(Photo by Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail: DreamWorks SKG, Buena Vista Pictures, Fox Searchlight, Paramount Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)
30 Best Stop-Motion Animated Movies of All Time
Tangible and physical, stop-motion animation is the art of manipulating objects and figures frame by frame, creating the illusion of fluid movement. It’s an almost atavistic art form of ours: Instinct tells us if you have a lump of clay in your hands, start making stuff out of it. Shape a chicken and a fox, mold some pirates, heck, make a movie. It’s what filmmakers have been doing for over a century, so we’re taking a look through time with the 30 best stop-motion animated movies ever made.
In this guide, we’ll come in contact with the different materials and styles used in stop motion. Clay has led to the creation of one of animation’s most enduring man-and-canine duos, Wallace and Gromit, created by Nick Park. His films and studio, Aardman, have an outsized presence in that scene, with the likes of Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep. Paper cutout stop-motion animation is less frequently used. See it at its trippy best with Fantastic Planet, and in The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the oldest surviving animated film.
Puppet stop-motion animation has been the preferred method for venerable directors like Tim Burton (producer of The Nightmare Before Christmas), Charlie Kaufman (Anomalisa), and Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox). Anderson collaborated with Nightmare-director Henry Selick to animate the marine fauna in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; afterwards, Selick set up shop at studio Laika, where he gave them their first big hit, Coraline. Laika has been a stop-motion powerhouse since, using a cutting-edge mix of puppets, clay, and computer enhancements to fuel a string of Certified Fresh films, including The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings.
We included only movies where stop motion is a majority of the presentation, which opened the way for James and the Giant Peach and Jan Švankmajer’s twisted Alice. So while we adore the individual creature effects by Ray Harryhausen in Jason and the Argonauts and the Sinbad movies, or ED-209 in RoboCop, and even the aforementioned Life Aquatic, you won’t be seeing them here. After we collected the 30 highest-rated movies, we sorted the list by Adjusted Tomatometer, which accounts for the movie’s number of reviews and release year.
Now, read on to discover the 30 best stop-motion animated movies!
Adjusted Score: 79355%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Three residents (Robert Levy, Nancy Andrews, Chris Sullivan) of a small Rust Belt town lead sad, interconnected lives.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 73628%
Critics Consensus: Its storyline isn't as wondrous as its visuals, but $9.99 has a sophistication and handmade charm that sets it apart from the animated pack.
Residents of a Sydney, Australia, apartment complex look for meaning in their lives.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 83066%
Critics Consensus: A Town Called Panic is a raucous, endlessly creative animated romp with a quirky, adult sense of humor.
A plastic cowboy, Indian, and a horse embark on a surreal journey through strange lands.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 85223%
Critics Consensus: While it's far from Laika's best offering, The Boxtrolls is still packed with enough offbeat wit and visual splendor to offer a healthy dose of all-ages entertainment.
A boy (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and his new friend (Elle Fanning) hatch a plan to save a community of mischievous cavern-dwellers... [More]
Adjusted Score: 88934%
Critics Consensus: Early Man isn't quite as evolved as Aardman's best work, but still retains the unique visuals and sweet humor that have made the studio a favorite among animation enthusiasts.
A plucky cave man and the rest of his tribe face a grave threat when Lord Nooth plans to transform... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91260%
Critics Consensus: As can be expected from a Tim Burton movie, Corpse Bride is whimsically macabre, visually imaginative, and emotionally bittersweet.
In 19th-century Europe, a gifted pianist (Johnny Depp) mistakenly weds a dead woman (Helena Bonham Carter) who takes him to... [More]
Adjusted Score: 92665%
Critics Consensus: It may not quite scale Aardman's customary delirious heights, but The Pirates! still represents some of the smartest, most skillfully animated fare that modern cinema has to offer.
Adjusted Score: 91841%
Critics Consensus: Have no fear! Mrs Claus spreads holiday cheer in The Year Without Santa, a holiday classic full of unforgettable songs and characters that stays true to the Christmas spirit.
Two elves try to save Christmas after disgruntled Saint Nick (John Goodman) decides to take the year off.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91549%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
King Lion orders Master Fox arrested for tricking animals.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93305%
Critics Consensus: Fantastic Planet is an animated epic that is by turns surreal and lovely, fantastic and graceful.
The 39-foot-tall pastel Draags keep leashes on the Oms, their tiny pets descended from humans.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93333%
Critics Consensus: Arriving with light-hearted cheeriness and the best musical numbers, Santa Claus Is Comin To Town is a magical story told by charming wood-figure animation.
