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Ranking Off-Brand Cinderella Films So You Don't Have To

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Well folks, I’ve lost it. It’s not even been half a semester and my Letterboxd account has gone off the rails. In part, I blame my friend for starting this when she invited me to her place to watch Another Cinderella Story starring Selena Gomez. But I keep watching one off-brand Cinderella story to the next, trying to find the best one, and it’s been an emotional journey. I have watched classic cinema to straight up cinematic garbage, and I’ve watched just enough to be able to torture the rest of you all with a ranking! 😊

I haven’t seen EVERY single off-brand Cinderella story, and some I will refuse to see probably forever. This is just a ranking of ones I HAVE seen. Also, this is an opinion piece, so if this doesn’t meet your opinion, well, that’s on you.

So, without further ado, let’s do this, ranking off-brand Cinderella films from worst to best. SPOILERS AHEAD in case you haven’t seen these at all.

9.) A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits (2016)

Sofia Carson stars as a docile stepdaughter who wants to be a pop star, but has a stepmother who would rather she stay in her services forever. The main character is passive, but she possesses an autotune voice like no other, which sweeps the male lead off of his feet. She has it all, but she’s also “not like any other girl”—she knows how to be a mechanic and sing and dance and is also pretty, but at the same time, no one ever notices her. Also, she’s a Hannah Montana wannabe. Think I’m kidding? I’m freaking serious.

I mean, just look at that wig!

Look at that and tell me the costume designer didn’t take inspiration from Miley Cyrus. The fact that not one person mentions that her disguise looks like she’s trying to impersonate the Disney character Hannah Montana is a disgrace to humanity and also super unrealistic.

Also, there’s a dead taxidermized dog that the stepmother thinks is still alive and she carries it around with her all the time. And everyone treats the dog as if it were still alive. Why??? And that is one of the less disturbing parts of the film. I will not elaborate.

8.) Cinderella – An Amazon Original (2021)

To quote myself when I watched this in July 2022, “IDK how I found myself here, but I’m here, and I have regrets.”

This is a very “woke” version of the Cinderella tale, enough so that it almost doesn’t feel like a Cinderella tale at all half the time. Much like Rachel Zegler has said about her character Snow White, Camila Cabello plays as our poor Cinderella who doesn’t need a man to save her. Our Cinderella wants to be a businesswoman so she can sell her own designer Prada collection—she’s not wanting to be a princess. To do so, she will get help from not her fairy godmother (because I guess that’s too expected or stereotypical or something), but from her “Fab G” who makes her ready to go to the ball to try to get a sponsor for her work.

Despite having a stacked cast--including Nicholas Galitzine, Pierce Brosnan, Tallulah Greive, Billy Porter, and Idina Menzel—it fails to hit a mark for me.

There she meets the prince who doesn’t want to find a princess and together they have to try and fight the patriarchy? Society? I don’t remember much of it, which probably means I didn’t like it enough to want to. It was…a film. I wasn’t a fan.

I’m all for modernizing certain aspects of old-fashioned ideals within the fairytale genre, but sometimes there is a thing called going too far and too woke.

7.) A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song (2011)

Man, even if you ignore the straight-up racism that this film has, this film is just…WOW.

To start off, it’s a copy-and-paste formulated attempt at Another Cinderella Story (2008), but instead of having Selena Gomez being a sassy dancing rebel and Jane Lynch as the stepmother, you get Lucy Hale slightly naked for a moment wearing a doormat, a very racist Southern-twangy stepmother obsessed with stereotypical Indian culture, a British male lead whose accent turns Southern the moment he stars singing (and also he can’t figure out who his girl is when all she wears on her face is the world’s most transparent cloth), and arguably the only person who should have been a main character but was robbed—Tony “Meatball” Gupta, the New Jersey wannabe actor who fakes the stereotypical Indian for a rich racist white woman in her own house while getting paid, all so he can pursue a full-on method acting character role in real life. (We stan Meatball in this house.)

Look at this guy! He's got main character energy!

The male lead really tells his token black friend that his mystery singer has these really intense eyes and that that they were all he could remember, and then two seconds later proceeds to pick another woman WHO DOESN’T EVEN HAVE THE SAME EYE COLOR. (Lucy Hale has BROWN eyes while Megan Park has BLUE.) He gives off big Prince Charming dumbo energy.

You get all of that, and as an added bonus, there’s no character development, so yay! Everyone’s character is as flat as the stepsister’s singing voice. It almost felt that Lucy Hale wasn’t even the main character in this film despite her having the most screen time.

The dialogue is unreal and, in a way, feral. I’ll give you one example of what kind of vibes they give off.

MALE LEAD on a date with BEV the stepsister: “Let’s talk about classical music. What are your favorites? Mozart? Beethoven? Tchaikovsky—I bet you were a Swan Lake girl!”

