Best Fantasy Movies of All Time

Welcome to Rotten Tomatoes’ compendium of cinema’s best-reviewed tales of swords and sorcery, fire and ice, and dungeons and…you get the idea. The swirling mythic cauldron (i.e. our database) reveals to all the best-reviewed live-action fantasy movies of all time, sorted by our ranking formula with at least 20 reviews each!

#84

The Fall (2006)
62%

#84
Adjusted Score: 65783%
Critics Consensus: More visually elaborate than the fragmented story can sometimes support, The Fall walks the line between labor of love and filmmaker self-indulgence.
Synopsis: A bedridden patient (Lee Pace) captivates a hospitalized girl (Catinca Untaru) with a fantastic tale involving heroes, mystics and villains... [More]
Directed By: Tarsem

#83

Solomon Kane (2009)
66%

#83
Adjusted Score: 67285%
Critics Consensus: Solomon Kane's formulaic and bleak narrative is overcome by an entertaining, straightforward adherence to its genre, exciting gore, and a gratifying lead performance by James Purefoy.
Synopsis: A man (James Purefoy) must renounce his newly taken vows of peace to rescue a young woman (Rachel Hurd-Wood) from... [More]
Directed By: Michael J. Bassett

#82
#82
Adjusted Score: 67901%
Critics Consensus: Though Conan may take itself too seriously for some, this adventure film about a former slave seeking vengeance is full of quotable Schwarzenegger lines and gritty action.
Synopsis: Orphaned boy Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is enslaved after his village is destroyed by the forces of vicious necromancer Thulsa Doom... [More]
Directed By: John Milius

#81
#81
Adjusted Score: 68504%
Critics Consensus: This hotly-anticipated pairing of martial arts legends Jackie Chan and Jet Li features dazzling fight scenes but is weighed down by too much filler.
Synopsis: Jason (Michael Angarano), an American teenager, is a huge fan of Hong Kong cinema and old kung-fu movies. While browsing... [More]
Directed By: Rob Minkoff

#80

Ladyhawke (1985)
68%

#80
Adjusted Score: 69437%
Critics Consensus: There's pacing problems, but Ladyhawke has an undeniable romantic sweep that's stronger than most fantasy epics of its ilk.
Synopsis: Upon breaking out of a dungeon, youthful thief Phillipe Gaston (Matthew Broderick) befriends Capt. Navarre (Rutger Hauer), a man with... [More]
Directed By: Richard Donner

#79
Adjusted Score: 70359%
Critics Consensus: Terry Gilliam remains as indulgent as ever, but The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus represents a return to the intoxicatingly imaginative, darkly beautiful power of his earlier work, with fine performances to match all the visual spectacle.
Synopsis: Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), the leader of a traveling show, has a dark secret. Thousands of years ago he traded... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#78
#78
Adjusted Score: 67590%
Critics Consensus: A goofy, old-school sword-and-sandal epic, Clash of the Titans mines Greek mythology for its story and fleshes it out with Ray Harryhausen's charmingly archaic stop-motion animation techniques.
Synopsis: Perseus (Harry Hamlin), son of the Greek god Zeus (Laurence Olivier), grows up on a deserted island. His destiny is... [More]
Directed By: Desmond Davis

#77

Godmothered (2020)
68%

#77
Adjusted Score: 72329%
Critics Consensus: More bippity boppity than boo, Godmothered tweaks fairytale conventions with just enough self-aware humor to overcome a disappointing deficit of genuine magic.
Synopsis: Set at Christmas time, "Godmothered" is a comedy about Eleanor, a young, inexperienced fairy godmother-in-training (Jillian Bell), who upon hearing... [More]
Directed By: Sharon Maguire

#76

Highlander (1986)
70%

#76
Adjusted Score: 73018%
Critics Consensus: People hate Highlander because it's cheesy, bombastic, and absurd. And people love it for the same reasons.
Synopsis: When the mystical Russell Nash (Christopher Lambert) kills a man in a sword fight in a New York City parking... [More]
Directed By: Russell Mulcahy

#75
Adjusted Score: 75017%
Critics Consensus: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is an entertaining family adventure worthy of the standard set by its predecessor.
Synopsis: One year after their previous adventure, the Pevensie children (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell) return to the... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Adamson

#74

Sleepy Hollow (1999)
69%

#74
Adjusted Score: 74887%
Critics Consensus: It isn't Tim Burton's best work, but Sleepy Hollow entertains with its stunning visuals and creepy atmosphere.
Synopsis: Set in 1799, "Sleepy Hollow" is based on Washington Irving's classic tale "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Faithful to the... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#73
Adjusted Score: 77602%
Critics Consensus: Peter Jackson's return to Middle-earth is an earnest, visually resplendent trip, but the film's deliberate pace robs the material of some of its majesty.
Synopsis: Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) lives a simple life with his fellow hobbits in the shire, until the wizard Gandalf (Ian... [More]
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#72
Adjusted Score: 78135%
Critics Consensus: An entertaining PG detour for gore maestro Eli Roth, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a family-friendly blend of humor and horror with an infectious sense of fun.
Synopsis: Ten-year-old Lewis goes to live with his oddball uncle in a creaky old house that contains a mysterious ticktock noise.... [More]
Directed By: Eli Roth

#71
#71
Adjusted Score: 79424%
Critics Consensus: A wickedly funny tale of three witches and their duel with the Devil, fuelled by some delicious fantasy and arch comedic performances.
Synopsis: Three small-town friends, Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon) and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer), each having lost the man in their lives,... [More]
Directed By: George Miller

#70

Labyrinth (1986)
74%

#70
Adjusted Score: 78422%
Critics Consensus: While it's arguably more interesting on a visual level, Labyrinth provides further proof of director Jim Henson's boundless imagination.
Synopsis: Teenage Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) journeys through a maze to recover her baby brother (Toby Froud) from a goblin king (David... [More]
Directed By: Jim Henson

#69

Nanny McPhee (2005)
74%

#69
Adjusted Score: 79987%
Critics Consensus: A bit alarming at first, Nanny McPhee has a hard edge to counter Mary Poppins-style sweetness, but it still charms us and teaches some valuable lessons.
Synopsis: Widower Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) hires Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) to care for his seven rambunctious children, who have chased... [More]
Directed By: Kirk Jones

#68
#68
Adjusted Score: 79735%
Critics Consensus: Emma Thompson's second labor of love with the Nanny McPhee character actually improves on the first, delivering charming family fare with an excellent cast.
Synopsis: Enigmatic Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives on the doorstep of a harried mother, Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is trying... [More]
Directed By: Susanna White

#67
Adjusted Score: 79954%
Critics Consensus: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children proves a suitable match for Tim Burton's distinctive style, even if it's on stronger footing as a visual experience than a narrative one.
Synopsis: When his beloved grandfather leaves Jake clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds a magical... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#66

Into the Woods (2014)
71%

#66
Adjusted Score: 80548%
Critics Consensus: On the whole, this Disney adaptation of the Sondheim classic sits comfortably at the corner of Hollywood and Broadway -- even if it darkens to its detriment in the final act.
Synopsis: As the result of the curse of a once-beautiful witch (Meryl Streep), a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily... [More]
Directed By: Rob Marshall

#65

Peter Pan (2003)
77%

#65
Adjusted Score: 80693%
Critics Consensus: Solid if far from definitive, this version of Peter Pan is visually impressive, psychologically complex and faithful to its original source.
Synopsis: As Wendy Darling (Rachel Hurd-Wood) recounts stories to her brothers, John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell), she is visited... [More]
Directed By: P.J. Hogan

