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The 45 best fantasy movies of all time

Check out our expertly curated list of the best fantasy movies of all time from classics like Lord of the Rings to hidden gems like Big Fish.

Best fantasy movies; Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Spirited Away

What are the best fantasy movies? Noble elves, mighty wizards, and dark lords too terrible to name, the fantasy genre is a favorite for cinema lovers everywhere and has been a staple of the big screen for decades. But, the genre can be hard to define.

You may think you are watching one of the best movies in the genre, but for a flick to truly be a fantasy film, it needs to have a certain quality that separates it from the best science fiction movies and best horror movies. It’s probably best defined as having an essence of the fairy tale about it, as unhelpful as that is. So, from massive franchises like The Lord of the Rings to the animated world of Studio Ghibli, here’s the best the genre has to offer.

Best Fantays movies: Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in The Hobbit

45. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Because The Hobbit trilogy as a whole receives so much justified criticism, it’s easy to forget that the first film that brought us back to Middle-earth, An Unexpected Journey, is actually great. No, it’s not as good as any of the three movies that came before it; yes, it’s still better than the vast majority of fantasy movies.

It is the only installment in the trilogy that understands Tolkien’s The Hobbit was created as a children’s story, unlike the darker The Lord of the Rings. It feels appropriately adventurous, and there’s plenty of excitement in seeing the hidden dangers and marvels of Middle-earth as Bilbo takes his first hairy footsteps out of The Shire. And make no mistake: Martin Freeman’s Bilbo is by far the greatest part of this story.

He’s genius casting as the smug, cautious, uptight Hobbit, and you could spend hours just watching and examining his expressions and mannerisms. It’s telling that when the trilogy stopped focusing on him in favor of characters and plot lines not even in Tolkien’s writing, it lost its way.

Best fantays movies: Peter Pan

44.  Peter Pan (2003)

In childhood, there was no greater pastime than pretending to fly around your bedroom, and Peter Pan is partly to thank (or blame) for that. There’s the classic Disney movie, of course, but we also have a soft spot in our hearts for the 2003 live-action adaptation.

This take on Wendy Darling and her brothers being whisked off to a land where mermaids and pirates roam was unbelievable to watch as a kid and still has that little touch of fairy dust for us now in adulthood.

Plus, Jason Isaacs playing the dual role of Captain Hook/Mr Darling really stuck with us, and he’s become the benchmark crocodile-fearing villain ever since. There’s been plenty of Peter Pan reworkings in the decades since the original story was published, but this one really takes the cake when it comes to imagination.

Best fantasy movies: The Practical Magic cast

43. Practical Magic (1998)

Seasonal viewings are among the most joyous things about loving movies, and Practical Magic is the quintessential October dramedy.

Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock (back when movie stars existed) are two tight-knit, witchy sisters on separate paths, and a night of unexpected violence lands them in hot water with a detective.

Practical Magic hits all the romance, comedy, and drama marks to create a cozy atmosphere with personality, lived-in performances, and heaps of charm. We still want that farmhouse kitchen.

Best Fantasy movies: The Craft

42. The Craft (1996)

To understand just how much impact this extremely ’90s magic film had on pop culture, you need to have seen it. From its gothic fashion, edgy foray into girlhood, and horror house of a third act, “We’re the weirdos, mister.” lives on for good reason.

Let the cutting characters, smart dialogue, and melodramatic flair cast a spell on you. Lightning bolts streak through the sky, snakes appear en masse, and a teenager (Robin Tunney in a frightening wig, thanks to her Empire Records head shave) joins a coven of witches.

Fairuza Balk delivers a campy performance as lovable as it is manic, underpinning The Craft’s power plays, while Neve Campbell, Rachel True, and Skeet Ulrich cement themselves as 90s icons in this unmissable thriller.

Best fantasy movies; Death Becomes Her

41. Death Becomes Her (1992)

Eternal youth sounds great on paper, but what happens if a lifelong battle between two gorgeous frenemies abuses the magic? Death Becomes Her is one of the best black comedy fantasies that you can find and is one of our personal favorite gothy feel-good movies too.

Starring the likes of Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis, the ‘90s film tells the story of two women (and lifetime rivals) drinking a magical potion.

