Some fantasy films can be wrapped up in a single film, sitting in the sweet spot between succeeding and becoming a box office bargain. Multi-film fantasy franchises have their fans, like the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potterand fantastic beastswith multi-arc sagas and a colorful cast of heroes and villains.
Others have obligatory sequels far below the original. Excluding the Ghibli movies which have their own lists, these are fantastic films that manage to tell their stories fully and comprehensively in two hours or less, perfect for a night of casual viewing.
“The Princess Bride” (1987)
Audiences seem to love it or hate it The princess to be married. It’s a parody of the tropes and cliches of classic fantasy plots and super cheesy action scenes and music – complete with a storyline of quotable catchphrases, contests of wits and courage, dastardly villains and a damsel in distress. The movie knows exactly what it is, practically winking at the audience with every frame.
princess bride also presents one of the best parallel quests for revenge in the history of cinema: that of Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) looking for the six-fingered man who murdered his father. It’s a fun and fantastic camp that always has the audience quoting it and thankfully never received a sequel.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)
The Wizard of Oz is adapted from a library of novels and sequels, but the 1939 film stood alone until 2013 Oz the Great and Mightya quasi-prequel to the original that debuted over 70 years later. oz The classic story follows fallen Dorothy (quote) in the land of Oz, who accidentally kills one of the Munchkins’ greatest enemies.
With the Wicked Witch of the West out for revenge, the only way back home is to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. Along the way, Dorothy befriends the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow, each hoping to gain courage, heart, and brains from the mysterious and powerful wizard in the heart of town.
Stardust is, on its surface, a simple fantasy adventure filled with clichés and classic archetypes – Trevor (quote), the archetypal “everyone”, wants to impress his vapid love interest with something that no other suitor could offer him: a fallen star. So he goes on a quest to the magical other world, discovers that the “fallen star” is actually a sentient person, and through various trials and tribulations tries to bring Yvaine (quote) back to England.
The story goes far beyond its premise, with unique McGuffins and magic spells, clever villains, and a three-way race between the witches, the hero, and a dwindling line of princes who all bicker after Yvaine for their own. reasons. And to top it all, Stardust has one of the healthiest romances in fantasy movies.
One of the greatest stop motion movies, Coraline holds nothing back with its spooky imagery and terrifying villain. Coraline (Dakota Fanning) leads a boring life with inattentive parents who move her to the middle of nowhere, until she finds a secret door to what seems like paradise. Button-eyed versions of her parents and neighbors inhabit a dynamic world and fulfill Coraline’s every wish.
All is not as it seems, when the “other mother” reveals her true motives and Coraline races against time and the other mother’s plans to escape home. With a handful of catchy musical numbers and one of the scariest villains in a kids movie, Coraline is a perfect fit this Halloween season.
Zathura is, in many ways, Jumanji in space, both stories written by the same author. Where Jumanji saw brilliant sequels, Zathura is its own complete story that exists in the same universe and absolutely takes advantage of its sci-fi setting. Two brothers, Danny (Jonas Bobo) and Walter (Josh Hutcherson) begin the titular game that takes their home to space.
With each turn, the brothers summon increasingly deadly threats until the game can be won and the house returns to normal. With a horde of aliens, a killer robot and a mysterious astronaut, Zathura is a short science-fantasy adventure for fans of Jumanji and beyond.
‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
For everyone Nightmare Before Christmas’ enduring as a cult classic with an endless assembly line of merchandise to sell, it’s a wonder the movie has no sequels (until now). Nightmare follows Jack Skellington, the hero of Halloween country who is disappointed to make the same spooky schtick every year. When he finds a portal to Christmas Town, Jack vows to bring Christmas to his town and put a dark spin on all the holiday cheer.
The film’s iconic character designs and fantastical musical numbers help make it the cult classic it remains today. Despite its autonomy of just over an hour, Nightmare contains several catchy songs, a love story and incredibly charismatic villains.
‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (2006)
Guillermo del Toroit is The Oscar-winning dark fantasy film follows two very different and equally gripping stories. Set in Spain in 1944, young Ofelia (quote) and her mother are at odds with Ofelia’s stepfather, who hunts Spanish rebels with increasing brutality. Ofelia finds a portal to a Labyrinth, built by the King of the Underworld for his lost daughter. A faun (the titular Pan), believing Ofelia to be the king’s reincarnated daughter, sends Ofelia on a fantastical quest to return to the Underworld and become immortal.
Pan’s Labyrinth is famous for its practical effects and iconic costumes for wildlife and characters like the Pale Man. Where many fantasy films force its heroes to abandon the magical world they found as with The Chronicles of Narnia, Pan’s Labyrinth is a well-done twist on some of the classic fantasy tropes.
“Where’s the Wild Things” (2009)
Adapted from the famous children’s book, where the wild things are is a story as simple as the book it comes from. The film follows Max (Maximum number of records), a rambunctious, destructive child with a wild imagination, who finds the land where the wild things are. Filled with massive monsters that want to eat him, Max convinces them to make him their king.
With no rules or reprimands, Max enjoys being king of the wild things until homesickness sets in and he leaves the land of the wild things behind. A nostalgic journey for the public who grew up with the book, where the wild things are is a wonderfully simple and faithful adaptation.
“The Last Unicorn” (1982)
Certainly not a children’s film for today’s audience, The last unicorn is full of scary imagery and existentialist themes. The story follows the titular unicorn who discovers that she is the last of her kind and leaves the peace of her forest to find out what has happened to the rest of her family.
Along the way, the unicorn meets a wizard with magical challenges, gets caught up in a carnival of captured magical creatures, finds love with a prince, and confronts the terrifying villain Red Bull, who has hunted all the unicorns. Without the pretty, stylized animation that Disney fans expect, The last unicorn pulls no punches with murderous characters and traumatizing its viewers in the best way.
Although they share similar titles, Labyrinth (1986) is a musical fantasy showcasing the talents of david bowie and a cast of by Jim Henson famous Muppets. Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is entangled in the world of the Labyrinth after wishing his brother would go into the clutches of the Goblin King (Bowie) in a fit of frustration. The king challenges Sarah to solve the huge maze or else her brother will become a goblin forever.
Between Bowie and Connelly’s performances are Jim Henson’s Muppets, each with their own creative designs and personalities. Labyrinth sadly performed poorly at the box office, but it’s a collaboration like no other worth rediscovering.
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