B&N Reads

5 Fabulous Roald Dahl Film Adaptations

Roald Dahl’s singular imagination has kept children—and their parents—entertained for decades. His quirky sense of humor and worldview and keen understanding of children’s emotions has appealed to many one-of-a-kind actors and directors, who’ve interpreted his films for the big screen, including Anjelica Huston, Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, and Gene Wilder. Here are five of the best Roald Dahl film adaptations.

The Witches

The Witches

DVD $8.99 $14.99

The Witches

Cast Anjelica Huston , Mai Zetterling , Jasen Fisher , Rowan Atkinson , Bill Paterson
Director Nicolas Roeg , Robert Zemeckis

In Stock Online

DVD $8.99 $14.99

The Witches
Anjelica Huston becomes the perfect embodiment of the Grand High Witch in this 1990 film of Roald Dahl’s 1983 novel about a boy and his grandmother determined to stop an army of witches who want to turn all the children in England into mice. Huston is glamorous and haughty in purple satin as she wears her human cover disguise, and downright hideous when she peels away her woman face. The film is very faithful to the book, except for a few touches that lessen the starkness of Dahl’s book—Dahl was never afraid to go dark! But the film preserves the important elements of the book, including the cozy-sweet relationship of the 8-year-old boy and his storytelling Norwegian grandmother, the hysterical Charlie Potter as Bruno Jenkins, the gluttonous rich boy whom the witches strike first, and the boys’ adventurous life as mice.

The Witches
Anjelica Huston becomes the perfect embodiment of the Grand High Witch in this 1990 film of Roald Dahl’s 1983 novel about a boy and his grandmother determined to stop an army of witches who want to turn all the children in England into mice. Huston is glamorous and haughty in purple satin as she wears her human cover disguise, and downright hideous when she peels away her woman face. The film is very faithful to the book, except for a few touches that lessen the starkness of Dahl’s book—Dahl was never afraid to go dark! But the film preserves the important elements of the book, including the cozy-sweet relationship of the 8-year-old boy and his storytelling Norwegian grandmother, the hysterical Charlie Potter as Bruno Jenkins, the gluttonous rich boy whom the witches strike first, and the boys’ adventurous life as mice.

Matilda [Special Edition]

Matilda [Special Edition]

DVD $9.99

Matilda [Special Edition]

Director Danny DeVito
Cast Mara Wilson , Danny DeVito , Rhea Perlman , Embeth Davidtz , Pam Ferris

In Stock Online

DVD $9.99

Matilda
Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel Matilda, the story of a young genius girl with telekinetic powers, has proved eminently adaptable, with a hit Broadway musical, a BBC radio production, and this 1996 film version. The movie is mostly true to the book, except that it’s set in America rather than Buckinghamshire—which allows Danny DeVito to play Matilda’s shyster used car salesman father and Rhea Perlman to play her ditzy, distracted mother to perfection. Young Mara Wilson does a wonderful job portraying Matilda, but Pam Ferris’s portrayal of Miss Trunchbull, the hard-charging, child-hating, shot-putting principal is absolutely indelible.

Matilda
Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel Matilda, the story of a young genius girl with telekinetic powers, has proved eminently adaptable, with a hit Broadway musical, a BBC radio production, and this 1996 film version. The movie is mostly true to the book, except that it’s set in America rather than Buckinghamshire—which allows Danny DeVito to play Matilda’s shyster used car salesman father and Rhea Perlman to play her ditzy, distracted mother to perfection. Young Mara Wilson does a wonderful job portraying Matilda, but Pam Ferris’s portrayal of Miss Trunchbull, the hard-charging, child-hating, shot-putting principal is absolutely indelible.