However, this elixir for eternal youth comes with conditions. As you can guess, once the two women work through all their issues (via some impressively violent ways), these conditions are broken.

Death Becomes Her is hilarious, shows us a satirical version of a toxic friendship, and is dripping with style and dark glamour aesthetics. Basically, this is the perfect pick to watch with some friends and a glass of wine for your next movie night.

Best Fantasy movies: The Neverending Story

40. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

For many of us, our first venture into fantasy was through bedtime stories. So it makes sense that one of the best movies in the genre is about a magical book. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, The NeverEnding Story follows a young boy who begins to read a book about a warrior trying to stop an evil force from destroying the world of Fantasia.

With impressive visuals, some tough emotional moments, and an almost meta-commentary on the nature of stories themselves, The NeverEnding Story is a sweeping experience.

Although some of the ‘80s effects and stylized puppets may not be as impressive now, this film perfectly captures that existential question we all had as pre-teens: can I still use my imagination as I grow up? The answer, of course, is yes, and The NeverEnding Story will constantly be there to remind you of that fact.

Best fanatsy movies: Big FIsh

39. Big Fish (2003)

A true fantasy should have one of these three things: the unexplainable, heart-stopping romance, and a hint of horror. The really great fantasy movies have all these elements, and Big Fish is the perfect example of how they can all work in tandem to create something totally unique.

Big Fish is a story about stories and follows a young man as he tries to uncover the truth about his father’s fantastical life. He soon comes to find that reality can be stranger than fiction, and it takes him on a journey that’ll have you laughing and crying all at once.

Big Fish is a classic Tim Burton flick. Wacky, wonderful and puts some truly larger-than-life characters on the screen. It’s also a visual whirlwind, with each frame looking like it could be a painting from another world. It’s recognizable enough to bring you comfort but strange enough to tap into life’s oddities.

Best fantasy movies; Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone

38. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1999)

One of the joys of fantasy is being introduced to an entirely new world, whether it’s through a wardrobe, a hole in the ground, or The Leaky Cauldron’s back entrance to Diagon Alley.

As a window to the Wizarding World, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philopsher’s Stone, as it’s rightly referred to by Brits) is almost unparalleled. While it might not be as dramatic, action-packed, or exciting as later Harry Potter movies, it has one ace in its hand: astonishment and wonder.

Seeing Hogwarts for the first time through Harry’s eyes after the torch-lit boat ride across the Great Lake, is so transporting and evocative. John Williams’ score does do some heavy lifting (when does it ever not?) and is tinged with the combination of magic, light, and hints of darkness that defined the franchise. After the first two movies, the series ‘grew up’ and took a more mature route, which is what most fans know and love. But this is Harry Potter at its most fantastical, and there’s a lot to love about that.

Best fantasy movies: The Golden Army

37. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

We’re big fans of Guillermo del Toro’s original Hellboy film, and if this was a list of the best superhero movies, you can guarantee it would be on here. That said, this is a list of the best fantasy movies, and as such, we’re including its underrated sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which really leans into Mike Mignola’s fantastical world in a way the first didn’t.

The entire film is a celebration of del Toro’s love of monsters, magic, and the darker side of fantasy, with nearly every scene featuring a mind-blowing creature, set, or character. Honestly, it sounds strange to write, but it’s basically Pan’s Labyrinth with superheroes and fewer fascists.

Best fantasy movies: Croucing Tiger,. Hidden Dragon

36. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

The film that taught the majority of millennials the joys of wuxia, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is a marvelous melodramatic martial arts romp that balances incredible action and moving drama. Set in China during the Qing dynasty, the film follows the warrior Li Mu Bai and his unrequited love, Yu Shu Lien, as they try to reclaim a legendary sword known as the Green Destiny.

Let’s be honest, though. You don’t need us to tell you the plot. If you’re reading this list chances are you’ve already seen Crouching Tiger because this was a film that transcended the fantasy genre to be recognized as one of the best movies ever made. We’ll always remember it for its dazzling wire work which would go on to influence western action movies for years to come.

