With the release of the well-received Shaun the Sheep, out in theaters right now, we figured it would be a good time to look back at the very best that stop-motion animation has offered us over the years. This isn’t a new technique by any stretch of the imagination. Stop-motion animation has been in use for decades, notably in 1933’s King Kong, which had animator Willis O’Brien creating the aforementioned monster-sized ape out of a model with movable limbs. Here are ten movies that advanced the technique and made unequivocally beautiful art out of it.
Here is Screen Rant’s list of the Top 10 Stop-Motion Animated Movies.
Chicken Run (2000)
Chickens run amok! What better way to start this list than with the 2000 gem about the leader of a flock of feathered birds (Mel Gibson) trying to get out of the horrid conditions of their farm. If time runs out they’re going to be chicken pie, which is actually what the farmers make out of these chickens. Yikes.
It’s The Great Escape, poultry style, with an added dash of British wit. How can you go wrong with that? A pre-scandal Gibson works up his charm and stop-motion animation filmmaker extraordinaires Peter Lord and Nick Park seem to be having a blast creating visual miracles with the animation.
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
At the time of this movie’s release, Wallace and Gromit were well-known in the U.K. for their kooky antics on TV, but mainstream American audiences were first introduced to the duo via The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, a visually stunning and imaginative stop-motion masterpiece.
The tale of a cheery British man and his sly, silent, but surprisingly smart dog radiated the screen with enough genius and wit that it scored an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. In this adventure, the duo accidentally create a Frankenstein-like rabbit that terrorizes the town. The visual miracles that spring forth are splendidly devised, all thanks to Nick Park and Steve Box.
Shaun the Sheep (2015)
Now in theaters is Shaun the Sheep, which features some of the best dialogue-free scenes in recent memory. The film has scarcely any spoken words, and instead relies on its visuals to entertain us, and does a marvelous job at that.
Clearly influenced by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton’s physical screwball comedy, directors Richard Starzak and Mark Burton have fashioned a classic out of such a simple story. A complete freak accident sends a farmer tumbling down the road to a city where he loses all memory of his life and accidentally becomes a famous hairdresser for the celebrities. It’s up to his flock of sheep to get him back to the farm, but not without going through the most ingeniously-crafted screwball adventures imaginable.
Just like Wallace and Gromit, the cast of characters were well known in the U.K. prior to the film’s release, but if audience reaction and the deluge of rave reviews is any indication, this won’t be the last we hear of them.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
When it comes to Christmas counter-programming on television during the holiday season, it’s really hard to top Henry Selick’s classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas. The story of Jack Skellington from Halloween Town, who opens up a portal and discovers Christmas Town, dedicated to a holiday that invokes new feelings and ideals within his scary, skeletal heart.
It’s an imaginative romp with the the most creatively grotesque characters imaginable. Produced by Tim Burton, the film has the same gothic, darkly humorous feel as many of his films. It’s a sort of ode to dread, darkness, and holiday spirit. How much more Burton-esque can you get?
James and the Giant Peach (1996)
Based on the popular children’s novel by Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach is a surreal tale about a boy who finds a magical world inside a gigantic peach and encounters six different garden bugs that take him on an adventure to the big city. The colors are bright and the visuals are conjured up in the most creative ways imaginable.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Wes Anderson had just finished making The Darjeeling Limited when he embarked on an ambitious adventure: adapting Roald Dahl’s classic The Fantastic Mr. Fox into a feature film. The decision to make it using stop-motion animation turned out to be an inspiring one.
George Clooney voices the titular Fox, a character so dedicated to helping his family survive that he decides to go on a heist, robbing three of the biggest farmers around. The pièce de resistance is the Apple Cider farm which ends the film on an exuberantly high note and features one of the best chase scenes ever, uh, animated. The soundtrack is impeccable, the screenplay is witty and fun, and the voice acting is tremendous with a who’s who of actors: the aforementioned Clooney, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox, and Bill Murray as Clive Badger.
ParaNorman is a throwback to classic Universal horror movies, like Dracula or Frankestein, but it’s also funny, creepy, and smart. Although the story is about spirits and zombies, the true core of this film is how emotionally involved we get with Norman and his loner lifestyle.
In other parts, the film is infused with a humor only adults would really be able to get. The campiest example of the stop-motion animation is without a doubt the zombies, who are designed in such an over-the-top way that they look like they belong in a 1970s TV movie.
Mary and Max (2009)
The only stop-motion animation film on this list from Australia, Mary and Max is a lovely movie that keeps its national identity intact. Dealing with tough issues that don’t normally belong in a kids movie, such as loneliness, depression, mental illness, poverty, autism, stress, and obesity, Mary and Max is an impeccably told tale about a lonely Australian girl who, wanting human connection and meaning to her life, reaches out to Max, an American atheist loner who is obese, anxious, and has major social problems.
One can’t deny the overall impact of such a tale, especially when told through a genre and style that is usually meant for kids. Featuring great voice performances from the likes of Toni Collette, Eric Bana, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mary and Max is a stunning movie that hits you where it hurts.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
The oldest movie on our list is also a Christmas classic. If The Nightmare Before Christmas was counter-programming to all the Christmas movies around, then Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer IS that programming.
Beautifully directed by Larry Roemer and Kizo Nagashima and narrated by Sam the Snowman (voice of Burl Ives), the film recounts the story of Rudolph (Billie Mae Richards), a reindeer cursed by a glowing red nose that sets off a series of unfortunate events in his life, as he tries to find a place that will accept him for who he is and not what he looks like.
If you haven’t heard of Coraline, you’re missing out. With a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, it’s one of the most uncompromisingly breathtaking animated movies you will ever see. It’s also one of the scariest.
The film tells the tale of a young girl who finds a door to a parallel world where people have buttons for eyes, and has visuals that can give you the most intense of nightmares. Based on the Neil Gaiman book of the same name, the movie captures the darkly magical, but sinister style that made Gaiman’s masterpiece such a cherished treat.
These aren’t the only movies to use the animation technique. Did any of your favorite stop-motion animation movies not break the mold into our list? Let us know in the comments below!