Every Pixar Movie That Has Won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars

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Every year, the Academy Awards are the pinnacle of the Hollywood awards season. There is no major film award with as much broad recognition and esteem as an Oscar, which easily makes it the most watched and discussed ceremony of the awards race every year. One arena of film that the Academy has consistently underrecognized is animation. This is nothing new, as the lack of attention given to animated works has been an issue since the ceremony’s earliest days. There have only ever been three animated films to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars – Beauty and the Beast, Up and Toy Story 3. The first of those wasn’t released until 1991, over 60 years after the first Academy Awards, and the most recent was in 2010, well over a decade ago.

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In order to give some more attention to animated features, the Academy introduced the category of Best Animated Feature. This remains the most recent occasion in which the Academy has introduced a new award to the Oscars, despite efforts to introduce awards for casting and stunt coordination. In the two decades since the award for Best Animated Feature was introduced at the 74th Academy Awards in 2002, the category has largely been dominated by one studio. Of the 22 films that have won the award, 15 of them have come from Disney, with 11 of those specifically going to Pixar films.

For further context, Pixar has released a total of 27 feature films as of now. Nearly half of the Pixar films that could have won the award for Best Animated Feature have – Toy Story, A Bug’s Life,and Toy Story 2, predated the award, and Elemental will likely be nominated in a few weeks – with even more (16 total) having been nominated at the very least. Considering 50% of all the Best Animated Feature awards have been given to Pixar movies, many other animation studios have been completely shut out of the award. Many of Pixar’s films were well-deserving of the award, but that’s not quite the case for all of them. With the nominations for the 96th Academy Awards set to be announced soon, we’ve decided to take a look back at every Pixar movie that has won the award for Best Animated Feature.

11 Finding Nemo (2003)

Pixar’s first film to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars was 2003’s Finding Nemo. Directed by Andrew Stanton, the film was only the fifth animated feature to be produced by the studio, and it has easily become one of Pixar’s all-time classics. Not only does it feature stunning animation that still rivals many films that are released today, but the familial story at the center of it all is one of the strongest that Pixar has ever produced.

Pixar Didn’t Win the Oscar Right Away

Although Finding Nemo was Pixar’s first movie to win Best Animated Feature, it was not the beginning of the studio’s representation at the Oscars. The studio had already been the recipient of five Academy Awards in the years prior – in categories such as Animated Short and Original Song – in addition to nine other nominations in a variety of categories. It wasn’t even the first Pixar film to be nominated for Best Animated Feature, as 2001’s Monsters, Inc. was nominated for the award in the first year it was introduced. Nevertheless, Finding Nemo was the first Pixar film to win this specific award, while it was also nominated in three other categories – Original Screenplay, Original Score and Sound Editing.

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10 The Incredibles (2004)

The very next year, Pixar returned to the Academy Awards with its newest film, 2004’s The Incredibles. The film was a riff on the typical ideas and stories of superhero movies, which took a more comedic and heartfelt approach than many of the cinematic caped crusades of the early 2000s. This approach has proven to be immensely ahead of its time, as Pixar’s reinvention of the typical superhero story has become even more powerful amid the never-ending downpour of comic-book movies that are produced now. Written and directed by Brad Bird, The Incredibles has also become an iconic film in Pixar’s catalog. It was eventually built upon with Incredibles 2 in 2018, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature but lost the award to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Pixar Begins to Show Its Dominance

Pixar winning Best Animated Feature with The Incredibles was a big deal in a number of ways. Not only did it make Pixar the first studio to win the award two years in a row, this also made them the first studio to win the award twice. The Incredibles beat out two DreamWorks films, Shark Tale and Shrek 2, to win the award. The latter of which made the win particularly sweet for Pixar, as Monsters, Inc. had previously lost the first race for the award to Shrek in 2001. This wasn’t the only Oscar which The Incredibles won, either, as it also took the award for Best Sound Editing, in addition to nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Sound Mixing.

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9 Ratatouille (2007)

The next Pixar movie to win Best Animated Feature would be 2007’s Ratatouille, which was Brad Bird’s directorial follow-up to The Incredibles. The film was part of a new era for Pixar, as it was one of the first to be released after Disney purchased the animation studio following a decade-long partnership and distribution deal. Though the development and production of Ratatouille had begun prior to this change in ownership, in a period when it actually looked like Pixar and Disney would be separating, the film wound up being one of the first that was released entirely as a Disney feature. Despite these behind-the-scenes changes, Pixar’s quality of story and animation remained consistent and dependable.

Pixar Returns to the Oscars

Although Ratatouille was Pixar’s third film to win Best Animated Feature, it was not the first nomination to follow The Incredibles. Between the two films, Pixar had also released Cars in 2006, which was nominated but lost the award to George Miller’s Happy Feet. When Pixar returned with Ratatouille in 2007, it was the beginning of the studio’s longest winning streak with the award to date. The film won the award over Surf’s Up and Persepolis, and it was nominated for an additional four Oscars – Original Screenplay, Original Score, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. With a total of five nominations, Ratatouille became the second-most-nominated animated film in the history of the Oscars, only behind 1991’s Beauty and the Beast,which had six nominations.