Best fantasy movies: Groundhog Day

35. Groundhog Day (1993)

The story of a weatherman slowly realizing he’s a massive dickhead sounds more like an indie drama than a fantasy movie but trust us when we say Groundhog Day represents everything great about the most magical genre.

Our hero (we use that word loosely) is Phil Connors, a cynical and rude man who finds himself trapped in his own personal hell, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he’s forced to relive February 2 in a seemingly never-ending loop. Over the course of potentially millennia, Phil slowly learns not to be such a jerk in what’s a warped take on It’s A Wonderful Life.

This film has a lot of personal significance to me. It’s one of my dad’s favorites, and he showed it to me when I was far too young, ensuring it’s seared into my brain. Still, outside of my personal biases, I have to say it’s a superb film that plays with some really thorny philosophical themes, including the nature of the soul, religion, and the possibility of redemption.

Hilariously, director Harold Ramis claimed members of multiple different religions contacted him after watching the film to say that he’d clearly based it on their specific teaching, which probably says something about the universality of religion. All we know for certain is that it’s funny, thoughtful, and more than a little sad, basically everything we want from a story.

34. Princess Mononoke (1997)

Aside from being one of the best anime movies ever made, Princess Mononoke is probably our second favorite Studio Ghibli movie after Spirited Away (Sorry My Neighbor Totoro fans, you can hurl your rocks at us later), and we love the way it uses the fantasy genre to tell a bigger story about the importance of environmentalism.

If you’ve never seen it, Princess Mononoke follows Ashitaka, the last prince of the Emishi tribe, as he — with the help of a young woman raised by wolves — seeks a cure for a deadly curse and embroils him in a war between the gods of the forest and a human colony intent on exploiting the natural resources.

Now, that synopsis doesn’t do it justice, and we don’t want you to think that Princess Mononoke is some turgid morality play about good versus evil. There’s more to it than that. It’s complex, nuanced, and adult, offering no easy answers on the necessary give and take between humanity and nature.

Best fantasy movies: Mary Poppins

33. Mary Poppins (1964)

While Mary Poppins may not feature armies of orcs storming the gates of an elven castle, there’s an undeniable magic to this wonderous movie that’s both literal and figurative. You don’t need us to tell you the plot. Basically, Mr. Banks wants a nanny to look after his kids, and he ends up getting a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious one in the form of the titular Mary Poppins.

There’s little we can say about Mary Poppins that you haven’t heard before. The songs are spectacularly memorable, the performances (with the exception of Dick Van Dyke’s accent) charming, and the mix of animation and live-action footage was genuinely boundary-pushing for the time.

Arguably, though, Poppins has earned its place on this list not for its technical achievements but for the way it makes us feel when we watch it. Like a real-life Time Turner, Mary Poppins is one of those wonderful movies with the power to turn back the clock, transporting the viewer to a more innocent age without stress or worries.

Best fanatsy movies: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

32. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

The Life of Brian is arguably the zenith of The Python’s cinematic efforts, but we cannot overlook how brilliant Monty Python and the Holy Grail truly is. Like all The Python’s work, it’s willfully anarchic and possessed of an irreverent self-confidence few comedy movies have ever successfully replicated.

While the film skewers the hackneyed story beats we’ve come to expect from a film about the Arthurian legend, it appears (to me, at least) to come from a place of genuine love for the genre. After all, how can you parody something if you don’t know it inside and out?

A number of the film’s amazing jokes have gone down in history, most notably the seemingly immortal Black Knight who’ll bite your legs off and the “Holy Hand Grenade.” it’s not the best gag in the film. The best joke in the film is the ending, which unceremoniously brings Arthur’s quest to an end just before the final battle. It’s a sensational rug pull and a hilarious ‘f*ck you’ to the audience, which had a massive impact on comedy, most notably on The Simpsons, who took ‘f*ck you’ to a whole new level.

Best fantasy movies: Clash of the Titans

31. Clash of the Titans (1981)

While it doesn’t live in the memory quite as distinctively as Jason and the Argonauts (A film you’ll be hearing about later), Clash of the Titans is a bold and ambitious adaptation of the Greek myth of Perseus that manages to be both suitably epic in scale while maintaining an admirable spirit of fun.

