The Best Live Action Fairytale Films

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Unpopular opinion: I like books much more than movies. For me, there’s just something about books that can transport you in a way that movies can’t. However, just because reading is my favorite way to travel to faraway places, that doesn’t mean I don’t like being transported through film as well! Though I do personally find movies more limiting than books (in terms of mental escape), fairytale films are also a great way to escape into a fantasy world for couple of hours.

In this post, I will be sharing some of my favorite fairytale movies, divided into different categories (for people who like different kinds of fairytale films). Later in the post, I also list some upcoming fairy tale themed films that I am most excited about. Let’s get right into it! 

 

Classic Fairytales

Classic fairytale films that are the closest you can get to picking up a fairytale storybook.

 

Ever After

Release Date: 1998

Starring Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott, Anjelica Huston

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When people think of a Cinderella retelling, this one doesn’t typically come to mind. Ever After is an older film that has become a bit forgotten over the years. I found this movie a few years ago through a friend who loves this movie, and I instantly fell in love with it. This retelling is endearing, beautiful, and utterly enchanting. Such an underrated movie!

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If you are looking for a classic, storybook, no frills retelling of Cinderella with mentions of actual historical figures and events, then this movie is for you!

La Belle Et La Bête

Release Date: 2014 (France)

Starring Lèa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel

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If you’re from the States like me, this Beauty and the Beast retelling might be one you haven’t heard of, because this movie actually originates from France! Though this is a French language film, if you watch it on Netflix, it is dubbed over with English.

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The scenery and costumes alone are enough to make this film worth the watch. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. You can tell that a ton of CGI and funding went into this film, and it paid off. It’s majorly impressive, on the same level as big budget Hollywood films. The stunning costumes, amazing jewelry, and even little details like the intricate hairstyles even surpass the Disney Beauty and the Beast live action’s (not saying that I preferred this version over the Disney version, but the costumes were far more impressive).  This is probably one of the top 5 most cinematically beautiful films I’ve ever seen. 

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This is the definition of a classic fairytale film; the incredible scenery, effects, and costumes will whisk you away to an enchanting world for a couple of hours. You can currently watch La Belle Et La Bête on Netflix.

Cinderella

Release Date: 2015

Starring Lily James, Richard Madden

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For this category, I’ve saved the best for last! Everything about this movie was perfection. The setting, the palace, the costumes, and the score. Lily James made the most perfect Cinderella, and the iconic ballroom scene is one of my favorite scenes in the history of film.

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Disney spared no expense with the costumes especially, and you can definitely tell. This is my absolute favorite Disney live action remake so far, and one of my favorite movies in general!

 

Light Hearted Fairytales

Fun and light, family friendly films.

 

Ella Enchanted 

Release Date: 2004

Starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy

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There’s a lot of conflicting opinions about this movie, due to how much it deviated from the book. I personally was not too impressed by the book for some reason, so I actually prefer the movie! This is one I’m sure you all have seen or heard of, so I won’t go too into detail with the plot. Basically, Ella is cursed to obey every command she is ever ordered to do and is taken advantage of by her stepmother and cruel stepsisters. She escapes and goes on a journey with the Prince himself!

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They just don’t make movies like these anymore! This is the absolute cutest fractured fairytale, and I wish production companies made more fairytale films like this. This adorable and unique retelling deviates from the book version a lot, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. If you’re looking for a fun, light hearted fairytale film, this one's for you!

Enchanted

Release Date: 2007

Starring Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden

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Enchanted is not only one of my favorite fairytale films, it’s also one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time. Giselle is the complete equivalent of seeing a Disney Princess come to life in the real world. This movie is the absolute cutest thing you will ever witness (though I’m sure you’ve all seen this movie by now, right?)

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Props to Disney for their casting, because Amy Adams is absolutely perfect in the role of Giselle. She’s over the top and completely adorable, with a Disney Princess worthy voice to boot! Not to mention, the plot is absolutely brilliant. A girl being transported from a Disney Princess fairytale realm into our modern day world? Genius!

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Honestly, James Marsden’s character alone is enough to make this movie a standout. He is absolutely hilarious as the sweet, yet hilariously oblivious Prince Edward. This is one movie that I could watch over and over and never get sick of.

 

Dark Fairytales

Films with fairytale motifs that are darker than most. Not your typical Disney movie!

 

Pan’s Labyrinth

Release Date: 2006

Starring Ivana Baquero, Sergi López

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Switching gears completely, this film is the complete opposite of light hearted, and most definitely is not family friendly. This film is dark, violent, and depressing, yet I consider this one of the best movies in the history of cinema.

In this film, Ofelia (aka Princess Moanna in the fairytale realm) has no memory of her life as princess of the underworld, and is living with her cruel stepfather in post civil war 1944 Spain. Ofelia is led into a Labyrinth by a fairy, who tells her that she must complete three tasks to acquire immortality.

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If you like dark fantasy with higher stakes, this is the film for you! Keep in mind that this movie is not at all light, and some scenes are unsettling. A highlight is the scene with the Pale Man; you’ll have trouble getting that part out of your head!

Legend

Release Date: 1985

Starring Tom Cruise, Mia Sara

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While some may consider this a kid’s film because of the PG rating, this film still gets pretty dark. Legend is about a battle to overcome the Darkness, all taking place in a magical fantasy world of unicorns, fairies, and dwarves. Jack the forest dweller and Princess Lili work to protect the unicorns from the hands of Darkness, who is trying to bring about eternal night.

