With modern cinema's reliance on CGI, films can often feel samey. But there are plenty of different animation techniques, and we think stop-motion animation is one of the most creative.
It's also highly labor-intensive.
The process of stop-motion animation involves manipulating clay or plastic characters on a stage, snapping a photo, manipulating them some more, snapping another photo, etc.
This is done for every single frame of a scene until completion, and it can take many hours to capture a single minute of footage.
Of course, the end result looks totally unique compared to nearly every other animation technique used in modern cinema, so it can be worthwhile—as long as it's paired with a standout story.
Here are our picks for the most incredible movies with stop-motion animation from across the years!
10. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray
Animation, Adventure, Comedy (1h 27m)
We're starting with a film by writer-director Wes Anderson, the one most notable as his first foray into stop-motion animation.
Wes Anderson rarely disappoints, and that's still the case here with his modern telling of Roald Dahl's classic story Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Though the original tale was published back in 1970, the modernization loses none of its charm thanks to the screenwriting prowess of Wes Anderson and frequent collaborator Noah Baumbach.
The story follows the eponymous Mr. Fox and his daring raids on neighboring farms. However, the resulting fallout creates enormous ramifications for him, his family, and his community.
Fantastic Mr. Fox stars an immense cast that includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, and Brian Cox coupled with the likes of Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, and Owen Wilson.
It all comes together to make Fantastic Mr. Fox every bit as fantastic as its title says. Go see this film if you haven't already!
9. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Directed by Steve Box and Nick Park
Starring Peter Sallis, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes
Animation, Adventure, Comedy (1h 25m)
At this point, Wallace and Gromit deserve their spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Few stop-motion characters are more iconic.
Of course, their most successful outing was none other than Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, a story that whimsically plays on an old myth while adding in plenty of their own slapstick comedy.
The stop-motion animation here is used to especially funny effect, so if you're in need of a laugh—or even just a trip down memory lane—then don't think twice about adding this to your watchlist.
8. Coraline (2009)
Directed by Henry Selick
Starring Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders
Animation, Drama, Family (1h 40m)
Stop-motion animated movies are often thought of as lighthearted affairs for children, but every so often you get a film like Coraline that's so unexpectedly creepy, you wonder if it's appropriate for kids at all.
The story follows Coraline's turbulent adolescence as she moves into a new home with her mother and father. After she finds a doll in her grandmother's chest that looks eerily like herself, she discovers a parallel world where everyone has buttons for eyes.
Directed by stop-motion phenom Henry Selick—who hasn't made his last appearance on this list—Coraline scares almost everyone who sees it, making it one of the most unique stop-motion films we've seen.
7. Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Directed by Don Chaffey
Starring Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond
Action, Adventure, Family (1h 44m)
I'm cheating a little bit by putting Jason and the Argonauts on this list because the film isn't entirely done in stop-motion style.
Indeed, this one's actually a live-action adventure story that follows Jason's quest to find the Golden Fleece.
However, many of the action sequences feature stop-motion animation, most notably a sword fight with seven skeleton soldiers. And given how influential the film was, I think it's more than deserving of a spot in this article.
Legendary special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen was in charge of making everything look believable. Sure, Jason and the Argonauts may have aged, but it was astonishing back in the day!
6. The House (2022)
Directed by Emma de Swaef, Marc James Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, and Paloma Baeza
Starring Mia Goth, Matthew Goode, Claudie Blakley
Animation, Comedy, Drama (1h 37m)
The House is a unique pick for a stop-motion animation film because it's actually an anthology film comprised of three different stories.
These stories, however, are tied together by the fact that they all take place in the same house. They're also connected thematically as they deal with topics like death, madness, money, and happiness.
Released in 2022, The House is a one-of-a-kind film that serves as an important marker of renewed interest in stop-motion.
Fun fact: The House was originally conceived as a Netflix miniseries, but was later packaged into a single film. Each of the three stories took over 20 weeks to produce.
5. Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio (2022)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson
Starring Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann
Animation, Drama, Family (1h 57m)
The classic tale of Pinocchio finds new life with the magical touch of famed director Guillermo del Toro, who collaborated with Mark Gustafson to give us this incredible film.