Still, while we enjoyed seeing Harry Hamlin’s Perseus swashbuckling his way across the Mediterranean, the real star of the show, as is so often the case with these films, is the work of Ray Harryhausen. This was the last film Harryhausen would work on, and I’d argue that the Medusa in this film is his second-greatest creation after the skeletons in Argonauts.

Best fantasy movies: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

30. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory really a fantasy movie? Well, Willy Wonka is, by any definition, a wizard, so we’re going to say yes. A spellbinding musical, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory captures the magic of Roald Dahl’s original text while expanding on it just enough to give this treat a unique flavor.

The caramel at the center of this particular chocolate is, of course, the late great Gene Wilder, who makes the charming chocolatier from the books into a sort of anarchic wild man in a top hat. It’s the unpredictability of this performance that helps make the film so propulsive; will Wonka be scary, flippant, or funny? You never know from scene to scene.

As a quick aside, does anyone else feel sorry for Augustus Gloop? Willy did say everything in his garden was edible, but then he punishes the kid for drinking the chocolate river! #Justice4Gloop.

Best fantasy movies: The Witches

29. The Witches (1990)

The blend between horror and fantasy is often thin, and few films exemplify this quite like The Witches. To be frank, The Witches is a pretty harrowing movie that was shown to me when I was far too young, and as a result, I’ve always been terrified of child-snatching witches grabbing me off the street (Yes, even now I’m in my 30s).

Through a slightly more adult lens, though, you can really see the artistry that’s gone into The Witches, most notably Jim Henson’s mind-blowingly terrifying makeup, which brought the sinister spellcasters from Dahl’s text to life. Anjelica Huston deserves an awful lot of praise as well for making The Grand High Witch one of the most frightening movie villains of all time. If you’ve not seen it, check it out, but skip the 2020 remake; it’s rubbish.

Best fantasy movies: Beauuty and the Beast

28. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Disney and fantasy go together like coffee and milk, and few Disney movies capture the romantic potential of the most magical genre, like Beauty and the Beast.

Boasting gorgeous animation, superb voice acting, and a tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast remains a powerful parable about the importance of kindness and a good heart over the superficial.

Best fantasy movies: Excalibur

27. Excalibur (1981)

You can fault John Boorman’s Excalibur for a number of things, but you can’t deny its ambition. Boasting an all-star cast that includes Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, and Patrick Stewart (Although they weren’t household names when the film was released), Excalibur is an epic retelling of the story of King Arthur that’s an entertaining blend of fantasy and action.

There’s an argument to be made that Boorman’s execution didn’t quite match his vision, and the film has a divisive legacy, to say the least, but honestly, it’s hard to find a better version of Arthur’s story on the big screen that doesn’t feature a killer rabbit. It’s also left a mark on a number of filmmakers, most notably Peter Jackson, who brought some of Boorman’s stylish choices to his version of Lord of the Rings.

Best fantasy movies: Doctor Strange

26. Doctor Strange (2016)

Defining fantasy movies can be pretty difficult, and several of our contemporaries seem to have taken ‘fantasy’ to mean anything fantastical. As such, they’ve included films like The Avengers and Spider-Man on their lists, and I’m sorry, but that’s buffoonery that we just cannot sanction.

That said, if you did have to include a superhero movie on this list, the obvious choice would be Doctor Strange. It’s got magic, monsters, and a mystical Tilda Swinton. What’s not to love? In all seriousness, Doctor Strange helped to bring a touch of magic to the overly scientific Marvel Cinematic Universe, which opened the door for more incredible superhero action.

Best fantasy movies: Frozen

25. Frozen (2013)

Featuring some truly unforgettable tunes (Which no doubt drove many a parent mad) and dazzling animation, Frozen is a clever and subversive film that twists the traditional Disney narrative of a prince rescuing a princess on its head. Funny, poignant, and heartfelt, Frozen is ultimately one of the best Disney movies ever made with a touch of that old House of Mouse magic, and for that reason alone, it has earned a spot on this list.

Best fantasy movies: Coraline

24. Coraline (2009)

Gorgeously animated and astoundingly absorbing, Coraline is arguably the best adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s work, with director Henry Selick managing to capture the fiendish spirit of the original novella perfectly.

