We Went Back And Ranked Every Cinderella Film

A tale told over and over again, Cinderella has had its fair share of hits and misses.

By Keelia Clarkson4 min read
We Went Back And Ranked Every Cinderella Film

You’d be hard-pressed to find a single soul who hasn’t seen at least one version of Cinderella. The classic children’s tale has undergone many a retelling over the years, and with good reason. Teeming with whimsy, wonder, tension, valuable lessons, and an incredible image of many beautiful aspects of femininity, it’s no wonder why Hollywood seems to never be through with reimagining this story, though typically changing up elements here and there to match the times.

The latest adaptation, starring Camila Cabello as Cinderella, proves this to be true. While we can’t totally judge a film based on a two-minute trailer, it seems this newest retelling by Amazon Prime Video takes quite a few liberties in its attempt to update the story. 

Most notably, this Cinderella is far more taken with chasing her career as a designer and seamstress than with marrying a handsome prince, but she’s pressured by her evil stepmother to marry the prince for financial gain... so there goes the love story? Along with the basic plotline, the soundtrack seems to have undergone quite a few changes. Oh, and the dazzling, glowing, elegant dress that the Fairy Godmother creates for Cinderella? Well, now, it’s a pantsuit. But not to worry – the glass slippers were one of the few things to survive the chopping block!

Needless to say, this Cinderella will be unlike any other before. Whether or not that’s a good thing, we’ll have to wait and see. And in anticipation of the new adaptation’s release, we were inspired to rank every Cinderella film over the years.

8. Ella Enchanted (2004)

It seems 2004 was a popular year for reimagined Cinderella stories to debut! But what made Ella Enchanted different from its competitor that year wasn’t just its fanciful, mythical setting, but also that it was based on a book of the same name – incorporating a magical feel, as well as elves, fairies, and giants. (And a curse of obedience.) It’s safe to say that this retelling differed from every other one before.

However, even with its shining musical moment in which Ella performs Queen’s “Somebody to Love” for a rowdy crowd of giants (also known as the moment the world learned Anne Hathaway could sing!), Ella Enchanted is yet another film that falls under the “the book was better” category, and its aesthetic and costumes, though similar to Ever After, don’t inspire awe in the same way.

7. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1965)

Just by being a live-action version of Cinderella, this version stood in contrast to the original. But even with its production design that makes the audience feel like we’re watching an intimate stage performance, and the addition of dramatic close-ups, its plot stays true to the heart of the classic tale, creating a pleasing blend between the story we’ve always known and a new, human element.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music adds an extra boost of beauty, with its swelling melodies and intriguing lyrics furthering the plot. While Lesly Ann Warren can’t be called an esteemed singer, there’s a case to be made that her tender and timid voice lent itself well to the character of Cinderella. The costumes, while not particularly beautiful or dignified, created an almost operatic feel with their extravagance and loudness. Overall, while this version has its drawbacks, it’s still a solid version of Cinderella.

6. Disney’s live-action Cinderella (2015)

Finally, in 2015, Disney hopped on the live-action train with this adaptation of Cinderella – and it was about time. Of course, being a Disney film, this version stayed closer to the 1950s film than others have, with Cinderella's beauty, elegance, faithfulness, and kindness once again being represented as excellent and invaluable. 

Artistically, this version gives Ever After a run for its title as most beautiful and impressive. Cinderella’s costuming, set design, and visuals are incredibly stunning – as is Lily James as our protagonist. (Even Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother is gorgeous.) Its drawback, however, lies in the fact that this rendition isn’t terribly innovative, and therefore, can’t exactly be called a must-see. Some reviewers even called it boring. 

However, this adaptation does flesh out the Prince’s character, and unlike other versions where he’s forced to get married by an overbearing father, Prince Kit has a healthy and loving relationship with his father. One of the most touching scenes in the movie is Kit’s farewell to his father on his deathbed.

