The film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is a beautiful, weird fairy tale. And for our money, aside from The Princess Bride, there aren't enough funny, fantastical romance movies out there. That’s why we’re still bringing up the Stardust movie at social gatherings whenever we can. Here are 11 reasons why this story of boy-meets-star has us under its spell, even today.
Neil Gaiman loves the movie.
Neil Gaiman may have written the Stardust book, but he also recognizes that the movie is a different entity entirely. The movie not only changes Tristan’s name from Tristran to Tristan, it also changes the ending to something happier and adds some action. With the addition of some wild fight scenes and eternal life for both Tristan and Yvaine, it’s easy to leave the movie feeling fully satisfied.
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Even though we love the original book, the movie's gorgeous visuals give the story a beautiful boost. Eleven years later, Gaiman still praises the movie, and it’s lauded as one of the best book-to-movie adaptations ever.
Captain Shakespeare’s dancing scene, and the acceptance of his crew.
Everything on this list is subjective except for this. Captain Shakespeare as Robert De Niro is not to be missed. While at first he acts like the toughest lightning-catcher in all the land, the truth is that he’s a tea-loving dancer who longs to go to England.
When Septimus catches him dancing in a pink dress with a boa, the Captain fears that his reputation will be shot. How will his crew respect him after this? But they’ve known the whole time and respect him enough not to care. And why should they? He pulls off the dress beautifully. With all the help Captain Shakespeare gives Tristan and Yvaine, the best piece of advice goes to Tristan as he leaves the ship: “Your true love is right before your eyes.” Swoon.
The best cast ever.
Besides Robert De Niro’s role as Captain Shakespeare, we are also treated to fantastic performances from our favorites. Michelle Pfeiffer is the witch of all witches as she turns from a youthful beauty to an old hag. Her role of Lamia stands out for the unapologetic vanity and evil that radiates from her thousand-year-old bones. Who knew scary could be so likable?
Charlie Cox, pre-Daredevil, is just clueless enough to be sweet, and just confident enough to be one of our biggest crushes ever. Claire Danes stars as the perfect Yvaine. We love that the brightest star in the sky is also the most sarcastic and funny. Henry Cavill has a moment as Humphrey, and it’s still hard to recognize Superman in that blond wig and mustache. Sir Ian McKellen narrates the film, rounding out a stacked cast for a whimsical movie.
Lamia may be evil, but she really knows how to use a goat. First there’s the sad farm boy, Bernard. Is his life better or worse as a goat? We really can’t tell. Either way, we do feel a little badly that he had to spend his time in the company of a real goat with no way to communicate. You just can’t come back from that.
Bernard is relieved for awhile as Lamia attempts to trick Yvaine into comfort with Billy the actual goat as her husband and Bernard as her deep-voiced daughter. Nothing prepared us for the sheer weirdness of Billy hopping up on the counter as a human/goat hybrid. Yvaine, how did you fall for this? And what kind of existential crisis will Billy have knowing that he was once a human with thumbs? We need answers.
That gorgeous scenery.
No green screen is necessary for that gorgeous landscape. The background of this movie will make you want to visit Stormhold, and you sort of can. Stardust was filmed in The Isle of Sky, the Scottish Highlands, and Iceland.The special effects are definitely great, but we could watch Tristan and Yvaine walk around the greenery of the Highlands for hours.
The streets of Stormhold, with all their bustling magic, were filmed on Elm Hill in Norwich. It’s a medieval city in England, so they only had to make a few changes to make the town look just right. The Briton’s Arms tea house was transformed into the Slaughtered Prince public house, and the tea house liked the change so much they wanted to keep it. Unfortunately, the local council refused their request.
Tristan’s hair transformation and transformation AS A MAN.
At the start of this movie, Tristan isn't necessarily very appealing — it's hard to look past the fact that he is willing to lose his job for a shallow person like Victoria. Plus, his hair is too short for his forehead. But we digress. When Tristan meets Captain Shakespeare, he gets more than an education in fencing and a beautiful new wardrobe. He also gets the haircut of our dreams.
