Of the many art forms in animation, few have the novelty of stop-motion. For as painstaking an art it is, it is equally unique in its ability to convey stories. As one of the older forms of animation, it has evolved over the decades. From black comedies such as Moral Orel and the classic Wallace and Gromit shorts, stop-motion is an ever iconic mode of animation. These top 10 films stand as the best of stop-motion animation.

10. The Corpse Bride

Visionary director Tim Burton is no stranger to dark yet heartfelt stories, and this film is certainly one of the better entries. Released the same years as his other classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Burton brought back all of the film’s delightfully twisted energy. The Corpse Bride is the story of hapless groom Victor Van Dort as he is unintentionally wed to the eponymous undead bride.

While the film received middling success upon release, in recent years it attracted a cult following. While not as popular as The Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s more than a worthy successor. Burton’s vision of the underworld gives us a classic gothic love story with many bombastic musical numbers.

9. Wendell and Wild

A collaboration between stop-motion veteran Henry Sellick and Get Out director Jordan Peele, this film combines the best of both. Wendell and Wild is the story of the titular two demons as they do battle against the troubled teen Kat. Along the way, she learns that the real threat to her and her school might be more mundane…

What helps this film is officially being PG-13, letting its creators take the darkness to the next level. As this is a Jordan Peele film, a layer of social commentary regarding classism was thrown in as well. With such as genius team up, the film manages to master the art of horror-comedy.

8. Mary and Max

While stop-motion is most appreciated for its novelty or it’s creepiness, this film should be appreciated for its emotional depth. Unlike the more grandiose films on this list, this is a much more mundane and grounded film. However, this shows how stop-motion can be used to tell deeply emotional stories through puppetry.

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Mary and Max follows the titular duo as they become pen pals and share their experiences with one another over the years. As endearing as it is, the film is not without it’s dark turns. For as depressing as the film is at times, it’s equally insightful, making great use of its medium.

7. Mad God

While the rest of these entries were fairly well-known, this next entry remains a cult film. However, few stop-motion films have ever been as tactile in their experience as Phil Tippett’s Mad God. Mad God, without a single line of dialogue, tells the story of “The Assassin” as he ventures his way through a hellish wasteland infested with deformed monsters.

Viewers can hardly find even thirty seconds without horrific and masterfully animated imagery that would make even Hieronymus Bosch quiver. As a veteran of both Star Wars and Jurassic Park, Tippett’s production of the production lasted on and off for over thirty years. The film also combines puppetry and even bits of live-action to bring the story to life.

6. Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit

Right behind Laika in terms of stop-motion fame is the British studio Aardman. As a co-production between animation giant Dreamworks, both studios brought their A-game. The film follows the two mascots of Aardman, the inventor Gromit and the dog Wallace, as they must try and stop the titular were-rabbit from wreaking havoc.

As one of the most iconic characters in British animation, this film captures all of the charm of the original shorts. However, the film also shows that the titular duo can go beyond just skits, and tell a full story. While Aardman has given us many gems over the years, this is the one the best represents their work.

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5. Fantastic Mr. Fox

From legendary director Wes Anderson comes Fantastic Mr. Fox. Adapting the book from legendary author Roald Dahl, Anderson captures all of the whimsy of the original book while adding his universally recognized style. Fantastic Mr. Fox tells the story of former thief and family man Mr. Fox (George Clooney) on his quest to try and steal from the notorious Boggis, Bunce and Bean.

While Wes Anderson never did animation before this film, he managed to make this adaptation work. The art style lends itself to looking like a high-quality middle school art project, adding to the story book feel. This is a film that will leave many film-goers wondering what the cuss the commotion was about.

4. Coraline

While stop-motion is a criminally underrated art form, one of the most prevailing misconceptions is that it always has to be “creepy.” The release of Coraline did very little to challenge this stereotype. For all the traumatized members of gen Z reading, welcome back. Coraline is the story of the eponymous disgruntled girl who goes through a portal to a happier, yet more suspicious, version of her world.

This film starts grounded and relatable before entering the “Other World” where everything slowly goes mad. The art direction contrasts the crushingly mundale real world with the aggressive surrealism of the fantasy world. As scary as the film was, it did show the animation world how far stop-motion advanced as an art form.

3. Kubo and the Two Strings

While Laika may not have the quantity of other animation studios, every film they make is of the highest quality. Probably the best film in their lineup would be 2016’s Kubo and the Two Strings. The film tells the story of Kubo as he must travel across Japan in order to acquire several relics to defeat his evil grandfather, the Moon King.

Kubo is a story steeped in Shinto lore and Japanese myth, bringing it to every puppet and backdrop of the film. The film gives many scenes that push the boundaries of what’s possible in stop-motion with its dynamic puppets and layered effects. Furthermore, the film shows Laika could do more than just creepy horror with how heartfelt the film was.

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2. The Nightmare Before Christmas

When asked about stop-motion films, this one is likely the first that comes to mind. Both Henry Sellick and Tim Burton are veterans of stop motion and dark kid’s movies. The Nightmare Before Christmas follows Halloween mascot Jack Skellington as he reluctantly has to overcome his mischievous ways to save Christmas.

Virtually everything about this film is iconic in one way or another, from its cast, to its music, to its dark aesthetic. Furthermore, the film functions as both a spooky Halloween film and a Christmas classic alongside Elf and Die Hard.

1. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio- The Best of Stop-Motion

Of the many adaptations of Pinocchio; Disney’s, their awful remake, Lies of P, few have understood the assignment as well as Guillermo del Toro’s version. Now taking place in fascist Italy, the iconic puppet is animated by a mysterious spirit to be the replacement son of the woodcrafter Gepetto. Pinocchio then goes on an adventure across Italy to learn what it is to be a real boy.

As with the rest of del Toro’s work, he combines complex humanity with the alien inhumanity of the magical world. Every scenes is drawn with layers upon layers of detail and history, and even the Jim Henson company itself provided art. With how profound a retelling of a classic tale this was, it’s no wonder it won best animated feature in 2023.

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