10 Dark Live-Action Fairytale Remakes Made for Older Audiences
Fairytales Aren't Just for the Little Kiddies Anymore!
Once upon a time, fairytales weren’t the cheery, feel-good Disney movies that millions of people of all ages enjoy today. Before Disney did some serious plot remodeling to make the stories of princesses and pumpkins kid-friendly, fairytales were known for being gruesome and violent, with many of them ending in brutal deaths (some even for the hero or heroine of the story). Lately, more and more remakes of these classic stories have been taking inspiration from the Grimm Brothers’ original tales, going back to their darker, more twisted roots and kicking up the romance to appeal to older crowds. While these movies may be too scary for young children, they are perfect for both teenagers and grown-ups who are tired of watching the same kid-friendly movies over and over again and just can’t let it go (yep, I went there). Here are 10 live-action fairytale remakes to enjoy when the little ones are tucked safely in their beds tonight (with minimal spoilers):
A fabulous retelling of the fair Snow White’s tale, Mirror Mirror tells the story of the princess Snow and her step-mother the Queen. The Queen Clementianna (played by Julia Roberts) is an evil and frivolous ruler, who taxes her kingdom’s people to the point of starvation to pay for her luxury parties and bizarre beauty treatments. She keeps Snow (Lily Collins) locked away in her room in the castle. When Snow becomes a threat to her place as ruler, the Queen decides to do away with the young princess for good. Things don’t go quite as she planned however, and Snow winds up in the cottage of the thieving band of Dwarves, Butcher, Napoleon, Chuck(les), Grimm (yes, as in Will Grimm), Wolf, Grub, & Half-Pint-- the new and improved Seven Dwarves.
Mirror Mirror is a great remake. Princess Snow is a strong female lead who can be tough and kick butt while still maintaining her beautiful, feminine charm at the same time. The Dwarves are hilarious and colorful characters, and the storyline is different and fresh while still including many things we know and love about the original Snow White. Filled with adventure, love, comedy, and a little magic, Mirror Mirror is sure to be a big hit next movie night!
A Cinderella Story
Almost every girl has dreamed of being Cinderella at least once in her life, and young Sam (played by Hilary Duff) is no exception. Every night her father reads her happily ever after bedtime stories of princesses like Cinderella, and she dreams of going to Princeton (where all the “princes” go), meeting her true love, and living in a castle just like the one in the snow globe her father gave her. But her dreams are shattered when her father tragically dies and her step-mother and Sam’s two step-sisters take over the house and her life, forcing Sam to act more like a scullery maid than a high school student. She now has to balance running the house, waitressing at her father’s old diner, homework, and waiting on her step-family hand and foot. Her dreams of a fairytale ending seem too far out of reach, except for being online pen pals with the most popular boy at school, Austin Ames (the problem is, neither of them know who the other is). Austin (played by Chad Michael Murray) invites her to the school dance, and it’s up to Sam to take a shot at a storybook ending, or scrub floors the rest of her life.
A Cinderella Story is a fun, modern take on a classic tale, aimed more at the teenage crowd. Even with so many variations of the rags-to-riches story of Cinderella at our disposal today, this one easily stands out in the sea of remakes and is sure be an instant favorite.
We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty, the beautiful princess who was cursed by an evil woman to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall asleep until a prince awakened her with a kiss, but this time, we see the story from the villain’s perspective. Maleficent wasn’t always bad; in fact, for a while, she was quite good. She protected the kingdom’s Moors, along with the other fairies and creatures that inhabited it…Until she met Stefan. He tricked her into falling in love with him, then used her for his own personal gain and made her the outcast of the kingdom. When he and his wife have a baby girl, Maleficent sees her opportunity for revenge and places the fateful curse on her. But what happens when she realizes that she doesn’t want to curse the baby after all? She wants to save her. All too quickly, we see that Maleficent may not be as bad as we’ve always thought.
Maleficent is a brilliant remake of an old classic that, despite its PG rating, has quite a few moments that are less than demure. With a seamless blend of beloved characters and new surprises, it’s a princess story that grown-ups won’t mind rewatching.
Once Upon a Time
Airing on ABC, the TV show Once Upon a Time follows Emma Swan, a woman in her twenties who’s led by a young boy named Henry to a place called Storybrooke, Maine, where he claims all of the town’s inhabitants are characters straight out of the fairytales, from Snow White to Rumplestiltskin. According to Henry, none of the townsfolk are able to remember their storybook pasts, thanks to the curse that Regina, his adoptive mother (whom he claims is the Evil Queen from Snow White), has placed on everyone. It’s up to the two of them to save everyone before evil prevails and the clock strikes midnight on a less-than-happy ending for Storybrooke.
Once Upon a Time is another show that attempts to bring the fairytale/storybook world to life in a modern setting. Both teens and adults can enjoy all seven seasons of intriguing characters, chilling cliffhangers, passionate affairs, and of course, fairytales (all seven seasons currently available on Netflix).
Into the Woods
A movie musical based on the brilliant stage show by Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods tells the story of what happens when popular fairytale characters (Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Jack and his beanstalk, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and their princes), a witch, a baker, and his wife all meet deep in the woods while trying to obtain their heart’s desires (to go to the King’s festival, to visit Granny, and so on). Featuring James Corden and Emily Blunt as the baker and his wife, Lilia Crawford as Red Riding Hood, Johnny Depp as the Wolf, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, and Meryl Streep as the Witch, this movie musical gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Into the Woods has a dark underlying theme, sticking closely to the Grimm Brothers’ original tales of hungry wolves and sinister giants. With its more realistic take on happily ever after set to a killer, super catchy soundtrack, Into the Woods is a treat to watch and even sing along with.
