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.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

When I did my post on Ray Harryhausen (8/23), only the first two of his Sinbad films were available on instant Netflix. Harryhausen’s final Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, is now available on Netflix instant play.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

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

“To break a spell that’s been placed on Kassim (Damien Thomas) — the brother of his lady love (Jane Seymour) — Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) embarks on a journey to enlist the help of a wizard named Melanthius (Patrick Troughton). But Zenobia, the sorceress who cursed Kassim, and her nefarious son, Rafi, are hot on Sinbad’s trail. Sam Wanamaker directs this adventure-fantasy that co-stars Margaret Whiting, Taryn Power and Kurt Christian.”

Netflix has finally added Ray Harryhausen’s 3rd Sinbad film to their instant collection. The first two, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad are still available on instant play. I unhesitatingly recommend all of Harryhausen’s films. CGI is a wonderful invention akin to the printing press for special effects – allowing all comers to put what they envision on film. Ray Harryhausen’s work is more like an illuminated manuscript – an antiquated method of such exquisite care that it is far more art form than science. It took him a year and a half to do the animation for this film alone.

While Jason and the Argonauts has the best creatures – a hydra, the skeletons, and Talos the giant – Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger has many wonderful creatures. Several skeleton creatures, a baboon, a troglodyte, the eponymous tiger, and more are brought to vivid life through his stop-motion animation. It all leads up to a showstopper fight at the climax. If your connection is good enough, you can even watch this in high definition.

This time around John Wayne’s son Patrick fills Sinbad’s shoes and, as is often the case with Harryhausen’s heroes, he looks a little wooden in comparison to the creatures. He is ably supported by the lovely Taryn Power (Tyrone’s daughter) and the ever radiant Jane Seymour. Patrick Troughton becomes the second Doctor (Who) to appear in a Sinbad movie (Tom Baker played the villain in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad). Margaret Whiting gets the juicy villain role here and has a lot of fun with it.

Set design and costuming are very very colorful here. Sadly Roy Budd’s music score isn’t as good as the classic Bernard Herrman scores from other Harryhausen movies but it is serviceable. The director uses a number of exotic locales (Malta, Spain) to nice effect though some of the ice comes off as styrofoam-y. Overall this is a very fun fantasy with gorgeous work from Ray Harryhausen.

People Watch: Peter Mayhew has an uncredited role here as the Minoton – he is more famous for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars series