This Top 5 list first appeared in the May 2012 issue of Catholic Digest.
Fairy tales are everywhere these days, from the small-screen “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” to this year’s dueling Snow White films, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman (opening this week). This double dose of Snow White is more than reason enough to fill in one of the more notable absences in my reviews, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — though that leaves me with one more review to write to round out my picks for the top five fairy-tale films of all time, listed below in alphabetical order. (No promises, but I’ll try to get to the remaining review sometime soon.)
Beauty and the Beast [La Belle et la bête] (1946)Honorable mention to Disney’s better-known animated musical version, a justly celebrated masterpiece — but Jean Cocteau’s dreamlike French-language adaptation is the truest and richest screen adaptation of the story.
The Princess Bride (1988)One of the most oft-quoted movies of a generation, Rob Reiner’s beloved swashbuckling tale of a beautiful princess, a noble pirate and a black-hearted prince is one of those rare satiric gems, like The Court Jester and Galaxy Quest, that doesn’t just send up a genre, but honors it at the same time.
- Enchanted and its ilk, still casting a potent spell.
Star Wars (1977)An orphaned hero meets a bearded, robed wizard, gains a magic sword, ventures into a dark fortress and rescues an imprisoned princess. George Lucas’s groundbreaking blockbuster updated the trappings, but the charm of this space-age fairy tale is inseparable from its innocent sense of wonder and unironic vision of good and evil.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)The quintessentially American fairy tale, MGM’s joyous musical take on L. Frank Baum’s story ranks among our earliest and most defining experiences of wonder and fear, of fairy-tale joys and terrors, of the lure of the exotic and the comfort of home.