The Cinderella-Thon: Ultimate Ranking Of The Cinderella Movies

Rachel Elphick

In honour of the new Cinderella movie which has just come out on Amazon Prime, Rachel spent Freshers’ week not going to Freshers’ things and instead sitting down to watch various versions of the classic tale with friends. (Using all their logins for the various streaming services which she is not subscribed to – of course). It’s certainly been a week interestingly spent, and these are her rankings, in no particular order.

Kenneth Branagh-rella (Cinderella, 2015, on Disney+)


attempt to cram more Disney into your Disney

This is one from the early days of Disney live-action remakes, and in my honest opinion, one of the better attempts. The changes to the plot are pretty formulaic; sprinkle a healthy dose of Helena Bonham Exposition throughout, tack a fleshed-out backstory onto the front of the movie which adds what feels like an hour of extra runtime, take away the vast majority of the singing and attempt to recreate some of the iconic cartoon moments with CGI animals that somehow still look like puppets.

This movie is what happens when you take your classic Disney and attempt to cram more Disney into your Disney, whilst also battling the limitations of live-action. The world is bright and delightfully costumed, (no really, I could write forever on how this film looks) and the binary between vice and virtue is made explicitly clear.

Baby Lily James clings innocently and desperately to her mantra of ‘have courage, and be kind’. As do the rest of her allies, if I’m honest, as the words seem to find their way so often into everyone’s dialogue to the point that (my friends and I can confirm) it makes an excellent drinking game. This film is so sweetly good and virtuous that the dialogue does begin to grate a little by the midpoint. But it is an adaptation that revels in its magic – it sweeps you up in its idyllic vision of the world and leaves you at peace with a victory of absolute virtue over wickedness.

7/10, with a bonus +1 for Cate Blanchett in all those GORGEOUS dresses.

America-rella (A Cinderella Story, 2004, on Netflix)

In 2004, someone decided it would be a good idea to slam-dunk a Cinderella plot into an American high school, and thus this movie donned its Zorro mask and leapt into action off of a balcony at a Halloween costume party.

All-American Cinders is actually called Sam, a teenager balancing an impossible schedule of diner work, straight-As in her studies, and dealing with the demands of her frightful step-family. There is a touch of ‘I’m not like other girls’ to her, but it was 2005, and Hilary Duff pulls it off well.

drove me from the room because I couldn’t bear the cringe

The traditional serving-girl turned princess tale is also spiced up with a serving of classic LA high school tropes, from the hot football jocks and catty cheerleaders to the nerd that not even the nerds will speak to (played by the same guy who was Howard from The Big Bang Theory – that man is dreadfully typecast). As with a lot of American high school movies, there is a lot of cringey “comedy” throughout – the dialogue swings wildly from absolute genius to absolutely diabolical, and this was the one movie of this Cinders selection that drove me from the room because I couldn’t bear the cringe.

Sam’s best friend, Carter, is the main culprit for said cringey behaviour throughout, though he is redeemed by the Zorro Incident and no more shall be said about that. The romances in this film, though, are almost exclusively lovely – there is not an endgame couple in this film that doesn’t land on the a-dork-able side of cringe, although I just cannot understand the Prince’s inability to recognise the girl he likes without curly hair and a tiny white mask.

5/10. I’m sorry, I’m allergic to cringe.

Cartoon-erella (Cinderella, 1950, on Disney+)

I had forgotten the extent to which sections of this movie were ingrained in my psyche. From the magical chorus music throughout, to the fact that there are more animal characters with dialogue than humans in this film, this is old-school Disney, and my nostalgia-senses are tingling.

cinders herself is far sassier than I remember

As a 71-year-old movie (Dear God!) it holds up slightly better to modern standards than I expected it to, if you can get past the King referring to women almost exclusively as babymakers for the entirety of his screentime. Nevertheless, the irony that none of the human men in Cinderella would pass a hypothetical reverse Bechdel test is not lost on me (the King and the Duke talk only of the prince’s prospective wives, and the Prince himself has less than 10 lines overall and only talks to Cinderella).

Cinders herself is far sassier than I remember, and I liked that a lot – she isn’t so saintly sweet where her step-family are concerned, and isn’t above a groan or a sarcastic eye roll, which honestly did wonders to humanise her. This film is also about 45% mice, which I also enjoyed, since cartoons are my favourite medium for talking animals, and their shenanigans versus Lucifer the cat really did feel like a tale as old as time. I had a lovely afternoon rewatching this, but my boyfriend fell asleep on me after half an hour. I guess classic Disney isn’t for everyone.

9/10. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.

Cabello-rella (Cinderella, 2021, on Amazon Prime)

The newest child of the Cinderella remake family manages to keep enough of the original plotline to be able to call itself ‘Cinderella’- but only just. Glass slippers, tick. Billy Porter, fabulous godmother extraordinaire, tick. Talking mice, tick. That’s about it.

The stepmother becomes less blatantly antagonistic and more misunderstood, the Prince has himself a merry band of Sad Boys™ (only one of whom actually speaks), we spend a significant portion of the movie sitting through royal family squabbles, and I’m not sure if any of these elements are much of an improvement. Plus, of course, Cinders is now a business-minded lady with fashion designer dreams, which certainly placates my inner feminist, if nothing else.

more amused by the film’s visual theatrics than moved by its story

In truth, I was placated a fair amount by some of this film – from the message in Cinders rejecting her Prince the first time to choose herself and follow her dreams, to playing ‘spot the famous British comedian’ as the supporting cast presented themselves. (My housemate and I counted four, plus James Corden). However, a Be Your Own Boss Babe leading lady and a squadron of quite funny British men doth not a movie make, and I found myself more amused by the film’s visual theatrics than moved by its story, or the plight of its characters.

There is something to be said for the message that Cinders inspires her prince to prioritise himself and his happiness over the demands of his father and the crown, but if that was the intent, it feels somewhat strangled in the second half of the film by the choice to inject more expositional backstory into the more famous members of the supporting cast. That, and the decision to make the film into a jukebox musical with the decade selector set to ‘shuffle’, isn’t my favourite choice – I really didn’t need to hear Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ covered on a harpsichord, not now and not ever.

The original songs do blend well into the big-belt, high-energy, mildly cheesy repertoire; however I just cannot condone remixing Salt N’ Pepa with Seven Nation Army, and then following it up moments later with Ed Sheeran’s Perfect. That may have been the moment when I curled up unto a small ball of cringe and had to be patted comfortingly on the head by my housemate.

3/10, and only because I believe Doc Brown should provide all movie exposition through rap from this day onward.

Rachel Elphick

Featured Image courtesy of Norm Lanier via  Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article trailer 1 courtesy of Walt Disney Studios via @youtube.com. No changes were made to this video.

In-article trailer 2 courtesy of Movieclips Classic Trailers via @youtube.com. No changes were made to this video.

In-article trailer 3 courtesy of Movieclips Classic Trailers via @youtube.come. No changes were made to this video.

In-article trailer 4 courtesy of Amazon Prime Video via @youtube.com. No changes were made to this video.

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