With The Huntsman: Winter’s War currently in theaters, the classic tale of Snow White is getting deconstructed yet again, and in that most modern of ways—a prequel. While the critics haven’t been particularly kind to Winter’s War (17 percent on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing), we can’t deny that we love the combination of adventure, romance, and sometimes even scares that a good fairy tale brings us. So, if Winter’s War isn't your cup of tea, here are several other postmodern fairy tales to keep you and yours entertained—without having to pay for tickets.
1) Ladyhawke (1985)
For spurning the affections of a powerful bishop, the beautiful Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her true love Etienne were afflicted with a terrible curse. By day, Etienne (Rutger Hauer) is human and Isabeau is trapped in the form of a hawk; by night, she regains her form but he is transformed into a wolf. Even though they are physically always together, they are never together both in their human form. When a young thief named Mouse (Matthew Broderick) crosses paths with Etienne, he learns their tragic tale and tags along on an adventure as they strive to break the curse, gain their revenge, and finally reunite the two lovers as they once were. Ladyhawke is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Instant Video. (Fun fact: Kurt Russell was originally slated to play Etienne for director Richard Donner but pulled out during rehearsals.)
2) The Princess Bride (1987)
Swordfights, pirates, revenge, battles of wits, rodents of unusual size, and True Love: Director Rob Reiner and writer William Goldman’s adaptation of Goldman’s own novel (well, the “good parts,” anyway) truly has it all. Rarely has a princess been more lovely than Robin Wright’s Buttercup, nor a hero more dashing and mysterious than Cary Elwes’ Man in Black. The Princess Bride still holds up beautifully after all these years: The swashbuckling still thrills, the wit still delights, the dialogue begs quotation, and the cast is perfection itself. If we watch it a thousand times, we’ll never get tired of the swordfight atop the Cliffs of Insanity, or Inigo Montoya’s confrontation with the six-fingered man, or Wesley’s chilling “to the pain” speech. And how many movies can boast of including the greatest kiss since the invention of kissing? The Princess Bride is currently available on Netflix Instant.
3) Hook (1991)
The late Robin Williams has plenty of roles for which he was more celebrated, but there was just something magical about seeing him play a grown-up version of Peter Pan. I mean, who else could, right? In Steven Spielberg’s Hook, Williams is Peter Banning, a boring middle-aged lawyer who spends too much time focused on his career and not enough on his family. But after Peter's son and daughter vanish in the night, he's dragged away to Neverland and forced to confront a truth he’d forgotten: that he is actually Peter Pan, who, years ago, committed the ultimate Neverland sin and grew up. With his children in peril from his old enemy, Captain Hook, Peter must accept the mantle he abandoned so long ago, as well as own up to his failings as a father. Critics savaged Hook like a pack of privateers, but it’s a lot of fun if your inner child isn’t locked in a basement, and it’s worth it just for Williams’s joyous performance as Pan and Dustin Hoffman’s twitchy, paranoid, aged Hook. The flick is currently available streaming on Amazon Prime.
4) Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a prequel to the 2012 action/adventure flick Snow White and the Huntsman, which offered a dark retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s classic fairy tale. But at its very darkest, it wasn’t even a fraction as dark as this Showtime original movie, which starred Monica Keena as the fairest of them all, and which earned Sigourney Weaver an Emmy nomination for her performance as Snow White’s evil stepmother. And part of that is because the film actually kind of makes you root for Lady Claudia (Weaver) at first, serving up a Snow White (Monica Keena) who is a rude, spoiled, petulant child, rebuffing Claudia’s sincere attempts to bond with her new stepdaughter. By the time a grieving and emotionally traumatized Claudia goes full “evil queen,” you can’t blame her. But when she goes bad, oh boy does she go bad, earning the movie’s subtitle and delivering a compelling—and yes, even frightening—version of an often one-note villain. Snow White: A Tale of Terror is available for purchase or rent on Amazon Instant Video.
5) Stardust (2007)
A perfect double-feature pairing with The Princess Bride, this underrated fantasy adventure is based on Neil Gaiman’s 1999 novel of the same name. In it, a young man named Tristan (Daredevil’s Charlie Cox) vows to retrieve a falling star for the lovely but disinterested Victoria (Sienna Miller), and sets out on a quest across a magical land to find it. Once he does, however, he discovers that the fallen star has taken the form of a beautiful and strong-willed girl named Yvaine. Tristan is determined to fulfill his promise, chaining Yvaine to himself so he can drag her back to his village and win Victoria’s heart. Unfortunately, Yvaine is not thrilled with this plan, and to make matters worse, Tristan wasn’t the only one in search of the fallen star. Both a trio of witches and a quartet of princes are after her as well, for very different reasons… and none of them are overly inclined to share. Stardust is full of high adventure, derring-do, duplicitous princes, flirtatious banter, flying pirate ships, and (naturally) True Love. It’s currently available streaming on Netflix Instant.