The 100 Best Fantasy Movies
Ahead you will find my top 100 fantasy films listed under 11 different subgenres, which are: adventure, contemporary, epic, romantic, whimsical, animation, classic, sword and sorcery, dark, superhero, and science fiction. Of course many movies belong to several different genres, but hopefully this will help you find those that appeal to you the most.
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Adventure: 11 best fantasy movies
11. Inkheart – Iain Softley, 2008
(Brendan Fraser as Mortimer Folchart, Eliza Bennett as Meggie Folchart, Paul Bettany as Dustfinger)
Mo is a man with a very special gift. When he reads aloud from a book, he releases its characters, both good and evil, into the real world. Meggie is Mo’s 13-year-old daughter who, after discovering her father’s gift, accompanies him to Europe to search for the ancient book Inkheart. But then a band of storybook foes takes father and daughter captive and a powerful villain named Shadow threatens to take over the earth.
10. Labyrinth – Jim Henson, 1986
(Jennifer Connelly as Sarah Williams, David Bowie as Jareth, Toby Froud as Toby Williams)
When teenager Sarah is left to look after her baby brother, Toby, she accidentally wishes him away into the domain of a goblin king. In order to retrieve him, she must reach the king’s castle by midnight. There’s just one problem: the castle is in the middle of a giant labyrinth. This fantasy movie is a major cult classic.
9. Pirates of the Caribbean series
(Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann)
8. The Brothers Grimm – Terry Gilliam, 2008
(Matt Damon as Wilhelm "Will" Grimm, Heath Ledger as Jakob "Jake" Grimm, Peter Stormare as Mercurio Cavaldi)
Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm, better known as the Brothers Grimm, are famous storytellers who lived in Germany about 200 years ago. They gave us many of our most famous fairy tales, including such classics as Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White.
This fun fantasy movie gives us a fictionalized account of the brothers' lives. It portrays them as a pair of con artists who travel from village to village pretending to protect people from witches and monsters that don’t actually exist. But one day they encounter a real-life foe in the form of an evil queen who feeds off the youth and beauty of young girls and their courage is put to the test at last.
7. Hook – Steven Spielberg, 1991
(Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook, Robin Williams as Peter Banning / Peter Pan, Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell)
This fantasy movie serves up Peter Pan 21st century style! Peter is all grown up and has long forgotten his adventures in the magical land of Never Never. In the modern world he is a cut-throat lawyer and a distant father to his two children, Jack and Maggie. However, when his age-old enemy Captain Hook kidnaps his children, Peter returns to Neverland, rejoins the Lost Boy and goes to battle one last time to save those he loves. Peter Pan is a beloved figure who features in many of the greatest fantasy movies and books of all time.
6. Where the Wild Things Are – Spike Jonze, 2009
(Max Records as Max, Catherine Keener as Connie, Mark Ruffalo as Adrian)
Max is a young boy with a vivid imagination. After getting in trouble and being sent to bed without supper, he runs away from home and into a fantasy world of his own creation. There he finds a forest filled with fierce creatures, who proclaim him their king.
5. Bridge to Terabithia – Gábor Csupó, 2007
(Josh Hutcherson as Jesse Aarons, AnnaSophia Robb as Leslie Burke, Zooey Deschanel as Ms. Edmunds)
Jesse and Leslie are two ten-year-olds with little in common other than their age. She’s rich. He’s poor. She’s from the city. He’s from the countryside. Against all the odds they become friends and together they create Terabithia, a fantasy world where they rule over monsters, goblins, and ogres.
4. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen – Terry Gilliam, 1989
(John Neville as Baron Munchausen, Sarah Polley as Sally Salt, Eric Idle as Berthold/Desmond)
What happens if you tell too many porky pies? One day, filmmakers will make a fantasy movie about you! That’s what’s happened in the case of Baron Münchhausen, an 18th-century nobleman from Germany who is best-known for the tall tales he told. This movie brings to life his fanciful and exaggerated stories, which include a close encounter with a sea-monster, a trip to the moon and an escape from the Grim Reaper.
3. The Fall – Tarsem Singh, 2006
(Lee Pace as Roy Walker / Red Bandit, Catinca Untaru as Alexandria / Bandit's daughter, Justine Waddell as Nurse Evelyn / Sister Evelyn)
Alexandria is a little girl who winds up in hospital after breaking her arm. There she befriends an injured stunt man who spins for her a vivid and colorful tale about six men on a quest to murder an evil tyrant. Alexandria becomes so enchanted by the story that she doesn’t realize her fellow-patient is trying to use her to get hold of some morphine so he can end his life.
2. Time Bandits – Terry Gilliam, 1981
(John Cleese as Robin Hood, Sean Connery as King Agamemnon/Fireman, Shelley Duvall as Pansy)
A young boy called Kevin joins a group of time-travelling dwarves as they journey throughout history searching for treasure, while trying to avoid capture by their master, The Supreme Being. When they end up at the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, they get a lot more than they bargained for. This is considered one of the greatest fantasy films of all time, and justifiably so.
1. Life of Pi – Ang Lee, 2012
(Suraj Sharma as Pi (teenager), Irfan Khan as Pi (adult), Ayush Tandon as Pi (child))
Indian teenager Pi Patel is the sole human survivor of a shipwreck that claims the life of his entire family. He has to battle for survival in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat that he shares with a deadly Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. This fantasy movie is exquisite and breath-taking, a spiritual experience that will leave you floored, and perhaps even, like Pi, changed forever.
Contemporary: 9 best fantasy movies
These movies are set, either partially or fully, in the real world.
9. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Chris Columbus, 2010
(Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson, Brandon T. Jackson as Grover Underwood, Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth Chase)
Percy Jackson is an ordinary teenager, who happens to be the son of the Greek god Poseidon. Zeus is accusing him of stealing his lightning bolt and threatening all-out war if he doesn't recover it within 14 days. As if all this wasn't bad enough, Percy's mother is about to be kidnapped and taken to the Underworld, leaving Percy with no choice but to follow her there. Will he be able to find his mother and retrieve the lightning rod?
8. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Jon Turteltaub, 2010
(Nicolas Cage as Balthazar Blake, Jay Baruchel as David Stutler, Alfred Molina as Maxim Horvath)
Sorcerer Balthazar Blake is nearing retirement and needs someone to replace him. He recruits bright college student Dave for the task and gives him a crash course in science and sorcery. Now it’s up to the reluctant Dave to stop Balthazar’s enemies from resurrecting evil sorcerers and wiping out mankind.
7. The Spiderwick Chronicles – Mark Waters, 2008
(Freddie Highmore as Jared/Simon, Sarah Bolger as Mallory, Mary-Louise Parker as Helen Grace)
A family of four move into the Spiderwick Estate and strange things start to happen. At first they blame each other, but they soon realize that their house if no ordinary home, but part of an alternate world inhabited by fairies, goblins, and magical creatures of every kind.
6. Jumanji – Joe Johnston, 1995
(Robin Williams as Alan Parrish, Adam Hann-Byrd as young Alan Parrish, Bonnie Hunt as Sarah Whittle)
Be careful what games you play because you never know what you might unleash! When two children begin playing a board game called Jumanji, they release a man named Alan Parrish, who has been trapped inside it for 26 years. They have no choice but to continue playing the game, which sets loose a host of jungle creatures that wreak havoc on the neighborhood. Can they defeat all the dangers and finish the game once and for all?
5. Being John Malkovich – Spike Jonze, 1999
(John Cusack as Craig Schwartz, Cameron Diaz as Lotte Schwartz, Catherine Keener as Maxine Lund)
In this strange but compelling fantasy movie, puppeteer Craig discovers a hidden door that leads into the mind of movie star John Malkovich, and allows him to experience the thoughts and emotions of the actor for 15 minutes at a time. He and his colleague Maxine decide to turn the discovery into a business venture and charge people $200 per trip. Needless to say, it's not long before things turn chaotic.
4. Field of Dreams – Phil Alden Robinson, 1989
(Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsell, Amy Madigan as Annie Kinsella, James Earl Jones as Terrence Mann)
This is the contemporary fantasy movie that spawned the catchphrase, “If you build it, they will come”. It’s about a corn farmer from Iowa called Ray Kinsella who hears voices telling him to build a baseball field in his back yard. The ‘they’ in the movie are ghosts of famous baseball players from the Chicago Black Sox team. Ray builds the field. The question is, do they come?
3. Big – Penny Marshall, 1988
(Tom Hanks as the adult Josh Baskin, David Moscow as the young Josh, Elizabeth Perkins as Susan Lawrence)
Twelve-year-old Josh Baskin is tired of being little. So when he comes across a fairgroud machine that claims to grant wishes, he wishes he were big. The next morning he wakes up to find himself in a grown-up body, but his mind is still that of a child. Now he has to cope with being an adult in the real world, finding a job and going on his first real date. He soon discovers that being a grown-up isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
2. Photographing Fairies – Nick Willing, 1997
(Toby Stephens as Charles Castle, Rachel Shelley as Anna-Marie Castle, Edward Hardwicke as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Photographer Charles Castle loses his wife on their honeymoon, and loses faith in anything beyond concrete reality. Then one day a woman visits his studio with proof that fairies are real. Charles embarks on a quest to photograph the fairies, and soon finds himself on a path that will lead him to spiritual and philosophical fulfillment, but at a hefty price. This is a tragic but beautiful fantasy.
1. Harry Potter series
(Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger)
Harry Potter and the...
> Read a countdown of the Top 25 Harry Potter Characters.
Epic: 4 best fantasy movies
4. The Golden Compass – Chris Weitz, 2007
(Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra Belacqua, Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter, Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel)
This fantasy story is set in a parallel world in which people have souls in the form of animals, known as daemons, and a mysterious organization known as the Gobblers are kidnapping children to carry out terrible experiments on them. After Lyra’s best friend, Roger, is kidnapped and taken to the North, she sets out to rescue him, with the aid of a magical instrument called an alethiometer.
3. The Chronicles of Narnia series
(William Moseley as Peter Pevensie, Anna Popplewell as Susan Pevensie, Skandar Keynes as Edmund Pevensie, Georgie Henley as Lucy Pevensie)
2. The Hobbit trilogy – Peter Jackson
(Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug)
1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy – Peter Jackson
(Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Andy Serkis as Gollum)
> Want to know more about Tolkien's world? Read my guide to the Hobbit characters and Lord of the Rings characters.
Romantic: 8 best fantasy movies
8. Stardust – Matthew Vaughn, 2007
(Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorn, Claire Danes as Yvaine, Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia)
It's England in the 1800s. Tristan lives in a village that borders a magical kingdom. He promises the beautiful Victoria that he will cross into the kingdom and retrieve a fallen star as proof that his love for her is true. However, he soon discovers that the star is in fact a maiden by the name of Yvaine, who is being pursued by three witches and the sons of a dead king, each with a motive of their own.
7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – David Fincher, 2008
(Brad Pitt, Robert Towers and Peter Donald Badalamenti II as Benjamin Button at various ages)
This strange fantasy movie tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who ages backwards. Born as an old man, he is abandoned at an old folk’s home in his infancy, but soon starts to grow younger. He meets his one true love, who grows (older) into a beautiful young woman as he grows (younger) into a handsome young man. Their love is cruelly fated as time draws them further and further apart.
