101 Greatest Screenplays of the 21st Century (*so far)

As a child, Pete Docter accidentally let go of a balloon that soon disappeared from view. “That feels very much like what life is,” he mused in 2009. “It’s fleeting.” Up forefronts aging and grief while telling an exhilarating story that celebrates human connection. In the film’s revered prologue, Carl Fredericksen grows old with and then loses his wife—encapsulating why, when the main story begins, he’s a curmudgeon. As a tribute to his late wife, Carl ties balloons to his house and flies away, unexpectedly bringing along a stowaway—optimistic youth Russell. As their journey progresses, each teaches the other life lessons. Like Carl, Docter shared his adventure. Bob Peterson helped develop the story, and because Docter and Peterson found inspiration in Tom McCarthy’s 2003 indie The Station Agent, they invited him for a consult that morphed into a three-month tenure helping Docter while Peterson was on another project.