Last week I pointed out that there are many different types of fantasy movies… so many that picking favourites can not only be a challenge, but make any list you cobble together look a little all-over-the-place. Nevertheless, I still wanted to identify the ones I absolutely loved. So without further ado, here are my top 25 fantasy films (and I should point out, many are childhood favourites… I guess those are often the ones that stick with you):
Just a warning: there are a few spoilers in here if you haven’t seen the films.
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
It’s too hard to pick one of them, and I tend to think of them as a whole unit, so I am favouriting the trilogy here. This is really the quintessential fantasy series so I had to include it at number one. It was such an epic undertaking, and brought the story so thoroughly and richly to the screen. I still remember the excitement I felt waiting at the cinema to see each film when it came out, and the hours I spent watching behind-the-scenes videos. These films will always be favourites for me – even when I have watched them so many times I’m thoroughly sick of them.
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This, followed closely by The Prisoner of Azkaban, is my favourite in the series, though I am a fan of the whole set. To me it’s one of the most suspenseful and dynamic movies, and despite numerous watchings I always find the scene when Harry returns without Cedric heartbreaking. In fact, the only instalment that really disappointed me was The Half-Blood Prince, as I felt it handled the whole climax/ending sequence poorly (the book brought me to tears, the movie didn’t even come close). Still, I am an unashamed Potter fan, and this love extends to both the books and the movies.
3. How to Train Your Dragon
This is just a wonderful film. The animation is great, the story is great, and its funny and touching. I’m yet to find a person with a bad word to say about it, and I think it bears multiple watchings. The story is well told, but the skill and creativity of the animation, particularly when it comes to the dragon characters, is also a big part of what makes this film great. Toothless has to be one of the cutest characters in film history – his movements, which at times appear both cat-like and dog-like, are perfectly done and really make this fantasy character feel real.
4. Edward Scissorhands
This is a classic and has held a special place in my heart for a long time. It’s a simple but artfully told story, with a very fairy tale feel to it. I have to admit it’s also the music score that gets me with this one… just hearing it is enough to give me chills. The final scene, with the snow falling as Edward creates the ice sculptures in the castle, is one of the most touching and perfect fairy tale endings I’ve ever seen.
5. Groundhog Day
I adore this movie. I’ve seen it numerous times (which is kind of amusing given the repetitious nature of the film itself) but it really is such an amusing and touching exploration of a fascinating premise. The main character’s journey is actually quite epic, in spite of the fact this is primarily a comedy. He’s taken to the brink of despair – even to actually committing suicide – and back again. To this day, the moment I hear Sonny & Cher’s “I got you babe” I think of this film and I smile.
This is my favourite Disney movie. There are so many reasons I love this film, not the least of which is Robin Williams’s funny and loveable performance as the genie – he turned what might have otherwise been a very standard, annoying, comic-relief type Disney character into the star act. I re-watched it recently, and was surprised to see it stood the tests of time and age. There are actually quite a few creepy moments in this film (e.g. the opening sequence, the diamond in the rough) which you don’t get in a lot of Disney movies, and this still holds up for me as being the best of them.
Another classic that I’ve watched multiple times. This was just such a great premise, and such an entertaining and well-made film, again with a star performance by Robin Williams. I remember being genuinely frightened by the creepy monkeys and all the other horrors that the game unleashed. I would still watch it today and I think will be a classic for decades to come.
I discovered Underworld a long time after it came out, and suddenly realised what I had been missing out on. I enjoyed the whole series, but for me this first movie was unquestionably the best, and immediately drew me in – especially because of the main female character… and of course, because of Bill Nighy. I always love Bill Nighy, and he is so very perfect in this role. As far as paranormal romance and dark fantasy movies go, I think this is the best out there.
9. Beauty and the Beast
Another Disney favourite of mine, and a movie I’ve watched plenty of times. It’s quite a simple story compared to some other Disney tales (e.g. Aladdin), but it’s a beautifully told romance and still manages to woo me in adulthood. Also, just look at the beautiful poster image!
10. Lego Movie
A more recent release, but none-the-less a film that I think deserves to make the list. This was a surprisingly funny, quirky, clever story that really had me laughing. In fact, I still chuckle when I think about the double decker couch, or hear the ‘everything is awesome’ song, or just think about all the characters calling him ‘the special’. I think it’s going to become a comedy classic, and one I’ll happily watch multiple times.
11. Ever After: A Cinderella Story
I do love a good cinderella story, and I’m not adverse to a bit of cheesy romance every now and again, so this film is still one I fondly return to. I think it’s the best retelling of the Cinderella story to date, and just generally a feel-good movie. I know there’s a new Cinderella-inspired movie coming out soon, so I’m curious to see how it holds up, and if it’s any good. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.
