Best High Fantasy Films

A Listmania! list by Arch Stanton (Nottingham, UK)
The list author says: "There aren't all that many good fantasy films out there. To define things properly high fantasy is one where there are events happening on a wide scale in a fantasy setting, generally in a secondary world (ie: not Earth) or one hidden away on Earth. I am well aware that some of these choices are rather iffy, particularly Pan's Labyrinth and Conan the Barbarian. That latter in particular is more of a sword-and-sorcerer movie. But since what I really want to capture on here is worlds existing outside our own with well-developed settings I have to include Conan. On the other hand, since they take place in what is a heightened version of our own reality I felt I had to exclude films like Charlie and teh Chocolate Factory and Edward Scissorhands. Films like Excalibur and Prince of Persia I include on there since the world they exist in is far enough from ours to count as a fantasy creation.

Almost all these films are recent. There are very few good fantasy films from before LOTR. 20/34 are modern, and many of the remaining 14 are pretty low on my list. The '80s particularly was a cesspit of bad fantasy films. From Hawk the Slayer to the Sword and the Sorcerer it seemed like anyone with a small amount of money and no shame could put one out there. I don't know if this is due to graphical limitations or cultural ones, but LOTR really opened up the world in terms of what can be done in a fantasy context."
The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring / The Two Towers / The Return of the King Extended Editions)  [Blu-ray]
1.  The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring / The Two Towers / The Return of the King Extended Editions) [Blu-ray] DVD ~ Elijah Wood
The list author says:
  "Of course."
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Game of Thrones: Season 1
2.  Game of Thrones: Season 1 DVD ~ Harry Lloyd
The list author says:
  "A phenomenal series. Manages to create a full fantasy world on a tv budget."
$36.96   Used & New from: $28.85
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Game of Thrones: Season 2
3.  Game of Thrones: Season 2 DVD ~ Alfie Allen
$37.99   Used & New from: $27.19
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The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe
4.  The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe DVD Georgie Henley
The list author says:
  "A very successful attempt to adapt a somewhat sill book. Occasional LOTR aping moments detract only a little from what it probably the second most successful fantasy world on film."
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Monty Python And The Holy Grail
5.  Monty Python And The Holy Grail DVD Graham Chapman
The list author says:
  "This is only here because it's unbearably funny. The whole setting is painfully cheap and generic (which is part of the joke) and rather grim."
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The Princess Bride
6.  The Princess Bride DVD Cary Elwes
The list author says:
  "One of only two truly excellent '80s fantasy films. This one doesn't take itself very seriously and works very well because of it."
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How to Train Your Dragon
7.  How to Train Your Dragon DVD Jonah Hill
The list author says:
  "I was expecting nothing from this film which left me quite surprised when it became one of my all time favorite films. It has such heart. Featuring vikings and dragons doesn't hurt either."
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Conan the Barbarian (1982)
8.  Conan the Barbarian (1982) DVD Arnold Schwarzenegger
The list author says:
  "There are so many cliches associated with this film and all that copied it that it's rather surprising to find that most of them came from the knock-offs rather than the original. Watching it again I found that it is one of the most inventive and immersive fantasy worlds out there. Too bad they squandered its potential with sequels and copies."
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The Hobbit : The 1977 Animated Classic
9.  The Hobbit : The 1977 Animated Classic DVD ~ John Huston
The list author says:
  "I love this cartoon. Always will. It has great sentimental value for me just because it introduced me to Tolkien."
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Thor (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)
10.  Thor (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) DVD ~ Chris Hemsworth
The list author says:
  "More of a superhero movie than a fantasy one it does contain a separate fantasy kingdom based on Norse mythology. So it's going on this list. Good fun and introduces Loki, the wonderful villain of the Avengers."
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Pan's Labyrinth (English Subtitled)
11.  Pan's Labyrinth (English Subtitled) DVD Sergi Lopez
The list author says:
  "The only foreign film on this list, Pan's Labyrinth is shot entirely in Spanish. It features some great costumes and concepts, plus the baddest villain made worse because he's so realistic."
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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader
12.  The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader DVD Georgie Henley
The list author says:
  "Not as much fun as the first one, but a definite improvement from the second."
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Excalibur
13.  Excalibur DVD Liam Neeson
The list author says:
  "Probably the best telling of the Arthurian legends, but it suffers greatly from stupid-looking plate armor and cheesy '80s effects. An amazing Merlin who looks nothing like you would expect."
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Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
14.  Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief DVD Pierce Brosnan
The list author says:
  "I liked it. I know people were complaining about how much it ripped off Harry Potter, but it seemed to hold up on its own to me."
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Dragonslayer
15.  Dragonslayer DVD ~ Peter MacNicol
The list author says:
  "Features a surprisingly mature plot and probably the best looking dragon put to film to date."
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Time Bandits
16.  Time Bandits DVD John Cleese
The list author says:
  "Very funny, but more of a time travel film than a fantasy one. Still, God and Evil and a giant with a ship for a hat alone make this fall firmly under fantasy."
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Stardust
17.  Stardust DVD Charlie Cox
The list author says:
  "A good film that didn't get the attention it deserved. Features a very unexpected performance from Robert De Niro."
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Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection
18.  Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection DVD ~ Daniel Radcliffe
The list author says:
  "I was never a big fan of the Potter films. I feel they believed they had to include every single thing in the books to please the legions of fans and this made them somewhat lifeless. But they are still good movies."
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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
19.  The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian DVD Georgie Henley
The list author says:
  "A big letdown from the first one. It has some good bits, but tried to hard to give a character arc to Peter by making him get in a rivalry with Caspian. Which basically means that Peter is a cocky douche who gets his men killed. He learns his lesson (of course) but by then we don't care."
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Hook
20.  Hook DVD Dustin Hoffman
The list author says:
  "A fun film if nothing else. One of my favorites as a kid."
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The Beastmaster
21.  The Beastmaster DVD Tanya Roberts
The list author says:
  "Meh. Kinda entertaining. Now we get onto the list of really not very good films that are only on here because I had the room."
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Red Sonja (1985) DVD Arnold Schwarzenegger

