15 Best Fantasy Movies Of All Time You Didn't Watch By Now
Cinema is often regarded as the pinnacle of escapism. If that's the case, fantasy films are unquestionably the medium's purest and most relevant modes of transportation, luring viewers into faraway places and mystical ideas that call into question our own connection with the world.
Fantasy, like its science-fiction cousin, has expanded and is heading into the mainstream, owing to Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings,' 'Harry Potter,' and a particular HBO vehicle called 'Game of Thrones.' However, as our list demonstrates, not all fantasy films include wizards, dragons, or epic battles. We've included body-swapping movies, superhero extravaganzas, and a good amount of sword and sorcery on this list. Here is our list of the top 50 fantasy films.
Fantastic themes, such as magic, supernatural occurrences, mythology, folklore, or exotic fantasy realms, are included in fantasy films. The genre, along with science fiction and horror films, is classified as speculative fiction, but the two categories do overlap.
Magic, myth, wonder, escapism, and the exceptional are often present in fantasy films. Fairies, angels, mermaids, witches, monsters, wizards, unicorns, dragons, talking animals, ogres, elves, trolls, white magic, gnomes, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, dwarves, giants, goblins, anthropomorphic or magical objects, familiars, curses and other enchantments, worlds based on magic, and the Middle Ages are all common elements.
With its Tolkein-influenced take on Norse mythology and outlandish ‘Flash Gordon'-style fetish outfits, the Marvel Cinematic Universe boldly crosses sci-fi, comic-book action, and fantasy never more so than in the ‘Thor' films.
"Thor" is essentially a relaunch of "Masters of the Universe," but with more visual effects and wink-wink humor. The glittering CG metropolis of Asgard looks like something out of a Rick Wakeman LP cover from the mid-70s.
Shangri-La is the ultimate earthbound fantasy: an ancient magical kingdom hidden deep in the Himalayas, governed by peaceful Tibetan philosophers who have figured out the key to everlasting youth.
The most costly film ever produced at the time, Frank Capra's adaptation of James Hilton's enormously popular, Hitler-inspiring book is a beautiful, naive fantasy journey. Ronald Colman's final realization that everything was true and that he had to go back there! is pure, euphoric wish-fulfillment.
The film "Black Panther," now one of the highest-grossing pictures of all time, is not just a significant film, but also a fantastic one. The film is a fascinating study of afro-futurism, cultural oppression, and revolution, with an almost completely black cast, a black director, and black authors.
Its narrative is equally impressive, showing it to be one of the finest solo films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the acting is enthralling, with performances by Boseman, Jordan, and Wright particularly noteworthy. It's one of those rare superhero films that's worth seeing again and again. Without a doubt, our first sight of Wakanda was magical.
In this wild, woolly, and strange time-hopping comedy for clever youngsters, Terry Gilliam lets his imagination run free.
The film was an unexpected transatlantic smash success, packed with historical heroes, tiny hustlers, post-Python comedy, wacky cameos, and weird fantasy asides not to mention the bleakest, strangest conclusion conceivable. David Warner's terrifying Evil turns into the universe's creepiest carnival ride in a magical moment.
This magnificent adventure based on stories from the "1001 Nights" may have had a piecemeal production with no fewer than six directors, including the great Michael Powell but you wouldn't know it from the end result.
With mystical horses, frightening transformations, and giant genies, ‘The Thief of Baghdad' elevated low-born Indian actor Sabu, nicknamed the Elephant Boy, to worldwide stardom. A moment of magic We all wish for three wishes, but how many of us would want sausages?
The Goonies are seven restless youngsters in a seaside village who, abandoned by their parents battling a local real estate takeover attempt, uncover an ancient treasure map leading to legendary pirate One-Eyed Willie's galleon, based on a tale by Steven Spielberg.
Unfortunately, a family of inept thieves is also seeking the treasure, and they aren't beyond putting one of the little mites' fingers into a liquidizer to extract information. And, as the pre-pubescents continue to shout, their adoring parents turn out to be just as obnoxious in a touching conclusion. In the cave, One-Eyed Willie's galleon, the Inferno, is unveiled and it's brimming with riches.
Guillermo del Toro is the most unique and uncompromising film fantasist of the contemporary age, and his most stunning statement is ‘Pan's Labyrinth.' This horrific, unsettling coming-of-age tale draws on ancient inspirations the primary thread of a young lady pulled into dreadful, otherworldly peril can be traced all the way back to ‘Little Red Riding Hood' and beyond and adds a violent portrayal of the battle.
Is there anyone picture that better encapsulates the darkest side of imagination than the ugly Pale Man, his eyes in his palms?
Woody Allen may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of fantasy, but with this homage to the transformative power of cinema, he pulled off one of his most outlandish ideas. It's about a housewife (Mia Farrow) who is swept off her feet by her favorite movie character (Jeff Daniels), who comes down from the screen and takes her into a heady romance amid the Great Depression.
