Total Recall: Big-Screen Fairy Tales

With Snow White and the Huntsman hitting theaters, we run down some memorable films based on folkloric fantasy.

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Fairy Tale Movies

Snow White and the Huntsman opens this weekend, following closely behind Mirror Mirror and marking the second trip to theaters for the Fairest of Them All in 2012. With plenty of other folkloric fantasy adaptations in our recent past (Red Riding Hood, Beastly) and plenty more on the horizon (including Jack the Giant Killer and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters), fairy tales are having something of a moment right now -- but as any film fan could tell you, and as this week's list demonstrates, this is nothing new in Hollywood. There are countless examples of filmmakers turning to fairy tales for inspiration, but we couldn't possibly fit all those once upon a times and happily ever afters into a single feature. Which of your favorites made the cut? Find out in the latest Total Recall!

Beauty and the Beast

93%

We could have filled this list with Disney pictures, but that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun -- and still, when the time came to pick a Beauty and the Beast for our feature, it was no contest. A huge, Best Picture-nominated hit during its original run -- and a big success all over again during its repeated reissues -- Disney's version of this timeless tale is the one that comes to mind for multiple generations when they think of Beauty and the Beast. And while it may have taken a few storyline liberties with the original text (and while the IMAX and 3D additions don't really improve the story), the most important part remains: As Jay Boyar wrote for the Orlando Sentinel, it "Moves us because we know that true love can sometimes seem like a mismatch. And also because, in love, we can all feel like captives or beasts."

The Brothers Grimm

38%

Their stories have inspired plenty of films, so it's only fitting that Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm got to topline their own movie in 2005 -- albeit one that starred Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as wildly fictionalized versions of the brothers. With a pair of matinee idols in the leads, Terry Gilliam behind the cameras, and an effects-heavy storyline that pitted the Grimms against a fairy tale curse and a wicked queen, The Brothers Grimm could have been a smash hit; unfortunately, its strife-plagued production only led to indifferent reviews and a mildly disappointing $105 million gross. Still, some critics thought Gilliam's flair was enough to transcend the film's flaws; as Bob Strauss of the Los Angeles Daily News argued, "You won't want to pass this version of The Brothers Grimm on to your children. But you may find yourself coming back to marvel at parts of it for the rest of your life."

Ever After: A Cinderella Story

91%

Starring an utterly winsome Drew Barrymore as the young woman who catches a prince's eye -- but has to overcome her stepmother's cruel mistreatment to find true love -- 1998's Ever After drew on historical details for its background while offering a postmodern twist to the Cinderella story, positioning its heroine as a woman capable of saving herself from peril (and her royal beau, if need be). Sure, the audience knew the whole story by heart, but with Andy Tennant's sumptuous direction, a supporting cast that included Anjelica Huston and Dougray Scott, and Barrymore in those glass slippers, they didn't mind watching it unfold one more time -- and neither did Roger Ebert, who proclaimed, "The old tale still has life and passion in it."

Freeway

76%

When she made her debut in 1991's The Man in the Moon, Reese Witherspoon looked like a luminous, innocent kid. Fast-forward five years later to Freeway, and goodness gracious, how things changed: A miniskirt-rocking Witherspoon starred opposite Kiefer Sutherland in this grimy, violent loose update on the story of Red Riding Hood, following a prostitute's daughter on her dangerous journey up southern California's I-5 freeway to find her grandmother. (Sutherland, naturally, was the leering serial killer standing in for the wolf.) While not a particularly pleasant film, Freeway earned its young star some career-boosting rave reviews, including Margaret A. McGurk's writeup for the Cincinnati Enquirer: "I didn't particularly want to like Freeway," admitted McGurk, "but I couldn't help myself. Reese Witherspoon made me."

Hans Christian Andersen

80%

It's named after the famous storyteller, but don't watch 1952's Hans Christian Andersen looking for a biopic; instead, producer Samuel Goldwyn opted to create a typically lavish musical extravaganza, starring Danny Kaye as Andersen in a sort of fairytale revue that includes nods to "The Little Mermaid," "Thumbelina," "The Ugly Duckling," and "The Emperor's New Clothes." As a result, it's sort of all over the place, but it has a certain gregarious charm that wasn't lost on audiences, the Academy (who nominated it for six Oscars), or critics; as Variety put it, "No attempt at biography is made, so the imaginative production has full rein in bringing in songs and ballet numbers to round out the Andersen fairy tales told by Kaye."

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