For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the story of Peter Pan; full of magic, adventure and the eternal childhood fantasy, it’s everything a little boy could want. Ever since J. M. Barrie first breathed life into the timeless tale it has entertained generations of fans. But with so many adaptations, where does one begin? Well, I’ll be honest; I didn’t include any performances where Pan was not played by a real boy. Sorry, not sorry; I can’t get past the gender swappage.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, onto the best Pans out there.
5. Disney's Peter Pan (1953)
How many of us first met the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up through Walt Disney? While it’s not my favorite version (I know, Disney not being number one is shocking to me, too) the first time I watched it made a lasting impression on me. A child as the center of the story? A child as the hero? The animated classic, to this day, inspires so many of my stories that Walt should probably be mentioned in every acknowledgment page I write. Now, there are a few deviations from Barrie’s work that irk and confuse me (pointed ears and that dang green tunic) but others have fully embraced them; just look at how many later adaptations did the same. This may not be the best Peter Pan but it is one of them.
4. Once Upon a Time (Season 3)
When the ABC hit brought in Pan, he was less the mischievous brat and more downright evil – perhaps closer to how Barrie originally envisioned the boy – while turning Hook into a reformed baddie. Nice switch, eh? Not only did Pan switch teams, he was also connected to other characters; Rumpelstiltskin did have a daddy and that daddy was evil. And tried to kill his own great grandson. I urge – no, beg – ABC to bring back Robbie Kay. Best villain (when Regina behaves, of course).
3. Pan (2015)
The 2015 origin story features Levi Miller as the titular hero, the orphan Peter left by his mother to live with cruel nuns. After being abducted by Blackbeard’s (Hugh Jackman) pirates to Neverland, he finds himself in a magical, awe-inspiring and deadly adventure. So much win in this one (thought a white Tiger Lily??) that I can’t recommend it enough.
2. Neverland (2011)
In 2011, SyFy (Sky Movies overseas) premiered this two-part Peter Pan origin and the only complaint I can lodge is there was no sequel! Charlie Rowe is Pan this time and he is great in one of the more epic version of the timeless classic. This miniseries is not only awe-inspiring but addiction-inspiring; you may need to be up at the butt crack of dawn but you’ll stay up all night watching the whole dang thing.
1. Peter Pan (2003)
Up until 2003, many adaptations where inspired by (or simply ripped off of) Walt Disney’s masterpiece than Barrie’s works. This one changed that simply by being the most faithful version I’ve ever seen. Jeremy Sumpter, as the foliage-clad Pan, is simply superb as is the rest of this outstanding cast. If you only ever see one Peter Pan, make it this one (but, really, watch them all!).
I know there are more versions out there, and quite a few I haven’t seen but I stand by this list and recommend anyone add all of them to their collections. You have a different favorite? Let me know in the comments.