Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top Fantasy Movies

First off, let me say that Google didn't allow me to log in last night, so I couldn't respond to all the wonderful comments to yesterday's post until this morning. I loved hearing your thoughts and learning about some movies I hadn't seen.

I can't do a top ten with fantasy movies, first because there are simply far more of them that I like than with science fiction, but also because the quality level in fantasy is much iffier than with sci-fi usually, so some movies that I enjoyed also bothered me with their low quality.

I don't have my movie collection here with me as I write this, so I Googled a top 100 list. I think some of my favorites are not on there, so I am most likely leaving off some that I really love. I also disagreed with many of the movies on the list, as they were not fantasy movies, in my opinion.

I believe the quality dropoff from the first few to the others is significant, so I will rate my first few and then simply list a bunch of honorable mentions.

1. The Harry Potter movies - I'm including them all together, since to me it would be silly to list them apart. I could tell you that The Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite, though. It might seem heretical to those who know me that I list this ahead of the Lord of the Rings movies. Let me explain. I absolutely love the LOTR movies. They are awesome. However, I find myself watching the Harry Potter movies over and over again with my sons, and there is simply something undeniably fun about them. While I love the LOTR films and do rewatch them, I have to give Harry the tiny edge simply due to rewatchability. On another day, I would swap their places, though, as they are so close as the best two fantasy franchises ever.

2. The Lord of the Rings films - I am only talking about the extended editions, as I ignore the theatrical versions. The Fellowship of the Ring was the best of them, but all of them are wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a better translation of the movies into film. No one could have done it perfectly, so this is as close as I think it can be done.

After the above two, everything has to pale in comparison! I can't list the rest in order, since so many of them fall into distinct types of fantasy to me, or are not even really fantasy as far as I am concerned, yet I know so many of you will consider them to be. If a really awesome fantasy is not listed here, it is probably because I didn't consider it fantasy (or it just didn't quite make my top list).

The Princess Bride - This one probably does deserve the number 3 slot. It is a timeless classic, and I can watch it again and again without growing tired of it. It blends wonderful fantasy elements with such wit and humor, while giving us unforgettable characters and dialogue. It's very nearly a perfect fantasy movie.

Now let me do some clear fantasy movies before I move onto the borderline ones and cartoons.

Dragonslayer - It's low budget and a bit corny, as most fantasy movies were before Peter Jackson taught everyone how to do it properly. I actually wouldn't put it high on my list, but this one is a clear fantasy, and it isn't so bad.

Willow - Again, a real fantasy, and despite some cheesiness, it is fun and has some great characters, such as Val Kilmer's roguish warrior.

Labyrinth - Some poor special effects, but that is what we always got with fantasy movies before Harry Potter and LOTR. It's still a very good movie, especially for kids.

Time Bandits - Oh, I really love this one, probably because when I was a little kid the only way to watch movies was to go to the drive-in (we were too poor for theaters), and my mom took us to see this one a couple of times and it stuck with me. It is just so FUN and funny, and there are so many tiny cool details. What's not to love?

Okay, now let me list my favorite cartoons, some of which are true fantasy and some of which are very borderline.

Fire and Ice - I always loved the art of Frank Frazetta. He can't do his full-blown magic over the course of a film, but it is still quite good. The story is fairly standard 70's-style fantasy fare, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

Wizards - Fantasy with some sci-fi elements. There are lots of nuances to the story, so it pays to watch it a few times.

Shrek - Fun and funny fantasy, cleverly done, at least in the first one.

The Nightmare Before Christmas - Borderline fantasy as are the rest of the ones listed below, but what a brilliant movie. The soundtrack is incredible, and Tim Burton manages to make each character in a vast cast distinctive and truly memorable.

Monster's Inc. - One of the best and funniest cartoons I have ever seen.

The Incredibles - Not as wonderful as Monster's, but very close.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit - I really love this one, too, but it's not really a fantasy, in my opinion.

Toy Story - Ditto

Howl's Moving Castle - I don't have a taste for Japanese animation styles, but this movie is just too fascinating to ignore.

