The Best Animated Movies on Netflix Right Now (October 2017)
Last Updated October 26th
The phrase “best animated movie” means different things to different people. Some will automatically think of classic Disney movies or similar family-friendly feature-length cartoons from their childhood, while others will automatically gravitate toward adaptations of their favorite comic-book stories. Others still may consider the exotic appeal of anime or the avant-garde style of artists outside of the mainstream as the “best” animation has to offer. The only thing these disparate features have in common is that they’re devoid of live-action components; anything else goes.
With this broad range of animated movies in mind, we’ve combed through the available features streaming on Netflix to bring you the best of the best. There’s something here for everyone, including Disney features, Oscar-nominated animations, classics and contemporary movies alike, all representing a stunning variety of animation styles. Whether you’re a casual fan or a longtime devotee of animation, there’s something for everyone here.
The Land Before Time
Director: Don Bluth
Writer: Stu Krieger, Judy Freudberg, Tony Geiss
Cast: Pat Hingle, Judith Barsi, Gabriel Damon, Helen Shaver, Bill Erwin, Burke Byrnes, Candace Hutson, Will Ryan, Frank Welker
The Land Before Time, a classically animated tale about a group of young dinosaur friends in prehistoric times that kickstarted a series of direct-to-video animated movies that continues to this day. The original was producer by the super-team of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, and Frank Marshall back in 1988, who all did pretty well for themselves even after leaving Littlefoot and company behind.
The first of the 14 films introduced young audiences to the Longnecks, Three-Horns, Spiketails, and more, names of different dinosaur species that had all historically kept to themselves. However, when an earthquake fractures the land and separates a group of young dinosaurs from their herds, they must put their differences aside to reunite with their families and maybe even find the fabled Great Valley along the way. - Dave Trumbore
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc
Director: Toshiyuki Kubooka
Writer: Kentara Miura, Ichirô Ôkôchi
Cast: Hiroaki Iwanaga/Marc Diraison, Takahiro Sakurai/Kevin T. Collins, Toa Yukinari/Carrie Keranen
Netflix is decidedly light on anime features as compared to some of the other streaming platforms out there—though it does have a pretty impressive roster of anime series—but this one should make for a decent introduction. It’s a dark fantasy story inspired by Medieval Europe that features bloody battles, over-the-top heroes and villains, and a more extensive mythology than you’ll find in most contemporary animated features. There’s also quite the twisting, turning evolution of political machinations and personal aspirations that runs though it all.
Based on the long-running manga series from Miura, the story follows a lone mercenary named Guts and his relationship with Griffith, the leader of a company of mercenaries known as the Band of the Hawk. However, I’ll forewarn you that this feature is only part of the Berserk story. It’s a good retelling of the introduction of these two characters, but if you find yourself wanting more, you can seek out the two follow-up sequels, the 1997s animated series, or the new 2016 series. Update: As of this writing, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II – The Battle for Doldrey and Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent are available now! – Dave Trumbore
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Director: Henry Selick
Writers: Caroline Thompson (screenplay), Tim Burton (story and characters), Michael McDowell (adaptation)
Cast: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, Greg Proops, Ken Page
If you’re not sure if stop-motion animation is your bag, you might want to start with The Nightmare before Christmas. This holiday-themed horror-show is caught halfway between Halloween and Christmas, but it’s just right for watching anytime of year. It’s an absolute classic. Despite the fact that it’s nearly 25 years old, Selick’s smooth and detailed stop-motion animation gives The Nightmare before Christmas a timeless feel.
Jack Skellington, the impossibly tall and slender skeleton-man in charge of Halloween festivities, stumbles upon the Christmas holiday and falls for everything it embodies. He puts the entirety of Halloween Town to work preparing to takeover Christmas, going so far as to kidnap Santa Claus himself (with good intentions, of course). It suffices to say that Jack’s plan goes spectacularly wrong in every way and it’s a delight to watch. Queue it up today! - Dave Trumbore
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Writer: Jared Bush
Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk
One of the most refreshing animated movies in years is Disney’s Moana, the Oscar-nominated film that tells the tale of a young Pacific Island girl’s confident rise as a leader and visionary. Complicating her quest is the demigod Maui, played particularly well by Dwayne Johnson, though he’s clearly met his match with newcomer Auli’i Cravalho. The on-screen chemistry here is fantastic and reminiscent of some of the best pairings throughout Disney’s historic filmography.
