1.The Age of Adaline (2015)
Synopsis: A young woman, born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into (IMDb).
Starring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn
Review: Technically, The Age of Adaline is a “period/modern romantic drama”; however, the storyline contains all the elements of a classic fairy tale. Mystery, magic, morals, love, a happy ending, the movie contains all the hallmarks of a charming fairy tale. Also-in a world full of sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes, and adaptations-a fully original screenplay stands out from the predominately saccharine fare offered by Disney. The film captures some of the nostalgic magic of the romantic films of the 1940s and 50s, though it lacks some of the depth. Blake Lively perfectly embodies a woman from the past trapped in the modern world; she has that undefinable “vintage” look about her. Michiel Huisman, of Game of Thrones fame, is adorably charming; I hope he does a few more romantically bent films in the future. Overall, this is a lovely film that recaptures the innocence of romance, something missing from a majority of modern fairy tale/romantic films; and it is fully original.
2. The Princess Bride (1987)
Synopsis: An elderly man reads the book “The Princess Bride” to his sick and currently bedridden adolescent grandson, the reading of the book which has been passed down within the family for generations. The story centers on Buttercup, a former farm girl who has been chosen as the princess bride to Prince Humperdinck of Florian (adapted from IMDb).
Starring: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Painkin, Chris Sarandon
Review: A list of fairy tales movies without The Princess Bride is inconceivable. Based off a 1973 novel of the same name by William Goldman, The Princess Bride takes viewers on a wild ride through the mystical world of Florian. The narrative veers more towards the satirical than the serious and may not appeal to all fairy tale fans. Anyways, the adventurous of Buttercup and Westley never grow old and the dialogue provides excellent quotes. I infinitely prefer the movie to the book; in the book Buttercup comes across as flighty and empty-headed, thankfully the movie version of the character is almost the exact opposite. Thematically, the narrative follows the classic quest: man and woman fall in love, woman becomes engaged to another man, dastardly characters kidnap the woman, and the hero sets out rescue her. No other fairy tale film quite manages to recapture the rollicking good time of this story.
3. Stardust (2007)
Synopsis: In a countryside town bordering on a magical land, a young man makes a promise to his beloved that he’ll retrieve a fallen star by venturing into the magical realm (IMDb).
Starring: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer
Review: I actually watched the movie before reading the book; after reading the book, I think I still prefer the movie. Normally it is the other way around, but, in this instance, the movie fixed one of the main problems I had with the book: lack of a proper climax. The book ended on a rather anti-climactic note, something the movie avoided. Anyways, Neil Gaiman wrote Stardust in 1994 and tried to infuse a more adult tone to the fairy tale genre. He succeeded. Stardust follows the adventures of a young Tristan (Tristran in the book) as he attempts to find a fallen star and win the heart of the local beauty. The star turns out to be a lovely woman named Yvaine; though she is only human on the magic side of the “wall”, if she crosses over to the human side she would turn into sparkly dust. Unfortunately, several other unsavory characters also want the star, since the heart of a fallen star holds mystical powers. Thus Tristan and Yvaine embark on a dangerous adventure of magical proportions. Gaiman does an excellent job capturing the spirit of classic fairy tales and the story translates incredibly well to the cinematic medium. Charlie Cox, currently Daredevil on the Netflix Series, makes a fine hero and manages to capture the slightly naïve yet courageous manner of Tristan. Claire Danes takes a break from gritty dramatic rolls and excellently portrays a magical being. Overall, this is one of the best undiluted fairy tale movies to debut in recent years.
4. Cinderella (2015)
Synopsis: When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her scheming step-sisters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger (IMDb).
Starring: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett
Review: One Disney movie was bound to make it on this list, if for nothing else than the sheer number of output. I remember watching the animated version of Cinderella (1950) as a child and humming the tune to “So This is Love” under my breath. And I had severe dress envy; I have always loved dresses with great twirl potential. Though please make mine without those weird hip flounces. The animated version is one of Disney’s greatest animated films, in my opinion. Everything from the colors, the music, the narrative pacing, and the tone perfectly complement each other. The live action film had a lot of nostalgic love to overcome. Kenneth Branagh, the director, was clearly up for the challenge. One of the best aspects about this version is the humanization of the step-mother. Unlike the animated version, the step-mother comes across more like a disappointed woman who cannot bear to be reminded that her husband loves his daughter more than her. I appreciated that the screenwriters did not take the easy route and make her a villainous caricature, which many other films do in order to make an easy contrast between the antagonist and the protagonist. Lily James does a great job embodying the virtuous innocence of Cinderella and she looks amazing in the ball gown; which, thankfully, sans hip flounces. Richard Madden makes a fine prince, though the role under utilizes his talents. Overall, the live action version recaptures the charming romantic feel of the animated version and shows that even the simplest of tales can be utterly captivating.
5. The Red Shoes (1948)
Synopsis: A young ballet dancer is torn between the man she loves and her pursuit to become a prima ballerina (IMDb)
Starring: Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer
Review: Unlike the other films of this list, The Red Shoes takes the approach of telling a story within a story. This is a dramatization of Hans Christian Andersen’s’ tale The Red Shoes. A young girl, overcome by vanity, convinces her mother to buy her a pair of red shoes. The shoes are cursed and force the girl to dance without stopping. Even after amputating her feet, the shoes never stop dancing. She only finds peace once an angel takes mercy on her and releases her from her predicament; which is a nice way of saying that she died. In the movie, the main character, Vicky, is a ballerina who is starring in a production of The Red Shoes. However, tensions arise when she falls in love with the composer, which causes the dance instructor to be overcome with jealously. The movie ends very similarly to the original story. This is not a feel good princess tale, it is a moralistic narrative about the downfalls of virtue and jealously, just set in a fantastical land. As this is an older film, expect lots of talking and little “action”. The ballet is beautiful to watch, a majority of the cast were professional ballet performers.