Imagine it’s late at night. You just got back from your grandmother’s house and your parents come into your room. They tell you it’s time to go to bed. You hop into your pyjamas, but you’re not quite ready for bed. You’re tired, but you’re not going to fall asleep until mom or dad reads to you. So, your mom or dad grabs one of the numerous books on the shelf. It’s time for another fairy tale.
When you were a kid, you probably drifted off to sleep from a fairy tale more times than you can count. Most people have treasured memories of fairy tales, as these memories are almost always associated with members of their close family. Fairy tales are popular to read to children, but begin to fade away as the child grows up. But, the stories always stick around. They never go away.
Suddenly, your kid is 19 and off to college or moves out of the house. You may feel a sense of loss because you can’t read to your child any more. But, have no fear. You may be able to experience those stories in a completely different way. Fairy tales are often adapted into films or television series’. Most of the time, they’re taken and moved into a new genre. This is what a lot of directors and writers have done.
Fairy tales, at their core, are mostly disturbing. Their content is sometimes questionable. And it seems easy to transfer those concepts into films for adults. This list compiles 15 movies that have been made based on fairy tales.
15. Hard Candy – Little Red Riding Hood
The tale of Little Red Riding Hood is enough to scare anyone either young or small. After all, the wolf eats the grandmother of Little Red Riding Hood and masquerades in her clothes. While this is disturbing, the tale was modified into a tale about two different types of predators. Hard Candy follows the story of a young girl (played by Ellen Page) who meets a man after some online chatting. The man is an adult and actually gets the girl to go back to his house. This is where the tale gets twisted.
In the movie, the Little Red Riding Hood character quickly turns the tables on the wolf. The girl takes control of the situation at the man’s house and tortures him. It’s a wonderful film that expertly blends modern societal problems and character archetypes from Little Red Riding Hood.
14. Sleeping Beauty – Sleeping Beauty (Duh)
The title says it all. Based on the fairy tale of the same name, the film revolves around a girl who sleeps. Literally, she gets paid to sleep. She’s an escort and she has high paying clients who pay her a ton of money to sleep. But, that’s not all that happens with her.
Slowly, the main character begins to understand that she isn’t just sleeping with her clients. I won’t spoil what happens in the film, but being just as confused as the main character in this film plays to the movie’s positives. A dangerous game indeed, the main character lies with her clients in the nude. Caressing and touching is allowed. However, the actual act of sex is not. It’s an adult film that plays with themes of fetishes. It’s also a horrific spin on the classic and undying fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty.
13. Beastly – Beauty and The Beast
The tale of a beautiful person falling in love with a less than stellar looking person has been around for ages. It’s something people are easily entertained by and can relate to on some level. After all, we’ve all been the underdog at some point in time. And we tend to cheer for those characters who have to go through hardships and finally succeed. This film takes the “ugly person, lovely heart” story and adapts it for modern audiences.
Paying homage to Beauty and the Beast, a woman is bullied by a wealthy man. Unbeknown to him, she just so happens to be a witch. She puts a spell on him that transforms his outer body into a mass of tattoos and piercings. He must find love before a certain date or he’ll be stuck like that forever. You can probably guess how the story ends.
12. Freeway – Little Red Riding Hood
With a young Reese Witherspoon and a popular Kiefer Sutherland, the filmmakers behind this film decided to take a fairy tale and adapt it for today. Like most of the movies on this list, this particular film leans more towards the darker side of the fairy tales. Once again, Little Red Riding Hood is tapped for a thrilling adventure involving a pedophile and a young girl. What is it with Little Red Riding Hood and weird sexual tension?
Anyway, the plot revolves around Vanessa (played by Witherspoon) who is a young girl who has a penchant for getting into trouble. She almost gets taken away by social services, so she decides to run away. She hitchhikes and ends up grabbing a ride from a serial killer. She escapes him and she flees to her grandmother’s house. She’s also being followed by a social worker who only wants to help her.
