Each week, this column will cover one film on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American films of all time, covering my general thoughts on the film and whether or not I think it belongs on the list. You can also see my personal ranking here. This week’s film is #99 on the list: Toy Story (1959).
Very few people would likely argue that Toy Story still remains the pinnacle of Pixar’s catalogue, especially those who have revisited it in the past few years and seen how poorly the CGI holds up, but it marks the birth of the company which altered the cinematic landscape for animation and redefined the scope of what qualifies as a “kid’s film.” It’s also still a completely enjoyable adventure, even considering the dated CGI. Its biggest virtue is the star-studded cast, which imbues the characters with distinct, instantly recognizable personalities and makes the emotional beats land. There’s an argument that Pixar— or other animation studios, really—learned the wrong lessons from Toy Story’s success, making a point of baldly tugging at the audience’s heartstrings and recycling the same narrative formula with upgraded visuals, but as an ardent champion of Toy Story 3, I can’t take issue with their refining process, at least in this franchise.
Does it Belong on the List?
It wouldn’t be my personal Pixar pick for the list, but it’s difficult to argue against including the film that birthed such a massive empire which continues to deliver quality work.