It's s true: After Captain Shakespeare magically produces some flowing locks for Tristan’s sweet head, we are finally able to agree. Yes, he is hot. Better than hot, though, Tristan has grown up. He’s left his hometown and realized that there’s more to life than girls that won’t appreciate him. Maybe a haircut can’t change your life, but we think this one was a pretty good transformation of Tristan's rapid transformation into a mature man.
When Yvaine tells Tristan that she loves him when he’s a mouse.
When Ditchwater Sal turns Tristan into a mouse, we were actually pretty relieved. Hey, it could have been death! It also gives Yvaine freedom to talk to Tristan in a way she hasn’t been able to before. Their relationship can be pretty sarcastic, and a lot of it has been spent trying to get Tristan to shut up about Victoria. So when Yvaine gets a chance to talk to tiny mouse Tristan, it makes sense that she reveals her true feelings.
Yvaine tells Tristan that she thinks she loves Tristan. That if he wants it, her immortal heart is his for life. No gifts, no goods, no demonstrations of devotion. She offers her heart in exchange for his, and we can’t help but tear up a little thinking about it. And while Tristan might pretend not to understand her, knowing that he heard everything makes it that much sweeter.
Tristan taking down Humphrey with his sweet new sword skills.
What’s better than showing up your rival with some cool moves you learned from a man in the sky? (No, not God. Robert De Niro.) Tristan left Wall with a goal to win the girl of his dreams, but he realized his real dream was kicking Humphrey's ass at fencing. And winning a star’s heart, of course.
While Humphrey might have gotten Victoria, the reality is that she is pretty terrible. So congrats to both of them! We’re sure their children will be lovely. In the meantime, Humphrey might want to brush up on those sword tricks.
The horrible moment of realization when Tristan presents Victoria with a piece of the star.
Nothing will make your heart stop faster than seeing Victoria unfold the piece of cloth holding what used to be Yvaine’s hair. When she opens it and pieces of stardust spill out, we panic just as much as Tristan does when he realizes that Yvaine will die if she crosses the wall.
This leads to one of the most tense moments of the movie as Yvaine walks slowly towards the wall with a broken heart. Please don’t cross, Yvaine! Meanwhile, Tristan runs towards her at the same time as his mother, Septimus, and Lamia. Everyone wants the star to survive, but for very different reasons. Even after seeing the movie many times, we still worry that Yvaine will end up crossing the wall and turning into a pile of stardust.
Lamia using the doll to drown Septimus. Brutal.
Of all the brothers’ deaths, this is absolutely our favorite. The witches spend a lot of time messing with Yvaine, and we forget how powerful they are. Lamia reminds us when she makes a speedy clay doll, breaks its leg, and then drops it in a water basin.
The special effects in this movie are pretty good, but seeing Septimus suspended in the air, drowning, is a great touch. The doll is also used after as a sort of pawn to fight Tristan. Septimus was pretty bad, but having to watch your own dead body fight someone else while you’re a ghost is not something we’d wish on most people. Remind us not to cross any witches.
“What do stars do? They shine.”
Yes, Yvaine! They shine! Save your boy, save the world!
While we view Tristan as the hero of this story, it’s Yvaine that saves the day. Although Tristan has learned a lot in his week of growth, it won’t be enough to defeat Lamia. Yvaine knows this, and when she sees him struggling to win she decides to take a risk. Close your eyes, she tells Tristan. And she shines so bright that Lamia is blown to smithereens.
So we get a happily ever after at the hand of our very own star. All is well in Stormhold, and it’s the kind of ending that makes you feel like you could shine as brightly as Yvaine. Yes, even years after we first saw the movie, we still shed a happy tear when the credits roll.
Featured still from "Stardust" via Paramount Pictures