It's undeniably the greatest fantasy franchise of the last EVER, but LotR isn't the only game on the block. In fact, there are a myriad of awesome fantasy flicks out there that have come before and after the story of the "one ring" that absolutely measure up to the best of Tolkien. The genre can often be mishandled, though, so it's not always easy to pick a bona fide gem to add to our NetFlix queues. We've put together some of our tried and true faves so you can throw on that chain mail and hold aloft your magic sword to the skies with abandon!
Terry Gilliam, the visual maestro behind the legendary British comedy team Monty Python, gave the world his first celluloid masterpiece in 1981 with Time Bandits. This imaginative epic follows Kevin, a mild mannered suburban boy who joins a pack of time traveling little people, when a time portal mistakenly pops open in his bedroom. What ensues is a hysterical adventure through time and space as he helps his band of new friends hunt for treasure in ancient Greece, medieval England, war torn France, and more. The film is packed with laughs, and we meet everyone from Robin Hood, Napoleon, and mythical beasts of all sorts along the way.
Where the Wild Things Are
Time Bandits came out in 1981, but there's no doubt it was inspired, at least in part, by Maurice Sendak's beloved children's book Where the Wild Things Are. For decades, rumors persisted that this classic was coming to the screen, but it took the imagination of the űber weird Spike Jonze to finally bring it to life. The results were epic: masterful creature effects and a whimsical, contemplative tone that stayed true to its source material and never dumbed itself down (as so many children's movies tend to do these days). Where the Wild Things Are is a quintessential fantasy film, because it's all about the power of imagination and the way in which it enables us to overcome our inner obstacles. And oh yeah, that kid's pajamas are awesome!
Beasts Of the Southern Wild
At least in terms of bringing new film talent to the forefront, Beasts of the Southern Wild is far and away the greatest success story of 2012. This fabulous film came out of nowhere and brought attention to Behn Zeitlin, its exceptional director, and earned its adorable nine year old star Quvenzhane Wallis a best actress nomination. It's not hard to see why; the film is breathtaking. Faced with numerous hardships, including melting ice caps that flood her bayou community and unleash a herd of ancient mythical creatures, six year old Hushpuppy learns the ways of courage and love. You'd never know this film was made on such a modest budget, because its effects are astounding, and it's all crafted with the skill set of a master, which rightfully snagged its director an Oscar nomination as well.
The Never Ending Story
This thrill ride from 1984 is one of the most gorgeous and vividly realized fantasy films of all time. It follows a geeky young boy who'd rather curl up with a book than be out on the playground any day, and curl up he does with an enchanted book given to him by a peculiar gentleman at a used bookstore. The story he reads is about a valiant teenage boy who struggles to save his kingdom from a cataclysmic threat, a mysterious force known only as The Nothing. As he becomes further and further entranced by the book, strange things start happening. It's almost as if he's being sucked into the book's world the further he gets. Soon he realizes he may hold the key to the book's conclusion, but true adventure never ends…
Director Guillermo Del Toro outdid himself with this beautiful and often disturbing tale of young girl's connection to ancient magical spirits in a Spanish town during the height of World War II. Filled with eerie, captivating and dreamlike creatures and special effects, the film is visually dazzling, but its true strength is the way in which the heart of the story, the young Ofealia, deals with her mounting troubles. It's a rare foreign language film that garners this much attention from audiences in the U.S., but it's not hard to see why. Amazingly it's currently being adapted as a musical for an upcoming Broadway run, which we can only guess will be every bit as magical.
What's your favorite fantasy movie?