Stop-motion movies have been impressing audiences for decades with their painstakingly crafted scenery and characters. The art form itself is nearly as old as the film industry altogether. While classic 2-D animation largely dominated the earlier days of animation and computer-generated films like Pixar took over since then, stop-motion animation has been given its own small corner of the animated world. This small corner has produced some of the best-animated films of all time.
Given the rise of CGI in animated films, stop-motion movies have almost become their own special event. Of course, creating a stop-motion animated film is already an arduous task to begin with, so when one is made, directors tend to do their best to craft a story to fit the medium of stop-motion. Each one of the films in this list was a special treat, one that is not given as often as one would like.
Through the use of puppets, clay, or even dolls, these stop-motion animated films captured the imagination of audiences and left their own indelible mark on the film industry. With the recent release of the buzzed-about sequel to Chicken Run hitting Netflix at the end of 2023, let’s look at the best stop-motion animated films of feature length.
Updated January 29, 2024: If you love stop-motion animated movies, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve updated this article with new entries.
17 Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)
Shaun the Sheep
Release Date February 5, 2015
Director Mark Burton , Richard Goleszowski
Cast Justin Fletcher , John Sparkes , Omid Djalili , Richard Webber , Kate Harbour , Tim Hands
For the realists out there who live relentlessly in the real world, the idea of a Sheep that is incapable of talking is a refreshing reprieve from movies that contain all-singing, all-dancing animals. Unfortunately, suspension of belief is required thereafter, when Shaun drives himself to the city along with his equally laconic flock in search of their amnesiac farmer.
An Homage to Silent Films
An endearing title, with a sweet tale at its core, Shaun the Sheep Movie is an appreciative nod to the silent era of the ’20s and ’30s, and is a spin-off of the Wallace and Gromit film A Close Shave and children’s series of the same name. The endearing flick earned praise upon its release at the Sundance Film Festival, garnering both a Golden Globe and Oscar nod while winning the Special Achievement Award at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. A sequel, Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, was released in 2019. Stream on Peacock
16 The Boxtrolls (2014)
Release Date September 10, 2014
Director Graham Annable , Anthony Stacchi
Set in the fictional Cheesebridge during the Victorian era where an orphaned boy is raised by garbage-collecting trolls, the 2014 fantasy comedy The Boxtrolls is loosely based on the novel Here Be Monsters! and follows 11-year-old Eggs as he tries to protect his peculiar family from the ruthless exterminator Archibald Penelope Snatcher, who wants to eradicate the peaceful creatures from the town.
Sensational Voice Performances
With an excellent ensemble voice cast including Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, and Toni Collette, The Boxtrolls was a hit with both critics and moviegoers, with the offbeat flick entertaining audiences old and young and delighting them with its quirky humor and heart. It competed for Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards but ultimately lost to fellow competitor Big Hero 6. Rent/Buy on Prime Video
15 Corpse Bride (2005)
Believe it or not, Corpse Bride was the first stop-motion animated feature film directed by Tim Burton. A common misconception is that he directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, but that was actually Henry Selick adapting Burton’s story. Burton finally took the reins of a full length stop-motion feature in 2005 when he co-directed this alongside Mike Johnson.
Hollywood’s Dynamic Duo Reunite
The film starred familiar Burton collaborator Johnny Depp and former wife Helena Bonham Carter as the titular characters. The dark fantasy followed Victor (Depp) as he is unexpectedly betrothed to a dead woman named Emily (Bonham Carter) and whisked away to the land of the dead. Burton’s usual flare for the dark and gloomy was brilliantly utilized in this film, which led to an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. Rent/Buy on Prime Video
14 Isle of Dogs (2018)
By no means the first Wes Anderson entry on this list, and no prizes for guessing its esteemed company. The Darjeeling Limited maker stated that the name for his 2018 stop-motion animation flick was inspired by spending time in London, and driving past signposting for “The Isle of Dogs”. Low-and-behold, this idiosyncratically colorful charm was born.
Anderson Dazzles Yet Again
Isle of Dogs demonstrates the cruel world in which man’s best friend is essentially no more, as tyrannical mayor Kobayashi rids the metropolis of Megasaki of canine-flu-infected dogs, discarding them on Trash Island. When the little pilot, twelve-year-old Atari, crashes on the island in search of his banished dog, he enlists the help of a disorganized rabble of dogs, including Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), and Chief (Bryan Cranston). Stream on Disney+
13 Frankenweenie (2012)
Gothic film extraordinaire Tim Burton both honored and parodied the horror classic Frankenstein when he directed 2012’s Frankenweenie, which takes place in 1957 Pennsylvania and centers on the ambitious young scientist Victor Frankenstein as he brings his beloved Bull Terrier Sparky back from the dead and inadvertently caused chaos in the town when his fellow residents want to resurrect their own deceased animals.
