The Golden Compass
opens this weekend and makes it’s bid to be the next big thing in fantasy movies. It’s got a lot to live up to if it’s going to make headway with by now, almost spoiled fantasy fans. Fantasy movies are bigger and better than ever, and audiences have learned to love swinging swords, rampaging orcs, deadly dragons, and wily staff-wielding wizards. At Cinema Blend, there are few things we love better than tossing a dwarf.
So, to figure out which fantasy movie is really the best of the bunch, I conjured up the Cinema Blend staff, handed them magic wands, and had them all face off in a wizard battle, representing their favorite fantasy flicks. The result is this, our latest CB Top 5.
For the purposes of this list, we're defining fantasy as swords and magic and monsters and stuff. You know what I'm talking about. So no, Star Wars
doesn't qualify. Get over it. Poof! Here it is.
Did it work? Dammit I always get that spell wrong. Well, no 3D smoke. Here’s the list, with fewer magic sparkles.
TOP 5 Fantasy Movies
5. Harry Potter
KELLY WEST: It seemed like it would be impossible to adapt to film the rich, magical world that Rowling has created in the Harry Potter series, yet they've managed to do it five times already. From Harry to Hogwarts, Quidditch, Dumbledore, thestrals, dementors, and so much more, these films have given us the opportunity to better visualize Rowling's world. What makes these movies such fantastic fantasy films is a combination of good special effects, great casting choices and of course, an amazing story. These movies, which retell the tale of the boy who lived, will surely be loved by generations to come.
ALEXANDRA CALAMARI: With the exception of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, no other film adaptation has rivaled the Harry Potter series as far as faithfulness to the source. True the fourth and fifth films suffered in the cutting room, but when you're adapting novels that are 752 and 870 pages respectively, some things are bound to get lost in translation. What remains in every film is the true spirit of the novels, and with impeccable casting, astounding special effects and a truly magical recreation of the universe J.K. Rowling created, the Harry Potter films offer an ideal escape from reality for the young or just the young at heart.
4. The Neverending Story
JARAD WILK: Young Bastian is lost in his own world - his father yells at him for daydreaming and he's tormented constantly by bullies at school. In need of an escape and a friend, the young boy turns to a book that begins to become all too real. He is following the adventures of Atreyu, a young warrior chosen to save Fantasia from Nothingness. Despite being warned about the "powers" of the book, Bastian is drawn in to the book, and it's not long before he realizes the powers are true and the characters know he's out there. Is he the true savior of Fantasia? This is the ultimate fantasy movie - linking reality and a vivid land of imagination perfectly, creating two world's that are very different, yet brings them together like they are very much the same. It is a classic movie with flying animals that talk, rock people, and various scary creatures of the darkness. It is a magical tale and a coming-of-age story all in one, that will leave children and adults oozing with confidence, a sense of adventure and fun, and a undeniable desire to read a book in a dark, creepy attic of your old high school.
BRIAN HOLCOMB: A story about the power of storytelling and the death of the imagination brought upon by the harsh realities of adulthood, The Neverending Story was director Wolfgang Peterson’s follow-up to his international success, Das Boot. It was also the most expensive film made in Germany at the time and was intended to compete in the sci-fi fantasy market that had opened up in the years following the release of Star Wars. It’s the film’s wonderful, dream-like atmosphere and the frightening, almost nihilistic concept of “nothingness” that make so it memorable. Packed with dazzling sets and truly bizarre creatures, the movie has a real physical charm in that everything is very lovingly handcrafted. The world of Fantasia isn’t a series of digital paintings but a mostly physical set with characters that are elaborate costumes or puppets and so easily interact with the humans onscreen much like Sesame Street or Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. The Neverending Story is just as timeless as those classics. The obsessive reading of the book by Bastian (Barret Oliver) is played so sincerely throughout that it seems anything but pretentious. Bastian himself thinks it’s insane that characters in the story he’s reading seem to know of his existence. Although he initially resists his own imagination, how could anyone not be inspired by the dying Child Empress when she pleads with Bastian to give her a name and save Fantasia from being destroyed by “The Nothingness”. Iranian actress and dancer Tami Stronach is incredibly eerie in the role, conveying the sense of ageless wisdom and child-like innocence at the same time. Peterson’s tone is oddly chilling at times, the joy of friendship, life and adventure seeming to always hold the possibility of death and a real end to this supposedly neverending story. For many people this film is beyond criticism, a vital link to their own childhood memories.
3. The Princess Bride
MACK RAWDEN: You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The first is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this: never vote against The Princess Bride when considering the world’s best fantasy. You were probably seduced by Frodo Baggins and his loyal army of Hobbits, but I’d like to see them fight off an angry horde of R.O.U.S.s! You were probably wooed by Harry Potter and his unicorn feather wand, but I’d like to see his giant climb the Cliffs of Insanity. Fezzik would whoop his bearded, unkempt ass. Every fantasy, fable, and fairy tale ever written pale in comparison to The Princess Bride. In fact, the only writer who could pen a better tale is S. Morgenstern himself, and he’s still being held captive by an angry prostitute from Guilder. Blow that out your ass, Homer!
