Top 10 Movies That Subvert Princess Tropes

The sequel to Enchanted, Disenchanted, arrives on Disney+ on November 18, continuing the true value-crushing fairy tale with fantastical themes. Giselle never became a princess, but the films follow many themes associated with traditional princess tales.

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

Frozen (2013)

Stream to Disney+

Many princess movies focus on a princess or princess-to-be who longs to have a happy, fun-filled life (and eventually with a prince by her side). This usually forces them into having difficult or unhappy lifestyles at the beginning of the story.

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

The Princess (2022)

Stream on Hulu

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

The princess is one of the baddest women in a movie and she certainly doesn’t need anyone to protect her. While this film didn’t 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 storyline completely washes the hands of the maid’s lore.

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

Stream to Disney+

In traditional princess movies, the princess is usually the one around whom the conflict revolves. Often the conflict centers around the way you struggle or are in some way prevented from receiving your heart’s true desires.

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

Enchanted She (2004)

Stream on HBO Max

Spells and curses are common tropes in many princess movies. 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 some of those common tropes, like fiery princes and curses. However, Ella subverts expectations by escaping and in turn rescuing the prince. The added addition of Ella being able to fight on her own makes this film strike a nice balance between tradition and jaw-dropping expectations.

The Princess Diaries (2001)

Stream to 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, her obstacles often have nothing to do with her desire to be anything other than royalty.

Mia Thermopolis subverts the expectation that a princess should be content with her position and excited to be a part of royalty. When she finds out she’s a princess, she hates the idea of ​​being royal, and much of the storyline is related to her attempt to prove that she’s not cut out for the role of her.

Brave (2012)

Stream to Disney+

Princes are expected when it comes to princess movies. Even when the prince is not a major character, a love story often plays a part in these films and the resulting conflict.

Brave doesn’t have a prince charming and Merida doesn’t want to find one. This storyline not only subverts Merida’s expectations that she does not want a prince or true love, but it complicates that tradition by having Merida actively 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 movies is often something done to the princess. She often plays no part 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 which results in her people being captured by a Bergen. Though 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 the obstacles of her 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 wages war. The themes of these types of films are often lighter than a dangerous war, but this adaptation subverts expectations of her by literally having the princess fight her evil stepmother.

Oceania (2016)

Stream to Disney+

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

Although Vaiana feels limited by the expectations placed on her, she loves her people and wants to be a good leader. She doesn’t necessarily dream of adventure, even if she makes one of her own, but rather she wishes to broaden people’s horizons and perspectives about her.

Enchanted (2007)

Stream to Disney+

While most princesses receive happiness forever, audiences aren’t surprised by this ending. The princess should marry the prince after passing all the hurdles and everything will end well.

Enchanted tried to follow a lot of princess tropes, like a damsel in the woods rescued by a prince and an evil stepmother trying to stand in the way of their happiness, so the movie could later challenge those stereotypes. Although Giselle receives her happily ever after, she chooses the real world over the fantasy world of Andalasia.

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