Sunday, 22 April 2018

The greatest Fantasy films of all time.

Ray Harryhausen, Golden Voyage of Sinbad
As you may know, this site is so determined to get to the truth that even Woodward and Bernstein can only recoil in envy at its activities. Thus it is that, in recent weeks, I've sought to discover just what are the best horror and science fiction movies mankind has ever seen.

Needless to say, candidates were many and marvellous.

But, despite my love for those genres, the truth is that horror and sci-fi are but two legs of the speculative fiction tripod. The other leg is Fantasy - and that means that, in the interests of completeness, I should tackle the subject of what are the greatest Fantasy movies of all time.

I must confess that this is a difficult subject for me, as, if a Fantasy movie doesn't feature sandals and isn't set in a place warm enough for the characters to not need a coat, it's going to struggle to hold my attention.

The Wizard of Oz is a recognised classic but there's clearly something wrong with me, as I've always preferred Return to Oz. Then again, I'm also the only human being on Earth who preferred Babe: Pig in the City to the original Babe movie. The Princess Bride is a much-loved film but, other than Peter Falk being in it, I can't comment on it, as I can't remember it.

The Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films actively repel me and the Jim Henson non-muppet films, like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, have me wishing Miss Piggy would show up.

But maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. Maybe the best Fantasy movies are the ones that aren't about people but are about drawings, like Disney's Snow White, Bambi and Dumbo.

All this considered, I would say my favourite Fantasy movies would have to be Jason and the Argonauts, Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Mysterious Island and basically anything else that Ray Harryhausen ever made. I also have a soft spot for Edward Scissorhands. After that, I'm kind of struggling.

But perhaps you're not struggling. Perhaps you're champing at the bit to put me right and point out all the great Fantasy movies I've forgotten.

Then again, you may want to point out that I'm talking rubbish in not liking the films that I've confessed to not appreciating.

If so, you are free to say so, in the comments section below.


Killdumpster said...

All the Harryhausen films you mentioned are favorites, including the 3 Worlds of Gulliver and Clash of the Titans. I love everything that guy did.

I guess superheroes could be considered fantasy, and in my opinion serials from the forties & forties were the best portrayals. The Adventures of Captain Marvel & the Phantom are incredible.

I enjoy Hercules (Steve Reeves) & Tarzan films, but if it stars Johnny Weismuller it has to co-star Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane.

Sword & Sorcery faves are Excalibur, Shwartzenegger's Conans,Hundra & Lucio Fulchi's Conquest.

Killdumpster said...

As far as "fantasy adventure" you may include the Indiana Jones films, that were inspired by old movie serials. Without delving into sci-fi based serials some other great ones were the Drums Of Fu Manchu & Tiger Woman starring Linda Sterling. She was Queen of the Serials and every single one she did was highly entertaining.

Other fantasy adventure titles that come to mind are Dragonslayer, Ladyhawk and Dragonheart. There is no such thing as an unwatchable Sean Connery movie.

Depending on your religious bent (or lack thereof), Heston's 10 Commandments & Ben-Hur would fit the same category.

TC said...

Siegfried (1924)
The Thief of Baghdad (1924)
A Christmas Carol (1938)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Thief of Baghdad (1940)
Cinderella (1950)
Scrooge (1951)
Peter Pan (1953)
Ulysses (1954)
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
The Sword In the Stone (1963)
Mary Poppins (1964)
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
Pete's Dragon (1977)
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Flight of the Dragons (1982)
The Neverending Story (1984)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

I left out movies that are primarily horror (Dracula, King Kong, The Mummy, The Wolf Man), since they were covered in a previous post about that genre.

I also love the old serials, so maybe I should include The Phantom, The Adventures of Captain Marvel, and Flash Gordon.

TC said...

I should have included Dumbo, Snow White, and the two 1970s Sinbad movies by Ray Harryhausen.

And, IMO, the 1996 version of The Phantom was not bad.

I guess some Biblical epics, like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, could be considered fantasy. They could also be classified as "sword & sandal," as could the Harryhausen movies based on Greek mythology, although that term usually means the Italian movies like Hercules, Duel of the Titans, Hercules Conquers Atlantis, and The Loves of Hercules/Hercules vs. the Hydra. Some of those were also fantasies.

Steve W. said...

