The Top 10 Movie Fairy Tales and Legends
“Tale as old as time…”
They’re the stories that have inspired people for centuries. From “Once upon a time” to “Happily ever after”, they’ve shown us that, no matter how dark things get, good will always triumph over evil, and even the lowliest among us can find true happiness. Of course, real life so often has a way of disproving such theories, but still the fairy tales endure, as an ultimate form of optimism and escapism.
It’s no wonder the movies love them, too.
In honor of Disney’s new live-action Cinderella opening this month, let’s take a look at ten of cinema’s best fairy tales on the silver screen, as ranked by the users of Flickchart.
10. Frozen (2013)
It would seem there is no longer a moviegoer on the planet who is not familiar with Disney’s box office juggernaut, Frozen. Loosely based on “The Snow Queen” by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, the film’s success is almost obscene: the fifth-highest grossing film of all time captured the hearts of audiences everywhere with its wit, its whimsy, its girl-power bravado, and its insanely catchy songs. Admit it: You’re probably humming “Let It Go” to yourself right now.
- currently ranked #1131 of all time
- ranked 32,542 times by 2,262 users
- wins 57% of all matchups
- 176 users have it in their personal Top 20
- 24 users have it ranked as their #1 film of all time
9. Pinocchio (1940)
“The Adventures of Pinocchio”, by Italian author Carlo Collodi, has been translated into over 240 different languages since its first publication in 1883. Yet the most famous adaptation of the tale of a living marionette longing to become a real boy is doubtlessly Walt Disney’s second feature-length animated film, Pinocchio. Some of the depictions in Pinocchio – including underage drinking and smoking – may seem almost shocking by today’s standards (at least so far as they would be included in a modern Disney film), but its themes of honesty, bravery and hard work are just as resonant as they were seventy-five years ago.
- currently ranked #894 of all time
- ranked 167,584 times by 21,482 users
- wins 36% of matchups
- 365 users have it in their personal Top 20
- 8 users have it ranked as their #1 film of all time
8. The Little Mermaid (1989)
The second Disney film on this list adapted from Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid ushered in what was considered a second Golden Age for Disney animation. It may not pass the same muster in the female-empowerment department that Frozen does (after all, Ariel abandons everything just to get with a guy), but the images were spectacular, the humor engaging, and the Oscar-winning music thoroughly infectious.
- currently ranked #861 of all time
- ranked 320,219 times by 47,438 users
- wins 40% of matchups
- 3,734 users have it in their personal Top 20
- 208 users have it ranked as their #1 film of all time
7. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
There is no finer example than Alice in Wonderland to make one think that all of Disney’s animators in the first Golden Age must have been on psychedelics. Based on the 1865 novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by English author Lewis Carroll (and also borrowing elements from its sequel, “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There”), Alice is, from a visual and story standpoint, one of Disney’s most bizarre films, but it somehow works. The colors are bright, and the characters – from the Mad Hatter to the Queen of Hearts and every Cheshire Cat in between – are delightfully weird.
- currently ranked #805 of all time
- ranked 132,683 times by 16,558 users
- wins 41% of matchups
- 351 users have it in their personal Top 20
- 18 users have it ranked as their #1 film of all time
6. Shrek (2001)
The first non-Disney film on this list beat out Pixar‘s Monsters, Inc. for the first-ever Best Animated Feature Oscar. Shrek is also the only franchise-starter here, with three sequels, a spin-off, and several minor television projects to his credit. With the exception of the almost-as-wonderful Shrek 2, though, the rest are not so magical as the first. The film expanded on the 1990 children’s picture book, “Shrek!”, by William Steig, to become a loving parody and send-up of all things fairy-tale related. The bloat of the franchise has dulled its impact, but taken on its own, Shrek is still magical to this day.
