Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fairy tale movies

I love fairy tale movies. I love being swept away into a fantasy setting with magical creatures, with romance and adventure and that fairy tale ending.

I think fairy tales and fairy tale retellings are having a bit of a surge in popularity possibly, with the recent release of the films Beastly and Red Riding Hood. Beastly, of course being the film adaptation of the book by Alex Flinn and is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. And Red Riding Hood has a film novelisation already published, written by Sarah Blakely-Cartwright. I have not seen either film, so cannot make any comment. (Though if you've seen either film, do let me know in comments!)

I can, however, share with you some of my favourite films with fairy tale elements. Let's begin.

I think my favourite of all time has to be The Princess Bride. I love everything about both the book, by William Goldman, and the film which was released in 1987. It's an unbelievably quotable movie and I find myself thinking of The Princess Bride quotes all the time in my every day life.

There's so many wonderful aspects of the film version. I remember being quite excited when I learnt that Andre the Giant was in it, as he was a favourite wrestler of my brother's. Despite being very young when I first saw the film (it was released when I was 5), I remember having an all-consuming crush on Cary Elwes, who plays Westley.

The romance between Buttercup and Westley is really wonderful. Especially the scene where Westley returns as the Dread Pirate Roberts, expecting to be reunited with his True Love and instead finds Buttercup to be engaged to another. They argue and Buttercup pushes Westley down the hill, and oh... You must watch it if you haven't already. But don't worry, it is isn't just a kissing film.

There's swordfights and magic and a duel of wits. There's a Cliff of Insanity and some of the most memorable characters and dialogue that you'll remember forever. I can't even recommend it enough.

Another favourite? Ever After, starring Drew Barrymore in this retelling of Cinderella. This film came out while I was still in high school and it really became a favourite amongst my circle of friends. It's a retelling of the fairy tale, Cinderella set in Renaissance France.

There are no fairies or talking mice in Ever After, but the magic of this film comes from Drew Barrymore's character taking on a more feminist role. She doesn't need any prince to save her, and she's quite the feisty young woman.

I recently watched Shrek with my boys, who absolutely loved this movie. The bit where Princess Fiona surprised us all by kicking ass when Robin Hood and his Merry Men attacked? My boys died laughing. They thought it was great fun, and so did I.

I think what I loved most about Shrek is the concept of beauty and image. Shrek is very obviously not the usual hero of a fairy tale. He's an ogre. He's big and green and not very pleasant. And though Princess Fiona appears to be a docile princess waiting for her true love's first kiss, she's hiding some secrets of her own. Her fight with the Merry Men, her curse when the sun sets. It's also quite a funny movie and kept me entertained!

I actually saw the film version of Stardust before I read the book by Neil Gaiman. It's quite good and it grabbed my interest enough that I really had to go out immediately and read the book. I preferred the subtle and less dramatic ending of the book however.

Still, the journey of Tristran into the hero of this story was a wonderful transformation as was the sweetness of the love story between him and Yvaine. Again, there's swordfighting and a ship that flies through air. There's a fallen star in the shape of Claire Danes and this really wonderful fantasy world. Highly entertaining.

And finally, Pan's Labyrinth is something different altogether. It's a lot darker in tone and content than the others that I've picked, but I definitely didn't want to only choose light, fluffy films. There's nothing light or fluffy about Pan's Labyrinth! It's set in fascist Spain and takes place in 1944. A young girl and her mother go to live with her new step-father, an army general who is incredibly brutal. She meets a mythical creature who lets her know how she can help her mother who is suffering through a difficult pregnancy. The girl must undergo three tasks in order to prove herself as the queen of a fairy tale world. It's quite grim in parts, but I really loved it.

And I don't think that any post about fairy tales in movies could be complete without some mention of the influence of Disney films on people's perceptions of fairy tales. Disney films are probably the first real introduction that I can remember of fairy tales, I'm sure it's probably the same for most people?

It's only recently that I understood that the Disney film adaptations are very different in tone and content to the original fairy tales. Still, I love them for their simplicity and the romantic nature of them and perhaps it's enough that if someone fell in love with a particular story that they might investigate further?

You know, I can't even discuss the following Disney films in an intellectual way. I know that I should mention something about the passive roles these young girls are put into or roll my eyes at the focus on women getting married, but I just can't do it. I think of Beauty and the Beast, and I think of the ball room dance. When I think of The Little Mermaid, I think of Ariel singing her heart out. So I'm just going to add a few YouTube clips here instead.

Once Upon a Dream from Sleeping Beauty (I'm not entirely familiar with this film actually!)

