14. The Princess Bride (1987)
Reiner’s 1987 light-hearted, adventure-fantasy is perhaps one of the most beloved films of all time. Based upon Goldman’s 1973 novel, the fantasy film centres around one of the most quintessential elements of the classic fairy-tale genre— the damsel in distress. Drawing from this, Reiner’s film comedically depicts the heroic journey of the handsome farmhand Westley on his quest to save his true love— Princess Buttercup from a marriage in which she does not wish to commit.
The vast majority of the film— humorously capturing the various encounters of Westley with pirates, “fire swamps” and rodents of “unusual size” during his adventure. Intertwining classic elements of swashbuckler stories, romance, adventure and fantasy, Reiner has produced a film that is perceived as an entertaining delight that has been and will always be— enjoyed by audiences from around the globe.
Released to widespread critical acclaim, the film has been described as a “post-modern fairytale” and is now considered not only a cult classic but one of the greatest comedies of all time.
13. The Snow Queen (1957)
A stunning adaptation of the classic Hans’ Christian Andersen fable of the same name, Atamanov’s frosty animated feature tells the story of two friends— Gerda and Kay whose friendship is put to the test by the penetration of cruel ice shards into the eyes and heart of Kay— turning him into a bitter boy with a heart as cold as ice. Kay is subsequently kidnapped by the powerful and beautiful Snow Queen who strives to erase all feeling and emotion from the boy.
Much of the film traces the persistent journey of Gerda and the strange and unusual creatures she encounters on her quest to rescue her young friend. Atamanov’s film is an inspired and stunningly crafted film which underpins the importance of friendship and reiterates of its profound power in overcoming all obstacles; a touching animated Soviet masterpiece.
12. Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998)
Ocelot’s enchanting 1998 tale of Kirikou is not so much your simple, classic fairytale as it is a moral, folkloric Western African fable of an unusually small newborn boy named Kirikou. Ocelot tells the story of the ever determined Kirikou— persistent on fixing each and every problem in his village.
An evil sorceress Karaba however threatens the peace; with an affinity for the taste of flesh, Karaba torments Kirikou’s village by devouring many the village men and drying up the village spring. The last hope for the village is thus baby Kirkou— for it is Kirkou’s time to shine not only as a brave and noble boy but also as a gifted negotiator.
Depicted through rich, earthly tones and beautiful animation, the film evokes not only aspects of everyday village life but also swathes it in moral lessons set against a stunning original soundtrack by notable Senegalese musician Yossou N’Dour. Kirikou is a must-watch for all lovers of animated film and a crucial, unusual, non-western fairytale fable to be seen.
11. Donkey Skin (1970)
Demy’s sugar-coated fantasy feature is a boldly crafted adaptation of the classic fairy tale. French film beauty Catherine Deneuve takes the lead as a princess forced to disguise herself with the help of an ethereal Lilac Fairy (Delphine Seyrig) as a scullion to prevent an unwanted marriage.
In an incestuous twist, it is to fend off a marriage to her own father played by the iconic Jean Marais as the grieving King—distraught by the death of his beautiful wife. Inverting the typical fairytale trope of rags-to-riches, Demy’s feature however interweaves the classic damsel in distress story with a handsome red prince coming to the princess’ rescue.
Drawing inspiration from the works of Disney and Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, the dreamy feature is a poetic fairytale film that should be experienced by all lovers of fantasy, magic and romance.
10. Son of the White Mare (1981)
An utterly unique work of psychedelic, surrealist animation, the 1981 Hungarian animated adventure film is based upon ancient Hunnic and Avaric legends and tells the story of Feherlofia— the son of the white mare. The film draws upon traditional tales from the world of ancient horse lords and old legends to tell the story of a man born of a horse who comes to possess superpowers; powers strong enough to battle legendary beasts.
The mythical masterwork is an incredible collation of several ancient folkloric stories from around the world—melding together various legendary characters and interweaving modern allegorical depth, dynamic psychedelic style and bold colour to produce one of the most finely crafted animations of all time. Quite simply put— an acid trip of visual splendour.
9. The Little Mermaid (1989)
Disney not only dominates many of the greatest animated features of all time but also many of the greatest screen adaptations of fairytales. Marking the start of the Disney Renaissance— after Disney’s waning success during the 1970s, the film sparked the production of a string of highly successful Disney films during the 1980s and 1990s— now considered classics.
Like many other Disney films produced during the era, Disney’s 28th film captured the genre-defining Hans Christian Andersen tale on screen in magnificent animated style melding together beautifully created animation with musicality. Retelling the classic fable through animation, the film captures not only the impossible love between the mythical creature— Ariel and her love for a human—Prince Eric but also her strong yearning to become one.
Disney’s film melds together a beautiful, headstrong princess, a handsome prince, a villainous Ursula—allegedly based upon iconic drag queen ‘Divine’, singing anthropomorphised characters and an enchanted voice to produce an inventive, animated musical masterpiece.
A joyful animated classic set mostly as the song suggests “under the sea”, the film is now considered a classic and one of the most important Disney films— as aforementioned being credited with restoring Disney’s place as a powerhouse of animation once more.
8. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Considered by some to be Disney’s finest film, the 1959 animation stands as a masterpiece among Disney classics and distinguishes itself as one of the most beautiful animated features of all time. Set against Tchaikovsky’s musical score from his classic ballet, the film draws its inspiration from the classic Brother’s Grimm fairytale.
Retelling the spellbinding tale of the a princess enchanted by sleep, the film is epic in terms of its scale, beauty, power and art. Not only is it epic in its aforementioned aspects but more culturally importantly in its place as a landmark in experimental animation. The extravagantly rich and painstakingly detailed animated style of the film showcases the experimental employment of expressionistic design by Disney animators for the film.
This surreal style is exhibited throughout the film in various dream-like and almost unsettling sequences. Whilst the film contains typically “Disney” scenes of handsome princes and cheery animal companions, some scenes within the film are however uncharacteristically dark; the sinister and unsettling tone evident through such scenes as Aurora’s ascent up flight of stairs— led in a trance to prick her finger on the fateful spinning wheel— signalling Disney’s departure from its typically light-hearted storytelling endeavour. Quite simply put— a radically unique masterpiece.