition, presenting Remy’s quick movements as a performance act of his own. While the soup rages and boils at first, it calms as the ingredients Remy finds balance the soup’s appearance and texture while he continues to run and fly, inserting a flaming passion that perfectly fits the atmosphere of the kitchen. And after all that, Remy’s caught by Linguini (Lou Romano), who just watched Remy give an act of his life as the comedic twist leaves a little diverting surprise. Honestly, Pixar did a great job nailing their interpretation of the art of cooking: it’s all about perfecting the vision and putting yourself into it.
10. Dancing In The Stars (Wall-E)
Who knew that a romantic scene between two futuristic robots could be so mesmerizing and cute to watch? Wall-E definitely takes the bag in that case.
Besides WALL-E’s travels into space, this scene shouldn’t have had that enthralling effect as it had. After successfully saving the plant from the pod’s explosions, WALL-E’s chances for EVE’s companionship have never been higher as they swirl and prance around in space. Just seeing them dance around in space with the stunning visual work on the spatial environment and the Axiom (loving the flaming engines!), really making their “union” something special. When the humans on board see WALL-E and EVE safe, it not only gives you some sense of relief, but some enjoyment seeing WALL-E and EVE having a positive impact on their lives just made me happy.
Though I have to say, this is more on the visual side of things than filling all the story details and understandings, but this is still a nice scene nonetheless.
9. Jessie’s Backstory (Toy Story 2)
One of the more saddening scenes within the Toy Story series, seeing a toy being forgotten because of new and rising trends definitely felt more relatable to me as I grew older and re-watching this scene just made me feel a bit miserable.
From the moment Jessie (Joan Cusack) begins to share her life story to Woody, with the addition of “When She Loved Me” setting the mood, you could just easily sense that her life and time with her old kid was going to be short-lived. However, that’s not to say that it’s not going to be tragic. With each shot constantly reflecting the companionship Jessie gave to her kid and the connection they have, it’s even more sad when she falls down under the bed and watches her kid grow old and forget her. In a way, this scene is a bitter foretelling of the plot that Toy Story 3 sets up as Andy gets ready for the college life.
Honestly, I could relate more to this moment as I’ve grown up and actually feeling the emotion behind forgetting the things that made your childhood special touched me in more ways than it should have. However, while this scene does a good job pulling at your heart, there are more scenes that have that critical emotional impact (but this one’s a real good one!)
8. Goodbye Boo (Monsters Inc.)
Saying goodbye to someone that you might not see in a long time always has that hurt, but when it’s someone younger than you (say a cousin or a sibling), the heartbreak is even more terrifying when you can’t see them ever again.
Re-watching this movie, and scene in particular, the bond that Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) have grown with Boo (Mary Gibbs) feels that strong and even though Sully was very hesitant to care for Boo, you could tell their relationship can still go on. Watching Boo show Sully everything in her room and wanting him to stay, even though we know that can’t happen, left a slightly warm feeling that slowly goes away after Sully takes his leave. It extinguishes that last bit of hope that maybe Boo could see Sully again, but when she opens the door, it’s just her closet.
Seeing someone say goodbye and go away for so long, and vice versa, will always leave that inner gut feeling where you hope you can see them again. Monsters Inc. writes this moment with a heavy impact that luckily takes a fulfilling turn by the end of the movie and I’m just so happy this was only a temporary goodbye!
7. A Forgotten Memory (Inside Out)
If Pixar could make forgetting a memory heartbreaking as it can be, then I have to say that they did a good job with their own interpretation of what that looks like.
After Sadness (Phyllis Smith) splits away from Joy (Poehler) following an argument about happiness and sadness, Joy and Bing Bong (Richard Kind) are trapped in the realm of forgotten memories. However, after Joy gets the idea of using Bing Bong’s wagon as an escape, the two search and manage to find the vehicle in order to escape. With this new chance, Joy and Bing Bong use the wagon, but it’s too heavy to make it all the way. Seeing no other choice, Bing Bong decides to jump out at the last chance, giving Joy the chance to escape as well as an opportunity for remaking him again.
