Peter Pan is a beloved classic novel by J.M. Barrie that tells the story of the Darling children being whisked off to Neverland by the titular Peter, where they meet the Lost Boys, who never grow up, and Peter’s nemesis, Captain Hook. It’s had numerous adaptations, from faithful retellings to creative reinterpretations, animated to live action. It’s even had a musical and a drama focused on Barrie himself, Finding Neverland, and Tinkerbell is a Disney icon.
With Disney set to release another take on the tale with Peter Pan & Wendy, it’s a great time to revisit the movies that came before. Whether they feature the original characters or entirely new ones, many play with the themes of magic, belief, and, of course, growing up—or not.
10 ‘Neverland’ (2004)
Released and aired on TV as two 90-minute installments on Syfy in the US and Sky Movies in the UK, Neverland is a prequel, this time with Peter and the Lost Boys as pickpockets recruited by Jimmy Hook to steal a magical orb that transports them to Neverland. The cast includes Keira Knightley as Tinker Bell and Bob Hoskins as Mr. Smee, a role he also played in Hook.
Similar to Nick Willing’s other takes on classic stories—Tin Man, a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, and Alice, a retelling of Alice in Wonderland—Neverland puts a darker spin on the tale of Peter Pan.
9 ‘Come Away’ (2020)
Come Away is partly an origin story with the creative combination of the classics of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. After the death of their older brother, imaginative children Peter and Alice embark on a trip to London to sell a family heirloom and get swept up in real-life fairytales on their way home. The cast includes Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo, with an appearance from Michael Caine.
Like its source material, Come Away touches on the themes of grief and growing up. It also has some great visuals, like Alice’s iconic blue dress and the bold colors of the Red Queen, plus great sequences showing the magic of childhood and imagination.
8 ‘Peter and Wendy’ (2015)
While many Peter Pan adaptations are set in the past, the TV movie Peter and Wendy took a modern approach with the story of Lucy Rose, a 12-year-old girl hospitalized for a heart condition who reads the original story to other children and imagines herself in it. Some cast members play more than one role, including Stanley Tucci, who plays Lucy’s surgeon, Mr. Darling and Captain Hook.
This version uses the theme of growing up in a very different way, with Lucy facing the possibility that her heart condition means her time is limited. But it also deals with using stories as a means of escape.
7 ‘Pan’ (2015)
Pan serves as a live-action prequel to Peter and Wendy and tells the story of how Peter ended up in Neverland and met Captain Hook and Tiger Lily. Together, they work to save Neverland from Pirate Blackbeard. The cast includes Rooney Mara and Hugh Jackman, as well as an appearance by Amanda Seyfried.
The film was criticized for casting Mara in the role of a Native American, and it wasn’t as well-received as some of its predecessors. Still, Pan captures the themes of the original story and is a fun look at the mischievous character of Peter Pan.
6 Peter Pan (1924)
The very first film adaptation of Peter Pan was a silent version released by Paramount Pictures in 1924. It’s notable for some changes it made from the original play that have remained in subsequent adaptations—for instance, Tinkerbell is played by an actual actor for the first time, as opposed to just being a spotlight in the stage version.
This silent version is sweet and endearing and particularly fun to watch, in part because it almost looks as though they simply filmed the play itself. It’s also critically acclaimed, with an impressive 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.
5 ‘Wendy’ (2020)
Premiering in 2020 at Sundance, Wendy is a creative retelling of Peter Pan, with Wendy and her brothers on an island. While many elements are the same—Wendy, her brothers, Peter, the Lost Boys—the film takes a different approach to the story overall, in part by shifting the focus to Wendy and offering up an origin story for Captain Hook.
Despite the changes in plot, the themes remain the same, particularly around growing up and aging, as well as adventure and escapism. It has some darker elements, too—the Lost Boys aren’t quite as whimsical and magical here and instead have a bit Lord of the Flies-esque wildness to them. The film also boasts an impressive score.
4 ‘Return to Neverland’ (2002)
Nearly 50 years after the original movie, Disney released the animated musical sequel Return to Never Land, which follows an adult Wendy’s 12-year-old daughter, Jane, who doesn’t believe in her mother’s fantastic stories about Peter Pan and Neverland—until she ends up there herself after being kidnapped by Captain Hook, who mistook her for her mother.
While it’s no match for the original Peter Pan, the plot and themes are similar, but with the focus on Jane’s maturity, the benefit of childhood fantasies, and not rushing to grow up. Return to Neverland also includes a few nods to the first film that fans will pick out easily.
3 ‘Hook’ (1991)
1991’s Hook, directed by Steven Spielberg, tells the story of an adult Peter Pan, who must rescue his own children from his old nemesis, Captain Hook. The star-studded cast includes Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams and Julia Roberts. Maggie Smith also appears as an older Wendy.
Although Hook wasn’t well-received by critics, audiences enjoyed it, and some still consider it a beloved modern classic. It’s a unique retelling of the story of Peter Pan that manages to capture the magic of Neverland and the adventure of the original story.
2 ‘Peter Pan’ (2003)
The story of Peter Pan was revisited in this 2003 live-action adaptation, but this time more faithful to the source material. The cast includes Jason Isaacs playing the dual roles of menacing villain Captain Hook and George Darling.
Peter Pan is a fun retelling that captures the story’s whimsy and adventure, with great visuals like the scenes of Peter taking the Darling children to Neverland. The dynamic between Peter and Wendy also includes a little bit of romance.
1 ‘Peter Pan’ (1953)
Disney released this beloved musical animated version of Peter Pan in 1953. It tells the iconic story of Peter Pan whisking Wendy Darling and her siblings off to Neverland, where they meet Peter’s group of Lost Boys and his nemesis, Captain Hook.
Peter Pan is a sweet, endearing classic about escapism and growing up—with plenty of adventure. It’s also a more sanitized version of the original story, as Disney stripped it of some of its darker elements in favor of a lighter, more family-friendly version.
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