Tuesday, 1 May 2012

What Makes a Good Fairy Tale Movie?

Earlier this month saw the release of the movie; ‘Mirror Mirror’, the first of a whole batch of fairy tales that have been given the Hollywood makeover. We have the joy of a Hansel and Gretel the Witch Hunters, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Jack The Giant Killer, to come (for more details of upcoming Fairytale movies check out my pervious blogs, 2012 Year of the Fairy Tale Part 1 & Part 2)

So this got me thinking about the fairy tale films, and after a trip down memory lane, I’ve worked something out. I not that fond of fairy tale movies! Red Riding Hood, Brothers Grimm, Ever After, they all seem to me to be, well - to glossy, to fluffy, to Hollywood.  For other examples, see Total Films list oftop 50 fairy tale movies.

So to my mind the best fairy tale films are those which are not set out to be fairy tales, here are a few of my favourite…

The Princess Bride – 1987 – Cary Ewes, Robin Wright - I know this is a fairy tale through and through. But this is the only one that obvious so hear me out – Yes its Hollywood, yes the stars are glossy with perfect teeth but, it is on my list because it set the ground for the likes of Shrek, Hoodwinked and Ella Enchanted. It’s the original and the best, a fairytale, that’s tongue in check and funny on multiple levels. 

Pans Labyrinth – 2006 - You may be saying, it’s a tale about fairies not at fairy tale. Well I disagree, although most fairy tales are absent of fairies, all the elements of a fairytale in present in this dark visual feast of a production.  It hits the fear factor on a primal level, and really gets to the cranks of fairy tales; sibling rivalry, danger from the parental figures, monsters, magic and deception. And let’s not forget an ending that’s as dark as it is happy.
Pan's Labyrinth - so so dark. So so Fairy Tale.

Roman Holiday – 1953 – Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck- Oh, you may say; so not a fairy tale. Oh yes it is I counter. It’s Cinderella in reverse and she doesn’t get her man. So, so, so a fairy tale, and a brilliant film.

Deliverance – 1972 – Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds. Not a Fairy tale? Come on; lost in the woods, hunted down by locals. All the hillbilly’s need is dog heads, and its Grimm all over.

The Last Unicorn -1982 – Animated.  If you’re talking fairy tale films you need an animated one in there somewhere. So here it is, it's not Disney (no surprise there), but by, Incorporated Television Programme Company, based on Peter S beagles classic book.   If you’ve not seen then them I urge you to do so, it’s a fantasy yarn with fairy tale heritage and a typical bittersweet fairy tale ending.

So finally, please help me. Tell me what you think is a good fairy tale film, and why.  Leave your comments, as I’m truly interested on what you think, and have any films I haven’t seen I’ll go watch and feedback to you my thoughts. 


  1. I love the Princess Bride. Best movie ever!

  2. I think a good fairy tale movie needs to have that fairy tale feel - clearly defined good and evil, allusions to destiny, multiple acts of courage, chaste romance and dire peril.

  3. Lauren, Thanks so much. I agree these are all important parts of fairy tales, and as for adapting for the big screen, I think you can drop maybe one of two elements and still get a great fairy tale movie, as long as the feel is right. I tend to find that many adaptations feel to clean & safe.