Both the sign and magnitude of residual stress can vary with the thickness of sputter deposited films. The origins of this behavior are not well understood. In this work, we consider the correlation between the residual stress behavior and the depth dependence of impurities in thin (2.5 nm - 150 nm) sputtered Mo and Ta films. We also consider the effects of phase transformations and microstructural changes on the stress behavior. Films were deposited onto Si substrates with native oxide. The residual stress observed in the Mo films varied from highly compressive at 2.5 nm film thickness to ∼ 0 ˜ 10 nm thickness. Ta films also exhibited a high compressive stress, which relaxed from highly compressive to tensile between 10 nm and 50 nm film thickness. Impurities in the films may originate from the sputtering targets, the background gases, and the substrate surfaces. Auger Electron Spectroscopy (AES) results showed the presence of O and C contamination near the film/Si interface; these impurities contributed to the compressive stresses in the thinner films. As anticipated, both Mo and Ta films exhibited grain growth as a function of film thickness, which may have contributed to the relaxation in the compressive stress. The Mo films were entirely bcc. The Ta films showed a transformation from the amorphous phase to the β crystalline phase between 2.5 nm and 20 nm film thickness, which contributed to the relaxation in stress observed in that thickness regime.