If You Only See One Pixar Movie, This Is The Only Choice

By Robert Scucci | Updated

Toy Story

If you’ve never seen a Pixar movie, but would like to get involved in the magic, then you might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of movies that have been released since 1995. We’d also question your sanity, because Pixar really hasn’t missed in the almost 30 years they’ve been entertaining us with amazing CGI productions. But if you’re finally ready to have a soul, and embark on this amazing journey, then we’d strongly suggest starting at the beginning with Toy Story.

Like every other significant production company, Pixar has had an impressive evolution since its inception when it comes to animation style and delivery. But even 1995’s Toy Story was way ahead of its time upon its release, and the animation is still in many ways superior to animated properties that are coming out today in 2023.

If you only watch one Pixar movie, Toy Story, the first film the animation studio developed, is the best place to start.

You’d also be witnessing history in the sense that Toy Story was the first of its kind, as it was the first CGI-animated feature film to theatrically premiere.

When Pixar’s Toy Story made its theatrical debut, we all but picked our jaws up off the floor as we witnessed a somewhat realistic, and intimidatingly surreal rendering of our own world through the use of computer graphics.

We’re immediately placed in the bedroom of Andy Davis, a young boy who owns a wide array of toys, puzzles, and action figures. But these are no ordinary toys, as they come to life whenever a human is not present.

The attention to detail in the opening establishing shots told us immediately that Pixar wasn’t messing around when it came to their obsessive attention to detail. Toy Story marked the beginning of a new era in animation that was unheard of at the time.

Even in the early 90s it wasn’t uncommon for animators to reuse backgrounds during action sequences, but Toy Story changed everything.

Even the carpeting in Andy’s bedroom is expertly detailed down to the smallest fiber. Though we didn’t know it at the time, Pixar set the new gold standard for animation, and they have the reported $30 million budget to prove it.

Setting aside, the story to Pixar’s Toy Story holds up to this day, as it is a classic friendship narrative that stands the test of time. We’re first introduced to Woody (Tom Hanks), who is a charismatic cowboy, and the leader of the toys in Andy’s room. Woody is bold, brave, witty, and charming, and he can do no wrong.

Sheriff Woody movie

Woody is also Andy’s favorite toy.

But that all changes when Andy is gifted a new Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) toy for his birthday in this inaugural Pixar film. Buzz Lightyear is a space ranger who genuinely believes that he has the powers that his marketing boasts, and he quickly becomes Andy’s new favorite toy, much to Woody’s dissatisfaction.

Woody immediately becomes jealous, and embarks on a sabotage plot to reclaim his place.

Buzz Lightyear

Toy Story marked the beginning of a new era in animation that was unheard of at the time.

The most important aspect that needs to be mentioned about every Pixar film, is how much heart it truly has. Though Woody and Buzz are adversaries at first, they quickly become friends when the need to join forces makes itself apparent.

After a traumatic run in with Andy’s sadistic toy destroying neighbor, Sid, it becomes clear that Woody and Buzz shouldn’t be adversaries, but rather allies in their efforts to get back to Andy’s room safely.

The reason that Pixar’s Toy Story truly has staying power, is the fact that the humor has mass appeal. Not only can children enjoy the more slap-stick elements found in the film, but there is plenty of family-friendly adult humor that parents can get behind as well.

In other words, like many other Pixar films, there is a healthy amount of existential dread that can be found beneath the surface that makes Toy Story more profound than other children’s movies that came out around the same time.

Setting aside, the story to Pixar’s Toy Story holds up to this day, as it is a classic friendship narrative that stands the test of time.

When Buzz Lightyear sees a commercial that confirms that he’s not actually a real space ranger, but rather just a toy, he starts to spiral. While kids watching Toy Story are able to fully enjoy the montage showing Buzz’s ill-fated attempts at flying, the adults in the audience are clued into the personal crisis that is manifesting in the form of self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and even depression.

But in the true Pixar fashion, a satisfying resolution is made, and we’re reminded once again that through friendship, teamwork, and believing in yourself, anything is possible.

So if you have to watch just one Pixar film, the movie that started it all comes with strong recommendation. Not only does Toy Story resolve in a way that makes it a satisfying stand-alone film, it’s also prime franchise material, and there are four more Toy Story movies that pick up where the original movie left off.

So if you are willing to let your guard down, and let some joy into your life, you might not want to stop with Toy Story.

But don’t tell us we didn’t warn you, because if you pick up what Toy Story’s throwing down, you’re going to find the sudden urge to work through the entire Pixar catalog.