BEV, who doesn’t know anything (music related or otherwise): 👁️👄👁️

Also BEV two seconds later: “I have bad news, my grandma croaked.”

Literally. No thoughts, head empty.

Recommend if you like autotune songs and Lucy Hale and anticlimactic endings.

6.) Geek Charming (2011)

This Disney Channel Original film came out the same year as A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song (2001), but it is leagues above it in a way. I actually can enjoy this film if I come across it.

It stars the one outcast guy from High School Musical 3 as your “Geek” Charming (Matt Prokop) and Sarah Hyland (best known for her work as Haley Dunphy in Modern Family) as the popular girl. This film takes the typical Cinderella tale and twists it, making it a semi-refreshing take on the genre. There’s genuine character development (or an attempt at it) between both characters, and in a Disney Channel Original fashion, it finishes with a satisfying ending.

The crossover I didn't know I needed.

This may not be one of the Disney Channel Original films that everyone thinks of, but it’s cute, it’s different, and it’s alright enough for me to mildly enjoy it.

5.) Into The Woods (2014)

I know what you’re thinking, and I swear, this is only as high up as it is because of a few minor things. In no way am I saying that Into The Woods itself is a great film on its own, and I am fully aware that this isn’t strictly a Cinderella tale. However, Cinderella is part of this story to a point where I consider it enough of a Cinderella story retelling.

Everyone remember Anna Kendrick as the one chick who started the Cup Song that we all desperately wanted to impersonate in middle school but often failed at? Well, she stars as Cinderella in this film.

This movie is a darker rendition of the Disney/Grimm fairytale, and the choices for her character reflect this. Instead of the Disney princess version of Cinderella that we are used to, we get a Cinderella who sings under a willow tree to her dead mother hoping for a better future, where then her dead mother uses her magic to make Cinderella a gold gown with golden slippers to wear. What’s fun about this retelling is that it follows closer to the Grimm fairytale retelling, with Cinderella going to the ball three days in a row, her losing her golden slipper on the third night.

She eventually marries her prince—who just happens to be Chris Pine—but as she comes to realize, Cinderella isn’t satisfied in her marital bliss. She doesn’t want to be a ruler, and she runs off trying to escape the life of royalty. (Honestly, same.) And of course, she is pursued by her prince, who comes off very red flag-like/stalker-y.

It’s dark for a Disney retelling, but it’s just enough where I’m intrigued and interested. The rest of the film…that’s another story (literally).

4.) Ella Enchanted (2004)

The first time I watched this film, I was being babysat by a 15-year-old girl in her dad’s basement, and also, I was six.

I love and hate this film to the point where I am entirely neutral with it. It gives off a mixture of The Princess Bride meets Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with a dash of Ever After and overall whimsy.

It deals with racism and class differences in a fairytale world, which for the time was ambitious for a child fairytale film. Yet, since it is Anne Hathaway being an activist and a girlboss queen, it kind of works for it.

Anne Hathaway being an absolute QUEEN with our himbo Prince Charming.

I freaking love the classic villain vibes that this era of villain has—hilarious and devious, even if his plan is entirely stupid and obvious from the get-go. (It’s even better when the Prince and everyone can’t see how evil this guy even is.)

Prince Charming is a himbo who learns how to be a human being by the end of the film thanks to Anne Hathaway being herself, which we love to see. And having the main character Ella suffer from an actual curse that makes it impossible to disobey a direct order makes her character so much more dynamic and explains why she would stay in a toxic environment, something which most other Cinderella retellings simply skip over.

Did you guys know that Heidi Klum made an appearance in this film??? Because I did not until just now when I was looking at the cast. What. The. Hell.

I am shocked (and equally terrified).

3.) Another Cinderella Story (2008)

I was torn between putting this retelling here or in second place, but upon further analysis, I ultimately had to put this film in third place.

This film is the definition of I-CON-IC, top tier cinema. Nothing you write will ever top this—guaranteed.

THIS is the Cinderella story I grew up with. I watched this film—and continue to watch this film—countless times (and enough to have memorized ALL the lines and the lyrics the songs…sadly).

I used to be able to dance the routines that were in this too when I was a child, but that knowledge was lost years ago. Dancing Kaitlyn is no more.

Selena Gomez stars as a sassy but indentured teen girl who hangs out with the coolest friend, and also, she’s a secret dancing queen. She was also 16 years old in this film, which was interesting considering most of her co-actors were all in their upper 20s or lower 30s while trying to play someone her actual age.

Meanwhile, Jane Lynch is DOMINIQUE BLATT, an absolute ICON and possibly my favorite stepmother to date in the Cinderella retellings. Evil, lazy, and a true villain, she aces her role.

Jane Lynch could play Batman, but Christian Bale could never be DOMINIQUE.

