Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Top 10 Fantasy Movies

When it comes to the fantasy genre, quality movies are few and far between, but I've been able to scrounge my brain for the ones I hold dear. Again, I'm going to exclude superheroes, as well as try to stick to the traditional sword and sorcery aspects. For the sake of not filling my list with each movie involving Middle Earth, I will also combine franchises into a single pick. Here's my list:

10. Harry Potter - While many would probably argue Harry and Hogwart's crew should be higher on my list, I have always felt there were disappointments throughout the duration of this franchise. Particularly, I have a soft spot for Kreecher and felt he never received enough time in the fifth film--it's a biased grudge, I admit, as are my feelings for Order of the Phoenix in general. They just didn't capture the book as well as the other movies. Overall, the acting, scenery, and special effects were brilliant, and I'm not one to shy away from watching them again when they're on TV.

9. Your Highness - The spoofing in Your Highness involved a lot of the picks on my fantasy list, including the honorable mentions. James Franco's character, Fabious, who only wanted his brother to be gay with him and father, had a robotic bird akin to the owl in Clash of Titans, and Thadeous' (Danny McBride) attempt to emulate his brother with his companion, a lizard named Steven, was the moment I knew I'd love this film. I found myself replaying the scene as they departed for their adventure in the carriage several times and have since memorized McBride's monologue. The humor, filled with cursing and sometimes over-the-top raunch, is either a hit or a huge miss for viewers.

8. The Neverending Story - A staple of my childhood, I imagined what it'd be like to fly through the sky on Falcor's back, and I couldn't help envying Atreyu while he ventured through Fantasia.  One day, I will get around to reading the book, for I've learned the movie only covered half of the story. I plan to have that done before the reboot.

7. Labyrinth - I don't normally enjoy musicals, but even in college, I played songs from Labyrinth while I studied; listening to them sparked my interest in Bowie. Though every puppet Henson used was unique and fun, the Fire Gang, those goblins with the detachable limbs, remain my favorite, and when I watch this movie as an adult, I feel Labyrinth is a delightful mix of Muppets, M.C. Escher, and The Wizard of Oz.

6. Legend - There's something about Tim Curry's voice and lines while dressed as Darkness that makes my inner child giddy. In high school, I showed his opening monologue as an example of villains for speech class, not caring I was docked points for the scene being, "too dark." Aside from the wonderful make-up used in this film, Ridley Scott's lighting is something I rarely, if ever, even contemplate when watching a movie, and it interests me to see the beautiful, dream-like imagery and compare it to current CGI.

5. Big Trouble in Little China - Campy and fun, John Carpenter's urban fantasy has stood the test of time, and I can't think of a modern equivalent that even loosely resembles this film. Kurt Russell as Jack Burton performs one of the most memorable roles in his long, illustrious career, and James Hong makes an excellent, often humorous, villain. Scene after scene is quotable, and anyone that has played Mortal Kombat will see where the inspiration for Raiden derived as soon as Lightning, one of the Three Storms, makes his appearance.

4. Dragonslayer - For 1981, Vermithrax Perjorative is stunning; even by today's standards, it's arguably the best dragon ever put on the big screen, and this Disney film that failed at the box office, happens to be dark and gritty and a standard for any director or writer that thinks they're going to make a film about slaying a dragon. In envisioning Smaug, I hope Peter Jackson took note--I know Game of Thrones did, because Viserys name-dropped Vermithrax...to my delight.

3. Willow - Fantasy movies get tough reviews, and this is one of them, often condemned as a ripoff of Lord of the Rings, yet Ron Howard's direction and Lucas' story captivated me back then (I brought it to school in the second grade to be watched by the class) and still does today. For its time, the war at the end was epic, complete with a two-headed dragon. Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) is another anti-hero I rave about, and I've gone as far as naming one of my World of Warcraft Gnomes Peck, the derogatory name Willow is called.

2. Conan the Barbarian - James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom, calm, manipulative, and unemotional, is not the typical saturday morning cartoon villain expected in a fantasy movie. While a purist groans about Conan, I have always found the action sequences spectacular, and the slow pace, lack of dialogue, somehow added to the cold, ruthless world of the barbarian. There are a lot of lines I'm fond of and scenes that drew me deeper into fantasy, like the transformation of Doom from man to snake. The soundtrack is one of my all-time favorites, and when I want to write action, I blast "Battle of the Mounds."

1. Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit - I doubt there's ever going to be a movie or franchise that knocks Peter Jackson's take on Middle Earth out of my number one spot. From special effects to music to the acting, these films capture the majesty of Tolkien's world to an extent I never dreamed possible. They're an amazing display of high fantasy on the big screen, filled with emotion and stories that put other works in its genre to shame. They make me feel like a kid again; that in itself is a type of magic even Gandalf couldn't conjure.

Honorable Mentions
Pirates of the Caribbean, The Princess Bride, Clash of the Titans (original), Jason and the Argonauts (original), Highlander, Pan's Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Krull, Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, Reign of Fire,  Mirrormask, Trollhunter, Army of Darkness

Feel free to agree or disagree, suggest a movie I might have missed.


  1. We would watch Labyrinth for the end of the year movie pretty much almost every year in grade school being in first grade.
    I remember watching the neverending story as a kid but never as an adult.
    Loved loved loved loved Willow. I think for a long time it was a mix of these three that made me think I had seen a Princess Bride, which I don't think I have actually ever seen more than 5 minutes here or there and I don't really have an interest.

  2. Princess Bride is a huge favorite for a lot of people, and while I liked it, I wasn't capable of watching it beginning to end until I was an adult. Just didn't grab my childhood imagination for some reason.

  3. I had no interest in Your Highness but I think I might check it out.