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Best Stop-Motion Animated Movies, Ranked

Stop-motion movies have been impressing audiences for decades with their painstakingly crafted scenery and characters. The art form itself is nearly as old as the film industry altogether. While 2-D animation largely dominated the earlier days of animation and computer generated films took over since then, stop-motion animation has been given its own small corner of the animated world. This small corner has produced some of the best animated films of all time.

Given the rise of CG in animated film, stop-motion films have almost become its own special event film. Of course, creating a stop-motion animated film is already an arduous task to begin with, so when one is made, directors tend to give their best in crafting a story to fit the medium of stop-motion. Each one of the films in this list were a special treat, one that is not given as often as one would like. Through the use of puppets, clay or even dolls, these stop-motion animated films captured the imagination of audiences and left their own indelible mark on the film industry. These are the best stop-motion animated films, ranked.

Related: Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

8 Corpse Bride

Tim Burton Productions

Believe it or not, Corpse Bride was the first stop-motion animated feature film directed by Tim Burton. A common misconception is that he directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, but that was actually Henry Selick adapting Burton’s story. Burton finally took the reins of a full length stop-motion feature in 2005 when he co-directed alongside Mike Johnson.

The film starred familiar Burton collaborators, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as the titular character. The dark fantasy followed Victor (Depp) as he is unexpectedly betrothed to a dead woman named Emily (Bonham Carter) and whisked away to the land of the dead. Burton’s usual flare for the dark and gloomy was brilliantly utilized in this film, which led to an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.

7 Anomalisa

Paramount Pictures

Charlie Kauffman brought his unique brand of story telling to Anomalisa alongside co-director Duke Johnson. The 2015 film was Kauffman’s first feature animated film, and it was an instant success. Anomalisa went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The nomination was notable as it was the first R-rated animated film to be nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Kauffman and Johnson told a thought-provoking story about a disillusioned motivational speaker who finds himself enamored with the one woman who brings him joy. The main roles were voiced brilliantly by David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Anomalisa was a visual achievement in animation using puppets created through 3-D printing that brought the performances of Thewlis and Leigh to life in this adult stop-motion film.

6 Kubo and the Two Strings

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Kubo and the Two Strings was another critically acclaimed film by the stop-motion studio Laika. The fantasy film followed the adventures of a young boy named Kubo who accidentally summons a sprit out for revenge. Laika’s unique animation was praised as was the stellar cast including Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey. Despite failing to achieve financial success, Kubo and The Two Strings was still praised for its story and animation.

5 James and the Giant Peach

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Selick’s second feature, James and The Giant Peach was an adaptation of the classic children’s book written by Roald Dahl. The book had been sought out by different studios and directors prior to Selick and Disney finally gaining the rights to produce the film. One of the main issues was the bizarre story that made it difficult to produce on screen. However, Selick managed to create a compelling story that was largely animated via stop-motion while book-ended by a live action setting.

4 Coraline

Coraline, Pandemonium Films
Pandemonium Films

Neil Gaiman’s eerie children’s tale, Coraline was adapted by Henry Selick in 2009 to spectacular results. Selick and Laika collaborated to create an impressive stop-motion film that wowed audiences both young and old. The grim modern fairy tale followed Caroline as she delves into a portal to another world where she meets her “other family.” The stop-motion animation used by Laika and Selick perfectly complimented the spooky story written by Gaiman.

Related: 18 Best Scary Movies for Kids

3 Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

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Few stop-motion characters are as enduring as Wallace & Gromit. The British stop-motion series was created by Oscar nominee, Nick Park. The franchise has produced several specials and the critically acclaimed feature film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Their first feature film followed the duo as they attempt to solve their town’s rabbit problem before facing off against the titular Were-Rabbit. The film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making it the second non-American film to do so after Spirited Away.

2 Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson’s quirkiness was a match made especially for stop-motion animation. His first animated feature, Fantastic Mr. Fox was an adaptation of a Roald Dahl book. Anderson teamed up with Noah Baumbach to write the script for the film. Fantastic Mr. Fox starred George Clooney as the cunning Mr. Fox, a fox who must break his promise to this wife (played by Meryl Streep) to never go back to his thieving ways. The delightful direction of Anderson paired with the exceptional talents of his actors made this one of Anderson’s best films and one of the best stop-motion animated films of all time.

1 The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack Skellington holds a Christmas cookie in The Nightmare Before Christmas
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Is it Halloween movie? Is it a Christmas movie? The debate rages on but on thing remains certain, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a beloved stop-motion classic. Based on a story by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick, The Nightmare Before Christmas was a standard for stop-motion animation that led to several films in this very list. Selick’s direction paired with Burton’s tone of voice made for an instant classic. The story of the Jack the Pumpkin King followed his attempt at taking over Christmas after falling into a crisis surrounding his role as King of Halloween Town. The animation utilized by Selick alongside some classic musical numbers made The Nightmare Before Christmas a memorable film and a triumph in stop-motion animation.

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