11. The Sweet Hereafter – The Pied Piper
A bus carrying children crashes through a barrier on the freeway. 14 of them are killed. A tragedy, the parents and the town are in complete disarray. How could this have happened? As the townsfolk begin to squabble and argue amongst themselves, a lawyer comes into the scene. He persuades the people of the town to band together and sue the city. After all, it was the barrier that caused the damage in the first place. And it shouldn’t have been there.
While this isn’t a straight adaptation of a fairy tale, it does retain some themes and elements from a tale that started in the town of Hamelin, Germany. The film glows with elements of the Pied Piper. In the Pied Piper, a piper gets hired by the town to lure rats away. When they don’t treat him with respect, he lures their children away instead. The film also has a medieval score, which plays into the time in which the story of the Piper originated.
10. A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) – Pinocchio
Technology is rapidly evolving. In today’s society, with such smart devices as phones that you can ask questions to and robots that are slowly taking over people’s jobs, the concept of artificial intelligence is becoming more and more common. It’s going to happen. It’s only a matter of time. DreamWorks Pictures decided to explore this concept and delve into the emotional connections people may make with artificial intelligence. This is where the plot of A.I. comes from.
A mechanoid boy tries to find love and acceptance in a society that really doesn’t want him there. The family-friendly adventure parallels the classic fairy tale Pinocchio. Although the connections aren’t explicit, they’re enough to warrant a reading of the fairy tale and then a watching of the movie. The Steven Spielberg directed film was deemed a box office success.
9. The Company of Wolves – Little Red Riding Hood
While adapting a fairy tale, one of the more popular things to do with these stories is to make them dark. After all, it’s always interesting to see stories that are in one genre get adapted for a completely different genre. It shows the diversity and creativity of the production teams and can get specific ideas across to the audience. This is what’s done in The Company of Wolves, a film with undertones and themes of sexual violence.
Made in 1984, the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood was once again adapted into a movie. This time, the plot revolves around a girl who decides to live in a fantasy world instead of the real one. Her family gets killed in this fantasy world and the story draws heavily from the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. Will the girl survive in her fantasy world? What’s going on in the real world? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
8. Little Otik – Pinocchio
Fairy tales are gross. Most of them really aren’t for children and some of them are extremely violent. A perfect example of this is a fairy tale that comes from the Czech Republic. In it, a couple who can’t have kids find a wooden log in the nearby woods that looks suspiciously like a baby. They bring the log home and it comes to life. However, things quickly turn when the log becomes a baby and begins to eat and grow at an alarming rate.
Eventually, the baby grows into a monster and is killed by an elderly villager. This concept sounds crazy for a movie, right? Be that as it may, this story was adapted for the big screen. A film titled Little Otik was released in 2000 and follows this premise pretty closely. It’s a dark and violent film that follows the story of the fairy tale and terrifies audiences with its depiction of a hopeful couple who eventually succumb to the wooden beast.
7. Suspiria – Snow White
Dario Argento is an Italian filmmaker that likes to create bizarre and deep films. He likes to play with the audience’s minds and sometimes delves into dark territory with his content. In 1977, he directed a film titled Suspiria. The film follows the adventure of a girl who is entering a ballet academy. The academy is located along the edge of a forest in Germany. If this doesn’t already send out creepy vibes, I don’t know what does.
Naturally, things begin to go haywire. The student witnesses a handful of odd occurrences and eventually uncovers a sinister secret about the school. The secret? The school is run by witches. As far as story adaptations, the fairy tale of Snow White comes the closest. It’s mainly the atmosphere and environment that’s drawn from the classic fairy tale. Although the plot doesn’t deal much with Snow White, the environment is one that is ripped straight out of the fairy tale.
