Whether through ninth-century China’s Ye Xian or early Europe’s five hundred something variations, the glass slippers, evil stepmother and happily ever after combo has wandered throughout history to form one of the most recognizable and iconic stories of all time: Cinderella. The narrative of a poor, unloved child taken in by love is universal and has been present throughout centuries of storytelling. And now, the often-told folklore is finding its way back to the 21st century through a limited series to be produced by Jennifer Lopez.
But, surely, the girl with a fairy godmother has seen changes: from her appearance down to her interests, languages she speaks in, and even the generation she’s a part of. So, with so many retellings, spanning years and years of changes, here is our definitive ranking of some of the most popular Cinderella retellings to date.
1. A Cinderella Story
Listen, I think I can speak for every movie-goer when I say that A Cinderella Story is not completely revolutionary or the epitome of good-quality cinema. But, it’s almost unarguable that this 2004 motion picture is a reference to every Gen Z-er when it comes to the remodeling fairy tales into modern-day scenarios.
Starring Hillary Duff and Chad Michael Murry, the film’s plot revolves around Sam, an orphaned waitress who dreams of going to Princeton. Like the original rendition, Sam is tormented by her greedy stepfamily. But, this time, she has an unprecedented companion: her online penpal, Nomad. Oh, and did we mention Jennifer Coolidge is in it?
They don’t know each other’s identity beyond their messages, but the perfect opportunity to get to know each arises eventually: when their school announces a Halloween ball, they plan to share a dance in the middle of the dance floor. And, well, they do. But they are in costume, she flees, leaves her phone behind, etc. So, Nomad, AKA the popular jock Austin, is left with the puzzle of Sam’s identity to solve.
Everything in this version, from the early-2000s flip phones to the sneakers paired with a ball dress and cliched romcom dialogues, is pop culture perfection, and has rightfully earned A Cinderella Story its spot at the top of this list. Sorry not sorry.
2. Cinderella (1950)
Well, if we’re talking Cinderella, we might as well talk about the original. The 1950 version was Disney’s 12th animated feature film, and conveyed the story we all know about the poor girl with the glass slippers. Voiced by Ilene Woods, James MacDonald and Eleanor Audley, the movie brought forth musical staples like “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” for the first time.
Besides, it became its studios’ greatest commercial and critical success of the time, guaranteeing sequels decades later – and remakes even further than that. This animation received three Academy Award nominations and was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry due to its cultural and historical importance in 2018. Safe to say it’s iconic, if we’re putting it simply.
The resemblance to the OG is clear in this book just by its title. Part of The Lunar Chronicles series, Marissa Meyer’s Cinder is part science fiction takes on classic fairy tales – and a break on the Cinderella who rides a pumpkin to the ball. Bonus points for originality!
Depicting the story of Linh Cinder, a cyborg with a passion for mechanics, the novel is set in a futurist version of Beijing as a deadly plague dawns upon the population. One day, Cinder’s routine is disrupted when Prince Kai, heir to the Commonwealth’s throne, steps into our protagonist’s workshop to get an android fixed. As Cinder’s life becomes unexpectedly intertwined with the prince’s, though, she discovers she might have what is needed to put an end to what is found out to be an intergalactic crisis.
Besides a clear similarity in name, Cinder also features mysterious pasts, evil stepmothers and an annual ball. I think we all know where this one is going…
4. Another Cinderella Story
Can we all thank Selena Gomez for her service? In Another Cinderella Story, our protagonist Mary, hated by her stepmom and sister per usual, gets to dance with her favorite pop idol in a masquerade ball. If that’s not enough for you, I don’t know what to tell ya.
A sequel, if you may, to the A Cinderella Story (also seen in the first spot in this rank), the movie was released in 2008, and counts on Selena, Drew Seeley and the always iconic Jane Lynch to tell the fairytale. Placing Cinderella into a modern setting, it features a Zune as a glass slipper and Mary’s aspiration to be a professional dancer.
Talking about busting a move, the ball scene? The dance studio scene? Instant classic. I said what I said.
5. Cinderella (1997)
The 1997 Cinderella is a motion picture produced by Walt Disney Television and inspired by Rodger and Hammerstein’s 1957 musical. Known for its celebration of diversity, which was way ahead of its time as they conveyed a strong, Black heroine –played by Brandy– onscreen, this movie was one of the first retellings of the original story that tackled contemporary themes. With amazing chemistry between the main couple, a soundtrack that throws it out of the park and a charming princess to look up to, this version definitely earned its place high among the rank.