With Bing Bong being the comic relief in this movie, you wouldn’t expect for him to go out like this even in a film as abstract as Inside Out. However, there’s something about this scene that just leaves more heartbroken than any other movie before this one and we get to see why after Bing Bong dissipates into nothing. Seeing him enjoying the time he has with Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) did leave me a bit down to say, but with a character like Bing Bong, he could’ve been a bit more developed to have that needed grasp that makes a comic relief character a little more complex. Still, seeing him dissipate and remind Joy to have Riley remember him still made me feel sad in the end.
6. Ego’s Flashback (Ratatouille)
The climax of Ratatouille is still so interesting to watch after all these years as the situation of Gusteau’s restaurant sits on the brink of closure thanks to Anton Ego’s (Peter O’Toole) belief in critic superiority.
From his grimacing introduction in the final third of the movie with a harsh personality, you wouldn’t expect him to be pleased even with his mild sympathy. As the prior scenes swell with excitement and worry, Remy and Linguini are definitely afraid of what Ego has to say as Ego gets ready to critique the food. However, with one single bite of Remy’s masterpiece, Ego gets thrown into a nostalgia trip of his younger self after a bad day. As the sunlight outside the window illuminates the interior, younger Ego takes enjoyment as older Ego is confounded with what he’s just eaten. The pen falls out of his hand as Ego lets go of his bitterness as he finally comes to enjoy his meal.
In this moment of ecstasy, Ego finally learns to let go of his pridefulness and take enjoyment in what others have to offer (like the ratatouille he’s been served.) In a way, this scene doesn’t just show that Ratatouille is a critique on the value of opinions, but it also presents its idea of appreciating what others have to offer as the following scene of Ego’s review proves this. This scene does a good job with making that idea very clear and hopefully we can have something like this in the future!
5. Coco’s Song (Coco)
I am incredibly happy that Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) and Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía) could get this happy ending thanks to Miguel’s misadventures with his relatives in the underworld.
There are multiple things that make this movie a great one-off movie just like Up, Inside Out, and Soul: it has the capability to present its ideas in a way that not only transfixes viewers, but creates a whole world based on a linear path. Coco did so amazingly with presenting why music resonates with people on a personal level through the story with Coco, Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), and Ernesto (Benjamin Bratt) and how Coco’s song actually has that lasting impact rather than the superficiality of Ernesto’s version. In this scene alone, the song “Remember Me” perfectly captures how music is an integral aspect of our world as Miguel sings the song Hector made for Coco, revitalizing the soul within Miguel’s great-grandmother.
Taking a look back at Pixar’s previous projects, they never seem to fail with integrating their music within the works of their story and the tale of Coco and how a song can bring joy to millions or life of just one. As Miguel sings his heart and spirit out to awaken Coco, it’s a perfect reminder of this core message alongside the aspects of revitalization and familial healing that this film brings and I still love this film just for that.
4. The End of the Line (Toy Story 3)
When this scene originally came out, it was really terrifying to see that the gang could actually die and not even because of some messed-up kid. Nowadays, this scene still captures some of the weight I was feeling when I was younger, though the intensity is stuck between both high and low for me.
I always knew that the gang would find a way to pull themselves up, but here, it felt like it was truly the end of the line for Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), and the rest of the gang. Being betrayed by Lotso (Ned Beatty) twice, the gang had no chance of finding a way to save themselves and after falling into the pit full of scraps and trash, I couldn’t expect anything good to happen. However, on re-watch, the weight feels like it’s been somewhat lifted thanks to the gang being saved by “The Claw,” but the potential of them being burned alive is just that scary to think of.
The burning ambience mixed in with the deathly score definitely pulled on my emotions as the gang held each others hands, waiting for the inevitable to come. Woody being the last one to stop and realize there was no hope honestly felt extremely devastating to see since he’s the one that wants him and his friends to come out on top, but here he basically admits it’s over for them. The zoom-ins to every character with the closer ones on the main three (Jessie included) increased the tension entirely and everything swelling up at the end was incredibly frightening. Honestly, this (and parts of The Good Dinosaur and Brave) could have been one of the more darker things Pixar has ever done.
3. The Simple Things (Soul)
After an output of meh-films like The Incredibles 2 to Onward, I wasn’t completely on board with Soul at first. While the trailer felt in vein of the usual kid-like, animated content from Disney Animation, the movie completely turned my views around and this scene definitely helped in doing so.
