The books of Dr. Seuss are filled with imagination and standard but uniquely told morals. There have been multiple adaptations of Seuss’ books over the years and yet not one has managed to fully capture the spirit of the source material. There have been some that tried to an extent but they miss the mark in many crucial aspects. This article ranks all the Dr. Seuss movies from worst to best. Note: For this list I’m going for the 2000s adaptations. There were many 2D animated shorts of Seuss’ books in the 60s and 70s that remained more or less faithful to the source material given that Seuss himself partook in their making and the changes they made there made sense.
5. The Cat in the Hat
This movie took the timeless and whimsical spirit of Seuss’ best-known book and made it into something entirely unrecognizable. What is supposed to be a balanced message of having fun is completely butchered with horribly dated pop culture references, forced morals, jokes that neither satisfy children or adults, and some downright unpleasant visuals. Mike Meyers was horribly miscast as the title character giving nothing but a sense of creepiness. Heck half the time he doesn’t even look at the kids in the eye or even have that much of a character. This movie proved to have such a bad impact that Seuss’ wife forbade any further live action adaptations of her late husband’s work and honestly that’s for the best.
4. The Grinch (2000)
Put the pitchforks and torches down for a minute people! Now I know many people have nostalgic attachment to this one. And Jim Carrey’s makeup and performance (though it gets a tad too hammy at times) are nothing short of great for live action. However the good news ends there. The Whos of Whoville (aside from Cindy Lou) look downright creepy. And the town itself looks downright dirty and polluted and it very much takes away from the movie’s color palette. The iconic, subtle, and emotional moment of the Grinch realizing the true meaning of Christmas is entirely pulled away through Carrey’s over-the-top performance. It does have the message but its execution makes it struggle to stand.
3. The Lorax
The animation of this movie is good-looking and does translate Seuss’ world for this story quite colorfully. The best parts of this movie primarily come from the aspects that are right out of the book. The stuff not from the books however gives the movie several shortcomings. The main character’s motivation to find more about trees is horribly weak. The pop culture references and attempts to be more modern makes the movie lose its timelessness and make it very much feel like pandering. And it speaks to less of an audience as it paints its conflict very much in black and white that takes away from the heart of the story. And its environmental message lacks subtlety and leaves little memorability. And while he’s not in the movie so much the character of the Lorax himself is portrayed quite well. The Once-ler is very much a dated hipster and it can get really annoying. Every other character is largely one-dimensional. The songs are just downright terrible attempts to be more modern and they feel unnecessary. Stick with the 1972 version.
2. The Grinch (2018)
The prime factor that makes this adaptation surpass the live action version is the quality of the animation, which visually helps as a Christmas movie and a Dr. Seuss movie. The environment and Christmas decorations of Whoville are beautifully detailed. The backgrounds in particular help emphasize Whoville’s love for Christmas. It has a great color palette. The animations for the characters are also done well with a good balance of energetic and down to earth. So you’d think it’s perfect right? WRONG! The character designs definitely could use a lot more work as they feel too wrapped up in the Illumination style of Despicable Me and much less out of the books. The story also has too much filler dragging out certain moments and in its attempt to be comedic the latter of which has many moments that fall flat. There’s also an entire subplot regarding Cindy Lou that the movie could have done without. It has its moments but there’s a lot of filler to sit through for it and you have to wonder if it’s worth it. There also aren’t that many memorable characters to fall back on in this movie. Although a tad better than the 2000 adaptation, it’s definitely not the Grinch adaptation Seuss fans would want. I’d personally stick with the 1966 cartoon. Don’t touch either adaptation with a 39 and a half foot pole.
1. Horton Hears a Who
This is easily the least awful of Seuss’ adaptations though that’s not saying much given what we have. There is some real creativity put into some moments of this movie such as the climax where the people of Whoville try to create all sorts of noises in order to be heard. There’s also a very creative moment in Horton’s imagination that tries to capture Seuss’ original style when he imagines the noise from the dust speck. Unfortunately when the movie tries to reference other modern things the movie gets weak in trying to extend to such a wide audience. There are some bad spots about it though the creativity in certain moments balances it out to prevent it from becoming something like the Cat in the Hat. This isn’t so much cringe-worthy bad as much as it is just confusing. It’s something I’m definitely glad I saw once. Would I watch it again? Probably not. Is it watchable? Absolutely. In any case however we still have a long way to go in faithfully adapting Seuss’ work to cinema successfully.
How do you rank Seuss’ movies? Are there any rankings you agree or disagree with? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!