6. Splash – Ron Howard, 1984
(Tom Hanks as Allen Bauer, Daryl Hannah as Madison, John Candy as Freddie Bauer)
A mermaid twice saves New Yorker Allen Bauer from drowning, first as a child and later as man. She decides to dry out her tail so she can grow a pair of legs and search for him in New York City. She finds him and they fall in love, but she’s afraid of what will happen if and when he finds out that she’s not human.
5. Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen, 2011
(Owen Wilson as Gil Pender, Rachel McAdams as Inez, Kurt Fuller as John, Inez's father)
Paris, the city of love. In this romantic fantasy film, engaged couple Gil and Inez travel to Paris for what could be a romantic visit. But instead of becoming closer, their time there pulls them apart. They discover they do not share the same ideal of happiness and Gil begins disappearing nightly through a portal into the past, where his true love awaits.
4. Ghost – Jerry Zucker, 1990
(Patrick Swayze as Sam Wheat, Demi Moore as Molly Jensen, Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae Brown)
Sam and Molly are a couple madly in love. They are walking home one night when a thief murders Sam, leaving Molly to mourn his loss. Sam, now a ghost, finds out that Molly is in danger and uses a reluctant psychic by the name of Oda Mae Brown to reach her.
3. Meet Joe Black – Martin Brest, 1998
(Brad Pitt as Joe Black, Anthony Hopkins as William "Bill" Parrish, Claire Forlani as Susan Parrish)
His name is Joe Black and he is death incarnate. Death wants to learn about life on Earth so he takes the form of a man and enlists the help of dying wealthy media tycoon Bill Parrish, who agrees to help him in return for a delay to his demise. But then Death, aka Joe Black, falls in love with Bill’s daughter Susan and reconsiders his agreement to remain human for only a short while.
2. Wings of Desire – Wim Wenders, 1987
(Bruno Ganz as Damiel, Solveig Dommartin as Marion, Otto Sander as Cassiel)
Angels walk among us, immortal and invisible. This touching fantasy film focuses on two angels who have been wandering the earth for centuries bringing comfort to lonely and downtrodden souls. But now one of them is growing weary of his immortal state and longs to be human so he can spend one lifetime with the woman he loves.
1. The Twilight Saga
(Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan, Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen)
Whimsical: 10 best fantasy movies
10. Dark Shadows – Tim Burton, 2012
(Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Julia Hoffman)
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. So goes the saying, and so Barnabas Collins learns the hard way. After he rejects the love of a powerful witch, she turns him into a vampire and imprisons him in a coffin for almost 200 years. Now Barnabas is free and eager to reclaim his once-wealthy estate. But the witch is still at large, and as jealous and possessive as ever.
9. Elf – Jon Favreau, 2003
(Will Ferrell as Buddy Hobbs, Bob Newhart as Papa Elf, Ed Asner as Santa Claus)
Buddy is an orphan who ended up in the North Pole, where Santa Claus raised him along with the elves. Now he's fully grown and causing chaos due to his human size. He leaves his childhood home and travels to New York City to seek out his human father, a ruthless businessman who’s been on Santa’s naughty list for a very long time.
8. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – Terry Gilliam, 2009
(Heath Ledger as Tony, Christopher Plummer as Doctor Parnassus, Andrew Garfield as Anton)
Take a journey into the Imaginarium, an imaginary world where anything is possible. Doctor Parnassus, the owner of Imaginarium, was once an immortal but gave up his immortality to be with the woman he loves. However, to do so, he had to make a deal with the devil, to give up his firstborn child on his or her 16th birthday. Now his daughter, Valentina, is approaching the doomed age. Can he make a new deal with the devil and save her from her hellish fate?
7. The Science of Sleep – Michel Gondry, 2006
(Gael García Bernal as Stéphane Miroux, Charlotte Gainsbourg as Stéphanie, Miou-Miou as Christine Miroux)
To sleep, perchance to dream. A timid young man called Stéphane Miroux escapes from his mundane existence, in which he works at a boring company and yearns to be with the woman he loves, into a fantasy world that knows no limits. Only there does he feel confident that he can win her heart.
6. Alice in Wonderland – Tim Burton, 2010
(Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as The Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen)
In Tim Burton’s take on Lewis Carroll’s most famous fantasy creation, Alice is 19 years old when she slides down a rabbit hole for a second time and reenters the magical realm of Wonderland, correctly named Underland. There she discovers that she’s destined to slay a dragon-like creature known as a Jabberwocky to save the land from certain doom.
5. Nanny McPhee – Kirk Jones, 2005
(Emma Thompson as Nanny McPhee, Colin Firth as Cedric Brown, Kelly Macdonald as Evangeline)
Cedric Brown, a man recently widowed and grieving his beloved wife, is at a loss when it comes to dealing with his seven children, who have driven away 17 nannies with their bad behavior. Along comes Nanny McPhee, a strange-looking woman who uses magic to tame the children and teach them some important life lessons.
4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Tim Burton, 2005
(Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket, Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, David Kelly as Grandpa Joe)
The enigmatic candy-maker Willy Wonka has released into the world five golden tickets, the finders of which will get to visit his amazing chocolate factory and a chance to win a grand prize. The first four children who find the tickets are spoilt brats but the fifth child is Charlie Bucket, a poor boy with a heart of gold. He and his grandpa, Joe, are amazed by the wonders of the factory but soon discover that the greatest prize of all comes with a catch.