Throughout the film, Joe (Jamie Foxx) continually seeks out to be a famous jazz musician by working with other famous stars who were in his shoes. However, with the indirect help of the newfound soul 22 (Tina Fey), Joe slowly realizes that only viewing his life as a way to accomplish his dream without appreciating the simple things (and the world) around him. In this scene, Joe finally gains that epiphany that he needs to inspire himself and save 22 from the land of the lost souls.
This scene perfectly re-aligns the movie’s main idea of appreciating life in general by not only utilizing events we’ve seen, but the events of Joe’s life overall. Every object he’s been given, every petal that’s fallen, and every action that’s happening plays a role in understanding how we’ve viewed life to gain a purpose when in fact it’s about having experiences and understanding things both big and small. All of this is amazingly presented with the piano piece Joe improvises, using the items he’s found as inspiration to get him into the zone while also having the epiphany. With Pixar presenting its message of appreciating everything life creates and gives in this way, it’s truly awe-inspiring to realize the potential Pixar could have with more mature, adult themes.
2. Married Life (Up)
Though the rest of Up seemed like a quest to check an item off Carl’s (Ed Asner) and Ellie’s adventure list, this scene in particular is a highlight in telling a winding-ways story with a heart-breaking ending within a couple of minutes.
While this scene does a great job with setting up Carl’s backstory and why he’s the grumpy old man he is, it also manages to be incredibly emotional. From the beginning, we get to see the life and passion between these two lovers as they get adjusted to their new home while enjoying life’s moments along the way. They manage to get great jobs, fix the old house, and even begin to have thoughts of having a baby and fulfilling their wish to head to Paradise Falls. However, life’s troubles get in their way, but they still manage to get their happy life.
The visuals and score here really says it all though: the highs of Carl’s and Ellie’s lives are slowly brought down as they get older with Ellie falling ill and the music getting somber in tone while the lighting fades to the dark. Seeing their plans to go to Paradise Falls never happen until their old age honestly felt really heartbreaking to see and Carl losing his enthusiasm and excitement after Ellie’s death says it all. This moment is not only one of the most iconic scenes Pixar has ever made, but probably one of the more gut-wrenching scenes within the animated world. It’s not only losing your loved one, but also losing the one that gave you a shining life.
Pixar really did a great job with setting up Carl’s backstory, but I really hoped that this film could be a bit more on the mature side than just the kid-side. Nevertheless, a really great scene!
(And of course, this scene is probably the #1 of everyone’s list, but it still packs a punch!)
1. Goodbye, Partner (Toy Story 3)
It was going to come eventually and after many years between movies, spin-off shows, merchandise, and games, this scene felt like the perfect way to end such a beloved series like Toy Story.
Throughout the series, we’ve seen the adventures of Buzz, Woody, Jessie, and the rest of the gang in this astounding world from the neighborhood to the cities and even to daycare. However, we’ve never felt that more sentimental touch than the relationship that the gang has built with Andy ever since he was a child. The two introduction sequences in Toy Story and Toy Story 4 with “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” playing in the background as Andy slowly grows up in between these movies really shows how much love and care this series has gotten for the past few years.
However, seeing Andy move on from his younger days is just so disheartening, especially when you consider the fact most people in that age range slowly move on from that imaginative mindset. Though, in this scene, I was so happy to see that final nostalgia trip after Bonnie begins playing with the toys as the two share one final moment before Andy heads off. Seeing Andy relive this childhood just for one more day left me content with where the series was heading and seeing Andy say goodbye to the toys he held for so long was extremely, EXTREMELY agonizing to see. I’ve had this exact moment and even though I moved on from having toys like that, I can’t say I didn’t have any emotion towards them before hand.
With Toy Story, I can happily say Pixar definitely left a good, if bittersweet, ending for the series in this film alone (though Toy Story 4 felt like a little happy one-off for one last goodbye for Buzz and Woody.)
And that’s our list for (what we think are) the most emotional scenes within Pixar’s amazing movies. If you agree with our list, suggest other scenes, or have some minor disagreements, make sure to let us know on our Twitter and Instagram! Don’t forget: we’ll be tracking what’s going on at the D23 Expo this weekend on our social media, so follow us there!