The character development in this film is pretty good, and humor is fantastic. Each character is individualized and feels important enough to the story to be remembered, from the “ugly” stepsisters to “The Funk.”

Does everyone remember Drew Seeley? Yeah, he’s the singing voice of Troy Bolton from the first High School Musical (because apparently Zac Effron couldn’t sing at the time???). He stars as Joey Parker, a superstar who just wants to go to school like a normal person and to get his inspiration for dancing back. By far, he is one of my least unliked Prince Charmings to date, mostly because while he doesn’t recognize his Cinderella at first and is kind of a jerk to her, he is one of the few modern ones to actually realize his mistake, apologize for his behavior, and then get to know his Cinderella. (All the others tended to just come up and kiss their Cinderella when they realized the truth without addressing any of the issues of not recognizing them at first or their horrible treatment they did towards the woman in question. Big red flag behavior.)

Just a little Selena Gomez and Drew Seeley hype. The Mirror Scene CHANGED lives.

I LOVE the songs in this film. Young Selena Gomez has some of my favorite music, and some come from this movie’s soundtrack. Drew Seeley isn’t bad for music either, which is a huge plus. I can sing (terribly) to all of these songs any day, all day. My friend can attest to this.

Dialogue is PHENOMIAL. I find myself using quotes from this film in everyday life because they are that ICONIC. My friend can also attest to this.

Overall, Selena Gomez in Another Cinderella Story is fantastic and so is the rest of the cast and the story. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend it if you like a good time and watching classic 2000s cinema.

2.) A Cinderella Story (2004)

I finally watched this film for the first time today, and to my surprise, it is rather good.

The first five minutes hooked me in for a long ride, and I was genuinely distraught when the father died. Also, I was not expecting Jennifer Coolidge in this film at all, so I legit was jumpscared when she popped up on screen suddenly.

I’m admittedly not a Hillary Duff fan—she came out before my time, so I really didn’t see much with her in it. However, she wasn’t bad in this Cinderella retelling.

The side character cast is loaded with actors of the time that I like to see. Regina King and Jennifer Coolidge run supreme, and Dan Byrd did a good job as well. Their characters had dimension and I love to see it!

I was not remotely prepared to see Simon Helberg as Howard Wolowitz in high school, yet somehow, it happened, and it was real. (I don’t care if his character’s name is Terry. For me, this is just Howard’s high school journey before the Big Bang Theory.)

Humor was very decent and cinematography was also well-done. The music gives off The Parent Trap (1998) energy, which I think adds to why I liked the overall atmosphere.

Genuine 2000s culture captured in a teen film, which includes items such as boxed computers, early internet email, flip phones, flip phone texting, and so much glossy lip gloss. Having Cinderella lose her flip phone instead of a shoe is such a cultural iconic thing to do.

Chad Michael Murray plays the popular but trapped popular guy who secretly wants to become a writer but can’t break it to his dad what he wants to pursue for his future. Very relatable now that I’ve grown older, and I understand some of what his character’s choices are, which I may not have had I watched this when I was younger. He’s not a terrible Prince Charming, but still not one of my favorites. He just happens to have some layers to his personality that I can see.

Final thoughts about this film? Sam totally made her big speech to Austin after watching (and only because of) the weather forecast, and you cannot change my mind.

1.) Ever After (1998)

This is the OG off-brand version of Cinderella, and I love it.

Humor? High-tier. Sass and intellectual conversations about utopias and other versions of monarchal control? It’s there. Deals with addressing several classes and the relationships between the higher and lower classes based on education? Ab-so-freaking-luetely!

I love the cinematography and costume designs (and overall design) of this fairytale film set in France. It’s not historically accurate, but for once, I do not care. I am also a big fan of the dialogue, as I feel that it captures a version of this tale that other retellings don’t do as great as a job doing.

Also, Anjelica Huston as the Baroness is the best. She plays a fantastic villain who you sort of feel sorry for at times because of the era she is stuck in as a woman, which is one of the many complexities that this romance drama has. In the end though, she is wicked, and she gets what is coming for her.

I still have my qualms about this and I’m still kind of mad at the male lead for his actions during certain points of the film, but he comes around at the end enough where he gets a pass.

Overall, this is the best version I’ve seen of an off-brand Cinderella retelling to-date. Yes, it is romantic, but the two actually get to know one another before the ball, which makes their chemistry even stronger than most of the Cinderella couples out there. It’s so good that I even like it, and I don’t usually enjoy romance or drama as a genre! Yet, here I am.

If you haven’t seen Ever After, I’d recommend that you procrastinate on whatever you need to do to take some time and watch this cinematic masterpiece from the 90s. Believe me, I think you’ll find some enjoyment out of it.

Final Thoughts

Now that I think about it, I could probably do an off-brand Snow White ranking too. Huh. Thoughts?

Reviewer Name: Kaitlyn Liddicoat

Date of Review: 25 September 2023

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