Stop-motion movies have become the Sherlock of the movie world - guaranteed pop culture joy, but frustratingly fleeting in appearance.With each one taking literal years to stitch together, and needing a spectacular array of particularly niche creative talent behind-the-scenes (while we wish it was, ’stop-motion puppeteer’ was never on our school curriculum), they’re a cinematic treat to be savoured.
Kubo & The Two Strings (which you can watch on Virgin Movies right about now) is no different - a breathtaking family fantasy adventure with jaw-dropping artistry, loveable voice performances (Matthew McConaughey as a samurai beetle - YES PLEASE), and action scenes that are alternately bad-ass and genuinely perilous, it’s guaranteed fun for all ages, and celebrates everything we love about the medium.
So join us as we rattle through the best stop-motion animated movies of all time.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
The only reason there aren’t more Wallace & Gromit movies on this list is because this is Aardman Animations’ first feature-length adventure with everyone’s favourite hapless inventor and his super-smart best bud dog.
Unsurprisingly for an Aardman production (and one about a mutant rabbit who terrorises a vegetable competition), it’s stuffed full of charm, character and creativity. We heart it big time.
Fascinating Fact: 2.8 tons of plasticine in 42 different colours were used during filming, while animators got through 1000 baby-wipes a week attempting to wipe it off their fingers.
Originally conceived as a live-action adventure with Dakota Fanning on-board to play an IRL Coraline, director Henry Selick opted for a stop-motion twist - and we couldn’t imagine it any other way. Laika’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasy adventure fits the medium perfectly, as young Coraline ventures into a twisted alternate version of her own world as she wrestles with her own everyday demons.
Fascinating Fact: To construct one Coraline puppet, 10 people had to work three-four months.
Charlie Kaufman’s 2015 superbly adult, depressingly human exploration into one man’s existential despair is exactly as off-kilter as that sounds. Funded through Kickstarter because no studio would invest in Kaufman’s barmy vision (yes, there is an R-rated stop-motion love making scene, and yes, it is bizarrely touching), it was rewarded with critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination - the first R-rated animated film to ever be nominated for Best Animated Feature.
Fascinating Fact: The infamous sex scene took six months for co-director Duke Johnson to animate.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
While many people presume Tim Burton directed 1993’s Christmas classic, it was in fact Coraline director Henry Selick who steered the ship of arguably the best stop-motion musical ever made. The tale of Jack Skellington’s musical mission to bring Christmas to Halloween Town is full of toe-tapping classics, wonderfully macabre stylings, and some of the most psychedelic visuals around.
Catchy songs, immediately memorable characters, and a brilliant alternative to the saccharine festive movies that drown out the TV schedules every Christmas.
Fascinating Fact: Around 100 people worked on the movie, and for one second of film, up to 12 individual stop-motion moves had to be crafted.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
As if the combination of Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson wasn’t enticing enough, 2009’s smart, stunningly animated heist caper boasts a bonkers voice cast, including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon and, erm, Jarvis Cocker.
Fascinating Fact: In a bid to make his stars feel super animal-y, Anderson chose to have the actors record their dialogue outside of a recording studio, opting for line readings in forests, attics, stables, underground etc instead.
Chicken Run (2000)
Aardman Animations’ first feature-length production is one of their best ever, focusing on a series of chickens who attempt to escape the clutches of their evil coop owners. Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, Timothy Spall and more team up to voice a collection of instantly adorable plasticine fowls. Equal parts The Great Escape and Wallace & Gromit, it’s quintessential Aardman at its finest.
Fascinating Fact: While many Academy members wanted Chicken Run to be nominated for Best Picture at the 2001 Academy Awards, it failed to garner a nomination. The upswell of support was so momentous that the very next year the Academy created the Best Animated Feature category.