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All Time Favorite Fantasy Films

Black Dragon

Let's create a list of the Best Fantasy Movies.

Name three films, and explain why you would consider them among the best. I'll begin:

This version of the Arthurian legend has lush photography and an epic Wagnerian score. It really transports you into the world of British mythology, and features a young and very hot Helen Mirren.

Sean Connery is memorable as an immortal warrior training his protege for the final battle. The real star of the film, however, is the Scottish highlands. They are breathtaking. This film also features original songs by Queen, including the classic ballad "Who Wants to Live Forever."

Conan the Barbarian
This movie made Arnold a household name, but it was the villain who really stole the show. James Earl Jones is spellbinding as charismatic cult leader Thulsa Doom, whose quest to solve the Riddle of Steel inadvertently gives rise to his mortal enemy. The original score by Basil Poledouris remains among the best in cinema history.

You can read the rest of my personal list here:

The 10 Best Fantasy Movies – and Why They Rock

Let's pool our collective knowledge, and make this list a valuable resources for anyone who is interested in finding the best fantasy movies out there. After all, there are more than a few that are of pretty low quality. Let's draw attention to the best.

Also, let's try to avoid too much duplication if possible. :)


Lord of the Rings
Say what you will about its skill as an adaptation (I say it was a great adaptation, personally), but LotR stands where no other live action fantasy film really ever has. It looks real, it's acted well, and it is entirely worthwhile. For all that I love fantasy films, most of them are either generic high budget schlock or they are well-acted, honest efforts with rubber suits and bad editing. Lord of the Rings succeeds on all fronts of technical mastery and storytelling.

The 10th Kingdom
My personal favorite take on the "retelling fairy tales" genre of fantasy, the 10th Kingdom is a seven hour miniseries that creates a setting of believable humor and interesting ideas. As far as the overacted, cheesy effect group goes, this is by far the best you'll find, although it is a beast to sit through. Wolf is my favorite part of this film. Very sexy, animalistic, and romantic. Rutger Hauer as the Queen's Huntsman is also pretty amazing.

Pan's Labyrinth
While not as technically masterful as Lord of the Rings, this movie makes up for it entirely through a dark twist on a classic fantasy storyline (a young woman who is really a magical princess) and really propelling the idea of dark fantasy out of the horror genre. It is a beautiful film, probably the most beautiful live action film I've ever seen, and the story line is tense, frightening, and just... mystical, something so few fantasy stories (film or otherwise) have anymore. It felt like an old fantasy story, and it was brought to life by one of my favorite directors, Guillermo del Toro.

And while I was focusing more on live action films (since they are just more challenging; nearly any animated fantasy film is bound to be more magical on principal of the medium), I will pre-second anyone who wants to nominate How to Train Your Dragon (which happens to be my favorite animated feauter) or any Hayao Miyazaki film.
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New Member
Lord of The Rings (the trilogy)
Got to be one of the best made in this genre and I was kept entertained throughout the whole series. Casting was well done and the quality of the special effects and cinematography are among the best.

Raiders of The Lost Arc
A slamming action adventure film with excellent effects and a grippings story line. Loved it.

Jason and The Argonauts
A bit primitive effect wise now, but still an excellent watch and has stood the test of time.
The 10th Kingdom
My personal favorite take on the "retelling fairy tales" genre of fantasy, the 10th Kingdom is a seven hour miniseries that creates a setting of believable humor and interesting ideas. As far as the overacted, cheesy effect group goes, this is by far the best you'll find, although it is a beast to sit through. Wolf is my favorite part of this film. Very sexy, animalistic, and romantic. Rutger Hauer as the Queen's Huntsman is also pretty amazing.

While I agree that The 10th Kingdom is awesome, I thought it was classified more as a mini-series than a movie. Like The Lost Room, Earthsea,and Tinman. They were "original TV mini-series events" and not something that went to theaters. But maybe that's just knit-picking. Anyway, my top three I guess are the following:

An unlikely hero trying to prove to his people that he can be a magician goes on a dangerous adventure to see a child saved and teams up with a reluctant swordsman and a powerful sorceress in the form of a muskrat equals - epic tale. Plus I still find myself quoting lines from the movie and people don't stare at me like they have no idea what I'm talking about. "There's a peck here with an acorn pointed at me!" I love Madmartigan!

The Wizard of Oz
An epic movie about a tornado carry a young girl off to a magical land where she learns a valuable lesson and befriends a scarecrow, a tinman, and a lion. Plus it's just a touching story.

It was Michael Keaton at his best (and most disgusting) performance. It made me take a whole new look at the other realm!
Flight of Dragons
The Last Unicorn (Live action AND animated >.>)
Pan's Labryrinth
I'd have to go through my movie collection to name some others and I'm in lazy mode >.<
1. Jabberwocky. A universally unpopular movie, it seems. Even so, I quite like it. King Bruno and the decaying structure around him (social as well as physical) reminds me of Titus Groan, and it has a happy ending, the hero returning to the mediocrity he has always aspired to. The FX are crude, the editing could be better in places, but by and large as a vision of a fantasy world I prefer it to Jackson's version of Middle-earth.