James and the Giant Peach [Special Edition]

James and the Giant Peach [Special Edition]

DVD $12.99

James and the Giant Peach [Special Edition]

Cast Paul Terry , Simon Callow , Richard Dreyfuss , Joanna Lumley , Pete Postlewaite
Director Henry Selick

In Stock Online

DVD $12.99

James and the Giant Peach
This 1996 version of Dahl’s 1961 classic James and the Giant Peach combines live action with Claymation in depicting James’ delightful voyage on a peach borne by 500 seagulls across the Atlantic Ocean. Joanna Lumley and Miriam Margolyes are very good baddies as Aunt Spiker and Sponge, the cruel aunts James must live with after his parents are killed by a rhinoceros. Paul Terry is sweet and winning as the young James. (Fun fact: he grew up to be a high school math teacher.)

James and the Giant Peach
This 1996 version of Dahl’s 1961 classic James and the Giant Peach combines live action with Claymation in depicting James’ delightful voyage on a peach borne by 500 seagulls across the Atlantic Ocean. Joanna Lumley and Miriam Margolyes are very good baddies as Aunt Spiker and Sponge, the cruel aunts James must live with after his parents are killed by a rhinoceros. Paul Terry is sweet and winning as the young James. (Fun fact: he grew up to be a high school math teacher.)

Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory [40th Anniversay]

Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory [40th Anniversay]

DVD $4.19 $5.99

Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory [40th Anniversay]

Director Mel Stuart
Cast Gene Wilder , Jack Albertson , Peter Ostrum , Roy Kinnear , Julie Dawn Cole

In Stock Online

DVD $4.19 $5.99

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
It’s rare enough for a good book to receive one excellent film adaptation, let alone two. Dahl’s beloved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will forever be remembered by Gen Xers as it was interpreted in 1971, with the zany Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, and the Oompa Loompas as the green-haired and white-eyebrowed singers of a song that is guaranteed to become stuck in your head. Millennials might think of the Oompa Loompas as multiple versions of the actor Deep Roy as they are in Tim Burton’s 2005 version, and Willy Wonka as Johnny Depp channeling Michael Jackson with a tinkly, breathy voice. In either version, it’s fun to see Violet Beauregarde expand into a blueberry.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
It’s rare enough for a good book to receive one excellent film adaptation, let alone two. Dahl’s beloved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will forever be remembered by Gen Xers as it was interpreted in 1971, with the zany Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, and the Oompa Loompas as the green-haired and white-eyebrowed singers of a song that is guaranteed to become stuck in your head. Millennials might think of the Oompa Loompas as multiple versions of the actor Deep Roy as they are in Tim Burton’s 2005 version, and Willy Wonka as Johnny Depp channeling Michael Jackson with a tinkly, breathy voice. In either version, it’s fun to see Violet Beauregarde expand into a blueberry.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox

DVD $12.99

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Cast George Clooney , Meryl Streep , Jason Schwartzman , Bill Murray , Wallace Wolodarsky
Director Wes Anderson

In Stock Online

DVD $12.99

Fantastic Mr. Fox
One thing that Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl seem to have in common is that they take entertaining children absolutely seriously, and they respect kids’ intelligence. This 1970 novel is one of Dahl’s few stories that features an entire cast of animal protagonists, rather than mixing a kid or two in. Wes Anderson brings this story of the cunning and debonair Fantastic Mr. Fox to the screen with his characteristic auteur flair, along with many of his usual collaborators, including Billy Murray (as Clive Badger), Owen Wilson (as Coach Skip), and Jason Schwartzman (as Ash Fox). George Clooney stars as Mr. Fox, who must outwit the wealthy, greedy farmers who’ve grown tired of him stealing food.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
One thing that Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl seem to have in common is that they take entertaining children absolutely seriously, and they respect kids’ intelligence. This 1970 novel is one of Dahl’s few stories that features an entire cast of animal protagonists, rather than mixing a kid or two in. Wes Anderson brings this story of the cunning and debonair Fantastic Mr. Fox to the screen with his characteristic auteur flair, along with many of his usual collaborators, including Billy Murray (as Clive Badger), Owen Wilson (as Coach Skip), and Jason Schwartzman (as Ash Fox). George Clooney stars as Mr. Fox, who must outwit the wealthy, greedy farmers who’ve grown tired of him stealing food.