12. The Avengers
When I went to see this movie I thought it was going to be terrible. I thought it was going to be a gimmicky super-hero mash-up, purely created for the purposes of milking money out of people, with a lot of action and no story. Fortunately, I was wrong. The film was actually gripping, entertaining, funny, and managed to really explore the characters and their flaws – especially when they were tested to breaking point. And the ending was just… well, epic. Marvel really didn’t disappoint. Then again, they rarely do, so I don’t know why I’m surprised.
13. The Muppet Christmas Carol
People might laugh at me for putting this in the list, but I really do love this movie. I’m a huge fan of the Christmas Carol story and enjoy pretty much every adaptation of it I encounter (thank you, Charles Dickens), but this muppets version is just one of the most fun and charming renditions of it I know. I loved it as a kid, and I still love it. It’s definitely my favourite Christmas film, and the one that gives me the Christmas season warm-and-fuzzies like no other.
I know ‘Up’ is a little light on the fantasy elements, but it is still full of fanciful rather impossible happenings so I’m going to class it as a fantasy movie. I’m a huge Pixar fan, and I think this is one of the best they’ve done (second only to Wall-E, which I haven’t included here as I’d say it’s more science fiction than fantasy). It’s a beautiful, original story with great characters and jokes that still make me laugh (squirrel!). It also managed to get me feeling emotional in the first few minutes – which is a mean feat for any film to achieve.
15. The Princess Bride
The famous quotes from this movie are endless. It’s such a classic, and it walks a delightful line between absolute silliness and romantic charm. I loved it when I was a kid, and I still love it. Many of the scenes are iconic now: the poison stand-off, the sword fight, the scene where Wesley gets brought back to life. Altogether an unforgettable film.
Well, what can I say – this is a classic. Romantic and funny and tragic all at once. I discovered it quite late, considering I saw it as an adult even though it came out before I was even in primary school… but once I saw it I could see why people talked so much about it, and why the song ‘Unchained Melody’ will forever be associated with it. A wonderful film.
17. Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
In my opinion, the series got progressively worse, but this first instalment still holds up as one of my favourites. It is just such a fun, funny, entertaining story, and I believe it is the best pirate film out there. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush both do a fabulous job, and Jack Sparrow is a character that I think has and will endure in popular culture for a long time.
18. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
This is probably stretching the fantasy label a bit… but hey, it’s got knights and castles and quests and battles, even if it’s all a bit absurdist and ridiculous. And I do so love this film. The scene with the French knights shouting things from the castle walls still makes me laugh, along with, of course, the knights who say “ni!”
As this is a recent Disney release, it’s got none of the nostalgic childhood attachments for me that some others have. However, I think it’s the best recent Disney animated film (yes, even above Frozen), and it’s one I would have also loved as a child. It’s funny and entertaining and it balances out some of the Disney cheesiness with unusual characters and fun jokes. I particularly like the self-involved love interest, Flynn and the way the story turns certain elements of the fairy tale on their head.
20. The Frighteners
I must confess to being a big Michael J Fox fan, so that probably influenced my decision a bit here, but I loved this film and remember watching it multiple times. It is such a fun, quirky ghost story (and coincidentally, was directed by Peter Jackson before he did Lord of the Rings). It’s kind of like Ghost Busters but without the over-the-top silliness, and with more depth to it.
21. Death Becomes Her
I don’t know how many times I have seen this – too many times, I think, because I don’t know if I could watch it again. Still, I think it’s a classic and one that I obviously felt was worth watching over and over again. It’s a funny film, but also manages to be quite creepy and sinister in its own way. Bruce Willis and Meryl Streep are two of my favourite actors, though neither of them play particularly nice characters. In fact, none of the characters are particularly redeeming.
22. The Sixth Sense
I tend to be a bit of chicken when it comes to horror/thriller movies, but I loved this one, even as it was scaring the pants off me. Thankfully, no one spoiled the ending before I watched it, so it came as a surprise. I still think it’s one of the best twists out there. Oh, and again, I’m a Bruce Willis fan, so I’m sure that helped to get this on the list.
I’m not normally a fan of magical realism, but this movie is one of the few exceptions. It’s heartwarming and quirky and so very French. It’s also a lovely unconventional romance that has really set a style all of its own, and I think all attempts to imitate it have paled in comparison.
I may be laughed at for including this… but it’s just such a sweet, fun little film, not to mention being an Australian production, so I had to add it. It’s also kind of a classic children’s movie now, and the iconic line is one I think still makes many people smile: “That’ll do pig, that’ll do”.
25. Big Fish
Another magical realist story with a very fairytale feel to it. It’s very touching and well made, and I think it gets that balance between reality and imagination just right. I also, quite simply, love the message of this film.
So, those are my top picks… but if you feel I’ve left any out, or have your own favourite fantasy movies that you think deserve a mention, feel free to add them in the comments!