Aside from painting nice pictures in the mind’s eye, fairytales have been a traditional storytelling device for centuries, meant to entertain, teach moral lessons, or just instill an imaginative perspective about the world. It’s not surprising that production companies like Disney have made bringing fairytales to life their entire business platform, but amidst all the live-action remakes of their animated classics, there have been several modern fairytale adaptations that have gone overlooked.
Whether these underrated titles underwhelmed because they were too unconventional in their approach to traditional stories, made in another country and released late, or took a darker turn in tone than audiences expected, they all deserve a second chance to find an audience.
10 The 10th Kingdom (2000)
Before series like Once Upon A Time there was The 10th Kingdom, a mini-series event that took place in a secret realm with nine kingdoms, each of them controlled by famous fairytale faces like Cinderella, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood.
A father and daughter accidentally reach this parallel world from Manhattan, and find it set upon by warring trolls, goblins, and giants who are all at the command of an Evil Queen who plots to rule everything. Fans of contemporary fairytale mashups where two very different worlds collide will wonder if this inspired similar movies like Enchanted, and they will appreciate its whimsical approach.
9 Blancanieves (2012)
While it was appreciated for its moody atmosphere and arresting visuals, Blancanieves’ status as a silent film still left many audiences cold when Pablo Berger’s retelling of Snow White debuted in 2012. It counted acclaimed movie critic Roger Ebert among its champions at the time, but even his support wasn’t enough to assuage audience members’ reservations.
Lifted from the Brothers Grimm legend and made into something much more sinister, sensual, and flavorful, the movie envisions a different imagining of a familiar tale into a black-and-white silent movie. Snow White becomes Carmen, the daughter of a famous matador, whose new evil bride is determined to prevent Carmen from following in her father’s footsteps.
8 King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
Guy Ritchie combined his familiar vision of London’s seedy underbelly with the epic myth of King Arthur to create an at times anachronistic, but nevertheless fascinating romp. Making young Arthur a member of a street gang who has to hustle to survive pulls him from the pitiful pageboy trope, and when he embraces his destiny as the legendary leader, it means something.
Just as Romeo + Juliet gave audiences street gangs that spoke in Shakespearean soliloquies, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword gave medieval knights rhyming cockney slang. Those also familiar with Ritchie’s lovable rogues and tough guy characters will welcome their addition to a fairytale that can sometimes seem a little too steeped in tradition.
7 Hansel and Gretel (2007)
The traditional Grimm fairytale involving two curious kids who nearly get baked alive by a witch has always been foreboding, but the South Korean movie Hansel and Gretel took the tale and added new layers of the mysterious and macabre. When an expecting father crashes into a car on a stretch of road, a girl from the forest comes to his aid, but he soon finds that he can’t leave.
The subversion of the typical tale, which makes the man more afraid of the secrets Gretel carries than of a witch lurking in the trees, makes this a spooky fairytale appropriately reflective of the Grimm tradition.
6 Beauty and the Beast (2014)
It wasn’t hard to miss Beauty and the Beast when it was released so close to the Disney version, and while this magical amalgamation of CGI blockbuster and high-end French film might have seemed similar when it premiered in 2014, it’s worth a revisit for all of its differences.
Darker and more surreal than other versions (but no less full of glamour), the haunting story doesn’t shy away from the realities inherent to a young merchant’s daughter being locked away by a troubled creature in a truly decaying castle. Belle is gutsy and defiant, and the Beast is wounded and ferocious, and they’re portrayed by two of France’s finest actors, breathing new life into a tale as old as time.
5 Hoodwinked! (2005)
Before Zootopia went all in on crime drama involving anthropomorphic animals, Hoodwinked! was the clever animated movie that featured familiar fairytale characters like Little Red Riding Hood, Granny, the Woodsman, and the Big Bad Wolf, in ways audiences had never seen them before.
Perhaps it was the unconventional approach to the traditional “Little Red Riding Hood” story or the style of the animation that some viewers didn’t care for, but nonetheless, Hoodwinked! offers a refreshing alternative to Disney or Pixar, and its all-star celebrity cast give their parts gusto.
4 Descendants (2015)
Fans of Disney villains and the House of Mouse’s live-action remakes will want to give Descendants a chance. The first in a series of made for television movies, it focuses on the offspring of Maleficent, Cruella De Vil, Jafar, and the Evil Queen, who run afoul of King Adam and Queen Belle but find an unlikely ally in the royal prince.
For the first entry in a trilogy, it has a great amount of world-building, and it offers the opportunity to see Disney villains portrayed a style similar to how they’re showcased in Maleficent or Cruella, but with even more flashy costumes and less gritty violence.
3 Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)
Jack’s run-ins with giants don’t end with just one in this inventive twist on the old legend, and the young farmhand ends up fighting a war with an ancient race of giant folk keen on reclaiming Earth after losing it to humankind hundreds of years earlier.
Jack and the Giant Beanstalk has long been celebrated as a children’s fable, with a morality lesson at the end of Jack’s adventures confronting the fearsome giant who lives at the top of a beanstalk, while Jack the Giant Slayer turns the familiar tale into an action-adventure epic a la Lord of the Rings.
2 Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
For those waiting for a remake of Disney’s Snow White, Snow White and The Huntsman is a worthy contender, mixing in a little of the darkness inherent to the Brothers Grimm folktale with the timeless themes of the animated classic. The huntsman, minion of the wicked Queen Ravenna, is a much more prominent character and, while he ends of protecting Snow White, she’s hardly a helpless damsel.
With beautiful world-building, strong performances from the famous cast, and gorgeous costuming, the movie may not be overly complicated, but it’s a highly entertaining fantasy. Additionally, it was followed by The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
1 Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
After successfully defeating the witch who planned to eat them, adult siblings Hansel and Gretel have dealt with their PTSD by becoming bounty hunters, specializing in taking down witches all across their homeland. With the rise of the blood moon, they face an ancient evil that could be their undoing or the key to heir past.
As appealing of adult-oriented adaptation as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters brings a lot of imagination to evergreen characters that audiences think they know, which helps make it exciting, even if some of the action is over the top.
Harry Potter: 5 Ways Harry Was Overpowered (& 5 Ways He Was Defeated Easily)
About The Author