Finally, the movies listed in other fantasy lists that I consider very borderline fantasy; I really enjoy all of these:

Dark City
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Jurassic Park
Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one only)
Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder version)
Sleepy Hollow (more horror than fantasy, but very good)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Bridge to Terabithia
King Kong
The 13th Warrior
Edward Scissorhands
The Goonies
Robin Hood (the Patrick Bergen and Uma Thurman version)

This is going on too long. I suspect you will let me know where I have missed some. I imagine there will be a few 'duh' moments!


  1. Good solid list. Labyrinth and Willow are two of the best fantasy movies, and to be fair, a lot of good fantasy came from the 80s. I'm considering a big project of watching a top 50 fantasy movies based on bloggers favourites; this is an excellent starting point :D

  2. LOTR tops my list. And Princess Bride is an excellent choice.

  3. Oh gosh, when I was a kid I'd watch Willow over and over. I only stopped to watch Nightmare Before Christmas. XD

    Another one is Dragonheart, which was made in 1996 (had to look it up). The special effects are probably somewhat cheesy, but I loved that movie to pieces.

  4. one word, Excaliber! okay, so one word followed by an exclaimation point. Labrynth is a great movie that I might have forgotten to list myself. I would put Dark City solidly on a scifi list.

  5. You left out the Game of Thrones series on HBO. I also agree that the Harry Potter movies have been good but I think I liked the LoTR's ones the best as far as what's been shown on the big screen.

    Ted, I also wanted to say thanks for stopping by my blog and I just wanted to be clear that I love these books. I'm a fan...without a doubt. However, I still plant my flag firmly in the ground when I say there is no plot and that they are a big soap opera the same as the 80's soaps starring the "Carrington's" and the "Colby's" or Knot's Landing or Dallas. Martin just has a different world than Earth. I guess if you can state that 90210 has a plot then you can also say that Martin's books have a plot too. But I draw the line and say that is "Slice of Life" style writing and can literally go on forever as long as you keep coming up with things that happen to the characters.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading more on my soap opera tonight...try to get through another 300 pages so I can gossip with my friend James about what happened to whom.

  6. I loved all the ones you listed above. I have all the HP books as well as the movies, was a little disappointed with the last movie. Lord of the Rings, Return of the King. Excalibur. I can recite the Morgana's chant by heart ...^-^.... Avatar! You left this off the list and it is my number one favorite because of the beauty of high fantasy.

  7. hmmm laila's avatar made me wonder if avatar: the last airbender (cartoon version) is fantasy... but it's not a movie- but SO OUTSTANDING nonetheless. i'm with jamie about the 80's fantasy, some of the effects might be cheesy but some of my favorite movies anyway! like labrynth (comeonnow some of those puppets were FABULOUS!!!) and willow, but also the cartoon version of the hobbit and the last unicorn. and then there's Legend. can't forget that one! and more recently, narnia, and spiderwick and lemony snicket (if they count) and inkheart and the wizard of oz, and the seeker... and and and...
    ohman wiki has a great list- but the genre boundaries confuse me on a buncha them! here:

  8. If you liked Howl's Moving Castle you've got to see Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Those are the two best Miyazaki animated films IMO.

    And I'm not going to get into the great films, because I could go on forever, but I do think you have a point about Harry Potter. Azkaban is my favorite also, but I certainly agree that my family re-watches Harry Potter more than any other movies.

  9. Blogger sure is having problems. I can't get signed in. I am trying this by not checking the 'remain signed in' box, as I heard that can help.

  10. Love Willow, love The Princess Bride, love Howl's Moving Castle, love Labyrinth. I liked Dragonheart, too, which someone mentioned. Not great, but pretty good.

    LOTR, of course.

    I admit, I think the Harry Potter movies are much more boring than the books. A few of them have poor pacing. Prisoner of Azkaban is, I agree, the best. It had not only the best pacing, but also the most interesting visual style. And I admit I haven't seen Deathly Hallows One, yet. And there are good parts in all of the films... but lots of dull parts, too. Everything was so much more magical and charming and funny in the books.

  11. I couldn't get into Dragonheart. Bryan, you are right about the books being better, but since I have two young sons, the movies do a pretty great job of making us come back for more. We always see new little details that we missed previously.

  12. Marvel had no choice, with Thor in May and Green Lantern In June, they had no choice but to put other comic films in July. However, the problem is with Harry Potter movie was a winter and then the study was greedy and did a summer movie a few years ago. I think it was more like a winter movie.
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