It’s never too early (or late) to learn that as dire as a situation might seem, it can always be worse. The 2009 movie Coraline hammers that concept into kids and adults alike during one of the creepiest animated films of all time.
Dakota Fanning (Coraline Jones) and Teri Hatcher (Mel Jones) lead the charge as a fraught mother-daughter duo. On top of Hatcher’s role as Coraline’s actual mother, she also plays a twisted iteration called the Other Mother. In the Other Mother’s alternate universe, button eyes are all the rage. But not everything is what it seems when Coraline’s Other parents attempt to coax her into leaving the family she knows for a seemingly better life.
Coraline streaming details
Coraline (2009) is currently streaming on Max.
Animated horror staple Henry Selick sat in the director’s chair and penned the screenplay adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s original novel by the same name. The movie is the perfect choice to fill a horror itch with an animated spin. However, there are plenty of similar films to turn a Coraline viewing into a movie marathon.
So, grab some popcorn (and maybe a flashlight) and check out some other animated movies like Coraline with dark and sometimes twisted vibes.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Why choose between Halloween and Christmas when you can have the best of both worlds? The Nightmare Before Christmas is yet another Henry Sellick directorial classic. Fans of the movie may not know that it’s actually an adaptation of a 1982 poem written by Tim Burton — but he didn’t actually pen the screenplay. That honor went to Michael McDowell and Caroline Thompson. However, Burton heavily influenced the project as the headlining producer.
Much like Coraline, Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman) discovers a whole new world when he happens upon portals to holidays that are a far cry from his Halloween-centric home. On top of voicing quite a few characters in the movie, Elfman was responsible for coming up with the haunting score of the movie musical. As fans listen to the movie’s spooky ballads, the will they/won’t they love story between Jack and a ragdoll called Sally (Catherine O’Hara) unfurls as Jack’s dog Zero trails along.
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James and the Giant Peach
It’s Henry Selick’s world and we’re just living in it. Despite its cheery name, the 1996 movie James and the Giant Peach is pretty unsettling. Director Selick adapted the movie from Roald Dahl’s book alongside screenplay writers Karey Kirkpatrick, Jonathan Roberts, and Steve Bloom.
Fans will notice similar themes between Coraline and James and the Giant Peach protagonist James (Paul Terry). Yet, unlike Coraline, an orphaned James is justified in his pursuit of a better life far away from his abusive family. Enter a giant magical peach and a slew of talking anthropomorphic bugs that become James’ new family as they journey to, ironically enough, the Big Apple. The movie is as wholesome as it is mildly creepy.
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The Book of Life
Sometimes, love triangles get deadly. The 2014 animated movie The Book of Life breathes life into Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) — a Mexican holiday that celebrates and honors the dead. In the film, Land of the Remembered ruler La Muerta (Kate del Castillo) and Land of the Forgotten ruler Xibalba (Ron Perlman) make a wager on which love interest the mortal Maria (Zoe Saldana) will choose: Manolo (Diego Luna) or Joaquín (Channing Tatum)?
So, what’s on the line? If Maria chooses protagonist Manolo, Xibalba is prohibited from meddling with the mortals. But if she marries Joaquín, the husband and wife will swap the worlds they oversee. Naturally, the movie is infused with Mexican culture as the two worlds of the dead contrast light and beauty with a more sinister darkness.
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The Addams Family
Snap, snap. In 2019, The Addams Family got an animated movie makeover with character designs that mirror the comic strips the pop culture icons originated from. The movie is chock-full of the darkly absurd humor Addams Family fans are accustomed to, with a modern-day spin on the plot.
The voice cast is to die for with names like Oscar Isaac (Gomez), Charlize Theron (Morticia), Chloë Grace Moretz (Wednesday), Finn Wolfhard (Pugsley), Snoop Dog (It), and Coraline’s Catherine O’Hara as Grandma Frump. Like Coraline, the movie boasts a life lesson. This time, it’s to embrace your differences and avoid changing yourself for anyone else. Of course, the subtle message is wrapped up in a sometimes twisted but always kooky bow.
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Step aside, Zero. There’s a new ghost dog in town. Tim Burton’s animated adaptation of Leonard Ripps’ 1984 Frankenweenie movie features star-studded voice acting talent like Coraline’s Catherine O’Hara (Mrs. Frankenstein), Winona Ryder (Elsa Van Helsing), Martin Short (Mr. Frankenstein), and Charlie Tahan (Victor Frankenstein). In addition to directing, Burton contributed to the script with co-writer John August.
Losing a beloved dog is traumatic for anyone, but most kids don’t try to bring their treasured pups back from the dead. Of course, with the surname Frankenstein, it’s not exactly a surprise that the film’s main character, Victor, opts for a science fiction solution to the loss of his pet. And though Victor begins the movie as an outsider, his zombie-adjacent science experiment catches on, and chaos ensues.
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Long before Tim Burton or Henry Sellick came onto the scene, Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic storytelling haunted lovers of the macabre back in the 1800s. Though he didn’t get worldwide popularity until after his death, Poe continues to delight fans of gothic horror and grief-stricken prose over 150 years after his death. His stories have spawned countless iterations, but Extraordinary Tales is one of the most unique.
The 2013 anthology movie adapted five of Poe’s stories: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, and The Masque of the Red Death. Each story boasts its own animated style — from comic book vibes to an oil painting aesthetic.
Poe enthusiasts will also notice names like Bela Lugosi (Dracula and The Black Cat) and Roger Corman (a staple in Vincent Price’s Poe adaptations) among the narrators. Just like Poe’s works, the anthology is a mix of morose beauty and spine-tingling darkness.
Just when you thought an on-screen romance couldn’t get more haunting than Jack and Sally’s love story, the 2005 animated movie Corpse Bride gave the duo a run for their money. The similar vibes between the films are no coincidence, as Tim Burton co-directed the film with Mike Johnson. Burton was also responsible for writing the screenplay alongside Carlos Grangel and John August.
Who needs a traditional love triangle when you can choose between a living or dead bride? Johnny Depp’s Victor Van Dort has a big decision regarding his impending nuptials. Will he opt for his living fiance, Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson), or the dead but beautiful Emily (Helena Bonham Carter)? Add a musical score by the one and only Danny Elfman, and you’ve got yourself a pretty spooky romance.