My Top 5 Versions of Cinderella

I had so much fun looking at my favorite versions of Beauty and the Beast a few months ago, I thought I would do the same with another favorite fairy tale, Cinderella.  This one was way harder, because I have read and seen so many more versions of this tale, and some of them rank among my favorite fairy tale retellings of all time.  I managed to narrow it down to five…plus a few honorable mentions.

Cinderella (2015)

Related imageThis Disney live-action version by Kenneth Branagh, building off the classic animated version, was a pleasant surprise for me when I saw it at the drive-in theater.  First of all, it is visually gorgeous in its costumes, sets, and cinematography.  The actors are uniformly engaging; Cate Blanchett in particular is a treat as the Evil Stepmother.

It also has the most wonderful soundtrack, centered around a charming version of the folk song “Lavender’s Blue.”  I even used the soundtrack as writing music during NaNoWriMo.

But the best thing about it is the way it improves on the original Disney movie.  The original Cinderella is one of those pretty princesses without much agency, and the plot relies heavily on insta-love.  This version condenses the themes of Cinderella stories nicely with its mantra of “Have courage and be kind.”  It’s the kind of moral I would be happy to see a daughter of mine glean from a fairy tale.  We also see a much more developed relationship between Cinderella and the Prince.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Related imageI read this story for the first time about a year ago and fell in love with the creativity of this retelling.  First, it’s a sci-fi take on the story (Cinder is a cyborg), and it actually has some pretty cool biological concepts in it.  It also has a lot in common with Sailor Moon.

The romance is slow and sweet; how can you not love Prince Kai?  I also liked that there is not really one specific Fairy Godmother in this story; Cinder makes it to the ball with her own willpower (and a little help from darling Iko the android).

Cinder is only the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series, and as such it does not have a happy ending.  Instead, it spins nicely into the other stories without being saccharine.  I also really liked how the series goes on to feature other great female characters from fairy tales, ending in an awesome team-up.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997)

Cinderella (1997 film) - WikipediaMy family had recorded this on VHS when it was on TV in 1997, and I can’t remember how many times we watched it as kids.  Brandy plus Whitney Houston is just a magical 90s combination.

This version, like the previous two mentioned above, also uses the idea of the Prince and Cinderella meeting once prior to the ball, which I always thought made more sense.

The songs may not be on par with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best, but they do the job, and the cast really breathes life into them.  My personal favorite is “Ten Minutes Ago,” sung by Cinderella and the Prince at the ball.  The dancing scenes are also fun, and the actors play up the comedy throughout nicely.

Speaking of the cast, I love the racial diversity here.  We have black, white, and Asian characters, sometimes all in the same family.  Of course, the story does not address this fact in any way, but visually it’s nice to see that representation.

Ever After

Image result for ever after

Before Disney’s big screen, live action version a few years ago, the Cinderella movie crown was unquestionably held by Ever After, which is apparently appropriately subtitled “A Cinderella Story.”  This version grounds itself in real life by taking place in Renaissance France, with a framing story about the Grimm Brothers collecting European fairy tales.

Our main character Danielle has dreams, but she also has nerve and ambition.  She is one of the boldest Cinderellas I can think of, pretending to be a courtier as well as standing up to gypsies.  She is also very well-read thanks to her father, being able to quote Utopia.  I think my favorite part of this version is that Leonardo da Vinci serves the role of fairy godmother in helping Danielle get to the ball.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Image result for ella enchantedFor me, this is the book that started my entire love of fairy tale retellings.  I still re-read it, even now, most often going back to my favorite part: the letters that Char and Ella write to each other while he is away in Ayortha.

In this version, Ella is not obedient of her own accord; no, she has been cursed to be obedient (the fairy who bestowed this trait called it a gift!).  Ella must do anything that anyone commands her to do.  This, of course, nearly ruins her life, and the lives of her friends, so she sets out to break her curse and is able to overcome it in the end.  The story actually has a lot to say about autonomy and free will, which is pretty deep stuff for a children’s book; I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so beloved.

Even as it adds to the original tale, it stays close to its origins, using devices like Ella’s fairy godmother, the glass slippers, pumpkin carriage, and three nights of balls.  Plus, this book has everything you could want from a children’s fairy tale: magic curses, fantasy creatures like fairies, elves, ogres, and centaurs, made-up languages, and an adorable main couple.

There is also a movie version of Ella Enchanted, starring Anne Hathaway, that is delightful, but aside from the basic premise does not have that much in common with the novel.

I couldn’t let it go with just five this time, so here are some Honorable Mentions:

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Image result for princess of glassThis story is the sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball, itself a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”  The main character is Princess Poppy of Westfalin, who is just awesome, with so much humor and spunk.  But she is not really the Cinderella character; though Poppy does stand in for her once, the real Cinderella, Eleanora, is a side character and the Cinderella story is really more of a side plot.  I liked that it is a bit darker; for example, the fairy godmother is not good, and the molten glass is poured on the girls’ feet to make the slippers.

Another Cinderella Story

I will be honest: this is objectively not a great movie.  But I just love it anyways!  I guess I am just a sucker for dance movies.  Selena Gomez stars as an aspiring dancer who falls for a famous teen pop star after they dance together incognito.  The dance numbers are awesome, and the songs are stupidly catchy.  And how can you not love Jane Lynch?  She is hilarious as a has-been pop star in the evil stepmother role.  I like it way better than the first movie in the series with Hilary Duff, and the two movies after it get progressively worse.

Cinderella (Prokofiev)

Did you know there is a ballet version of Cinderella?  I danced in it when I was younger, as a “court lady,” aka part of the corps de ballet.  (My costume was a long maroon dress…maroon is a terrible color for redheads.)  The score by Prokofiev is very nice, though not as memorable as, say, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.  There are several versions of choreography (I don’t know which my company did), but the story is very classic.

What is your favorite version of Cinderella?  One of these, or a similar story from another culture?

21 thoughts on “My Top 5 Versions of Cinderella

  1. PurplePumpernickel October 19, 2017 / 12:39 pm

    So glad you decided to compile The Best of Cinderella: such a nice time revisiting old favourites & finding out about new ones!

    I read Cinder, but never read the rest of the Lunar Chronicles. I have just borrowed Cinder from the eLibrary and will set to reading the lot.

    I love Ever After & have watched it soooooo many times. Drew Barrymore is one of my all-time favourites!

    Ella Enchanted is a favourite as well. I love everything Gail Carson Levine has written, so there you have it!

    Another Cinderella favourite of mine is Gregory Maguire’s “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister”. Have you read it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei October 20, 2017 / 9:40 pm

      Glad to hear these are some of your favorites, too! I hope you enjoy the rest of the Lunar Chronicles.

      I have not read Maguire’s book. Is it from the stepsister’s perspective? I love stories like that! Always nice to see the “villains” get more depth to their stories.

      Liked by 1 person

      • PurplePumpernickel October 21, 2017 / 4:37 am

        It is from the Stepsister’s perspective, except she is not quite the villain here. A bit like Wicked, you know. One gets a better appreciation of how hard it must have been to be the outsider.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. kwenzqoatl October 19, 2017 / 1:02 pm

    Was not even aware of these versions. Well except for the recent Disney Live Action. Like there is no escaping Disney marketing right? Lol Anywho I’ll try to check these out sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei October 20, 2017 / 9:38 pm

      Yes, I think most of the world is aware of that version haha. I was even playing mobile games based on it.
      Did you have a favorite growing up, or now?


  3. saraletourneau October 19, 2017 / 3:41 pm

    EVER AFTER. 😀 That’s one of my favorite movies of all time! And Danielle is probably my favorite version character-wise of Cinderella. She’s intelligent, treats everyone fairly regardless of their station, and isn’t afraid of standing up for herself. And now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I included her on a post about favorite movie characters a year or two ago…

    Still have to read Cinder. It’s making its way up my TBR pile, slowly but surely.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mei-Mei October 20, 2017 / 9:36 pm

      I watch it every time it’s on TV haha. Danielle is a wonderful Cinderella! There is so much to admire about her.

      Liked by 1 person

    • authorsinspirations October 22, 2017 / 4:32 am

      I loved Ever After too! and Cinder, It was a unique story, even if it’s also a version of Cinderella.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mei-Mei October 22, 2017 / 11:33 pm

        Yeah, Cinder is great in that it kind of uses the Cinderella story as a starting point, and then works in some great original ideas and other fairy tales (and some Sailor Moon) from there.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei October 20, 2017 / 9:34 pm

      That certainly seems to be the favorite around here! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. E.E. Rawls October 20, 2017 / 10:29 pm

    Ever After is my favorite film version, it takes a nice twist to the classic Cinderella tale, and Cinder has to be my favorite book version for the unique world and a Cinderella who is cyborg.


  5. NovEllaandBanannabelle October 22, 2017 / 5:25 pm

    I love so many of these Cinderella versions! Thanks for sharing your favorites 🙂 . It’s great to see what you recommend from ones I haven’t seen yet, too.

    That is so cool you actually danced in the ballet!!

    I don’t think I can narrow down my favorites… but the new live-action by Disney is definitely near the top of the list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei October 22, 2017 / 11:31 pm

      I didn’t have high expectations for the live-action one, so I was so pleasantly surprised with how it improved on the original. It was on TV recently and I watched it a bunch 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. starwarsanon October 26, 2017 / 10:19 pm

    OMG EVER AFTER IS SO GOOOOOOD. I own that movie and it’s sooooo goood. I have to say that over and over again because it’s sooooo gooood.

    Other than that – I was “enchanted” by the 2015 version! I liked it WAY better than I thought I would. Like you, it’s a movie I would love my daughter to watch. The message of “Have courage and be kind” really stuck with me, even way after the movie. I think I should watch it again actually.

    I also loved Ella Enchanted and read it so much during middle school.

    What’s funny about this is what Cinderella was one of my least favorite Disney animated movies, along with Sleeping Beauty. I found the girls unrelatable in them…but the retellings seem to have stuck with me.

    I’ve never heard of Princess of Glass so I’m putting that on my Goodreads list right now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei October 29, 2017 / 5:50 pm

      I agree that the Disney animated version is one of my least favorite Disney movies, but somehow the retellings are my favorites! It is pretty funny 🙂

      Hope you enjoy PoG–I like that whole series a lot.


  7. aliciagaile January 3, 2018 / 8:56 am

    This is a great list! Have you read or seen Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister? It was an interesting spin on the story and the TV movie was well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei January 4, 2018 / 4:55 pm

      I have heard of it but not read/seen it. I didn’t know there was a screen version of it either. I’ll have to check it out!

      Liked by 1 person

      • aliciagaile January 4, 2018 / 5:22 pm

        The actress who played Rizzo in Grease played the stepmother I believe.

        Liked by 1 person

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