Modern Day Fairytales? (movies only)

Modern day = set in the 1900s-2000s

I’m looking for recommendations for fairytale movies to tide me over until Suckerpunch comes out next month. They can be overt, like Labyrinth, or subtle, like Running Scared, as long as there’s some sort of fairytale element to it. However, if they’re the dreamy sort, they also need to make sense, which the first two on my dislike list do a poor job of IMHO.

syfy’s Alice
Running Scared
Spirited Away
No Such Thing

Mirrormask (too incoherent)
Ink (too incoherent)
Tinman (mind-numbingly boring)
Howl’s Moving Castle (dunno, I just didn’t like it)

I didn’t know what to think:
Malice in Wonderland (haven’t gotten around to making myself watch the 2nd half)
Tideland (WTF?)

Any recommendations? Not necessarily ones you’d recommend to me specifically (though I hope some will be) but fairytales you think we should all see.

Pan’s Labyrinth should qualify. It’s an excellent movie, but with some pretty explicit violence; I don’t know if that would be a problem for you.


I liked both of these as well, though I’ve never been able to figure out when Stardust was supposed to be set.

oops - modern day - never mind

It’s set once upon a time.

I recommend:
NeverEnding Story
Spiderwick Chronicles
The Borrowers
Indian in the Cupboard

Do you really mean modern day fairy tale movies, or modern day fantasy movies? I ask because most of your examples aren’t based on fairy tales.

Sure they are. Running Scared is based on a few, Hansel and Gretel probably being the most prominent. No Such Thing is based on Beauty and The Beast. Alice and Malice in Wonderland are both based on Carrol’s work, Tinman on The Wizard Of Oz. The rest are original fairytales, with the normal fairy tale elements of good vs evil, magic, talking animals, quests, monsters, guardians and so on.

Enchanted must be a prime candidate.

A.I. is basically a fairy tale. More or less a reworking of Pinocchio. And it even features a “blue fairy” to drive the point home.

Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz aren’t fairy tales. They’re children’s fantasy novels. (Alice is arguably not even that, but that’s a bigger question than I’m willing to tackle now!) So is Howl’s Moving Castle (from your dislike list), although it’s much more recent. Spirited Away takes some elements from Japanese folklore but is not based on any particular traditional or literary tale.

These elements are common in fantasy and hardly limited to fairy tales.

I am making this distinction not to be pedantic, but so that people can help you find the type of movie that you want. There are movies based on either traditional fairy tales or original stories in the style of traditional fairy tales (Disney’s The Princess and the Frog is one not yet mentioned, it’s a loose adaptation of “The Frog Prince” set in the 1920s), but if you’re willing to accept non-fairy tale fantasies set in modern times then that opens the field up a bit more. I thought Coraline (based on Neil Gaiman’s YA novel) was a good fantasy/horror movie set in contemporary times, but I wouldn’t call it a fairy tale.

I dunno…magic…wicked witch…enchantments…seems an awful lot like a fairy tale to me. How would you distinguish between fairy tale and fantasy?

I don’t think the “Other Mother” in Coraline was a witch, except in very loose terms. In the movie she seemed to be some sort of spider-like monster or alien that could create an illusion that made her look like a human woman. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know if it’s more specific about her origin or true nature.

There are people who would answer that question differently than I would, but my quick answer is that a fairy tale is a short folktale that includes magical elements but (usually) has an ordinary human as the protagonist and (usually) ends happily, or a short literary work written in the style of a folkloric fairy tale.

Fantasy is a broader category that includes any modern (say 1800-present) work of fiction that features significant magical elements. I say “modern” to distinguish fantasy from myths and legends, although fantasy does arguably encompass any story that features magical elements. But I think it’s worth making the distinction between works created by a known author for purposes of art or entertainment and works that grew out of the oral tradition and held religious significance for, or were accepted as histories by, their original audience.

I am not looking to hijack this thread though, so I’d prefer not to get into a debate about this subject. I really just want the OP to specify whether s/he is looking for movies based on fairy tales or would accept any fantasy movie set in modern times. There are plenty of fantasies that aren’t fairy tales, and also plenty of movies based on fairy tales that don’t actually contain magical elements – think of all the romantic comedies that are basically “Cinderella”.

Since you listed Running Scared I think you might be interested in Oh Brother Where Art Thou?. Basically a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey set during the depression.

Personally I thought Pan’s Labyrinth was too long and had too much story involving that Nazi guy.

Loch Ness with Ted Danson.

Penelope with Christina Ricci and James McAvoy - very much a modern fairly tale, borrowing heavily from Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and others. I liked it quite a bit.

The City of Lost Children would probably fit the description since it is very modernistic and has fairy-tale elements. Unfortunately it’s a bit hard to tell what it’s really about, but it’s still pretty good.

Also, many of Tim Burton’s movies could be considered modern fairytales, but I would single out Edward Scissorhands and Big Fish as the best representatives.

The Water Horse is a really good one.

Ondine is the story of an Irish fisherman who finds a strange woman in one of his nets, who may or may not be a selkie - a kind of water fairy. I couldn’t really get into it the one time I tried to watch it, but that had more to do with my state of mind at the time than anything inherent in the movie. Its reviews were generally positive.