While the Coraline voice cast is pretty stacked, the real star of the show is, of course, the stop-motion animation, which lends an unearthly air to an already otherworldly story. Coraline is the perfect film for kids who like to dabble in the darker side of fiction.

Best fantasy movies: A Monster Calls

23. A Monster Calls (2016)

Directed by J. A. Bayona, A Monster Calls is a heartbreaking tale of a young boy struggling with the impending death of his mother. While the subject matter is heavy (this isn’t a movie you’ll be in any rush to rewatch), A Monster Calls is a moving meditation on the idea of impending grief and the way that manifests.

Featuring some truly affecting performances, most notably from the young Lewis MacDougall, and terrifying visual effects, this isn’t a film that should be missed. Just be warned, you’re going to cry.

Best fantasy movies: Stardust

22. Stardust (2007)

Based on the Neil Gaiman (we love a bit of Gaiman at TDF) book of the same name, Stardust follows Tristan, a young man from a quiet English village who must put aside his fears and travel to the magical kingdom of Stormhold to win the hand of the lady he loves. Sounds like a pretty cliched fantasy story, right? Well, you’re wrong.

This is a fantasy love story told through Gaiman’s anarchic filter (sounds painful), and as such, it’s a wonderfully off-beat adventure that never bows to genre cliche and instead plows its own wildly funny path.

Best fantasy movies: Hercules

21. Hercules (1997)

Who put the glad in gladiator? Hercules! A joyous retelling of the legend of Heracles, Disney’s Hercules is a colorful and lively reimagining of old Grecian stories that’s jam-packed with great gags, memorable songs, and unforgettable characters.

Arguably, though, of all those characters, the show’s almost stolen by James Woods’ Hades. He’s not quite on the same level as Robin Williams’ Genie, but he’s damn close, and that’s saying something.

Best fantasy movies: Honor Among Thieves

20. Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

A fun, if slightly irreverent, journey into the Forgotten Realms, Honor Among Thieves is a love letter to the tabletop game that’s both a rip-roaring adventure and a hilariously self-aware comedy (sounds like some DnD campaigns we’ve played).

While it boasts an all-star cast — including Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, and Sophia Lillis — Hugh Grant’s devilish Forge Fitzwilliam steals every scene he’s in, which is ironic considering he’s a rogue. Read our Honor Among Thieves review here.

Best fantasy movies: Evil Dead: Army of Darkness

19. Evil Dead: Army of Darkness (198)

A horror movie on the best fantasy list? Groovy! Army of Darkness pivots away from the brutal gore and scares of the first two Evil Dead movies (although there are still plenty of thrills) and is instead far more fantastical and surreal. In the hands of a lesser director, this shift in genre could have been a disaster, but Sam Raimi’s bold vision and creativity ensure the transition is a smooth one.

Best fantasy movies: Shrek

18. Shrek (2001)

A parody of traditional fairy tales, Shrek is basically one big middle finger to Disney that never comes across as bitter. Instead, this charming adventure film is an exciting and, more importantly, hilarious romp that features some of the most lovable and well-developed cartoon characters ever seen on the big screen.

It’s also worth shouting out just how good this film looks, and Shrek really helped push the boundaries of what computer-generated animation was capable of. Even now, two decades later, Shrek still looks amazing, and it earned its place in history as the first-ever winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Movie.

Best fantasy movies: Conan the Barbarian

17. Conan the Barbarian (1982)

A classic tale of swords and sorcery, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan received mixed reviews when it was released in 1982, with contemporary critics complaining about the film’s sell seriousness and violence. Time’s been kind to Conan, though, and the film’s now considered a classic of the fantasy genre.

While it’s true the film’s violent (although nothing in it will shock modern audiences) and deviates from Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories, it’s impossible to deny just how entertaining this epic is. Conan also cemented Schwarzenegger’s place in Hollywood as the studios’ go-to action movie star, and for that alone, it’s earned a place on this list.

Best fantasy movies: Jason and the Argonauts

16. Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

A big-screen adaptation of the ancient Greek legend of the Golden Fleece, Jason and the Argonauts is a timeless tale of adventure on the high seas and brave heroes battling terrible monsters. But let’s be honest; the monsters are the real heroes of this particular film.

