Skip to main content

The 50 greatest fairy tale movies

Mirror mirror on the wall, be so good as to read it all

What better way to teach kids those all-important life lessons than with an array of massively un-relatable characters, like a princess or a cannibalistic granny? Still, most of these whimsical flights of fancy are harmless enough, provided their parables shine through all of that mob justice and burning pitchforks malarkey. Some are so well constructed they even manage to transcend time, capturing imaginations and teaching truths to generation after generation of eager, if mildly terrified children.

The advent of film provided audiences with yet another means of experiencing these bizarre and creative tales - an opportunity that all 50 films featured here have taken, and taken well. So, sit back, slip off those enchanted slippers and grab a warm, somehow sentient mug of coffee - these are the top 50 greatest fairy tale films of all.

50. The Brothers Grimm (2005)

The Fairy Tale Movie: Terry Gilliam's fantastical account of fairy tale spinners Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm is not without its flaws (Peter Stromare's ludicrously OTT performance chief among them), but it does allow the director free reign to let his imagination run wild. As a consequence, it's a visual delight if nothing else.

Most Magical Moment: The arrival of a horse with a taste for children and the ability to belch out spider-web at an alarming rate.

49. A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)

The Fairy Tale Movie: This Asian horror is loosely based upon an old Korean folk story and runs with the traditional fairy tale plot devices of a wicked stepmother, a coming of age journey and a liberal dose of the supernatural.

Most Magical Moment: The opening of the wardrobe door. We won't spoil it for you...

48. Snow White: A Tale Of Terror (1997)

The Fairy Tale Movie: Snow White gets a Gothic overhaul in this grisly, dwarf-free tale. Monica Keena plays the Snow character, with Sigourney Weaver hamming it up as her increasingly demented stepmother. Blackly melodramatic throughout, there's no happy ending to be had here

Most Magical Moment: Any of Weaver's histrionic mirror scenes in which she has it out with her twisted reflection.

47. The Snow Queen (1995)

The Fairy Tale Movie: An animated charmer starring Helen Mirren in the title role as the wicked queen with plans to turn the entire world into her icy play-thing. David Jason, Rik Mayall, Hugh Laurie and Imelda Staunton are among the stellar vocal cast.

Most Magical Moment: The reindeer assisted escape from the Rat King's castle is an adrenaline-soaked interlude.

46. Freeway (1996)

The Fairy Tale Movie: Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland star in this gritty crime flick loosely based around the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Instead of a big, bad wolf, Sutherland's Bob Wolverton (a serial killer and rapist, no less) is the villain. As you can probably tell, it's not for kids

Most Magical Moment: When Witherspoon turns the tables on Sutherland, shooting him several times with her hitherto-concealed firearm. Take that, Wolfie!

45. The Princess And The Frog (2009)

The Fairy Tale Movie: Disney's throwback to the days of traditional animation might not live up to past triumphs, but it's still a slice of pleasingly nostalgic fun, as waitress Tiana finds herself turned into a frog when she kisses an amphibian prince.

Most Magical Moment: Any of the scenes involving Louis the trumpet-playing alligator are an absolute joy. A top-notch provider of comic relief

44. Little Otik (2000)

The Fairy Tale Movie: Released in the US as Greedy Guts, this is a bizarre Czech story about a couple struggling to conceive a child. Loathe to see his wife so upset, the husband fashions a tree root into the shape of a baby, and hands it over to her. What he hadn't planned for was the root coming to life

Most Magical Moment: The moment at which a bunch of twigs turns into a living, breathing creature!

43. Puss In Boots (2011)

The Fairy Tale Movie: This likeable spinoff recaptures the magic of the early Shrek movies, largely thanks to some excellent voice casting including the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris. The story is a little thin, put with a hero this loveable, it's hard to hold that against it.

Most Magical Moment: The ride down the beanstalk is a particularly thrilling set-piece.

42. Tideland (2006)

The Fairy Tale Movie: Another out-there offering from Terry Gilliam, who leads the viewer through a little girl's fantasy world, a grotesquely macabre realm devised as a reaction to the poverty of her real-life existence. Weird, provocative and oddly compelling.

Most Magical Moment: The conversations our diminutive heroine has with the severed heads of her Barbie dolls. We told you it was grim

41. Legend (1985)

The Fairy Tale Movie: Ridley Scott's fantasy epic stars Tom Cruise as a young man seeking to win the hand of the beautiful Princess Lily and rescue his world from an icy doom. Released to an underwhelming box office response, the film has developed a cult following over time.

Most Magical Moment: The destruction of Tim Curry's villainous Darkness by the light of the setting sun. Kapow!

George Wales
George is GR's resident movie news person, based out of London. He understands that all men must die, but he'd rather not think about it.