Believe it or not, there are 19 different Alice in Wonderland adaptations, and chances are, you probably haven’t seen them all. Most people have seen the 1951 animated Disney version and probably the newer ones featuring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.
But there is another one from 1985, and it’s the best adaptation of them all.
Originally a two-part TV event, this version of Alice in Wonderland is the best for many reasons. I’ll admit that I have a huge amount of nostalgia for it since I loved it as a child. Even though it holds a special place in my heart, when I watch it now with my own kids, it still totally holds up, which is the true mark of a classic.
You can watch both parts of the TV mini-series on YouTube for free:
It includes both stories
The first reason this movie is so great is that it includes both of the stories from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Not every movie does this and many of them split it apart. Being able to see Alice’s entire story unfold is a treat for anyone who loves the books.
The first book is about her entrance into Wonderland. The end of the first film has her believe that she found her way back home only to be attacked by the Jabberwocky. The second storyline picks up there and follows her on her journey to reach the eighth square of the chessboard to become a queen. Only then, is she able to go home.
It has some great stars
Something that I didn’t appreciate as a kid, I definitely appreciate now. I didn’t realize until I fully developed my love for classic movies that there were so many classic stars in this adaptation.
Not only is Sammy Davis Jr. in it as the caterpillar, but you also have appearances by Donald O’Connor, who was in Singin in the Rain, Red Buttons as the white rabbit, Martha Raye as the duchess, Carol Channing as the white queen, Lloyd Bridges as the white knight, Ernest Borgnine as the lion, Sid Caesar as the gryphon.
Has stellar songs
Not only does the film have some amazing classical stars, there are also some additional stellar songs. Ringo Starr was the mock turtle and performed this entertaining song about the concept of nonsense. It is one of my favorite sequences of the film. Plus it’s always a treat to see a Beatle perform.
Even though many of the songs are lighthearted, this one by Telly Savalas has a somber tone that makes you want to cry. It is beautifully done and heartbreaking, especially when sung to Alice, who so desperately just wants to go home. The lyrics resonate deeper than one might think, and as an adult you can connect the theme of it to many different things in your life.
The most terrifying Jabberwocky
Jabberwocky has always been terrifying, but something about this one really seeps into your soul. You are terrified right along with Alice. The Jabberwocky is huge, slimy, and menacing. Plus, lightning and thunder seem to follow him wherever he goes. How could you not be afraid of this thing?
What makes this Jabberwocky so scary and awesome is the amazing costume. In the 80s, things weren’t just doctored up by a computer. Instead, they had to be made. This costume is by far one of the best-designed ones I’ve ever seen.
The filmmakers took inspiration from author Lewis Carroll himself and his description of the creature which reads, “a body of a dragon, whiskers, fish-like head, insect antennae, and a pair of talon-like hands on both arms and wings, also serves as forelegs when it walks on the ground.” Maybe that’s why it’s so good.
If you like Alice in Wonderland, you need to see this version. You will not regret it.