Roald Dahl's Greatest Stories On Screen - Rooftop Film Club

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Roald Dahl’s Greatest Stories On Screen

Roald Dahl was a fantastic storyteller. He championed foolishness, nonsense and had a massive impact on hundreds of thousands of children, teenagers, adults and anyone in between with an imagination. So it’s no big surprise that some of the favourites have made it into movies.

Most have been triumphs, with the odd adaptation that Dahl himself turned his own nose up at, but there’s a place in our childish hearts for them forever.

Matilda

What Happens?

A girl is born into a family of TV-obsessed layabouts who try to cheat their way to the top whilst crushing the ambitious spirit of their daughter, Matilda. The girl has actual powers and can make things move with her mind like some kind of jedi master, and it’s not until she goes to school and meets Miss Honey that she discovers her true potential – being a superhero, or something.

Who’s involved?

Danny DeVito got super involved by directing, voicing the narrator and starring as Matilda’s dad whilst Pam Ferris smashes it as the cruel headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Matilda is played by Mara Wilson, of Mrs Doubtfire (and Twitter) fame.

Best Quote:

“Everyone is born, but not everyone is born the same. Some will grow to be butchers, or bakers, or candlestick makers. Some will only be really good at making Jell-O salad. One way or another, though, every human being is unique, for better or for worse.” – Narrator

What did we learn?

No matter how long we stare at cereal, it will not move.

Roald Dahl Matilda

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

What Happens?

Basically, a chocolatier sings his way through a one-off tour with five kids and their guardians. However, each kid, who, all but one, are the very definition of ‘little shits’, eventually succumbs to their own greed and is punished in some pretty intense ways.

Who’s involved?

Gene Wilder rocks it as the eccentric Willy Wonka. Roald Dahl literally HATED this adaptation, but at least they all tried.

Best Quote:

“The suspense is terrible…. I hope it’ll last.” – Willy Wonka

What did we learn?

Sometimes it’s okay to trust old men who give us candy?

Roald Dahl Willy Wonka

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

What happens?

Similarly to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, factory owner takes a group of lucky children and their guardians on a truly terrifying tour that ends in the near death of 80% of its participants. This story focuses a fair amount on the man himself, and includes flashbacks to his childhood, as well as a weird reunion with his candy-hating dentist father.

Who’s involved?

It took director Tim Burton and his loyal goth lapdogs, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, who star as Willy Wonka and Charlie’s mum, respectively, to turn this into a film that is truer to the original story.

Best quote:

“Everything in this room is eatable, even I am eatable! But that is called ‘cannibalism’, my dear children, and is in fact frowned upon in most societies.” – Willy Wonka

What did we learn?

Tim Burton makes everything he touches turn to weird, like some kind of hipster Midas.

Roald Dahl Charlie Chocolate Factory

James and the Giant Peach

What happens?

After his parents are killed by a ghost-like rhino from the sky, in what is a truly disturbing moment, James, the orphaned boy is forced to live with his evil aunts. After much misery, he discovers an enchanted, giant peach has grown in the place where he spilled some magic tongues (yeah, we don’t know either). He decides to escape on the peach where he finds a group of anthropomorphic (yeah, we know big words) insects who he, of course, befriends.

Who’s involved?

The ever-brilliant Joanna Lumley and Miriam Margolyes star as Spiker and Sponge, the evil aunts whilst Simon Callow voices Mr Grasshopper, Richard Dreyfuss is Mr Centipede, Jane Leeves lends her ex-Daphne voice to Mrs Ladybug and Susan Sarandon is Miss Spider.

Best Quote:

“It’s like he said: Marvellous things will happen.” – James

What did we learn?

If we want it enough, we too could fly away on a gigantic piece of fruit.

Roald Dahl James and the Giant Peach

The BFG

What happens?

An orphan girl is kidnapped from an institute by a giant, who is luckily big and friendly. Together, they deliver dreams to children across the country until they reach out to the Queen who they hope will be able to save the world from the evil, cannibal giants that share Giant Country with the BFG.

Who’s involved?

The fantastic David Jason voices everyone’s favourite Big Friendly Giant and is, frankly, a total phizz-whizzing triumph. Roald Dahl and his family loved this adaptation so much that they stood and applauded after their first viewing.

Best Quote:

“You is never doing anything unless you try.” – The BFG

What did we learn?

Bullying is wrong, eating children is definitely wrong, farting – or whizzpopping – is always right.

BFG Resezed

The BFG

What happens?

Very little is altered from the ‘89 version, which was very similar to the book, so it still follows Sophie, as she is taken from an orphanage to Giant Country with the Big Friendly Giant.

