(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: 67.054%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Christopher Sullivan's animated dystopia is about as far from a cartoon-for-kids as they come. Relationships among the three main characters... [More]
Adjusted Score: 74.336%
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.
Have you ever wondered "What is the meaning of life? Why do we exist?" The answer to this vexing question... [More]
Adjusted Score: 82.766%
Critics Consensus: A Town Called Panic is a raucous, endlessly creative animated romp with a quirky, adult sense of humor.
This unusual feature (a French-Belgian-Luxembourgian co-production) stylistically recalls the work of Art Clokey (Gumby, Davey and Goliath), with its lead... [More]
Adjusted Score: 83.593%
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 family event movie from the creators of "Coraline" and "ParaNorman" that introduces audiences to a new breed of family... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87.081%
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.
In this stop-motion animated comedy set in prehistoric times, a tribe of primitive hunters are displaced from their homes by... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.543%
Critics Consensus: As can be expected from a Tim Burton movie, Corpse Bride is whimsically macabre, visually imaginative, and emotionally bittersweet.
Tim Burton returns to the dark but fanciful animated style of The Nightmare Before Christmas with this stop-motion black comedy.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91.404%
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.
In The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Hugh Grant stars in his first animated role as the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91.68%
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.
In Jules Bass' puppet-animated A Year Without A Santa Claus, an elf and a young boy have to rescue Santa... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91.521%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
The film for this rare full-length animated feature was fully developed and shot by 1930 - just when sound was... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93.732%
Critics Consensus: Fantastic Planet is an animated epic that is by turns surreal and lovely, fantastic and graceful.
This futuristic story takes place on a faraway planet where giants rule, and oppressed humanoids rebel against the machine-like leaders.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94.006%
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.
The story of how Santa Claus came to be is brought to life through the magic of stop-motion animation in... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95.66%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated and solidly scripted, ParaNorman will entertain (and frighten) older children while providing surprisingly thoughtful fare for their parents.
The new 3D stop-motion comedy thriller from animation company LAIKA, reteaming the company with Focus Features after the groundbreaking Academy... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94.98%
Critics Consensus: The arresting and dynamic visuals, offbeat details and light-as-air storytelling make James and the Giant Peach solid family entertainment.
A young boy's discovery of a gigantic peach triggers an eventful journey across the sea in this strikingly designed and... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95.25%
Critics Consensus: Frankenweenie is an energetic stop-motion horror movie spoof with lovingly crafted visuals and a heartfelt, oddball story.
From creative genius Tim Burton comes Frankenweenie, a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95.922%
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.
This April, meet Mr. Link (Galifianakis): 8 feet tall, 630 lbs, and covered in fur, but don't let his appearance... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96.21%
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.
Kung-fu Panda director Mark Osborne teams with producers Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam for this animated take on Antoine de... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96.361%
Critics Consensus: Mary and Max is a lovingly crafted, startlingly inventive piece of animation whose technical craft is equaled by its emotional resonance.
Spanning 20 years and two continents, "Mary and Max" tells of a pen-pal relationship between two very different people: Mary... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98.885%
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.
Coraline Jones is a girl of 11 who is feisty, curious, and adventurous beyond her years. She and her parents... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98.868%
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.
What begins as an ordinary day for Shaun the Sheep (Justin Fletcher) turns out to be anything but, when an... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.852%
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.
Mr. and Mrs. Fox live an idyllic home life with their son Ash and visiting young nephew Kristopherson. But after... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.755%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Svankmajer, who gained a reputation for his short subjects, makes his feature-film debut with Neco z... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.081%
Critics Consensus: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a subtly touching and wonderfully eccentric adventure featuring Wallace and Gromit.
Eccentric inventor Wallace (voice of Peter Sallis) and his faithful if often perplexed dog Gromit are back in their first... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.372%
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.
A man struggles with his inability to connect with other people.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.786%
Critics Consensus: The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stunningly original and visually delightful work of stop-motion animation.
Despite having recently presided over a very successful Halloween, Jack Skellington, aka the Pumpkin King, is bored with his job... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.146%
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 comedy drama set on a Yorkshire chicken farm in 1950s England, the story follows the turbulent romance between Rocky... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.37%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
German director Lotte Reiniger spent three years making this silent animated film based on the Arabian Nights legends. The dashing... [More]
Adjusted Score: 104.3%
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.
After his mother's sudden death, Zucchini is befriended by a police officer, Raymond, who accompanies him to his new foster... [More]
Adjusted Score: 105.171%
Critics Consensus: Warm, funny, and brilliantly animated, Shaun the Sheep is yet another stop-motion jewel in Aardman's family-friendly crown.
When Shaun decides to take the day off and have some fun, he gets a little more action than he... [More]
Adjusted Score: 105.408%
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.
Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 105.625%
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 this stop-motion-animated film from writer/director Wes Anderson, an outbreak of canine flu in Japan leads all dogs to be... [More]