Posted on April 2, 2012 | Back to Movies and Television
Ridley Scott's visually voluptuous film was stuffed with fairy tale imagery, including beautiful princesses, stately unicorns and a young Tom Cruise in shiny armor. Although the film suffered from poor pacing and a weak story, it still gets props for the sheer splendor of its fantasy world... including that infamous meadow polluted by an insane amount of pollen.
Fractured Fairy Tales (1959-1964)
These animated shorts from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show (1959-1964) still stand the test of time as one of the most amusing and definitely skewed versions of classic fairy tales. Most amazing is how irreverent, sometimes downright grimm (apologies for the pun), this children's show was considering it was produced during the late 1950s and early 60s — hardly the most daring era in television.
I include Ladyhawke as an example of the fairy tale film that really wasn't based on a fairy tale. Perhaps an example of early viral marketing, the production company (or elements within) claimed that the story of cursed shapeshifting lovers was based on a real legend from the Middle Ages. It wasn't... but it feels like it should be and the film is definitely an amusing fantasy.
The Princess Bride (1987)
It's inconceivable that a list on this topic would be completed without Rob Reiner's penultimate mah-wage of action, adventure and a biting parody of fairy tales. From its amusing characterizations to its highly quotable dialogue, The Princess Bride is what all other fairy tale movies should aspire to become.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
By far one of my favorite films of all time, BITLC is an unusual melding of action, comedy and fantasy about a redneck truck driver who becomes embroiled in an ancient world of magic, monsters and curses. Although the films takes a lot of liberties with Chinese myth and legend, it's still a marvelous fairy tale for adults. Kurt Russell channeling John Wayne is priceless.
The Shrek Movies (2001-2010)
Although individually they fluctuated in quality, overall the Shrek film series is one of the best and funniest at finding both inspiration and fodder in fairy tales. For the producers, no tale was off limits as it chewed on archetypes supplied by Arthurian legend, Grimm fairy tales and even Walt Disney.
The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen (1988)
Terry Gilliam gets a two mentions here (see The Brothers Grimm). The first is for this oft-overlooked fantasy based on the life of a real German nobleman named Karl Friedrich Hieronymus. The real Munchhausen reimagined his own life as a fairy tale, spreading his tall tales wherever he went. Gilliam takes the stories of the fabulist and reimagines them as true.
The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Much maligned when it hit theaters in 2005, I appreciate this film by Terry Gilliam for its unique concept that classic fairy tales were largely the result of traveling con-men preying upon the superstitions of ignorant town folk. For me, that idea is appealing and relevant on so many levels.