The Best Roald Dahl Movie Adaptations, Ranked

Film News

When it comes to iconic children’s book authors, few have had such an impact on Hollywood and cinema at large as the late Roald Dahl. The British writer penned nearly 20 novels and over 60 short stories across his career, and has consistently inspired great filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton and Wes Anderson to adapt his tales and therein bring to life some of the best classic family movies. And we don’t expect that to slow down anytime soon. But, what are the best Roald Dahl adaptations thus far? 

Here’s our picks for the greatest interpretations of Dahl’s “pure imagination” over the years, as well as how they can be watched. And yes, Timothée Chalamet’s Wonka made the list! 

Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

(Image credit: Warner Bros. )

10. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005) 

Tim Burton’s take on perhaps Roald Dahl’s most famous work, 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, features Johnny Depp trying on the hat of the eccentric chocolatier. It’s a rather close adaptation, while also being a decidedly darker and weirder version of the adored children’s novel. Depp brings a quirky energy to Willy Wonka that sets his performance apart from Gene Wilder’s, and transports audiences into the colorful, twisted, sweet-fueled world of Dahl’s mind. Check out CinemaBlend’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory review

Stream Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Max. 

Rent/Buy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Amazon. 

James and the Giant Peach

(Image credit: Disney)

9. James And The Giant Peach (1996)

Speaking of Tim Burton, the famed filmmaker first produced a stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel James and the Giant Peach in 1996 with his The Nightmare Before Christmas collaborator, director Henry Selick. The movie from Disney follows a young boy named James as he discovers an enchanted peach and makes friends with a slew of misfit insects while on a mission to run from his miserable existence under the supervision of his aunts. It’s the kind of fantastical flick that’ll surely stick in one’s memory (if it doesn’t already). We’re filing this one under the best adventure family movies people don’t talk about enough! 

Stream James and the Giant Peach on Disney+. 

Rent/Buy James and the Giant Peach on Amazon. 

Anjelica Huston in The Witches

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

8. The Witches (1990) 

Another notable and enjoyable Roald Dahl adaptation from the ‘90s is the Anjelica Huston-led dark fantasy, The Witches. Having built up something of a cult fandom over the years, the film employed the use of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in bringing its witches and rodents to life, making them all the more unnerving. The Witches adapts Dahl’s 1980s novel about a young boy who finds a convent of witches lurking in the shadows of an English hotel he’s staying at with his grandmother.

Rent/Buy The Witches on Amazon. 

Matilda in Matilda the Musical.

(Image credit: Netflix)

7. Matilda The Musical (2022)

The beloved children’s novel Matilda was actually adapted into a musical back in 2010, after which it landed successful runs on the West End and Broadway. In 2022, Netflix released a feature version of that musical starring the likes of Lashana Lynch and Emma Thompson. The 2022 adaptation brings new energy to the story of a young girl who learns she has the power of telekinesis while struggling with home and school, and the show is marked by tons of fun song-and-dance numbers. 

Stream Matilda The Musical on Netflix. 

James Garner in 1964's 36 Hours

(Image credit: MGM)

6. 36 Hours (1964)

An outlier of sorts, at least compared to stereotypical Roald Dahl movies, came in the form of 1964’s 36 Hours, an adaptation of one of the author’s earlier short stories, 1946’s “Beware of the Dog.” The black and white movie stars James Garner as an American intelligence officer employed during World War II who is kidnapped by Nazis that attempt to convince him the war is over. The thriller was inspired by Dahl’s own service time as a fighter pilot in WWII prior to his fame as an author. 

Rent/Buy 36 Hours on Amazon.

Danny DeVito in Matilda.

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

5. Matilda (1996) 

While love for the 2022 musical version of Matilda was shared elsewhere, the better cinematic adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book is the 1996 film of the same name. Directed by Danny DeVito, this take stars Mara Wilson as six-year-old Matilda Wormwood, whose genius allows her to conquer and rise above abuse from her parents and tyrannical principal. Wilson’s adorable charm, matched with Embeth Davidtz’s sweet performance as Miss Honey, and is definitely one of the best family ’90s movies that moved a generation of kids.  

Stream Matilda on the Roku Channel. 

Rent/Buy Matilda on Amazon. 

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar

(Image credit: Netflix)

4. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar And Other Wes Anderson Shorts (2023) 

To once again veer away from Roald Dahl’s children novel adaptations, Wes Anderson made it his mission to adapt four of the British author’s more mature short stories, which are available to stream with a Netflix subscription, and made our cut as one of the best Netflix movies of 2023. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar starring an incredible cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley Dev Patel and more among The Swan, The Rat Catcher and Poison, which also include these names. Each of the stories from Dahl’s more older audience friendly arsenal are told through the lens of Wes Anderson’s beloved style of storytelling, and are gems to expand one’s knowledge on the author’s repertoire. 

Stream The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar on Netflix. 

Stream The Swan on Netflix. 

Stream The Rat Catcher on Netflix. 

Stream Poison on Netflix. 

Timothee Chalamet in Wonka

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

3. Wonka (2023) 

The latest of Roald Dahl adaptations (even though the story doesn’t come straight from a Dahl work) is Paul King’s Wonka. The musical is instead inspired by the author’s iconic character of Willy Wonka to tell an original story about the origin of him before he had his own chocolate factory. Timothée Chalamet charms in this endearing prequel helmed by the filmmaker behind the Paddington movies. It’s still a fresh entry, but it feels like it could become a tradition for many family’s holiday season comfort viewings, especially per CinemaBlend’s 4.5-out-of-5 Wonka review. Wonka is now playing in theaters, but we expect it to come to those with a Max subscription at a later date.

George Clooney in Fantastic Mr. Fox

(Image credit: Disney / Fox)

2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) 

Bringing us to No. 2 is Wes Anderson’s first try at adapting a Roald Dahl book into a feature with the 2009 stop-motion movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox. Based off the children’s novel of the same name, Anderson gorgeously brought to life the story of a clever fox and his growing opposition with human neighbors that threaten their happy life. The cast is led by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson is not only a among the greatest picks for funny family movies, it’s also certainly one of the best adaptations of a Dahl novel. Check out CinemaBlend’s glowing Fantastic Mr. Fox review

Stream Fantastic Mr. Fox on Max. 

Rent/Buy Fantastic Mr. Fox on Amazon. 

Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

1. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) 

We’ve crowned 1971’s Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory as the best Roald Dahl movie ever made. While the movie may have taken quite a few liberties adpating the source material, there’s no doubt in our minds that this is the most iconic and beloved adaptation of a Dahl vision. Gene Wilder brought an unforgettable performance with his beautifully mysterious Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket’s journey to his Golden Ticket will continue to be something we’ll press play on again and again for generations to come. 

Stream Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory on Max. 

Rent/Buy Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory on Amazon. 

Whether you’re a lover of Roald Dahl stories, or a movie fan, there’s so many great movies from the author’s work to check out right now. Enjoy!! 

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