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Animation has become a fantastic medium of film as of late, with some of Disney’s best appearing so realistic that you might believe it to be live-action before an animated character pops up. But I’ve always had a certain affection for a certain genre of animation that often goes under the radar, and that is stop motion.
While there’s no denying that regular animation takes just as much hard work and dedication as stop motion does, there’s something about stop motion that always sits well with me. I adore the results that come from the time it takes to physically move an actual puppet, and line up those shots exactly as you wish to make it look lifelike. And there are some awesome stop motion films out there. These are some of the best stop motion films that you can stream or rent from home, from Coraline to The Corpse Bride.
Coraline (Amazon Prime, Rental)
I often consider this one my favorite out of the bunch. Coraline is a dark fantasy film that was released by Laika, and tells the story of Coraline, a girl who finds a secret door in her new home, leading to an alternative world that is full of secrets.
One of my favorite parts about Coraline is the distinct difference between the two worlds and the contrast both show. In her drab reality, it’s all dark and gloomy but in this new world, everything is full of color and vibrancy, with no end to that joy in sight until it suddenly all comes crashing down at one point. It may be a little scary sometimes for kids, but for adults, it’s most certainly worth the watch.
Rent Coraline here.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney+)
I arguably say that The Nightmare Before Christmas is what popularized stop motion for the more recent generations, considering it came out back in 1995. The Nightmare Before Christmas, directed by Henry Selick (story by the brilliant Tim Burton), is all about Jack Skellington, and how, after having an accidental trip into the world of Christmas, he wants to bring that holiday to Halloween Town – with a couple of twists.
There’s a reason why Disney often stages their whole entire Halloween celebration at their theme parks around this movie. Not only is it a fun time for both Christmas and Halloween, but the film itself is also interesting enough to watch, and the songs are catchy. Besides, who wouldn’t want to hear a pre-Schitt’s Creek Catherine O’Hara sing? And surprise, she’s actually very good compared to Moira Rose.
This film I consider the underdog of the list on here because I feel like no one ever really talks about Laika's ParaNorman. In the film, Norman, a young boy who has been gifted with the ability to talk to ghosts, has to break a 300-year-old witch’s curse on his town, and it’s up to him and a couple of his friends to do so.
While ParaNorman is probably one of the least known entries on this list, that doesn’t mean it’s not just as fun to watch. The towns are created intricately, and the ability of which they are able to portray ghosts within stop motion is fascinating. For fans of the paranormal, ParaNorman is for you.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Disney+)
Such a shame as to what happened with this movie, as it was released the same year as Up so it lost a good amount of the awards it should have won, in my opinon. Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the book of the same name and directed by Wes Anderson, is about a fox who steals food from three mean and wealthy farmers, and they grow tired of the fox’s ways, and it becomes a battle of wits between the humans and the animals.
This film is absolutely gorgeous. Anything you expect from a Wes Anderson film is completely there, complete with beautiful scenery, even if it is for a stop motion film. But that just shows the talent and the ability of these creators to be able to make something so vivid. Not only that, but the voice cast is outstanding. With George Clooney as the lead and Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, and more as side characters – it’s a recipe for greatness.
Kubo And The Two Strings (Amazon Prime, Rental)
This film is definitely one of the most unique ones out of the bunch. Kubo and the Two Strings is about Kubo, a young Japanese boy who wields a magical shamisen (a stringed Japanese instrument), and who lost his eye when he was a baby. Now, it is up to him and some buddies to stop his mother’s sisters and his evil grandfather, who are the people responsible for stealing his eye.
Is the premise a little out there? Yes, at least to me. But what really makes Kubo and the Two Strings amazing is the visual effects of this film. You will never see another stop motion film like this one that has so much color and beauty all throughout it, besides probably Wes Anderson’s film. It’s a stunning ride and the ways in which they are able to do this are intriguing to think about.
Rent Kubo and the Two Strings here.
