Top 10 Alice in Wonderland Movies – Ranked Bad to Worst


Since the invention of film, there were adaptations of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, from 1903, and every few consecutive years since. There are over 50 film and TV Alice-related productions. This might be an unpopular opinion, and it’s subjective as can be, but none of them are good. They range from almost watchable, to the absolutely shameful (I’m looking at you, Tim Burton). From the bizarre, to the exhausting. It seems like no one ever managed to translate the wonder in the Alice books to film. Needless to say, I haven’t watched ALL possible movies and TV productions of Alice in Wonderland, and again, I’ll stress out that this is only my personal view. Here we go, from the least terrible, the almost watchable, to the abomination:

One of the better versions of Alice in wonderland on film, is the very first one made, in Britain, in 1903, by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, starring May Clark as Alice.
I like how the different scenes are made out to be as close as possible to John Tenniel’s Alice.
It’s sole copy is in the British Film Institute. There’s a restored copy, available on youtube. While it’s a silent film, and only about 10 minutes long, it’s still far better, and more respectful to Carroll’s creation than Tim Burton’s Alice.

One can argue that for most people, Disney created the defining look of Alice in Wonderland. The young Walt Disney, while working for the Laugh-O-Gram studio, created Alice’s Wonderland, which is loosely based on the Alice character.
He did plan to make Alice in Wonderland as the first Disney film, but that was discarded in favor of Snow White and the seven dwarfs. The plans for the making of this film changed rapidly, with one interesting stage where Aldous Huxley, was commissioned to rewrite the story. I would love to read Huxley’s version, but seemingly it has been lost in a fire. Ultimately the film came out in 1951 and received mediocre to negative reviews.

From the New York Times review:
…”Mr. Disney has plunged into those works (i.e. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass), which have rapturously charmed the imaginations of generations of kids, has snatched favorite characters from them, whipped them up as colorful cartoons, thrown them together willy-nilly with small regard for sequence of episodes, expanded and worked up new business, scattered a batch of songs throughout and brought it all forth in Technicolor as a whopping-big Disney cartoon.”

I agree with this review. While Disney mixes up Wonderland with Looking Glass, that can be forgiven, taking into account that the earliest theater productions of Alice in Wonderland, did the same thing, with Carroll agreeing to it.
The film did make some characters iconic, Alice, the Cheshire cat, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the Caterpillar. Yes, its boring, and doesn’t manage to bring the magic of the book to life, but it does have charm, and is impactful in the defining imagery of Wonderland, and in any case much better than Burton’s Alice. F^%$ you Burton!

Talk about unwatchable Alice in Wonderland films…I give you, Jan Svankmajer’s, Alice (1988), originally titled in Czech, Něco z Alenky.
It’s a cross between The Shinning and Chucky, minus the enjoyable parts, delivered in stop-motion avant-garde we’re-not-here-to-have-fun way. If you consider it solely for its artistic value, it’s very interesting (is it though?).
Svankmajer’s Alice, wasn’t his first attempt at killing Wonderland-related fun, he successfully did so with an earlier work, titled “Jabberwocky“, (apart from the name, I’m yet to find any connection to Carroll’s Jabberwock).
At least its not an 85 minute long torture, as Alice is, ‘Jabberwocky’ is only a couple of minutes long, mainly of bizarre dolls prancing around (that’s Svankmajer’s work in a nutshell).
Do you know the type of people that say, oh you’re going to Rome/Paris/London? you must visit blah blah. Because they’ve been there, forever ago, for 3 days, and randomly had a pizza somewhere, and now it’s marked as a divine-must-go landmark. Well, the same goes with my experience with this horror flick. Over a decade ago, an acquaintance of mine heard of my Alice in Wonderland book collection, and she was like, “have you watched Jan Svankmajer’s Alice? Oh, it’s a must!”. It’s not. What do I hold in its favor? The fact that it has absolute artistic integrity. Unwatchable and exhausting as it is, it’s still far better than Burton’s Alice.

The most watchable ‘Alice in Wonderland’ adaptation, in my opinion, is channel 4’s 1998, “Through the Looking glass”, starring Kate Beckinsale as Alice. I’m not positioning it at #1 since they haven’t made ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and jumped right ahead to the sequel. which is an interesting choice. As this one makes a real effort at sticking to the text and is rather entertaining, it deserves to be high up. Since most Alice in Wonderland adaptations were a the mishmash of both books, I think it’s alright to allow this confusion to exist in this post.
Watch this clip of Desmond Barrit, as Humpty Dumpty, giving an Academy Award winning reading of “The Jabberwocky“. The entire movie is available right here

Coming up at number 5, is the 1933 film production, starring Charlotte Henry as Alice, with Gary Cooper as the White Knight, and the unrecognizable Cary Grant, as the Mock turtle.

The Internet Archive has a pretty good copy, available to watch online, or download, check it out here.
I admit that part of what I like about this production, has to do with the few ‘Alice in Wonderland’ book editions, that followed its release, with images from the film. I’ll write about those at a later post.