#64

Zathura (2005)
76%

#64
Adjusted Score: 81250%
Critics Consensus: Dazzling special effects for the kids + well-crafted storytelling for the 'rents = cinematic satisfaction for the whole family.
Synopsis: After their father (Tim Robbins) is called into work, two young boys, Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and Danny (Jonah Bobo), are... [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

#63
#63
Adjusted Score: 81863%
Critics Consensus: Not all of its many intriguing ideas are developed, but The City of Lost Children is an engrossing, disturbing, profoundly memorable experience.
Synopsis: Old and decrepit Krank (Daniel Emilfork) has lost his capacity for dreaming and is attempting to fight death by stealing... [More]

#62

The Dark Crystal (1982)
79%

#62
Adjusted Score: 81765%
Critics Consensus: The Dark Crystal's narrative never quite lives up to the movie's visual splendor, but it remains an admirably inventive and uniquely intense entry in the Jim Henson canon.
Synopsis: Jen (Stephen Garlick), raised by the noble race called the Mystics, has been told that he is the last survivor... [More]
Directed By: Jim Henson, Frank Oz

#61

Big Fish (2003)
76%

#61
Adjusted Score: 82678%
Critics Consensus: A charming father-and-son tale filled with typical Tim Burton flourishes, Big Fish is an impressive catch.
Synopsis: When Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) becomes ill, his son, William (Billy Crudup), travels to be with him. William has a... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#60
#60
Adjusted Score: 82857%
Critics Consensus: A magical journey about the power of a young boy's imagination to save a dying fantasy land, The NeverEnding Story remains a much-loved kids adventure.
Synopsis: On his way to school, Bastian (Barret Oliver) ducks into a bookstore to avoid bullies. Sneaking away with a book... [More]
Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen

#59
Adjusted Score: 83258%
Critics Consensus: While still slightly hamstrung by "middle chapter" narrative problems and its formidable length, The Desolation of Smaug represents a more confident, exciting second chapter for the Hobbit series.
Synopsis: Having survived the first part of their unsettling journey, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his companions (Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage)... [More]
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#58
#58
Adjusted Score: 83288%
Critics Consensus: Some may find its dark tone and slender narrative off-putting, but Spike Jonze's heartfelt adaptation of the classic children's book is as beautiful as it is uncompromising.
Synopsis: Feeling misunderstood at home and at school, mischievous Max (Max Records) escapes to the land of the Wild Things, majestic... [More]
Directed By: Spike Jonze

#57

Excalibur (1981)
74%

#57
Adjusted Score: 80764%
Critics Consensus: John Boorman's operatic, opulent take on the legend of King Arthur is visually remarkable, and features strong performances from an all-star lineup of British thespians.
Synopsis: The magical sword of Excalibur starts off in the hands of British lord Uther Pendragon (Gabriel Byrne) and then, years... [More]
Directed By: John Boorman

#56
Adjusted Score: 84331%
Critics Consensus: With first-rate special effects and compelling storytelling, this adaptation stays faithful to its source material and will please moviegoers of all ages.
Synopsis: During the World War II bombings of London, four English siblings are sent to a country house where they will... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Adamson

#55
Adjusted Score: 84120%
Critics Consensus: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is an old-school adventure yarn with a distaff European - and generally rather delightful - spin.
Synopsis: A popular novelist deals with her would-be suitors, the cops, monsters, and other distractions.... [More]
Directed By: Luc Besson

#54

Dragonslayer (1981)
82%

#54
Adjusted Score: 84409%
Critics Consensus: An atypically dark Disney adventure, Dragonslayer puts a realistic spin -- and some impressive special effects -- on a familiar tale.
Synopsis: A terrible dragon is terrorizing the medieval land of Urland in the 6th century. Representatives from the kingdom seek the... [More]
Directed By: Matthew Robbins

#53

Stardust (2007)
77%

#53
Adjusted Score: 85510%
Critics Consensus: A faithful interpretation that captures the spirit of whimsy, action, and off-kilter humor of Neil Gaiman, Stardust juggles multiple genres and tones to create a fantastical experience.
Synopsis: To win the heart of his beloved (Sienna Miller), a young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) ventures into the realm... [More]
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn

#52
#52
Adjusted Score: 84660%
Critics Consensus: A visual treat rich in symbolism, The Holy Mountain adds another defiantly idiosyncratic chapter to Jodorowsky's thoroughly unique filmography.
Synopsis: A Mexican master (Alexandro Jodorowsky) leads a Christ figure (Horacio Salinas) and other disciples to a mountain of immortal wise... [More]
Directed By: Alexandro Jodorowsky

#51
#51
Adjusted Score: 85714%
Critics Consensus: The Spiderwick Chronicles is an entertaining children's adventure, with heart and imagination to spare.
Synopsis: Of the three Grace children, Jared (Freddie Highmore) has always been thought of as the troublemaker. So when strange things... [More]
Directed By: Mark Waters

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 86149%
Critics Consensus: Like many classic games, Jumanji: The Next Level retains core components of what came before while adding enough fresh bits to keep things playable.
Synopsis: When Spencer goes back into the fantastical world of Jumanji, pals Martha, Fridge and Bethany re-enter the game to bring... [More]
Directed By: Jake Kasdan

#49

Pinocchio (2019)
83%

#49
Adjusted Score: 86375%
Critics Consensus: Sticking closely to Carlo Collodi's original story, Matteo Garrone's Pinocchio pulls every string to create a visually stunning film that proves some tales really are timeless.
Synopsis: Geppetto's puppet creation, Pinocchio, magically comes to life with dreams of becoming a real boy. Easily led astray, Pinocchio tumbles... [More]
Directed By: Matteo Garrone

#48
Adjusted Score: 87203%
Critics Consensus: May leave you exhausted like the theme park ride that inspired it; however, you'll have a good time when it's over.
Synopsis: Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) arrives at Port Royal in the Caribbean without a ship or crew. His timing is... [More]
Directed By: Gore Verbinski

#47

Tale of Tales (2015)
83%

#47
Adjusted Score: 87983%
Critics Consensus: Visually splendid and narratively satisfying, Tale of Tales packs an off-kilter wallop for mature viewers in search of something different.
Synopsis: Three fairy tales revolve around a king (John C. Reilly) who must slay a sea monster, a giant flea and... [More]
Directed By: Matteo Garrone

#46
Adjusted Score: 90739%
Critics Consensus: It can't help but feel like the prelude it is, but Deathly Hallows: Part I is a beautifully filmed, emotionally satisfying penultimate installment for the Harry Potter series.
Synopsis: Without the guidance and protection of their professors, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) begin a... [More]
Directed By: David Yates

#45
Adjusted Score: 89781%
Critics Consensus: It's not easy to take the longest Harry Potter book and streamline it into the shortest HP movie, but director David Yates does a bang up job of it, creating an Order of the Phoenix that's entertaining and action-packed.
Synopsis: Now in his fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learns that many in the wizarding community do not know... [More]
Directed By: David Yates

#44
Adjusted Score: 89060%
Critics Consensus: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone adapts its source material faithfully while condensing the novel's overstuffed narrative into an involving -- and often downright exciting -- big-screen magical caper.
Synopsis: Adaptation of the first of J.K. Rowling's popular children's novels about Harry Potter, a boy who learns on his eleventh... [More]
Directed By: Chris Columbus

#43
Adjusted Score: 90061%
Critics Consensus: Though perhaps more enchanting for younger audiences, Chamber of Secrets is nevertheless both darker and livelier than its predecessor, expanding and improving upon the first film's universe.
Synopsis: The follow-up to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" finds young wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends, Ron... [More]
Directed By: Chris Columbus

#42

Matilda (1996)
90%

#42
Adjusted Score: 90575%
Critics Consensus: Danny DeVito-directed version of Matilda is odd, charming, and while the movie diverges from Roald Dahl, it nonetheless captures the book's spirit.
Synopsis: This film adaptation of a Roald Dahl work tells the story of Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson), a gifted girl forced... [More]
Directed By: Danny DeVito

#41
Adjusted Score: 93102%
Critics Consensus: Closer to the source material than 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is for people who like their Chocolate visually appealing and dark.
Synopsis: Based on the beloved Roald Dahl tale, this comedic and fantastical film follows young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) and his... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#40
#40
Adjusted Score: 91751%
Critics Consensus: Bridge to Terabithia is a faithful adaptation of a beloved children's novel and a powerful portrayal of love, loss, and imagination through children's eyes.
Synopsis: The life of Jesse (Josh Hutcherson), an adolescent, changes when he befriends Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), the class outsider. The children... [More]
Directed By: Gabor Csupo

#39
#39
Adjusted Score: 92447%
Critics Consensus: Don Chaffey's Jason and the Argonauts is an outlandish, transportive piece of nostalgia whose real star is the masterful stop-motion animation work of Ray Harryhausen.
Synopsis: After saving the life of his royal father's usurper, Pelias (Douglas Wilmer), whom he fails to recognize, Jason (Todd Armstrong)... [More]
Directed By: Don Chaffey

#38

Time Bandits (1981)
90%

#38
Adjusted Score: 93073%
Critics Consensus: Time Bandits is a remarkable time-travel fantasy from Terry Gilliam, who utilizes fantastic set design and homemade special effects to create a vivid, original universe.
Synopsis: Young history buff Kevin (Craig Warnock) can scarcely believe it when six dwarfs emerge from his closet one night. Former... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#37

The BFG (2016)
74%

#37
Adjusted Score: 93371%
Critics Consensus: The BFG minimizes the darker elements of Roald Dahl's classic in favor of a resolutely good-natured, visually stunning, and largely successful family-friendly adventure.
Synopsis: Ten-year-old Sophie is in for the adventure of a lifetime when she meets the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). Naturally... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#36

Cinderella (2015)
84%

#36
Adjusted Score: 93473%
Critics Consensus: Refreshingly traditional in a revisionist era, Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella proves Disney hasn't lost any of its old-fashioned magic.
Synopsis: After her father unexpectedly dies, young Ella (Lily James) finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother (Cate Blanchett)... [More]
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh

#35
Adjusted Score: 93642%
Critics Consensus: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey celebrates the yuletide season with a holiday adventure whose exuberant spirit is matched by its uplifting message.
Synopsis: Decades after his apprentice betrays him, a once joyful toymaker finds new hope when his bright young granddaughter appears on... [More]
Directed By: David E. Talbert

#34
Adjusted Score: 93742%
Critics Consensus: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle uses a charming cast and a humorous twist to offer an undemanding yet solidly entertaining update on its source material.
Synopsis: Four high school kids discover an old video game console and are drawn into the game's jungle setting, literally becoming... [More]
Directed By: Jake Kasdan

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 94785%
Critics Consensus: The first collaboration between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, Edward Scissorhands is a magical modern fairy tale with gothic overtones and a sweet center.
Synopsis: A scientist (Vincent Price) builds an animated human being -- the gentle Edward (Johnny Depp). The scientist dies before he... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#32
Adjusted Score: 97303%
Critics Consensus: Dark, thrilling, and occasionally quite funny, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is also visually stunning and emotionally satisfying.
Synopsis: As Death Eaters wreak havoc in both Muggle and Wizard worlds, Hogwarts is no longer a safe haven for students.... [More]
Directed By: David Yates

#31
Adjusted Score: 95406%
Critics Consensus: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is strange yet comforting, full of narrative detours that don't always work but express the film's uniqueness.
Synopsis: The last of five coveted "golden tickets" falls into the hands of a sweet but very poor boy. He and... [More]
Directed By: Mel Stuart

#30

The Witches (1990)
93%

#30
Adjusted Score: 96146%
Critics Consensus: With a deliciously wicked performance from Angelica Huston and imaginative puppetry by Jim Henson's creature shop, Nicolas Roeg's dark and witty movie captures the spirit of Roald Dahl's writing like few other adaptations.
Synopsis: While staying at a hotel in England with his grandmother, Helga (Mai Zetterling), young Luke (Jasen Fisher) inadvertently spies on... [More]
Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

#29
Adjusted Score: 94944%
Critics Consensus: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them draws on Harry Potter's rich mythology to deliver a spinoff that dazzles with franchise-building magic all its own.
Synopsis: The year is 1926, and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has just completed a global excursion to find and document an... [More]
Directed By: David Yates

#28
Adjusted Score: 96449%
Critics Consensus: Bursting with Terry Gilliam's typically imaginative flourishes, this story of a possibly deranged Baron recounting his storied life is a flamboyant and witty visual treat.
Synopsis: During the "Age of Reason" of the late 18th century, the Turkish army lays siege to a European city where... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#27

Life of Pi (2012)
86%

#27
Adjusted Score: 96917%
Critics Consensus: A 3D adaptation of a supposedly "unfilmable" book, Ang Lee's Life of Pi achieves the near impossible -- it's an astonishing technical achievement that's also emotionally rewarding.
Synopsis: After deciding to sell their zoo in India and move to Canada, Santosh and Gita Patel board a freighter with... [More]
Directed By: Ang Lee

#26
Adjusted Score: 97486%
Critics Consensus: The main characters are maturing, and the filmmakers are likewise improving on their craft; vibrant special effects and assured performances add up to what is the most complex yet of the Harry Potter films.
Synopsis: The fourth movie in the Harry Potter franchise sees Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) returning for his fourth year at Hogwarts School... [More]
Directed By: Mike Newell

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 97771%
Critics Consensus: El Espíritu de la Colmena uses a classic horror story's legacy as the thread for a singularly absorbing childhood fable woven with uncommon grace.
Synopsis: In an allegory of life after Gen. Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War, life in a remote village in... [More]
Directed By: Víctor Erice

#24

Snow White (2012)
95%

#24
Adjusted Score: 98060%
Critics Consensus: Smartly written and beautiful to behold, Blancanieves uses its classic source material to offer a dark tale, delightfully told.
Synopsis: Rescued from her evil stepmother (Maribel Verdú) by dwarves, a young woman (Macarena García) becomes a bullfighter like her late... [More]
Directed By: Pablo Berger

#23

Orpheus (1950)
97%

#23
Adjusted Score: 98469%
Critics Consensus: Heavy with symbolism and deliberately paced, Orpheus may not be for everyone -- but as an example of Jean Cocteau's eccentric genius, it's all but impossible not to recommend.
Synopsis: At the Café des Poètes in Paris, a fight breaks out between the poet Orphée (Jean Marais) and a group... [More]
Directed By: Jean Cocteau

#22
#22
Adjusted Score: 98995%
Critics Consensus: With an enchanting cast, beautifully crafted songs, and a painterly eye for detail, Beauty and the Beast offers a faithful yet fresh retelling that honors its beloved source material.
Synopsis: Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in its... [More]
Directed By: Bill Condon

#21

The Seventh Seal (1957)
94%

#21
Adjusted Score: 99271%
Critics Consensus: Narratively bold and visually striking, The Seventh Seal brought Ingmar Bergman to the world stage -- and remains every bit as compelling today.
Synopsis: When disillusioned Swedish knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) returns home from the Crusades to find his country in the... [More]
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman

#20
Adjusted Score: 101832%
Critics Consensus: Under the assured direction of Alfonso Cuaron, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban triumphantly strikes a delicate balance between technical wizardry and complex storytelling.
Synopsis: Harry Potter's (Daniel Radcliffe) third year at Hogwarts starts off badly when he learns deranged killer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman)... [More]
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 100308%
Critics Consensus: It requires some viewing commitment, but this beautifully assembled showcase for Douglas Fairbanks' acting offers some splendid treats for classic film fans.
Synopsis: A thief sneaks into a royal palace, where he sees and falls instantly in love with a beautiful princess. Pretending... [More]
Directed By: Raoul Walsh

#18

Enchanted (2007)
93%

#18
Adjusted Score: 101403%
Critics Consensus: A smart re-imagining of fairy tale tropes that's sure to delight children and adults, Enchanted features witty dialogue, sharp animation, and a star turn by Amy Adams.
Synopsis: Banished by an evil queen, Princess Giselle (Amy Adams) from a fairy-tale world lands in modern Manhattan, where music, magic... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Lima

#17
Adjusted Score: 102006%
Critics Consensus: Full of eye-popping special effects, and featuring a pitch-perfect cast, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring brings J.R.R. Tolkien's classic to vivid life.
Synopsis: The future of civilization rests in the fate of the One Ring, which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces... [More]
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 101997%
Critics Consensus: Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an innovative and entertaining film that features a groundbreaking mix of live action and animation, with a touching and original story to boot.
Synopsis: Down-on-his-luck private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) gets hired by cartoon producer R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) to investigate an adultery... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#15

Mary Poppins (1964)
96%

#15
Adjusted Score: 101037%
Critics Consensus: A lavish modern fairy tale celebrated for its amazing special effects, catchy songs, and Julie Andrews's legendary performance in the title role.
Synopsis: When Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber), the children of the wealthy and uptight Banks family, are faced with... [More]
Directed By: Robert Stevenson

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 102226%
Critics Consensus: Mary Poppins Returns relies on the magic of its classic forebear to cast a familiar -- but still solidly effective -- family-friendly spell.
Synopsis: Now an adult with three children, bank teller Michael Banks learns that his house will be repossessed in five days... [More]
Directed By: Rob Marshall

#13

Pete's Dragon (2016)
88%

#13
Adjusted Score: 102350%
Critics Consensus: Pete's Dragon continues Disney's current live-action winning streak with an update that gives the original a visual overhaul without overwhelming its sweet, soulful charm.
Synopsis: Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford), a woodcarver, delights local children with stories of a mysterious dragon that lives deep in the... [More]
Directed By: David Lowery

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 102714%
Critics Consensus: Dashing, dazzling, and altogether magical, The Thief of Bagdad is an enchanting fantasy for children of all ages.
Synopsis: Deceived and deposed by his sinister adviser, Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), Ahmad (John Justin), the King of Bagdad, must find a... [More]

#11

Ugetsu (1953)
100%

#11
Adjusted Score: 102696%
Critics Consensus: With its thought-provoking themes, rich atmosphere, and brilliant direction, Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu monogatari is a towering classic of world cinema.
Synopsis: In 16th century Japan, peasants Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) and Tobei (Sakae Ozawa) sell their earthenware pots to a group of... [More]
Directed By: Kenji Mizoguchi

#10
Adjusted Score: 102893%
Critics Consensus: Visually breathtaking and emotionally powerful, The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King is a moving and satisfying conclusion to a great trilogy.
Synopsis: The culmination of nearly 10 years' work and conclusion to Peter Jackson's epic trilogy based on the timeless J.R.R. Tolkien... [More]
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#9
Adjusted Score: 103668%
Critics Consensus: The Two Towers balances spectacular action with emotional storytelling, leaving audiences both wholly satisfied and eager for the final chapter.
Synopsis: The sequel to the Golden Globe-nominated and AFI Award-winning "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "The... [More]
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 104033%
Critics Consensus: A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh.
Synopsis: A fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love. He must find her after a... [More]
Directed By: Rob Reiner

#7

The Green Knight (2021)
89%

#7
Adjusted Score: 106275%
Critics Consensus: The Green Knight honors and deconstructs its source material in equal measure, producing an absorbing adventure that casts a fantastical spell.
Synopsis: An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, THE GREEN KNIGHT tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev... [More]
Directed By: David Lowery

#6

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
95%

#6
Adjusted Score: 105720%
Critics Consensus: Pan's Labyrinth is Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended together into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable.
Synopsis: In 1944 Spain young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her ailing mother (Ariadna Gil) arrive at the post of her mother's... [More]
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 105584%
Critics Consensus: With its magical optical effects and enchanting performances, Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast remains the most surreal -- and soulful -- of the fairy tale's film adaptations.
Synopsis: The story of a gentle-hearted beast in love with a simple and beautiful girl. She is drawn to the repellent... [More]
Directed By: Jean Cocteau

#4

A Monster Calls (2016)
86%

#4
Adjusted Score: 105949%
Critics Consensus: A Monster Calls deftly balances dark themes and fantastical elements to deliver an engrossing and uncommonly moving entry in the crowded coming-of-age genre.
Synopsis: Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with far more than other boys his age. His beloved and devoted mother (Felicity Jones)... [More]
Directed By: J.A. Bayona

#3
Adjusted Score: 112459%
Critics Consensus: Thrilling, powerfully acted, and visually dazzling, Deathly Hallows Part II brings the Harry Potter franchise to a satisfying -- and suitably magical -- conclusion.
Synopsis: A clash between good and evil awaits as young Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) prepare... [More]
Directed By: David Yates

#2

The Jungle Book (2016)
94%

#2
Adjusted Score: 114733%
Critics Consensus: As lovely to behold as it is engrossing to watch, The Jungle Book is the rare remake that actually improves upon its predecessors -- all while setting a new standard for CGI.
Synopsis: Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) must leave the only home he's ever known when... [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

#1

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
98%

#1
Adjusted Score: 115182%
Critics Consensus: An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant, The Wizard of Oz is a must-see film for young and old.
Synopsis: When a tornado rips through Kansas, Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to... [More]
Directed By: Victor Fleming

(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!

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 74664%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Three residents (Robert Levy, Nancy Andrews, Chris Sullivan) of a small Rust Belt town lead sad, interconnected lives.... [More]
Directed By: Chris Sullivan

#29

$9.99 (2008)
73%

#29
Adjusted Score: 73464%
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.
Synopsis: Residents of a Sydney, Australia, apartment complex look for meaning in their lives.... [More]
Directed By: Tatia Rosenthal

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 83184%
Critics Consensus: A Town Called Panic is a raucous, endlessly creative animated romp with a quirky, adult sense of humor.
Synopsis: In this animated film, Cowboy (Stéphane Aubier) and Indian (Bruce Ellison) plan to construct a barbecue pit for the birthday... [More]

#27

The Boxtrolls (2014)
78%

#27
Adjusted Score: 84223%
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.
Synopsis: Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), an orphan, lives with the Boxtrolls -- a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who inhabit a cavern... [More]

#26

Early Man (2018)
80%

#26
Adjusted Score: 90372%
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.
Synopsis: A plucky cave man named Dug, his sidekick Hognob and the rest of their tribe face a grave threat to... [More]
Directed By: Nick Park

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 92892%
Critics Consensus: As can be expected from a Tim Burton movie, Corpse Bride is whimsically macabre, visually imaginative, and emotionally bittersweet.
Synopsis: Victor (Johnny Depp) and Victoria's (Emily Watson) families have arranged their marriage. Though they like each other, Victor is nervous... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson

#24
Adjusted Score: 92204%
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.
Synopsis: Accompanied by his ragtag crew, an enthusiastic pirate captain (Hugh Grant) sails the high seas and dreams of besting his... [More]
Directed By: Peter Lord

#23
Adjusted Score: 91447%
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.
Synopsis: Two elves try to save Christmas after disgruntled Saint Nick (John Goodman) decides to take the year off.... [More]
Directed By: Ron Underwood

#22

Le Roman de Renard (1930)
100%

#22
Adjusted Score: 81269%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: King Lion orders Master Fox arrested for tricking animals.... [More]

#21

Fantastic Planet (1973)
91%

#21
Adjusted Score: 92911%
Critics Consensus: Fantastic Planet is an animated epic that is by turns surreal and lovely, fantastic and graceful.
Synopsis: This animated tale follows the relationship between the small human-like Oms and their much larger blue-skinned oppressors, the Draags, who... [More]
Directed By: René Laloux

#20
Adjusted Score: 92688%
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.
Synopsis: ... [More]

#19

ParaNorman (2012)
89%

#19
Adjusted Score: 95758%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated and solidly scripted, ParaNorman will entertain (and frighten) older children while providing surprisingly thoughtful fare for their parents.
Synopsis: Young Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has the ability to speak with the dead -- and he often prefers their company... [More]
Directed By: Chris Butler, Sam Fell

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 94692%
Critics Consensus: The arresting and dynamic visuals, offbeat details and light-as-air storytelling make James and the Giant Peach solid family entertainment.
Synopsis: Featuring stop-motion animation and live action, this inventive adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved children's tale follows the adventures of James... [More]
Directed By: Henry Selick

#17

Frankenweenie (2012)
87%

#17
Adjusted Score: 96555%
Critics Consensus: Frankenweenie is an energetic stop-motion horror movie spoof with lovingly crafted visuals and a heartfelt, oddball story.
Synopsis: Young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is a science nerd and outsider at school, but he does have one good friend:... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#16

Missing Link (2019)
88%

#16
Adjusted Score: 97225%
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.
Synopsis: Tired of living a solitary life in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Link -- 8 feet tall and covered in fur... [More]
Directed By: Chris Butler

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 97522%
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.
Synopsis: The Aviator introduces a girl to a world where she rediscovers her childhood and learns that it's human connections that... [More]
Directed By: Mark Osborne

#14

Mary and Max (2009)
95%

#14
Adjusted Score: 97245%
Critics Consensus: Mary and Max is a lovingly crafted, startlingly inventive piece of animation whose technical craft is equaled by its emotional resonance.
Synopsis: A lonely Australian girl (Toni Collette) and an elderly Jewish man (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in New York develop an unlikely... [More]
Directed By: Adam Elliot

#13

Coraline (2009)
90%

#13
Adjusted Score: 101334%
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.
Synopsis: While exploring her new home, a girl named Coraline (Dakota Fanning) discovers a secret door, behind which lies an alternate... [More]
Directed By: Henry Selick

#12
Adjusted Score: 100867%
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.
Synopsis: When a UFO crash-lands near Mossy Bottom Farm, it's up to Shaun the sheep and his animal friends to help... [More]

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 104186%
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.
Synopsis: After 12 years of bucolic bliss, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) breaks a promise to his wife (Meryl Streep) and raids... [More]
Directed By: Wes Anderson

#10

Alice (1989)
95%

#10
Adjusted Score: 95866%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In Czech director Jan Svankmajer's surreal adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic children's book, Alice (Kristyna Kohoutova) follows her stuffed rabbit... [More]
Directed By: Jan Svankmajer

#9
Adjusted Score: 102223%
Critics Consensus: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a subtly touching and wonderfully eccentric adventure featuring Wallace and Gromit.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Steve Box

#8

Anomalisa (2015)
92%

#8
Adjusted Score: 108368%
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.
Synopsis: An inspirational speaker (David Thewlis) becomes reinvigorated after meeting a lively woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who shakes up his mundane... [More]

#7
Adjusted Score: 104827%
Critics Consensus: The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stunningly original and visually delightful work of stop-motion animation.
Synopsis: The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown's beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual... [More]
Directed By: Henry Selick

#6

Chicken Run (2000)
97%

#6
Adjusted Score: 104477%
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.
Synopsis: This engaging stop-motion, claymation adventure tells the story of an American rooster who falls in love with a gorgeous hen... [More]
Directed By: Peter Lord, Nick Park

#5
Adjusted Score: 103465%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A handsome prince with a flying horse befriends a witch, meets Aladdin, and battles demons to win a princess' heart.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Lotte Reiniger, Karl Koch

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 107754%
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.
Synopsis: A police officer (Nick Offerman) and some new friends help an orphan adjust to life at a foster home.... [More]
Directed By: Claude Barras

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 105622%
Critics Consensus: Warm, funny, and brilliantly animated, Shaun the Sheep is yet another stop-motion jewel in Aardman's family-friendly crown.
Synopsis: All is well at Mossy Bottom Farm, except for the fact that the animals will do anything to get out... [More]

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 110040%
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.
Synopsis: Young Kubo's (Art Parkinson) peaceful existence comes crashing down when he accidentally summons a vengeful spirit from the past. Now... [More]
Directed By: Travis Knight

#1

Isle of Dogs (2018)
90%

#1
Adjusted Score: 111583%
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.
Synopsis: When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island,... [More]
Directed By: Wes Anderson

The Black Cauldron

(Photo by (c)Buena Vista Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Far too often, animated movies are written off as overly kid-friendly, unsophisticated fluff, when the truth is the medium is capable of telling stories as mature as the most prestigious live-action dramas. Sometimes, however, an animated movie ostensibly made for children can also be spooky enough to terrify the most hardened youngsters, and even a few adults.

One of Disney’s most infamous animated movies, The Black Cauldron, opened 35 years ago and traumatized kids of all stripes, and to celebrate its anniversary, we’re taking a look back at its peers. Whether they were intentionally spooky or simply featured a couple of freaky moments that made every kid hit fast-forward, we’ve put together a list of the scariest animated movies that terrified the young audiences they were meant to entertain.


Coraline (2009) 90%

Coraline

(Photo by Focus Features)

On the surface, this stop-motion adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel is a silly story of a spunky, bored little girl who finds a hidden door to a secret world where everything is perfect, yet slightly off. But just like its hidden parallel dimension, Coraline is freaky and frequently plain horrifying. As soon as Coraline finds the secret door, the story begins to unfold like a horror film, ramping up its creepy atmosphere and frightening creatures. But the real terror comes the moment Coraline is given her own set of button eyes, to be sewn on by her creepy Other Mother… before she transforms into a giant spider and all hell breaks loose. Moira MacDonald summarized it for the Seattle Times: “Children who like being scared will get a kick out of this wildly creative movie; adults needn’t have a child in tow to enjoy it, too.”


The Great Mouse Detective (1986) 80%

The Great Mouse Detective

(Photo by Walt Disney Productions)

A noir mystery starring mice may not necessarily seem like a film that would give you nightmares for days on end, but you would be wrong. Based on the children’s novel Basil of Baker Street — which itself was inspired by the tales of Sherlock Holmes — The Great Mouse Detective starts with a little mouse girl named Olivia celebrating her birthday with her father at home, when suddenly a one-legged bat breaks into the house and kidnaps the father. The film’s eerie atmosphere persists throughout its runtime, and even when there are moments of levity or sweetness, they’re usually followed by moments of utter terror. For many children, the bat represents their first experiences with jumpscares, as he is responsible for the two most frightening ones in the film: first, when he bursts into Olivia’s home at the beginning of the movie, and later when he leaps out of a baby carriage to abduct her. Nina Darnton wrote for The New York Times that “Small children may be afraid of some of the bad characters — the Disney Studio’s gift for creating really nasty bad guys means that they are scary — but they will love the cute, brave mice and cheer their triumphs. Adults will enjoy the wit and style.”


