One of the most beautiful fairy tales of all time. The story about a young girl who lives in poor and miserable conditions and is turned into a princess overnight has held a special place in people’s hearts throughout centuries. The earliest known variant of this tale dates from 7th century BC! It’s the story of a Greek slave girl who marries the king of Egypt.
The first version of Cinderella in European literature was published in Italy in 1634. The most popular one is probably Charles Perrault’s version of 1697, and later, in 1812, the Grimm brothers included it in their collection of folk tales, Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Since then, the story has had numerous adaptations for stage and screen. Here we’ll take a look at the top 11 Cinderella movies, as ranked by EW.
11. Cinderfella (1960)
Gender-swapping the character can sometimes reveal certain nuances of the story that might have gone unnoticed otherwise, or it can be done simply for fun. However, Frank Tashlin’s Cinderfella fails on both counts. It is supposedly a comedy, but all of its humor is derived either from the abuse the frankly irritating protagonist sustains or from misogynistic jokes.
Here’s what happens in the film: the fairy godfather (Ed Wynn) tells poor Fella (Jerry Lewis) that he is the one who must “rectify all the great wrongs brought about by the original Cinderella story.” The godfather claims that the story is responsible for giving women around the world unrealistic expectations when it comes to men. He declares that, disappointed because they can’t find a Prince Charming, women turn into the nagging wives of ordinary men. The following is a direct quote from the movie: “When we finish, the married men of the world will be able to look their wives in the face — that is if they have their makeup on — and put them in their place!” Well, political correctness obviously wasn’t big in the summer of 1960.
10. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1965)
Honestly, if we compare the 1965 version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (with Lesley Ann Warren in the lead role) either with the original from 1957 or with the one from 1997, it doesn’t come out on top. Warren’s voice doesn’t come close to Julie Andrews’s perfectly sweet tone. Moreover, the quality of the set design and the appearance of the costumes can also be found lacking in comparison to the vivid production from 1997.
9. A Cinderella Story (2004)
A lot of preteens certainly fell in love with this Cinderella adaptation when it first came out in 2004. But, the popularity of Mark Rosman’s version set in a high school environment fizzed out pretty quickly. Anyone watching A Cinderella Story today might find it charming only if they are feeling nostalgic about the early 2000s with the low-rise jeans and the high-shine lip gloss. Otherwise, it doesn’t really hold up.
8. The Glass Slipper (1955)
Leslie Caron played the lead role in Charles Walter’s adaptation, but her grace and beauty as a dancer were not quite enough to make her a good choice for Cinderella. The poor casting wasn’t the only reason this version isn’t ranked higher on this list. The other is the fact that the heroine’s character was completely turned around: Cinderella is now an irascible, antisocial brat with delusions of grandeur. The film’s ballet sequences, however, look great even today.
7. The Slipper and the Rose (1976)
Bryan Forbes’ version is another one that suffered from the bad-casting-choice syndrome. Gemma Craven made for an unremarkable Cinderella, and Richard Chamberlain was far too old to play Prince Charming. The songs for this musical adaptation were written by Richard and Robert Sherman. Some of them are admittedly quite charming (the fairy godmother’s “Suddenly It Happens” comes to mind), but most of the others sound like unfinished versions of the Sherman Brothers’ classics from Mary Poppins or Bedknobs and Broomstick.
6. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1957)
Julie Andrews is by far the best interpreter when it comes to the sweet songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical adaptation. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to merit the highest ranking of the three versions of this musical. Even though it was produced for television, this Cinderella is way too theatrical. So much so, that it becomes cinematically awkward, the uninspired direction and choreography doing the film no favors, either.
5. Cinderella (1914)
One of the earliest adaptations of the story, it starred the queen of silent cinema, Mary Pickford, as Cinderella, and her then-husband, Owen Moore, as Prince Charming. Mary’s waifish sweetness was perfect for the character. James Kirkwood, Sr.’s version deserves kudos for the gorgeous wardrobe, as well as for all the strange details added to the story. A couple of them are the visit the stepsisters pay to a fortune teller, and the scene at the end where the royals offer Cinderella to behead her evil stepfamily (she declines, obviously).
4. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997)
Nowhere is it written that Cinderella must be white, so it’s refreshing to see an adaptation which cast people of color in the main roles. But the diversity, which of course earns this version a few extra points, isn’t the only reason for its high ranking. That is also because, well, it’s just a delightful watch. And the casting of Paolo Montalbán as Prince Charming, Bernadette Peters as the wicked stepmother, and Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother is legendary.
3. Cinderella (1950)
Cinderella is without a doubt one of Disney’s greatest classic animated fairy tales. Who can forget the magical “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” the mouse sidekicks Jacques and Gus-Gus, and Lucifer’s villainy?
2. Cinderella (2015)
As part of Disney’s live-action remakes of its classic animated stories came this version of Cinderella. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, it is a perfect blend of modernity and faithfulness to the original. The casting is also spot on. Lily James (Downton Abbey) is the perfect Cinderella, sweet but strong, compliant but courageous. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) makes for a very charming prince. When you take into consideration that the wicked stepmother was played by Cate Blanchett and the fairy godmother by Helena Bonham-Carter, it’s clear that Branagh has created a new fairy tale classic.
1. Ever After (1998)
Andy Tennant’s Ever After deserved the top spot for so many reasons, it’s difficult to mention all of them. The substitution of the fairy godmother’s character with Leonardo da Vinci adds new elements to the story. The costumes, the sets, and the music are absolutely beautiful, as is Cinderella herself. Also, Anjelica Houston makes for the best, and cruelest of all stepmothers. However, the true charm of this adaptation is the way Cinderella (Drew Barrymore) and Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) fell in love. It wasn’t a simple love at first glance, we could see their feelings develop. Through their interactions in the library, or walking in the ruins, or playing rock-paper-scissors, we could see them falling in love, and we fell in love with them as well.