Fairy Tales

A Monster Calls
A Monster Calls

This film list scopes out the world of fairy tales in all their forms, from early, black-and-white interpretations of the genre to contemporary reinventions. It ranges from folklore originators from around the world to modern day filmmakers who continue to draw upon this unique source of storytelling for inspiration.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration83 mins

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Disney's funny, beautifully drawn animated version of the classic fairytale about a lovey princess on the run from her wicked stepmother.

Based on the original German fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became Disney’s first feature film. It introduced us to their earliest princess, contained an evil queen, a dark narrative and featured songs, all of which would become trademarks of the animation studio in the decades to come.

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Cinderella

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration101 mins

Cinderella(2015)

Lavish live-action version of the classic fairy tale, about young Ella’s quest to escape the clutches of her wicked stepmother.

A modern version of a Disney classic, kicking off their new wave of live-action remakes. Directed with panache by Kenneth Branagh, the dazzling costumes and rich imagery bring the film to life, fashioning Cinderella into a story fit for a 21st century audience.

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Enchanted

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration105 mins

Enchanted(2007)

A very modern fairy tale about a cartoon character who enters the real world, Enchanted is delightful and hilarious.

Enchanted sees the fairy tale film brought to life in a very different way, with a storybook character thrust into the real world in this fresh take on the genre. This fish-out-of-water story is a funny, musical treat for the whole family, featuring loveably naïve protagonist Giselle.

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Into The Woods

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration120 mins

Into The Woods(2014)

The Grimm Fairytales are brought to life in this musical about a couple who venture into the woods to break a spell that has been cast on them.

From a film that’s light and carefree to a Sondheim production which is anything but, as Into the Woods emphasizes the darker elements of the fairy tale. It takes classic characters and stories such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood, and gives them a harsh reality check in this lyrical makeover, with typically impressive songs from the musical maestro.

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La Belle Et La Bete

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration99 mins

La Belle Et La Bete(1946)

Inventive and magical French version of the Beauty and The Beast fairy tale, with effects that must be seen to be believed.

Another film with links to Disney here in the form of La Belle et la Bete, the first film feature adaptation of the seminal story. Presented in French, this black-and-white, live-action version is a classic of film history, suitable for both primary and secondary audiences.

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The Singing Ringing Tree

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration72 mins

The Singing Ringing Tree(1957)

German children's film based on a Brothers Grimm style fairy tale, which has attracted a cult following.

From France to Germany, The Singing Ringing Tree is another timeless tale, with its visuals rooted in the style of the Brothers Grimm stories. A vindictive princess lashes out at those around her, cursing those she loves – as well as those who love her – with fearsome spells. A visually-impressive, nightmarish film.

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Ray Harryhausen - The Early Years Collection (Disc 1)

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration106 mins

Ray Harryhausen - The Early Years Collection (Disc 1)(2005)

A collection of the early fairytale adaptations, demonstrations and interviews with the celebrated stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen.

Special effects guru Ray Harryhausen is the mastermind behind the visuals on beloved films such as Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. Here we see his early fairy tales, accompanied with interviews and additional footage, showcasing a superb insight into the work of an animation virtuoso.

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Lotte Reiniger: The Fairy Tale Films - Disc 1

CertPG

Age groupAll ages

Duration192 mins

Lotte Reiniger: The Fairy Tale Films - Disc 1(1961)

Collection of Lotte Reiniger's stunning depictions of popular fairy tales using her unique silhouette animation style.

Another enduring compilation, this time in the form of brilliant German animator Lotte Reiniger. Her two-disc set – which you can order separately – is made up of stories including Hansel and Gretel, Aladdin and Puss in Boots. The shorts, created between 1922 and 1961, are silhouetted versions of classic tales, complete with charming narration and enchanting scores.

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Tales of the Night

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration81 mins

Tales of the Night(2011)

Complete with werewolves, magical instruments, sorcerers and mythical beasts, this French animation captures the enchantment of storytelling.

Further excellent use of shadows and silhouettes comes from Tales of the Night, six short fictions which explore different cultures and folklores in this spellbinding exploration of storytelling. A brother and sister compete in regaling each other with alternating myths and legends in this dazzling creation from director Michel Ocelot.

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Kirikou And The Sorceress

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration70 mins

Kirikou And The Sorceress(1998)

Animation based on a traditional African tale about a headstrong baby whose cleverness is a match for the wicked sorceress that threatens his village.