As you probably already know, the original story of Pinocchio centers on a wooden toy who's brought to life but ultimately wants to become a real human boy. That's not the case here.
In Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, Pinocchio never concerns himself with flesh and blood. Rather, he struggles to live up to Geppetto's expectations of him after he was created to replace Carlo, the son whom Geppetto lost during war.
This film features eye-popping stop-motion animation. Considering that it was in development hell for years, we're glad it was finally able to be released—on Netflix, no less.
4. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (2021)
Directed by Dean Fleischer Camp
Starring Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer Camp, Isabella Rossellini
Animation, Comedy, Drama (1h 30m)
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is one of the most eclectic stop-motion animation films on this list, combining the stop-motion technique with live-action cinema. Plus, it's a mockumentary comedy-drama.
In short, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is a brilliant hodgepodge of a movie with a lot to love.
The story centers on a documentary filmmaker named Dean who moves in with his grandmother after his marriage falls apart. While there, he meets a small shell named Marcel who walks around in a small pair of shoes with a pet ball of lint.
Directed by Dean Fleischer Camp in his directorial debut, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is easily his best work yet and a shining example of stop-motion animation done right.
For his efforts, he ended up being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
3. Isle of Dogs (2018)
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton
Animation, Adventure, Comedy (1h 41m)
Directed by Wes Anderson, Isle of Dogs is one of the most heartbreaking stop-motion animated movies we've seen. Yet even so, there are plenty of laughs and fun scenes along the way.
Isle of Dogs takes place in a fictional Japanese city named Megasaki, which has banished all dogs to an off-shore island due to the rampant spread of canin influenza.
As a result, many pet owners grieve the loss of their furry friends. However, one boy named Atari is determined to find the dog that made his life so meaningful, and so he sets off to rescue him.
Isle of Dogs is an impressive production with so many high-profile names involved: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, F. Murray Abraham, Anjelica Huston, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton, Scarlett Johannson, Jeff Goldblum...
This might just be the most star-studded voice cast in the history of animated films, and none of it is wasted. Isle of Dogs is truly one of the greatest feature-length stop-motion movies of all time.
2. Chicken Run (2000)
Directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park
Starring Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Phil Daniels
Animation, Adventure, Comedy (1h 24m)
If you ask me, Chicken Run is the best movie to come out of Aardman Animations. Not only does this stop-motion movie have a strong moral message about our relationship with animals, it also has a heartfelt exploration of what it means to not give up.
Set on Tweedy's farm, Chicken Run follows the lives of a few chickens who just want to be free but know it'll likely never happen. After all, there's a very tall barbed wire fence that prevents their escape and the perimeter is guarded at all times.
However, the arrival of a plucky cockerel named Rocky Rhodes—who flies in over the fence at the beginning of the story—means that escape suddenly seems plausible.
Featuring incredible voice performances by Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Timothy Spall, and Benjamin Whitrow, Chicken Run shines as an all-time classic of the stop-motion animation genre.
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Directed by Henry Selick
Starring Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara
Animation, Family, Fantasy (1h 16m)
What's the very first movie that comes to mind when you hear "stop-motion animation"? For most, that film is The Nightmare Before Christmas, so of course it's a shoo-in for number one.
The movie takes place in the fictional Halloween Town, which is led by the Pumpkin King Jack Skellington. One day, he accidentally stumbles into Christmas Town—and discovers a love for the holiday.
So, he decides to take over Christmas and make it his own. Things only get interesting from there on out...
Featuring the voice acting of Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, and the singing voice of Danny Elfman, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a vibrant film even with its muted color palette.
Throw in the direction of Henry Selick—who went on to direct James and the Giant Peach to critical acclaim—it's a modern masterpiece.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is credited with revolutionizing the stop-motion art form and inspiring legions of imitation films. It also helped cement Tim Burton's status as a macabre auteur.
For these reasons, The Nightmare Before Christmas is our pick for best stop-motion animation movie of all time.