2. Dark City. Ostensibly sci-fi, but I'm sure I've made my derision of such distinctions apparent in other posts. Not the greatest use of celluloid, but compared to its peers, both sci-fi and fantasy, it certainly deserves a mention in any list of fantasy movies. Even if it doesn't strictly adhere to the constraints of the genre.

3. Time Bandits. Another Gilliam movie. A pattern emerges. It still makes me smile even after all these years, and that's no bad thing.


New Member
Some good movies in this thread. Here are my picks that I haven't seen listed yet.


Virgin sacrifices, a wizard and his apprentice, and dragons!

Reign of Fire

A dragon apocalypse. Christian Bale (one of the greatest actors of our time) and Matthew McConaughey (in one of the few movies I enjoyed his acting). I'm a sucker for apocalyptic anything, but an apocalypse with dragons is like heroin.


How to describe this movie? The basics: a young princess is kidnapped by a horrible monster and a young prince must journey to save her, using a magical weapon. Sounds cliche. And it is. But the visual creativity in this movie is astounding, from the horses that spread fire from their hooves as they run to the cyclops to the moving castle.


I've hesitated to respond to this thread, because I wasn't sure I could come up with three "fantasy" movies that deserved to be described as "best"–favorites, sure, but that's a far cry from being good, and I'm sorry, but most aren't. I'd find it easier to trash several times as many than give props to three. (I have yet to see Pan's Labyrinth, though everything I've seen of and about it looks good… so that at least might give me one more candidate.)

So, barring gendre-benders (yes, I just made that up :cool: ), my list of the three "best" fantasy movies of all time is:

- Lord of the Rings (trilogy). It worked; it worked well–as a story, as a believable fantasy world you could immerse yourself in, as having strong characterization; it was visually outstanding. The only negatives anyone can come up with arise from purists complaining about deviations from the book (I've made a few such complaints myself…), and those were trivial compared to what is usual for screen adaptations of novels. If you'd never read the book, you'd think these were flawless.

- Labyrinth. You just know that once upon a time someone, sitting at a bar with his Hollywood friends, said "Hey, what do you think would happen if we could get George Lucas, Jim Henson and David Bowie together on one project?" Everyone else at the table laughed and said something about how he was really fantasizing now. Fortunately, when our anonymous friend sobered up, he didn't forget the idea. This movie is fun that does not stop: it has Muppets, puns, running gags, a character who's friends with rocks, a Bowie soundtrack, Bowie starring, a finale on a set literally right out of M. C. Escher–something we'd all wished could be done for years–and even a happy ending. One that isn't predictable, no less. The plot is simple fairy-tale; the brilliance is in re-imagining the fairy tale for a completely modern context… you never get the feeling you're seeing something out of Hans Christian Andersen or even the Grimm boys. Nor does it feel like a kid's movie, even though the lead is a teenager and most of the rest of the characters are Muppets. Oh, and did I mention it has David Bowie in it? I'd give up my baby brother for him if I were a teenage girl.… ;)

…after that, well… Wizard of Oz might take third, if you wanted to count that as "fantasy" rather than "children's" or whatever (it's still fantasy even then, but I tend to separate these from "mature" fantasy–I'm in good company, too, if I'm considering how to write marketable novels). On the other hand, I'm not sure it would actually place above Disney animateds such as Snow White, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty… even Shrek could compete there. Highlander might manage third if Oz isn't counted, if you want to count it as "fantasy"… which I suppose it was (can't really think of anyplace else to put it), though it didn't have that fantasy "feel" for me (no more than the Indiana Jones movies). Nor am I sure I'd put it ahead of Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, which few people would class as "fantasy"… since it doesn't have any magic in it.

Most of the other movies people have mentioned are ones I'd trash, not support. I'd be more likely to name Beastmaster–a movie most people rubbish–as an exemplar of a good fantasy movie than Excalibur, Krull, Willow or Conan and the Flower Children of Set. (I enjoyed the sequel more… probably due to the supporting cast.) Or Circle of Iron, which you'll find shelved under martial arts (if at all…), though it's definitely "fantastic" in setting, and worth a watch as such, independent of its fight content.

Now, if you're talking "favorite," instead of "best," yeah, I can come up with a couple more–though for the first of these, it would be easy to debate whether it counts as a "fantasy movie": it was certainly a movie–in terms of release format–and it was certainly "fantastic," but does it count if it isn't all one story? If it does, then add:

- Fantasia. Animated (how did I end up being the first person to pick animated movies? usually I'm the last to…), a score that arguably can't be beat (though I'll argue about that in a minute, too), and apart from the Stravinsky section (which one might categorize as "historical fiction") and the Bach section (pure "music video"), unquestionably fantasy. On the other hand, some people would call the whole thing a music video (which it is…), and it certainly isn't a feature-length story. Still, if one wants archetypes for fantasy stories, this movie serves as a primer par excellence.

