Top 5 Movie Guide: Live-Action Fairy Tales

For the latest edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we take a page from this weekend's "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" (just one single page - we're not trying to be any more associated with this film than we need to be) and compile our lists on some other notable films centered around Fairy Tales. Witch Hunters is the latest spin on the classic German tale which features our two lead characters all grown up and out for blood. This is one of the many adaptations of the story, which was first published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.

For this week's list, we didn't constrain ourselves only to films based on pre-recorded fairy tales, but instead decided to include everything the genre encompassed. Our only rule: the films had to be live-action, similar to this week's film. As you can expect, many of the films featured below do lend their inspirations from previously-recorded tales, as many of which are some of the most classic tales in cinema. But otherwise, here is what Wikipedia defines as a Fairy Tale:

"A type of story that typically features folkloric fantasy characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants,mermaids, or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments."

That opens the door to a variety of subjects and themes, but nonetheless, we tried to narrow our lists down to include films that felt most fitting to the title of a Fairy Tale.

It's a great selection of films this week, so hit the jump for each of our lists!

Alex Schopp -
Most of the classic fairy tales didn't resonate too well on this list (once we do the animated version of this category you'll see them in stronger form, however), but this was overall a great subject. There were simply too many noteworthy films to pick from. Plus, of all the Movie Guides we've already done, this list might be more tied to my childhood than any.

     1. The Dark Crystal (1982)
Just thinking about this film in detail makes me so interested to revisit it again (I literally just bought the Blu-ray online; I'll remedy this next week). This film is equally beautiful and creepy, and I love the Jim Henson puppet work that's on display here. I'm thankful that my aunt made a point to introduce this film to me when I was very young.
     2. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Another film that really adds that creepy element to the classic fairy tale scenario. The imagery in this film is still some of the most memorable I've ever seen in a film. The ending is quite powerful, even if not what you'd normally expect from a fairy tale.
     3. Hook (1991)
I'm sure Derek has plenty of great words for this one, so I'll leave the details to him!
     4. Big Fish (2003)
While you get some great (and sometimes creepy) Tim Burton imagery and elements in this one, this is probably the most uplifting tale on my list. It's a great story of family and friendship, and if you're not tearing up during that ending - even on a tenth viewing - then there's something wrong with you.
     5. DragonHeart (1996)
Another childhood classic. This was one of my brother's favorites growing up, so I feel like I only ever watched this because he wanted to. But we wore this video cassette out! Plus, you just can't have a fairy tales list without dragons.

Ben Foutch -
There are a lot of great films inspired and based on fairy tales. This was harder than originally anticipated.

     1. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
It conjures up every bit of magic you would expect from a fairy tale while also stomping on your heart. Not exactly a feel good type of tale, but a powerful one nonetheless.
     2. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
This keeps getting better with age. It would be nice to see Burton recapture the magic from this film.
     3. Freeway (1996)
A very sordid take on a popular fairy tale. After re-watching her performance, it is no surprise as to why Reese Witherspoon's career soon took flight.
     4. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
This film had me emotionally invested from start to finish. Truly a wonderful piece of art.
     5. Nightbreed (1990)
What is more sinister, monster or man?

Derek Clem -
I regret to say that "Beats of the Southern Wild" is still a tad too fresh for me to consider on this list.

     1. Hook (1991)
This is my all-time favorite movie and easily the movie I've watched the most in my life. In my younger days it made me wish and hope to never grow up, but now that I know I have to, the movie speaks to me in a new way. While I know my body must age, and taking on heavy responsibilities is all a part of life, I should always strive to maintain a youthful spirit. By the way, Julia Roberts easily makes my Top 5 Fairies list.
     2. Splash (1984)
Tom Hanks and Ron Howard's first venture together created some great memories of watching this with my sister. A true childhood classic. This is actually her favorite movie.
     3. Willow (1988)
Unfortunately this doesn't hold up as well as it did when I was a child, but I still have to give credit where credit is due, especially when nostalgia is involved. Who would've thought two Ron Howard flicks would make my list?
     4. Lady in the Water (2006)
This movie gets hated on way too much and I don't understand why. Its such a comely story with an impelling angelic score. Personally, the only negative criticism I have is that the Tartutic monkey things look a little goofy.
     5. Monster Maker (1989)
This was a toss up with the beautifully imagined "MirrorMask" (2005). Ultimately, nostalgia won out. As a child fascinated with puppetry, I felt like this TV Movie was made just for me. It's one of those few movies that motivated me to leave the television and go make something. Granted, I never finished my puppet making project, but at least I started it!

Nathan Hinds -
No entry this week.

Andy Schopp -
This was impossible to fit in everything I wanted. I had to basically weigh how good the movie itself was against how much nostalgia I had connected to it. I feel nostalgia is important in this category mostly for reasons of fairy tales being a childhood-type story, no matter how dark they eventually become.

     1. The Dark Crystal (1982)

     2. Hook (1991)

     3. The NeverEnding Story, Parts I & II (1984 & 1990)

     4. DragonHeart (1996)

     5. Black Swan (2010)

Well, there we have it, folks. Another broad array of titles this week, even though we're unfortunately without one writer's list. But still, plenty of great films were featured, with fifteen different titles in all. And with so much variation, there was little crossover from list to list. No film appeared on all five four lists, but one, "Hook", did manage to hit on three. A movie tackling the classic Peter Pan tale, this Steven Spielberg film should resonate well with most of our very nostalgic generation. No surprise it was one of the best represented films today.

Otherwise, three films appeared on two different lists: "The Dark Crystal", "Pan's Labyrinth", and "DragonHeart". A few childhood staples in there, thrown in with Guillermo del Toro's Spanish War tale. There's something a bit different offered with each of these films, but each is definitely worth a watch.

Overall, outside of maybe a few select titles we conjured up, take the time to introduce each of these films to your own kids, nieces and/or nephews (and to catch up with them yourself). This is how each of us were introduced to many of these films, and we need to make sure that they continue to live on with the next generation.

As always, we hope that each of the selections above helps to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films that this genre has to offer, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!