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The Golden Compass
22.  The Golden Compass DVD Nicole Kidman
The list author says:
  "I actually kind of liked this film, even though it was a little flat. I wish they made more."
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Lord of the Rings (1978)
23.  Lord of the Rings (1978) DVD John Hurt
The list author says:
  "They made a lot of mistakes in this film, not least of which was rotoscoping their actors whenever possible. Despite being billed as LOTR it ends partway through the Two Towers. They made another animated one called ROTK, but it's so bad it's not even on the list."
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The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition
24.  The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD ~ Grant Bardsley
The list author says:
  "An ok Disney animated fantasy. Their only attempt to branch out during the struggle of the '80s. It wasn't bad at all, but it feels like it never quite went wherever it was going."
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Clash of the Titans (1981)
25.  Clash of the Titans (1981) DVD Harry Hamlin
The list author says:
  "Good, campy fun and miles better than the remake."
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Jason and the Argonauts
26.  Jason and the Argonauts DVD ~ Todd Armstrong
The list author says:
  "Ray Harryhausen can make stop-motion monsters look as good as they ever did. But these films (while fun) are still cheesy and kinda dull."
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The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad
27.  The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad DVD John Phillip Law
The list author says:
  "Another Harryhausen."
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Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
28.  Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time DVD Jake Gyllenhaal
The list author says:
  "A decent enough movie, but somewhat bland. There wasn't really a single stand-out character, although I liked Gyllenhaal in what was an odd turn for him."
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Legend of the Seeker: Season 1
29.  Legend of the Seeker: Season 1 DVD ~ Craig Horner
The list author says:
  "An adaptation of Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara series. Kinda campy for my tastes."
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Wrath of the Titans
30.  Wrath of the Titans DVD ~ Sam Worthington
The list author says:
  "Better than the first one, but not by enough. This film just couldn't get over the conceptual failure that was the first film. Plusses: the gods have actual personalities, Perseus isn't a whiner, they got rid of Io, this one actually has Titans."
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Erik the Viking [HD]
31.  Erik the Viking [HD] DVD Tim Robbins
The list author says:
  "Kind of funny, but all to brief and often flat. Tim Robbins is great as the titular Erik, but the really great performance is John Cleese as Halfdan the Black, a viking whose method of dealing with problems is delightfully businesslike."
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Eragon EXTENDED EDITION
32.  Eragon EXTENDED EDITION DVD Edward Speleers
The list author says:
  "Young farmboy teams up with older mentor figure after family killed by an evil empire. He then goes off to learn the ways of magic, hooking up with a scoundrel with a heart of gold in order to join a rebel alliance, but is pursued by an evil wizard working for the emperor. Nope. Never heard that one before."
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Krull (Special Edition)
33.  Krull (Special Edition) DVD ~ Ken Marshall
The list author says:
  "Silly movie. Exactly what you'd expect to find in an '80s fantasy film."
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Clash of the Titans (2010)
34.  Clash of the Titans (2010) DVD Sam Worthington
The list author says:
  "Conceptual fail. The plot is boring, Perseus an inconsistent whiner who ends up taking help from the gods despite whining about how he would do this as a man, the gods look terrible (sparkly renaissance plate armor? Really?), and the action infrequent. Still better than Immortals, which I can't even bring myself to put on this list."
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Earthsea
35.  Earthsea DVD ~ Attila
The list author says:
  "A really bad miniseries of a rather good book."
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Conan the Barbarian (Two-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD)
36.  Conan the Barbarian (Two-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD) DVD ~ Jason Momoa
The list author says:
  "The first half is even better than Arnold's one. But then it burns any goodwill you may have towards it with a wretched second half that is painful to sit through. I just wish they could make a sequel from this because Jason Momoa is excellent as Conan, and seems to get what made the books great."
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Arch Stanton (Nottingham, UK)
Qualifications: Future Historian
Last updated: 1/5/13
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