Have to give honorable mentions to:

Ladyhawke. Now we can start the soundtrack argument. The Bowie soundtrack for Labyrinth is great, but doesn't pervade the movie in the same way the outright amazing Alan Parsons soundtrack does here–in fact, the music in this movie is played louder relative to the rest of the movie's sound (dialogue, effects) than in any other movie I'm familiar with (barring Fantasia, which has no other sound); one might argue that the music is the real star of this movie, and that the characters are secondary (which is just as well, really… no matter how much I like Rutger Hauer). It's also very strong visually, both in detail and atmosphere. The movie doesn't make the "best" list, though: it's a bit too cliché, too predictable–or was for me; perhaps not everybody will be familiar with the clichés. Still, it's good, and if you decide you aren't interested in the story, just close your eyes and submerge yourself in the music. Which isn't hard.

The Princess Bride. A lot of people would rank this near the top, and if it's simple entertainment you want, it goes right up there. It's also hysterically funny. (And in terms of fantasy movies with quotable lines, only Oz can beat it… maybe. "My name is Inigo Montoya…": the non-Broadway world gets introduced to Mandy Patinkin.) Plus, it has a title song that we used for the recessional at my wedding, so there's some extra points there. As an exemplar of "fantasy," its credentials aren't quite as strong. Definitely straight, traditional fairy tale: it's even set in a fairy tale narrative frame. Which is where it loses to Labyrinth–which is a fairy tale where all the problems, actions, etc. are relativized–successfully–to the modern day.

And my quirky, sentimental, "cult" fave:

- Wizards. Animated (what, again?)… but by Ralph Bakshi, who is better known for producing the first-ever X-rated animated film… as well as the infamous first attempt at a Lord of the Rings film (epic FAIL–to be fair, that wasn't entirely his fault); the rotoscoping works a bit better here, where it fits the atmosphere better and where your expectations aren't as high. (Oh: he also did Cool World–think a mature version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.) Nor is this one a kiddie flick, though they somehow only managed a PG rating here… not sure how he missed R. Technically science fantasy (post-nuclear holocaust world with guns, propaganda films, fairies and magic), as well as a dark comedy, I doubt it's anybody's idea of a contender for a "best" list–partly due to somewhat stilted dialogue, partly due to budget constraints; but there are sequences in here that are incredibly funny, and they're more than worth watching the movie for at least once, even if you don't care for the overall product. Be sure to view it in a format that allows you to back up, so you can watch the "They've killed Fritz!" sequence over and over until you have it memorized. (Though I suppose you can just find that on YouTube.…)

(An honorable mention to the honorable mentions: Rock and Rule, another animated post-apocalyptic science fantasy dark comedy; plot is more straight fairy tale than Wizards, but the soundtrack… well, rocks. (The antagonist's theme song, purred out by Lou Reed, begins "My name is Mok… thanks a lot." Ego much?) Another one worth viewing once, if no more than that: for some reason, I seem to like these more than most people do.)
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Blue Wizard

I second the 10th kingdom. It starts in familiar territory, but turns everything on its head and brings things in an unexpected direction. It's brilliant.


LOTR - Visually stunning, I thought it was a great adaptation, superb acting. I never wanted it to end.
Highlander - loved the soudtrack, the scene trasitions were great, and who doesn't enjoy men hacking away at each other with swords in NYC. Loved Kurgen, made me a Clancy Brown fan.
LadyHawke - Broderick's character kept me laughing. Found the lover's predicament poignant.
I'll try to come up with some that haven't been mentioned.
Many great ones on the list so far!

Star Wars - While it has all the trappings of Sci-Fi, it lacks the substantive science background most require to put it there. And the story doesn't revolve around science, but around the fantastic quasi-mystical element of the Force. Retconning with midichlorians aside, the plot doesn't require science at all. Did you know that Star Wars is shown 24 hours a day at US Immigration centers abroad?

Spirited Away - Animated film by Hayao Miyazaki. It explores Japanese myth and legend (much like all of his earlier works) with believable and interesting characters... considering some of them are giant radishes, talking frogs and witches! Out of all the Miyazaki films, this is the one that I feel best translates to Western audiences while captivating viewers in its homeland.

28 Days Later - Perhaps the best of the Resident Evil Movies... oh wait, it wasn't? 28 Days Later brought the quick-moving zombies normally reserved for video games to the silver screen. I've always wondered why dogs get smarter, faster and stronger when they turn undead... yet humans become shambling, mindless creepers. Perhaps the most "realistic" zombie film since the original Dawn of the Dead. May be considered sci-fi... more science elements than Star Wars, anyway!