Renegade Cinema Staff Picks: Top Fantasy Movies
Caliber Winfield: This is THEE measuring stick when it comes to fantasy films. You had blood, guts, swords, magic, guys changing into snakes, cool weapons, witches being thrown into fire, orgies, and knocking out camels with one punch! What more could you want? Well, other than to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.
Army of Darkness
Shawn S. Lealos: The first two Evil Dead movies are straight up horror movies, but with Army of Darkness, Ash heads back to the swords and sandals era (albeit with his shotgun) and the franchise goes straight into fantasy land. The demons from the first two movies become have more of a LOTR feel in this movie as Ash has to save the simple screwheads from the past with his superior intelligence and suave cunning. Honestly, while the first Evil Dead remains one of my all-time favorite movies from a filmmaking point of view, this is one of the funnest movies I have ever see. Groovy.
The Dark Crystal
Ruby Le Rouge: I’d have to go with the first one I remember seeing, The Dark Crystal. I was completely mesmerized as a kid, I must have watched it a hundred times. The skeksis scared the bejeesus out of me, but I was fascinated, and I still want a Fizgig of my very own. Jim Henson made my childhood, and had a definite hand in the person I’ve grown up to be.
The Princess Bride
Jesse Blume: Yet again, this is a really difficult category for me to choose from, but this choice isn’t as painful as I thought it would be. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres of fiction, if not my single favorite. But much to my surprise, when I looked at my own (rather modest) DVD collection in my cupboard, I only found a single true “fantasy” film. It wasn’t any of the Harry Potter films, or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was “The Princess Bride.” Perhaps this fact alone reveals more than it appears to. In any case, I have no problems at all for citing this as my pick for the fantasy category. I only saw it for the first time last year, and it immediately became one of my favorite stories. I can completely understand why the writer, William Goldman, says that it’s his favorite thing that he’s ever done. Each of the characters are memorable and played to perfection by their respective actors, from Robin Wright and Cary Elwes to Andre the Giant himself. Rob Reiner perfectly captured the essence of Goldman’s book, and it’ll make any stone-hearted cynic smile. It’s practically perfect.
Derek Johns: There are so many great choices to pick from here but I’m going to have to say The Princess Bride. It has everything from a great love story, entertaining fight scenes and some of my all-time favorite characters. Cary Elwes transitions from the role of Westley to the Dread Pirate Roberts almost effortlessly and Mandy Patinkin absolutely steals the movie as the vengeful but compelling swordsman Inigo Montoya. If you have yet to see it, I urge you to start now.
The NeverEnding Story
Tamica Phipps: You’re going to have to settle for my top 20. Gullver’s Travels, Edward Scissorhands, Ninja Turtles, The Witches, Bill & Ted, Hook, Hocus Pocus, Last Action Hero, The Secret Garden, The Mask, The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, Beetlejuice, Willow, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Little Monsters, Jumanji, Groundhogs Day and The Princess Bride. If you’re going to be mean and make me choose….I’ll go with Hook “Hook, Hook, where’s the Hook!” No..maybe I’ll choose Neverending Story. That was truly a fantasy … well they all are…but literally in Neverending Story the kid was reading a book and it turned into a fantasy/adventure. Something this only child dreamed about every day! [Technically, I’d pick Princess Bride but I don’t wanna be a copy cat]
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Bethany Lewis: I have to go with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Aside from the actual film, there’s nothing quite as enjoyable as watching Gene Wilder perform. He’s the perfect mix of whimsy, dryness, and twisted puckishness. The sparkle in his eye belies a harmless sociopathy that at once makes him attractive and mysterious – one part Oscar Wilde, one part Wizard of Oz, and one part Dexter Morgan. He is wickedly funny, and there’s a great subtlety to some of the humor that on can discover and appreciate as one grows older. The movie itself is partly an entertaining cautionary tale about the pitfalls of raising children, but mostly a colorful fantasy about the power of pure imagination and the goodness and joy it can bring to the world. Wonka is the perfect example of a militant individualist, a man who stays true to himself, his vision, and his ideals – and who encourages those principles in others. He runs a powerful company, which in his hands brings creative wonders and sweet joy to the world, but in the wrong hands could take advantage of those it aims to inspire.
Caleb Masters: This is an almost impossible category because great fantasy fills such a whimsical void that even my inner critic is swept away by. There are classics like Lord of the Rings, The Never Ending Story, Princess Bride, and Labyrinth. There are modern classics like the Harry Potter saga, Pan’s Labyrinth , and, Stardust(a particularly underrated movie). All of them are charming, immersive, and impeccable in their own ways.
What it really comes down to for me is not what is the best fantasy out there, but in reality it’s what is the best Miyazaki film. All of the aforementioned movies are terrific, but Miyazaki has brought a type of joy and magic to my adult life that even the best fantasy from Western directors did not. I didn’t have my first Miyazaki experience until my sophomore year of college with Princess Mononoke when I was enlightened. His entire catalog at Studio Gibli is excellent, but perhaps my favorite of his films is Spirited Away.
Like the character Chihiro, I wondered into the world of Spirited Away and was quickly in love with the world and all of its odd intricacies. The movie is visually stunning, the world is breathtaking, and the characters are irresistible despite(and likely because of their flaws. The story is not unlike Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but I find this story far less trippy and sattirical and more driven in its vision. This is an essential for anyone who loves film, especially fantasy, whether they are into anime or not. I can’t recommend it highly enough.