Burton’s Captivating Creation
Burton opted to produce the animated spectacle in black-and-white, and many of the creative minds who worked on his previous stop-motion film, The Corpse Bride, contributed to Frankenweenie. Around 18 different puppet versions of Victor were created, and roughly 200 puppets (with human hair) were made for the finished product. Frankenweenie was a critical and commercial triumph and it not only garnered Oscar and Golden Globe nods but also won Best Animated Film at the Saturn Awards. Stream on Disney+
12 James and the Giant Peach (1996)
Henry Selick’s second feature, James and The Giant Peach was an adaptation of the classic children’s book written by Roald Dahl. It follows the wondrous adventures the eponymous orphan boy experiences after he eats through a colossal peach and meets some colorful anthropomorphic invertebrates, including Mr. Centipede (Richard Dreyfuss) and Miss Spider (Susan Sarandon).
A Tough Adaptation to Sell
The book had been sought out by different studios and directors prior to Selick and Disney finally gaining the rights to produce the adaptation. One of the main issues was the bizarre story that made it difficult to produce on screen. However, Selick managed to create a compelling story that was largely animated via stop-motion while book-ended by a live-action setting. Even Dahl’s widow believed her husband “would have been delighted with what they did with James. It is a wonderful film.” Stream on Disney+
11 Chicken Run (2000)
Another product of the innovative Aardman Animations was 2000’s unforgettable hit Chicken Run. One imagines, if humans found out their owners were plotting to kill them to satisfy their own gluttonous desires, they’d also do a runner. In the comedic adventure saga, Rocky the Rooster (Mel Gibson) and Ginger (Julia Swalha) a Chicken opt for the farm’s exit when it comes to pass that the resident farmers, Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy have designs on their lives.
A Groundbreaking Cinematic Feat
The popular picture is like The Great Escape, but with feathered, flightless birds. Eighty animators and 30 sets were used during production, and just one minute of film was completed each week, with principal photography lasting nearly a year and a half for the animated classic. Chicken Run went on to gross over $220 million worldwide and became the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film in cinematic history, a title it still holds to this day. A buzzed-about and well-received sequel, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, was released in 2023. Stream on Netflix
10 Anomalisa (2015)
Director Charlie Kaufman brought his unique brand of story telling to Anomalisa alongside co-director Duke Johnson. The 2015 film was Kaufman’s first feature animated film, and it was an instant success. Anomalisa went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the first R-rated animated film to receive that honor.
A Stunning Spectacle
Kaufman and Johnson told a thought-provoking story about a disillusioned motivational speaker who finds himself enamored with the one woman who brings him joy. The main roles were voiced brilliantly by David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh, while the wonderful Tom Noonan literally voices every other character. Anomalisa was a visual achievement in animation using puppets created through 3-D printing that brought the performances of Thewlis and Leigh to life in this adult stop-motion film. Rent/Buy on Prime Video
9 Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Few stop-motion characters are as enduring as Wallace & Gromit. The British stop-motion series was created by Oscar nominee, Nick Park. The franchise has produced several specials and the critically acclaimed feature film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Their first feature movie followed the duo as they attempted to solve their town’s rabbit problem before facing off against the titular Were-Rabbit.
Trailblazing at the Oscars
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit went on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making it only the second non-American film to do so after Spirited Away. Audiences all across the world were blown away by the wonderfully quirky dynamic duo, playful humor, and of course its spellbinding visuals; a sequel to the hit comedy is currently in the works at Netflix. Stream on Peacock
8 ParaNorman (2012)
Sam Fell and Chris Butler brilliantly combined horror and humor when they created the 2012 underrated stop-motion wonder ParaNorman, which focuses on the psychic 11-year-old boy Norman Babcock as he communicates with spirits and must find a way to end a centuries-old curse placed upon his Massachusetts town by a young girl who was accused of witchcraft in the 1700s.
ParaNorman was the first stop-motion movie to utilize a 3-D color printer that could create the faces of the characters, and Butler came up with the idea for the film as a way for kids to feel understood when it comes to the hardships of growing up. The director appreciated how zombie movies often provided some social commentary, and he told Den of Geek: ” The movies I remember from my childhood had that emotional core. They had that heart that really makes it stick with you. It wasn’t just some flight of whimsy; it has something to say that you remember. We liked that time of filmmaking, and wanted to go back to it.” Stream on Starz
7 Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Kubo and the Two Strings was another critically acclaimed film by the stop-motion studio Laika. The 2016 fantasy film followed the adventures of a young boy named Kubo who accidentally summons a spirit out for revenge. Laika’s unique animation was praised, as was the stellar cast, including Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, and Ralph Fiennes.
