Today sees the release of the romantic fairy tale adventure Stardust, based on the Neil Gaiman book about a young man who leaves the security of his village in search of a fallen star to bring back to his beloved [read the movie review]. In honor of this release, here’s a look at the Top 5 greatest romantic fairy tale movies.
5. Ever After (1998)
The Tale: Subtitled “A Cinderella Story,” this version of the classic fairy tale has no fairy godmother to grant wishes and guide the heroine. Drew Barrymore plays Danielle de Barbarac, who after her father dies, is left to a life of servitude at the hands of her cruel stepmother (Anjelica Houston) and two stepsisters. By chance, she meets Henry (Dougray Scott), the Prince of France, who believes Danielle to be a Countess. Danielle goes to the prince’s ball, where he is expected to pick a bride. It’s there that Henry finds out Danielle’s true status, which angers him. Danielle flees the ball, leaving behind one of her slippers. Her stepmother then sells her off to the wicked Monsieur Le Pieu (Richard O’Brien), while Henry agrees to marriage with the Princess of Spain which his parents have arranged for him, though it’s obvious that Danielle and the prince are still in love.
Romantic Moment: Being as this is a Cinderella story, there are a lot of romantic moments where the prince is being chivalrous (see next section). But in this tale, the heroine is independent, intelligent, and physically strong. After spending a day together, Danielle and Henry are besieged and outnumbered by gypsy bandits. Henry implores them to let Danielle go and the gypsies agree to let Danielle leave with anything she can carry out. That’s when Danielle surprisingly lifts up the prince on her back and carries him away.
Happily Ever After: Danielle escapes from Monsieur Le Pieu just as the prince arrives to rescue her. The prince asks Danielle for forgiveness and her hand in marriage as he presents to her the slipper she left behind at the ball. Danielle and the prince marry immediately. Danielle’s stepmother and one of the stepsisters are then stripped of their titles and made into servants at the royal palace as punishment for all their wrong-doings. The prince and his new princess live happily as after we find out at the end when the Grimm Brothers of fairy tale fame speak with the couple’s descendant.
4. Legend (1985)
The Tale: There once was a time when Tom Cruise actually made you swoon, and oh did he in the Ridley Scott-directed Legend. As Jack, a pure-of-heart dweller of the forest, he takes his beloved, the Princess Lili (Mia Sara), to see the last of the unicorns not realizing that the evil Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) has sent his goblin minions to kill the unicorns. The goblins capture the female unicorn along with Lili. The Lord of Darkness plans to take Lili as his bride and kill the mare, which would plunge the world into darkness. Jack, along with a group of faeries and elves, set out to rescue Lili and defeat the evil lord, thereby saving the world from eternal darkness.
Romantic Moment: Princess Lili takes a ring off her finger and asks Jack, “Don’t you wish this was our wedding ring?” Jack replies, “If I say yes, will my wish come true?” Lili tosses the ring and playfully says, “I will marry whoever finds this ring.” The ring bounces and falls over a cliff into the water below. Jack immediately jumps up and dives over the cliff and into the water in an attempt to retrieve the ring.
Happily Ever After: Jack defeats the Lord of Darkness and saves Lili. He places the ring on Lili’s finger and kisses her, which breaks the spell the dark lord has over her. They tell each other “I love you.” Lily gives Jack the ring and tells him to keep it and that he’s her prince. Jack tells Lili he’ll always be there for her. Lily plans to return to the forest and to Jack the next day, then the two frolick with the unicorns. All is right again with the world.
3. Ladyhawke (1985)
The Tale: Playing against type is Rutger Hauer as the knight Navarre and Michelle Pfeiffer as Isabeau, his young, beautiful lady love. In this Richard Donner-directed film, the lovers are being kept apart by an evil spell cast by the Bishop of Aquila (John Wood), who is in love with Isabeau. The curse transforms Navarre into a wolf at nightfall and Isabeau into a hawk at sunrise, so they are “always together yet eternally apart,” as they can never touch in human form. Matthew Broderick plays a petty thief who ends up helping the couple defeat the Bishop and break the curse.
Romantic Moment: The love between Navarre and Isabeau is so obvious and strong. After Navarre in wolf form nearly dies after falling through an iced-over river, Isabeau lies asleep beside the ailing wolf. As sunrise approaches, the wolf transforms into the human Navarre while Isabeau transforms into a hawk. For a split second, the lovers see each other in human form and reach out to touch one another.
