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5 best movies based on Roald Dahl books

Writer: Casey Chong



Ruby Barnhill and the titular "big friendly giant" voiced by Mark Rylance in "The BFG".

No children's literature collection would be complete with nary a mention of Roald Dahl. The late British novelist was, of course, famed for writing several classic children's books such as "James And The Giant Peach" and "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory", with some of his books adapted into movies with varying degrees of success.

This year, the latest Dahl's book to hit our local cinemas is Steven Spielberg's big- budget adaptation of "The BFG". The title is actually an acronym for "big friendly giant", which refers to the titular giant character which is played by Oscar-winning actor, Mark Rylance ("Bridge Of Spies"). "The BFG" also marks the legendary director's long-awaited return to family-friendly entertainment since 2011's "The Adventures Of Tintin" after years of exploring historical dramas.

To coincide with "The BFG", let's take a look at these five best movies that are based on Roald Dahl's books.

1. "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory" (1971)

Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) in a scene from "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory".

Whether or not you've seen Mel Stuart's children's classic, "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory", we sure most of you of today's generation got to know the titular character from the famous "Condescending Wonka" Internet meme. As for this 1971 children's musical itself, "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory" is especially triumphant for Gene Wilder's unforgettable performance as the legendary chocolatier himself. In fact, you could say this is Wilder's most iconic role ever known in the eyes of many till today. Tim Burton would go on to adapting his own (and more faithful) take of Dahl's "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory" three decades later with Johnny Depp in the lead role.

2. "The Witches" (1990)

That's the true face of Anjelica Huston... in a make-up, of course, as the Grand High Witch
in "The Witches".

British director Nicolas Roeg is hardly known for his commercially-accessible movies, with some of his finest works (1971's "Walkabout", 1973's "Don't Look Now" and 1976's "The Man Who Fell To Earth") either too artistic or controversial. But Roeg proved to be a versatile filmmaker after all when he made "The Witches", which is based on Dahl's 1983 book of the same name. The main storyline, which centres on an orphaned young boy (Jasen Fisher) and his grandmother (Mai Zetterling) who join forces to stop a group of child-hating witches, is a potent mix of pitch-black comedy and children's fairy-tale element. Roeg's perfectly eccentric direction alongside with the late Jim Henson's amazing puppetry effect with the talking mice is top-notch. Sure, the hideous look of those witches is stuff of nightmares as some children might find them loathsome, but that's the whole point of the movie. Like the book itself, "The Witches" was meant to be dark, eerie and whimsical at the same time. And for those who have seen this movie before, who could forget Anjelica Huston's gleefully over-the-top performance as the Grand High Witch? Not to forget this movie also featured one of Rowan Atkinson's earlier roles as the hotel manager Mr. Stringer. Yes, that Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson...

3. "James And The Giant Peach" (1996)

James (voiced by Paul Terry) and the Spider (Susan Sarandon) in a scene from
"James And The Giant Peach".

Words such as "creepy" and "grotesque" are what best characterises the early work of Henry Selick's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" back in 1993. This is why he was the perfect candidate to adapt Roald Dahl's 1961 famous book, "James And The Giant Peach". Using the same unique stop-motion animation that preceded "The Nightmare Before Christmas" with a mix of live-action footage, this big screen adaptation tells a story about a young boy, James (Paul Terry) who lives miserably with his two abusive aunts (Joanna Lumley and Miriam Margolyes) after his parent's tragic death. James' torturous life soon changes for the better when he befriends a group of insects deep inside the titular giant peach. His adventure begins when the giant peach ends up rolling down across the Atlantic Ocean.

Blessed with an impeccable voice cast with the likes of Simon Callow (as Grasshopper), Richard Dreyfuss (as Centipede) and Susan Sarandon (as Spider), "James And The Giant Peach" is both visually engaging and emotionally rewarding for both kids and adults.

4. "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory" (2005)

Johnny Depp at his usual eccentric best as Willy Wonka in "Charlie And The Chocolate
Factory".

Already been adapted three decades prior via 1971's "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory", Tim Burton's "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory" is far more faithful to Roald Dahl's 1964 book of the same name. Reuniting with his favourite muse, Johnny Depp as the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, this classic children's tale centres on Charlie (Freddie Highmore) who is one of the lucky winners of the golden ticket who gets to visit Wonka's mysterious chocolate factory.

Thanks to his signature offbeat sensibility, Depp was certainly born to play the role of Willy Wonka. Then-newcomer Freddie Highmore, who previously collaborated with Depp in "Finding Neverland", is instantly likeable as the good-hearted Charlie. Of course, "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory" remains best known for Burton's dark yet candy-coloured direction. The Willy Wonka chocolate factory setting itself is a pure visual feast and contains all the wild-eyed eccentricity that characterises Burton's unique filmmaking style.

5. "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009)

Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) is having a toast in a scene from "Fantastic Mr. Fox".

Best known for all things eccentric and offbeat such as "Rushmore" (1998), "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001) and "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" (2004), director Wes Anderson made good use of his unique visual sensibility in adapting Roald Dahl's 1968 book of the same name; "Fantastic Mr. Fox". Like Henry Selick before him in "James And The Giant Peach", Anderson utilised stop-motion animation to tell his story.

The story, in a nutshell, centres on the titular Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney), who gets into deep trouble after committing multiple thefts on the farmers' food supply.

What follows next is a series of quirky fun that is both hilarious and entertaining. Anderson fashions his stop-motion animated project like a crime caper that appeals to both grown-ups and kids. Likewise, he has a knack for deadpan humour with plenty of "profanity" all around (he uses the word "cuss" a lot in replace with... you know). Visually speaking, "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is a technical tour de force. The stop-motion animation is meticulously detailed with Anderson's excellent use of the autumnal colour palette. The set design, another of Anderson's expertise, is simply a feast for the eyes.

"The BFG" opens in cinemas nationwide on 18 August 2016.

Cinema Online, 17 August 2016


Related Movies:
The BFG (18 Aug 2016)

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