11 Best Princess Movies That Aren’t Disney


Disney has dominated cinema for decades, especially animated films. When it comes to introducing audiences to unforgettable princesses, Disney is the studio that springs to mind — yet other studios have also created worthy royal heroines. While there’s no denying the influential juggernaut company is the top dog in Hollywood, there have been plenty of wondrous pictures released by brilliant studios that have left a lasting impact on the entertainment industry.


Whether they start off as a princess, born into a royal family, or they become one later by finding their true love in a dashing prince, these 11 princesses are inspiring, heroic, fierce, and decidedly not a part of Disney.


11 Shrek (2001)

Shrek

Release Date
May 18, 2001

Rating
PG

Lauded as one of the most wonderfully offbeat and iconic films of the 21st century, the 2001 blockbuster animated hit Shrek features a superb ensemble cast led by Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow. The story famously follows the anti-social titular ogre (Myers) as he finds his peaceful swamp life compromised by annoying magical creatures who refuse to leave.

Shrek is subsequently forced to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona (Diaz) from captivity by the vain Lord Farquaad (Lithgow), doing so with the help of the chatty Donkey (Murphy), in order to restore tranquility to his home.

Related: These Voice Acting Performances Are Oscar-Worthy

Which is Fiona’s True Form?

Princess Fiona is a spunky and spirited heroine who has excellent skills in martial arts and is the polar opposite of a damsel-in-distress, masterfully taking care of herself in conflict. She is cursed with a spell that turns her from a lovely princess during the day into an ogre at night, and struggles with which version of her is the truest to herself.

The princess was initially voiced by actress and comedian Janeane Garofalo before she was seemingly let go after original star Chris Farley’s passing, with Diaz taking over the popular role as a sweeter version of the character. Shrek went on to earn over $491 million, launching an enduring franchise consisting of three sequels and two spin-off films.

Stream Shrek on Peacock

10 The Swan Princess (1994)

The Swan Princess Odette and her animal friends sitting outside together
New Line Cinema 

Undeniably one of the most underappreciated gems of the ’90s, the 1994 animated fantasy musical The Swan Princess tells the story of the kind-hearted Princess Odette who is kidnapped by the nefarious sorcerer Rothbart as part of his diabolical scheme to take over her kingdom.

The villain casts a mighty spell on the princess, which causes her to transform into a swan during the day. She can only become a human at night when standing on Swan Lake, as moonlight falls on her. Only her one true love Prince Derek can save Odette and break the powerful spell, so he sets out to rescue her from Rothbart’s grasp before Rothbart marries her and becomes king.

Elegant Swan by Day, Princess by Night

Based on the German folk tale version of Swan Lake which was later adapted into a famous ballet by Tchaikovsky, The Swan Princess garnered positive reviews from critics for its quirky characters, impressive musical numbers, and intriguing storyline, though it failed to become a success at the box office due to being in direct competition with the juggernaut film The Lion King.

Its theme song “Far Longer Than Forever,” a duet by Odette and Derek, earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song, and the animated flick went on to spawn eleven direct-to-video sequels.

Rent The Swan Princess on Prime Video

9 Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

A unique and excellent retelling of the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the 2012 fantasy film Snow White and the Huntsman features Kristen Stewart as the eponymous fair maiden and kingdom princess who is locked away by her envious and vengeful sorceress step-mother Ravenna (Charlize Theron), as the evil queen drains the youth of the women in the land in order to maintain her beauty.

After escaping, Snow White teams up with Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and they embark on a dangerous mission to overthrow Ravenna and restore peace within the land.

A Gritty and Successful Retelling

With stunning cinematography and visuals, exciting action sequences, and scene-stealing performances by Theron and Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman was a knockout at the box office and received two Academy Award nominations, and would go on to inspire the 2016 sequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War.

While another Snow White retelling, Mirror, Mirror starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins, would be released the same year, it failed to match the financial success of the Stewart-led flick.

Rent Snow White and the Huntsman on Prime Video

8 Ever After (1998)

Drew Barrymore & Dougray Scott in Ever After holding hands and smiling
20th Century Fox

Drew Barrymore helped bring the celebrated fairy tale “Cinderella” to life when she headlined the 1998 romantic period drama Ever After, which provides an engaging post-feminist approach to the classic tale and centers on the kind and beautiful Danielle as she is forced to do the bidding of her cruel step-mother Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston), but finds her luck changed when she meets the dashing Prince Henry (Dougray Scott), who allows her to dream of a brighter future for herself and rediscover her worth.