The Last Unicorn (1982) 73%

The Last Unicorn

(Photo by Jensen Farley Pictures)

Horror and fantasy are two genres that don’t cross nearly enough, but when they do, they offer unique experiences. The Last Unicorn skews more towards fantasy, but it still packs enough spooky elements to make it a scary film for kids. Rankin/Bass may be better known for their holiday classics like the stop-motion animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but this fantasy epic — about a unicorn who discovers she is the last of her kind and embarks on a quest to discover what has happened to her kin — is full of horrific dangers. Without a doubt, the most frightening for kids was the fiery Red Bull, evil incarnate, with its deep, blood-red color and almost hollow eyes that no doubt inspired countless nightmares. Writing about the film for Time Out, Geoff Andrew explained that The Last Unicorn has “Some horrific moments (the mark of the best fairytales) and some sublimely witty lines.”


Monster House (2006) 75%

Monster House

(Photo by Sony Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Monster House is ultimately charming and fun for most, but this is, after all, the only “proper” horror film on this list, and while it’s largely kid-friendly, it’s also suitably frightening in spots, as any haunted house movie worth its salt should be. The film follows three kids who decide to explore the creepy old house in their neighborhood with a terrifying reputation. It feels like a 1980s Amblin movie, full of adventure and comedy and more than a little danger, thanks to a few intense scenes courtesy of the imaginatively rendered titular house. As L.A. Weekly’s Scott Foundas said of the film, “Monster House becomes one of those wonderfully weird adventure stories beloved of children who don’t mind getting a good old-fashioned case of the heebie-jeebies. It’s kind of a blast for adults too.”


The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) 95%

The Nightmare Before Christmas

(Photo by Buena Vista Pictures)

Ask any horror fan and they’ll tell you that Christmas and horror make for a fantastic combination, but this is one of the rare times that the two cross over in animated form, and it’s mostly a delightful treat. From the mind of Tim Burton and Henry Selick comes the story of the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, who gets tired of the same annual festivities and decides to kidnap Santa Claus and take over Christmas. As sweet and funny as it is terrifyingly gruesome, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a visual treat, even if those visuals are frequently bizarre, off-kilter, and a little macabre for the toddler set. The best example is the burlap-sack villain Ooogie Boogie, who literally refers to himself as “the boogieman” and who meets his demise when he comes apart at the seams and reveals he’s full of creepy-crawlies. As Alan Jones wrote for the Radio Times, “Only the deliciously demented imagination of Edward Scissorhands director Tim Burton could have come up with such a dark vision of the holiday season.”


Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998) 88%

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island

(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

For decades, Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. gang have served as an introduction to horror for kids, offering mildly creepy stories that always ended with an “Aw, shucks!” and a smile. Well, not Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, which marked the first time the gang faced a real supernatural threat as they set out to find ghosts and monsters in Louisiana. What starts as another typical Scooby-Doo adventure quickly devolves into a tale of voodoo, ghost pirates, vengeful cat demons, and of course, zombies, all tied together by a tragic backstory much darker than fans of the show would have been accustomed to. There aren’t any greedy tycoons in rubber suits here, and actual death — of werecats and humans alike — is a major element of the plot. There really isn’t anything else quite like this in the Scooby-Doo canon, and any kid going into it expecting the usual antics was in for a shock.


The Secret of NIMH (1982) 93%

The Secret of NIMH

(Photo by United Artists)

If you thought animated movies featuring talking animals were all sunshine and rainbows, think again. This film based on the children’s novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH follows a field mouse as she tries to save her ill son both from his pneumonia and from the farmer whose land they live on before he plows through it. Don Bluth’s adaptation is full of truly terrifying moments involving the survivors of scientific experiments, including a rat-eating cat named Dragon. But the scene that really traumatized kids was the visit to the Great Owl, whose introduction includes a lair littered with the bones of his devoured prey, a gruesome encounter with an ill-fated spider, and a pair of creepy, glowing eyes that stared into your very soul. Bluth’s films always skewed a little darker than typical Disney fare, and this was a prime example of his aesthetic. As critic Christopher Null wrote for Filmcritic.com, “Never mind the G rating, this is scary stuff which sent my little one fleeing to another room inside of 10 minutes.”


Spirited Away (2001) 97%

Spirited Away

(Photo by Walt Disney Pictures)

Japanese animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki’s films have been described as beautifully made artistic wonders and visual masterpieces, but “frightening” isn’t a sensation you normally associate with his work. That being said, Spirited Away is his most haunting film, and it has more than its fair share of creepy moments that sneak up on you and make a lasting impression. The story of a girl lost in a world ruled by spirits is as whimsical as a Disney film, but it doesn’t shy away from disturbing imagery, like when young protagonist Chihiro sees her parents transformed into monstrous and endlessly hungry pigs, or when the spirit No Face begins to devour all the employees of the bathhouse in a wild frenzy. Children who toughed it out through the more frightening moments were rewarded with an enchanting, magical experience, but for some kids, that would have been a tall order.


Watership Down (1978) 82%

Watership Down

(Photo by Avco Embassy courtesy Everett Collection)

It doesn’t take long for Watership Down to shed its “cute bunny film” facade and reveal a deeper allegory that flows red with blood. This adaptation of Richard Adams’ novel follows a group of rabbits on a perilous journey to find refuge after one of them has an apocalyptic vision about their home. For generations, Watership Down has traumatized children with haunting imagery of red-eyed rabbits ripping each other’s throats out or suffocating as they’re buried alive, and peril lies around every turn in the story. Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central summed it up succinctly: “Unsentimental and terrifying.”


Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) 97%

Christopher Lloyd in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

(Photo by Buena Vista Pictures)

“Wait a second. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a live-action movie,” you might say, and you’d be (mostly) right, but Robert Zemeckis’ loony live-action/animated hybrid deserves a spot on this list because it features one of Disney’s scariest villains, Christopher Llloyd’s Judge Doom, who — spoiler alert — is actually a cartoon himself. When we first meet Doom, he mercilessly murders an innocent toon without flinching, dumping it into a vat of corrosive “dip.” Then comes the pivotal moment when we discover Doom’s true identity; as played by Lloyd, he already resembled a half-desiccated corpse, a cross between the evil preacher from the Poltergeist movies and the Gestapo officer from Raiders of the Lost Ark who gets his face melted off. But once he’s run over by the streamroller and pops back up, Doom is another beast altogether and the stuff of childhood nightmares.


The Black Cauldron was released on July 24, 1985.

Did we leave out one of your favorites? Don’t agree with our choices? Let us know in the comments!

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and many of us will be celebrating the contributions and sacrifices our mothers have made to help us become who we are. But not all moms are created equal, and that’s especially true in cinema, because we know some real crappy movie moms out there — 24 to be exact — and they deserve no flowers, chocolates, or fancy dinners.

Looking for some good TV to watch this week? Maybe a few Oscar nominees? Or possibly a solid thriller or two? We’ve even got a couple of good choices for the kids. Read on for the full list of choices available on the streaming services, as well as a few options for sale and rental on FandangoNOW.


New on Netflix

 

Love: Season 2 (2017) 96%

In this Netflix original comedy series, Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust play a young couple experiencing the ups and downs of commitment in an adult relationship.

