There once was a young woman who got the opportunity to dazzle at a ball, despite being left out of the event by her stepmother and stepsisters, and ended up falling in love with the most eligible bachelor in the room. Yes, it’s the rags to riches Cinderella story we’ve seen play out over and over on the big screen time and time again, most recently with the release of Amazon Prime’s version of the fairytale starring Camila Cabello. But this time, Kay Cannon’s version aimed to alter the love story usually at the center of the story.
Through each Cinderella adaptation, we’ve really been given a sense of how the particular romance between Ella and her prince has been seen by different filmmakers. Sometimes it works and other times it’s really fallen flat. It’s a major reason it’s fun to see this charming love story at the center of it play out in different eras. Here's how some of the most well-known adaptations of this fairy tale stack up against one another in this particular regard.
7. Into the Woods (2014)
The least charming of all the main Cinderella movies is Into The Woods, but in an impressive way because it means to give us a negative point of view of Cinderella and her prince. As part of the Stephen Sondheim musical, Anna Kendrick plays Cinderella to Chris Pine’s Prince, who later says “he has charm for a prince I guess” in disappointment. Her marriage to the prince is almost a duty she must do in order to escape from her provincial life.
It’s a great commentary on the storyline we all know, especially with Pine’s hilarious “Agony” song with Rapunzel’s prince. However, it’s not at all a charming love story. In fact, the prince is unfaithful to Cinderella in this iteration, and she ends up looking after the Baker’s baby after Emily Blunt’s character dies.
6. Cinderella (1950)
This is the iconic Cinderella of them all, and likely the first introduction many of us had to the character growing up. However, many other Cinderella stories have topped the animated Disney version. First of all, Ilene Woods’ Cinderella is absolutely lovely. Her voice has contributed to some heart-wrenching Disney love songs, including “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” and “So This Is Love.” It’s beautiful to see the 2-D animation fly off the screen like a story book, but wow, is her romance with the prince forgettable.
I swear, every time I watch Cinderella, I forget what the prince actually sounds like because he barely has a word to say and has the personality of a piece of cardboard. There’s no romance besides their night at the ball, and it seems like they get married a day after they meet.
5. Cinderella (2021)
Yes, the most modern of Cinderella’s finds itself in fifth place on this list, but hey, it did rank over the classic Disney Cinderella, so that has to count for something, right? The version starring Camila Cabello’s Ella isn’t really a love story at all though. It reframes it as a story about her dreams to be a fashion designer, and her interest in the prince becomes something she discovers on the way.
And hey, I’m all for the ‘she don’t need a man’ storyline after growing up with fairytale after fairytale hell-bent on telling young women their worth is dependent on finding love. But there have been so many Cinderella stories before it, making this one felt a bit forced and different just to switch things up when the tale is still inherently known as a love story.
4. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997)
I’ll tell you what no other Cinderella has: Whitney Houston. The late powerhouse singer taught me to believe in the impossible (and magic) when I was a kid, and that was more valuable than any other Cinderella movie growing up for that alone. The ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney version of the fairytale starring Brandy also featured some seriously inspired colorblind casting that we’ve yet to see be topped either.
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella may have been the lowest budgeted of these versions, but with its beautiful music like “Ten Minutes Ago,” you really believe this pair is meant for each other despite only just meeting, which is a feat many Cinderellas can't fit a glass slipper on.
3. A Cinderella Story (2004)
Cinderella has been adapted into the modern setting a few times more loosely, such as through Pretty Woman, but A Cinderella Story is the most straight-forward and inspired way Hollywood has gone about it. Starring Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray, the movie is all about some internet pen pals who decide to meet at the school dance. The only problem is one is the most popular guy in the school, and the other is an outcast “diner girl.”
A Cinderella Story is a cheesy teen rom-com in every sense of the word, but it's done so incredibly well. There’s not a bit of magic, and yet it manages to capture the same feeling of the story. Regina King plays the real-life fairy godmother and Jennifer Coolidge as her stepmother. Oh, and the line “Waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought” at the football game? Iconic.
2. Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)
The ‘90s knew what was up with Cinderella movies, especially with the 1998 film Ever After. This version starring Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott was the first time I remember seeing this story told and watching its core lovers actually falling for each other for their minds. (Wild, I know!) Danielle and Prince Henry really create an exciting tension between them, while the movie also goes for an even more in-depth story of the time Cinderella is being set.
Cinderella is best friends with Leonardo da Vinci in this movie, because why not? Also, Anjelica Huston is her evil stepmother because Ever After was just clever like that! It’s probably the least talked about, but it's secretly one of the best adaptations of a classic fairy tale we have.
1. Cinderella (2015)
But Disney still takes the crown here. Not every one of the studio’s live-action remakes have been worthwhile, but 2015’s Cinderella is a ton of fun and has a storyline that really gets the story like no other. Kenneth Branagh’s version really made me understand the emotional depth and pain of Cinderella in a way that no other movie had before. Throughout the film, you are cued into the character played by Lily James’ feelings, and by the end, you feel like you have experienced it all beside her.
This Cinderella allows the story to be about magic and love, along with the loss of Cinderella, but also about two people who have truly connected on a level that transcends their class and wealth. And isn’t that what this story is about? It's the perfect Cinderella story.
Now it’s your turn. Which Cinderella movie made your heart go aflutter the most? Vote in our poll below.
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Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.