3. Big Fish – 2003, Tim Burton
(Albert Finney as the old Edward Bloom, Ewan McGregor as the young Edward, Billy Crudup as his son, Will)
Edward Bloom, a storyteller known for spinning yarns about his youth, is dying. He recalls one final time his many unlikely adventures, which include an encounter with a witch, a visit to a strange land, and a friendship with a giant, and finally gains acceptance and understanding from his estranged son, Will.
2. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – Mel Stuart, 1971
(Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, Jack Albertson as Grandpa Joe, Peter Ostrum as Charlie)
This classic fantasy movie takes us on a journey inside the mind and world of the world's greatest candymaker, as he opens the doors of his factory in search of a successor. It is less faithful to Roald Dahl's book, on which the story is based, than Burton's remake, and somewhat darker in tone. But it is a true work of genius that has endeared itself to several generations of fantasy fans.
1. Edward Scissorhands – 1990, Tim Burton
(Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands, Winona Ryder as Kim, Dianne Wiest as Peg)
In this dark fairytale, Edward is left all alone with scissors for hands after his father, an enigmatic inventor, dies suddenly. Peg, a kind-hearted saleslady, finds him and invites him to live with her family. The neighbors at first welcome him, but soon take advantage of his innocence and vulnerability and turn on him in the cruelest of ways.
> Tim Burton is a master of whimsy. Check out his Top 10 fantasy movies and Top 7 characters.
Animation: 11 best fantasty movies
These fantasy movies use traditional or stop-motion animation, in some cases combined with live action.
11. Wizards – Ralph Bakshi, 1977
(Bob Holt as Avatar, Jesse Welles as Elinore, Richard Romanus as Weehawk)
This movie blends science fiction and fantasy. Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, it tells the story of a future in which all humans have been destroyed or horribly mutated. A fairy queen gives birth to two sons, one good and one evil. They both grow up to become wizards and engage in a conflict between magic and technology that will decide the fate of all.
10. Princess Mononoke – Hayao Miyazaki, 1997
(Yōji Matsuda as Ashitaka, Yuriko Ishida as San, Akihiro Miwa as Moro)
The brave young warrior Ashitaka becomes infected by a fatal disease while protecting his village from attack and must journey into the forests of the west to find a cure. There he is drawn into a war between the animal guardians of the forest, led by Princess Mononoke, and the human inhabitants of the Iron Town, who are consuming the forest’s resources Ashitaka tries to resolve the dispute by remaining impartial but ends up making enemies on both sides.
9. Corpse Bride – Tim Burton, 2005
(Johnny Depp as Victor Van Dort, Helena Bonham Carter as Emily, Emily Watson as Victoria Everglot)
A groom is too shy to practice his wedding vows in public. So he retreats to the woods to practice them alone. He accidentally slips his wedding ring onto the finger of a corpse, making her his bride. Now he’s torn between the woman he had planned to marry and the woman who wants him to join her in the eternity of the afterworld.
8. Howl’s Moving Castle – Hayao Miyazaki, 2004
(Chieko Baisho (Japanese version) / Emily Mortimer (English version) as Sophie, Takuya Kimura / Christian Bale as Howl, Chieko Baishō / Jean Simmons as Grandma Sophie)
After a spiteful witch transforms 18-year-old Sophie into an old woman, she flees into the hills and ends up at a mysterious moving castle owned by a magician named Howl. There she befriends the magician's fire demon, Calcifer, who promises to undo the spell if she can convince the magician to free him of his service.
7. Coraline – Henry Selick, 2009
(Dakota Fanning as Coraline Jones, Teri Hatcher as Mel Jones, comedy duo Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French as Miss April Spink and Miss Miriam Forcible)
In this sinister tale, Coraline discovers a hidden door in her new home that leads into an alternate version of her life. There the central figure, known as the Other Mother, keeps her captive against her will and threatens to consume her. Can Coraline find her way back to her reality before it's too late? The movie is based on the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman.
6. How to Train Your Dragon – Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, 2010
(Jay Baruchel as Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, Gerard Butler as Stoick the Vast, Craig Ferguson as Gobber the Belch)
Hiccup is a Viking teenager who dreams of becoming a dragon slayer. But then he captures his first dragon, who he names Toothless, and has a change of heart. Through his friendship with Toothless, Hiccup learns that mutual ignorance has led to centuries of unnecessary conflict between the two species. He works together with the dragon to bring peace to his home land.
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas – Henry Selick, 1993
(Chris Sarandon as Jack Skellington, Catherine O'Hara as Sally, Danny Elfman as Jack's singing voice, the voice of Barrel and the voice of the "Clown with the Tear-Away Face")
The pumpkin king of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, is feeling bored with the routine of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins, when he discovers the doorway to Christmas Town. He embraces the festive season, though he doesn’t quite understand it, and tries to take over the job of Santa Claus, with disastrous results.
4. Who Framed Roger Rabbit – Robert Zemeckis, 1988
(Bob Hoskins as Edward "Eddie" Valiant, Charles Fleischer provides the voice of Roger Rabbit, Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom)
Bob Hoskins is a private investigator who has loathed the race of toons ever since one of them killed his brother. But his love of money is stronger than his hatred of the species and so he agrees to take on the task of tailing the wife of toon star Roger Rabbit to find out if she’s having an affair. But when Roger is framed for murder, Bob is the only one who can expose the real criminals and see that justice is done. This groundbreaking movie brilliantly combines live action and animation.
3. Enchanted – Kevin Lima, 2007
(Amy Adams as Giselle, Patrick Dempsey as Robert, James Marsden as Prince Edward)
An evil queen banishes the beautiful princess Giselle from the magical land of Andalasia and thrusts her into the harsh reality of New York City. There Giselle befriends a divorce lawyer and his daughter and tries to come to terms with a realm where few people believe in true love and not every story has a happy ending.
