Screw you, American Film Institute, I’m making my own list of the best Fantasy films of all time right here. By golly, I am. Why the hell not, right? It’s my right to state my opinion and have a say in the genre I love and cherish. I’ve published novels in the Fantasy genre, albeit dark ones, and I have studied and appreciate the films throughout the decades for as long as they have been around.
I think part of the failure of AFI’s list is the lack of quality ones since very recently.
Now we have The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter to hang our wizard hats on but it was not always the rose colored garden of awesomeness it is today. Oh no, it was slim pickings back in the day.
And there was a lot of crap back then, too. A lot of crap.
There was crap like Labyrinth and Willow and other schlock like that; yes, these films have fans but they were pretty lame, sorry. We also had The Beastmaster and many other attempts at making sword and sorcery inspired films that were supposed to be like Conan the Barbarian. And speaking of which, even though it is nothing like the literary character, I’ll include Conan on this list for the sheer fact people know and respect the film.
Conan is solid entertainment and worth watching, for sure. But it’s not really Conan for real. It’s a shallow interpretation of Robert E. Howard’s muscled Cimmerian built for the masses. The real Conan would chop Arnold up and eat his liver. Then piss on his bones.
Going back to our current batch of Fantasy films, we now enjoy a plethora of great stuff.
I’ll throw The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter as two separate entries because all 11 films should be on this list of greatest Fantasy films. Go ahead and include them all, right? That’s our list. Even though some of the Potter’s are subpar compared to the rest, none of them are less than good, with slight variations within the Rings’ series from awesome to spectacular.
Outside of this and Conan there were some pretty Fantasy films back in the day, with most of them occurring in the 80s.
Although the technology at the time limited the amount of CGI work they could do, there were ways around this limitation and the filmmakers that succeeded at this genre were focused more on storytelling. God forbid, right?
One I think belongs at the top is Dragonslayer starring Peter MacNicol and Ralph Richardson.
It’s a simple story about pupil and mentor out to kill a dragon that is terrorizing the countryside. The king has created a simple lottery system that picks a random serf girl to sacrifice to the dragon to keep it from killing more and some in the town set out to hire a wizard to take the creature down. What follows is a fantastic exercise in compelling dark fantasy and some really amazing effects. Seriously, this film is way ahead of its time and still looks great.
Another one of my favorite is Ladyhawke and although the music is some of the worst I have ever heard it does a nice job of combining Fantasy with history, action and romance. Starring Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick, it’s also directed by Richard Donner, one of the most versatile filmmakers of all time. The guy could do it all.
A Fantasy film I consider a better incarnation of the spirit of the original Conan the Barbarian stories by Howard is The Sword and the Sorcerer. It’s low budget and cheesy at times but it was a huge hit in its day and a very fun time. It’s got a badass three pronged sword that shoots out blades and Richard Moll as a demon that pulls out hearts.
What more do you want?