Another Michel Ocelot creation here, a film which was succeeded by a sequel – Kirikou and the Men and the Women – 14 years later. This is an African tale following a courageous young boy called Kirikou who is charged with the unenviable task of preventing evil sorceress Karaba from harming his community.

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The Princess and the Frog

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration95 mins

The Princess and the Frog(2009)

Tiana is a feisty young woman with big dreams in Disney's New Orleans-set re-telling of the classic fairy tale.

The Princess and the Frog was a landmark for Disney – and Western animation as a whole – for its diverse characters, most prominently through its protagonist Tiana. The well-known story is reimagined in jazz age New Orleans providing a fresh perspective, and was the film to kickstart a turn of fortune for the studio.

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Shrek 2

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration89 mins

Shrek 2(2004)

Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy all lend their considerable vocal talents to this engaging, consistently hilarious sequel.

Five years prior to The Princess and the Frog came Shrek 2, the much-anticipated sequel to the hit from DreamWorks, filled with catchy pop songs. Though the characters themselves were ogres, animals and other well-known fairytale characters, there was diversity in its casting as Eddie Murphy voiced Donkey, who would become arguably the franchise’s most adored character.

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Frozen

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration97 mins

Frozen(2013)

Snow-filled and funny Disney adventure inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's icy fairytale, The Snow Queen.

Another much-loved film which injected superb music into a traditional fairy tale is Frozen. Taking the source material of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, it updates the adventure for modern audiences, with a Frozen sequel already in the works. We also have a special sing-along edition available to order too!

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The Ugly Duckling and Me

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration90 mins

The Ugly Duckling and Me(2006)

A 2006 animated version of Hans Christian Andersen's story that comes from the author's home country of Denmark.

Hans Christian Andersen is also the original author of The Ugly Duckling, given a gentle makeover for young audiences in this version. This animated title has proven popular with our primary clubs in its re-telling of the well-known fable.

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Hans Christian Andersen

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration108 mins

Hans Christian Andersen(1952)

Danny Kaye stars in this enchanting fairy tale musical which interweaves the stories of Hans Christian Andersen with episodes from his life.

And this live-action film is a musical biopic in which the Danish originator of so many beloved fairy tales is the protagonist. A mixture of real-life incidents and the legends he created, this is a celebration of storytelling in all its forms.

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Song of the Sea

CertPG

Age group5–11

Duration92 mins

Song of the Sea(2014)

A beautiful and touching animation based on an Irish folktale about a little girl who turns into a Selkie.

From a Nordic tale to a Celtic one, Song of the Sea is the follow-up to the acclaimed Secret of Kells. This hand-drawn animation is an enchanting folktale which combines elements including nature, family, fantasy and the power of stories to beautiful effect.

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Ponyo

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration100 mins

Ponyo(2008)

Magical Japanese animation about a fish who transforms into a girl after she is discovered trapped in a jar at the seashore.

And from an Irish animation studio to a Japanese one, with Studio Ghibli excelling as the modern-day custodians of imaginative fairy tales. Ponyo, particularly, showcases their ability to fuse reality and fantasy to tell stories which continue to transport, excite and surprise audiences.

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The Brothers Grimm

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration114 mins

The Brothers Grimm(2005)

Terry Gilliam's trademark visual magic follows the Brothers Grimm conning they way across Germany, until a real witch puts them to the test.

Terry Gilliam – director of films including Time Bandits and Twelve Monkeys – brings his eccentric sensibility to the fairy tale landscape with his Brothers Grimm biopic. Much like Hans Christian Andersen, the German siblings were part of a select few who originated stories, influencing culture up to the present day.

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Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration330 mins

Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films(1964)

A collection of bizarre, sinister and highly original short animation films from famed Czech director Jan Svankmajer.

Another great innovator and auteur of animation, Jan Svankmajer is known for his surreal ideas and interpretations. This compilation of his short films is unique and expressive, superbly showcasing a variety of animation techniques, from puppetry to Claymation.

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Penelope

CertU

Age group11+

Duration86 mins

Penelope(2007)

Original, touching film about a young woman who, due to a family curse, has a pig's snout instead of a nose and is pursued by a cruel photographer.

This UK-USA co-production is influenced by the likes of Svankmajer and the Brothers Grimm, adopting a macabre and somewhat surreal tone within an otherwise real-life narrative. In implanting fairytale aspects within a naturalistic setting, Penelope allows for more grounded interpretations of its message from its audience.

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La Belle Et La Bete

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration99 mins

La Belle Et La Bete(1946)

Inventive and magical French version of the Beauty and The Beast fairy tale, with effects that must be seen to be believed.