Moana not only brings a rarely seen mythology and history to the big screen, it does so with earnest respect for the living culture that still exists today in the Pacific Islands. It’s a movie that will satisfy everything you’re looking for in a Disney movie but will also leave you wanting more because of how rich the world is, the film’s compelling and engrossing mythology, and just because Moana and Maui are so much fun to watch. I’d love a sequel and I’d love a spin-off series (we were robbed of more time with Heihei and the kakamora), but for now, at least Moana is on Netflix!
Kubo and the Two Strings
Director: Travis Knight
Writers: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler, Shannon Tindle
Cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei
The latest LAIKA effort Kubo and the Two Strings might just be the stop-motion animation studio’s best effort to date. Nominated for 2 Oscars, Kubo is an original story that centers on the title character, a young boy who cares for his ailing mother on the outskirts of a small, shoreline village in Japan. He earns a meager living by acting out mythological stories in the village square, using origami figures that he brings to life with his magical musical instrument, the shamisen. But one fateful mistake leads Kubo on a dangerous adventure where he’ll cross paths with powerful creatures in order to right an old family wrong.
Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeous viewing experience and a wonderfully mythological story with a lot of heart. In other words, it’s textbook LAIKA. The studio’s films are the rare artistic animated efforts that are both entertaining for kids thanks to their eye-catching visuals and colorful characters but also offer up something deeper for adults and parents to discuss long after the movie’s over. Check this one out before it’s gone!
An American Tail
Director: Don Bluth
Writers: Judy Freudberg, Tony Geiss, David Kirschner
Cast: Phillip Glasser, Dom DeLuise, Amy Green, Nehemiah Persoff, Erica Yohn, Christopher Plummer, John Finnegan, Will Ryan, Pat Musick, Cathianne Blore, Neil Ross, Madeline Kahn
More than 30 years after its debut, An American Tail is perhaps more relevant than ever. I wrote about the film’s messages on racism, immigration, and human decency a little while back, and I argue that those lessons have either been forgotten along the way or learned by too few to begin with. Now’s as good a time as ever to revisit Fievel Mousekewitz and his family’s journey to an America that was not exactly how they imagined it would be.
And if you’d love to see the continuation of Fievel’s story, the sub-par but still entertaining sequel Fievel Goes West is also available on Netflix, as are the more recent sequels An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster and An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island, if you’re up to the challenge.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Director: Bill Kroyer
Writers: Jim Cox, Diana Young
Cast: Samantha Mathis, Christian Slater, Robin Williams, Tim Curry, Jonathan Ward, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Neil Ross, Pamela Adlon, Tone Loc, Brian Cummings
FernGully: The Last Rainforest is one of the most 90s animated features you’ll ever see. The pro-environmental message is strong in this story about an Australian logger named Zak who’s shrunken down to the size of the fairy folk who live in the rainforest his company is in the process of demolishing. When the loggers happen to cut down a tree that had acted as a prison for the evil pollution spirit Hexxus, Zak and the fairies must find a way to defeat him and protect their home.
FernGully is, on the surface, a straightforward good-vs-evil story, but its green message is impossible to miss. Zak is forced to walk in the shoes of the fairy folk whose home is threatened, only to realize the error of his ways and aid the sprites in their defense. (It also features one of Robin Williams‘ zanier animated characters, which is saying something.) It fit perfectly in with the early 90s when Captain Planet was still on the air, and even shares a lot of story elements in common with James Cameron‘s Avatar. Idealistic, for sure, but such idealism is sorely needed now.