Killdumpster and TC, thanks for your lists. I have a strange urge to add the original version of Miracle on 34th Street to my list. I'm not sure what that says about me.

Anonymous said...

LoTR is excellent of course and deserves kudos and us probably better than the book which is flat in parts (too many songs and genealogy).But not in the top 5 for me.

I’m a huge, huge Ray Harryhausen fan - with Clash of The Titans (despite a ropy start) and the 7th Voyage of Sinbad my favorites. I’ve have DVDs, books and regularly listen to podcast on Ray’s work as well as the great documentaries online (BBC did a great feature a few years ago).

Also love Robert E Howard in all media in particular and have an almost complete collection of Savage Sword of Conan (John Buscema and Roy Thomas complement each other perfectly and deserve special mention). The '82 Conan movie directed by directed by John Milius is a great adaptation and I think this is under-rated as a gritty fantasy movie. Certainly there was nothing really to match (a possible exception is Excalibur) until Game of Thrones came along.

That said, my all time favorurite fantasy movie has to be the 1940 Thief of Baghdad. an absolute gem! In colour!! Wonderful tales of the Arabian Nights - nothing made in the last 20 years can match this for romance, plot and excitement. In a word - enthralling. Think I’ll re-watch right now!

- Tharg

Killdumpster said...

When I was 4 years old I shouted "OPEN SESAME!" at all the doors of our house. I was usually left disappointed.

Also fantasy favorite of mine is Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. One of Gene Wilder's best roles.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

My most recent viewing of fantasy is a 2018 Netflix release and just released the past few weeks: "Troy Fall of a City" I think it's like 8 - 9 episodes.

I do recommended it as it really portrays so many of the characters (Agamemnon, Achilles, et al) as they are portrayed in the Iliad.

And they do a really nice job portraying the Trojan Horse and why the Trojans might have been so dam stoopid as to bring the thing inside the city walls.

While it is perhaps a little lite on the incessant involvement of the gods, which would likely disrupt and confuse viewers, they do play central roles.

Next thing you know, you will be reading Odysseus and the Aeneid by Virgil.

P.S. if you do see something in the series, that you do not recall in the Iliad (indeed the Iliad does not talk about the Trojan Horse as I recall), it's worth googling. Everything they depict about the war is written or may be inferred from the various sources besides Homer(s) poem(s).

Anonymous said...

Is that the same series that's been on the BBC Charlie, because I have to say I gave up after the second episode...

Anyhow, Steve - you are clearly a man of excellent taste when it comes to films. Yes to Ray Harryhausen, no to Lord of the Rings! Actually, anything to do with elves in any media strikes me as somewhat suspect by definition (although Mike Ploog gets a pass).

Somewhat surprised you didn't mention the first Conan film. Are you not in favour of crushing your enemies and driving them before you to hear the lamentation of their women?
Great Oliver Stone script, who I believe at the time had just made that flick with Michael Caine as Barry Windsor-Smith for which I have a soft spot (even though its rubbish).

Also good - Monty Python & the Holy Grail ("'tis but a scratch") and the Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The Terry Gilliam one, not the version by Joseph Goebbels.


Steve W. said...

I must confess I haven't seen the Troy TV show. Because it's on BBC1, I've been assuming that it's a BBC production and that it's therefore on a par with the shows they did about Atlantis and Merlin, so I've not felt motivated to watch it. I have, however, seen the film Troy which I always enjoy greatly, even though everyone else seems to think it's rubbish.

I would also claim that 300 is a guilty pleasure for me but I don't feel guilty about liking it.

Come to think of it, I like 10,000 BC. I don't know what's wrong with me.

I've never seen the first Conan movie all the way through. I'd like to claim it's because I've been too busy crushing my enemies but it's because I always end up channel-hopping because it doesn't owe anything to Red Nails.

But, wait, what's this? Michael Caine played Barry Smith in a film? What is this madness?

pete doree said...

Ah yeh, The Hand directed by Oliver Stone no less. What a corker.
Hey, what about those Conan rip offs The Sword & The Sorcerer & The Beastmaster, or even Britian's entry Hawk The Slayer?
They're kind of crappily brilliant, and a lot more fun than the turgid, po-faced LOTR.
Am I the only one who preferred Bakshi's version? Actually, Bakshi's Wizards is pretty great too.