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8 WALL-E (2008)

Wall-e
WALL-E

Release Date
June 22, 2008

Rating
G

A year later, Pixar was back at the Oscars once again. This time, it was Andrew Stanton’s turn to return to the ceremony with WALL-E, his first feature following Finding Nemo. The latest Pixar film was a venture into the realms of science fiction and romance, as it told the story of a lonely garbage-collecting robot that is swept off onto an intergalactic adventure that changes the future of mankind. The film immediately captured the hearts of audiences around the world, and it also featured plenty of powerful thematic material regarding environmentalism and how we generally act as a species.

The Studio Wins Back-to-Back Years Again

When WALL-E won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, it marked the second occasion in which Pixar had taken the award in back-to-back years. Meanwhile, no other animation studio had won the award more than once. The only two other films it was nominated against in the category were Disney’s Bolt and DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda, while WALL-E was nominated for five other awards that year – Original Screenplay, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing – tying Beauty and the Beast to be the most nominated animated film of all time. There was a big push for WALL-E to receive a Best Picture nomination as well, which would’ve made it just the second animated film in history to do so. Unfortunately, it missed that mark. The snub of a Best Picture nomination for WALL-E, as well as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, resulted in the category being expanded from five to ten nominations beginning the next year.

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Related: The 10 Most Emotional Pixar Movies, Ranked

7 Up (2009)

up
Up

Release Date
May 28, 2009

Rating
PG

The first 10 feature films to be produced by Pixar were the works of four primary directors: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird and Pete Docter. While we’ve talked a lot about Stanton and Bird on this list, Docter had just as excellent a reputation. After he directed Monsters, Inc., Docter was involved in a few different productions, but his next directorial effort was 2009’s Up. While it may not have received the same number of Oscar nominations as WALL-E, Up was still a massive hit and the latest in a long line of incredible successes for Pixar. In the years since, Docter has continued to deliver incredible films, and he is currently the chief creative officer of Pixar overall.

Pixar Expands Beyond Animated Feature

While, yes, it did win the award for Best Animated Feature (Pixar’s third year in a row), that was not the highest recognition that Up received at the Oscars that year. Rather, Up is most well-remembered for being just the second animated feature in history to receive a nomination for Best Picture. That year was the first year that the Academy recognized ten films in the major category, and the result was a great mix of unconventional nominees, such as Up, Avatar, District 9 and Inglourious Basterds. As for Up, it also won Michael Giacchino the Oscar for Best Original Score, in addition to other nominations for Original Screenplay and Sound Editing. It competed against four other nominees for Best Animated Feature, with those being Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog and The Secret of Kells.

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6 Toy Story 3 (2010)

On paper, it may be surprising that neither of the first two Toy Story films were nominated for Best Animated Feature, but the explanation for that is simple: the award did not exist yet when those films were released. However, the first Toy Story was given a Special Achievement Award at the 1995 Oscars (in addition to a couple other nominations) and Toy Story 2 received a single nomination for Best Original Song upon its release. When Toy Story 3 finally came around in 2010, it easily made up for lost time.

The Studio’s Hot Streak Continues

Toy Story 3 became Pixar’s fourth film in a row to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, beating out just two other nominees – How to Train Your Dragon and The Illusionist – to take the award. Additionally, Toy Story 3 quickly followed in Up’s footsteps and became the third animated film in history to become a Best Picture nominee. Like Up, it also won one additional Oscar, this time for Best Original Song. Its two other nominations (a total of five) were for Adapted Screenplay and Sound Editing. Although the nomination of two animated films for Best Picture in back-to-back years seemed to indicate a newfound respect for the medium, Toy Story 3 still stands as the most recent animated feature to be recognized in the category.

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5 Brave (2012)

Brave
Brave

Release Date
June 21, 2012

Rating
PG

The extended streak of Pixar films winning Best Animated Feature came to an end in 2011, when Cars 2 failed to even secure a nomination for the award. Adding insult to injury, 2011 was also the year in which the Oscars committed to always nominating five films for the award, rather than the three that had been typical over the previous decade. However, the animation studio returned to the Oscars to win the award once again in 2012 with Brave.

Pixar Beats Out Other Disney Films

At the time, Brave was considered to be the most “Disneyish” film that Pixar had produced, which is a thought that still surrounds the film to this day. However, there’s no denying the success that the studio had with Brave. Not only was it another box office win, but it also beat out some stiff competition to win the award for Best Animated Feature. The four films it was nominated against included both the Laika film ParaNorman and Aardman’s The Pirates! Band of Misfits, as well as two other Disney features, Wreck-It Ralph and Frankenweenie. Though Brave came out on top, the award for Best Animated Feature was the only Oscar that the film was nominated for.