- currently ranked #726 of all time
- ranked 629,276 times by 81,914 users
- wins 45% of matchups
- 9,677 users have it in their personal Top 20
- 451 users have it ranked as their #1 film of all time
5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The first, and fairest of them all, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a big gamble as Walt Disney’s very first feature-length animated film…that paid off in spades. Adjusting for ticket price inflation, it is still the tenth highest-grossing film of all time. The film traces its origin back to the Brothers Grimm in Germany of 1812, but, as with most of the best-known fairy tales, it’s the Disney touch that is most remembered and revered today.
- currently ranked #707 of all time
- wins 35% of matchups
- ranked 290,634 times by 42,393 users
- 2,087 users have it in their personal Top 20
- 82 users have it ranked as their #1 film of all time
4. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
The last and highest-ranked Disney animated tale on this list, Beauty and the Beast truly is a “tale as old as time”. It’s a reasonably faithful (for Disney) take on the fairy tale by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, published in 1756…over fifty years before the Brothers Grimm penned “Snow White”. Disney transformed it into a box office smash, and the first-ever animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. (It’s also the only animated film to be nominated for that prize before the Best Picture category was expanded to a possible ten nominees in 2009.) Unlike in the traditional tale, the Beast’s true fate is revealed from the start, Belle’s father is a quirky inventor, rather than a wealthy merchant, and her siblings are removed from the tale. Additionally, the idea of a potential suitor for Belle at home, in the person of Gaston, is lifted from the next film on this list…
- currently ranked #614 of all time
- ranked 506,565 times by 67,702 users
- wins 44% of matchups
- 7,519 users have it in their personal Top 20
- 489 users have it ranked as their #1 film of all time
3. La belle et la bête (1946)
It begins with a literal invitation from director Jean Cocteau to abandon oneself to the dual magics of fairy tale and cinema. From there, the film’s haunting black and white cinematography and deep use of shadow create a surreal atmosphere, particularly in scenes within the Beast’s castle, where the walls literally come alive. One can see how the ugly stepsisters in Disney’s Cinderella may have been inspired by Mila Parély and Nane Germon, and while this film is more mysterious about the true nature of the Beast (Jean Marais) than the Disney version, Josette Day‘s Belle is every bit as enchanting. One of the earliest films to be based on an existing fairy tale, La belle et la bête laid a template that is, to this day, still followed by every fairy tale told in film.
- currently ranked #467 of all time
- ranked 16,706 times by 954 users
- wins 53% of matchups
- 20 users have it in their personal Top 20
- 1 user has it ranked as their #1 film of all time
2. El Laberinto del Fauno (2006)
It’s fitting that the one truly original tale on this list should rank so high. Unlike the rest of this list, Pan’s Labyrinth is not adapted from a book or a classic fairy tale, but springs directly from the mind of writer/director Guillermo del Toro. And it is magnificent. Against a backdrop of war, the film touches on all the right tropes: a young girl (Ivana Baquero), assisted by magical creatures, earning her birthright as a true princess. By turns haunting, beautiful, serene and downright terrifying, del Toro’s magical masterpiece is truly a fairy tale for adults, and one of the finest films of this young century.
- currently ranked #274 of all time
- ranked 485,597 times by 51,042 users
- wins 60% of matchups
- 8,481 users have it in their personal Top 20
- 589 users have it ranked as their #1 film of all time
1. The Princess Bride (1987)
“As you wish.” It’s little surprise that Rob Reiner‘s classic film tops this list. The insanely quotable film will forever be the legacy of Reiner and actors Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. Yet the film was a commercial flop in 1987, with marketing botched by a studio who didn’t know how to sell it. Adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 book of the same name, The Princess Bride‘s cult following has only grown, to the point where it has become truly inconceivable that anyone could not love it.
- currently ranked #44 of all time
- ranked 589,460 times by 60,977 users
- wins 64% of matchups
- 11,788 users have it ranked in their personal Top 20
- 939 users have it ranked as their #1 film of all time
In case you’re wondering where Disney’s original, animated Cinderella is, it’s currently ranked #11 on the list. Want to see what else didn’t make the cut? You can check out all of the Best Fairy Tales and Legends on Flickchart.
Disney’s live-action Cinderella opens March 13.