Happily Ever After: Thanks to an eclipse, Navarre and Isabeau are able to take human form at the same time. They appear before the Bishop, which breaks the curse. The Bishop, in rage and jealousy, cannot handle this, so he tries to stab Isabeau. Navarre throws his sword, killing the Bishop. Navarre and Isabeau embrace, say each other’s names, and kiss. The lovers can finally be united without obstacles.
2. Splash (1984)
The Tale: Ron Howard directed this modern-day fairy tale comedy set in New York City about a man named Allen (Tom Hanks) who meets and falls in love with a beautiful woman named Madison (Daryl Hannah). She tells him that her time with him is limited and that she must return to her home in six days, though where that is, Allen doesn’t know. The two are happy and in love, until a relentless scientist (Eugene Levy) exposes Madison’s true nature — she’s a mermaid. Then Allen and Madison are then taken into custody at a government testing facility, but with the help of Allen’s brother (John Candy) and the now-remorseful scientist, the couple escapes. Allen must then decide whether to go with Madison to her undersea world or stay behind without her.
Romantic Moment: In the beginning of the film, we see Allen as a child fall overboard a boat into Cape Cod. He nearly drowns, but then a young mermaid appears and enables him to breath underwater. Allen’s connection to the girl is so strong that he’s never able to forget about her and has constantly watched for her return. At the end of the film, the couple stands on the pier where the mermaid is about to return to her underwater home. It’s here that Madison reveals to Allen that she was the little mermaid who saved him in the water as a child and the couple realizes they were destined to be together.
Happily Ever After: Allen gets released from the testing facility, but Madison is still there awaiting dissection. Allen is depressed by what happened and the fact that the woman he loves is not human. But his brother makes him realize that the love he had with Madison is worth fighting for, so they go and rescue her. Pursued by the authorities, the couple flees to the water and Madison asks him to come live with her under the sea (he’ll be able to breath as long as he’s with her). But if he chooses to go with her, he can never return to the surface. The mermaid then jumps into the water alone and soon after Allen chooses to go with her, and they swim off to live together underwater.
1. The Princess Bride (1987)
The Tale: Undisputedly one of the greatest movies every made, this Rob Reiner-directed fairy tale adventure is the medieval true-love story of Buttercup (Robin Wright), a farm girl in the country of Florin, and her farm hand Westley (Cary Elwes). At first, Buttercup does nothing but give Westley orders, to which he soley replies, “As you wish.” They fall in love and Westley leaves the farm to seek his fortune so that they can marry. Buttercup eventually receives word that Westley is assumed dead — killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts — and vows never to love again. Five years later, Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) forces Buttercup into an engagement with him, then has her kidnapped as part of his plot to wage war with the neighboring country Guilder. A masked Dread Pirate Roberts arrives to rescue Buttercup and we later find out that it’s really Westley, who’s assumed the pirate’s identity. The prince finds the couple, tortures Westley, and plans to kill Buttercup on their wedding night. The kidnappers — Fezzik (André the Giant) and Inigo (Mandy Patinkin) — return to rescue Westley, then they all set out to rescue Buttercup.
Romantic Moment: When Dread Pirate Roberts rescues Buttercup, she wishes death upon him for killing her love Westley and tells him the day Westley died, she died that day too. When the pirate turns to see the Prince’s troops in the distance, Buttercup tells him he can die too for all she cares and pushes him down a steep hill. As he’s tumbling down, the pirate shouts “As you wish!” Realizing the pirate is really Westley, Buttercup throws herself down the hill, too. Laying at the bottom of the hill, the long-lost lovers embrace and Buttercup explains that because she thought he was dead, she assumed he would not be returning to her. “Death cannot stop true love,” he tells her, “all it can do is delay it for a while.” Buttercup promises to never doubt again and Westley replies that there will never be a need and the lovers kiss passionately.
Happily Ever After: While Buttercup is forced to marry the Prince, Westley, Fezzik, and Inigo storm the castle to rescue Buttercup. Inigo duels the six-fingered man (Christopher Guest) who killed his father and finally gets his revenge. Buttercup, thinking that Westley didn’t come for her, goes to her room to commit suicide, but Westley is there waiting for her. He says that she didn’t say “I do” at the wedding, therefore the marriage never happened. The Prince shows up and Westley uses his wits to defeat him. Inigo arrives and instead of killing the Prince, they tie him up, leaving him to live a long life alone with his cowardice. Inigo, Westley, and Buttercup then jump from the balcony into the arms of the giant Fezzik, who has four white horses waiting for them below. The foursome ride off together to freedom. Knowing they are finally safe, Buttercup and Westley then share the most passionate and purest kiss of all time.