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4 Inside Out (2015)

After Brave’s win in 2012, the next two Academy Awards would see Pixar shut out entirely. In 2013, Monsters University failed to receive any nominations, which was followed by the studio not releasing any films in 2014 – making it the first year without a new Pixar release since 2005. However, when Pixar returned in 2015, they made one of the biggest splashes in the studio’s history with Inside Out. The film was the return of Pete Docter to the director’s chair for the first time since 2009’s Up, and the result was a film that was and is still considered to be one of the best films Pixar has ever produced.

Studio Ghibli is Shut Out Again

In addition to winning the award for Best Animated Feature, Inside Out was nominated for one other award at the Oscars, which was Best Original Screenplay. It was sadly shut out of a number of major categories where it deserved to be recognized, including Best Original Score and Best Picture. Meanwhile, Pixar’s other 2015 release, The Good Dinosaur, did not receive a single nomination. However, Inside Out won the award for Animated Feature over some other incredible nominees, such as Anomalisa, Shaun the Sheep Movie, Boy and the World, and the latest release from Studio Ghibli, When Marnie Was There. It’s also worth noting at this point that Studio Ghibli has consistently been shut out from any Oscar wins since Spirited Away won Best Animated Feature in 2002, with releases like Howl’s Moving Castle and The Wind Rises just being nominated.

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Related: Studio Ghibli: Every Film From the Studio That Has Won or Has Been Nominated for an Oscar

3 Coco (2017)

Coco
Coco

Release Date
October 27, 2017

Rating
PG

Pixar was once again shut out of the race for Best Animated Feature in 2016, as Finding Dory failed to secure a nomination, though the studio did still win the award for Best Animated Short with Piper that year. 2017’s Coco, however, managed to secure Pixar its ninth win in the Animated Feature category. The film was Pixar’s 19th feature, and it was hailed as one of their most ambitious and emotional to date. Directed by Lee Unkrich, who had previously directed Toy Story 3, Coco was another major success for Pixar, though the studio was beginning to become less reliable, as Coco followed a lackluster run of three movies – The Good Dinosaur, Finding Dory and Cars 3.

Pixar’s Latest Original Makes Waves

Though Coco was only nominated for two Oscars, the film managed to win both of the awards. It took the award for Best Animated Feature over other strong nominees, which included Loving Vincent, The Breadwinner, Ferdinand and The Boss Baby. The other award for which Coco was recognized was Best Original Song, specifically for the song “Remember Me.” What makes this particular win even more impressive is that Coco was competing against songs from the musical The Greatest Showman as well as the modern heartbreak masterpiece, “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens from Call Me By Your Name.

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2 Toy Story 4 (2019)

toy story 4
Toy Story 4

Release Date
June 19, 2019

Director
Josh Cooley

Rating
G

The trend of Pixar’s wins skipping years continued after Coco’s win in 2017. The 2018 sequel to The Incredibles was nominated for Best Animated Feature, but it lost the award to Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. However, Pixar asserted its dominance over the award once again in 2019 with Toy Story 4. Despite the immense discussion about whether Toy Story 4 should have been made to begin with, the film managed to prove many of its naysayers wrong and be another outstanding entry in the Toy Story series.

Woody and Buzz Lightyear Appear Again

It had been a decade since Toy Story 3 won the award for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for Best Picture, but Toy Story 4 had not lost any of the momentum of the series. Along with its Best Animated Feature win, the fourth Toy Story was also nominated for Best Original Song with Randy Newman’s “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” though it ultimately lost that award to Elton John and Bernie Taupin for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman. The films that were also nominated for Best Animated Feature included the third How to Train Your Dragon, as well as Klaus, Missing Link and I Lost My Body.

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1 Soul (2020)

Soul
Soul

Release Date
December 25, 2020

Finally, the most recent Pixar film to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars was Soul in 2020. Once again, the film was directed by Pete Docter, and it was a profoundly reflective and emotional film to come from Pixar. It was the first film that Pixar released after the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and as such, it was not actually released in theaters but rather directly to Disney+. It will be making its first wide release in theaters as part of a new re-release from Pixar in January.

Pixar’s Latest Win Won’t Be Their Last

Soulwas nominated for three Academy Awards, of which it won two – Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste). The third nomination it received was for Best Sound. However, one of the most interesting factors for Pixar at this particular Oscars was that it marked the first occasion in which two Pixar films had been nominated and were competing against one another in the Best Animated Feature category, as the studio’s fantasy adventure film Onward was also nominated. On top of that, with Soul’s win, Pete Docter set a new record as the individual who has won Best Animated Feature the most times, as it was his third win following Inside Out and Up.

In the two Oscar ceremonies since Soul won, Pixar has had two additional films nominated for Best Original Feature. Luca was nominated in 2021 though lost the award to Encanto; then, in 2022, Turning Red was nominated but lost to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. The 2022 Lightyear film was not nominated. Pixar’s domination of this particular award looks like it won’t be slowing down any time soon, as Elemental is likely to be nominated this year (though the winner will likely be Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse or Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron), and upcoming 2024 and 2025 releases like Inside Out 2 and Elio are sure to make a big splash as well.

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