The Iron Giant
Director: Brad Bird
Writers: Tim McCanlies, Brad Bird, Ted Hughes
Cast: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman, M. Emmet Walsh
Well before Brad Bird brought us The Incredibles, Ratatouille, or Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and before Vin Diesel ventured into feature franchise territory with massive box office performances, there was The Iron Giant. This cult classic, based on the 1968 novel by Hughes, takes place in the late 1950s in the midst of the Cold War. Following the launch of Sputnik, young protagonist Hogarth Hughes befriends a benevolent and curious robot that has crash-landed in the forest nearby. However, the unintentionally destructive iron giant draws the attention of the federal government. Things rapidly spiral out of control from there as an arms race of sorts builds to an explosive conclusion.
The Iron Giant really is a fantastic story that blends elements of Hughes’ tales with those of classic comic book superheroes and real-world political tensions. The titular titan, voiced by Diesel, learns about life and death (and Superman) from young Hogarth through a number of touching scenes, emotional pauses for introspection and understanding that are rarely seen in today’s animated features. It’s also a cautionary tale against escalation, especially of the military variety, which no one ever really wins. If only we had our own Iron Giant around to save the day …
World of Tomorrow
Director: Don Hertzfeldt
Writer: Don Hertzfeldt
Cast: Julia Pott, Winona Mae, and Sara Cushman
(This entry originally appeared on our Best Sci-Fi Movies of Netflix article.)
At 17 minutes long, Don Hertzfeldt’s ingenious World of Tomorrow conveys more of the strangeness, melancholy, and loneliness of a world ruled by futuristic technologies than arguably any other director this decade. The follow-up to Hertzfeldt’s animated classic It’s Such a Beautiful Day, World of Tomorrow features a young girl who gets the chance to speak with her older self or, to put it more accurately, the umpteenth clone of her future self. The proceeding hop-along through time and space becomes a perfect canvas for Hertzfeldt’s avant-garde brand of animation, which makes great use of minimalistic drawing and video overlaying to evoke the disorientation and utter oddness of the world that Hertzfeldt envisions.
That world, mind you, is a pretty cold and unsympathetic one, but Hertzfeldt smartly never turns out-and-out cynical, clearly seeing the impressive steps toward immortality and exploring the universe that technology will bring without ignoring the emotional numbness and turmoil that will remain, and likely worsen, as time goes by. – Chris Cabin
The Prince of Egypt
Director: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells
Writer: Philip LaZebnik, Nicholas Meyer
Cast: Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren, Steve Martin, Martin Short, James Avery
The music from this film alone makes it worth the watch, as evidenced by the Oscar-winning song “When You Believe.” And yet the power of The Prince of Egypt is in its ancient, religious story that is still at the heart of many cultures today. While it might not be the most historically accurate retelling of the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, and the Exodus that you’ll ever see, it’s an honest attempt to present that telling in a mature fashion.
One of DreamWorks Animation’s earliest pictures, The Prince of Egypt tells the well-known story of the life of Moses, from his inauspicious beginnings, to his young adulthood in the court of the Pharaoh, to his eventual realization of his true heritage and the ultimate achievement of leading his people out from under the Egyptian leader’s cruel rule. It’s an impressive visual and aural display that’s a worthwhile adaptation of an ancient story, and one that brings archaic practices into a contemporary light. - Dave Trumbore
Hotel Transylvania 2
This entry originally appeared on our Adam Sandler Movies on Netflix, Ranked article.
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Writers: Robert Smigel, Adam Sandler
This one surprised me. A wacky CG-animated sequel to the 2012 title, Hotel Transylvania 2 has all the cartoonish charm, bizarro action, and off-kilter heart thatGenndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack) is known for, along with earnestly funny moments from Sandler and his pals. Without having seen the first movie (which is available to rent on Netflix but not to stream), I had no idea what I was in for and honestly expected the sequel to be a joyless, sugary mess rife with callbacks.