An Elegant Portrayal of Cinderella

Ever After presents the legendary story of Cinderella as historical fiction and includes a phenomenal performance by Barrymore, who brilliantly captures the complexity of the character and truly gives her a moving depth previously lacking in past installments. Her winning chemistry with Scott was off the charts, and Ever After proved to be a knockout with both critics and moviegoers, earning a CinemaScore of A, while firmly establishing itself as a fan-favorite ’90s staple.

Stream Ever After on Disney+

7 Princess Mononoke (1997)

princess mononoke

Princess Mononoke

Release Date
July 12, 1997

Cast
Yôji Matsuda , Yuriko Ishida , Yûko Tanaka , Kaoru Kobayashi , Masahiko Nishimura , Tsunehiko Kamijô

Rating
PG-13

From the innovative mind of the great Hayao Miyazaki comes the 1997 historical fantasy film Princess Mononoke, a breathtaking triumph in animation that focuses on the young and earnest Ashitaka, a Emishi prince who finds himself torn between his loyalty to his own human people, and the forest gods known as kami as they try to protect their beloved land from a mining colony.

Ashitaka feels even more conflicted after he meets the fierce young woman San, known fondly as Princess Mononoke by the locals, who was raised by wolves and pressures Ashitaka to choose where his allegiance lies.

Related: 10 Studio Ghibli Movies with the Best English Dubs

The Fierce Princess Raised by Wolves

Unsurprisingly, Miyazaki delivered a phenomenal cinematic masterpiece that brilliantly blends traditional drawing and computer-generated graphics, transporting audiences to a wondrous world full of courageous characters and lush scenery while touching on heavy subjects like environmentalism, societal conformity, and the threat of humankind’s development.

Princess Mononoke was the highest grossing Japanese film of the year at the time, raking in over $194 million, and was also a success in foreign markets, helping introduce Studio Ghibli to audiences across the world. It is also Miyazaki’s darkest film, with adult themes and violence, and boasts the greatest score in all of Studio Ghibli’s films.

Stream Princess Mononoke on Max

6 Anastasia (1997)

The titular character in Anastasia, portrayed by Meg Ryan, in the snow
20th Century Fox

Loosely based on the lore surrounding the missing Grand Duchess of Russia, the 1997 musical fantasy drama Anastasia provides an alternate version of what could have happened to Tsar Nicholas II’s youngest daughter, and takes place in 1926 St. Petersburg, as the spirited and determined young amnesiac Anya (Meg Ryan) sets out to discovery her true identity and learn the secrets to her past.

She crosses paths with two charismatic conmen (John Cusack & Kelsey Grammer) who want to pass her off as the Empress’ long-lost granddaughter, not realizing she truly is the Anastasia they pretend she is.

The Lost Russian Princess

Anastasia was both a critical and commercial triumph, garnering two Academy Award nominations while also grossing $140 million and delivering an excellent soundtrack, with memorable songs like “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December.” It became one of the most successful films to come out of legendary animator Don Bluth’s production company, cementing him as a direct rival of Disney.

The enchanting picture emerged as a major competitor for Disney (who released Flubber, George of the Jungle, and Hercules the same year) and quickly became a fan-favorite among moviegoers due to its gorgeous animation, endearing performances, and emotionally compelling storyline. Though Don Bluth’s company later failed and the rights to Anastasia were acquired by Disney, the endearing princess was still a worthy rival to the studio’s reign in the ’90s.

Stream Anastasia on Disney+

5 Roman Holiday (1954)

Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck playing as Princess Ann & Joe dancing together in Roman Holiday
Paramount Pictures 

Silver screen icons Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck served up some unforgettable chemistry when they starred in the universally-adored 1954 romantic comedy Roman Holiday, following the adventure-seeking European crown princess Ann as she escapes her overwhelming schedule and breaks free for a night of exploration in Rome.

There she meets the handsome and charming American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck). Sparks fly between Ann and Joe as they both wrestle with their feelings and respective obligations to her royal duties and him writing a front page-worthy story.

A Princess on Holiday

An undisputed cinematic staple and classic rom-com, Roman Holiday premiered to widespread critical acclaim and received a remarkable 10 Academy Award nods, with Hepburn taking home the statue for Best Actress and further establishing herself as Hollywood’s most sensational leading lady.