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If you are in the mood for a darker fantasy adventure film but don’t want something as intense or violent as Pan’s Labyrinth, this film is exactly what you’re looking for! This film is a cult classic, and for good reason.

 

Musical Fairytales

For people who like their fairytales to have a bit of a musical touch to them.  

 

Into the Woods

Release Date: 2014

Starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine

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If you’re a musical theatre connoisseur then you were probably aware of this movie released back in 2014. This is the film version of the well known musical, featuring a cast of fairytale characters who explore themes of morality through their individual experiences, though their paths eventually cross. The main plot involves a baker and his wife, journeying into the forest to find a way to break the curse on their family. Along the way, they run into familiar fairytale characters such as Red Riding Hood and Cinderella.

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What I like about this movie is how it teaches lessons of morality such as the dangers of wishes, and the importance of taking consequences for your actions. Plus, the musical numbers are great. Who knew that Chris Pine could sing?

Beauty and the Beast  

Release Date: 2017 

Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans

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Of course, I had to include the most recent musical Disney release when compiling a list of musical fairytale films. Looking back, I’ve decided that I still prefer the Cinderella live action when taking everything into account overall (such as costumes, setting, characters, atmosphere, ect) but I loved this live action remake as well! It was lovely to see a Disney live action so rooted in music. This movie not only includes all the songs we know and love from the original animated film, there are 3 new songs Alan Menken composed just for this adaption. Of all the Disney films, I genuinely think that Beauty and the Beast has the most beautiful score. I mean, how iconic is that prologue? Alan Menken is a genius!

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I am loving this trend of Disney films being transformed into live action films! And from what I’ve heard, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast have only been the start. Speaking of upcoming live action fairytales, this gives me the perfect opportunity to segway into a bonus category:

Upcoming Fairytale Films I’m Most Excited About 

Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Release Date: November 2, 2018

Starring Mackenzie Foy, Morgan Freeman, Kiera Knightly

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You guys, I love the Nutcracker. A lot. I love ballet in general, but especially the Nutcracker! I saw the ballet last Christmas and even have my own little nutcracker replica that I take out each year. As soon as word got out about this movie around 2016, I was immediately thrilled. A nutcracker movie, finally! It’s about time! And there is no better studio to do this than Disney. A teaser trailer was already released last year and it looks like it’s going to be a great film. I will definitely be the first to see it!

Snow White live action/Snow White and Rose Red

Release Date: TBD 

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When it comes to upcoming Snow White live action(s), it gets a bit tricky. Apparently, there are 2 Snow White live action films that Disney is planning (however, I honestly doubt Disney will film and release 2 different versions of Snow White, so I expect they will choose one of them). One version that is planned is a live action retelling of the original animation, and it will be a musical that expands on the original story. There will be new original songs, written by none other than Pasek and Paul, the infamous songwriters who are responsible for the music in both La La Land and The Greatest Showman. A Snow White live action with new original music? Sign me up! (Clearly this is the option I prefer and hope that Disney goes with).

Another Snow White live action that Disney is planning is Snow White and Rose Red, but Disney is putting a twist on this one. For those of you who are familiar with fairytales, you’ll know that Snow White and Rose Red is a completely different fairytale from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; two characters in each fairytale just happen to have the name “Snow White” (who knew the name Sno White was so popular?). However, these two Snow Whites/two fairytales are completely different and unrelated, and the two Snow Whites don’t even look alike (Snow White in Snow White and Rose Red is a blonde). However, Disney is doing a twist and combining these two fairytales, merging both fairytales and both characters into one. In this version, Rose Red is Snow White’s sister, but the version of Snow White will be the version we know from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, not the blonde Snow White from the Snow White and Rose Red fairytale. The movie will mainly focus on Rose Red, who enlists the help of the 7 dwarfs as they go on a quest to bring Snow White back to life. I’m not sure how I feel about this one, since combining two different fairytales/fairytale characters and merging them into one is a bit confusing. Clearly, this version will be completely different from the original animated Snow White (who will barely play a role in this film since she’ll be asleep and off screen the entire time). From what I’ve heard, Disney is eyeing Brie Larson for the role of Rose Red, so they seem to be moving forward with this version rather than the other one. Maybe Disney will go through with both Snow White live actions since they’re both so different? I sure hope so, because I much prefer the first option! 

Prince Charming

Release Date: TBD

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This will be a movie from the point of view of Prince Charming’s brother, who “never quite lived up to the family name”. This kind of reminds me of Enchanted, which threw in references to other Disney fairytale characters. I think that this is a neat idea, because it’s from the prince’s point of view, which isn’t what you would typically expect. I’m interested to see what Disney does with this one!

These are just 3 of many, since Disney has been on a roll with the fairytale live actions lately. There are many other films planned, such as an Aladdin live action (already filmed and in post production), The Little Mermaid live action (currently casting with Lin Manuel Miranda doing the score), and the Mulan live action (will film later this year, though they seem to be basing it very loosely on the animated Mulan). I hope that Hollywood takes the success of these films as a sign that people love these kinds of movies, so that fairytales in cinema won’t be going anywhere anytime soon!

What are your favorite fairytale films on this list? Are there any fairytale films that you think should have been on this list, but wasn’t? Let me know in the comments!