Brought to life in gorgeous stop-motion by the legendary Ray Harryhausen, each of these clay creatures is a mini marvel in its own right. From the harrowing harpies to the titanic Talos, you’ll never forget the Harryahausen’s monsters.

Best fantasy movies: Robin Williams in Jumanji

15. Jumanji (1995)

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the ’90s and nostalgia is a hell of a drug, but in my humble opinion, the original Jumanji starring the inimitable Robin Williams is far superior to (the admittedly still good) modern movies starring The Rock and his friends.

Why? Well, I prefer the dark, creepy tone of the original. When the drums start beating in the 90s movie, the sense of dread is palpable as you wait for whatever the world’s worst boardgame has summoned to turn up, and that’s just not the case in the newer films.

Similarly, I love seeing Williams play against type. It’s not quite as dark as his roles in One Hour Photo or Insomnia, but there’s an undeniable melancholy there that I think gives the film a degree of pathos its sequels lack.

Best Fantasy movies: Highlander (1986)

14. Highlander (1986)

Over the top and unapologetically bombastic Highlander is about immortal warriors with dodgy accents trying to behead each other. What more could you want from a fantasy movie? Just skip the sequels because this is one franchise that didn’t deserve to live forever.

Best fantasy movies: Ian and Barley in Onward

13. Onward (2020)

The first animated movie (and the only Pixar) to feature on the list, but by no means the last, Onward is an archetypical fantasy film about two brothers on a noble quest to spend one last day with their late father. While on their journey, the pair come to appreciate each other in ways they never expected and grow closer than ever before – classic heroes’ journey stuff.

What makes Onward particularly notable, though, is the strange world it builds — an odd blend of the modern and the fantastical, its heartbreaking story about the unique bond shared by siblings, and the breathtakingly quirky and creative visuals.

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12. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a modern-day masterpiece that completely eschews the Disneyfied version of Pinocchio that’s become the archetypical living puppet in many a film fan’s mind.

It’s dark, moody, and totally enchanting. Check out our full Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio review here.

Best fantasy movies: Cast of Time Bandits

11. Time Bandits (1981)

A self-indulgent choice perhaps, Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits was a video shop staple when I was growing up. A strange little film about time travel, family, and robbing historical figures, Time Bandits is a marvelously chaotic movie full of Monty Python-style gags that capture the spirit of being a child. It also features one of the bleakest endings of any film on this list, but that’s another story…

Best fantasy movies: Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Harry Potter had to make an appearance on this list, and it was an easy choice. While all the Harry Potter films have something special about them, Prisoner of Azkaban is clearly the best of the movies. Which other Harry Potter movie has singing frogs?

Director Alfonso Cuarón manages to tell a dark, emotionally complex, and satisfying story that maintains the magic established in the first two films while also pushing the series in a far more adult direction.

Combine Cuarón’s technical wizardry with the all-star cast put together by his predecessor, Chris Colombus (as well as the new and, let’s be honest, superior Dumbledore), and you end up with something rather enchanting. Plus, it gave us the best Harry Potter character, Sirius Black…

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9. The Green Knight (2021)

The first A24 movie to dip its toes into the enchanted lake of fantasy movies, The Green Knight, is an exciting and beautifully presented film, but that’s not why we like it. No, The Green Knight earns its place on this list for having the temerity to be weird, like really weird.

It’s a strange fact that, despite the fantasy genre allowing basically anything to happen, so many films stick to the same tired tropes and slices. The Green Knight, though, eschews the standard trappings of the genre and embraces the uncanny.

Best fantasy movies: Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands

8. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

A suburban fairy tale wrapped in black leather but with a sugary sweet center, Edward Scissorhands is the best Tim Burton movie. Basically a romantic retelling of Frankenstein, this saccharine story of a man with scissors where his hands should be (rendering him incapable of touch) lovingly blends the macabre and melancholy through Burton’s unique gothic lens to haunting effect.

Factor in Danny Elfman’s bewitching score and a Johnny Depp performance from when he actually cared, and you end up with something extraordinary.