It was Hepburn’s first starring role in a major film, and Peck was so blown away by her on-screen charisma that he suggested she be elevated to equal billing alongside himself before the title, accurately telling director William Wyler, “You’ve got to change that because she’ll be a big star, and I’ll look like a big jerk.”

Stream Roman Holiday on Paramount+

4 The Princess Bride (1987)

Rob Reiner’s wholesome 1987 cult classic fantasy The Princess Bride tells the whimsical tale of the swashbuckling hero Westley (Cary Elwes) as he embarks on a valiant mission to rescue his beloved lady love Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) after she is forced into an engagement with the loathsome Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). With the help of his misfit foes-turned-friends Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and Fezzik (André the Giant), Westley will go to the ends of the earth to save his beloved and keep their epic love story alive.

As You Wish, Princess Buttercup

Despite initially being a modest box office hit, The Princess Bride swiftly emerged as one of the greatest films of the 1980s. It became a fan-favorite cult flick thanks to the home video market, and is now widely regarded as Reiner’s most acclaimed creation.

It is an endlessly quotable cinematic great and Westley’s love and devotion for Princess Buttercup captured the hearts of audiences everywhere, as did its unforgettable characters and magnetic energy. It has landed on countless best of critics’ lists, including AFI’s 100 greatest film love stories.

Stream The Princess Bride on Disney+

3 The Princess and the Goblin (1991)

The Princess and the Goblin
Hemdale Communications 

Another often forgotten but charming animated flick is the 1991 fantasy film The Princess and the Goblin, chronicling the courageous efforts of the determined Princess Irene and the inventive mining boy Curdie as they team up to protect their kingdom from a terrifying army of grotesque goblins determined to take over the land.

Using the gift of song and their brave spirits, Irene and Curdie race against the clock to stop the nefarious goblin prince from assuming power and wreaking havoc on the kingdom’s villagers.

What Makes It Great

The Princess and the Goblin was a joint project between Welsh and Hungarian production companies, and was the first animated feature to come out of Wales. It ultimately failed to make a splash in the North American market when it finally hit theaters in 1994, as The Lion King was dominating the box office, though it gained new life and new fans when it became available on VHS.

Though it couldn’t live up to the legacy of some of the other animated pictures released during the decade, The Princess and the Goblin is nonetheless a fun and wholesome movie to watch that is sure to deliver on the nostalgia.

Currently unavailable for stream or rent

2 The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Release Date
November 23, 2013

Cast
Aki Asakura , Yukiji Asaoka , Takeo Chii , Isao Hashizume , Hikaru Ijûin , Takaya Kamikawa

Rating
PG

Studio Ghibli once again dazzled audiences with its signature breathtaking visuals and captivating story in the 2013 animated historical fantasy The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, an adaptation of the Japanese literary classic The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter that centers on the tiny eponymous nymph who is discovered in a bamboo shoot and taken in by a kind-heated bamboo cutter and his wife.

Kaguya blossoms into a stunning young woman who makes her romantic suitors compete for her affections by asking them to perform near-impossible challenges, with her wondrous origins slowly being revealed.

The Princess From the Moon

Director Isao Takahata had read this enduring folk tale as a child, and wanted to create an adaptation that would allow viewers to understand how Princess Kaguya felt, setting out to have them “recollect the realities of this life by sketching ordinary human qualities with simple props” by using gorgeous hand-drawn watercolors. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya addressed themes like feminism, beauty, and responsibility, and garnered widespread critical acclaim, receiving a highly-coveted 100% Rotten Tomatoes score and becoming one of the highest-rated releases of the 2010s.

Stream The Tale of the Princess Kaguya on Max

1 Thumbelina (1994)

Thumbelina
Warner Bros. 

Inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the 1994 animated fantasy musical Thumbelina features Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid) as the miniature young girl who longs to find love with someone her own size, and becomes enamored by the handsome and kind Prince of the Fairies, Cornelius.

When Thumbelina is captured by the love-sick Grundel Toad, she must find a way to escape her confinement and become reunited with Cornelius, turning to her animal friends to help her along the way.

The Tiniest Princess

Neither a critical nor commercial darling, Thumbelina was unable to attract moviegoers, and the production company turned down Disney’s offer to distribute the picture, a decision that ultimately proved to be its downfall. Interestingly enough, the musical did far better during test screenings when it replaced the Warner Bros. logo with Disney’s, and even with a lively soundtrack composed by Barry Manilow and the spunky lead heroine, Thumbelina just couldn’t dominate the box office and became a forgotten ’90s flick.

Stream Thumbelina on Starz



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