Beauty and the Beast is one of those stories that if you run in fandom circles, or you love pop culture, you can’t help but be aware of it. A classic fairytale originating in France, it’s the story of a young woman who leaves her family to live in an enchanted castle with a terrible monster, only for the woman and the “Beast” to fall in love. When the woman admits her love, the monster is freed from his enchantment.
This fairytale is a story of redemption and second chances. It’s a story of hope, and its ending is explicitly happy, which is why there have been countless “BatB” iterations. If you’re looking to dive further into these iterations—and all you have is a couple of hours to spare—then we’ve got you covered.
In no particular order, here are 5 Beauty and the Beast movie adaptations that you should check out.
1. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Of course, no Beauty and the Beast movie list would be complete without naming off one of the most famous adaptations. If you haven’t seen Disney’s animated version of this classic tale, you’ve definitely heard of it.
Beautifully illustrated, full of musical numbers, and complete with iconic characters, Beauty and the Beast is the tale of Belle, a young woman who lives with her absent-minded father. When her father draws the ire of the Beast, and Belle falls under the unwanted attentions of a local man named Gaston, she must flee to the castle and live with the monster, in order to save her family.
Disney is a bit of a mixed bag for me when it comes to fairytales, but in this, I think they did us a solid. In my humble opinion, the 1991 animated feature is better than Disney’s 2017 live adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, too.
2. La belle et la bête (1946)
La belle et la bête is probably my personal favorite out of the many, many Beauty and the Beast adaptations. That’s because you can see how it influenced all the movies that followed it, including Disney’s classic feature.
A black and white French film, La belle et la bête sticks beat-for-beat to the original tale. In it, Beauty is the daughter of a wealthy merchant whose family falls to ruin after his ships are lost at sea. When her father provokes the ire of the Beast in an ill-begotten attempt to provide for his family, the Beast demands payment in the form of his youngest daughter.
As in all iterations, Beauty and the Beast eventually fall in love.
Gothic, atmospheric, and incredibly romantic, La belle et la bête features incredible special effects that are notably advanced for the time period. It’s a must-watch for any Beauty and the Beast fan.
3. La belle et la bête (2014)
Christophe Gan’s Beauty and the Beast was another French adaptation of this very French fairytale. Starring Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux, it probably strays the furthest away from the original legend out of all the films on this list. I also consider the adaptation to be the darkest and the most “adult.”
Following the same basic plot as the others, Beauty’s family falls to ruin, after which she finds herself drawn into a magical, perpetually-summer cast kingdom that is ruled over by the Beast. In this adaptation, the Beast is intense and magnetic; the subplot for this film’s “Gaston-esque” character centers around mercenaries and a hidden treasure.
4. The Scarlet Flower (1952)
This was a film I didn’t know about until I stumbled across some info in a YouTube algorithm. Once I dug further I was immediately enchanted.
An incredibly detailed animated feature, The Scarlet Flower is a Soviet-Era adaptation of Beauty and the Beast with a decidedly Russian twist. In it, a young woman named Nastenka must live with the Beast on his magical island to pay off the debt incurred by her merchant father. This island is fantastical not only for its inhabitants, but its plants, its architecture, and its landscape. The whole thing vaguely resembles a coral reef.
I love The Scarlet Flower film for its intricate details, which were absolutely stunning for the time period. I love how it’s a faithful adaptation of the Beauty and the Beast legend, while also putting Russian aesthetics, customs, and culture at the forefront. The Beast is very sympathetic in this film, and the film is short—less than an hour in length.
If you’re looking for something quick to dive into, you can basically watch it on a lunch break.
5. Beauty and the Beast (1987)
Now, this is a film that I don’t actually consider to be one of the best Beauty and the Beast adaptations out there. That said, I still think it’s worth a watch if you’re looking for an extremely “80s” depiction of this classic tale.
Set in an Americanized version of Tudor England, 1987’s Beauty and the Beast follows the original fairytale beat-for-beat, complete with musical numbers. The musical numbers are so-so, and the acting is somewhat wooden, but the costumes are scrumptious and the set design follows a very specific fantasy aesthetic that was really popular during the 80s; a mix of anachronistic historical vibes and renaissance fair visuals.
If you’re a fan of that aesthetic, and you liked the movie Ladyhawke (which also came out around this time period), then you’ll probably like this.
Dive Into a Classic Fairytale
Beauty and the Beast is a comforting tale for many people; a story of love and hope and happy endings. It’s also an examination of the unknown, and the thrill that you get from realizing hidden, authentic parts of yourself. Basically, Beauty and the Beast is everything a fairytale should be, which is why it remains so popular.
If you’re looking for more recommendations related to this topic, only in the books department, check out our article on not your mother’s fairytales.