Set in modern times, Beastly is a retelling of the classic story Beauty and the Beast. Kyle Kingson is the most popular, good-looking, and conceited boy at his high school. He relies on his looks and charm to put him at the top of the social ladder, until he messes with the wrong girl. He attempts to bully Kendra, a social outcast at his school; what he doesn’t know is that she’s a witch and she has grown tired of Kyle. She curses him with his worst nightmare: ugliness. He becomes “a hairless, scarred, heavily-tattooed shell of his former self” (Wikipedia). Kendra tells him that he has until next spring for someone to fall in love with him, or else he will stay “beastly” forever. But without his looks and social status, who can he find that will love him?
Beastly is the perfect movie for teens and young adults. It’s a clever remake of a classic tale with a great message about superficial qualities (looks and popularity) that are really only surface deep, starring Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris, and High School Musical sweetheart Vanessa Hudgens. It is currently available with Amazon Prime, for those who want to check it out!
Snow White and the Huntsman
Snow White and the Huntsman takes a grisly approach to the retelling of Snow White’s tale. After the death of Snow’s White’s mother, her father the king falls in love with a woman, Ravenna, he thinks is a prisoner of war. He “rescues” her and then marries her, only to have her stab him to death in bed on their wedding night. Queen Ravenna then takes over the kingdom and imprisons young Snow White in a cell. But as the story always goes, when the Magic Mirror told the Queen that Snow was more beautiful than she, Ravenna sets out to kill the fair princess.
Snow White and the Huntsman is filled to the brink with gruesome deaths featuring just about every weapon available (for those into that sort of thing, no judgement here!). It’s one of the darker on the list by far, branching quite a ways off from the story we all know, and has wonderful performances by actors including Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, & Kristen Stewart.
Red Riding Hood
Set in a medieval town, Red Riding Hood tells the story of a young girl named Valerie (Red Riding Hood) and her village, who live in fear of a werewolf that lurks in the forest. To stop the werewolf from attacking, the villagers came up with a truce; they routinely sacrifice their best livestock every full moon to the wolf and in return it won’t attack. Valerie (played by the adorable Amanda Seyfried) is betrothed to the wealthy Henry, the village blacksmith, but she’s really in love with Peter, her childhood friend. Valerie and Peter’s plans to run away and get married are put on hold when Valerie’s sister turns up dead, killed by the werewolf. With the truce broken, the village decides to hunt the werewolf and destroy it before it kills again, bringing in a seasoned werewolf hunter, Father Solomon, to lead the crusade, who reveals something interesting about the wolf: the werewolf is only a wolf by night, but during the day it takes its human form. The werewolf is living in the village disguised as an ordinary human, which means it could be any one of them.
Despite its storybook name, Red Riding Hood is definitely not created with little ones in mind. It’s a fantasy/romance/horror flick geared towards teens and young adults, with some very steamy love scenes (including one with an, ahem, interesting use of the classic red hood). It also shares the same director as the Twilight series so whether you’re Team Edward or Team Jacob, chances are if you’re a Twilight fan, you’ll love Red Riding Hood. It’s a creative remake with a killer twist at the end that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end credits.
Grimm, an edgy TV show, is the story of homicide detective Nick Burkhardt, who discovers that he is the last of the “Grimms”, who acted as guardians, protecting humanity from the mythical creatures known as Wesen that seek to bring chaos to the world. It’s up to him to battle the terrifying creatures at his doorstep and make sure the world gets a happily ever after while also doing his job as a detective, and keeping everyone he loves safe.
For those who like their fairytales dark, it doesn't get much darker than Grimm-- it lives up to its name for sure! As Nick is discovering his abilities as a Grimm, he finds he can see “the darkness inside, the real monster within” those around him. Scary. This blending of fairytales with modern day police work and homicides may be a little on the “grimm” side, but it gets points for creativity (all six seasons are currently available with Amazon Prime).
Little Mermaid (2016)
Substituting a condo for a castle, Little Mermaid is an independent Indie-type film about the bright-eyed, red-haired mermaid that trades her fins for legs to be with her one true love, but this time it’s amidst the modern world of cell phones and pizza delivery guys. A kind waitress takes pity on Little Mermaid, and gives her a place to stay with one of her friends, but the voiceless, naïve girl winds up working as a dancer at a strip club for money. On top of it all, she has to make her “prince” fall in love with her before the Sea Witch drags her back to the sea. Only, she’s fallen in love with someone else.
This version of The Little Mermaid relies heavily on the original story Hans Christian Andersen crafted, while also moving in an entirely different direction at the same time. Though there are some parts of the movie that would’ve been better left out (who wants to see the mermaid princess they’ve adored since they were three stripping and pole dancing? Come on!), it has some good moments, such as showing that the first “prince” you fall for won’t always be the right one, even in fairytales. All in all, it’s definitely worth watching (another one that’s available with Amazon Prime).
There's my list! Did your favorite remake make it on? Let me know if I missed any good ones :)
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