The Great Debates: Which “Toy Story” Movie is the Best?

A couple of weeks back, during discussion of the Top Ten Pixar Movies several people surprised me by ranking the second chapter of the Toy Story saga as the best. Prior to that I had always thought that people were merely divided between 1 and 3. So, seeing as we have an opportunity to hash these things out here, let’s! Shall we?

Click through to read “The Tale of the Tape”!!

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“Toy Story” (1995)

Characters Voiced By: Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), Don Rickles (Mr Potato Head), John Ratzenberger (Hamm), Wallace Shawn (Rex), Annie Potts (Bo Peep), R. Lee Ermey (Sergeant), and Jim Varney (Slink)

High Level Overview: Toy Story introduces a world of talking toys who come alive when no humans are about. When a flashy new toy is introduced into a collection of older toys, the existing social order is shaken. Buzz Lightyear is a brash, arrogant, and slightly delusional addition to the mix that has Woody (the current leader of Andy’s playthings) a bit flustered. When their rivalry leads to an unintended accident, Woody risks his own safety to rescue Buzz, and along the way they become friends.

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“Toy Story 2″ (1999)

Notable Newcomers: Jodi Benson (Barbie), Joan Cusack (Jessie), Kelsey Grammer (Stinky Pete), Estelle Harris (Mrs Potato Head), and Wayne Knight (Al)

High Level Overview: Toy Story 2 continues the adventures of Andy’s gang of talking toys… this time out it’s Woody who’s in jeopardy. When a local toy collector discovers him out by the yard sale, he recognizes Woody for the rare collectible he is. When he’s told that Woody is not for sale, he steals him anyways, thus requiring Buzz and the gang to track Woody down and rescue him! Meanwhile Woody has a crisis of his own when he discovers his own merchandising history and meets the gang of toys that came out with him, not all of whom are keen on him going home.

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“Toy Story 3″ (2010)

Notable Newcomers: Ned Beatty (Lotso), Timothy Dalton (Mr. Pricklepants), Kristen Schaal (Trixie), Bonnie Hunt (Dolly), Whoopi Goldberg (Stretch) and Michael Keaton (Ken).

High Level Overview: Toy Story 3 finds Andy’s toys facing the ultimate crisis… being outgrown. It’s obviously an emotionally trying time for them, but the difficulties are compounded when they’re accidentally thrown out, and wind up donated to a day care. Once there, they discover the nightmarish reality of an environment where toys are played with without being owned. Even worse, they realize that the facility is run much like a prison by the stuffed bear in charge. Andy’s gang needs to break out of the day care center and go home… to see if there’s still any place for them there.

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I’m sure that most people have seen all three, they’re immensely popular, widely beloved films. Now it comes down to which of them is the best. Which is your favorite? If you could only pick one, which one would it be?

The choice is up to you, but be sure to tell us why below!

60 thoughts on “The Great Debates: Which “Toy Story” Movie is the Best?

  1. I was in 5th grade when the first one came out. I was really excited, but remember leaving the theater disappointed because it was a little dark (storywise) and a little boring.

    Toy Story 2 felt like fan service to me. Plus the story is basically the same, just on a bigger scale, with Buzz and Woody switching roles.

    Toy Story 3 was beautiful (even in 3D!) and I admittedly teared up in the theater, especially during the final moments.

    • Yeah, that end of 3 is really moving.

      Funny to hear that first one called boring (even if just a little). I understand the young point of view may have contributed… For me, grown already, 1 was such a revelation. It was incredible. The animation was unlike anything we’d ever seen, you know?

      • I had a huge attention span as a child (I watched Fantasia in its entirety, in one sitting, for instance), as well as a huge love for all things animated. I think I just got so excited about the fact that it was the first completely computer-generated movie that it ended up not living up to the gigantic expectations I had for it.

  2. I think the first one will always be my favourite just because it was something that I had never seen before and made me think that my toys were coming alive when I was little! The 3rd one runs it close but with the rumours that there may be a 4th it makes it less special. I admit I shed a tear at the end of it too

    • Yeah… I dont know right now if I want to have a 4th.

      Of course, they probably will create something totally awesome and I’ll laugh at the fact that I ever even questioned them. :D

  3. I think number 1 is my favourite but only just. It was something new and blew me away at the time. However, for an emotional jab in the throat number 3 is hard to beat. I never really took to number 2 as much even though it’s still excellent.

    • A lot of people do like #2 best though, I was shocked to see it get so much support last month when I did my top ten Pixar flicks. Really surprising.