Isle Of Dogs (Disney+)
If it worked the first time, might as well try again. Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson’s second dabbling into the stop motion world, tells the story of Atari, a boy who goes searching for his dog on an island, where many dogs were exiled after an outbreak of the canine flu in Japan. He uses the assistance of the pack leader to somehow find him.
Anderson does a spectacular job with the stop motion yet again. It wasn’t a colorful as his first entry on this list, but the style has been upgraded and you can tell straight away that this is a modern stop motion film. The movements feel smoother, the story a bit better, and everything melds well together like a well-oiled machine. And yet again, this voice cast is amazing. Bryan Cranston takes on the starring role, alongside co-stars like Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig, Jeff Goldblum, and more.
Now, if you’ve ever lost a dog, this one is certainly relatable. Frankenweenie, another great stop motion film by Tim Burton, is about a young boy using the power of electricity to bring back his dead Bull Terrier, but of course, the rest of the town finds out and wants to know his secrets.
Frankenweenie is not only a great parody of Frankenstein, but it also has a lot of heart. Anyone who has ever gone through the loss of a pet has surely experienced the wish to somehow bring them back. This story explores how that might happen and the consequences of those actions. For a kid’s movie, it goes surprisingly deep.
Chicken Run (Peacock)
Oh, Chicken Run. I have so many feelings about this movie but we’ll talk about that in a bit. Chicken Run, released back in 2000, centers around a group of chickens who all begin to follow a rooster named Rocky, as he might be their only way out of certain death of becoming chicken pies by their owners.
Chicken Run is a movie you might not expect to be good, but once you give it a shot, this is one of the funniest stop motion films you will ever watch. The jokes land consistently and will have you laughing throughout the movie, even though the lead characters are literally just a bunch of chickens. The voice cast is great as well, with stars like Mel Gibson and Julia Sawalha taking on the lead roles. Also, this movie grossed $224.8 million, which became the highest-grossing stop motion film. There has to be a reason for that, and I believe Chicken Run is most certainly worth the time to watch.
Anomalisa (Amazon Prime, Rental)
And now we take a hard 180 on the genres of these films and move over to drama – with a bit of comedy as well. Anomalisa is all about a lonely customer service expert who sees everyone as completely identical until he meets a unique woman while in a hotel, and from there, his world begins to change.
While most of these films on this list can be viewed by children, I would suggest keeping Anomalisa to yourself. This film tackles some very deep issues, including depression, anxiety, loneliness, love, and so much more, things you would never expect for a stop motion film. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fantastic. If anything, it’s for that reason that Anomalisa is a standout on this list, and deserves more praise than it received years ago.
Rent Anomalisa here.
The Corpse Bride (HBO Max)
Hands down one of my absolute favorite stop motion films, if only for this piano scene right here. The Corpse Bride, yet another entry on this list that involves Tim Burton, tells the story of Victor, a young man who is engaged to marry but ends up accidentally becoming the husband of a corpse bride, bringing him into the underworld.
Not only are the songs catchy, the animation tremendous, and the voice acting spectacular - with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter taking on those lead roles - The Corpse Bride is a joyful ride from beginning to end. You’d never expect for a movie with the word “corpse” in it to be perfect for children, but honestly, I have never had as much fun watching a stop motion film as I did this one. While The Nightmare Before Christmas might be Burton’s most-known stop motion, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for The Corpse Bride.
Missing Link (Hulu)
Ending with one of the more recent stop motion films on this list, Missing Link is a lot of fun. The story follows a Sasquatch who wants to travel to the Himalayas to find his missing Yeti cousins, with some help along the way.
Laika, the same film studio that produced Coraline, made this film a standout one, which is why it was so sad that it didn’t get the same traction as some of the other stop motion films on this list. The plot is actually enjoyable for a children’s movie, and the color scheme is off the charts fantastic. I wouldn’t mind stepping into the world of Missing Link for a little bit. And, with a voice cast that has Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Emma Thompson, and more, how could you not be a little bit interested?
I only hope that in the future there will be even more movies to add to this list, as stop motion is truly one of the most underrated arts out there. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and watch Coraline for the fifteenth time