“Once upon a time” … the words themselves evoke wonder.
We hear these four words and we instantly know that there is a story to be told here, and a good one at that; preferably involving a beautiful princess, a handsome prince, an evil witch and a “happily ever after.”
Fairy tales have been told for as long as stories have been written, have been adapted for the silver screen for as long as movies have been made.
According to “The Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology & Legend,” (1972), a “fairy tale” is a short story that features folkloric fantasy characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants, mermaids or gnomes, and, usually, magic — such as “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” etc. a legend, on the other hand, is historically grounded, and, while unlikely, could feasibly be true — such as the stories of Robin Hood, Bigfoot, or William tell.
The most famous fairy tales are derivations of those told in the Brothers Grimm “Children’s and Household Tales” (1812). Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm were German academics and authors who together collected folklore in the mid-19th century — and wrote a few tales themselves. the book introduced the rest of the world to “Cinderella,” “The Frog Prince,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Rapunzel,” “Rumplestilskin,” “Snow White,” and more.
The latest fairy tale adaptation to hit the big screen is “Snow White and the Huntsman” on Friday. Starring Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart (“Twilight”) and directed by Rupert Sanders, it’s a twist on the Grimms’ tale:
In this version, when the Evil Queen (Theron) orders the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to kill Snow White in the woods, he instead becomes her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the queen.
With “Huntsman” poised to be a summer blockbuster, we put together a list of our top 10 Fairy Tale Movies. Grab some popcorn and take a peek …
1. Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” (1937). all hail the original. the first full-length feature fairy tale that moviegoers ever saw, this 83-minute animated film blew minds in Depression-era movie theaters — from the Technicolor, to the catchy songs, to the lovable dwarves.
The film, released by RKO Radio Pictures, is the first full-length cel-animated feature in motion picture history, the first animated feature film produced in America, the first produced in full color, the first to be produced by Walt Disney Productions, and the first in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. the AFI named the film the greatest American animated film of all time in 1998.
2. Disney’s “Cinderella” (1950), simply the epitome of what we’ve come to think of as what fairy tale should be: a kind and beautiful girl is forced into servitude by her evil stepmother and stepsisters. She sings with birds, the cute little mice all love her, and she gets Prince Charming in the end. Add a fairy godmother, a missing glass slipper, a pumpkin-turned-coach and a lovable dog-turned-footman, and you’ve got yourself a good ol’ fashioned Fairy Tale, friends.
3. “The Princess Bride” (1987). this one isn’t a Grimm tale; it’s a Mel Brooks. but it’s probably one of the most popular fairy tale movies ever, complete with a beautiful princess, an evil prince, trolls, giants and true love’s kiss. Incessantly quoted, and with a cult-like following, the movie starring Robin Wright Penn as Princess Buttercup, Billy Crystal as the troll Miracle Max and Andre the Giant as, well, Andre the Giant.
4. Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (1991). Another classic. When the eccentric village inventor is captured by a beast, his beautiful and loving daughter, Belle, bravely offers to take her father’s place. We know how the rest plays out. Throw in a talking clock, a cute teacup and a singing candlestick to add the Disney charm.
5. “Shrek” (2001). this gorgeously glossy computer-animated fantasy from DreamWorks Pictures cast probably the most Grimm characters ever seen in one film. Voiced by Hollywood stars including Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow, this tale was sharp enough for adults to love.
6. “Edward Scissorhands” (1990). Brilliant. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have struck gold many times over, but this is considered their best. Elements of fairy tales are everywhere, even in this candy-colored suburb where Avon calls.
7. “Black Swan” (2010). this Darren Aronofsky film set in the cutthroat world of ballet, is about the dancer (Natalie Portman) who wins the lead in the Hans Christian Andersen ballet “Swan Lake.” but as the show goes on, she loses her mind, becoming less like her role of the White Swan, Princess Odette, and more like the twisted Odile, the Black Swan.
8. Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (1989). Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen originally intended this tale to be a ballet. instead, in 1837 he published a fairy tale about a young mermaid willing to give up her life in the sea to gain a human soul and the love of a human prince. In the early 1990s, little girls everywhere wanted to be Princess Ariel.
9. “Ever after: a Cinderella Story” (1998). the tale here is treated not as a straight fairy tale, but as historical fiction, set in Renaissance-era France. Danielle (Drew Barrymore) lives with her evil stepmother, Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent (Anjelica Huston) and two cruel stepsisters. Critics and academics have seen this as a modern, post-feminism interpretation of the Cinderella tale. Cinderella knocks the prince off his horse with her apple, tries to pay off her household debts in court. As Roger Ebert wrote in his review, “Danielle’s attitude toward her dilemma is closer to modern feminism than to the cheerful sexism of the Brothers Grimm.”
10. Disney’s “Tangled” (2011). the 50th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series was this computer-animated film loosely based on the Grimms’ “Rapunzel.” the film — featuring the voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi and Donna Murphy — wowed audiences with its unique textured look, derived from using both CGI and traditional animation.
Honorable mention: Muppets’ “The Frog Prince” (1971). this one was released on home video, but you can get it through Netflix. It’s charming, and a must-see for Muppet devotees. Directed by Jim Henson, it is a retelling of the classic fairy tale of the Frog Prince featuring Kermit the Frog as the narrator, Kermit’s nephew Robin as the Frog Prince, Sir Robin, and Sweetums, among others.
Lauren Daley is a freelance writer. Contact her
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