      Meanwhile, calling 3 an “emotional jab in the throat” is pretty apt. It’s a surefire bet to get you “choked up” LOL

  4. Three-way tie right now, exciting!

    I picked Toy Story 2 for the simple fact that it makes me laugh the most. They truly are all great but if I was going to sit down and watch just one of them, I would choose 2.

  5. Toy Story 2 and 3 are in a completely different league than Toy Story. I watch them all now with my son, and when he wants to watch part 1, he’s on his own. If he wants 2 or 3, I will happily watch them start to finish anytime. Better plot, better supporting characters, and each evoke much more emotion than the first.

  6. This one was hard to choose. I liked all three but I rank 1 and 3 higher than 2. 1 was good because it was revolutionary and I did see it in the theatres. But I choose the 3rd one as my favorite(just a tad higher than 1) because it tugs at our heartstrings a bit more and brings up some emotional themes of growing up and letting go.

    • 3 has a narrow edge at this point, I wonder if it will hold. 1 is always going to score those originality points, as you point out, Kim.

      That ending (of 3) got to so many people, I just wonder if it’s going to be enough to win the day!

  7. This is so tough! They are all great, and the sequels get miracle points for coming up with premises that are so brilliant and keep the standard up at topnotch level. When you force me to think about it though, I have to give 3 a demerit for the incendiary conveyor belt of doom business. A movie of this calibre should not have material that’s derivative from a lesser effort like The Brave Little Toaster. The sequence was weirdly out of place I thought. I loved the touching ending of 3 also, it is still an A movie to me, but I have to boil it down this way: 2 and 3 were great because their follow up stories were so clever and entertaining and expanded upon an already great premise, but in 1 the story unfolds rather than ‘goes.’ Toy Story 1 takes time to build a relationship between Woody and Buzz that carries through to the rest of the series. And that bit with teaching Sid to ‘Play nice!’ is still the best triumph/big laugh moment of the series for me. But this is Gold, Silver and Bronze where the finish times are split seconds apart, really. That being said, I gave Toy Story 1 the gold.

    • A well reasoned response, for sure :D I love it!

      I still havent seen “Brave Little Toaster”, but the “Conveyer belt of Doom” is such a standard trope that you could almost pick a dozen flicks, couldnt you? LOL. Still, I guess the movie (3) was high enough calibre that I didnt mind.

      I agree with your assessment of 1, definitely. It DOES have to lay the groundwork of that friendship. The stuff they build and do in 1 is the bedrock that the other two stand on. It’s a fantastic flick, plus… it was so inventive in terms of animation standards! An all time great, IMO.

      • I had to dig a little deep to ding 3. You can tell. :-) Plus my young’un has had zero interest in seeing 3 a second time, interestingly enough. I’ll be curious about the final tally.

  8. I went with 3. As much as I love 1, and seeing it in the theater when it first came out was like a revolution, but 3 wins out for a few reasons. First: after all the years in between, the second the movie starts you slip right back into the world, all the characters are true to who they are and it makes you happy that Pixar knew how to keep what was loved about these characters alive through 3 films. Second and most importantly, it is the culmination of what the series was intending. The reflection of growing up, moving on, and the ways we change but leave what is important to us onto the next generation. I saw TS1 when I was 12 so I was just at the stage where toys didn’t hold a big place in my life anymore, but watching it made me happy because I was still sort of in that mindset (albiet quickly being replaced by girls). But then TS3 came out. I now have been married for 7 years, own a house, and have a 3 year old daughter who loves these movies. Watching her grow and play and enjoy these things, and then watching Andy as he moved from kid to adult, really brought home the message. The last scenes with him giving his youth to the little girl just hit me so hard because I’m that boy, now a man, who plays toys with his kid. It is interesting to see how you can bring yourself back to that time with your kids and how they will with theirs someday. That is why TS3 is the best of them, because it knew it’s message from the start and found a way to bring it full circle through 3 films and hit an emotional level that actually makes you reflect on your own feelings and life in a family film.

    Ok yeah that was long winded.
    Short answer: Toy Story 3

    • That’s ok, the Captain has turned the “Long Winded” light on, you’re free to post at will.

      That ending to 3 has got to be one of the greatest endings to a trilogy of all times. It was brilliant. Sad (absoultely, as many people have pointed out), but also hopeful, because they all got a new home. You got to be nostalgic for yourself and self reflective – because who cant relate to outgrowing their toys, right? But it’s also a wonderful conclusion to the overall arc of the series… these characters had been struggling to get back to Andy and be there for him for years now… how would it end? It was organic, it was wonderful. Great great great ending.