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7. The Dark Crystal (1982)

The Dark Crystal is on this list for its unrivaled visual splendor. Just like any creation from Jim Henson, there’s awe-inspiring puppetry on display, which does a lot to mask some of the cracks in the movie’s plot. The movie got a Netflix follow-up decades later, which adds even more to the lore and world of The Dark Crystal.

Best fantasy movies: David Bowie in Labyrinth

6. Labyrinth (1986)

Jim Henson is famed for the way he brought fantastical creatures to life, be they a frog named Kermit or whatever the hell the Skeksis, but the nadir of his career had to be Labyrinth. Officially a box-office bomb, Labyrinth has gone on to become a cult classic and is widely recognized these days as one of the best fantasy films ever made.

Like the best fairy tales, there’s an air of menace to the film, presumably because of all the puppets, and writer Terry Jones of Monty Python fame lends the film a cheeky sense of humor. Labyrinth is perhaps best known these days, though, for David Bowie’s memetic and magnetic portrayal of Jared, The Goblin King. He enchanted us all with his pelvic sorcery.

Best fantasy movies: Robin Wright and Cary Elwes as Buttercup and Westley in The Princess Bride

5. The Princess Bride (1987)

Not putting The Princess Bride on the list was inconceivable! A post-modern classic, The Princess Bride is a fun, stylish, swashbuckling adventure that also happens to be one of the most quotable movies ever made.

Adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel of the same name, director Rob Reiner managed to make one of the most madcap fantasy films of all time that is both fantastically funny and remarkably romantic at the same time.

Best fantasy movies: The cast of Spirited Away sit around a table

4. Spirited Away (2001)

The story of Chihiro Ogino, a young girl who’s spirited away into the fantastical world of the Kami and ends up working in a bathhouse, has gone down in cinematic history as one of the most beautiful films ever. With its awe-inspiring animation, Hayao Miyazaki’s magical story, and absorbing world-building, it’s probably the best  Studio Ghibli movie.

We also happen to think it’s one of the best animated movies as well. And remember, once you’ve met someone, you never really forget them…

Best fantasy movies: the fawn and Ivana Banquero as Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth

3. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

A dark fairytale set during the Spanish Civil War, Pan’s Labyrinth is a hauntingly beautiful and spell-binding movie that contrasts the human horrors of war with the literal monsters of the underworld.

Written and directed by the monster movie master Guillermo del Toro, the film’s memorable use of prosthetics and animatronics for the bizarre fairies, fawns, and fey creatures makes this film about the ethereal feel incredibly tangible.

Best fantasy movies: Judy Garland and the cast of The Wizard of Oz

2. The Wizard of Oz (1934)

There’s no place like home, and there are few movies as iconic as The Wizard of Oz. A technicolor masterpiece, the film is a pop-culture juggernaut packed with memorable characters, excellent dialogue, and the catchiest songs on this side of the yellow brick road.

The Wizard of Oz remains as watchable today as it was in 1934, thanks to an impeccable script that manages to be funny, scary, and full of wonder all at once, not to mention an astounding lead performance from Judy Garland, who was just 16 when she played Dorothy.

Best fantasy movies: Orlando Bloom and the Lord of the Rings cast stand ready as The Fellowship

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

Let’s address the oliphaunt in the room: yes, we lumped all three Lord of the Rings movies into one entry. It’s greedy, we know, but honestly, after watching all The Lord of the Rings movies in order again, we couldn’t decide which one to feature on this list. So we decided to have our Lembas bread and eat it too by putting in the whole trilogy.

Can you blame us, though? Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy books ranks among the most ambitious, successful, and influential films ever made. With an all-star cast, exquisite production values, and that epic score, it all combines to bring Middle-Earth to life in a way previously thought impossible. Let’s just not talk about The Hobbit…

If you prefer your films a little more ‘explodey’ and a little less fantastical, why not check out our list of the best fantasy series or our picks for the best monster movies of all time?

Still, if you prefer your magic on the small screen, we have guides on the best Lord of the Rings characters of all time and how to watch all the Harry Potter movies in order. We’ve also got a list of all the new movies coming out in 2024 for you to enjoy.