2. Mary Poppins – Robert Stevenson, 1964
(Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke as Bert, David Tomlinson as George Banks)
Mary Poppins is a super-nanny with magical powers. She arrives at the home of the Banks children, blown in by an unusually strong wind and clutching a carpetbag, which proves to be a treasure trove of wonders. She takes them on a series of incredible adventures, including a tea party on a ceiling, a trip around the world, and a birthday party among zoo animals.
1. Spirited Away – Hayao Miyazaki, 2001
(Rumi Hiiragi as Chihiro Ogino, Mari Natsuki as Yubaba, Miyu Irino as Haku)
Chihiro Ogino and her family are travelling to their new home in the suburbs when they stop off at an open-air restaurant. The restaurant turns out to be part of an alternate world ruled by gods, witches and monsters, who turn her parents into pigs. Chihiro has to work at a bathhouse for gods and spirits while she figures out how to save her parents before they are killed and served as dinner.
Classic: 11 best fantasy movies
Made prior to 1970, these are the films that first endeared the fantasy genre to audiences and have withstood the test of time.
11. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Ken Hughes, 1968
(Dick Van Dyke as Caractacus Potts, Sally Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious, Adrian Hall as Jeremy)
In this heartwarming musical, an eccentric professor invents a flying car named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He takes his two children and a wealthy young woman by the name of Truly Scrumptious on a picnic and there spins a tale about a ruthless dictator from the land of Vulgaria, who goes to great measures to get his hands on his amazing car.
10. Alice in Wonderland – Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske, 1951
(Kathryn Beaumont as Alice, Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter, Jerry Colonna as the March Hare)
This animated movie set the groundwork for many other versions of this classic fantasy. It is fairly faithful to Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in which Alice slides down a rabbit hole to Wonderland, where she encounters a host of colorful characters, including the Cheshire Cat, the Hatter, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the Red Queen. But it also include a few elements from the book’s sequel about her return visit, Through the Looking-Glass.
> The Top 7 Alice in Wonderland Characters.
9. Miracle on 34th Street – George Seaton, 1947
(Maureen O'Hara as Doris Walker, John Payne as Frederick M. Gailey, Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle)
Is Santa Claus real? That’s the key question in this charming movie about Kris, an old man deemed to be insane and committed to a mental institution for claiming that he’s the real Santa Claus. The matter goes to trial and people’s beliefs are tested, including those of the no-nonsense executive Doris Walker, who has raised her daughter, Susan, to reject all notions of fantasy.
8. Jason and the Argonauts – Don Chaffey and Ray Harryhausen, 1963
(Todd Armstrong as Jason, Nancy Kovack as Medea, Gary Raymond as Acastus)
Jason returns from a 20-year voyage to claim his throne. But the man who killed his father tricks him into believing that he must first travel to the dangerous land of Colchis to recover the magical Golden Fleece. He and his crew encounter a bronze giant, a venomous creature, and an army of animated skeletons. Can they defeat their enemies to return home as heroes?
7. King Kong – Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933
(Bruce Cabot as Jack Driscoll, Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham, Fay Wray as Ann Darrow)
Watch the heartbreaking story of King Kong brought to screen for the first time in this classic monster movie, about a gorilla who falls in love with a beautiful woman and wreaks havoc on New York City in her pursuit.
6. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – David Hand, 1937
(Adriana Caselotti as Snow White, Lucille La Verne as Queen Grimhilde, Harry Stockwell as The Prince)
Snow White, pursued by a jealous queen, finds sanctuary among the seven dwarves and, after the queen poisons her, is reawaken by the kiss of her one true love. This is a faithful telling of the Brother’s Grimm classic fairytale. It is also the first animated full-length movie ever made in the US and the first full-color production by Walt Disney Productions.
5. It’s a Wonderful Life – Frank Capra, 1939
(James Stewart as George Bailey, Donna Reed as Mary Hatch Bailey, Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Henry F. Potter)
George Bailey has worked hard to make others happy – his family, his employees, and his community. When he finds out he’s about to lose his father’s company and go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, he concludes that everyone would be better off without him and contemplates suicides. But then an angel, beckoned by the prayers of his loved ones, visits George and shows him what the world would have been like if he’d never been born.
4. The Thief of Bagdad – Raoul Walsh, 1924
(Douglas Fairbanks as The Thief of Bagdad, Snitz Edwards as His Evil Associate, Charles Belcher as The Holy Man)
A thief falls in love with the daughter of the Caliph of Bagad, who has promised her to whoever can bring him the rarest treasure. He has to compete against three other princes, who each have an unfair advantage in the form of a magical instrument.
3. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad – Nathan H. Juran, 1958
(Kerwin Mathews as Sinbad, Kathryn Grant as Princess Parisa, Richard Eyer as Barani)
Sinbad is sailing to Bagdad with his bride-to-be, Princess Parisa, when he stops off at Colossa Island to get food for his crew. While on the island he and his men help a magician to escape from a Cyclops, but are then forced to flee, leaving behind the magician's magic lamp. When Sinbad refuses to return to the island to retrieve the lamp, the magician kidnaps the princess and shrinks her, and as usual, it’s up to Sinbad to save the day.
2. Beauty and the Beast – Jean Cocteau, 1946
(Jean Marais — La Bête, Josette Day as Belle, Mila Parély as Félicie)
After Belle’s beloved father is sentenced to death for picking a rose from Beast’s garden, Belle offers to take his place. Beast falls in love with her and asks her to marry him, a proposal she repeatedly refuses. But then she starts to develop feelings for him too.
