Pixar has created so many amazing female characters over the years. From The Incredibles to Coco, a vast array of protagonists, antagonists, and side characters who all have their own unique personalities.
In an era where so many storytellers still struggle with strong female characters, Pixar has long been ahead of the curve.
Here are my picks for the best female Pixar characters of all time and why they stand out to this day. Even if you already love Pixar, they'll make you appreciate Pixar's films that much more!
15. Edna Mode in The Incredibles (2004)
Edna Mode is the iconic fashion designer featured in The Incredibles. Her peculiar personality and looks made her become one of the best-known characters in Pixar's history.
She's assertive (borderline aggressive), talented, intelligent, and has a unique sense of style. Despite her harsh ways, she does have a very kind heart and is definitely one of the good guys.
14. Colette Tatou in Ratatouille (2007)
Colette Tatou is the only woman in one of the most famous restaurants in Paris. She needs to stand out—and she manages to do so.
While she's initially seen as harsh by the way she acts, we later learn that she's really just resilient and determined.
Colette Tatou is a great secondary character, who has a flawless set of internal values. She eventually decides to reconsider her career path—to help the people she loves—which is certainly admirable.
13. Jessie in Toy Story 2 (1999)
Jessie only appeared for the first time in Toy Story 2, but she quickly became one of the main characters of the saga.
Not only is she the love interest of Buzz Lightyear, she's more importantly her own person with her own motivations, quirks, and personality—brave, funny, laid-back, and adventurous.
Her assertive-yet-empathetic attitude and her practical ways are a breath of fresh air for any girl watching animation. Plus, she's far from a damsel in distress. Go, Jessie!
12. Boo in Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Did you know Boo's name is actually Mary Gibbs? Despite her being just two years old, Boo is one of the best characters ever created by Pixar. Why? Because she's cute, funny, sweet, kind, and brave.
Surrounded by monsters and odd creatures—who aren't always well-intentioned—Boo is still able to muster courage and decide who to trust. Her empathy and kindness are shown from the beginning, and while watching the film you'll only want her to be okay.
11. EVE in WALL-E (2008)
EVE (short for Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) features as one of the main characters of WALL-E. She's an artificial being whose task is to find out if Earth is capable of supporting life again.
EVE is a great character in how her personality comes across very clearly despite her technological nature.
Heavily reliant on methods of non-verbal communication, EVE manages to be understood—and more than that, she manages to win over our hearts. She's a machine who's more human than most.
10. Ellie Fredricksen in Up (2009)
Ellie Fredricksen is Carl's wife in Up. She dies during the film's prologue, yet her presence is significant throughout the entirety of the movie.
She's adventurous, sweet, creative, and kindhearted. Even after her death, she continues to exist, manifested in the house she helped to build and which she deeply cared for.
The first encounter between Ellie and Carl happens in their childhood and they become best friends almost instantaneously. Isn't that the perfect start to neverending love?
And in that famous four-minute montage, we watch Ellie and Carl grow up together and grow old together. Ellie is a wonderful person who made Carl better and we love her as much as he did.
9. Mamá Imelda Rivera in Coco (2017)
Mamá Imelda Rivera is Miguel's great-great-grandmother in Coco. She's now a spirit living in the Land of the Dead, and she's one of the most fascinating characters created by Pixar.
Her husband left to pursue a career in music, leaving her to raise their daughter Coco alone. After a series of tragic events, Imelda couldn't stand music anymore—so she banned music in the Rivera house.
Now, many years later as a spirit, Imelda has a chance to make peace with the burdens of her past. She starts singing again, indicative of the kind of growth we often see in Pixar's best characters.
8. Kevin in Up (2009)
In Up, Kevin is a giant bird from South America who's hunted by explorer Charles Muntz. She happens to befriend Carl Fredricksen and Russell, who assume she's a boy so they call her Kevin.
Kevin doesn't speak but she's extremely clear in what she wants and how she feels. She's brave, kind, assertive, and would do anything to protect her babies. She's also playful and affectionate with her friends, but absolutely dangerous and ferocious toward ill-intentioned people.
She's an amazing character and she never fails to amuse me. Often overlooked, she's one of the best female Pixar characters for sure.
7. Princess Merida in Brave (2012)
Merida is an adventurous, brave, and independent Scottish princess. She's pressured into marriage and must decide which clan to marry into, but in her heart she knows she's not ready for marriage yet.
But instead of giving up and going with the flow, she takes her life into her own hands—that alone makes her a strong protagonist. Merida is an important character in Pixar's filmography because she's one of the few female leads whose existence isn't reliant on male characters.
Merida's story is fascinating, mythical, inspiring, and refreshing in its exclusion of any love interests for Merida. Plus, her hair is amazing and took years to animate!
6. Queen Elinor in Brave (2012)
Queen Elinor is Merida's mother. She can seem quite strict and detached at first, but she's much more than that.
Elinor embodies the underrated role of queens. She's all about diplomacy, skills, and appearances, but not because she's superficial. Her main goal is to stick to tradition and to honor her community.
In doing so, Elinor eventually figures out that she's losing the opportunity to have a loving relationship with her own daughter, Merida. And when she's transformed into a bear, she has to rethink her priorities.
5. Sadness in Inside Out (2015)
In Inside Out, Sadness is one of the five emotions within the mind of Riley Andersen. She's a peculiar character who embodies our human tendency to brush negative emotions aside and only think of them as unpleasant and burdensome.
Through Sadness, we learn that being sad isn't inherently negative. Every emotion has a purpose and it can be quite damaging to bottle up "negative emotions" in pursuit of "always being happy."
Sadness teaches us to listen to our emotions, to use them to communicate with others in the best way we can, and to engage with the uncomfortable parts of our inner selves.
4. Dory in Finding Nemo (2003)
Dory is a regal blue tang fish who suffers from short-term memory loss. She has a great sense of humor, she's a loyal friend, and she can face her fears and do what's right without second-guessing herself.
Through her flaws and struggles, Dory is a phenomenal character who shows us how we can live a happy and rewarding life even when faced with challenges and problems beyond our control.
Dory is always a bright source of everlasting optimism, but she never tips into toxic positivity. She's the life companion we all need.
3. Roz in Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Roz is a slug-like creature who works at Monsters, Inc. She's grouchy, frowny, not friendly in the slightest, and far from approachable. Then why did I pick her as third on this list?
The reason is simple: Roz might be outwardly unpleasant, but she's still kindhearted and good overall. She breaks the stereotype where beautiful characters equal good and ugly charactres equal evil.
Roz is simply trying to do her job and she's always watching, but she understands complex emotions and she's always for the greater good.
2. Pepita in Coco (2017)
In Coco, Pepita is Imelda's cat. Now that they live in the world of spirits, she exists in the form of an alebrije, which are colorful spirit animals of folklore who protect and guide their clans.
Pepita is very affectionate towards Imelda, but absolutely scary and fierce towards everyone else. She's a great character because she represents Pixar's first forays into lesser-known cultural mythologies.
1. Mamá Coco in Coco (2017)
I chose great-grandmother Mamá Coco as the greatest female Pixar character because she portrays old age in a serene yet realistic way.
Growing old is part of life, yet we tend to prefer stories about young people who are youthful, energetic, full of vitality, and able to distract us from our own mortality.
But in Coco, we get to see Coco in the two most vulnerable stages of life: her childhood and her old age.
Coco has lived a long and fruitful life, obviously loved by everyone around her based on how they treat her. Her tired demeanor ends on a positive note that teaches us that life ends for all but it doesn't always have to be a sad, violent, or painful affair.