Book Adaptations: The Best Cinderella Movies

Brandy as Cinderella in Rodger and Hammerstein’s ‘Cinderella’ (1997). Copyright goes to the Walt Disney Company.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Recently, Roger and Hammerstein’s ‘Cinderella’ was finally put on Disney + for Valentine’s Day. Though this version of Cinderella was seemingly forgotten for a while, it is still known to be one of the best and most iconic depictions of the story. It has taken far too long for this version of the story to appear in a way that’s easily accessible. Especially for how good it is. But, obviously, there have been many many versions of Cinderella in several mediums over the years. In honor of this movie, I want to list my top five film adaptations of the story of Cinderella. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

5. Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted is actually based off of a book that took inspiration from many different fairytales, but mostly Cinderella. Hence the name, ‘Ella Enchanted’. This movie depicts a woman who lives with her evil stepmother and stepsisters and eventually meets and falls in love with a Prince; but that isn’t actually the full point. Ella was cursed as a child to be obedient, so she must do anything that is asked of her. Her main goal throughout the film is to break the curse and gain her freedom. Through her adventures she becomes friends with an elf who resents entertainment and wants to become the first elf lawyer and a sarcastic book. She also meets Prince Char, a cocky prince who is sure that everyone must be in love with him and is shocked when Ella isn’t. This movie stars Anne Hathaway and also features her singing a cover of a ‘Queen’ song. This is definitely not your conventional Cinderella movie, but that’s what makes it that much more fun. Also, if you’ve ever wanted to see Cary Elwes, Westley from ‘The Princess Bride’, play a mustache twirling evil villain, this movie has got you covered. He’s both evil and comedic. This is a very entertaining, different, and cute version of Cinderella.

4. Disney’s Cinderella

This is the classic adaptation of Cinderella that everyone’s seen. It’s also one of the movies that ensured the success of the Walt Disney company. It’s probably the most basic version of this story to exist in film. Here you have the basic story without the more gory bits, like the stepsisters cutting off parts of their feet or the birds pecking their eyes out. The only problem with this story is that this is the only adaptation of the story on this list where Cinderella has no agency. Everything happens to her rather than her going out and trying to do something. But this movie is still the classic story of a dreamer experiencing her dream coming true. Though the love at first sight isn’t really advisable, it is still a romantic and enjoyable movie. Maybe the story isn’t memorably changed, but it will probably remain the most classic and popular version of Cinderella to be made.

3. Cinderella (2015)

This is one of the only live action movies that Disney has made that I like. Partly because you can hardly call it a live action version of the animated film since it’s such a different version of Cinderella. This adaptation spends much of the movie actually focusing on the characters of Cinderella and Prince Kit. Yay, Prince Charming finally has an actual name! Or at least a nickname. I also definitely prefer the adaptations where Cinderella and the Prince have met and talked before the events of the Ball, so that they at least know something about each other. Cinderella and Kit are attracted to each other because of their kindness, not only towards each other but to everyone around them. Also, the quote “have courage and be kind” is one that everyone should hear. The story of Cinderella is first and foremost about a young woman getting through a difficult time with kindness and hope, and this movie is a perfect example of that. It’s also really nice to have an adaptation of Cinderella where Cinderella eventually stands up for herself against her stepmother. She also tells her stepmother that she forgives her at the end in a really powerful scene. Though this isn’t a very different version of Cinderella, it presents the classic story in a beautiful way.

2. Ever After

This adaptation and the one that I put at number one are practically tied for me and it’s difficult to choose between one or the other. They are both some of my favorite movies of all time. The reason why I put this here is simply because this is definitely not an adaptation that stays particularly true to the original story. I would say it diverts from it even more than ‘Ella Enchanted’. Ever After depicts the life of Danielle de Barbarac played by Drew Barrymore, a woman who you are told was the inspiration for the Cinderella tale in this fictional universe. She is a poor woman who also is abused by her stepmother and stepsisters and has a very close relationship with the other servants in her household. When her stepmother sells one of the other servants into slavery, Danielle disguises herself as a noblewoman so that she can order his release. Through a series of events, this makes the Prince believe she is of noble birth and feels free to fall in love with her because of this. Eventually he discovers the truth and becomes angry, but it ends happily. This film includes a fictional depiction of Leonardo da Vinci and a scene where Danielle and the prince are surrounded by thieves and she is told that she can keep whatever she can carry, prompting her to pick up the Prince. Danielle is a complete badass, but this adaptation only keeps a few elements from the original tale. Even so, it’s a romantic and deeply complex version of the tale.

1. Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997):

Everything about this movie is gorgeous; the cast, the set, the colors, the music, the singing. It is a classic version of the story that remains pretty true to the original, but tweaks the story in ways that are seemingly perfect. Firstly, we need to talk about the cast. Brandy carries this movie as Cinderella and her singing voice is beyond gorgeous. Then we have Paolo Montalban as the Prince who is definitely the most dreamy version of the character that I have ever seen in my life. This movie also has the likes of Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, and Whoopi Goldberg. Every member of the cast absolutely shines in their roles to the point that they all seem like standouts. It’s also really nice to see such a diverse cast because we have definitely seen enough predominantly white versions of this story. Cinderella herself is given more agency in the plot when the Fairy Godmother tells her that making her dreams come true is up to her. The notion of love at first sight is also questioned in this adaptation with a meeting between Cinderella and the Prince before the Ball and the questioning of “do I love you because you’re wonderful or are you wonderful because I love you?”. The acting is on point and it’s difficult to not find this version touching. It seems like every song has some of sort of relatability to it. Especially now when everyone is stuck inside and the main characters are singing about how they feel like they’re living the same days over and over again. That one really hits home.

Really, any tale of Cinderella would be a good choice to watch on Valentine’s Day. Or, as I should also call it for myself and a lot of other people out there, SAD (Singles Awareness Day). So don’t be sad on SAD! We all can daydream in our own little corners in our own little chairs until this all passes and we can get out there again! I hope this gave you some ideas of what to watch and I also hope that you’ll take care of your mental health and not be too sad! Happy Valentine’s Day! And remember to have courage and be kind now more than ever.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

5 thoughts on “Book Adaptations: The Best Cinderella Movies

  1. I loved that 2015 live action movie of Cinderella. I know I saw one of the musical adaptations, but don’t remember which- I feel like it might have been the 1997 adaption (after all, I was born in the 90s)

    I don’t know why, but Ella Enchanted I never thought it was based off of Cinderella despite some similarities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish more people appreciated the 2015 Cinderella like you do! It’s one of my favorites! Ella Enchanted is definitely one of those really sneaky Cinderella adaptations. Thanks for reading! -Hallie


  2. I am almost positive that the 2015 live action Cinderella is the only movie on this list that I haven’t seen, though I still can’t remember if I have actually seen Ever After or have just tricked myself into thinking I have seen it because the name sounds familiar. Either way, I’m definitely going to have to watch it sometime soon to rectify this!

    This whole list is made up of excellent choices for a Cinderella movie night, but I can definitely see why Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella made it to the top. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it on TV as a kid, though it was years before I found it again thanks to the internet. Everything you wrote about this adaptation rings true to what charmed me so much back then and still manages to charm me now!

    Liked by 1 person

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