Instead, this kid-friendly comedy that puts family drama at its center with an overall message to just be yourself is easily one of the best things to have Sandler’s name attached to it. When Mavis the vampire marries Jonathan the human–which inevitably leads to a son, Dennis, whose heritage is a constant source of speculation and interest–some light-hearted tension between the monstrous brood and the “normal” family develops. Drac (Sandler), Dennis’ Vampa (vampire grandpa, obviously) decides to take him on a secret mission to find the monster inside himself, and enlists his buddies to help with the plan. Ultimately, it all comes down to Dennis learning to be himself, which puts an end to all the conflict. And since Sandler & Co. are at their best while in cartoonish form, while restrained from being their worst by the PG rating, it’s a balance that’s surprisingly enjoyable and should stand up to multiple viewings. It’s easily the safest Sandler movie on Netflix to watch with your kids! - Dave Trumbore
Directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe Jr., Norman Ferguson, Jim Handley, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen
Writers: Joe Grant, Dick Huemer
Narrator: Deems Taylor
Fantasia is one of the most unique features Disney ever produced. The movie is a collection of eight segments linked together through classical music (performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted by Leopold Stokowski). Though its timing (it was released in 1940) wasn’t ideal as the world was at war, it has gained a growing fanbase through multiple re-releases that have restored and sometimes modified original footage; all of which is deserves, because it’s incredible.
Going through Fantasia for the first time is certainly an experience as its ambitions are unmatched. You may already be familiar with Mickey Mouse’s sequence The Scorcerer’s Apprentice, but as for the rest, it’s best to just let it sweep you away. Some segments connect better than others, but each is truly its own, and rather extraordinary in its abstract nature. The movie isn’t exactly for children, and some of it is aggressively strange (and even frightening), but that’s the beauty of it all. Fantasia is a kind of animated Rorschach test — it is what you make of it. - Allison Keene
The Last Unicorn
This entry previous appeared in our Best Movies on Netflix article.
Directors: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Writer: Peter S. Beagle, based on his novel
Cast: Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Tammy Grimes, Robert Klein, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee
The Last Unicorn is a haunting fantasy tale that both children and adults should find appealing. It can be scary, sweet, heartwarming, and even satirical at times, as it follows a unicorn on a journey to find her lost brethren, who were supposedly driven out of existence by a red bull controlled by a mad king. The voice cast brings life to the movie’s distinct animated style (created by a studio whose core members went on to form Studio Ghibli), and the score is wonderfully composed by the legend Jimmy Webb, with memorable songs performed by the folk band America. It’s a strange and beautiful story of love, loss, and magic that has a truly unique sensibility. — Allison Keene
The Little Prince
Directors: Mark Osborne
Writer: Irena Brignull (screenplay), Bob Persichetti (screenplay), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (novel)
Cast: Mackenzie Foy, Riley Osborne, Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Bud Cort, Paul Giamatti, Albert Brooks
It’s not every day you get to see a modern animated adaptation of an iconic bestselling story like The Little Prince, but thanks to Netflix and the talented cast and crew assembled to bring Antoine de Saint-Exupéry‘s story to life, a whole new generation can now enjoy the classic tale. Now while it’s not a point-for-point translation of the tale, it does pay homage to the novella’s fan-favorite characters and scenes. The Fox, The Snake, and The Rose are all present, and they’re brought to life in contrasting animation styles that help to conjure up images of the original drawings alongside the cutting-edge computer-generated characters common in today’s kids movies. This contrast also sets apart the book’s story, which itself exists as a story within a larger framing story following The Little Girl (Foy) and her uptight, hyper-organized Mother (McAdams). Their addition brings a new wrinkle to a familiar story, but the movie’s at its best when it sticks to the original tale. If you haven’t read The Little Prince or seen any of its adaptations over the years, this is a great place to start. — Dave Trumbore
Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Writers: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Jenny Slate, Idris Elba, Nate Torrence, J.K. Simmons, Bonnie Hunt, Octavia Spencer