Anonymous said...

Steve - as Pete says, The Hand.
Michael Caine plays the artist of Mandro the Barbarian, for which props were made by Forest Gate's finest


Charlie Horse 47 said...

I truly do not know if Netflix's Troy Fall of a City is showing on BBC. I am going to very speculatively guess not unless you do not have access to Netflix via internet in the U.K.and there is some Netflix business relationship with BBC unique to the U.K.?

That said I just tuned in to BBC America for the first time in years on Saturday to watch some XFile reruns. Is that fantasy? It was really good stuff from around 1994.

Ant Master said...

Inconceivable, no Princess Bride, Princesses, Giants, Sorcerers, Pirates, ROUS (rodents of unusual size), sword fights, poison, true love, what more could you ask for, ohh yes Peter Cook...

Anonymous said...

Charlie, Troy: Fall Of A City is a BBC/Netflix co-production and was broadcast by the BBC on Saturday nights from February 17th (my birthday) till April 8th. I watched all 8 episodes and I quite enjoyed it but 8 episodes was rather too long - the story could have been told in 4. It also had some curious casting - an African Achilles? Just saying.
I've read both "The Iliad" (which I found rather boring and which I mostly skimmed through) and "The Odyssey" which I really enjoyed. The Odyssey is much more of a fantasy story.
I'm currently reading a new novel called "Circe" by Madeline Miller, about the Greek goddess whose island Odysseus lands on during The Odyssey - but I haven't reached that bit yet, Circe has just helped her sister, Pasiphae, give birth to the Minotaur on Crete.

I've only watched one Harry Potter film - the second one. The kids' terrible acting made me cringe.

Last summer I watched Arnie's Conan The Barbarian on YouTube and it was better than I remembered. I had high hopes for the 2011 reboot starring Jason Mamoa but it was a big disappointment and the 15 certificate (or whatever the American equivalent is) meant they went totally overboard with the ketchup...I mean blood. OK, we get it - you're not for kids!
But last summer I also went on a Robert E. Howard binge, re-reading all his Conan stories (and some I'd never read) and his Solomon Kane stories. The original REH tales are better than any film!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Wow... Minotaur = Man bull = Steve's last post featuring Man bulls and Man beasts! This is making me wonder!!!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

That being said I too wondered about the use of "Africans" as Greeks. But My wife and I just watched the most recent season of Father Brown and we noticed a the presence of non whites playing prominent roles in the last handful of shows. Perhaps there is a deliberate attempt to introduce diversity into U.K. productions? And truth be told I don't know if it is entirely feasible for Greeks to be only Caucasian given their proximity to the Mideast and Africa? (I truly don't know, just wondering aloud.). But Achilles certainly acted like Achilles of the Iliad... petulant, self centered, finally showing some heart towards King Priam.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, Colin - Achilles likely didn't look much like Brad Pitt, yet that kind of casting is more rarely questioned.
People say Heimdall didn't look like Idris Elba, I say who cares so long as he's good in the part? (And, of course in that particular case Asgardian gods didn't actually look like anyone because they were made up and not real)


Steve W. said...

Sean, thanks for that link. Bazza's art is a wondrous thing to behold on that page.

Pete, speaking of British efforts, I've just realised that that no one's mentioned the power and majesty of Krull. Granted, I haven't seen it in about thirty years and I have this idea in my head that it's just two hours of Bernard Bresslaw having a stroll in the woods. Still, I get the feeling that people have fond memories of it.

Charlie, I think The X-Files counts as sci-fi, as they always tried to come up with a, "scientific," explanation for whatever was happening. You'd always get things like Mulder saying, "Scully, in nature, certain kinds of worm can change sex at the drop of a hat. Is it so hard to believe that, thanks to pollution from the local sewage treatment works, Adrian Tomblickle has gained that ability too and is now killing people by first becoming a beautiful woman?"

Ant Master, I think my inability to nominate The Princess Bride is because, for several decades, I forgot the title of the film and when I heard people say they loved it, I thought they meant The Princess Diaries, making me think they'd gone completely mad. I shall have to watch it again, at some point, to see how it stands up.

