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Top 5 Roald Dahl Film Adaptations

It seems as though Roald Dahl's beloved childrens books are in the spotlight again. Having just released another film adaptation of Matilda, it seems as though the author's imagination is inspiring a number of projects, capturing the nostalgia of adults who read the books as children and reinvigorating the Roald Dahl dynasty. 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', 'The BFG', 'The Witches', 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' and 'Matilda', it seems as though there are a few favourites doing the rounds when it comes to film adaptations.

Roald Dahl's Top 5 Film Adaptations

Right now, the big news is that Timothée Chalamet is playing a younger version of Willy Wonka in a prequel and origin story about the character in a film set for release in 2023 simply titled Wonka. While there's plenty of excitement around this production, taking creative license to expand Roald Dahl's world to an adventure where Willy Wonka finds his curious Oompa-Loompa factory workers, it's interesting to note that most of his film adaptations have been well-received by critics but haven't turned into box office success stories. Here are five of the best Roald Dahl film adaptations according to aggregated IMDb ratings and Rotten Tomatoes % scores.

1. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

IMDb: 7.8/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

Widely regarded as a fantasy classic, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is an adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1964 novel about a poor boy named Charlie Bucket who gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he finds a golden ticket in a Wonka bar, enabling him to visit Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, who was nominated for a Golden Globe, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory has remained entrenched in pop culture thanks to a slew of memes.

A product of its time, it gained cult appeal in the 80s thanks to repeat TV broadcasts and home video sales, managing to work itself a place into the National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". From green-haired and orange Oompa-Loompas to the infamous tunnel scene, this movie has some controversial elements but has continued to enthrall audiences with its campy, magical and funhouse spirit. The idea of adapting Dahl's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' book came to director Mel Stuart when his 10-year-old daughter read the novel and asked him to make it into a movie.

2. Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

IMDb: 7.9/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

It seemed like a good match for Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson's worlds to collide. Both world-builders, their mastery of colourful and quirky imagination offered synergies that would lead to a stop-motion animated comedy adventure in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Based on Dahl's children's novel from 1970, this wonderful movie attracted the voice talents of Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe and Owen Wilson with George Clooney lending his voice to the title character, Mr. Fox.

A Robin Hood of sorts, Mr. Fox leads a spree of thefts, which prompt him to be hunted by three infuriated farmers in Boggis, Bunce and Bean. A fun, entertaining and playful yarn Fantastic Mr. Fox received critical acclaim, garnering Academy Award nominations for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score, unfortunate to be in competition in the same year as Up. A delightful animated production with something for everyone, this textured yarn filled with wry humour and Dahl's quaint yet quirky appeal.

3. Matilda the Musical (2022)

IMDb: 7.1/10 | Rotten Tomatoes 92%

A Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical served as the most current rendition of Roald Dahl's well-known novel from 1988. This vibrant and creative adaptation centers on the combative and enduring roles of Matilda and Miss Trunchbull. Alisha Weir plays the titular Matilda, an exceptional young talent whose performance requires skill across many different disciplines. As the obnoxious Miss Trunchbull, Emma Thompson is nearly unrecognizably transformed by the multiple facial and body prosthetics she dons for her outrageous portrayal. Set in the UK, this upbeat and spirited adaptation is more grounded and has a stronger sense of reality.

Unfortunately, while Tim Minchin's musical numbers are spirited, this film lacks the charm of the stage piece it is based on. A professional air permeates the proceedings, resulting in a contrived, glib, and distant adaptation that seems more focused on creating visually stunning characters with a "stick it to the guy" mentality than relatable ones. Despite how enjoyable and upbeat it is, there is a superficiality that detracts from all the enthusiasm and trinkets.

4. Matilda (1996)

IMDb: 7/10 | Rotten Tomatoes 91%

Matilda is a fantasy adventure comedy based on the 1988 novel of the same name by celebrated children's book author Roald Dahl. Centred on child prodigy, Matilda Wormwood, the young girl develops psychokinetic abilities, which she uses to put her irritating car salesman father, bingo-addicted mother and cantankerous principal in their place.

Directed by and starring Danny DeVito with Mara Wilson as Matilda, this American reimagining is mostly faithful to the novel, summoning up the deliciously disreputable parents and the dread Miss Agatha Trunchbull played by Pam Ferris. A charming, colourful, delightful and wildly entertaining fantasy adventure, the movie was a critical success but didn't fare as well at the box office, deemed a commercial failure.

5. The Witches (1990)

IMDb: 6.8/10 | Rotten Tomatoes 93%

The Witches is a dark fantasy comedy horror based on Roald Dahl's 1983 novel of the same name, directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring Anjelica Huston. While a surprisingly faithful adaptation to the detriment of some parents trying to keep their kids from having nightmares, The Witches maintains much of the novel's inherent creepiness. Welcomed by critics, the film centres on a recently orphaned boy, who accompanies his grandmother to an English seaside hotel. It's here that he begins his quest to stop a convention of witches from ridding England of all its children after he's turned into a mouse.

Driven by a delightfully fiendish performance as the Grand High Witch from Huston, the cult film's appeal has been derived from Jim Henson's imaginative puppetry and the film's ability to tap into Dahl's fairy tale world like few others have. A major contrast with the sleek, stellar yet rather souless adaptation from Robert Zemeckis, the puppetry, make-up and special effects offer a more textured and grounded feel.