Who’s involved?

Steven Spielberg directed this one, with Mark Rylance as the BFG. We can’t lie though, he’s no David Jason. He bossed the OG.

Best Quote:

“I hears your lonely heart, in all the secret whisperings of the world.”

What did we learn?

How much we bloody love the David Jason BFG. Ob. Sessed.

Roald Dahl The BFG

Fantastic Mr. Fox

What happens?

Mr Fox, who is an ex-thief but now a newspaper columnist because that’s a thing, who is engaged in a war with farmers who want him dead. Fox and his family spend much of the time in hiding until they burrow into a supermarket and congratulate themselves on finding a new, continuous food source.

Who’s involved?

Who isn’t?! Wes Anderson directs as George Clooney and Meryl Streep voice Mr Fox and his wife, Felicity. Others who lend their voices include Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Michael Gambon, Jarvis Cocker, Helen McCrory, Adrien Brody and Roman Coppola.

Best Quote:

“They say all foxes are slightly allergic to linoleum, but it’s cool to the paw – try it. They say my tail needs to be dry cleaned twice a month, but now it’s fully detachable – see? They say our tree may never grow back, but one day, something will. Yes, these crackles are made of synthetic goose and these giblets come from artificial squab and even these apples look fake – but at least they’ve got stars on them. I guess my point is, we’ll eat tonight, and we’ll eat together. And even in this not particularly flattering light, you are without a doubt the five and a half most wonderful wild animals I’ve ever met in my life. So let’s raise our boxes – to our survival.”

What did we learn?

Don’t get your tail shot off, because it won’t grow back, mate.

Roald Dahl Fantastic Mr Fox

The Witches

What happens?

Horrible, terrifying things, that’s what. Luke, who’s staying in a hotel with Helga, his grandmother, accidentally comes across a witch convention and overhears that The Grand High Witch plans to turn all children into mice. When the witches realise Luke has listened in, they test the formula and turn him into a teeny rodent. With the help of his nan and the hotel manager, Luke (as a f*cking mouse) fight the witches who are literally disgusting and repulsive.

Who’s involved?

Anjelica Huston stars – and disturbs – as The Grand High Witch, Jane Horrocks as her assistant, Miss Irvine and Rowan Atkinson as the hotel manager.

Best Quote:

“When your father was a boy like you, and living with me here in Norway, I told him about witches too, so that he would always be aware. Now, the most important thing you should know about real witches is this – now listen very carefully! Real witches dress in ordinary clothes, and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses, and they work in ordinary jobs.” – Helga

What did we learn?

You should be terrified of literally everybody.

Roald Dahl The Witches

Esio Trot

What happens?

Retired bachelor Mr. Hoppy is infatuated with his downstairs neighbour, Mrs. Silver. She, however, is far too dedicated to her pet tortoise Alfie to notice Mr. Hoppy’s affection. When she begins to worry that Alfie isn’t growing fast enough, Mr. H works out a plan that convinces Mrs. S to believe Alfie is growing at an impressive speed, and Hoppy ends up with hundreds of tortoises (torti?!) in his flat…

Who’s involved?

Dustin Hoffman steals hearts as Mr Hoppy, Judi Dench is Mrs Silver and James Corden is the narrator – who is also a neighbour of the pair.

Best Quote:

“Esio trot, esio trot! Teg reggib reggib. Emoc no, esio trot, worg pu, ffup pu, toohs pu! Gnirps pu, wolb pu, llews pu! Egrog! Elzzug! Ffuts! Plug! Tup no taf, esio trot, tup no taf! Teg no, teg no! Elbbog doof!” – Mrs Silver

(Backwards it’s: “Tortoise, Tortoise get bigger, bigger. Come on Tortoise grow up, puff up, shoot up! Spring up, Blow up swell up! Gorge! Guzzle! Stuff! Gulp! Put on fat, Tortoise, Put on fat! get on, Get on! Gobble food!”)

What did we learn?

You could live with hundreds of tortoises in your flat if you get a date at the end of it.

esio trot

Danny, Champion of the World

What happens?

Widower William and his son, Danny, live in a motorhome surrounded by wooded areas that a local businessman is quietly occupying to develop into a housing estate. After launching a campaign of terror and harassment when the father and son refuse to sell their land, William and Danny begin to plot their revenge.

Who’s involved?

Real life father and son, Jeremy and Samuel Irons star as William and Danny whilst Robbie Coltrane is Victor Hazell, the cruel businessman.

Best Quote:

“God bless you, Danny Boy!” – Mr Snoddy

What did we learn?

Erm, love? Or revenge. Definitely one of those.

Danny Resized