Also, Whitney Houston plays the fairy godmother. Just so you know.
6. Geekerella: A Fangirl Fairytale
More than anything else, Geekerella: A Fangirl Fairytale is the true definition of a modern-day, fanfic-like Cinderella. Written by Ashley Ponton, this novel reconstructs the classical folklore through Danielle “Elle” Wittimer, a quirky girl obsessed with the fictional sci-fi series, “Starfield.”
After her father’s passing, Elle is stuck living with her evil stepmother. Her solace, though, is in her connection with her dad. Trying to preserve his memory, Elle becomes a part of the “Starfield” fandom, since they bonded over this TV show when he was alive. So, when a cosplay contest pops up, she jumps at the opportunity to win the great prize, along with the chance to meet teen actor Darien Freeman, who is the protagonist in the newest Starfield reboot (and a nerd on the down low). And, while she isn’t really looking forward to meeting him, her stepsisters are. Wink.
This novel is a simple feel good read and, like the classical Cinderella, surely will bring the reader some comfort. Even if you are not into the whole glass slipper business, the message of celebrating your passions loudly guarantees this as a quick and fun novel.
7. Cinderella (2015)
Among our favorite Cinderellas lies Lily James’ version of the classic. It’s nothing new from what we have seen, yes, but the live-action remake, Cinderella (2015), featured a star-studded cast that included Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden and Helena Bonham Carter. Familiar story, with even more familiar faces.
A bit underrated, in my personal opinion, this 2015 brings out the magic through great acting, superb special effects and what is probably the heroine’s most beautiful gown across retellings, made by Oscar-winner designer Sandra Powell and embroidered with over 111,000 Swarovski crystals. Still, it’s the same old story we’ve seen, and I guess no Cate Blanchett could remedy that.
8. Cinderella Is Dead
The classic fairytale meets smashing the patriarchy in the 2020 young adult retelling Cinderella Is Dead, by Kalynn Bayron. Starting off 200 years after Cinderella herself found her prince, the novel outlines a society which follows the famous happily ever after.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia, like the other teen girls from her town, is required to appear at the annual ball to find a husband. However, there’s nothing this protagonist wants less than marriage. At the ball, Sophia decides to make a run for it – only to be met with the last known descendant of Cinderella. Engaging feminist ideals, sapphic and BIPOC representation, this thought-provoking version is bold and unexpected.
Even though it has some plot holes and the world-building is, admittedly, surface-level, its uniqueness and social consciousness makes Cinderella Is Dead worthy of a mention.
9. Throne of Glass
Based just loosely enough to be considered a spin to Cinderella’s original folklore, Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas, sneaked its way into the retellings list. Really. Even docking points for not being that similar to the OG, such a great book deserved to be here.
Weaved around the question “what if Cinderella was an assassin and went to the ball not to dance with the prince, but to kill him?”, this beloved BookTok novel gives a gritty perspective to the classical tale.
Celaena, a 18-year-old assassin, is offered forgiveness from her crimes by the Crown Prince. But nothing comes for free: to conquer her freedom, she must fight as his champion in a competition and kill her warrior opponents to become the kingdom’s royal assassin. Following the protagonist into a high fantasy universe, this New York Times bestseller tackles everything from training sessions to dances in ballrooms and well, love, as surely expected in this Cinderella scenario.
10. Cinderella (2021)
Starring Camila Cabello, the 2021 Cinderella is… bold, I guess. Reimagining the tale into a jovial and comedy-driven narrative, this film is filled with songs and the story of an ambitious young woman who wants to achieve big dreams. Although the progressive and feminist ideas are unique, they seem a little bit forced.
The latest take on Cinderella ultimately fell flat, despite the appearance of stars like Indina Menzel and Billy Porter. It’s cute, but inconsistent, and everything is strangely forgettable. Except for James Corden’s appearance… Well, that happened.
Even though we’ve seen it like a thousand times already, one thing is guaranteed: we’ll continue – and probably will, for a long time – to love this classic fairy tale across all its versions. Whether they’re princesses, cyborgs, assassins, or pop-stars, Cinderella will continue to be a story that stands the test of time. We do love some more than others, though. Sorry, Cinderella (2021).