ALEXANDRA CALAMARI: What’s not to like in a movie with "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles" and a cynical Fred Savage (at the height of his stardom) who thinks kissing is disgusting. The Princess Bride is one of the most quotable movies of all time, and one of the most romantic at that. If you've never heard the phrase "Hello my name is Indigo Montoya… you killed my father, prepare to die," you haven't really lived. Even though the film's message is about the storytelling power of a book, if you really want to know what storybook love is all about you're going to have to watch the movie.
2. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
JARAD WILK: Never have I wanted to be a poor kid with a heart of gold and the ticket to match more than after watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Let yourself be transported into a creepy world that can only be described as a diabetics worst nightmare. It's a sugar-coated jungle where the creepy Oompa Loompa's work their magic for their zany and whacky leader, Willy Winka, portrayed brilliantly by Gene Wilder. It is a manic adventure filled with fizzy lifting drinks, everlasting gobstoppers, gum that has a three-course meal (although, it always goes wrong at dessert), and four bratty children who fail to see the big picture in life. It's truly the tale of a child who has nothing to lose and everything to gain - and the crazy man ready to give him a chance at living, if he can stay true to his heart. It is a timeless, whimsical masterpiece that will have you singing, dancing, and wishing your wallpaper had lickable snozberries, or your house had a river made of milk chocolate and an alarm system that sucked up little fat kids that tried to drink part of your property. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a product of the 1970s, and the trippy songs, colors and candy are bound to put you in suger-inspired coma that will keep you smiling.
MACK: Willy Wonka is an escape, a trip through the childish, chocolatey recesses of the imagination. It transports the viewer to an over-elaborate world of good vs evil, a place where the villains always get their comeuppance and the heroes bask in nougaty, decadent pleasure. Augustus Gloop, that fatass Nazi, drowns in his own river of excess. Violet Beauregarde, that competitive bitch, gets hoisted by her own baby blue petard. Veruca Salt, that spoiled shitshow, gets dumpstered after a venomous tantrum. Mike Teavee, that future sociopath, gets his ego shrunk down to size. And our protagonist Charlie, that loveable saint, well, he lives forever inside his own creamy, caramel carnival. Now, that’s a great fucking fantasy!
ED PERKIS: While most other fantasy movies rely on swords, creatures, and magic potions to wow us; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory captivates with chocolate rivers, three-course-meal gum, and a flying glass elevator. It's no contest; Wonka transports us into a world of pure imagination and creeps us out a little at the same time, all without an Orc or dark magician in sight. They aren't needed when you have that freaky acid trip in the tunnel or Slugworth standing under the bridge. Gene Wilder gives the performance of his career and four of the most horrible kids imaginable try and fail to put something over on him. If that isn't enough, it's a musical with one memorable song after another (except the momentum screeching "Cheer Up, Charlie.") While some kids might have a fantasy to fight a glorious battle, every kid wants to be let loose in a magical candy factory and this movie does it.
1. The Lord of the Rings
RAFE: The Lord of the Rings series isn’t just a fantasy saga – it’s a long-awaited fantasy world brought to life. In Peter Jackson’s capable hands, the world of Middle Earth comes alive in a way most fans never could have imagined. Even though our story only lasts the span of a few years, we see different races enjoy rich cultures, come into conflict with each other, and deal with those conflicts as the most unlikely hero saves the world. Almost every other fantasy picture out there borrows from Lord of the Rings in some way, so it’s about time someone was able to bring that world to life. It’s just a shame there aren’t more stories to be told in Middle Earth. Our time there is far too brief before passing into the West.
FRANCK: The Lord of the Rings franchise is the epitome of glorious filmmaking. I have to admit I never read any of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels, but that certainly didn't prevent me from going into the three movies with high expectations and unlimited anticipation. I got what I was looking for. Peter Jackson's LOTR is the best fantasy franchise ever to board the big screen. Fascinating from beginning to end, and stuffed with dazzling magic and incredibly sophisticated and poetic storytelling, these three films take you on an epic journey rich in suspenseful battles, unique characters, gorgeous landscapes and state-of-the-art visual effects that will leave you breathless. I always had full confidence in Jackson's ability to craft nail-biting films, and with LOTR, he showed the world what compelling, and above all memorable cinema is all about. Frodo’s adventure becomes an adventure of your own, so if you haven’t yet set out to Middle Earth, pack your backpack and go buy the extended versions of LOTR on DVD. Now go already! Go!
KATEY: I read The Hobbit in eighth grade and hated it, but when Fellowship of the Ring came out in 2001, even I knew it was something worth seeing. Each film of the trilogy transformed my feelings about fantasy, with a combination of action, emotion and epic beauty I'd never seen before. When Return of the King came out, it was a bittersweet conclusion: what would December be without a new Lord of the Rings? Say what you will about the half-dozen tacked-on endings, but I need them all, even four years after Frodo traveled into the West.
Nominated but didn’t make the cut: Excalibur, Jason and the Argonauts, Pan's Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Stardust, Hook, Back to the Future, Big, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Groundhog Day, The Chronicles of Narnia, Labyrinth, Defending Your Life, Peter Pan, Big Fish, Beauty and the Beast, The Witches, Willow, The Crow