Cruella has long been considered one of the most wicked Disney villains of all time. After all, her name is basically “Cruel Devil” with some signature style. Disney’s latest live-action reimagining, Cruella, gives us delicious insight into how she came to be so evil, with some unexpected twists!
Origin stories for villains have a way of captivating our imagination. They add a layer of intrigue and humanity to characters that might otherwise be one-dimensional bad guys. As get older, we begin to question the Disney stories we watched as kids. The reasoning behind how someone became a villain can be even more captivating than the evil things they do. This kind of storytelling has become more prevalent in both books and movies in recent years, and with Cruella, Disney introduced us to Emma Stone‘s take on the iconic character and left us craving more.
The story is a prequel to Disney’s 1961 animated classic One Hundred and One Dalmatians, in which Cruella infamously kidnapped puppies in an attempt to make coats out of them. Taking us back to her childhood, Cruella focuses on young Estella’s desire to become a fashion designer, but it doesn’t take long for her dark side to show up. She is nicknamed Cruella by her mother, who notices her cruel streak, and that’s before her life is derailed by tragedy. It is a story about the pursuit of revenge that poisons her soul, and it adds depth to the character that we never got in the original story.
All that world-building might leave you wanting more, so if you loved Cruella, you need to check out the movies below. A mix of 101 Dalmatians adaptations, devilish characters, high-fashion comedies, and unexpected origin stories for some of our favorite Disney characters, here are 7 movies like Cruella you should watch next.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
This 1961 animated version of 101 Dalmatians was essential viewing for many of us as a child. The story follows two dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita, who meet and fall in love. Luckily for them, their humans, Roger and Anita, fall in love as well, and they all move in together. Happily, Perdita conceives a litter of 15 puppies, but the happiness soon turns to terror.
Anita’s old friend, Cruella De Vil, jubilantly shows up, proclaiming that she will buy the puppies from them. When they refuse, she seeks revenge by having her hoodlums, the Badun brothers Horace and Jasper, kidnap the puppies, along with dozens of other puppies she’s already holding captive. She has nefarious plans for these puppies, planning to skin them and use them to create spotted fur coats. The rest of the movie highlights a daring rescue, and it’s obviously an essential watch for anyone who loves Cruella.
101 Dalmatians (1996)
If you enjoyed Stone’s portrayal of a young Cruella, you need to check out Glenn Close’s depiction from the 1996 live-action 101 Dalmatians. This version expands upon the 1961 animated film, but still covers the same time period, further building out the human characters by adding complexity to the relationships between Anita, played by Joely Richardson, and Cruella.
Instead of being old friends, Cruella is Anita’s boss at House of de Vil, where Anita works as a fashion designer. Anita actually causes Cruella’s obsession with dalmatians by designing a spotted coat. When Anita and Roger, played by Jeff Daniels, refuse to sell Cruella the puppies, Cruella fires her and promises revenge. Following the plot of the animated film, she enlists her henchmen, played by Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams, to kidnap the puppies. Then, she intends to fulfill her dream of a dalmatian fur coat, but it is once again foiled by the dogs in the end. Close’s version of Cruella doesn’t have the sympathetic element that Stone’s performance brings, but she relishes in the role of the glamourous villain, and her heightened take on the character is an enduring thrill, as are the extraordinary fashion moments from three-time Oscar-winning costume designer Anthony Powell.
The Devil Wears Prada
Speaking of extraordinary fashion, The Devil Wears Prada is one of the most beloved films set in the fashion world, and it shares more than a few similarities with Cruella; in fact, Cruella was co-written by The Devil Wears Prada screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna. The 2006 comedy stars Anne Hathaway as Andy, an ambitious young woman looking to start her career as a journalist when she takes an assistant at an esteemed fashion magazine. Knowing nothing about fashion, Andy flounders, trying to find a way to please her devil of a boss, Miranda Priestly. Played by Meryl Streep, Miranda is an uncompromising perfectionist and ruthless critic, a legend in the fashion industry who is also on the brink of being replaced by younger talent and new trends.
As devilish, domineering bosses, Miranda and Cruella have quite a bit in common – strong characters, who may have questionable methods, but know how to get what they want. But that also describes another character in Cruella, Emma Thompson‘s Baroness, who makes for an even more domineering and downright dangerous fashionista. If you loved watching Thompson’s delightfully wicked take on a fashion queen, you’ll love Streep’s equally powerful performance as Priestly – the rare comedy performance to earn a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Like Cruella, Snow White and the Huntsman is another excellent example of taking a classic story, turning it on its head, and adding some great new details. Adapting from the classic tale of Snow White, the 2012 fantasy adventure gives an intriguing backstory to the villain, in this version, (Evil) Queen Ravenna, played by Charlize Theron. She marries Snow White’s father, but fearing he will turn out to be like another king who hurt and discarded her in the past, she kills him.
Unlike the original Disney version of Snow White, that paranoia is also what leads to her murder. Ravenna also has the power stay young by stealing youth from other women, but once Kristen Stewart‘s. Snow White comes of age, she learns she can gain immortality by eating Snow White’s heart, and the prospect of living forever is so attractive, she makes a sinister deal with Chris Hemsworth‘s Huntsman – if he kills snow while and brings Ravenna her heart, the queen will bring his wife back from the dead. Once the Huntsman discovers that the queen has no such power, he helps Snow White escape instead. What’s so fun about this movie is that the Huntsman plays a larger role than usual, not only letting her go, but becoming a mentor who teaches her how to defend herself and helps her discover her power.
Maleficent is another prime example of a villain origin story that, like Cruella, offers a sympathetic view of how the iconic Disney sorceress became a big bad. It focuses on Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis, Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie. This film adds depth to the villain, who is intriguing but one-dimensional in the animated film. By showing how she came to curse an innocent baby, you understand more about her, what she has endured, and what led her to such villainous ways.
Maleficent is a victim, betrayed by a human boy that the fairy loved. He later becomes king by avenging the current king, who tried to conquer the Moors Maleficent protects, and marrying the princess. In order to achieve his rise to the throne, he cuts off Maleficent’s wings, which is ultimately what leads her to seek revenge by cursing his newborn daughter. To add further depth to this story, Maleficent comes to care for Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, as she watches her grow. Much like Cruella, it’s a film that challenges our preconceived notion of the villain, and among Disney’s live-action remakes, Maleficent is the most similar to Cruella when it comes to its narrative approach.
Alice in Wonderland
There have been many versions of the beloved Alice in Wonderland story, but the 2010 adaptation adds director Tim Burton’s signature dark style, along with further dimensions to the plot. The first difference is that Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, is older and returning to Wonderland. She reunites with various characters she met as a child including, the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp, and the White Queen, played by Anne Hathaway. Her new mission is to end the Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) reign by slaying her Jabberwocky.
This movie acts as a sequel to the original story by bringing Alice back to Wonderland. It also adds a layer of intrigue by making her into a monster-slayer and a hero. We get to learn the backstory of the Red Queen and the White Queen, giving us further insight into their feud, and Burton’s stylistic flourish makes this version of Alice and Wonderland a unique entry among the many adaptations.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
If you enjoyed Cruella, the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast is another live-action Disney film to check out – and you’ll even get some more Emma Thompson! While the 1991 animated version is a masterpiece, having won the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as our hearts, this live-action version is a great complement to the original, though it is a much more straightforward adaptation than Cruella.
That said, the new version does expand on the lore of the beloved animated film, much like Cruella, and this time, both Belle (Emma Watson) and Beast (Dan Stevens) get a richer backstory. We even finally find out what happened to Belle’s mother and why the prince turned away the enchantress, leading to his beastly transformation. These additions don’t just expand the mythology, they add context to the character’s pasts and the issues they have to address in order to move forward.
But the wonderful music is still there, including an additional ballad for Beast that hits you in the heart with Stevens’ beautiful voice. Like Cruella and the other reimaginings on this list, Beauty and the Beast takes a familiar story and expands it to satisfy our curiosity while reminding us of what we loved about the originals.
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