With a new cinematic Cinderella arriving in theaters this week, it’s only understandable if you have fairy tales on the brain. After all, we’ve been getting a steady stream of “grown-up” takes on the childhood stories for some time now, with Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland and Jack the Giant Slayer having all come and gone over the last few years (to say nothing of Into The Woods). But if you can’t bring yourself to head to the theater and pay for a Kenneth Branagh movie, here are ten Netflix-ready examples of cinematic methadone to ensure you get your fairy tale fix.
There’s no denying that this piece of prime sentimentality has grown a whole new layer of emotional impact since Robin Williams’ untimely death, but that doesn’t mean that’s necessarily improved the movie that much. After all, no matter how charming Williams’ man-boy act is, how cute Julia Roberts looks in her pixie cut hairstyle, or how much scenery Dustin Hoffman chews his way through (Spoiler: a lot), it’s hard to get over the biggest flaw in the movie: No matter how much Peter Pan forgot as he grew up, he’d never, ever get so lost as to become a corporate lawyer. I mean, really. That was always more Michael Darling’s gig.
EVER AFTER: A CINDERELLA STORY (1998)
Quite why this quasi-feminist take on the traditional Cinderella story had to be saddled with such an over-long title isn’t exactly clear, but the sight of Angelica Huston as one of the greatest cinematic versions of a wicked stepmother ever will soon make you almost everything that’s wrong with this movie (Dougray Scott, AKA the Man Who Was Almost Wolverine But Had To Drop Out At The Last Minute, should be particularly grateful to Huston for that; he’s not so great, here). Drew Barrymore makes a winning Cinders, as well.
Admit it; whenever you think about the little puppet who wanted to become a real boy, your mind always goes to Academy Award-winning Italian actor Roberto Benigni, who brought the role to life — or something close enough — in this live-action version from a decade or so back. What’s that: you didn’t watch this movie in its original Italian-language version at the local art house theater of choice? Thankfully, Netflix has the next best thing — a dubbed English version. Don’t worry; the change in soundtrack probably doesn’t lose anything, for better or worse.
ELLA ENCHANTED (2004)
Come for the chance to see a pre-stardom Anne Hathaway (yeah, like you can deny it), stay for the fact that the movie turns out to be far more enjoyably self-aware than you’d expect, and a chance for a great cast to have fun going as broad as humanly possible. Where else will you get to see Steve Coogan, Lucy Punch, Eric Idle, Minnie Driver, Vivica A. Fox and Heidi Klum all show up in the same movie?
THE BROTHERS GRIMM (2005)
Sure, technically this isn’t a movie based on a fairy tale, but a movie that plays on the names of the men responsible for popularizing (and sanitizing) the fairy tales into the stories that we know today. However, this movie gets a pass because (1) it’s directed by Terry Gilliam, (2) it’s directed by Terry Gilliam and (3) it’s directed by Terry Gilliam. Matt Damon and Heath Ledger play the lead roles, it’s a movie that pretty much defines the term “enjoyable hokum,” and it’s the one must-see movie on this list.
TIN MAN (2007)
One of a spate of revisionist fairy tales TV mini-series that pre-dated the current trend for similar movies, Tin Man features poor special effects, a predictable story and terrible pacing. You’ll find yourself continuing to watch the whole thing nonetheless, because the surreal combination of Zoeey Dechanel as a modern-day snarky Dorothy and Alan Cumming as a steampunk scarecrow called Glitch is oddly hypnotic. If you’ve ever thought “Hey, the Wizard of Oz really needed a cynical Matrix-esque element or two,” this is pretty much the Emerald City of your dreams.
Before Matthew Vaughn made Kick-Ass and the one X-Men movie that everyone likes, he was responsible for this affectionate parody of fairy tale logic, based on a book by beloved fantasist Neil Gaiman. As in all the best bedtime stories, true love does find a way by the end, but it’s a lot of fun watching it figure out how to get there along the way, especially with Michelle Pfeiffer’s evil witch Lamia causing trouble wherever possible. (Watch out for future Superman, Henry Cavill, and Ricky Gervais to pop in midway through, as well.)
Neil Jordan’s fish-out-of-water tale features Colin Farrell as a man who falls in love with a woman that he believes just might be a mermaid (well, a Selkie, but that’s close enough). Spoilers: anyone expecting this to be a live-action version of The Little Mermaid will be both disappointed and perhaps traumatized by the direction the movie ultimately takes, but those prepared for some dark stuff that rests on Sigur Rós being a plot point — no, really — are likely to be… if not enchanted, then at least enthralled.
HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (2013)
Hey, remember that time when Hollywood thought, “You know that guy who was in Avengers but didn’t get a solo movie? I bet he’d make a great grown-up Hansel in a movie that revisits that well-loved kids story and turns it into a wacky monster movie”? If you don’t — and, let’s be honest, it’s possible your mind blanked it out on purpose to save you the trauma — then here’s a chance to relive it with the benefit of being able to pause for laughter at whatever point you deem necessary.
SLEEPING BEAUTY (2014)
Casper Van Dien isn’t just an actor with appearances in Starship Troopers, Dracula 3000 and the upcoming Sharktopus vs. Mermantula; he’s also the writer and director of this B-movie take on the classic story, which stars his daughter in the title role and lives up to every cliche you could imagine it managing (it also features Van Dien’s other kids in various roles, as well as his wife, who plays… his wife, because of course Van Dien makes an appearance himself). In the strangest way, there’s something refreshing about the way in which this isn’t an attempt to deconstruct the original story, but merely make a cheaply-produced, gloriously tacky version of it. Cinderella, this is everything you should have been (and much, much more).