Our film critics are not on Pixar’s payroll. Nor are they getting any under-the-table perks from the animation studio. There’s a much less sinister reason that a Pixar movie—in this case, Toy Story 3—tops our Most Redeeming Films list for the third consecutive year: We think their movies rock.

It’s not just the astonishingly good animation. It’s the phenomenal storytelling, the depth of character development, the keen insight into the human condition—even from the perspective of plastic playthings. One of our critics confesses that he cried at the end of TS3 all three times he watched it—and will likely do so the next three times. That’s what Pixar films do to us.

As for what makes Woody and Buzz’s final adventure so redeeming, there’s plenty: The usual themes of love and loyalty run loud and clear. Toys though they may be, the friends are willing to risk their lives for one another. And their owner, Andy, now college-bound, isn’t about to relegate his old playtime buddies to a box in the attic, never to be played with again—or at least for decades. Instead, he takes a selfless step in the end, giving Woody and Buzz and the rest a new lease on life—a rebirth, so to speak. It’s no surprise that many of the creative types at Pixar are Christians, as they churn out soul-stirring stories year after year. (For the record, Up topped our Most Redeeming list in 2009, as did Wall-E in 2008.)

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