The 25 Best Fantasy Movies of All Time – Dwarves, Elves, Dragons & Co

For a long time, the genre “fantasy” was considered a lower drawer that only puffy nerds were interested in. Over time, this image has changed, and the novel adaptation “The Lord of the Rings” has contributed much to this. Fantasy had entered the mainstream and proved that this genre had more to offer than just great special effects and scenery. Fantasy films can tell moving stories and transport us to fascinating worlds. It is not always about dwarves, elves, dragons, and wizards. Fantasy appears in a variety of forms.

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)


Who is surprised? The fantasy films from the series “The Lord of the Rings” are fantasy epics par excellence. One had tried, finally gave up, and henceforth applied the fabric of J. R. R. Tolkien simply as unfilmable. But Peter Jackson had shown everyone that it could be done after all. The whole production, shoot, and cast was one lucky break. In the end, one of the best book adaptations of all time hit the big screen. And nerds no longer had to explain to anyone what ax-wielding dwarves and bow-shooting elves are.

The fantasy series was nominated for a total of 30 Oscars, winning 17 of them. It is about the companions’ journey and the hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood). Frodo carries the One Ring, which they must destroy before the dark Lord Sauron gets his hands on it and enslaves all of Middle Earth. It is a classic fantasy story with powerful staging and heart, melancholy, and hope. And in the end, we know that even the smallest can change the course of destiny.

2. Harry Potter series


Harry Potter leaves muggle life behind and learns all about magic at Hogwarts. In the film series, Harry not only masters a wide variety of spells, but he also has to defend himself against all kinds of powerful opponents. Among others, against the murderer of his parents – Voldemort.

The 2001 fantasy film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” began one of the most popular and successful fantasy series of all time. The first installment, based on the book of the same name by J. K. Rowling, became a surprise success and made characters like Harry Potter (played by Daniel Redcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson), Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) as well as Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris) famous overnight.

3. The Hobbit (2012)


Peter Jackson’s second foray into Middle-earth doesn’t come close to the quality of the Lord of the Rings films but is still one of the best fantasy movies. Also, here a Hobbit is in the center, this time Bilbo Baggins. The dwarves hire him to travel with the wizard Gandalf to Mount Erebor, their former home. There, the dragon Smaug has made himself at home and rules over the old dwarves’ home and their treasure. A journey through Middle Earth begins.

Once again, Peter Jackson chose the natural scenery of New Zealand as the filming location. Another proof that Tolkien’s works provide the best material for fantasy films.

4. How To Train Your Dragon (2010)


Vikings and dragons can not stand each other. Therefore, it is the highest duty of the Vikings of the Norse village of Eiland Berk to kill any dragon that comes before their ax. Also, for the young Viking Hiccup. His father, the chief of the tribe, is a legend in dragon slaying. His son … clever, but too clumsy for the use of weapons. But after Hiccup gets a chance to hunt down nightshade, he begins an unusual friendship with the dragon. Only the other Vikings are not pleased with his scaly friend.

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The animated film from DreamWorks is based on a children’s book series and quickly became a hit with young and old after its release in 2010.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia (2005)


While playing hide and seek, the children of the Pevensie family, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, accidentally discover a fantastic parallel world – in the closet. After making the acquaintance of the faun Mr. Tumnus, they learn that they have been transported to the kingdom of Narnia. Unfortunately, the country was cursed by the White Witch Jadis, and it has been winter for 100 years. Finally, the talking lion Aslan announces that the four children are the prophesied heroes who are to free the land from the curse of the White Witch.

The fantasy films are based on the series of novels by C. S. Lewis, who was also friends with Tolkien. The first volume was “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” The books belong to the best-selling fantasy books. Director and Oscar winner Andrew Adamson created a powerful fantasy epic based on the novel.

6. Spirited Away (2001)


Ten-year-old Chihiro moves with her parents to a new town. On their way there, they get lost and find themselves in a magical world full of creatures from Japanese mythology. From now on, Chihiro works in the bathhouse of the witch Yubaba and has to go through different adventures to save her parents and find back to reality.

This animated film from 2001 is still one of the world’s most successful and most awarded animated films to date. The fantasy film from the house of Ghibli was acclaimed by critics and fascinated both children and adults. Hayao Miyazaki directed again.

7. The NeverEnding Story (1984)


On the run from his bullies, Young Bastian Balthasar Bux rescues himself in an antiquarian bookshop. Here he is magically attracted by a mysterious book. It is called “The Neverending Story.” He takes the book with him and reads about the kingdom of Phantasia and its ruler, the Childlike Empress.

