Overall, the fantasy genre is my #1 favorite of them all. Unfortunately on film, this genre has not been well represented over the years and the qualification for its attributes is often misconstrued. What does fantasy mean? A lot of people get confused and with AFI’s Top Ten Best Fantasy Films of all time, they get confused too.
As a fantasy novelist, this irks me to no end.
Out of their Top Ten Fantasy Films, there are only two that I or anyone else for that matter should consider fantasy films. I’m gonna be a total fantasy snob/geek for a while here so get over it. Half of this is in jest but half of it is not. It also irks me that Fantasy and Science Fiction are slubbed together on the bookshelves too. Nonsense. These are completely different, separate genres and deserve their own sections. Sure, it’s technically a subset of fiction as a whole but this is different.
The problem lies in the very definition of Fantasy as a genre.
According to AFI, fantasy is a genre in which “live-action characters inhabit imagined settings and/or experience situations that transcend the rules of the natural world.” Oh, screw off. That’s not Fantasy. It’s fantastical, sure, but not a well defined stratum for the Fantasy Genre. Do you see the way I switch around the CAPS for this word? Yes, it confuses me too. Don’t worry, I’ll stop changing it around.
So AFI has as its #1 Fantasy film The Wizard of Oz.
I love the movie to death but it’s a goddamn musical, not a pure Fantasy. Sure, it’s a Fantasy Adventure somewhat like a Dungeons & Dragons quest where you have a group of travelers journeying for some object or seeking out a person or whatever. But Wizard is a musical that happens to have some Fantasy elements.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is #2 and this is one of the two only on this list that counts. It’s pure Fantasy in every single way possible. Tolkien is the man that helped define and create the genre of Fantasy in the first place so go ahead and watch this movie if you wanna know what Fantasy is, okay? Take a gander at the monsters and magic and swords and everything else that make this genre what it is.
It’s a Wonderful Life is #3.
Again, love the film but are you freaking kidding me? It’s a Christmas drama. If you wanna say it’s fantastical, fine but there are so many great films they left off it makes me mad they felt they had to include this. They need to change their definition.
Mine? A Fantasy films takes place completely outside the normal world and is not contemporary.
So out of this world, out of this time period. Oh, and no science fiction elements, no technology past a certain point. Yes, that’s convoluted, sure but it’s a step in the right direction.
#4 is King Kong and this one I halfway get but really, it’s an adventure film, not pure fantasy.
It’s like they just couldn’t think up enough “great” films so they slid these in to fill up the numbers for the list. Going on a journey to a jungle, that to me is automatically an adventure. Thus, Indiana Jones is action/adventure. He goes on a journey. Is this Fantasy? Raiders fits their definition of Fantasy according to them. Look at the second part of their definition of transcending the rules of the natural world. Could the Ark of the Covenant open up and melt faces in the real world? I don’t think so.
We are less than halfway done and I’m more than halfway pissed off. So buckle up and let’s plow through the rest of these awful choices of the best “fantasy” films by AFI.