Cars 3

Critics Consensus

Cars 3 has an unexpectedly poignant story to go with its dazzling animation, suggesting Pixar's most middle-of-the-road franchise may have a surprising amount of tread left.



Reviews Counted: 216

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Average Rating: 3.7/5

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Movie Info

Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn't through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing's biggest stage!

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News & Interviews for Cars 3

Critic Reviews for Cars 3

All Critics (216) | Top Critics (36)

Cars 3 could make a rental download for a rainy family holiday, but the imaginative spark has gone.

Jul 13, 2017 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Corporate synergy, as they say, is a cruel mistress.

Jul 9, 2017 | Full Review…

The final chapter of the trilogy has saved the best for last and will at least deflect the most serious concerns of those who think this series has taken too many extra laps.

Jun 16, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Onscreen and in the audience, youth will be served.

Jun 16, 2017 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…

It's a reasonably diverting, somewhat sluggish attempt to reinstall the "heart" of the first installment.

Jun 16, 2017 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

It's all well and good for the under-12s, but this movie never packs the kind of emotional punch we know Pixar is capable of.

Jun 16, 2017 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Cars 3


I saw this as part of a double feature with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 at our local drive-in theater. I have not seen either of the first two Cars movies, although I have seen clips and trailers. Instead of trying to shake up the genre this one returns to the form of the first one in this series. Paul Newman died only two years after the first Cars was released by Pixar, so it is nice to see respect paid through remembrances of his character Doc in this story. Like Rocky in Creed the character of Lightning McQueen is no longer the student or the hotshot new performer, but there is a new generation racing with better technology. Lightning struggles with increased corporate involvement and computer technology. He becomes the coach of a young female racer named Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). It is a fun family adventure with these anthropomorphic autos audiences have grown to love. Pixar's animation, especially in the high speed races, is pretty cool and almost photo-realistic at times. There is plenty of charm and a few jokes to keep everyone entertained even though the story is an oft repeated one for older audience members.

Byron Brubaker
Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer

Lighting McQueen takes one last lap in Pixar's Cars 3. When new next-gen race cars start taking over the racing circuit Lighting Queen decides to update his training program in order to get the speed needed to continue to compete. The plot is pretty formulaic and predictable, and is constantly hitting the audience over the head with its theme of letting go in order to move forward. Still, the animation is really good and delivers some fun races. And there are some nice bits of humor. Cars 3 isn't the best of the series, but it's not a bad one to go out on.

Dann Michalski
Dann Michalski

Super Reviewer

The Cars franchise will probably always be known as the weakest films to ever come from Pixar, unless they really drop the ball. Personally, I really enjoyed the first instalment in this trilogy, so naturally I was looking forward to the sequel, which turned out to be a complete train-wreck of stupidity. For that reason, I had lost all interest in seeing this latest instalment, but remained optimistic in that it couldn't be any worse than its predecessor. Surprisingly, Cars 3 is just as good as the first, if not better. Yes, this film was able to pull this trilogy out of the dirt for one last ride, and it's a really solid one at that. With elements of countless comeback stories from classic rivalry films, Cars 3 embraces the cliches and elevates this third instalment to heights I never thought it would reach. Here is why this is the best possible way they could've ended this trilogy, even though nobody really asked for it. It was very clear that the response from the previous film had left audiences cold on this franchise. They would have to pull of a great hook to get the older audience members back into the theatre, and I believe this premise will do exactly that. Beginning the same way the original did, Lightning McQueen is on the race track, only this time he is racing as the reigning champ. With some new blood on the rise in Jackson Storm, McQueen is beaten badly and must recuperate and adapt to the new-age technology that these drivers are using. At its core, this really is just a comeback story involving a character you've come to love (if you liked the original that is), along with some very likeable side characters this time around. Without giving anything away about this film, my favourite aspect about the original was the growing relationship between Lightning and Doc. Hudson. Although that character passed away in the second film, they do find a way of utilizing him here and the are arc that Lightning is given made the movie as good as it is. In many ways, this is an actual improvement over the first film, but it ends up on par with it, as many of the great elements of Cars 3 harkens back to the first, so it wouldn't even be able to do certain things without the weight of the original. The portion of the film that I can discuss without spoiling anything would have to be the relationship between Lightning and his new trainer Cruze. Helping him adapt in order to be able to race the new competition, their chemistry is by far what carries this film from start to finish, which also leads me to my final point. What really put this film over the edge for me was the way the third act sells the film to kids and adults. Sure, the kids come for the comedy and the racing, which are both very much present here, but the comedy does take a back seat many times in order to serve the emotional core, which is what I enjoyed so much about the first film. There is a nice twist at the end of this film that really wraps a nice little bow around this trilogy, but too bad the second film is so bad. If you're not a fan of the original film, don't remember much about the original film, or are viewing this movie as your first experience in the world of Cars, then this twist won't have much of an impact on you, but for fans like myself, the payoff is well worth it. In the end, Cars 3 definitely won't win anyone over who wasn't a fan to begin with, but if you've sat through the last two films then I can see where some may agree that it has a very satisfying conclusion. The premise is cliched and most of the film is fairly predictable, but the twists more than make up for that and the relationships between characters are really well-done here. Cars 3's animation is some of Pixar's best yet, looking photo-realistic at times, and score for the race sequences got my adrenaline pumping, just like it did in the first. This is a great example of a movie that works equally for kids and adults. There is a much more mature story under the surface, while the kids still get the beautiful imagery and their favourite characters to gawk at on-screen. It doesn't break any new ground, but Cars 3 is far better than I was expecting it to be. Great conclusion to a very uneven trilogy.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer


The Cars franchise is like the "goofy uncle" that nobody chooses to talk about at family reunions. We acknowledge it at most because we have to and then move onto other chipper subjects. I didn't think it could get worse for Pixar than Cars 2. Then I watched Cars 3. Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is starting to lose his championship luster when a new rival, Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), speeds onto the circuit. Humbled and wondering whether his time is up, Lightning trains to be faster than ever and regain his title. He goes through a series of training struggles with Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), a spunky racing coach. Lightning misses Doc Hudson (Paul Newman, posthumously reappearing) and seeks out Doc's old trainer, Smokey (Chris Cooper). Together, they plan to win back Lightning's title and prove he still has what it takes. I was ready for this movie to be over after its first ten minutes, and that's chiefly because it repeats just about all the paces of the first Cars movie. Once again Lightning McQueen is bested by a new rival and has to re-learn the basics of racing, center himself as much as a car can, and open himself up to the help of others. Except the villain isn't really a villain, as Jackson Storm is just a newer model. He's self-centered and cocky, sure, but so was Lightning McQueen. He barely registers as a character and more as a symbol of newer, faster, more contemporary racers. If there is an antagonist in the movie it might actually be aging, which raises more questions about this Cars universe that I'll unpack later. The plot formula will remind you of another franchise's third entry, Rocky III. The hero is bested by a newer champ, seeks out a new trainer because their old mentor died, and there's even a beach training montage. Then the movie goes from Rocky III to Creed in its final act, and I'm thinking why not remake Rocky IV instead? There's already a robot butler in that one (it practically writes itself). Suffice to say, the generic formula of going back to basics and believing in one's self, this time with even less side characters, is even less interesting 11 years after the first film revved its limited story engine. I was flabbergasted at just how lazy the storytelling is on display (there aren't even that many car puns). It feels too much like a rehash without any memorable set pieces. There's a segment at a demolition derby that has potential but it never really hits its stride and just relies on the initial particulars. The relationship between Lightning and the other cars is also rather weak. His new mentor Smokey is simply a surrogate Doc. The bulk of the film after the first act is the relationship between Lightning and Cruz Ramirez. It would have been stronger if there were more to her fledgling character. She's consumed by self-doubt and gave up on her dream of being a racer, which should tip off every audience member where her arc is destined. She's assertive, optimistic, and highly energetic, but her defining character obstacle is her self-doubt, which limits her. All she needs to do is gain confidence, which is a pretty straightforward solution in a sports film replete with training montages. I don't know if she was told she wasn't good enough because she wasn't "made" to be a racer, or if it's because she's a girl, so her perhaps her ascension can be seen as a improbably empowering moment for lady cars everywhere. The most fascinating aspect of the Cars universe has never been the characters or the stories but the world itself. In a land of sentient motor vehicles, how are they born? We see them age but where do the little cars come from? How do they make anything considering they have tires instead of opposable thumbs? Why do the cars have teeth? What is the point of designating gender? Did any adult car tell Ramirez that she was a girl car and girl cars aren't supposed to do boy car things like racing? How old is Doc's mentor considering Doc died of old age? Where do the dead cars go? Is there a junkyard burial ground? Do they get recycled into new cars? Speaking of mortality, this entire world has to be some post-apocalyptic hellscape, right? There's got to be like a Forbidden Zone, and just along the other side of a steep ridge is mountain after mountain of human skulls. The self-driving cars became sentient, following the SkyNet model, and rose against mankind. In the ensuring thousands of years after, the sentient cars have adopted our ways even though they clearly don't match up to their lifestyles and circumstances. They have forgotten the world of humans but are still trying to remake our world as theirs. Do these cars do anything other than watch races? Is this pastime the hierarchy's form of bread and circuses? What kind of day-to-day existence do they have? Considering every living being is a motor vehicle that runs on fossil fuels, are the sentient cars aware of climate change and the greenhouse effect? Are they speeding up the planet's demise? What if inside every car were the mummified remains of a human inhabitant? What if during Lightning's big accident a human skeleton pops out of the windshield? That might lead to an existential crisis in the Cars world that would make them rethink their place in history. Somebody out there has to like these movies but I don't know whom Cars 3 is intended for. It doesn't present enough excitement or humor for children, and it doesn't present enough substance and characterization for adults. It retreads familiar ground with lesser characters for lesser rewards. I knew every step of where this journey was headed, and without effective humor, characters, and surprises, I was tilting my head against my chair and just waiting for this mess to end. The reason there are three Cars movies is merely the profits Disney reaps from the toy sales and merchandizing (they estimate making a billion dollars in toy sales alone per Cars movie). There's no other reason to supply the world three entries in the Cars universe before even getting a second Incredibles. The time with these anemic characters is not worth the 100 minutes on screen. I never thought I would reappraise Cars 2 but at least that movie had some exciting and colorful racing sequences and tried telling a different, albeit not successful story. Even a badly executed spy caper starring Larry the Cable Guy had something to it. In contrast, Cars 3 just goes in circles and expects you to be grateful for the same trip. Nate's Grade: C-

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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