Available now on: Netflix


Halt and Catch Fire: Season 3 (2016) 96%

Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, and Kerry Bishé star in AMC’s drama about the wild and wooly early days of the personal computer revolution.

Available now on: Netflix


Notes on Blindness (2016) 95%

This documentary chronicles the struggles of writer John Hull, who endured decades of gradually deteriorating eyesight until he became completely blind.

Available now on: Netflix


Million Dollar Baby (2004) 90%

Clint Eastwood’s multiple Oscar-winning sports drama follows a down-on-his-luck trainer (Eastwood) who reluctantly agrees to work with an aspiring female boxer (Hilary Swank) when her tenacity wins him over.

Available now on: Netflix


Coraline (2009) 90%

Laika Entertainment’s first stop motion animated feature film is an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s children’s book about a young girl who discovers a secret door in her new home that leads to an alternate dimension.

Available 3/16 on Netflix


Pete's Dragon (2016) 88%

Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Robert Redford star in this remake of the Disney film about a young orphaned boy lost in the wild who befriends a dragon and tries to keep him secret from the local townsfolk.

Available now on: Netflix


Burning Sands (2017) 88%

Trevor Jackson and Alfre Woodard star in this drama about a pre-med student at a historically black college who pledges a fraternity and endures cruel and relentless bullying from his upperclassman brothers.

Available now on: Netflix


Coming Through the Rye (2015) 70%

This small drama is a period coming-of-age tale about a teenage boy in 1969 inspired by Cather in the Rye who embarks on a journey to track down author J.D. Salinger.

Available now on: Netflix


Marvel's Iron Fist: Season 1 (2017) 20%

The latest Netflix Marvel series centers on billionaire heir Danny Rand, who returns to New York after a long absence and fights crime with newly acquired martial arts powers.

Available 3/17 on: Netflix


New on Amazon Prime

 

The Handmaiden (2016) 95%

South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s period drama based on the Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith follows a young thief who is assigned by her boss to be the handmaiden for a wealthy Japanese aristocrat, with secret plans to defraud her of her fortune.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) 96%

Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, and Guy Pearce star in this comedic drama about a transsexual woman and a pair of drag performers who travel across the Australian outback in a tour bus en route to a performance in a remote casino.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) 90%

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman star in this psychological thriller about a young woman who awakens after an apparent catastrophe to find herself locked in a bunker with a doomsday prophet who insists they’re in the last safe place on Earth.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


A Simple Plan (1998) 91%

Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton star in Sam Raimi’s thriller about a pair of brothers who stumble across a plane crash and millions of dollars and decide to keep the money for themselves.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) 90%

Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio star in this drama about a young man living in a small town who looks after his obese mother and mentally disabled brother.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 89%

Tobe Hooper’s iconic chiller follows a group of friends on a road trip who are terrorized by a family of sadistic serial murderers.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Big Fan (2009) 86%

Patton Oswalt stars in this darkly comedic drama about a New York Giants superfan whose life unravels after a less than friendly public encounter with one of the team’s stars.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) 92%

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford star in this Oscar-winning psychological thriller about an actress who holds her paraplegic sister captive in her mansion and torments her. The film is notorious for highlighting the bitter Hollywood rivalry between its two stars.

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Elle (2016) 91%

Isabelle Huppert earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her work in this Paul Verhoeven thriller as a woman who is raped by a masked assailant, manages to track him down, and engages him in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


20th Century Women (2016) 88%

Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning star in Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical Oscar-nominated drama about a bohemian single mother who raises her teenage son with the help of the eccentric tenants living in her house.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


A Monster Calls (2016) 86%

Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, and Sigourney Weaver star in J.A. Bayona’s adaptation of a YA novel about a boy who encounters a monstrous talking tree (voiced by Liam Neeson) outside his bedroom window when his mother falls gravely ill.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Pi (1998) 88%

Darren Aronofsky’s breakout feature follows a tortured computer genius who makes a startling discovery while trying to find a way to beat the stock market mathematically.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Silence (2016) 83%

Martin Scorsese directs this adaptation of of a 1966 Shūsaku Endō novel about two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who are sent to Japan amid anti-Christian sentiments to locate a missing member of their order.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Patriots Day (2016) 81%

Mark Wahlberg, J.K. Simmons, and John Goodman star in Peter Berg’s dramatization of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and the people who helped secure the scene and bring the suspects to justice.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Chimpanzee (2012) 76%

This Disneynature documentary centers on a young chimp named Oscar who finds support from an unexpected source when things take a dark turn for him.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Dark City (1998) 76%

Rufus Sewell, Keifer Sutherland, and Jennifer Connelly star in Alex Proyas’s sci-fi noir about an amnesiac man accused of murder who attempts to clear his name. This director’s cut of the film eliminates the opening narration and adds never-before-seen footage.

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Miss Sloane (2016) 76%

Jessica Chastain stars in John Madden’s political drama about a powerful Washington lobbyist who takes on the gun industry on a proposal for reform.

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Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009) 71%

This documentary takes a look at Walt Disney Pictures’ animated feature renaissance during the 1980s and 1990s, when the studio produced some of its biggest hits.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Why Him? (2016) 39%

Bryan Cranston and James Franco star in this comedy about an overprotective father who panics when he learns his daughter is set to be engaged to her boyfriend, a well-intentioned but often tactless and oblivious tech billionaire.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Assassin's Creed (2016) 18%

Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard star in this adaptation of the popular video game series about a man who uses experimental technology to relive the adventures of his ancestor, a member of a secret order of assassins.

Available now on: FandangoNOW

Steven Spielberg’s first family movie since 1991’s Hook is in theaters this week: The BFG, adaptation of the beloved Roald Dahl children’s book. The cross-pollination of two talented storytelling titans inspires this week’s gallery: 24 Certified Fresh children’s book movie adaptations!

Following the success of Henry Selick’s wondrous Coraline in 2009, the team at Laika studios are back this week with their second animated feature, ParaNorman, another stop-motion marvel concerning the misadventure of a young outsider and his spooky connection to the land of the dead. Pitched as “John Hughes meets John Carpenter,” it’s written by Coraline and Corpse Bride animation artist Chris Butler and co-directed by Butler and Aardman alum Sam Fell, with voices by Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick and John Goodman, and music by Jon Brion. We had a chance to chat with Fell and Butler this week ahead of the movie’s release, where they talked about five of their favorite movies — and how they influenced the creation and execution of ParaNorman.

The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985; 100% Tomatometer)



Sam Fell: We’ve compiled a joint list. These five are really about ParaNorman; they’re directly connected.

Chris Butler: Although, to be fair, ParaNorman is definitely a result of these movies that made me who I am — they’re the movies I grew up with, and that’s what ParaNorman is all about. So in a way they are influential on us.

Sam Fell: Complete faves, yeah. We’ve spent a lot of time together, even before we started the film — that’s how we knew we could work together, by comparing films that we liked and talking about them. And so, our first one’s The Breakfast Club by John Hughes. Obviously, in ParaNorman, we’re picking up on different high school stereotypes, and John Hughes touched on that so beautifully — especially in this movie. I think the most amazing thing about this film when you watch it is that it’s just pure character. There’s no spectacle or anything. When you watch it — you know, it was a mainstream, successful movie and everyone went to see it — but when you watch it, it’s almost like an art movie.

So ParaNorman is The Breakfast Club trapped in a zombie movie.