Japanese Media Inspiration
Despite failing to achieve financial success, Kubo and The Two Strings was still appreciated for its story and animation and earned an A CinemaScore from moviegoers. Director Travis Knight and production designer Shannon Tindle sought inspiration for the gorgeous film from Japanese ink wash paintings and origami, and Laike set out to make Kubo and the Two Strings “look and feel as if it’s a moving woodblock print.” Rent/Buy on Apple TV+
6 Mary and Max (2009)
Mary and Max
Release Date February 9, 2009
Director Adam Elliot
2009’s Mary and Max is the first animated feature film from Australian director Adam Elliot, who previously made the Oscar-winning short Harvie Krumpet. Inspired by the director’s relationship with his pen-friend, Mary and Max tells the offbeat and charming story of two unlikely pen pals, a shy, unloved eight-year-old girl from Melbourne and a middle-aged New Yorker with Asperger’s syndrome.
An Intricate Production
Dealing with such tough topics as childhood neglect, depression, isolation, addiction, and loneliness, the film truly comes from the heart and featured an A-list ensemble voice cast such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, and Eric Bana. 475 miniature props, 133 individual sets, and 212 puppets were created and used for the independent dramedy, and it was awarded the Grand Prize at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Rent/Buy on Prime Video
5 Coraline (2009)
Release Date February 5, 2009
Director Henry Selick
Neil Gaiman’s eerie children’s tale Coraline was perfectly adapted in 2009 by Henry Selick (who, as is obvious by now, is perhaps the master of stop-motion animation, perhaps only bested by Aardman Animation). Selick and Laika collaborated to create an impressive stop-motion film that wowed audiences, both young and old. The grim modern fairy tale follows Caroline as she delves into a portal to another world where she meets her ‘other family.’
Selick’s Hard Works Pays Off
The stop-motion animation used by Laika and Selick perfectly complemented the spooky story written by Gaiman, who was a huge fan of the director’s work and encouraged Selick to make an adaptation. More than 250 designers and technicians provided their expertise for Coraline, and the 140,000-square-foot stage featured almost 150 sets. The delightfully chilling flick won three Annie Awards and was named one of the top 10 releases of the year by the American Film Institute. Stream on Max
4 My Life as a Courgette (2016)
Claude Barras’ Oscar-nominated animated feature debut, My Life as a Courgette, tells the soulful and heavy story of Icare, the nine-year-old big-eyed, blue-haired boy who prefers to be called Courgette (French for zucchini). After his alcoholic mother’s accidental death, Courgette is sent to the orphanage. There, he learns to trust and love.
Barras’ Poignant Picture
My Life as a Courgette is a little masterpiece (it lasts a mere 66 minutes) as heart-warming as it is sad. Lauded for its emotional depth, compassionate characters, and stunning visuals, the stop-motion picture won both Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Animated Film at the prestigious César Awards and currently holds an impressive 99% Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score. Rent on Apple TV+
3 Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Wes Anderson’s quirkiness was a match made especially for stop-motion animation. His first animated feature, Fantastic Mr. Fox was an adaptation of a Roald Dahl book. Anderson teamed up with Noah Baumbach to write the script for the film. Fantastic Mr. Fox starred George Clooney as the cunning Mr. Fox, a fox who must break his promise to this wife (played by Meryl Streep) to never go back to his thieving ways.
A Thrilling Adaptation
The delightful direction of Anderson, paired with the exceptional talents of his actors, made this one of Anderson’s best films and one of the best stop-motion animated films of all time. Anderson’s second stop-motion animation after Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2018’s Isle of Dogs, also deserves to be seen. It is a doggy delight, a witty and heartfelt tale of a 12-year-old boy searching for his beloved lost pet. Stream on Max
2 Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)
At 2022’s London Film Festival, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio wowed critics and audiences alike with its artisanal punctiliousness and the profound artistry that went into fashioning such an ambitious, creative, and poignant picture. The bespoke, handmade rusticity of the film’s models, each with their own detailed quirks, adds a layer of authenticity to the Mexican director’s take on the children’s classic.
Del Toro’s Breathtaking Interpretation
Yet, Del Toro was the first one to claim that his stop-motion adaptation isn’t just a kid’s film, it has greater substance, and more meaning than its prominent predecessors, and speaks to the adult world governed by a right-wing ideology. Set against the backdrop of Italy during WWII, viewers are taken on a journey of the wooden boy, Pinocchio, and his father, Geppetto, who, following the tragic death of his son, yearns for another. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pinocchio went on to claim Best Animation at the 2023 Academy Awards. Stream on Netflix
1 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Is it a Halloween movie? Is it a Christmas movie? The debate rages on, but one thing remains certain: The Nightmare Before Christmas is a beloved stop-motion classic. Based on a story by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick, The Nightmare Before Christmas set the standard for modern stop-motion animation that led to several films on this very list. Selick’s direction, paired with Burton’s tone of voice, made for an instant classic that remains beloved over thirty years later.
An Undisputed Classic
The story of Jack the Pumpkin King followed his attempt at taking over Christmas after falling into a crisis surrounding his role as King of Halloween Town. The animation utilized by Selick, alongside some classic musical numbers like “This Is Halloween” and “What’s This?” made The Nightmare Before Christmas a memorable film and a triumph in stop-motion animation. It has since been regarded as one of the greatest animated movies of all time and continues to attract a passionate cult following. Stream on Disney+