10 Best Movies That Subvert Princess Tropes | Pretty Reel

Enchanted’s sequel, Disenchanted, lands on Disney+ on November 18, continuing the fairy tale that crushes true worth with fantastical themes. Giselle never became a princess, but the films follow many themes associated with traditional princess tales.

Traditional princess fairy tales are never a surprise to fans as they follow the same general storyline. Even those who enjoy those “Happily Ever After” tales appreciate when the script is twisted, which makes the plot less predictable. These are some of the films that subvert the expectations of princess tropes.

Frozen (2013)

Stream on Disney+

Many princess movies focus on a princess or princess-to-be who yearns to have a happy, fun-filled life (and eventually with a prince by her side). This usually forces them to have a difficult or unhappy lifestyle early in the story.

Frozen begins with Anna and Elsa quite sad, but they’re much better off than traditional princesses like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Anna and Elsa start off as crowned princesses, which gives them an edge that allows the plot to focus on Elsa overcoming her powers instead of fighting for an overall happier lifestyle.

The Princess (2022)

Stream on Hulu

The damsel in distress trope is one of the most common in princess movies. For earlier films, like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, this helpless maiden theme allows the prince to come in and save the day when the conflict ends.

The princess is one of the most badass women in a movie and certainly doesn’t need anyone to protect her. Although this film did not receive the best reviews, it managed to highlight the problematic nature of the princess characters. By making this princess able to fight for her own freedom, this plot completely washes the hands of damsel lore.

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

Stream on Disney+

In traditional princess films, the princess is usually the one around whom the conflict revolves. Often the conflict centers around how she struggles or is somehow prevented from receiving the true desires of her heart.

Raya is not only the furthest princess from a damsel, but she is there to save others, not the other way around. She dedicates her life to finding pieces of a magic stone that will turn her people and her father to stone. Although other princesses go on adventures, Raya’s quest makes her the hero of the story.

Enchanted Ella (2004)

Stream on HBO Max

Spells and curses are common tropes in many princess films. Traditionally, these curses are something that nearly destroys the princess and is thwarted when her true love (often a heroic prince) breaks the curse and frees the maid.

Ella Enchanted is an adaptation of Cinderella that follows a few of those common tropes, such as dashing princes and curses. However, Ella subverts expectations by running away and, in turn, saving the prince. The added addition of Ella being able to fight on her own makes this movie a good balance between lore and jaw-dropping expectation.

The Princess Diaries (2001)

Stream on Disney+

Conventionally, the princess in the story has a desire to be royal and live happily ever after in a palace. Even when the character is already a princess, the obstacles often have nothing to do with her desire to be anything other than royalty.

Mia Thermopolis subverts the expectation that a princess is supposed to be content with her position and thrilled to be part of the royal family. When she finds out she’s a princess, she hates the idea of ​​being royal, and much of the plot is tied to her trying to prove she’s not cut out for the role.

Brave (2012)

Stream on Disney+

Princes are expected when it comes to princess movies. Even when the prince is not one of the main characters, a love story often plays a role in these films and the ensuing conflict.

Brave doesn’t have a Prince Charming and Merida has no desire to find one. Not only does this plot subvert expectations of Merida not desiring a prince or true love, it complicates that tradition by actively causing Merida to avoid getting married. Merida’s happiness forever has nothing to do with finding true love, overturning that common expectation.

The Trolls (2016)

Stream on Hulu

The conflict in these films is often something done to the princess. She often doesn’t play a role in the ensuing danger, at least not intentionally, allowing them to play the role of victim and damsel.

Poppy is an unconventional princess in many ways. The conflict is actually caused by her when she throws a loud party that results in her people being captured by a Bergen. Although her story ends in love and happily ever after, Poppy’s actions were a direct cause of the conflict instead of doing anything to her.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Available for rental or purchase on Amazon

The princesses in these stories are often not fighters, at least not in the literal sense. While the princess might be trying to overcome her obstacles for happily ever after, they aren’t often seen throwing a punch. Nor is war a common conflict in princess tales.

Snow White and the Huntsman transform this iconic princess into a fighter and one who leads a war. The themes of these types of movies are often lighter than a dangerous war, but this adaptation subverts expectations by having the princess literally do battle with her evil stepmother.

Moana (2016)

Stream on Disney+

Princess movies have two common themes: either the main character desperately wants to be a princess, or they already are one and want to rebel in some way to get out of their restrictions. This film is neither, making Moana a story that could be told in the modern age.

Although Moana feels limited by the expectations placed on her, she loves her people and wants to be a good leader. She does not necessarily dream of adventure, even if she makes one, but rather wishes to broaden the horizons and perspectives of her people.

Enchanted (2007)

Stream on Disney+

While most princesses receive bliss forever, audiences aren’t surprised by this finale. The princess is expected to marry the prince after overcoming all the obstacles and everything will end well.

Enchanted sought to follow many princess tropes, like a damsel in the woods saved by a prince and an evil stepmother who tries to thwart their happiness, so the film could later challenge those stereotypes. Although Giselle receives her happily ever after, she chooses the real world over the fantasy world of Andalasia.

10 Best Movies That Subvert Princess Tropes | Pretty Reel