Chris Butler: Yeah. And that leads us into our second movie…

The Fog (John Carpenter, 1980; 68% Tomatometer)



Chris Butler: We’re often talking about ParaNorman as being John Hughes meets John Carpenter, and that was intentional. It was to try and tell a spooky story that was almost… you know, we talked about it like being directed by Sam Raimi as well. It was to try and combine all those elements: All the angst of a movie set in high school, where your issues are more about, you know, being bullied by the kid who lives down the lane, but to couple that with a movie about the more fictional horrors of monsters. I like that play. They’re actually a really good marriage. I’ve talked about ParaNorman being the characters from The Breakfast Club dropped into the plot of The Fog — and The Fog, I would say, would be one of the other influential ones. Right from day one of writing, I think. I love that movie, as bad as it is…

Oh, I think it’s a great film. It tends to get overlooked, coming right after Halloween in the Carpenter filmography.

Chris Butler: Right. It is really good. I think when you watch it today — and I still happily watch it — a lot of the effects haven’t aged very well. And that’s part of its charm, I think. But what I think is really good about it is the mythology that it creates, and it’s mythology based on an historical event, like the best campfire stories. In fact, the movie starts with a story around a campfire. It’s just a perfect way to set up a horror mythology. That was a big influence. Rather than just making stuff up — or just having unmotivated ghouls and monsters — I wanted ParaNorman to kind of hinge on something, an event of history. And in ParaNorman‘s case, it’s fictional, but it very much takes its cues from the Salem witch trials. That creates instantly a very rich mythology to play in. So that was a big thing. The other thing [about The Fog] is that it’s a small town about to celebrate its anniversary and suddenly everything goes wrong — and yes, there are lots of ghoulish corpses walking around. I can’t say how much we owe to that movie, really. [Laughs]

Possible spoilers ahead.

The witch trial back-story also creates a lot of sympathy for the so-called “monsters.”

Chris Butler: Yeah, absolutely. And I thought that was important from day one. If you’re gonna do a zombie movie, you have to do something different. And I thought — I’m sure you’ll do a spoiler, ’cause I don’t want to ruin everything — but if you think about it, logically, if you brought back a host of puritans from the grave, they would be pretty outraged and terrified.

George Washington (David Gordon Green, 2000, 83% Tomatometer)



Sam Fell: Number three is George Washington by David Gordon Green.

Interesting choice.

Sam Fell: It’s an interesting choice, yeah. You wouldn’t necessarily associate it with this. But if you think about ParaNorman, one of the things that, from the beginning, we realized we wanted was to create a real place — a real sense of place — and really hold up a mirror to the contemporary world and not create a fantasy American town. We wanted to really believe in it. And it was already in the script that [the movie’s fictional town] Blithe Hollow would be rotten around the edges and not a perfect place. We love imperfection; it’s throughout — even the family in the story are imperfect. So what was really cool about watching George Washington — and looking at the photography by William Eggleston, by the way — was just how the kind of downbeat world was celebrated, though great cinematography and great photography. And in George Washington, a lot of it’s just about the sense of place. It really takes time developing a sense of place with great photography and sound. So in our first act, when we introduce Norman’s world and the town of Blithe Hollow, especially when he’s walking to school, we actually put shots in there that normally wouldn’t belong in an animated movie — not a Western animated movie. Just shots of odd corners of the world that are kind of run down. Not necessary, but they kind of create atmosphere. We love that kind of vibe. Early on, Chris had tried a little bit of [composer] Jon Brion’s music [as a temp score] — and it had that same kind of slightly off-beat vibe to it, and we wanted to have that vibe to this world at the beginning. Then when we introduce the fantasy elements, it’s a real contrast.

Is that how you ended up getting Jon Brion to compose the soundtrack?

Sam Fell: Yeah. It was slightly unexpected in a way. It was purely picking a piece of music that already existed that fit, really early on, and when we got the opportunity to sit around and talk about who we wanted to do it, that piece of music had stuck from day one. So we were like, “Well lets try and get him.” And he jumped at the chance. The music that he did for this movie is sublime. It’s beautiful.

The Goonies (Richard Donner, 1985; 63% Tomatometer)



Chris Butler: Okay the next one, and it’s a big one, is The Goonies. I think it’s almost self-explanatory. I remember seeing The Goonies as a kid and I think it’s that sense of — it is almost like a Scooby-Doo-esque adventure become real, and I think that’s what made it so appealing to me as a kid. It wasn’t that it was raucous and loud, it was that these kids were incredibly relatable. They were real kids. They came in all shapes and sizes, they were incredibly flawed, and very funny. They were rude, they bickered; they just felt so real, and they were a lot of fun because of that. So yeah, The Goonieshuge influence.

Sam Fell: Massive one, yeah.

Evil Dead 2 (Sam Raimi, 1987; 98% Tomatometer)



Sam Fell: Number five is Evil Dead 2. Mostly for the camera and the editing in that thing. The sheer kind of bravura, mad energy it had, you know. Like, when we get into our second act and the story starts picking up, we just wanted that energy, and we looked a lot at the way Raimi used the camera in that movie. It was almost cartoonish.

Chris Butler: It’s outlandish.

Sam Fell: Outlandish, yeah. And the sound as well. The sound design in that film. It’s kind of interesting getting from George Washington to Evil Dead 2. [Both laugh] But that’s what we do.

Is it hard to replicate that Evil Dead 2-style of camerawork in a stop-motion film, or easier — because you can pause the camera and control it more?

Sam Fell: It’s a bit of both. The hard thing is to get that sense of spontaneity, you know, that kind of roughness — because it can be a bit too smooth if you program those moves in stop motion. But it was kind of good in this show because we just had a really good visual effects supervisor that enabled us to really fly that camera around more than you usually would. It’s not the usual kind of stop motion.

Chris Butler: Yeah. And you’re right, there are limitations physically. We have a couple of shots that are very Sam Raimi, where we’re speeding through the gravestones in the graveyard, and just being able to get the camera low enough to the ground was a huge ordeal. Logistically it just becomes almost an impossibility, but we wanted to keep those shots in so we found all kinds of tricks to help us through.

The thing about this film, like Coralline, is that it uses 3-D well; especially when people have gotten really blasé about it. Is it the stop-motion that makes the 3-D work?

Sam Fell: Yeah, its ’cause its tangible, very tactile, you know. There’s a magic to the fact that these puppets seem to be moving of their own accord, and watching them, I always wanted to reach in to the screen and grab one of those things. Now with 3-D it just creates another dimension; a window into this magic. So I just think it makes it even more tangible, and even more sort of uncanny. I think they really are made for each other, these two forms.


ParaNorman opens nationwide this week.


Neil Gaiman

Friday morning, Roman Dirge announced at his spotlight panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego that writer Neil Gaiman would be serving as the executive producer on a film adaptation of the comic series Lenore.

“One day, I cold-wrote Neil Gaiman out of the blue,” Dirge told the assembled audience. “I apparently had drunkenly sent him a script of my version of Lenore. Some people drunk tweet or drunk call, I drunk script,” Dirge laughed. Gaiman read the script and liked it enough to attach himself as executive producer. “He’s going out to find a director right now,” Dirge said.

Dirge sang Gaiman’s praises and said what a huge honor it was for the two to be working together. “He’s one of my favorite writers,” Dirge said. He expressed his disappointment with attempted adaptations of his work in the past, especially with regard to Lenore, and how excited he was to work with Gaiman. “I trust him 100 percent,” Dirge said.

When asked how he envisioned the film and how involved he would want to be with the project, Dirge said he favored CGI and would want to be involved completely, stating, “I’ve seen over the years what other people can do with your stuff.”

[rtimage]siteImageId=10244861[/rtimage]

Written by Benjamin Bailey of Comic Book Resources.

For more stories, head over to the CBR Comic-Con 2011 page.

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