Jean Cocteau's most popular film, this 1946 masterpiece is perhaps the most faithful of the many film versions of the 1756 fairy tale written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Though the ending is a bit on the strange side -- the Beast morphs into a prince who looks exactly like Belle's hapless suitor, and her disappointment is unmistakable -- the film features tight, economical storytelling and enough visual fireworks (including many stunningly executed optical effects) to enrapture viewers from beginning to end. The actors are uniformly wonderful; Josette Day makes a stunning Belle, and Cocteau regular Jean Marais excels in a triple role that includes the magnificent Beast. The real stars of the film, though, are Cocteau himself, who gives the film a shimmering, romantic look, and the brilliant costume and set design. The Beast's makeup, in particular, works beautifully; it's just realistic enough to be convincing, while allowing Marais to emote through his eyes and subtle facial tics. The unforgettable sets, which include human-arm candelabras and moving statues, are a marvel of impressionistic romanticism, filled with symbolism that hints at the story's darker implications. Forget Disney -- this is the closest anyone's come to capturing the essence of a fairy tale on film.