1. The Wizard of Oz – Victor Fleming, 1939
(Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, Frank Morgan as The Wizard, Ray Bolger as Scarecrow)
This beloved fantasy classic brings to life L. Frank Baum’s story about a girl from Kansas who is transported to the Land of Oz. There she befriends the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, journeys to the Emerald City to seek help from the wizard, and goes up against the Wicked Witch of the West. The opening and closing scenes, which are set in Kansas, are in black-and-white, but the rest of the movie is in Technicolor.
> The Top 7 Wizard of Oz Characters.
Sword and sorcery: 13 best fantasy movies
Some of these movies flopped at the box office but went on to become cult classics.
13. Eragon – Stefen Fangmeier, 2006
(Ed Speleers as Eragon, Jeremy Irons as Brom, Sienna Guillory as Arya)
Eragon is an orphaned farm boy who comes across a blue stone, which he learns is the world’s last dragon egg. After the dragon, Saphira, is born, Eragon meets his mentor and gets a chance to fulfill his destiny, by becoming a Dragon Rider and defeating the evil king, Galbatorix.
12. Krull – Peter Yates, 1983
(Ken Marshall as Colwyn, Lysette Anthony as Lyssa, Freddie Jones as Ynyr)
This movie combines fantasy and science fiction to tell the story of two hostile nations on the planet of Krull who join forces to defeat a common enemy. The treacherous army of Slayers attack the palace during the wedding of Princess Lyssa and Prince Colwyn, kill the nations two kings, and kidnap the princess. Prince Colwyn sets out to retrieve his beloved princess, with the help of a five-bladed sword and one very wise friend.
11. Dragonheart – Rob Cohen, 1996
(Dennis Quaid as Bowen, David Thewlis as Einon, Sean Connery as the voice of Draco)
Bowen, a disillusioned knight and former dragonslayer, teams up with Draco, the last dragon, and together they engage in a money-making racket. Draco terrorizes a town or village. Bowen turns up and pretends to slay the dragon. Then he collects a handsome reward, which they share. However, when a real foe, in the form of an evil king whose life Draco once saved, appears, the unlikely pair decide to team up once again to take him down.
10. Beowulf – Robert Zemeckis, 2007
(Ray Winstone as Beowulf, Robin Wright as Wealthow, Anthony Hopkins as Hrothgar)
Beowulf is a mighty warrior who, seeking glory, travels to the kingdom of Herot to defend its people against a monstrous troll called Grendel. On return, he enters the lair of Grendel’s mother, who transforms into a woman and seduces Beowulf with the promise of making him a rich and immortal king. The creature keeps its promise, but with grave consequences for Beowulf and his kingdom.
9. Ladyhawke – Richard Donner, 1985
(Matthew Broderick as Philippe Gaston, Rutger Hauer as Captain Etienne Navarre, Michelle Pfeiffer as Isabeau d'Anjou)
The evil Bishop of Aquila has put a curse on a couple that turns the woman, Isabeau, into a hawk by day, and the man, Navarre, into a wolf by night. One man has the power to undo the curse but he needs the help of Navarre to enter the city of Aquila and kill the Bishop, a seemingly impossible task.
8. Legend – Ridley Scott, 1985
(Tom Cruise as Jack o' the Green, Mia Sara as Princess Lili, Tim Curry as Darkness)
In this dark fairytale, evil incarnate plans to marry the beautiful princess Lili, destroy all the world’s unicorns, and cover the lands in eternal darkness. And it’s up to forest boy Jack and his seven friends to save the day.
7. Willow – Ron Howard, 1988
(Warwick Davis as Willow, Val Kilmer as Madmartigan, Joanne Whalley as Sorsha)
In the dungeons of an evil queen, a prisoner gives birth to a baby fated to end her rule. A midwife saves the baby from the queen’s henchman but is forced to thrust her into the river. Fortunately a dwarf magician Willow finds her and takes her in, but the queen never gives up her search for her. And when she find her at last, it’s up to Willow and his swordsman friend Madmartigan to save her life and help free the people of the land.
6. Dragonslayer – Matthew Robbins, 1981
(Peter MacNicol as Galen Bradwarden, Caitlin Clarke as Valerian, Ralph Richardson as Ulrich of Craggenmoor)
A king has made a pact with a dragon. He gives the dragon virgin sacrifices and the dragon, in return, leaves his kingdom in peace. But the next virgin in line is the king’s own daughter. It’s up to a young wizarding apprentice to kill the dragon before it’s time for its next meal.
5. The Neverending Story – Wolfgang Petersen, 1984
(Barret Oliver as Bastian Bux, Noah Hathaway as Atreyu, Tami Stronach as The Childlike Empress)
Ten-year-old Bastian runs into a used book store to escape a gang of bullies and meets the store owner, who gives him a strange and ancient book. Bastian ignores the man's warnings and retreats to his school's attic to read the book alone. He is soon drawn into the fantasy land of Fantasia and realizes it’s up to him to save the characters from certain doom.
4. Highlander – Russell Mulcahy, 1986
(Christopher Lambert as Connor MacLeod, Roxanne Hart as Brenda Wyatt, Clancy Brown as The Kurgan/Victor Kruger, Sean Connery as Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez)
Connor MacLeod is an immortal warrior born in the Highlands of Scotland who has engaged in an age-old battle for hundreds of years. Now, in modern-day New York, he, along with the world’s other last remaining immortals, must face his final opponent and fight for the grand prize, which is the ability to know everything.