Walt Disney Animation Studios found itself lagging behind when Pixar’s track record was pristine, but look no further than Zootopia for evidence that the tables have turned. While Pixar is more hit-or-miss nowadays, Disney Animation is on a roll with 2016’s Zootopia proving to be a pleasantly surprising hit both commercially and critically. While talking animal stories have been done to death, Disney dared to use the colorful, vibrant, and diverse world of Zootopia to tackle issues of inherent bias and racial prejudice head on, resulting in a viewing experience that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking. The movie is funny and gorgeous, with top-notch world building, but it also has something to say, which ensures that it’s much more than a lazy cash grab. With any luck, this one’s gonna have a lengthy shelf life. – Adam Chitwood
Directors: Peter Lord, Nick Park
Writers: Peter Lord, Nick Park, Karey Kirkpatrick, Mark Burton, John O’Farrell
Cast: Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Julia Sawalha, Tony Haygarth, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton
It’s not like the House of Aardman has never had a dud. Flushed Away wasn’t particularly great and not every single short needs to be seen to understand the dry, comical appeal of Aardman’s style and perspective. Most of the time, however, Aardman leads the charge for stop-motion animation through new classics like Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit and this oft-forgotten, exquisite takeoff on The Great Escape. Julia Sawalha voices Ginger, a chicken who is looking to lead a rebellion amongst her sisters against her evil farmer owners, the Tweedys, voiced by Miranda Richardson and Tony Haygarth, and gets a miraculous bit of help from a damaged rooster named Rocky (Mel Gibson). Not only is the movie a marvel of clever parody in its conflation of something like Peter Rabbit with The Great Escape, it’s also a very open appeal for labor reform and animal rights. All that, however, ends up beind secondary to sheer thrill of watching Aardman’s world of wonders, giving a full sense of a farm as a living ecosystem and a realm of unending physical work. A weaker film would put all the focus on the romance that blooms between Ginger and Rocky, whereas in the finished product of Chicken Run, their cute courtship is merely a facet of a much larger, endlessly entertaining whirligig. - Chris Cabin
Kung Fu Panda
Directors: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris
Cast: Jack Black, Ian McShane, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong, Dan Fogler, Michael Clarke Duncan
Back in 2008, Kung Fu Panda not only earned an Oscar nomination, but it kickstarted a major film franchise for DreamWorks Animation. The origin story for the title character is perfectly cast thanks to the antics of Jack Black and the diverse, talented, and experienced supporting cast that surrounds him. It also introduced a wholly original character in audiences young an old, an unconventional hero who didn’t rely on strength and skill alone, but rather in developing his own unique talents and working alongside his friends and allies. That’s a rarity in these times of super-muscley superheroes and ultra-violent actioners. Do yourself a favor and revisit the original Kung Fu Panda or discover this fun, food-filled adventure for the first time! - Dave Trumbore
Kung Fu Panda 3
Directors: Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Cast: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Kate Hudson, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim, Steele Gagnon, Liam Knight, Wayne Knight, Al Roker, Fred Tatasciore, Jean-Claude Van Damme
The latest in the Kung Fu Panda trilogy may not be the greatest but for those who have followed Po the panda’s journey from its beginning in 2008, it’s a fantastic continuation of his story. His fellow fighters, the Furious Five, once again join Po in his adventure, but this tale finds the panda warrior with the voracious appetite tasked with two very personal challenges: A long-lost relative appears all of a sudden and reveals to Po a world he thought he’d never see, while the return of an ancient enemy puts their friends, family, and way of life in jeopardy. It’s the most visually impressive installment in the DreamWorks Animation franchise yet and a fun, entertaining watch for the whole family. - Dave Trumbore
Directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
Writers: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jonah Hill
Cast: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, James Franco, Bill Hader, Nick Kroll, Salma Hayek, David Krumholtz, Danny McBride, Edward Norton, Craig Robinson
You guys, Sausage Party. That’s all I should have to say. For those of you who have seen it, you understand that it’s very difficult to sum up this adult-oriented, animated feature except to say that it’s one of the most outlandish, over-the-top, and unfettered feats of filmmaking ever attempted in the world of cartoon foodstuffs. For those who haven’t seen it, hold onto your pork butts! Don’t make the same mistake parents of little ones across the country did when this movie came out; it’s 100% not for kids. It’s Rated R for “strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use” which doesn’t even include the prevalence of food porn, orgies, and the certainty of feeling guilty for laughing so damn hard. - Dave Trumbore