As for the other stuff, ethnicity has always been a bit strange in Classical era dramas; all those pasty-faced English actors playing ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Biblical figures, Irish actors playing Alexander, Scottish actors playing Leonidas, Amanda Barrie playing Cleopatra. People seem to accept it because it's what they're used to, even though it really doesn't make any more sense than casting black actors does. Idris Elba playing Heimdall is interesting. As far as I'm aware, from what I remember of Norse mythology, Loki was bright red and Hel(a) was blue and black, so the idea that Norse gods have to be white is questionable.

Killdumpster said...

I agree that in comics & movies mythological characters haven't always been portrayed according to legend. Thor, if I remember correctly, was stated to have red hair & had to wear gloves to wield his hammer. He fought a counter-part in the late 70's along those lines.

Bakshi's WIZARDS is a lot of fun, but it's even funnier if you know that he considered it a "family picture". Exaggerated female endowments everywhere! I think Mike Ploog was involved in it.

I think Barbi Benton, in the last dregs of her career,was in DeathStalker. I have it in the library, and I'll have to check it out

Robert E Howard wrote a few stories about a Fu-Manchu type villain called Skull-Face. Has anyone else read them? They are pretty dark, and I only read one, but I always thought they would make a great film.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve - read your reply at lunch regarding the X-files and nearly laughed so hard that I almost sprayed my vegan dish of rice, beans, corn, and tomatoes all over my colleague. That would have not gone over well... But, it would have spared me one more consumption of a vegan dish.

That being said, it was spot on. The episode I watched (first one int 20 years) had Scully and Mulder investigating the disappearance of loggers in the great northwest woods. Ultimately it was due to some sort of millions-of-year-old insects whose eggs got heated up by underground volcanoes or something. They were a million time more phosphorescent than our lightening bugs and at night, only in the absence of light, attacked humans and spun them into big cocoons. Ultimately, S&M don't make it out of the woods at night, b/c their jeep got a flat, and are spun into cocoons but are rescued a few hours later. That the jeep had a flat did not preclude them from running the engine and turning on all the lights but that would have ruined the outcome.

Steve W. said...

Killdumpster, I have vaguely heard of Skull-Face but have never encountered the character.

Charlie, I think we can safely say the scientific credibility of The X-Files was a genuinely awesome thing.

Ant Master said...

Princes Brides was on Amazon prime a few weeks ago, and holds up rather well. Watching 1982 Con which is on Now TV, first time since I saw it at the cinema "By Crom".

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree that in mythology/fantasy films it doesn't matter who plays what. I should have mentioned that in Troy: Fall Of A City certain gods, such as Zeus and Artemis, were played by black actors which made them seem more exotic I thought. But what about serious drama? I've heard discussions on TV and radio about "colour-blind casting" but could Henry VIII or George Washington really be played by black actors? Yes, I know America's founding fathers are played by black actors in "Hamilton" but that's a hip-hop musical, they aren't really aiming for reality.

And on the subject of Thor - why did the Marvel version speak like he came from Ye Olde Englande? Surely the Norse gods would speak in Old Norse?
And Fandral and Volstagg looked like extras in a Shakespeare play while Hogun The Grim dressed like Genghis Khan.

The X-Files were fun till they started all that alien conspiracy malarkey - black oil, bees, the cigarette-smoking man etc. I just gave up eventually. I've haven't seen the new episodes.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

UK Gentlemen! BBC America seems to be halting XFile reruns on Thursday night to bring us Premiere League Darts? Is this "must see " TV? I am wondering if BBC America gives equal time to Sheffield Snooker Tournament? If so, and I only had an hour, which should Charlie watch? (I am assuming BBC America is not showing the World Conkers Tournament!)

Steve W. said...

It depends on your own personal tastes. Darts has a more lively, boisterous, drunken atmosphere, is faster paced and has very straightforward rules. Snooker is played in an atmosphere akin to that of a library, has slightly more rules to understand and requires more concentration to fully appreciate. Both are very good at creating a sense of tension, with a slip of even a fraction of a degree being able to destroy a player's chances.

Charlie Horse 47 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Killdumpster said...

If I remember correctly, in Origins Of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee thought that having the Asgardians speaking in old English, biblical, or "Shakespearean" prose seamed more "God-like".

Chim Brouer said...

What about Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water"?

Steve W. said...

Sadly I've yet to see The Shape of Water. It does seem promising.

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