Phantásia is in danger because nothingness threatens to swallow it, as people no longer have imagination. Atréju is to search for a hero who can save the kingdom with the help of his imagination. On his journey, he meets the dragon Falkor as well as other magical creatures and has to overcome some obstacles.

This German-American production is based (mostly) on the children’s books by Michael Ende. Wolfgang Peterson is responsible for the direction. The fantasy film showed outstanding animation for its time, although computer effects were hardly used at all. Instead, the creators relied on real craftsmanship for their fantasy creatures. To this day one of the most beautiful fantasy films with some unforgettable scenes.

8. All Pirates of the Caribbean Saga (2003 – 2017)


This 2003 hit proves that pirates, undead, curses, as well as fantasy, comedy, and adventure, go together beautifully. The fantasy film is based on a leisure attraction in a Disney park. One of the reasons for the success was certainly Johnny Depp’s idiosyncratic and genuine portrayal of Jack Sparrow. Such a character has never existed before.

The story begins with young Will Thurner (Orlando Bloom) and his rescue on the open sea. In his possession: a coin belonging to a cursed pirate treasure. Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) takes the coin, fearing he will be punished as a pirate. Years later, the cursed pirates, led by their Captain Barbossa, kidnap Elizabeth and steal the coin to free themselves from the curse. Jack Sparrow is also after the treasure. Jack joins forces with Will, who only wants to free Elizabeth. Will doesn’t know yet what role he plays in this pirate story.

9. Labyrinth (1986)


15-year-old teenager Sarah is used to disappearing into fantasy worlds because of unfair treatment by her father and stepmother. However, when she is asked to babysit her little half-brother, the boundaries between fantasy and reality disappear for her. She wishes goblins would kidnap the annoying kid. And here they come. Sarah regrets her wish and asks the Goblin King to release her half-brother again. To do this, she must enter the labyrinth, go on adventures and meet strange creatures.

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Jim Henson’s puppets and David Bowie as the “Goblin King,” can it go well? Not at all, thought the audience and critics in 1986, when the film started in theaters. But over time, the film became a cult. The fantasy film with puppets and musical interludes is a fascinating, bizarre, and partly intellectual journey.

10. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)


This fantasy film by Guillermo del Toro is set against a historical background and contains family drama elements. To escape the harsh reality of Franco’s regime in Spain, little Ofélia escapes into strange fantasy worlds. Her stepfather, with whom Ofélia and her pregnant mother live, is tasked with fighting the remaining rebels in northern Spain after General Franco’s victory. On Ofélia’s journeys through unreal worlds, she meets all kinds of strange to gruesome mythical creatures and learns to cope with her fears in the process.

Ofélia travels into a dark fairy tale world as only Guillermo del Toro can create it. At the same time, the alien world does not represent an escape but reflects the terrible reality of the fascist regime. Not a light, but a visually powerful fantasy film.

11. Thor (2011)


The movie about another Marvel superhero turns the Norse gods into Thor, Odin, Loki, etc., highly evolved beings from an alien planet. Due to intrigue, the thunder god Thor (played by the ideal cast Chris Hemsworth) is banished to Earth. At the same time, his superpowers and his beloved hammer, Mjolnir, are taken away from him. Only when Thor can prove himself worthy does he regain his hammer and powers.

In the best manner of the comics, the film mixes mythology with fantasy and science fiction. The film is mostly set on Earth, more precisely in New Mexico. The comic book action entertains mainly because of the special effects and the witty humor.

12. Dragonheart (1996)


This 1996 film is about the initial enmity and the beginning friendship between man and dragon. The dragon Draco once gave half of his heart to Prince Einon when the prince was dying. At first, the knight Bowen (Dennis Quaid) is pleased with this development, but it turns out that the prince grows up to be a real tyrant. Disappointed, Bowen leaves his king and seeks out the dragon to kill him. But what he finds is a friend.

The film won the Oscar for best special effects. These can be marveled at, especially in the vivid facial expressions of the dragon. He rarely has a dragon on the screen that seemed so real and sympathetic.

13. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)


With this sequel, Guillermo del Toro gave the superhero adaptations his own fairy-tale dark style. The always bad-tempered Hellboy with his scraped horns takes on the whole fairy world, an evil prince of the elves, and the golden army in the second part. He is assisted by his girlfriend, the pyromancer Liz, the telepathic fish-man Abe, and the ectoplasm ghost Johann Krauss.