Directors: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Writers: Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse, Bob Peterson, Angus MacLane
Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Bob Peterson, Kate McKinnon, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Hader
Though it was infamously snubbed from this year’s round of Oscar nominations, Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory remains as enjoyable a watch as its predecessor and even makes a case for the rare sequel that surpasses the original. Finding Nemo was all about one father’s quest to locate his missing (and physically disabled) son before something awful could happen to him. Finding Dory goes deeper. The title character, afflicted from birth with a mental disability that makes it nearly impossible for her to focus or remember things after more than a few moments, goes on her own personal quest to rediscover her long-lost parents. It’s an emotional and at-times frustrating watch because you get so wrapped up and invested in Dory’s persistence and optimism despite her impairments, but like Disney/Pixar’s best, the ultimate reward is worth the journey. - Dave Trumbore
Director: Simon Wells
Writers: Cliff Ruby, Elana Lesser, David Steven Cohen, Roger S.H. Schulman
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Bob Hoskins, Bridget Fonda, Jim Cummings, Phil Collins, Jack Angel,
Balto, a blast from the past, brings the true story of a half-husky, half-wolf hero to life in fantastic animated form. Inspired by the real-life Balto, who led a dog team on the final leg of a 600 mile journey through the Alaskan winter to deliver medical supplies to help treat a diphtheria outbreak, Balto is an absolute classic that’s been all but forgotten. Thankfully, Netflix now has this 1995 film available for your viewing pleasure, which comes more than 90 years after the original story played out in the Alaskan wilderness. You owe it to Balto and his canine companions to give this movie a watch. - Dave Trumbore
Directors: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
Writers: Tim Burton, Carlos Grangel, John August, Caroline Thompson, Pamela Pettler
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Watson, Christopher Lee, Deep Roy, Danny Elfman
Like all of Tim Burton’s movies, the macabre occurrences, gothic-tinged atmosphere, and inventive, dark design of Corpse Bride do a poor job of hiding the personal impulses and confessional stretches that are at the root of all of Burton’s films. The story of the corpse bride, a zombie-like bride-to-be who was murdered by her suitor and now wants to make a young groom-to-be her everlasting husband, is classical in its construction. It would have made for a great silent horror film, but Burton’s animated wonder adds infectious musical numbers, uproarious sight gags, and a deeply human understanding of desire, love, and mortality.
Considering that Burton’s movies often return to the realms of the afterlife and the undead, it’s not entirely surprising that the director is so masterful at creating a lively world of skeletons and murders, which includes a worm with the voice of Peter Lorre. It’s also what gives a tip to what Burton’s personal connection is to this stop-motion wonder: The groom-to-be, Vincent (Johnny Depp), is torn between the cripplingly cynical world of the living with his beloved wife (Emma Watson) and the burlesque of death that he’s introduced to through the titular character (Helena Bonham Carter) when he looks to escape from his family and nuptials. Like any career artist, Burton has a hard time balancing his life at home with his inner world, and here, he turns that tension and complicated state of being into a gorgeous, incessantly imaginative tale of class, regret, and those intimate, lacerating feelings that you aren’t even sure death will cure. - Chris Cabin
Director: Henry Selick
Writers: Henry Selick, Neil Gaiman
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David, Robert Bailey Jr., Ian McShane
If it’s spooky, quirky, stop-motion animation you’re looking for, look no further than Coraline. The Oscar-nominated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s beloved story earned Selick his only Oscar nomination and remains his last feature directorial effort to date. However, Coraline was also the first feature film for now-iconic stop-motion animation house LAIKA, which has gone on to make more Oscar-worthy fare like the recent Kubo and the Two Strings over the years.
Coraline tells the tale of the title character, an adventurous girl who discovers a parallel world to her own hidden away behind a door in her new house. Despite the denizens of this other world having buttons for eyes, they all seem to be much better alternatives to Coraline’s own neighbors, friends, and even her family. But those of you who know Gaiman’s storytelling style can probably guess that there’s much more to them than meets the (button) eye. Be prepared for a twisted yet delightful tale! - Dave Trumbore
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