Top Ten List Of Fantasy Films:
by June K. Williams
This list is completely arbitrary. I am aware that not everybody’s favorites may be included. Not even all of my favorites have been included. There are only 10 on this list but there are at least 100 that I adore which did not make it. I attempted to cover many different varieties and I hope if you have missed them you may remedy that and take the time to watch them.
1. Lord Of The Rings
Lord of the Rings is a fantasy that even the most mundane can appreciate. That’s right, even your six pack Friday night WrestleMania and NASCAR aficionado uncle may admit to enjoying Return of the King without losing his rep at the local Elk Lodge. The great quest, a world that has faded from view, moral dilemmas. While those so called mundanes can enjoy Lord of the Rings it is the real fantasy fan that lives the dream. He or she may name their children and pets after characters straight out of Tolkien. Some participate in RPGs (role playing games) and take on the dress, manners and morals found in Tolkien’s world at least for the duration of the game, others filk (fannish music) singing and playing instruments blending their visions of that world with familiar melodies, and there are some who are inspired to write fan fiction set firmly in Middle Earth. I fall somewhere between the mundanes and stone cold fans. Oh, if you are thinking of bribing me with jewelry there is a lovely reproduction of Galadriel’s ring out there that I’ve been hankering to get.
2. The Princess Bride
Though this film has many of the trappings of traditional Epic Fantasy it also has a thoroughly modern take on humor which makes it one of my favorites. While I admire the worlds created by Tolkien for me the Rob Reiner touch in The Princess Bride insures laughter will accompany the quest every step of the way. Have fun storming the castle.
3. Harry Potter
As with Lord of the Rings I refuse to treat the films separately and instead will deal with the entire movie series. Here are all the classic fantasy tropes that form part of the warp and woof of the fabric of the wizarding world of Harry Potter. We watched as a group of children negotiated the danger laced shoals of a magical war while simultaneously tread through the rocky shores of adolescence.
I suppose this could be called Urban Fantasy even though the flashbacks may take us to many locations that could not be remotely deemed “urban”. The settings are contemporary. The actors are beautiful to look at and the action includes heart pounding sword play. Then there are all those fireworks and hollering done with each “quickening”. Each film furnishes bad guys to be vanquished, destinies to be fulfilled and romance. There can be only one but unfortunately like George Lucas, sometimes companies just don’t know when to stop. Some feel they should have stopped before Highlander: Endgame. Perhaps they are correct. What is without question is that they should have stopped before Highlander: The Source which I can only describe as an embarrassment. Could Adrian Paul really have been that hard up for cash or was the contract impossible for him to back out of even if he realized the script is a desecration of the entire Highlander franchise?
A classic Epic fantasy of sword and sorcery where the hero is thrust into the quest unwillingly. Glory and honor is found by him who did not seek it but who rose to the occasion to save the life of a baby. The hero played by Wardwick Davies is a husband, a father, a not so successful magician and he aspires to be an apprentice to the local sorcerer. The film is filled with archetypes. The evil queen, the rakish yet noble outlaw, the wise and silly sorcerer all have a familiar feel but in no way diminishes the enjoyment of the story.
6. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The original film not the Johnny Depp remake. A child’s film that is equally enjoyed by adults, Wonka is a morality tale of the most direct and illustrative kind. How can you not love a film with singing Oompa Loompas? Another big plus of the earlier film is the musical score. There are days that Pure Imagination seems to surround everything I do. Kudos to Mel Stuart, at least for this film.
7. A Knight’s Tale
A perfect blend of classic fantasy and modern humor. From the strains of Queen’s We Will Rock You at the joust to a nude Chaucer strolling down the road. This film makes me smile. A Knight’s Tale is 132 minutes of pure and maybe a tiny bit impure entertainment. It is the heart -warming tale of young squire, William Thatcher (played by Heath Ledger), who dons the identity of Ulrich von Lichtenstein to make a living jousting. He falls in love and must defeat an overbearing Count Adhemar (played by Rufus Sewell) to win the favor of Lady Jocelyn (played by Shannyn Sossamon). It is a feel good movie. To this day if I come across it while changing channels I will stop to watch it.
8. Jason and the Argonauts
From his Academy Award winning work in Mighty Joe Young to the 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans, Ray Harryhausen has created unmatched movie magic. In this film we have the telling of the classic Greek mythological tale of the adventures of Jason and his intrepid band searching for the Golden Fleece. Being made in 1963 you are sure to notice the hairstyles look less like ancient Greek coiffeurs and more like what was then current fashion. No matter. Overlook those errors and you will find a wonderfully told fantasy teamed with stop action animation that resulted in one of the best fantasy films ever.
9. The Dark Crystal
This is part of the great legacy of Jim Henson and Frank Oz. The orphan Jen, last of the Geflings, and raised by peace loving wizards goes forth on a quest to find and restore the missing shard of the Dark Crystal. The price to be paid by the world if he does not succeed is unthinkable, the dangers he faces are great and numerous. That such a technical level of filmmaking could be achieved with the tools available in 1982 (the year this was made) is remarkable. Even more significant was the achievement of creating a serious adventure while utilizing animatronics and puppeteering. The sequel, The Power of the Dark Crystal, is scheduled to be released sometime in 2011 and will be in 3D. I know this is supposed to take place hundreds of years after the original and one can only hope the quality will be as good if not better than the first film.
10. The Wizard of Oz
No matter how many incarnations of this story are done in film or on the stage my favorite remains the 1939 classic. Every character in this film has etched a place in our collective cultural memories. Who hasn’t dreamed of traveling over the rainbow, far away from all that is ugly in our lives? Munchins, scarecrows and tin-men that come to life, a cowardly lion, a good witch and of course the great and wonderful Oz who is a good man but a poor wizard. These are all familiar friends. As for the Wicked Witch of the West, she has her sympathizers. What other film could have a spin-off like Wicked telling things from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West? I mean I don’t think anyone would go to see Darth Vader the musical? Or would they? Hmm. Best not to go down that road.
The Wizard of Oz remains my all-time favorite because it blends all the elements I enjoy most in fantasy with the exception of romance. Plus it does so with music that is as timeless as it is beautiful.
by June K. Williams
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