During the opening credits, hands are seen re-making a doll to resemble an 11-year-old girl. Coraline Jones moves with her parents from their home in Pontiac, Michigan, to the Pink Palace, a Victorian mansion renovated into apartments in Ashland, Oregon, which is also occupied by retired actresses Misses Spink and Forcible, and eccentric Russian acrobat Mr. Bobinsky. With her parents perpetually working on a gardening catalog, thus unable to spend much time with her, Coraline decides to explore their new home, meeting Wyborn "Wybie" Lovat, the grandson of the apartments' landlady who she repeatedly insults; while exploring, Coraline finds a small door only to be sealed off by a brick wall. That night, Coraline is awakened by a mouse and follows it to the small door, where she discovers a long, dark corridor in the brick wall's place. Coraline goes through it and finds herself in the Other World, a fantastical version of the Pink Palace inhabited by copies of her parents, called the "Other Mother" and "Other Father", who strongly resemble her parents, but have buttons for eyes. These beings prove to be warmer and more attentive than Coraline's real parents. Coraline falls asleep in the Other World, but when she awakens the next morning, she finds herself back in her old world.
Despite warnings from her neighbors, Coraline continues to venture to the Other World at night to escape the doldrums of her real life, and is entertained by button-eyed "Other" versions of her neighbors, including a muted Other Wybie, a fun Mr. Bobinsky who runs a circus and young Miss Spink and Miss Forcible who are great actresses. Angry with her mom after not getting a pair of mittens, Coraline returns to the Other World. During her third visit, Coraline encounters a black cat from her own world (who has the ability to speak in the Other World), who warns Coraline of danger. He warns her that this place is not a "dream come true" and that the "Other Mother" is not a "mother" at all. She disregards his warnings until the Other Mother invites her to live in the Other World forever if she can sew buttons over her eyes. Horrified, Coraline pretends to be tired and hurries off to bed, only to find herself still in the other world when she awakens. Coraline attempts to leave by walking away from the house, only to be where she started. Coraline breaks into a room and finds the door to be blocked by the Other Mother. Coraline demands to return home and angrily tells the Other Mother that she is not her mother. Enraged, the Other Mother transforms into a tall, slender, and monstrous form, trapping Coraline in a small room behind a mirror. There, she meets the ghosts of three children who had their real eyes lost after the buttons were sewn over their eyes and their lives were also eaten up by the Other Mother. They plead with Coraline to avoid their fate and request that she find their eyes, which will free them from their imprisonment. With the help of the Other Wybie, Coraline escapes to her own world, but finds that her parents have been kidnapped by the Other Mother.
Armed with a seeing stone (provided by the real Miss Spink and Miss Forcible), Coraline returns to the Other World and challenges the Other Mother to a game to find her missing parents and the eyes of the ghost children; she agrees to stay in the Other World forever and have buttons sewn in her eyes if she loses. Coraline uses her seeing stone to find the ghosts' eyes and outwits the twisted inhabitants of the Other World guarding them, ultimately with the help of the black cat. Each time Coraline collects a ghost's eye, the surroundings around her turn grey and eventually transform into stone. She also finds her parents (who are trapped in a snow globe), but the ghost children speak to Coraline through the eyes, warning her the Other Mother (who has decayed further into a massive, arachnoid creature with hands made of sewing needles) will never let her go, even if she wins. Thinking quickly, Coraline tricks the Other Mother into opening the door to the real world and escapes through it, closing the door on the Other Mother's hand, severing it. Coraline finds her parents safe with no recollection of what happened and the ghost children at peace, but not long after, they warn her the Other Mother will still try to retrieve the key. To keep the Other Mother from returning, Coraline intends to drop the key to the door between her world and the Other World down a water well near her house; the Other Mother's severed hand, however, enters Coraline's world and tries to steal the key. Wybie arrives to help her, and the two destroy the hand. They then drop the remains (and the key) down the well. With her parents done with their work and able to spend time with their daughter, Coraline holds a garden party with her family and neighbors, including Wybie's grandmother. Coraline plans to tell Miss Lovat (Wybie's grandma) her adventure and what really happened to her twin sister, who is now known to be one of the ghost children. Coraline content with her new life and the black cat looking to the audience, walking by a pole and disappearing.
- Dakota Fanning as Coraline Jones, a brave, clever, curious 11-year-old girl with dark blue hair. She is annoyed by not being taken seriously by (in her opinion) crazy adults, people constantly mistaking her name for Caroline, and her mundane and bland life. Gaiman describes her as "full of 'vim' and 'spunk' and all those wonderful old-fashioned words."
- Teri Hatcher as Mel Jones, Coraline's busy mother, and the Other Mother. In the film, Mel has a brace around her neck from a truck crash Coraline mentioned; the Other Mother has a turtleneck jumper instead. Mel is a writer working on a gardening catalog. She loves her daughter, but is very busy and doesn't always give her the attention that Coraline thinks she needs. The Other Mother is the creator of the other world and its inhabitants, she can also transform herself into different people, as shown after Coraline re-visits the other world after mistaking The Other Mother as her real one. Teri Hatcher describes Other Mother as the seemingly "perfect mom, because she's a perfect cook and has the perfect answer to every question, and later on she becomes quite monstrous." Her true form is a spider-like witch with a bony face and hands fashioned from sewing needles. The three ghost children refer to her as "the beldam", an archaic word meaning "good lady" but used to refer to a "hag" or a "witch".
The film was released February 6, 2009.
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 21, 2009.