Cinderella is one of, if not the, most popular fairy tales to adapt on screen. Because of its simple story structure, filmmakers have a lot of creative freedom when it comes to telling the classic tale anew, which is how we’ve ended up with so many iterations over the years. From musical versions to modern retellings to the most recent “girlboss” take on Cinderella, we’ve seen what feels like every possibly perspective at this point. That doesn’t mean filmmakers will stop creating new versions, of course⏤it just means that audiences may soon grow bored and critics more critical.
Still, some Cinderella stories were major parts of our childhoods and therefore hold much nostalgic value. There’s much to love about each unique snapshot of the housemaid-turned-princess, so without further ado, here is a ranking of the best Cinderella movies!
10. A Cinderella Story: A Christmas Wish (2019)
Unfortunately for A Christmas Wish, most of the film felt like it was trying to ride the coat tails of the previous Cinderella Story movies. It was really just another Once Upon a Song, but set during Christmas, so it felt like it had little to no originality. Not only that, but the main character, Kat, wants to be a singer-songwriter, and the actress who plays her, Laura Marano⏤while a talented actress and singer⏤simply doesn’t have a strong enough voice to believably achieve that kind of dream.
Again, it’s not a bad movie, but the plot has been done before, this time with a Christmas spin. It feels like a lazy version of the story, and because of that, A Christmas Wish is last on the list.
9. Amazon’s Cinderella (2021)
There’s been a lot of criticism surrounding this new Cinderella movie, but it wasn’t all bad. The problem was that filmmakers tried so hard to make it about feminism that they didn’t take the time to flesh out any of the other characters. Aside from Ella and her stepmother, none of the other characters had much depth. Even the prince, who just wanted to galavant around and hunt foxes while drunk, was ready to settle down the second he laid eyes on Ella. We’re all for the love-at-first-sight trope, but only when it makes sense with the rest of the story.
Because so much time was spent on Ella’s motivations, seeing Prince Robert completely shift his goals for no reason felt unwarranted. It would’ve made more sense to focus on his development rather than Idina Menzel’s stepmother, even though her song was one of the best in the movie. Menzel was a scene-stealer in the film, and perhaps it’s because she was a more interesting character than the leads. Even Fab G, played by the fabulous Billy Porter, seemed to outshine Ella’s better half. The character development across the board was simply lacking and because of that, it ranks lower on the list.
8. Into The Woods (2014)
While Into The Woods isn’t entirely a Cinderella movie, it does still tell her story, and an interesting version at that. Based on Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical of the same name, Into The Woods does a good job of showing just how crazy love at first sight is. Cinderella is not only confused about her feelings, but feels so lost that she confides in a stranger about it. That stranger just so happens to be the Baker’s Wife, who tells her to go for it and marry the prince⏤because he’s a prince! Still, Cinderella is unsure.
Amazon’s Cinderella also saw Camilla Cabello’s Ella turn down her prince initially; however, in Into The Woods, Cinderella does eventually marry him, only to realize that she’s unhappy after they have nothing in common. She realizes that her true wish was to escape her step-family, and the prince allowed her to do that. It’s a fresh take on the story and flips the idea of “Happily Ever After” on its head, which is a refreshing perspective to watch.
7. Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997)
Disney’s Cinderella, produced by the one and only Whitney Houston, is a nostalgic classic for many. Starring Brandy, Whoopi Goldberg, and the incredible Houston herself, this is another movie based on a Broadway musical. There are many things to love about it, from the incredible cast to its celebration of diversity to the beautiful music compliments of Rodgers and Hammerstein; however, the songs are so overdone at this point that over time the film has become harder to enjoy.
Even with Whitney’s impeccable performance of “Impossible,” it’s not enough to rank this version of Cinderella higher. It’s not a bad movie per se, it’s just been done too much in both film and stage versions. Brandy was stunning and so was the rest of the cast, but the film falls a bit flat when compared to a lot of the newer versions of Cinderella.
6. A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song (2011)
One of the hidden gems in the Cinderella Story franchise is Once Upon A Song. Starring Lucy Hale and Freddie Stroma as the Cinderella and Prince Charming equivalents, it was the Cinderella musical we’d been waiting for. This movie was entirely about Katie (Hale) and her dreams of becoming a singer. It has all of the original elements of Cinderella: a masked ball, a wicked step-family, and a best friend/fairy godmother, but with a fresh musical spin.
It also adds in new plot points, like Katie slipping a demo into a music producer’s bag only to have her stepmother lie and say that it’s her tone-deaf stepsister singing instead. The finale of the movie comes when Katie has to stand backstage and sing for her sister secretly, only for her prince to see and send the curtain tumbling down, revealing that it’s been Katie’s voice all along. The songs are memorable, the acting is solid, and the plot is fun to follow!
5. Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)
Ever After is the feminist retelling that Amazon’s Cinderella tried to be. The movie presents an interesting take on the classic tale by treating this Cinderella’s story as historical fiction rather than a fairy tale, with the Grand Dame retelling the “true” story of Cinderella. The way the story is told⏤using actual historical figures⏤is something we haven’t seen before, and with Drew Barrymore at the forefront, it’s hard not to love. Both Leonardo Da Vinci and one of his paintings, Head of a Woman, are incorporated into the film, and the painting is said to be of Drew Barrymore’s character, Danielle.
Of course, we can’t ignore Anjelica Houston’s amazing performance as the wicked stepmother because she is one of the most evil we have ever seen in a film adaptation. One of the many things that make this movie great compared to others is how it’s continuously classified as not being about “happily ever after” but rather the ability to live, as stated by the Grand Dame at the film’s end.
4. Another Cinderella Story (2008)
One of the most well-known Cinderella Story movies is Another Cinderella Story starring Selena Gomez and Drew Seeley as Mary Santiago and Joey Parker, respectively. A direct sequel to A Cinderella Story, this movie follows an aspiring dancer, Mary, as she struggles in a house with her evil stepmother (Jane Lynch) and stepsisters. When teen heartthrob Parker returns to her school with the opportunity for a dance scholarship, Mary is immediately intrigued.
Like most contemporary Cinderella stories, the two meet at a school dance and share a passionate tango, but at midnight Mary must leave and drops her Zune, which Joey finds. Instead of the traditional slipper having to fit, the girl of Joey’s dreams must know the Zune’s top three most-played songs. Eventually the two find each other, but the height of the movie is the ending when Mary thinks Joey has cheated on her. They have a dance-off and then sing a duet, which is still an iconic song to this day. If we can only recommend one movie on this list, this is it!
3. Disney’s Cinderella (2015)
Choosing Cinderella as Disney’s first live-action film was a feat no one was sure Disney could pull off, but the company really stepped up its game. In fact, few other Disney live-actions have lived up to this one. With Lily James and Richard Madden leading the cast, this movie was more electric than ever. The stars’ chemistry and innocence was beyond believable and it was sweet to watch their romance blossom into something bigger, even if the real stars of this film were the costumes.
Of course, James was stunning while singing and dancing alone, and even her rags were beautifully designed. Her blue ball gown is one of the most gorgeous dresses in film history, and the transformation sequence with the butterflies is unforgettable. Her stunning white wedding dress with its colorful flourishes is gorgeous as well. The movie and costumes are all 10/10, and that’s why the top three Cinderella movies are so hard to rank.
2. A Cinderella Story (2004)
The original Cinderella Story starred Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray at the height of their careers. Getting to see Murray as a football player in touch with his feelings was every girl’s dream come true, and we really have to hand it to Hilary, who helped create a franchise with this modernized version of Cinderella. Was it cheesy? Absolutely, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.
Sam (Duff) and Austin (Murray) meet in a chat room for students who hope to attend Princeton. They then meet at the school masquerade dance, only Sam never reveals her identity. After many trials and tribulations, the two finally find each other, but at the end, before Austin chooses Sam over football, Sam has an epic monologue that ends with, “Waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought: useless and disappointing.” She walks off, feeling strong enough to go watch the game only to break down when she sees Austin playing. Before she can leave, though, he runs off the field and kisses her just as a rain drop falls on their faces, ending the drought in California. It doesn’t get more magical than that.
1. Ella Enchanted (2004)
Another early 2000’s masterpiece is Ella Enchanted, which starred Anne Hathaway as an unconventional Ella. As a baby, Ella was cursed with the inability to say no. She had to listen to everything anyone said, which was something we’d never seen in a Cinderella movie before. Rather than getting to the ball and getting the guy, the basis for this movie was for Ella to break her curse so she could live a normal life.
Of course, along the way she met Char, the prince of the kingdom, and they did fall in love, but it was a subplot to her solving the mystery of her curse. As everyone who has seen the movie knows, the best parts are the musical numbers. The characters perform a superior version of “Somebody to Love” that even Queen would be proud of and then sing “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” at the end when Char and Ella get married. There’s so much jam-packed into this movie that it is definitely the best Cinderella movie out there⏤and you’ll just have to watch it for yourself if that’s not enough to convince you.
There’s been a ton of Cinderella remakes since the original fairy tale, and with the Cinderella Story franchise, it doesn’t seem like filmmakers will be stopping anytime soon. Hopefully we can get more creative with plots and release fresh ideas, though, before Cinderella becomes as stale as the soot she’s so typically covered in.