The origins of marionettes are often associated with masks of Gods and Demons which would play a big part in ancient theatres all over the world - as idols were praised and treated as living creatures, so would the puppets.
Funnily enough a doll becomes a puppet as soon as there's an audience. Once a child plays for someone, not only for their own entertainment, their toy turns into an actor. When people discovered the pleasure of playing for others, certain supplies and devices were invented to make the dolls playable for a mass of people, a crowd of those who are interested. The tools vary from one country to another, yet the idea remains - puppets become a living creature separated from their creator. One of the most ancient forms of puppetry that is widely appreciated nowadays is bunraku. The doll is brought to life by three people - two of them control its limbs and body while being covered in black clothes head to toe, the last person takes over the puppet's mind. The most fascinating thing about bunraku is the way the "mind"-actor performs - there is no emotion on his face as he gives all of his energy to the doll.
The reason puppet shows became popular lies in their nature - people were fascinated by a doll reliving every possible human emotion and acting as a person. The performances were entertaining as well - one could tell a complicated story and teach the audience an important lesson with a help of a few figurines.
One of the most famous modern puppeteers, Jim Henson - the creator behind Kermit the Frog - saw such an opportunity as well. The puppeteer found a resemblance between a screen and medieval proscenium stage, where dolls would perform. Henson decided to bring dolls and marionettes on TV - this would become a breakthrough for later expansion of puppet art in the cinema. Some of the concepts he developed are now used in movie-making - most of the ugly creatures we see on the TV are doll-cascades with actors inside.
After advancing the looks of the puppets creators expanded the idea to TV series and movies,where the whole cast would consist of dolls. Filming such is not an easy task. All facial expressions, movements of limbs and even hair have to be changed in every frame. The process consumes an enormous amount of time. For example, in the making of "Boxtrolls'' by Laika, an animator of the crew had to spend 4 months to create a scene of 56 seconds.
Essentially all of the puppet movies are made almost entirely manually , so all of them are worth your time. Yet what are the best ones?