3. The Princess Bride – Rob Reiner, 1987
(Cary Elwes as Westley, Robin Wright as Buttercup, Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck)
A grandfather reads aloud a story that comes alive in his grandson’s mind. After a band of crooks kidnap the beautiful maiden Buttercup, her childhood friend Westley sets out to save her. Along the way he encounters a thief, a swordsman, and a giant, who become his friends and join him in his quest to save his beloved.
2. Conan the Barbarian – John Milius, 1982
(Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan, James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom, Max von Sydow as King Osric)
As a child Conan watches a gang of savages, led by the demi-god Thulsa Doom, invade his village and murder his parents. He is sold into slavery and trains to become a warrior so he can earn money for his owner. But one day Conan earns his freedom and sets out to avenge his dead parents.
1. Excalibur – John Boorman, 1981
(Nigel Terry as King Arthur, Helen Mirren as Morgana Le Fay, Nicholas Clay as Lancelot)
This fantasy movie is based on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and focuses on the mythical sword Excalibur. Merlin the wizard gives the sword to Uthur Pendragon, who wields its power until the end of his life, when he buries it inside a stone. Along comes Uthur’s son, Arthur, who releases the sword and thereby becomes the King of England. Arthur then marries Guenivere and gathers the Knights of the Round Table, but his affair with the evil sorceress Morgana threatens to bring about his doom.
Dark: 10 best fantasy movies
These movies have darker tones of varying degrees.
10. Troll – John Carl Buechler, 1986
(Noah Hathaway as Harry Potter Jr., Michael Moriarty as Harry Potter Sr., Jenny Beck as Wendy Anne Potter)
A wicked troll uses the body of a little girl called Wendy Anne to transform the people of a San Francisco apartment into fairy folk to reuinte the human and fairy worlds. But Wendy’s brother, Harry, notices a change in his sister’s behavior and is determined to uncover the mystery behind it. This cheesy but cute fantasy film didn’t do well at the box office but has become a cult classic.
9. Underworld – Len Wiseman, 2003
(Kate Beckinsale as Selene, Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin. Shane Brolly as Kraven)
A war between vampires and werewolves has been raging for centuries. Selene is a beautiful vampire warrior assigned with the task of wiping out all werewolves. But when she falls in love with the werewolf Michael, who possesses the key that could end the war forever, she has to decide once and for all where her allegiance lies.
8. Paperhouse – Bernard Rose, 1988
(Charlotte Burke as Anna Madden, Elliott Spiers as Marc, Jane Bertish as Miss Vanstone)
Anna is a rebellious and unhappy girl, fed up of the trappings of her mundane life. When she draws a picture of a house, she discovers that she can escape through it into a dream world, occupied by a disabled boy. But the world of her dreams soon turns into a nightmare, from which there may be no escape.
7. Alice – Jan Švankmajer, 1988
(Kristýna Kohoutová as Alice – the only credited actor)
This bizarre Czech movie is loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It features just one live actor, who interacts with characters brought to life by stop-motion animation. Though not suitable for young chidren, this production best captures the surreal nature of Carroll's creation.
6. Return to Oz – Walter Murch, 1985
(Fairuza Balk as Dorothy Gale, Brian Henson as the voice of Jack Pumpkinhead, Sean Barrett as the voice of Tik-Tok)
Another cult hit, this strange movie is set six months after Dorothy’s first visit to Oz. Back on earth, her memories are interpreted as signs of madness and she’s sent to a mental institution. She escapes and returns to Oz, where she sets out to rescue the Scarecrow from an evil Nome King, who has used her ruby slippers to unleash chaos on the once-peaceful land.
5. Brazil – Terry Gilliam, 1985
(Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry, Kim Greist as Jill Layton, Michael Palin as Jack Lint
Sam Lowry lives in a futuristic and dysfunctional society, ruled by a totalitarian government and plagued with inefficient machines and endless bureaucracy. After inadvertently causing the arrest of an innocent man, he meets the woman of his dreams, Jill, while trying to correct the error. But then the system turns on him and threatens the lives of both him and his beloved.
4. The City of Lost Children – Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1995
(Ron Perlman as One, Joseph Lucien as Denree, Daniel Emilfork as Krank)
Krank is an evil scientist plagued by an inability to dream and accelerated aging. Aided by a gang of cyclops, he kidnaps children and steals their dreams in an effort to become young again. But the children are so frightened of him that he ends up with only their nightmares. When the cyclops kidnap the brother of a former whale hunter by the name of One, One travels to the city of lost children to take down Krank and free his abductees.
3. Solomon Kane – Michael J. Bassett, 2009
(James Purefoy as Solomon Kane, Max von Sydow as Josiah Kane, Rachel Hurd-Wood as Meredith Crowthorn)
Solomon Kane is a mercenary who barely escapes hell. After meeting the Devil’s Reaper and finding out that he was destined for an eternity in flames, he gives up his violent ways and retreats to a monastery in England to live in peace and atone for his sins. But then evil comes to him, in the form of a band of thugs who kidnap a girl and murder her family, and Solomon has no choice but to return to his old ways.
2. King Kong – Peter, Jackson, 2005
(Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, Jack Black as Carl Denham, Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll)
It’s New York in the 1930s and a filmmaker by the name of Carl Denham is down on his luck. Desperate to make a film, he coerces a cast and crew to sail him to the mysterious Skull Island. There he encounters a giant gorilla, who falls in love with his leading lady, Ann Darrow. He and the crew capture the gorilla and bring him back to New York City, with disastrous results.
1. Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro, 2006
(Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, Sergi López as Captain Vidal, Maribel Verdú as Mercedes)
My personal favorite fantasy film of all time, this dark and rich narrative centers around a young girl called Ofelia, who accompanies her pregnant mother to meet her new husband, an evil and sadistic army captain. Ofelia escapes the reality of her mother’s failing health and her stepfather’s cruelty by becoming absorbed in a fairy tale, in which she must complete three tasks to be reunited with her true father, the king of the underworld.