Del Toro proves his talent for dark and fairy-tale fantasy worlds and bizarre characters in this film. A highlight is the “Troll Market,” where all kinds of monsters and fairy creatures are up to no good. Ron Perlman is ideally cast as Hellboy, and Prince Nuada is a compelling and complex antagonist.

14. Shrek (2001)


Fantasy comedy and parody of a handful of fairy tales are one of the most successful animated films ever made. The green ogre Shrek lives in a swamp together with a talking donkey (originally voiced by Eddy Murphy and in German by his dubbing partner Randolf Kronberg). Suddenly a variety of mythical creatures appear, including the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and a hot-blooded puss in boots. Lord Faquaad has relocated them, and Shrek will only get his peace back if he frees Princess Fiona from a dragon.

The classic animated film established DreamWorks as a serious competitor to Pixar. The film is peppered with allusions to a myriad of fairy tales. Its humor can score not only with the little ones, adults also have fun with the fairy tale parody.

15. Princess Mononoke


After defending his village against a demon, Ashitaka was cursed by the demon. He is threatened with death. On his search for the deer god Shishi-Gami, who is supposed to redeem him from this curse, he meets Princess Mononoke. Together with her wolf family, she defends her sacred forest and the animal gods against the humans.

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Many works by Hayao Miyazaki and from Studio Ghibli deserve to appear on this list. In Princess Mononoke, Japanese mythology’s forest and nature spirits defend themselves against the pursuit of profit and exploitation by civilized humans. The fantasy film is one of Japan’s most successful (and expensive) films. It was still drawn entirely by hand.

16. Conan the Barbarian (1982)


Thulsa Doom razes Conan’s village, and the mage himself decapitates his mother. Conan then performs the hardest physical labor in a mill, is discovered for gladiatorial combat, and finally achieves freedom as an always oiled muscleman. When he learns about a mysterious snake cult, Conan suspects that Thulsa Doom is behind it. He wants revenge.

Conan is not only an immortal character within fantasy literature. The first film about the loincloth-wearing Cimmerian also helped Arnold Schwarzenegger to fame and ushered in a short-lived era of (mostly bad) Sword& Sorcery fantasy films a.

17. The Dark Crystal (1982)


Jen, a young Golfing, must fulfill a prophecy by restoring light to the magic crystal, thus ending the reign of the Skeksis.

This fantasy film from 1982 is a rather unusual production for Jim Henson. Jim Henson is primarily known for his Muppets. Puppets play the main role in “The Dark Crystal” as well. However, this is not a funny story for children, where you learn how to count and what the letter C is all about. Instead, Jim Henson takes you into a dark, gothic, and at the same time wonderfully believable fantasy world. So you really feel for the characters, as strange and puppet-like as they may be.

18. Warcraft (2016)


The film adaptation of the popular computer game series takes place before the MMO’s time. It highlights the first conflict between the invading orcs and the humans who want to defend their homeland Azeroth. The mage Medivh (Ben Foster) plays a crucial role in the incipient war, as well as the half-orc Garona (Paula Patton) and the knight Anduin Lothar. In addition, there is a whole squad of purely computer-animated orcs.

The film is not one of Duncan Jones’ most outstanding achievements, and those unfamiliar with the Warcraft universe may have trouble following the story. At the same time, the fantasy film is also a great action spectacle with elaborate effects and epic battles.

19. The Prince Bride (1987)


The film begins with the grandfather reading a fairy tale to his sick grandson. At first, the story bores him, but then he gets more and more sucked into the intrigue of kidnapped princesses, revenge, duels, and fairy-tale fantasy.

This 1987 fantasy film was not a hit at the box office but has become a true cult classic over time. To this day, “The Princess Bride” remains one of the most quotable films and great fun in general. The film blends elements of comedy, fairy tale, romance, and cloak-and-dagger style swordplay.

20. Edward Scissorhands (1990)


Tim Burton’s surreal, whimsical films are often very dark, and Edward Scissorhands is no different. The fairy tale is about the artificially created human Edward, who has scissors instead of hands because his creator could not finish him completely due to a heart attack. Edward lives a bleak existence in his late master’s castle until Peg finds him and takes him home.

After initial skepticism, Edward quickly wins the people’s hearts, as he knows how to use his scissors hands artfully. Not only does he trim the bushes and gardens of the neighborhood, but also the women’s hairstyles. But soon, the tide turns.

This is not only a fantastic fairy tale film but also a dark tragicomedy. Because of Tim Burton’s distinctive style and Johnny Depp’s great acting, the film became a classic.

21. Black Panther (2018)

22. Being John Malkovich (1999)

23. AVATAR (2009)

24. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

25. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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