By: Becca Masch
Maybe you’ve only seen bits and pieces of a Cinderella adaptation, or maybe you have a favorite version and nothing else will do. Challenge yourself to look past those biases, and I guarantee you’ll discover hidden gems. These various versions may have different actors, costumes, and settings, but each holds the same kind of magic that makes Cinderella so special. Here is my ranking for the top five best movie adaptations of the Cinderella story:
- Cinderella (1997): If you’ve never had the privilege of watching this underrated masterpiece, which stars Brandy Norwood as Cinderella, set aside an hour and a half of your day to artistically enrich your life. This adaptation gives a slight, but necessary, modern twist to the classic tale, allowing the viewer to enjoy the movie without the jarring reminder of when it was made. Brandy’s Cinderella, for example, makes it clear from her first interaction with the Prince that she wants to be seen as a person, not an object. The royal family is comprised of a White father (Victor Garber) and a Black mother (Whoopi Goldberg) who miraculously give birth to an Asian son (Paolo Montalban) in an admirable display of simply casting whomever best fit the role. Whitney Houston, in her part as the fairy god mother, flits across the screen in a golden dress and sparkles, belting out the most epic rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Impossible” ever heard. Convinced yet? The film is heartwarming and beautifully performed, and it’s a shame that it’s only starting to get the recognition it deserves now.
- Cinderella (2015): The 2015 version of the Cinderella story, which casts Lily James as Cinderella, receives a lot more hate than it deserves, perhaps simply because it is a part of the frequently criticized collection of “Disney remakes.” However, if you challenge yourself to watch it with an open mind, you’ll be blown away by the gorgeous visuals and impressive acting. Cate Blanchett does a fantastic job as Cinderella’s stepmother, elevating the character from a two-dimensional villain to a damaged woman who would rather lash out then forgive. You also have to appreciate the film’s effort to stay true to the original—it is the only adaptation besides the 1950 classic that includes friendly mice. This telling of the classic story emphasizes the importance of “having courage and being kind,” something everyone can benefit from internalizing. This is also seemingly the only traditional telling of the Cinderella story that isn’t a musical, without any music, so even if you’re not a fan of singing and dancing, you can still take part in the magic.
- A Cinderella Story (2004): If you’ve somehow never seen this movie, with Hillary Duff as the Cinderella-type character, awash yourself in 2000s nostalgia through the low-rise jeans, flip phones, and soundtrack with artists such as Hillary Duff and Jesse McCartney. This modern retelling made the classic tale accessible to an older audience by setting it in a high school with all the drama and angst thankfully included. Casting Chad Michael Murry as the prince was pure genius—almost every Millennial woman fondly remembers the scene where Austin Ames licks his fingers in some strange plan to better grip a football. How could anyone stay straight-faced hearing Jennifer Coolidge demand her salmon? And nothing can compare to the badass glory of Sam Montgomery as she faces down Austin Ames in her iconic “drought speech.” If you want to see a high school movie that highlights the very best of the 2000s, this is the one for you.
- Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998): Another non-traditional retelling of Cinderella, but this film, starring Drew Barrymore, takes place presumably in 16th century France and brings gorgeous gowns and breathtaking scenery. This adaptation is framed as a true history, which is a breath of fresh air on this list for those who like some logic to their films. Another refreshing twist comes in the form of a kind stepsister, Marguerite (Megan Dodds), who actually helps Danielle reunite with her prince at the end of the film. While there is a fairy godmother in every version of Cinderella, Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey) adds a spark of magic and mystery that is hard to come by without a wand. This film would probably be ranked higher; however, Drew Barrymore has called this role’s accent her worst attempt for a reason. If you’re looking for a historical romance with a healthy bit of humor added and you still haven’t seen Ever After, this is the film for you.
- Cinderella (1950): You might be wondering why the original Disney film, with Ilene Woods voicing Cinderella, doesn’t have the crowned spot on this list. With a passive protagonist, an underdeveloped prince, and a couple of stereotypically static stepsisters, this film hasn’t aged incredibly well. However, this list wouldn’t even exist without the original movie adaptation of the story, and for that reason, it deserves its spot. The music, from “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” to “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” is timeless and evokes sweet memories of childhood. And while it doesn’t offer up the strongest heroine, it does send the lovely message that love overcomes all obstacles. We could all use a reminder of that every once in a while.
Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1957): I bet you didn’t know this existed, and if you did, then you’ve made a valiant effort to explore the different versions of Cinderella. This CBS production boasts the first performance of the Rodgers and Hammerstein score, and the legendary duo invited none other than a fresh-from-Broadway Julie Andrews to be their Cinderella. Even through the sometimes-lesser quality of the film, Andrews’ wit and grace leap through the screen and charm the audience. The stepmother and sisters inject a nice amount of humor into the story, which contrasts beautifully with the drama of Andrews and her co-star Jon Cypher. This film isn’t something you’ll come across in everyday life, but it’s something well worth your while to search for.
Edited by Kristina Drendel