Adjusted Score: 96318%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated and solidly scripted, ParaNorman will entertain (and frighten) older children while providing surprisingly thoughtful fare for their parents.
A ghoul-whispering youngster (Kodi Smit-McPhee) battles zombies, ghosts, witches and ignorant adults to save his town from an ancient curse.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94864%
Critics Consensus: The arresting and dynamic visuals, offbeat details and light-as-air storytelling make James and the Giant Peach solid family entertainment.
A kindly British orphan (Paul Terry) escapes his cruel aunts (Joanna Lumley, Miriam Margolyes) to sail the sea on a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97122%
Critics Consensus: Frankenweenie is an energetic stop-motion horror movie spoof with lovingly crafted visuals and a heartfelt, oddball story.
A boy faces unintended and sometimes monstrous consequences when he conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog, Sparky,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95837%
Critics Consensus: Another beautifully animated triumph for Laika, Missing Link is a visual treat with lots of humor, plenty of heart, and even a little food for thought.
Tired of living a solitary life in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Link -- 8 feet tall and covered in fur... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96061%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated and faithful to the spirit of its classic source material, The Little Prince is a family-friendly treat that anchors thrilling visuals with a satisfying story.
The Aviator introduces a girl to a world where she rediscovers her childhood and learns that it's human connections that... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96657%
Critics Consensus: Mary and Max is a lovingly crafted, startlingly inventive piece of animation whose technical craft is equaled by its emotional resonance.
A lonely Australian girl (Toni Collette) and an elderly Jewish man (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in New York develop an unlikely... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100036%
Critics Consensus: With its vivid stop-motion animation combined with Neil Gaiman's imaginative story, Coraline is a film that's both visually stunning and wondrously entertaining.
A girl (Dakota Fanning) finds a secret door in her new home and walks into an alternate reality that closely... [More]
Adjusted Score: 99501%
Critics Consensus: A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon retains the charm of its small-screen source material while engagingly expanding the title character's world.
When a UFO crash-lands near Mossy Bottom Farm, it's up to Shaun the sheep and his animal friends to help... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101015%
Critics Consensus: Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightfully funny feast for the eyes with multi-generational appeal -- and it shows Wes Anderson has a knack for animation.
After three nefarious farmers declare war on them, a sly fox (George Clooney) rallies his animal neighbors to fight back.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96220%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Surrealist Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer interprets Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland."... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101777%
Critics Consensus: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a subtly touching and wonderfully eccentric adventure featuring Wallace and Gromit.
Adjusted Score: 104055%
Critics Consensus: Anomalisa marks another brilliant and utterly distinctive highlight in Charlie Kaufman's filmography, and a thought-provoking treat for fans of introspective cinema.
An inspirational speaker (David Thewlis) becomes reinvigorated after meeting a lively woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who shakes up his mundane... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103911%
Critics Consensus: The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stunningly original and visually delightful work of stop-motion animation.
The Pumpkin King gives the yuletide season a touch of Halloween in an animated tale from the mind of Tim... [More]
Adjusted Score: 104478%
Critics Consensus: Chicken Run has all the charm of Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit, and something for everybody. The voice acting is fabulous, the slapstick is brilliant, and the action sequences are spectacular.
A dashing rooster and the hen he loves lead an escape from a farm in 1950s England.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 104588%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
A handsome prince with a flying horse befriends a witch, meets Aladdin, and battles demons to win a princess' heart.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 104204%
Critics Consensus: My Life as a Zucchini's silly title and adorable characters belie a sober story whose colorful visuals delight the senses even as it braves dark emotional depths.
A police officer (Nick Offerman) and some new friends help an orphan adjust to life at a foster home.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 106625%
Critics Consensus: Warm, funny, and brilliantly animated, Shaun the Sheep is yet another stop-motion jewel in Aardman's family-friendly crown.
When his master (John Sparkes) winds up in the big city and loses his memory, Shaun (Justin Fletcher) the sheep... [More]
Adjusted Score: 106516%
Critics Consensus: Kubo and the Two Strings matches its incredible animation with an absorbing -- and bravely melancholy -- story that has something to offer audiences of all ages.
Young Kubo (Art Parkinson) leads a quiet life in a small village until a spirit from the past renews an... [More]
Adjusted Score: 108714%
Critics Consensus: The beautifully stop-motion animated Isle of Dogs finds Wes Anderson at his detail-oriented best while telling one of the director's most winsomely charming stories.
In the future, an outbreak of canine flu leads the mayor of a Japanese city to banish all dogs to... [More]