6. Sleepy Hollow – Sleepy Hollow
George Washington Carver is the man behind the legend of Sleepy Hollow. He’s the author that inspired creative minds everywhere and kept children up at night with his fiendishly creepy and scary story about a headless ghost. The legend, which has slowly been accepted as a fairy tale as the years go on, has been adapted in numerous ways. A television series was created by Fox following the exploits of the Headless Horseman. However, the entry for this list is the 1999 film directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Deep.
This entry is a bit different from the others. It’s one of the only fairy tales that are almost directly adapted from the core story. The setting and characters are basically the same. It’s got a “Tim Burton” feel to it, but the base story is almost a straight adaptation from the original story.
5. A Tale of Two Sisters – A Joseon Dynasty Era Fairy Tale
Japan is notorious for creating some of the most bizarre and odd stories you’ll ever encounter. With a culture that suppresses emotions, their art explodes in weird ways that simply make the rest of the world’s collective jaw drop. Their fairy tales are no exception. Though you may have never heard of Japanese fairy tales, go read some. They are downright creepy. This particular film is inspired by a Joseon Dynasty era fairy tale.
The plot revolves around the concept of sisters. The story follows two sisters who are a part of an odd family. As the story progresses, you begin to learn about the family’s history and slowly begin to realize that all is not as it seems. While the film draws inspiration from the fairy tale, it isn’t a direct adaptation. However, some of the themes of the fairy tale are present.
4. Tideland – Alice In Wonderland
With a host of fairy tales that come from the 1600s and 1700s, Lewis Carroll decided to add another fairy tale to the long list that precedes him. While not a full-blown fairy tale (it’s really a novel), it hits all the right notes of a fairy tale. In 1865, Carroll released a novel titled Alice in Wonderland. The book has been read by millions for well over 135 years. With this fairy tale, many adaptations followed.
Tideland is one of these films that takes the concepts of the fairy tale and plays with them. Although a straight adaptation isn’t the purpose of this story, the concepts from the original book live on. And the main character falls down a rabbit hole. If that’s not a nod to Lewis Carroll’s story, then I don’t know what is.
3. No Such Thing – Beauty and The Beast
Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale that will never get old. It’s a timeless story about a woman looking for love and a beast that thinks their life is bound to solitude. With a rich love story, the fairy tale itself is ripe for the picking when it comes to adapting. And whether it be movie or television, it’s been adapted countless times. Disney has even adapted it in both live-action and animation. This film, No Such Thing, is another movie that tries to loosely adapt the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.
In the movie, a film crew goes missing after a trip to Iceland. Beatrice, a reporter (played by Sarah Polley), travels to Iceland to investigate these disappearances. Lo and behold, Beatrice finds the beast that has destroyed the film crew. You can probably guess where this is going. Although not exactly like the fairy tale, it shares a lot of elements of its parent story.
2. The Phantom of the Opera – Beauty and The Beast
Opera is an event that has been in existence for well over 150 years. The process of going to the opera was originally intended for the upper class. It was only something people of culture participated in. Nowadays, the opera is taken in in a variety of forms. You can even watch live performances of it in some movie theaters. With this in mind, let’s look at the tale that was inspired from Beauty and the Beast.
The story of this musical/movie begins with a man who has been horribly scarred. A woman begins working and performing at the opera in which this person had been hurt. A rumor goes around that the place is haunted by the ghost of this person. It turns out that the person is emotionally hurt and lives under the stage. He wants to be loved. A classic Beauty and the Beast adaptation. And probably one of the most famous.
1. Alice – Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland
This is the second Czech film to appear on this list. Apparently, the Czechs make some pretty dark and twisted fairy tale adaptations. This movie adaptation is no exception. Based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this movie takes the fairy tale of Alice and her crazy adventures and warps it into a movie you have to see to believe. Directed by Jan Scabkmajer, this film was released in 1988.
While the story isn’t a word-for-word adaptation of the original fairy tale upon which it’s named after, the main thing it does is draw heavily from the characters in the story. Everyone from the Caterpillar to Alice herself makes an appearance. While they may not be in their fairy tale form, they are undoubtedly there in an adapted fashion.