  9. I have to stay with TS1, don’t get me wrong, I love them all. But with 1 I was thrilled with not only the novelty of the media but with the writing and story. I guess what brings me back to 1, is the clever shock value the writing gave me. It was so much fun watch unravel, it pulled me in and I didn’t want to miss a thing. With the others my expectations were that it would be more of the same, which is what I was looking for. And they didn’t disappoint. So Toy Story 1 holds that special place for me..

    • Gotcha. I think it was great to meet these characters for the first time, too.

      The exchanges between Buzz and Woody when they first meet are some of the greatest ever. The casting of Tim Allen and Tom Hanks was a stroke of genius (Keep in mind, Allen was a much bigger star in 95!). They were so great together, and were able to put across such contrasting personalities…

      And you’re right, the plot certainly WAS novel. I know that its been pointed out that the concept of “Talking Toys” was not new, but it definitely FELT new. This felt like a world we had never visited before. :D

  10. I guess I’ll post my reason for my Toy Story 2 love from the previous Pixar post:

    “I think I can explain the Toy Story 2 love … especially from my end. I think adults really embrace it because it’s about growing old and letting go of your dreams and ambitions, i.e. mid-life crisis. Woody can go to Japan and finally be a big star with potential that he had not dreamed of before… or he can let that all go and stay behind with his family (Andy and the other toys).

    My main problem with the first is that I personally have a hard time reconciling with the other toys after they all basically turn their backs on Woody after the hot new toy comes in. I mean, didn’t they know him for far longer than Buzz? What a bunch of punks, kicking him off the moving van and everything. You owe them nothing, Woody!

    And while I liked the third is kinda treading on the unrealistic… by which I mean would a college aged Andy really take his Woody doll along with him to a dorm? That’s … kinda weird. I know I had Transformers and Todd McFarlane figurines on my shelves, but those are at least partially aimed at the adult crowd. I wouldn’t be bringing a My Buddy or a Care Bear to college.

    Also, I’d already seen Jim Henson’s Christmas Toy and The Brave Little Toaster, so Toy Storys 1 & 3 felt like they were treading on familiar (and superior) ground already. Toy Story 2, though, felt like a refreshing new story.”

    • :D I believe I encouraged said copy/paste LOL

      I like your spin on TS2, but I didnt really have an issue with the other toys giving Woody the cold shoulder. I thought it was a necessary device. You have a point, but I wouldnt hold that against the story much… I hear you, I guess I just dont get bothered by it.

      Meanwhile, if Woody was a big part of your childhood you might think differently. If someone had no attachment to the toys you thought were cool (ie the Transformers), they’d look goofy to them too. We’re the ones who “attribute” coolness to nostalgia items, so if that was his growing up, he’d probably think it was a “cool” toy.

      I didnt have any Star Wars stuff set up when I was at school, but right after College I set up a bunch of stuff… so I can relate to breaking out your toys as display items. Cause I did too. :D

  11. It was a close one but I went with TS #1 over #3. Although my favorite character Stinky Pete was in #2. Damn you Fogs and your difficult choices. lol

  12. I’m going with 2. Best story line I think, plus you just can’t beat Stinky Pete. I love when Bullseye licks the cheetos dust off the chicken man’s fingers. That there is priceless cinematography!

    • You know, with just a couple more votes, 2 would be right back in this thing! It needs to go on a little run, but… It could do it!

      You know what scene I love from 2? The restoration scene. Where the little guys comes in with his tool kit and fixes Woody up? I love that scene. :D

  13. It’s rare that a sequel is as good and even rarer when it’s better than the original, but in my opinion, that is the case here. T3 is just a flat out very funny movie and I believe the best of the bunch. I felt like Ned Beatty was channeling Deliverance and Michael Keaton was laugh out loud funny as Ken.

    • Yeah, Ken was pretty freaking hysterical.

      It was an excellent flick, and I hate to keep pointing to the end, but it’s definitely what elevates that chapter in my opinion. Not that the rest of it wasn’t really good (Hell, even the train robbery intro is great) but that ending just shifts it into a whole ‘nother gear…

  14. They’re all great, but I’m going with Toy Story 3. Why? Because even though I’m a teenage metal head who’s favourite films are dark and depressing works like Taxi Driver and A Clockwork Orange, Toy Story 3 still makes me weep like a little girl. That ending is just, wow. Love it.

  15. I haven’t seen the 3rd one, but I really liked the 1st one a lot. I love the tension of Andy and Buzz. New toy VS old toy. Plus, Buzz not knowing his is a toy was funny to watch.

    After reading a couple of the comments, I’m starting to realize that I might be too much of a crybaby for Toy Story 3. Seriously! I can’t watch Hardball, because that cute little boy gets shot in it. Nor can I watch I am Legend, because of the dog dies. So sad, but true.

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