Even if you’ve never picked up a book by Roald Dahl, you’ve probably seen one of his stories adapted for film. But have you seen them all?
Roald Dahl was a prolific children’s author (who wrote some adult stories, too!), and many of his novels were adapted into charming and successful movies. But the average consumer may not know everything there is to learn about all the Roald Dahl adaptations.
We’ve included all the obvious ones you’ve probably seen a hundred times (which may have also been featured on our top 10 best stop-motion animated movies list), as well as the ones you may never have realized were based off of a Roald Dahl story.
Roald Dahl book-to-movie adaptations: A complete list
’36 Hours’ (1965)
Directed by: George Seaton
Starring: James Garner, Rod Taylor, Eva Marie Saint
Plot: On June 2, 1944, a German army doctor tries to obtain vital information from an American military intelligence officer by convincing him that it is 1950 and World War II is long over.
Fun fact: This film is based on the short story “Beware of the Dog” and inspired a TV movie remake called Breaking Point.
‘The BFG’ (1989)
Directed by: Brian Cosgrove
Starring: David Jason, Amanda Root, Angela Thorne, Ballard Berkeley, Michael Knowles, Don Henderson, Mollie Sugden, Jimmy Hibbert, Frank Thornton
Plot: Sophie is a young girl living with the cantankerous and abusive Mrs. Clonkers. One night, Sophie sees a cloaked giant blowing something through a trumpet into a bedroom window down the street. The giant notices her and carries her to the realm of Giant Country.
Fun fact: After Roald Dahl saw the movie for the first time at a screening, he gave it a standing ovation.
‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ (1971)
Directed by: Mel Stuart
Starring: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Denise Nickerson, Leonard Stone, Julie Dawn Cole, Paris Themmen, Dodo Denney
Plot: Charlie Bucket receives a Golden Ticket and visits Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with four other children from around the world.
Fun fact: Roald Dahl was not a fan of the movie for several reasons, one of which being the script was partially rewritten after Dahl failed to meet his deadline. The new screenwriter, David Seltzer, changed some aspects of the story that did not please Dahl, including placing more of a focus on Willy Wonka rather than on Charlie. He had also wanted Spike Milligan to play the titular part, not Gene Wilder.
‘Danny, the Champion of the World’ (1989)
Directed by: Gavin Millar
Starring: Jeremy Irons, Samuel Irons, Robbie Coltrane
Plot: This story tells of a father and son who conspire to thwart a local businessman’s plans to buy their land by poaching his game pheasants.
Fun fact: Jeremy Irons’ son took on the main role as Danny.
‘The Witches’ (1990)
Directed by: Nicolas Roeg
Starring: Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling, Rowan Atkinson, Jasen Fisher
Plot: The story takes place in an alternate reality where the world is plagued by infanticidal witches who masquerade as ordinary women. A boy and his grandmother set out to destroy them after the boy is turned into a mouse by their newest weapon against human children.
Fun fact: The Jim Henson Company was in charge of the puppetry in this film, which also happened to be the final film Jim Henson worked on directly before he died.
‘Four Rooms’ (1995)
Directed by: Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Tim Roth, Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Beals, Paul Calderon, Sammi Davis, Valeria Golino, Madonna, David Proval, Ione Skye, Lili Taylor, Kathy Griffin, Marisa Tomei, Tamlyn Tomita
Plot: The story is set in the fictional Hotel Mon Signor in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve, where Ted, a bellhop, encounters very different hotel guests during his first night on the job.
Fun fact: With each section shot by a different director, Four Rooms is an anthology based on Dahl’s short story “Man from South,” which also inspired two other international films.
‘James and the Giant Peach’ (1996)
Directed by: Henry Selick
Starring: Paul Terry, Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Jane Leeves, Miriam Margolyes, David Thewlis, Joanna Lumley
Plot: After his parents are killed by a ghostly rhinoceros from the sky, James finds himself living with his two ignorant and cruel aunts, Spiker and Sponge. One day, he’s given magic green “crocodile tongues,” which makes a peach in his backyard grow to epic proportions. When he crawls inside, he befriends a group of insects and they roll away on an adventure across the country and the ocean.
Fun fact: Roald Dahl refused many offers to have James and the Giant Peach made into a film, but after his death, his wife gave the go-ahead for a live-action adaptation, which ended up being partially live-action and partially stop-motion animation.
Directed by: Danny DeVito
Starring: Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris, Mara Wilson
Plot: The film is about a young genius named Matilda, who uses telekinesis to deal with her parents, who do not value education, and Agatha Trunchbull, the oppressive leader of Crunchem Elementary Hall.
Fun fact: A total of 10 children actually played Matilda throughout the film: Mara Wilson played Matilda for the majority of the movie, while Alissa and Amanda Graham and Trevor and James Gallagher played her as a newborn, Kayla and Kelsey Fredericks played her at nine months old, Amanda and Caitlin Fein played her as a toddler, and Sara Magdalin played Matilda at 4 years old.
‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ (2005)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, James Fox, Deep Roy, Christopher Lee
Plot: This is a remake of the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Fun fact: The rights for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake had been in the works since the early 1990s.
‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ (2009)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, Owen Wilson.
Plot: The film is about a fox who steals food each night from three mean and wealthy farmers. They are fed up with Mr. Fox’s theft and try to kill him, so they dig their way into the foxes’ home, but the animals are able to outwit the farmers and live underground.
Fun fact: This was Wes Anderson’s first animated film and his first film adaptation.
‘Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot’ (2015)
Directed by: Dearbhla Walsh
Starring: Judi Dench, Dustin Hoffman, James Corden
Plot: This is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel Esio Trot in which a retired bachelor falls in love with his neighbor, a widow, who keeps a tortoise as a companion after the death of her husband.
Fun fact: This was first broadcast as part of BBC One’s 2014 Christmas programming.
‘The BFG’ (2016)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader
Plot: This is a remake of the 1989 animated film The BFG.
Fun fact: Robin Williams was initially in talks for the title role back when discussions of doing a remake were first initiated in 1991.
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