The fiercest of them all: Fairytale adaptations subverting the classics
Could upcoming fairytale anthology show Fabled be the fairest of them all? Judging by the first trailer of Zosia Mamet’s upcoming Refinery29 show, it’ll at least provide a fresh perspective on classic fairytale stories. Having premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, Fabled offers a feminist reworking of classic fables such as Alice from Alice in Wonderland crossing paths with Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz at a 30-day rehab program.
So far it sounds a little similar to Alan Moore’s irreverent graphic novel Lost Girls which followed Dorothy, Alice, and Wendy from Peter Pan meeting up as adults to divulge their erotic stories to each other.
Fabled is co-created by Mamet (The Kids Are All Right) and her husband Evan Jonigkeit (X-Men: Days of Future Past), who also star in the show alongside a phenomenal cast including Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion), Trace Lysette (Transparent), and Norbert Leo Butz (Dan in Real Life). Check out the trailer for Fabled below and then be sure to check out our 10 picks of other fairytale adaptations that breathed fresh life into classic yarns and ancient tropes.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Rob Reiner’s adaptation of William Goldman’s irreverent deconstruction of fairytales remains one of the greatest and most enjoyable fairytale movies ever made. Starring Cary Elwes (Kiss the Girls) and Robin Wright (Unbreakable) at their absolute dreamiest as two luckless lovers saving each other from certain doom across many treacherous paths, the movie is as sweet as it is cynical and full of romance and comedy.
This empowering reworking of the Cinderella story stars Drew Barrymore (Never Been Kissed) and Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family) and offers a lead female character who doesn’t actually need saving in order to overcome hardship and marry her prince charming.
Jan Svankmajer’s creepy, unique take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland remains one of the greatest and strangest visual feats committed to film. Combining live action with stop motion animation, Alice features a dark, singular production design.
Based on the comic books written by Neil Gaiman (American Gods) and illustrated by Charles Vess, Matthew Vaughn’s 1800s set love story is a swooning, fantastical dream. Starring Claire Danes (The Hours), Charlie Cox (Daredevil), and Sienna Miller (The Lost City of Z), the movie rejects the tragic aspects of the original story for positive, lighthearted beats that fit the tone of the movie perfectly.
The Company of Wolves (1984)
Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Angela Carter’s short story of the same name is a feminist reworking of the classic Little Red Riding Hood tale. Featuring a screenplay co-written by Carter, the movie remains faithful to the source material (taken from the feminist classic The Bloody Chamber) and sees the lead character learning to stand up for herself and explore her own freedom of choice. The movie masterfully twists a familiar tale and offers up spectacular visuals, horror, and captivating characters in the process.
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
The 80s classic movie was based on Michael Ende’s 1979 novel of the same name and is a strange, mystical, and enchanting journey through a dark and surprising realm. The movie deviates considerably from the original book, but we won’t hold that against Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot), who completely broke our hearts with this fairy tale (we’ll never get over Artax dying in the Swamp of Sadness!)
This irreverent take on fairytales subverted the idea of what “true love” and beauty looks like by throwing a wonderfully hideous makeover upon the traditional happily ever after. Starring Mike Myers (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me), Eddie Murphy (Coming to America), and Cameron Diaz (There’s Something About Mary) doing some of the best work of their careers, Shrek remains one of the best (and most subversive) approaches to an animated fable ever made.
The Red Shoes (1948)
We couldn’t leave out what is arguably one of the most innovative and influential fairytale adaptations of all time. Michael Powell and Emeric Preeburger’s ballet masterpiece is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairytale. The film maintains the magic of the original story with adventurous musical finesse while spotlighting the shadowy corners hidden between the lines.
Ella Enchanted (2004)
Featuring an impromptu musical outburst and Elwes returning to the fairy tale genre (this time as a villain!), Ella Enchanted is an underrated fairytale movie about a young woman (Anne Hathaway) trying to break her curse of obedience. In the process (wouldn’t you know it!) she falls for a hot prince (Hugh Dancy) and must rely on her wits and strength to save herself and him.
Starring as the iconic Sleeping Beauty villain, Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted) was strangely perfect and brought a wounded humanity to a character who has always otherwise been depicted as nothing short of total evil. Robert Stromberg’s reworking of the classic story offered a fresh perspective and a deep sense of tragedy to the unseen arc of the tale.