6 of the Best Disney Live Action Remakes to Stream Now
There's nothing Disney loves more than a live action movie adaptation of one of its beloved cartoons. Whether it's a fairytale about princesses and true love (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast), an epic story of dynasty and family (The Lion King, Dumbo, Aladdin, Disney loves to translate its most cherished animated films into the real world.
This year saw the release of a Mulan live action remake, which despite filming delays, pandemic-related shutdowns and a controversial screenplay has won positive reviews. In the pipeline for 2021 and beyond? Cruella, an adaptation of 101 Dalmatians but with Cruella de Vil as protagonist—and Emma Stone playing the character as a young fashion designer who becomes obsessed with dogs' skins; The Little Mermaid, with one half of R&B duo Chloe x Halle, Halle Bailey, in the lead role and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula; plus a new Peter Pan, Snow White, Pinocchio and more live action remakes to come.
For now, treat yourself to some of our favourite Disney live action remakes, from a star studded Beauty and the Beast to an underrated Cinderella and the iconic Maleficent with Angelina Jolie playing the role like only she could. Entertainment for the whole family!
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
You know the story: bookish Belle is imprisoned by the Beast, a prince cursed to live life in the body of an animal until he finds true love and breaks the spell. You know what comes next: "Be Our Guest", "Tale As Old As Time", no one fights like Gaston, etc. And you know how it ends, too. (Hint: happily ever after.) But that doesn't stop this star-studded live action adaptation, featuring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Emma Thompson and Ewan McGregor among many others, from being one of the most enjoyable Disney films of recent years. Maybe it's the nostalgia, maybe it's the soundtrack, maybe it's the gorgeous costumes. Whatever it is, it works.
As one of the earliest live action adaptations, Cinderella could have been a disappointment. Instead, this wholesome reimagining strips away most of the tunes—though the fairy godmother, played by Helena Bonham Carter, does sing Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo—and dials up the magic and romance to create a film that is full of fairytale wonder. Cinderella is played by Lily James and Prince Charming by Richard Madden while the evil stepmother is embodied with barely disguised relish by Cate Blanchett. It's a whole lot of fun.
Nobody thought that Maleficent, a live action Disney film retelling Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of that film's villain, would work. But it does, thanks to Angelina Jolie's incredible performance as the powerful sorceress, gifted with magic and scarred by rejection and despair. Maleficent, which also stars Elle Fanning and Sam Riley, kickstarted the live action trend back in 2014 and was so successful that it spawned both a sequel and a host of other villain-led Disney films, such as the forthcoming Cruella live action film starring Emma Stone.
The Lion King (2019)
The original animated film is still just so good, but this remake it Maybe not, but who can deny the final result, when the voice cast includes Donald Glover, Beyoncé and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and there's new songs by Beyoncé alongside the truly iconic original soundtrack by Elton John. This film, painstakingly recreated using digital animation techniques, is a marvel to behold. And if it veers a bit more towards David Attenborough than the original, so be it. We still love it.
Disney has raked through its back catalogue to come up with live action remake subject matter. Coming down the pipeline are films as diverse as The Little Mermaid—a retelling starring Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy—Hercules, Peter Pan, The Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood. Dumbo, released in 2019 and directed by Tim Burton, is a remake of one of Disney's oldest films, and as such is one of the remakes that differs greatly from the original. The tale of the flying elephant remains, but the focus in this version is on the two children who discover Dumbo and their father, played by Colin Farrell, who tries to protect them all from an evil circus master, played by Michael Keaton.
Also released in 2019, Aladdin is a colourful and vibrant adaptation of the original 1994 cartoon. The cast is impressive—Will Smith as the fast-talking genie, Naomi Scott as the clever princess, Mena Massoud as the crafty street rat—and the action sequences, directed by veteran filmmaker Guy Ritchie, are thrilling. What's best, though, is that, just like Beauty and the Beast, the original soundtrack is all there. From "A Whole New World" to "Prince Ali" and "One Jump", Aladdin is full of toe-tapping, fantastic songs, and the live action version gives audiences a chance to experience them through the musical stylings of Will Smith. What more could you want, honestly?
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