Feel free to either watch the video above or just read the article below. They’re both the same.
I’ve already covered five of my favorite indie films that you should check out but up next is my top five pics for the genre of fantasy. This is actually a tough one, for several reasons.
What is fantasy? Some might say it’s very traditional wizards and dwarves and magic and all that. I would go further, to say that it could be anything where the reality is a little different. I’d separate this from science fiction, where reality is a little different because of some sort of technology. Some of my movies take place in a madeup history, while some take place in today’s world but with a few twists.
Another problem… is that a lot of fantasy movies don’t do well. And usually, it’s deserved. They might just be bad. Bad acting, horrid effects… most fantasy movies fail to reach any sort of critical or commercial success.
So, I want to spare you from those bombshells, so here are five fantasy movies that you need to watch.
Set in 1944 Spain, Pan’s Labyrinth isn’t a traditional fantasy story at all. Really, all the fantasy here exists in the head of a young girl who is struggling to deal with her horrible stepfather. In this reality in her mind, she’s a princess that must prove herself to a mystical fawn, and if so, will be reunited with her father the king. This was written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and is breathtaking. While telling the story of this girl, it is not a children’s story. This is a violent, dark, and disturbing movie, where a girl creates a false reality to escape the horrors of the real one. It’s an amazing story, though be forewarned that it is dark and violent, not a light and fluffy fairy tale.
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum is Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon. I think this movie surprised everyone with how funny, charming, and touching it turned out to be. It tells the story of a young viking named Hiccup who doesn’t quite fit the mold of a typical warrior. In an effort to take down one of the most dangerous dragons in existence, he ends up befriending it. This character of Toothless the dragon is one of the most endearing CGI creations in a long time. There are plenty of animated movies that are targeted at children, but this one succeeded on a lot of different levels and with a lot of different audiences. Definitely one to put on your list, if you somehow missed it.
Now… Should a movie about vampires be on a list of fantasy movies? I’d say yes. This isn’t really horror. This is really just a look at what the world of vampires would look like. We’ve got Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, and a young Kirsten Dunst. I think a lot of folks maybe missed the boat when it first came out in 1994 but I think it still stands up to today’s standards. Pitt and Cruise give great performances and Kirsten Dunst, at the age of 12, is absolutely fantastic (and terrifying).
Guillermo del Toro makes a second appearance on this list, with both Hellboy and Hellboy 2. The second is much more fantasy-driven, including more elves and monsters and all sorts of fantastical creatures, but both are fantastic movies. Ron Perlman, known most recently for Sons of Anarchy, is a brilliant lead and makes one of the most unique comic book heroes relatable and likeable. I think the second is a better film but put both on your list to check out.
You can’t separate these films, that’s why I’m listing them together. It’s one 12-hour adventure and the most successful translation of a fantasy novel likely in history. At the same time this came out, Harry Potter was also becoming popular, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure was a much more well-crafted film. This movie is also the most true to typical fantasy, including all sorts of races and creatures and magic and everything, yet it still managed to appeal to casual audiences and even win the Best Picture award in 2003. There’s a hefty amount of people that still haven’t seen these movies though, so here’s my plea. Watch them. It might sound strange, when you look at all the ingredients, but remember that it won Best Picture. Lord of the Rings made fantasy a mainstream thing so take a step out of your comfort zone and go find these films on DVD and give them a chance. When it comes to fantasy movies, if I had to choose, this is the one movie you need to see.
So what do you think? What other fantasy movies do you enjoy? How do YOU define the fantasy genre?