Cinema is often seen as the ultimate form of escapism. If this is the case, then fantasy is surely the purest and most relevant vehicle in the medium, seizing audiences and plunging them into magical concepts of distant lands and questioning our own relationship to the world.
Like its cousin science fiction, fantasy, once considered a genre for nerds, has grown and gone mainstream, thanks in part to Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter" and a certain HBO vehicle known as "Game of Thrones." However, as our list proves, not all fantasy movies are full of wizards, dragons, and epic battles. Here, we've included body-swap movies, superhero extravaganzas, and a healthy dose of swords and magic. This is our selection of the 5 best fantasy movies.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe boldly straddles sci-fi, comic-book action, and fantasy -- never more important in the "Thor" movies, with their Tolkien-influenced Nordics and outrageous "Flash Gordon" -style fetish costumes. "Thor" is essentially a reboot of "Master of the Universe" -- sending heroes to Earth to battle skeletal psychopaths -- but with better special effects and more nod humor.
The Time Bandit (1981)
Terry Gilliam lets his imagination run wild in this wild, hairy and weird time-jumping comedy for smart kids. Filled with historical heroes, diminutive crooks, post-python humor, grotesque cameos and bizarre fantasy asides -- not to mention the bleakest, strangest ending imaginable -- the film is an unlikely trans-Atlantic smash hit.
Lost Horizon (1937)
Shangri-la is the ultimate human fantasy -- an ancient magic kingdom buried deep in the Himalayas, ruled by peaceful Tibetan philosophers who have discovered the secret of eternal youth. Frank Capra's glorious, innocent fantasy adventure adaptation of James Hilton's hugely successful Hitler-inspired novel was the most expensive film ever made at the time.
The Bandit of Baghdad (1940)
Starting in England and finishing in California after the outbreak of war, this spectacular adventure based on the "1001 Nights" story may have been made piecemeal -- with at least six directors, including the mighty Michael Powell -- but you wouldn't guess it from the results. Filled with magical horses, terrifying shapeshifters and giant elves, the Bagdad Thief made humble Indian actor Sabu, aka Elephant Boy, an international star.
As one of the highest-grossing films of all time, Black Panther is not only an important film, but also a great one. Made up almost entirely of black actors, black directors and black writers, the film is a stirring exploration of African futurism, cultural oppression and revolution. It's also a great story, proving to be one of the best indie outings in the MCU, and the acting feels exciting, with Boseman, Jordan, and Wright's performances really standing out. This is one of those rare superhero movies that is worth watching again and again.