Tale as Old as Time from The Beauty and the Beast

Bippity Boppity Boo from Cinderella

Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid

Someday My Prince Will Come from Snow White and Seven Dwarves

Also, a film that I really wanted to see but didn't get a chance to watch at the cinema ... Tangled.

So, tell me: what is YOUR favourite fairy tale movie?


  1. There are a swathe more coming up in the near future and basically you've also had Beastly, as well as Red Riding Hood. Then there is Hansel & Gretel as well as Snow White & The Huntsman.

    I do however love Tangled. It is ace.

    Then there is the TV show currently being filmed in the States / Canada called Grimm. A lot of this is about and I love it.

  2. Mmm some lovely choices there. I adore Stardust, I watched the film before the book too. I'm quite content to enjoy both versions :)

    I know what you mean about Disney, I know there are things I should take issue with but I just love them.

  3. Liz - How fantastic! The Grimm TV programme in particular sounds quite interesting and potentially exciting..

    Jenni - I usually like watching the film versions first. That way I normally enjoy the film, get to the book and it's better, though possibly spoilt, plotwise. Even so I end up loving both versions. Whereas if I read the book first I'm more picky. I like it better the first way :) Also Disney films just make me happy. *watches the youtube clips again*

  4. I know what you mean about the Disney films, about feminism and all, but when I'm watching them, I just can't help but forget that fact! Some great movies there, I REALLY want to see Stardust, my sister says it's amazing. And now you've made me want to see 'The Princess Bride'!

    Good post.

  5. I love the Disney princess movies. I grew up with some of them and wish that Disney would keep making them.

    Love Princess Bride! My friends and I quote whole scenes from that movie.

  6. Cliona - That's it exactly, I just can't take my mind out of the sheer fun that they are. Stardust is a wonderful story, and I really can't recommend The Princess Bride enough!

    LinWash - Princess Bride is a huge quoteable film, such great dialogue!

  7. Have you seen Penelope? It somehow got lost in cinemas though I saw it with my teen when she was young enough to get into Odeon Kid's Club. It's the story of a girl, cursed with a pig's nose due to an ancestor seducing a serving girl, and how she and her family attempt to break the curse and of course she finds love along the way. I loved it!
    And don't forgot the one where the farm hand runs away to join the army and saves the beautiful princess who turns out to be his lost sister - Star Wars! They don't come much more fairy-tale than that!

  8. I can't make myself hate on the Disney films for the girls-marrying things either. To be fair, the guys are just as focused on getting married -- like, Aladdin's all about Jasmine, the Beast falls for Belle pretty quickly and gives her a WHOLE LIBRARY. So I cannot be too grumpy about it.

  9. I've seen all of those except Stardust and loved them. I feel like now, as an adult, most Disney films are very problematic but have such beautiful scenes. I'm still obsessed by Belle's library.

    Another darker fairy tale film I've enjoyed is The Company of Wolves. Really, really, far too long wolf transformation sequence, but otherwise wonderful and atmospheric.

  10. This is a great list. I was surprised by how much I liked Ever After. I'm usually not a huge fan of Drew, but it was so good. I loved Pan's as well. So creepy, but so beautiful.

  11. Loved Enchanted! I think my favorite fairy tale movies are the Disney ones I grew up with like Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast. I loved Tangled too!

  12. maryom - I have seen Penelope, yes. It was on television and I remember not having heard anything about it before I saw it. I remember it being quite cute.

    Would you say Star Wars is a fairy tale story? I never really thought about it! :)

    Jenny - that IS true, the boys are after marriage as well. I do love that the Beast gave a library as a present. What an awesome gift!

    Julianne - I've never even heard of The Company of Wolves, I shall look out for it, thanks :)

    Melissa - Really? I think I've always liked Drew in her roles. I was surprised by how much I loved Pan's Labyrinth though!

    Becca - I think I had originally included Enchanted on this list but grew weary of writing about films so I cut it, but it's certainly a very cute and sweet film!

  13. I absolutely love this post!!!! I'm currently on with my dissertation about adaptations of fairytales! There are so many brilliant ones out there. Beastly is brilliant, as is Red Riding Hood- proving that fairytales are just as popular as ever. If you've read Beastly, Alex Flinn's A Kiss in Time is also brill... that's a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. There's just something so magical about fairytales :)

  14. Hi Georgia! Thanks for stopping by and good luck on your dissertation, what a fascinating topic to write about! I've got A Kiss in Time on my wishlist, it does sound like a good one :)


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