Orcs, dragons, warriors, spells and all kinds of antics. Over the years, the Seventh Art has consistently tapped into the fantastic and brought out timeless masterpieces. But what are the best fantasy films ever?

The beauty of literary fantasy is the authors’ ability to create other worlds, where the natural order of things is subverted and the “wonderful” often serves to convey more layered messages. Strengthened by its infinite means, cinema has often and willingly been able to return all the imaginative and symbolic power of the genre, bequeathing the public a series of magnificent titles that combine spectacular intent with a deeper allegorical soul. Let’s see what we think are among the best fantasy films of all time .

The Sun (Fritz Lang, 1924)

Although the name of Fritz Lang is mainly associated with expressionist noir and the imposing archetype of cyberpunk Metropolis, this mammoth two-part transposition of the myth of Siegfried and the treasure of the Nibelungs must be counted as one of the cinematic progenitors of fantasy. An immortal story of heroic events, revenge and punished sins, Lang’s masterpiece lives on concrete and organic images, where the wide-ranging space and the cuts of light that tear the darkness favor an idea of ​​symphonic cinema, in high relief, stuffed with subtle Freudian allegories. Of course, you have to be willing to follow a giant that has been silent for more than five hours, but the game is worth the candle.

The Magician of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)

From the director of Gone with the Wind comes another Oscar-winning film, an adaptation of the famous novel by L. Frank Baum and frighteningly ahead of its time. Featuring a black and white prologue that contrasts with the chromatic polyphony of the rest of the film, The Wizard of Oz is a stunning coming-of-age story that shines with a state of grace Judy Garland, wonderful supporting actors and ingenious visionary. The inclusion of iconic songs (Over the Rainbow above all) makes this masterpiece an imaginative hybrid between fantasy and grotesque musical, of those that the Disney of the past was really able to achieve.

Jabberwockie (Terry Gilliam, 1977)

The solo debut of the former Monty Python Terry Gilliam narrates a ramshackle Middle Ages of colorful student spirit, poised between the grotesque and surrealism typical of the director’s best films (Brazil). The budget cuts have not prevented Gilliam from recreating a world of knights and ladies very tangible, but more than anything he deserves an in-depth study the allegory of today’s alienation, of human assembly lines estranged from feelings.

Excalibur (John Boorman, 1981)

To date the best re-enactment of Arthurian tales, a mammoth elegy of the time of the heroes whose vision transpires of dreamlike atmospheres that make the macabre coexist with the epic, as in the best examples of courteous literature. A memorable photograph worthy of Waterhouse’s paintings is accompanied by the visual beauty of natural sets and costumes. The cast is dazzling, and includes the then emerging Ellen Mirren and Liam Neeson to reinvigorate the film ensemble, embellished with powerful classical music pieces signed by Wagner and Orff.

Conan the Barbarian (John Milius, 1982)

best Fantasy movies

Invented by pulp writer Robert E. Howard in the 1920s, Conan the Barbarian is the eponymous star of a beautiful film that embodies the most muscular fantasy idea possible. Impersonating the inflexible Cimmerian warrior is action star Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his best role), around whom screenwriter Oliver Stone and director John Milius build a vibrant story of revenge in the name of the best combination of sword and magic. To date, the best adaptation of a Howard’s writing, or at least the one that really managed to capture its soul.

Legend (Ridley Scott, 1984)

best Fantasy movies

Probably the most unknown film taken into consideration, but not unworthy of being on the list for this reason. A resounding flop at the box office and remembered by most only for launching Tom Cruise’s career, Legend is a fantasy that, if you want to be picky, can seem a bit empty of content, sometimes unnecessarily slow and with undeniably ordinary characters. Having said that, the real reason this film is memorable is the staging of Ridley Scott, full of rarefied lights and with a taste for the special handcrafted effect and the play of mirrors that hypnotizes even more than thirty years of age. distance. As for Cameron’s Avatar, here too the sense of wonder is preferred to a compact narrative, and in this perspective the product is perfectly successful. All without forgetting a memorable Tim Curry in the role of the Devil.

Ladyhawke (Richard Donner, 1985)

best Fantasy movies

Richard Donner’s classic Eighties with Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer in splendid shape, lovers separated by a curse that sees them transformed into animals (he was a wolf by night, she was a hawk by day). Nowadays it may even appear naïve in some solutions, but with each passing year it acquires value above all in light of the mediocrity in which the modernity of the genre falls. The optical special effects are well balanced, for a film that thrives above all on adventure with a classic breath and the amazing natural locations of Abruzzo.

Chinese ghost stories (Siu-Tung Chin, 1987)

best Fantasy movies

The originality of this beautiful oriental film still strikes after thirty years. Born of the most creative period for Hong Kong cinema, Chinese ghost stories is a bizarre blend of fantasy, love story and warrior exploits, perfectly dosed and flavored with some precious horror veins. The narrative proceeds linear but with the irony and rhythm of the fable, as a counterpoint to an enviable aesthetic pedigree. Unknown to most but to be recovered.