5. Hey, Cinderella! (1969)

It’s entirely possible that my love for Muppet movies influences my positive feelings towards Hey, Cinderella!, but even years after first watching this version as a little girl, I think it offers something totally unique from every other retelling. While the plot differs from the first in the way Cinderella and Prince Charming meet, it still delivers on the original point of the story: to offer viewers a depiction of a down-to-earth, lovely, generous young woman whose altruism is her power.

Creatively, it stands on its own with its use of puppets – a big undertaking for any film. It also adds a healthy dose of comedy and silliness, an addition that, while not necessary, is welcome. The costumes are colorful, funky, and amusing, and while not as elegant or polished as the original telling, this version proves itself to be completely one-of-a-kind – though it’s definitely not for everyone, and is probably best suited for children.

4. A Cinderella Story (2004)

Standing out as one of the few retellings set in modern day, A Cinderella Story is certainly in its own category in that respect. While the plot varies quite a bit from the first animated version, and takes on more of a lighthearted, teen rom-com feel with a splash of drama, we can reward this version with props for maintaining the basic notion that what makes Sam, our “Cinderella” protagonist, worth emulating is her work ethic, selflessness, and integrity, in stark contrast to her vapid and spoiled stepmother and stepsisters.

Of course, being set in modern day, the styling or costumes aren’t particularly groundbreaking or breathtaking – even Sam’s big fairytale dress isn’t that incredible – and the same can be said of the soundtrack. Despite that, Hillary Duff delivers as our Cinderella, Chad Michael Murray is solid as our Prince Charming, and Jennifer Coolidge sparkles as the evil stepmother (honestly, can she ever do wrong?). While not artistically outstanding, this version is perfect if we’re looking for a fun teen movie to pass the time.

3. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997)

After 30 years had passed, it was only a matter of time before an updated depiction of Cinderella hit theatres. But this time, it featured a racially diverse cast, with Brandy starring as Cinderella and Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother, making this version one a much wider audience could relate to. Plot wise, it didn’t disappoint, with the beauty and inner strength of Cinderella still being placed center stage.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of this version? The mighty vocals, of course. Whitney’s and Brandy’s incredibly gorgeous, dynamic, and powerful voices soar over Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic accompaniment, giving our protagonists a new sense of tenacity. The unapologetically ‘90s costumes and styling, though different, don’t leave viewers feeling jipped – they’re undoubtedly magical, whimsical, and exquisite. Overall, this must-see version is one of the very best.

2. Disney’s Cinderella (1950)

Many have tried, but very few have succeeded in coming anywhere close to Disney’s original telling of Cinderella. Despite receiving heaps of criticism in the last decade, usually targeting Cinderella’s “passivity and meekness,” there’s a reason this version is still alive and well today – its straightforward plot painted viewers a clear picture of the difference between selflessness and selfishness, depicting kindness and gentleness as attractive and worthwhile qualities to possess.

Along with that, the gorgeous, classic soundtrack can’t be beat. Its wondrous and dreamy vocals and accompaniment will never stop being beautiful. The “costumes,” or animation, perfectly captures the simple yet sparkling beauty of Cinderella – didn’t we all long for her beautiful dress?

1. Ever After (1998)

Set in Renaissance-era France, Ever After offers us an entirely unique perspective on the story of Cinderella. Incorporating historical themes and figures such as Leonardo da Vinci undeniably lends this film a distinguished, sophisticated, and classical feel. Despite deviating from the 1950s version of Cinderella in order to add tension, humanity, and drama, the general story isn’t lost or sacrificed – beauty and virtue still prove to be important elements of the story.

Ever After’s aesthetic and costuming are probably the most lovely, classy, and stunning of all the Cinderella films – to the point where we feel like we’re watching one of da Vinci’s paintings come to life. And with a star like Drew Barrymore as our Cinderella, what more could we really ask for? This version is most definitely a cut above.

Closing Thoughts

The tale of Cinderella is undoubtedly one that’s stuck with us for generations, and at this rate, isn’t likely to stop anytime soon. Even with the countless retellings we already have, there’s sure to be yet another hit one of these days.

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