Fantasy Films – Top Ten List

As this is the end of the year, it seems the time for Top 10 lists. I’ll be doing Top 10 lists of films currently available on instant Netflix. I’ve disqualified all the films that show as expiring on or before 1/1/10. Today is my list of Top 10 fantasy films on instant Netflix (in no particular order though I’ll start with traditional fantasy).

Clash of the Titans

WATCH: Clash of the Titans (1981) – Rated PG.

Okay I admit this list is going to be dominated by Ray Harryhausen. The Clash of the Titans remake is slated to be released early next year and looks to be a lot of fun. Right now though you can watch the original for free. It’s worth it just for the Medusa.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

WATCH: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) – Rated G

Harryhausen’s first color feature is an absolute masterpiece. This is my 2nd favorite Harryhausen movie behind only Jason and the Argonauts. The villain is nefarious, the damsel is alluring and in distress, and the hero is not as wooden as the next two Sinbads.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

WATCH: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) – Rated G.

While Tom Baker (Doctor Who) is a hoot as the villain and the Kali fight is a wonderful highlight, I did not like this one as much as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (it is still excellent though).

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

WATCH: Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) – Rated G

Harryhausen’s final Sinbad film stars Patrick Wayne (son of John), Taryn Power (daughter of Tyrone), Patrick Troughton, and the lovely Jane Seymour. The wondrous Harryhausen creations include skeleton creatures, a baboon, a troglodyte, a tiger and more.

Conan the Barbarian

WATCH: Conan the Barbarian (1982) – Rated R

This is one of the roles Arnold was born to play (or perhaps sculpted would be a better term). Conan is grand and bloody as befits Robert E. Howard’s source material. The film is flawed but it is so darned manly.

Excalibur

WATCH: Excalibur (1981) – Rated R.

Excalibur features incredible scene-stealing performances from Nicol Williamson as Merlin and Helen Mirren as Morgana. It also features mounted armored combat in rich lush forests. John Boorman’s compositions are wonderful and there are early roles from Patrick Stewart, Gabriel Byrne, and Liam Neeson.

The Princess Bride

WATCH: The Princess Bride (1987) – Rated PG for adult language and violence.

The Princess Bride is quite simply one of the best, most heartfelt movies ever made. The next time your loved one asks for something, simply reply “As you wish”.

Krull

WATCH: Krull (1983) – Rated PG for violence.

This film is all over the place. It is definitely a fantasy but the enemy are space aliens. It aims for an adult audience but there is a child protagonist and lots of cute animals for the kids. The leads are a little wooden but Freddie Jones, Francesca Annis, and Bernard Bresslaw are wonderful in secondary roles. Look for Liam Neeson in another early role.

Ghost

WATCH: Ghost (1990) – Rated PG-13.

Alrighty, plot-wise this is supernatural and not fantasy but thematically this is definitely a fantasy. It is also a romance and to maintain my standing as a man, I’m not having a Top Ten Romance list. Unlike The Princess Bride, do not try telling your loved one “ditto” after watching this film. Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg are all magnificent in this movie

Groundhog Day

WATCH: Groundhog Day (1993) – Rated PG.

Here is another film that is thematically fantasy romance while being a comedy plot-wise. Bill Murray is hysterical but also oddly vulnerable as a cynical weatherman. Andie McDowell is wonderful as his producer and Chris Elliott is quite funny as the cameraman.

Excalibur

Netflix currently has Excalibur available on instant play.

Excalibur

WATCH: Excalibur (1981) – Rated R

“Visionary director John Boorman serves up a lush interpretation of Thomas Malory’s classic novel Le Morte d’Arthur. Boorman weaves a rich tapestry that includes humble squire Arthur pulling the sword Excalibur from the stone; the Round Table’s righteous birth and ultimate decline; Guenevere and Lancelot’s adultery; the changing balance of power between crafty magician Merlin and wicked sorceress Morgana; and the valiant quest for the Holy Grail.”

While I love this film, I do feel it should be called King Arthur’s Greatest Hits. The film moves swiftly from section to section of the Arthurian mythos. It really needs a well-funded miniseries to do it justice or perhaps a multi-film series a la Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Thankfully as an adult fantasy, Excalibur is cheerfully unabashedly R-rated. This was back before all the bean-counters insisted that everything be rated PG-13 (witness the emasculation of Conan as he moves from Barbarian to Destroyer or John McClane not being able to use his Yippie-Kay-Yay quote).

The scenery, shot mostly in Ireland, is gorgeous. Showing the land growing more and more physically beautiful as Arthur is in his prime and more and more bleak after Lancelot’s betrayal is handled wonderfully by Boorman. There is an especially beautiful waterfall scene during Lancelot’s introduction. The Lady in the Lake scenes are marvelous as are any scenes with Merlin. The green backlighting of most forest shots gives everything an eerie lush glow. Set design and costuming are wonderful as well though an early scene of a knight in full armor having sex with a woman just looks terribly painful and detracts from the purpose of the scene.

John Boorman’s presents a triple-tiered cast here. The leads Nigel Terry (Arthur), Cherie Lunghi (Guinevere), and Nicholas Clay (Lancelot) are all serviceable in their parts but seem a bit plain. The supporting actors are wonderful especially Nicol Williamson as Merlin and Helen Mirren as Morgana and feature very early performances from famous actors (unknown at the time). The third-tier of the cast is Boorman’s own family. Boorman’s son Charley plays boy Mordred and his daughter Katrine plays Igrayne (how do you direct your daughter during a nude scene?).

Almost everything in this film works well. The action sequences are rousing. Orff’s Carmina Burana is an inspired choice of music for this film and is used more than once in it. All aspects of this film that should be beautiful are beautiful and those that should be bleak are bleak. This is probably the lushest fantasy film prior to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and is highly recommended.

People Watch: Wow huge before they were stars here – check out Patrick Stewart as Leondegrance, Liam Neeson as Gawain and Gabrial Byrne as Uther Pendragon.