It gives the concept of a fantasy film a whole new meaning. The movie's "left behind" characters, who sit squabbling after their hero has gone to the "real world," are a magical moment.
Wes Anderson's opulent, meticulously exquisite films all take place in a parallel universe to our own, where everything seems conceivable.
But in "The Life Aquatic," Bill Murray plays a globetrotting marine scientist exploring a strange, dayglo underwater world, he takes that fantastical aspect to its logical conclusion. The picture reaches a whole other magical world whenever Seu Jorge's mournful, Bowie-obsessed ship's minstrel strikes up.
This Virginia Woolf adaption by Sally Potter is a beautiful event, including a career-defining performance from Tilda Swinton.
Swinton portrays Orlando, a man and a woman who travel from the Elizabethan court to the twentieth century, through the Civil War, early colonialism, and more, in half-century jumps. It's a clever, astute commentary on English history, sexuality, and class, all wrapped up in a lovely, captivating dream.
Gaspar Noé's master provocateur "Enter the Void" is the closest he's come to creating a fantasy film, and what a mind-boggling daydream it is. Noé's passion project is about an American drug dealer who gets shot by police in Tokyo's streets and has an out-of-body experience in which he sees the consequences of his death via his floating awareness.
Noé and cinematographer Benoît Debie transform their camera into a tangible embodiment of their main character's stream of consciousness, filming the film from the viewpoint of the floating soul as it floats above the city. In flashbacks, the camera rests above the character's shoulder, allowing the audience to see everything from his point of view. The result is a dream so deeply entrenched in the protagonist's worldview that experiencing "Enter the Void" is like being both exalted and grounded, exposed to a surge of hallucinogenic highs and lows that only Noé can manage.
David Lowery's clever and brilliant "A Ghost Story," jokingly billed as a "'Beetlejuice' remake directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul," transforms a basic haunting into a profound meditation on love, time, and the ultimate disintegration of all things.
Casey Affleck plays a homebody musician, while Rooney Mara plays his restless wife in the film, which reunites the main characters from Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints." When he dies in a vehicle accident, his spirit ghost leaps off the gurney, the white hospital sheet thrown over his corpse, rejecting the chance to enter the afterlife. He starts to roam about the home where he used to dwell, a gentle spirit huddling in its corners and watching as his wife mourns, murders a pie, and finally moves away, silent under the fabric, unseen to the living, and uncertain of his cosmic purpose.
The ghost gets untethered from a time once she departs. As his trip merges into a domesticated riff on the closing minutes of "2001: A Space Odyssey," it becomes difficult to discern if the ghost is haunting the home or whether the house is haunting him. "A Ghost Story," guided by cosmic powers and set to Daniel Hart's lovely longing music, finds tragic new meaning in life beyond death.
With inflated fantasy spectacles that offered eye-popping VFX thrills and squeaky clean, family-friendly narrative, Chris Columbus established the "Harry Potter" film series. Cinephiles began to take "Harry Potter" seriously when Alfonso Cuarón came in to direct the third movie, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." In Cuarón's hands, the series reached its full potential as a studio blockbuster with adult emotional overtones to match its fantastical glitz.
The director enabled the brand to mature with its adolescent characters and introduced a darker tone to the series, making "Prisoner of Azkaban" the first "Harry Potter" picture with truly frightening stakes for Harry, Ron, Hermione, and others. The visual palette alone was a striking contrast to what had come before, with cinematographer Michael Seresin casting a chilly, grey shadow over the film's appearance to give it a hardened edge. Cuarón made the greatest "Harry Potter" film ever by pushing the characters and the brand to maturity.
With eye-popping and spectacular effects, Henry Selick's stop-motion adventure "Coraline" brings Neil Gaiman's tale to life. Coraline Jones, played by Dakota Fanning, is a little girl who finds a gateway in her new house that leads to another world filled with button-eyed doppelgängers. Watching "Coraline" is like savoring every nook and cranny of the production design and getting lost in every corner of Selick's fantastical world.
It's the classic "Alice in Wonderland" story rendered with such detail by Selick's stop-motion team (there were 30 different models used for Coraline alone).
The way Selick and his crew use color and design to contrast Coraline's two worlds makes "Coraline" an endlessly engaging movie, one that isn't afraid to become frightening when Coraline is in peril. "Coraline" is a unique dream that appeals to people of all ages.
Joe Johnston's wonderfully wild 1995 fantasy offers the full breadth of the genre in an entertaining and emotional package, one part wild kiddie dream (a board game comes to life! ), one part deep exploration of what it means to be human (what a film to consider in the era of social distancing), and one part deep exploration of what it means to be human (what a film to consider in the era of social distancing).
The film spins out a very basic concept into intriguing places, loosely based on the 1981 children's book of the same name and later to spawn a rich and updated franchise that is a hopeful example of remakes done well.