The concept of “ugliness” is so too explored – and exposed – in this original French version of Beauty and the Beast, a title which boasts luxurious visuals and is suitable for both language learners and younger audiences.

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Blancanieves

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration100 mins

Blancanieves(2013)

A artful adaptation of the classic Snow White tale, relocating the story to 1920s Spain where young Carmen has to reinvent herself as a matador.

Another European interpretation of a classic fairy tale, this time in Spanish. Blancanieves tells the story of Snow White – another film with links to Disney – but transposes the setting to 1920s Spain, incorporating aspects of the culture such as bullfighting. This production brought a fresh indie, arthouse feel to the fairy tale film.

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Ever After - A Cinderella Story

CertPG

Age group7–16

Duration116 mins

Ever After - A Cinderella Story(1998)

Drew Barrymore stars in this 17th century France-set retelling of the CInderella story.

A third alternative to a story best known by its Disney version is this turn-of-the-century production shaped into a 17th century historical drama. This version of the familiar fairy tale is given a feminist treatment, resulting in the eponymous protagonist influencing her own destiny.

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The Red Shoes

CertU

Age group11+

Duration128 mins

The Red Shoes(1948)

This visually spectacular, dreamlike film from Powell and Pressburger is one of the great classics of British cinema.

From glass slippers to red shoes, the art of dreamlike dancing is a staple of the genre – featuring prominently in fairy tales old and new – perhaps never more elegantly than in this film. From lauded filmmakers Powell and Pressburger who brought fantasy to life in films such as A Matter of Life and Death, this is a cornerstone of the post-war period of cinema.

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AI: Artificial Intelligence

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration140 mins

AI: Artificial Intelligence(2001)

Beautiful science fiction fairy tale based on the future production of Mechas, humanoid robots.

A more modern twist on the genre comes from another master filmmaker in the form of Steven Spielberg, and was originally developed by Stanley Kubrick. Based on a short story, this looks to the future as a robot boy named David aches for love and happiness. AI comprises of a grand, sprawling narrative which is as daring as it is sensitive.

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A Monster Calls

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration108 mins

A Monster Calls(2016)

A boy struggling to cope with his mother’s illness finds himself visited by a fantastical monster.

Based on the fantasy novel by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls was brought to the big screen by J. A. Bayona (The Orphanage). It shares with Artificial Intelligence a central theme of young boys struggling to find their place in the world, and through the monster’s recitations of folklore cleverly explores both ambiguity of character as well as the power of stories.

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The Fall

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration112 mins

The Fall(2006)

Visually extravagant fantasy showing a series of tales about revenge-seeking heroes told by a hospitalised stuntman to a young girl in the 1920s.

Another film which uses storytelling as a way to make sense of the world is The Fall, shot in a number of extravagant locations, showcasing dazzling landscapes. It sees a stuntman relay mythical tales to a young girl, skillfully blurring fantasy and reality, drawing on inspiration from the fairy tale genre to do so.

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Pan's Labyrinth

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration118 mins

Pan's Labyrinth(2006)

Outstanding fantasy grounded in a Spanish Civil War setting, about a girl who discovers a magical maze at her ruthless stepfather's remote army base.

Another form of escapism is at play here. In The Fall, the characters bond over storytelling as injuries heal. In Guillermo Del Toro’s seminal Pan’s Labyrinth, fantasy is implied to help young protagonist Ofelia through the Spanish Civil War and away from her barbaric stepfather in this brutal yet brilliant film.

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Spirited Away

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration125 mins

Spirited Away(2001)

Extraordinary, Oscar-winning fantasy animated film from Japan following the down-the-rabbit-hole adventures of a young girl named Chihiro.

Spirited Away is a further form of escapism, this time in animated form, full of spirits, gods and beasts. Studio Ghibli’s masterpiece sees Chihiro stumble into a magical land of grotesquery in the midst of moving home. Unable to find her way out of this wonderland, Chihiro has her identity taken away and must fight hard to regain it, lest it be lost forever.

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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

CertU

Age group11+

Duration131 mins

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya(2013)

A beautifully animated Japanese fantasy from the makers of Spirited Away, about a Princess sent to Earth from the Moon.

And another Studio Ghibli title here, this one directed by the lesser known Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies), whose style is markedly different from Hayao Miyazaki’s. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a gentle hand-drawn drama, based on the folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, and is more comparable with titles such as Song of the Sea.

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