The release of Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Harry Potter” series in the 2000s marked the high point of fantasy films. Although these films are definitely worth of the praise they received, it is also important to remember the numerous other fantasy films that have graced the silver screen over the last fifty years. This article, the first in a two-part series, will describe some of the best fantasy films to have come out of Hollywood.
“Dragonheart” -This little gem of a fantasy film, featuring the deep voice of Sir Sean Connery as a feisty and very witty dragon, is one of those films that, while seemingly simple, is nevertheless quite complex and worthy of appreciation. Although it might seem a little campy to a 21st Century sensibility, “Dragonheart” is still one of the best fantasy films ever made.
“The Princess Bride” -There is no doubt that this film, made in the campiest decade of all time (the 1980s) is full of high energy and overdone emotions. Told in the form of a story, this delightful film takes all of the common traits associated with the fantasy films and makes them into something at once touching and uproariously funny. Since its release it has gained something of a cult following, and is now recognized as one of the best fantasy films of all time.
“The Last Unicorn” – What child of the 1980s (or from several decades before that,) could forget the magical worlds brought to life by the great company of Rankin Bass. This team, who were responsible for their many unforgettable Christmas films, were also responsible for this animated feature, which is the story of a unicorn, the last of her kind, who goes in search of her beloved brethren. Although a little dark at points, this actually serves to make the film that much better. With its trademark Rankin Bass animation, this is a fantasy film that is definitely not to be missed.
“The Dark Crystal” -This fantasy film, produced by the inimitable Jim Henson and company, is a bit of a departure from the lighter fare of the Muppets. With its dark tone and very mature themes of treachery and the ever-present epic quest, this is a fantasy film that is as perfectly suited for adults as it is for children. This is definitely one that is not to be missed.
Ralph Bakshi’s “The Lord of the Rings.” -This film, made in the 1970s, set the stage for the later success of Peter Jackson’s epic. Although a lot campier than its successor, this interpretation of Tolkien’s masterpiece was for many years the only thing that Tolkien fans could see as far as a cinematic presentation of their beloved book. The animation, produced in some parts by combining live action with cell animation, gives this film a truly unique look that can be found in very few other films.
All in all, these five fantasy films are some of the best (if often under-appreciated) fantasy films to have come out of Hollywood. Fortunately for the discerning film viewer, they are also widely available on DVD, so they can be enjoyed even now, several years after their original release.