When author Roald Dahl was just a young boy, he went on a tour of the Cadbury factory, where he was allowed to taste-test new chocolates and review them before they even hit the shelves (per Screen Rant). For all Dahl knew, this experience was a dream come true. He envisioned other rooms of the factory housing all sorts of elaborate candies and chocolates, and, many years later, he put his imagination on paper and wrote the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Since then, four film adaptations feauring its titular character, Willy Wonka, have been made.
To watch any of the films — Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Johnny Depp’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factor, the lesser-known Tom and Jerry version, or Timotée Chalamet’s newest prequel Wonka — audiences have to suspend their disbelief to truly enjoy Willy Wonka’s magical creation. A place where furniture is made out of candy and chocolate flows like a smooth river is truly something incredible, and fans get to embrace their inner child and simply enjoy the whimsical story on the screen.
Now, with three theatrical films and one direct-to-video movie, everyone naturally seems to want to compare the magical worlds, characters, and storylines. Here is how we chose to rank all the Willy Wonka movies.
|All Willy Wonka Movies
|Year of Release
|Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
|Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
|Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
4 Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (2017)
A Tom and Jerry and Willy Wonka collaboration is not something anyone asked for or really needed, yet, here we are. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment put out the animated film, Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 2017, and while amusing to children who love the cat and mouse duo, most people were left scratching their heads and wondering why the movie was even made, claiming the trailer looked awful from the onset (see for yourself below).
The plot follows very closely to the original 1971 version, but Tom and Jerry get thrown into some of the background antics. It is nice to see how they put aside their differences to help Charlie Bucket at times, but again, there is no truly unique spin or twist to the tale. As the story goes, Charlie is a young boy from a poor home, who takes his Grandpa Joe to Willy Wonka’s factory with him after finding the fifth and final golden ticket. There, they go on a tour with the four other children, all of whom eventually get kicked out as their selfish flaws are revealed. Tom, Jerry, and even Spike make appearances throughout, but they add nothing to the story.
Overall, if you want to throw something on in the background to get your little ones familiar with the story, this is a fair film. However, if you are looking for quality entertainment that everyone can enjoy, please go with a different film adaptation. Rent on AppleTV
3 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
An elaborate candy factory run by a slightly delusional man, with tiny men working in his shop — this had Tim Burton’s name written all over it from the very beginning. However, the eccentric director would not get his hands on the story until more than 30 years after the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory premiered.
While Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory turned out to be a beautiful film with an amazing cast — seriously, Freddie Highmore playing Charlie Bucket was perfection — it fell short with the audience. Johnny Depp’s Wonka was a bit more menacing and creepy in comparison to Gene Wilder’s, and the flashbacks with him as a young boy did not earn him any sort of sympathy.
Wonka would seem all too pleased when a child would “mess up” and be sent away, narrowing the competition. He would giggle and smile, but his eyes were completely void of emotion. Fans were more concerned about the tricks Wonka had up is sleeve and if Charlie and his grandfather would make it out of the factory alive. Stream on Max
2 Wonka (2023)
Release Date December 15, 2023
Director Paul King
While Wonka is officially the fourth film in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory lineup, it comes in as the second-best film in the whole series. Serving as a prequel to how Willy Wonka became the candy-obsessed eccentric man that he is, the film absolutely exceeds expectations.
Timothée Chalamet is a charming young Wonka, with a naturally charismatic attitude about him. Fans were unsure if the magical character was going to be a peculiar psychopath like Depp’s Wonka or a more subtle one like Wilder’s candy craftsman. Happily (and surprisingly), Chalamet’s Wonka is like neither. Instead, he is a kind-hearted individual who is immediately deemed likable within the first few minutes after giving away money to a mother in need.
This musical film takes audiences through the early days of Willy Wonka’s journey to becoming the best chocolate maker the world has ever seen. He, unfortunately, finds himself in a bit of trouble with an inn owner as well as the other chocolate makers in the city. Willy does not let these obstacles deter him for long, and with the help of his new friends, he is able to make everyone in the town fall in love with his creation.
The most heartfelt aspect about this film is Willy’s friendship with Noodle (Calah Lane). She initially tries to save him from signing away his life for the next few decades, and when it comes to breaking out of the joint, Noodle is right by his side. They bond over their pasts and their flaws, and Willy even goes out of his way to reunite Noodle with a very special person. Now Playing in Theaters
1 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
People often say it is hard to beat an original, and in this case, it really is true. Mel Stuart’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory comes in as number one on this list. While it was not a huge box office success — it made $4 million on a $3 million budget — fans have loved it since the beginning. Gene Wilder understood Willy Wonka the moment he read the script. He knew that the character needed to be charismatic and likable, but there also needed to be a subtle uncertainty to the things he would say.
Aside from the nostalgic aspect of the film, the 1971 movie ranks as number one because it is bizarre while also being fun. The focus is more on Charlie Bucket getting to experience Wonka’s chocolate factory and taking everything in as a kid, rather than Wonka himself taking the spotlight. There is a whimsical air as the children and their guardians travel from room to room, and while Wilder is able to capture the subtleties of potentially being a bad guy, he does not come across creepy like Depp’s portrayal of the iconic character.
In all, people can and should appreciate all the films that have brought Dahl’s creation to life, and each one has its own respective style. In another 20 years, someone else may take a stab at how Charlie has managed to run things at the Wonka factory, but for now, audiences can enjoy these films that remind us that having big dreams, no matter how wild, is a great thing. Stream on Max