This adaptation, mashes up the stories of ‘Wonderland’ and ‘Looking Glass’, as many other do. The movie begins with a bored Alice with her nanny, although she looks like she’s in her early 20s. She’s crossing over to Wonderland, through a looking glass. Visually, the design of the characters and the scenes, resemble Tenniel’s illustrations, which add a lot to its charm. Some of the special effects in this movie, work surprisingly well, the talking clock, the tiny chess figures. Other, like Alice changing sizes, or the theatrical costumes, don’t work too well, at least from a 2022 perspective, and yet, they are all better than Tim Burton’s soulless CGI tricks.

The 1931 ‘Alice in Wonderland’, directed by Bud Pollard, starring Ruth Gilbert as Alice, did not receive much commercial or critical success, but has an historical importance as the first Alice talkie (moving images with synchronized sound).
Watching it today is a challenging task, although it does have some charm in how bad it is. Ruth Gilbert looks rather modern, like a cheerful, lost millennial. Most of the movie is her walking around the cheap, theatrical production. You can watch the entire film here.

Wait, what happened to 7-9?! Well, this post was ultimately a vehicle for me, to voice out how much I dislike Tim Burton’s adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. So I’m skipping ahead right to it, and maybe ill go back and add a couple of additional, blearily watchable Alice’s. Why do I hate this particular adaptation this much? it’s mainly due to having a great deal of expectations from Burton. His earlier work suggested he was the perfect director for it.
What’s wrong with his Alice? let’s get started. First of all the story, it’s not Carroll’s Alice, rather it’s a sad mishmash of Wonderland’s characters superficially presented in a weak storyline, poorly constructed, without depth, which ultimately makes for a boring movie.

It’s not even Wonderland, he called it ‘Underland’ (what the hell is Underland, Burton?).
The actors, under Burton’s direction, give a flat, caricature-like performance. Mia Wasikowska plays Alice, with zero charisma. Johnny Depp gives an over the top mad hatter, that fails to generate sympathy. Helena Bonham Carter is the always screaming Red Queen. All blended in a cgi-infused charmless Wonderland.

Burton’s adaptation doesn’t harness anything that makes the Alice books wonderful, to the point of literary abuse, while not managing to produce a decent substitute, even as a non-Alice related entertainment piece of work.
Could have this monstrosity be foreseen? Yes, Burton made his unnecessary version of ‘Planet of the apes’, he ruined ‘Dumbo’ for everyone. I don’t think anyone likes his ‘Charlie and the chocolate factory’.

The film did very well at the box office, making over $1 billion. To conclude this on a positive note, I will add, that Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, as bad as it is, is somehow better than the sequel, released a couple of years after this one, which finally closed the bin on this Burton-disney shitstorm. Burton, you should give us our money back, spend your remaining days in a remote monastery, repent, live on stale water and grains, and meditate on what you’ve done!


    1. Langauge, my angry friend! I had to step in and edit your blessings.
      I do appreciate your comment, and my advice to you, is to start your own blog, and say whatever you want in it.
      Jan Svankmajer may be a beautiful genius, I did say I value him artistically, but then, i do find his work
      boring, and almost unwatchable. I know many disagree with me, but hey, thats a beautiful thing, having
      different opinions!

  1. A very honorable mention for the 1999 all-star cast version! Miranda Richardson and Martin Short’s portrayals are just some of the genius. Gene Wilder, Christopher Loyd, Peter Ustinov……….

  2. I like Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory. I can’t say the same about his Alice in Wonderland.

  3. In the clip you like … listen to the reading of Jabberwocky … he mispronounces Borogoves … almost everyone does saying BorogRoves … almost everyone says Tugley Woods instead of Tulgy Woods … including Cumberbach in his reading.

  4. In the clip you like … listen to the reading of Jabberwocky … he mispronounces Borogoves … almost everyone does saying BorogRoves … almost everyone says Tugley Woods instead of Tulgy Woods … including Cumberbach in his reading.

  5. I watched the 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for the first time today. It nudged me to look for the definitive version of Alice in Wonderland. I’m here on this comprehensive blog on the subject and learning that there just isn’t one? I’ve read enough about Tim Burton’s take on the classic that I’ll wait out Hollywood on making a live action that remains faithful to the source. And sending them my request here.
    But this is probably a dead thread soooo….

    1. Hi Phil,
      Thank you for the great comment. Dear me, I hope this is not a dead thread! (I’m not sure that the titans of Hollywood tend to my blog though).
      In general I claim that none of the over 50 film and TV productions of Alice in Wonderland have managed to adapt the book properly.
      As far as im concerened the best Alice in Wonderland movie hasnt been made yet.
      I love the 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney at its finest.

  6. You forgot to mention what I consider to be the very best depiction of Alice in Wonderland on film. The 1972 version starring Fiona Fullerton, with a beautiful score by John Barry. This one is truly the best of all. Fiona portrays Alice beautifully and the costumes/scenes were designed to match Tenniel’s original artistry. Is a phenomenal version.

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