Superhero: 7 best fantasy movies
Both fantasy and science fiction come under the umbrella of speculative fiction. Whether superhero is a subgenre of either/both or a separate genre altogether is up for debate, but either way, I thought it warranted inclusion here.
7. Batman Returns – Tim Burton, 1992
(Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Danny DeVito as The Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman)
Batman has just defeated The Joker. But there’s an equally fierce foe waiting in the wings, this time in the form of The Penguin, a deformed and grotesque creature intent on becoming the mayor of Gotham. Meanwhile a wronged secretary in the guise of Catwoman appears on the scene, presenting Batman with a more complicated challenge.
6. The Incredibles – Brad Bird, 2004
(Craig T. Nelson as Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible, Holly Hunter as Helen Parr/Elastigirl, Spencer Fox as Dashiell Robert Parr/The Dash)
Mr Incredible and his wife, Helen, were once the greatest superheroes in the world. But they have been forced to give up their crime-fighting ways and adapt to family life in the suburbs with their three children, who all have innate superpowers. When a new villain appears on the scene, Mr Incredible returns to his old job, and this time takes his entire family along for the ride.
5. Spider-Man 2 – Sam Raimi, 2004
(Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker / Spider-Man, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, James Franco as Harry Osborn)
Peter Parker has spent the last two years fighting crime as Spider-Man, and his life is a mess. The girl he loves is engaged to his best friend. He can’t hold down a job due to his superhero duties. And a newspaper is turning people against him by labeling him a criminal. He decides to call it a day and turn his back on his superhero ways. But then a super villain by the name of Doctor Octopus appears on the scene and threatens to annihilate New York City, leaving Peter with a very difficult choice.
4. X2 – Bryan Singer, 2003
(Hugh Jackman as Logan / Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier, Ian McKellen as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto)
After a mutant known as Nightcrawler tries to take down the president, the government starts taking measures against mutants and a scientist called William Stryker tries to build a computer that will track and destroy their kind. This forces an uneasy alliance between the X-Men and their age-old enemy, the Brotherhood.
3. The Avengers – Joss Whedon, 2012
(Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner / Hulk)
The director of the peace-keeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together all the world’s greatest superheroes - Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow - to defeat one common enemy, Loki and his army, who are driven by the typical villainous motive, to take over the world.
2. Superman – Richard Donner, 1978
(Christopher Reeve as Superman, Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor)
When the planet of Krypton faces imminent destruction, scientist Jor-El takes drastic measures to save the life of his baby son, Kal-El, by sending him to earth in a pod. A couple finds Kal-El, who they name Clark, and raises him as their own, and the baby grows into a man with a huge heart and amazing powers. He moves to the city where he works as a mild-mannered reporter while secretly donning a cape and mask to fight crime in the guise of Superman. There he finds his true love and encounters his future nemesis, Lex Luther, for the first time.
1. The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan, 2008
(Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Heath Ledger as the Joker, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent)
After the Dark Knight teams up with the city’s leaders to take down all the major criminal organizations, The Joker creeps out of the shadows and unleashes terror on the citizens of Gotham. Once again, it’s up to the caped crusader to save the day.
Science fiction: 6 best fantasy movies
Science fiction is a separate but related genre to fantasy, though many movies, such as Star Wars, include elements of both.
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Steven Spielberg, 1977
(Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, François Truffaut as Claude Lacombe, Melinda Dillon as Jillian Guiler)
UFOs are coming to earth. The government knows about them and are trying to keep them a secret. But then a scattering of people start having strange visions and hearing music in their heads. They are all drawn to one location, which happens to be the aliens' designated landing spot.
5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day – James Cameron, 1991
(Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Edward Furlong as John Connor)
It’s ten years since a machine called a terminator travelled from the future to try to kill waitress Sarah Connor in order to wipe out the existence of her future son, John. Now Sarah is locked up in a mental institution and John is living with foster parents in Los Angeles. A new and improved terminator has arrived, this time to target John, and another, less powerful, terminator has come to protect him. Can John survive against all odds?
4. Aliens – James Cameron, 1986
(Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, Carrie Henn as Rebecca 'Newt' Jorden, Michael Biehn as Cpl. Dwayne Hicks)
Ellen Ripley has spent more than 50 years in cryogenic stasis. When she wakes up on earth, nobody believes her stories about the aliens she encountered on a distant planet. But then contact with the colony that live on the planet is lost and Ripley is sent back there with a team of tough soldiers. It’s up to them to destroy the aliens forever, and protect the one survivor that remains.
3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – Steven Spielberg, 1982
(Henry Thomas as Elliott, Robert MacNaughton as Michael, Drew Barrymore as Gertie)
This heartwarming tales centers around a shy little boy called Elliot and the extraterrestrial who he befriends. The boy and the alien develop a close and telepathic bond and when federal agents come to town, Elliot has to use all of his resources to help his friend escape captivity and return to his home planet.
2. The Matrix – Larry and Andy Wachowski, 1999
(Keanu Reeves as Thomas A. Anderson/Neo, Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity)
It’s the future, and life on earth has altogether changed. While people perceive reality much as it is now, they are in fact plugged into a virtual reality system created by sentient machines who breed them as an energy source. Computer hacker Neo learns the true nature of reality and breaks free from the bonds of false perception to join the fight against the machines, all the while trying to discover his true destiny.
1. Star Wars series – created by George Lucas
> Now that you've read about the 100 best fantasy movies, it's time to check out the 100 best fantasy books.
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