Army of Darkness (Sam Raimi, 1992)

best Fantasy movies

Third chapter of the La Casa saga, it is the most inventive and fun, as well as the least horror. The amazing Gothic fresco created by Sam Raimi overlooks the sea of ​​black comedy set in an Arthurian Middle Ages full of sensational aesthetic fetishes (stone castles, crumbling windmills, sad cemeteries, threatening dark woods). Raimi’s playful craft envelops the viewer with reckless camera movements, while the thousand hilarious cinephile quotes pamper the most hardened amateurs of the Seventh Art. To be seen only for the protagonist played by Bruce Campbell, armed with a chainsaw and always ready to joke.

Dragonheart (Rob Cohen, 1996)

Moving family fantasy directed by an honest craftsman of the caliber of Rob Cohen, who plays the cards of the genre and the evocative setting well. Spot-on characters and colorful relationships between them reflect the fall of Arthurian myths and the loss of knightly values. Of course, we shouldn’t expect a Tolkienian depth from the story and its subtexts, but the strange couple formed by the disillusioned knight Bowen (the likeable Dennis Quaid) and the flamethrower Draco (voice of Sean Connery) has the right chemistry to conquer the viewer, above all. at the end. A fast pace, good special effects and a few ironic curtains at the right point complete the circle.

The Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003)

best Fantasy movies

Who expected a half-unknown New Zealand director to be able to adapt the father of literary fantasy, a feat deemed impossible even by Stanley Kubrick? Talking about the Lord of the Rings twenty years after its creation without falling into the “already said” is practically impossible, so there is nothing left to do but take and enjoy these 12 hours (if you consider the extended version) of immensely beautiful cinema, d ‘other times, where nothing is out of place. The mass scenes, the perfect cast, the sensational sets and the effects express to the maximum power the wonder exerted by the pages of JRR Tolkien, who through mythical archetypes has outlined a great anti-war manifesto and the best possible treatise on human nature and its inconsistencies.

Kyashan: La rinascita (Kazuaki Kiriya, 2004)

best Fantasy movies

From the anime of the same name, a film completely different from the fantasy idea imposed in the collective imagination by Hollywood. War story and humans created in the laboratory, a powerful drama steeped in intimism, attentive to the construction of multifaceted characters at the right point; good and evil are confused, destiny moves the souls of men in marked paths from which there is no escape, the pathos of tragedy prevails over the action scenes. If the direction and acting are impeccable, the digital effects are certainly revisable, but they can enhance the right showmanship.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Andrew Adamson, 2005)

best Fantasy movies

Excellent first film of a trilogy gone (alas!) Progressively worsening, with a good cast and aroused spectacle. The seminal essence of CS Lewis’s original novel is respected in the religious implications and in the multifaceted mythological imagery. It has all the ingenuity of the most typical coming-of-age fairy tale, however compensated by a sense for the spectacle that finds its zenith in the exhilarating final battalion between good and evil. From an anthology the array of talking animals that support the plot, the wise lion Aslan in the first place.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell, 2005)

best Fantasy movies

In the century the best film in the saga of the wizard boy most loved by young audiences. If the previous chapter had constituted a ferry for the maturity of the series, The Goblet of Fire confirms all its qualities of thickness. With the overwhelming Triwizard Tournament acting as a libertarian metaphor for the rapprochement between different international realities, director Mike Newell knows that the audience has grown hand in hand with the protagonists, and acts accordingly: the darker tone, the right sentimental inserts and a general vein of melancholy chisels a magnificent portrait of the transition to adulthood with its responsibilities and pains.

The Labyrinth of the Faun (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)

best Fantasy movies

The expedient of the imagination to escape from the violence of life comes to life in a highly appreciated fairy tale for adults written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro. The daydream becomes essential, harnessing the aesthetic visionary to a not indifferent emotional temper. Light and darkness, mystery and horror, life and death are masterfully contrasted in a sensational essay on the horrors of the Spanish Civil War.

Lady in the Water (M. Night Shyamalan, 2006)

best Fantasy movies

Perhaps the most bizarre creature in Shyamalan, a union of small stories and obvious metatextual games to be found (linked to the discovery of a nymph in a condominium pool), so intricate as to test even the most hardcore fans of the Indian director’s Chinese box narratives . Lady in the Water marks an abstract turning point for the author, who thrives on emotionally significant moments, enhanced by the splendid photography by Chris Doyle and the heartfelt interpretations of Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard. If you get into the right mood of the film, you can even shed a few tears.

The tale of tales (Matteo Garrone, 2015)

best Fantasy movies

The acclaimed Matteo Garrone leaves Gomorrah’s contemporary Italy behind to try his hand at this anthological fantasy inspired by Basile’s fairy tales, which weaves three decadent stories resulting from a mammoth work on the chromatic palette and on the sets. The high rate of violence and sexual winks makes the film unsuitable for children, setting and achieving the goal of denouncing human monstrosities. Although set in an anti-historical Middle Ages, The Tale of Tales is another piece of Garrone’s dialectic with the present.

The Head Hunter (Jordan Downey, 2019)

best Fantasy movies

Proof that even an independent film, with zero budget and only one actor on stage, can build a powerful and intimidating fantasy world with oppressive atmospheres. The very simple plot follows the daily life of a grim knight who kills monsters of various kinds for money; the short duration allows the narrative development to never slip into boredom and flatness; the practical special effects will delight digital readers. While speaking of a demon hunter, the fighting remains in the background, and this choice paradoxically proves to be the greatest merit of the operation.

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