i first saw this movie when i was 16 years old and i thought it sucked.... can any one tell me what is great about the movie, why it deserves 5 stars. in my oppinion the movie is only well traveled becaused it had val kilmer in it.. which i don't was a good proformence any ways...
I saw this when I was very young and it became an instant cherished movie for me, along the lines of Wizard of Oz and Princess Bride. As an adult I can watch this over and over again, savoring the way that it reminds me of my childhood and the hopes and dreams I had at that young age. It's great family entertainment with an interesting and adventurous storyline that anyone can enjoy to at least some degree. If you wait to see it until you're older it probably will just seem like another fantasy movie, so I just wouldn't worry about your teenage self thinking it sucked if I were you. Often the good movies that we watch for the first time as teenagers seem terrible while we appreciate crappier movies due to the uneven development of the brain and its emotions (i.e.: the endless spate of movies centered around cheerleading, high school dating relationships and teenage male fantasies that generally only those between the ages of 12-20 can stand to watch all the way through). The teen years are a harsh and unbalanced time and often teenagers aren't able to appreciate family-oriented movies for their good qualities. The subtlety of thought needed to appreciate the messages in these movies that are aimed at adults hasn't been developed and the ability to enjoy movies based solely from an innocent childhood viewpoint has been lost to puberty. These movies just seem "lame" or "stupid" to the average teenager because of this. When you have kids, watch this with them when they're about five to eight years old and I think this movie will develop new meaning for you as well when you see how much they love it and what messages they take away from it.
Another great thing about this movie is its depiction of Little People as a vibrant community of self sufficient and well developed characters. Often Little People are relegated to being gnomes or other fantasy creatures in movies, so I really liked seeing an entire village of Little People actors just acting as a regular, nonthreatening community of people. Their characters could have been played by taller people without having to change much in the script, and that's a great aspect of this film and a wonderful message to children. I especially love Warwick Davis' role in this film. He builds up a character that's just so endearing and strong yet with flaws and shortcomings that help this movie feel more vibrant and meaningful than it otherwise would have. I think Val Kilmer was kind of a side character, really, and didn't carry this movie like Warwick did. He was the classic virile figure in fantasy stories, but in this he was generally more of a way to move the story along than the central figure, and often served as comedic relief. If anything, it is a movie about how, regardless of your physical stature in the world, you can make a difference and be someone who others respect through your deeds and skills.
I hope you'll give this movie another shot when you have kids of your own. I am always so happy that this movie was available for me as a child and it'll be one of the first things I pop into the DVD player for my own children.
I wish you had been more specific as to why you thought this movie did not deserve five stars. Billy Barty, the actor who played the magician, was the founder of Little People of America and was trying to elevate the stature of dwarfs and midgets. This movie was one of few who treated their small stars as regular people rather than freaks. Willow was a husband with a wife he loved dearly and two children to raise. When he set off with his friends to take the baby he had found to a faraway place, his wife gave him her braided hair to keep for luck. All through the movie you see devotion, determination, good values, a lot of courage, and an awareness that even though others may not think you can do it, you succeed and come home a hero. I'm with the other poster and wish you wold give it another chance. It may not deserve five stars, but that doesn't mean it is not a very good movie to watch.
Answering the OP - well, the film got mediocre-to-terrible reviews when it came out, and was a box office flop. Apart from the ground-breaking special effects, it was pretty quickly forgotten, along with everything else George Lucas put his hands on after 1977 that didn't star Harrison Ford. My take on it, then and now (I saw it new, as a young adult) was that it was a poorly-directed, leaden rip-off of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and Lucas' own STAR WARS films, with chunks of the Bible thrown in for good measure, completely predictable and full of stunningly bad acting. The music and scenery and FX are nice, but that's not enough. Most people over the age of 12 seemed to agree at the time.
But since it came out, the "epic fantasy" field has gotten even larger and more popular, in literature and in film, and sadly originality has become scarcer, not more common, as the field has grown. The vast majority of the most popular fantasies are very heavily influenced by the same stuff WILLOW was based on, and audiences continue to lap it all up. When a completely meritricious piece of garbage like "Eragon" can become a bestseller, you know the lowest common denominator is dominant. Add to that the incredible level of 80s nostalgia that we have, where films much worse even than WILLOW are given mostly gushing praise here (check out COCKTAIL and LEGEND for example - both even bigger flops with audiences and critics than this turkey - but both apparently "classics" now) and it's no surprise that people are oohing and aahing over this flick.
I guess I'm sounding very negative - obviously most of the few people who might read this love the film. Truth be told I LOVE "epic fantasy", and though the average quality of the films that Hollywood does in the genre is low, there are certainly plenty of examples that I like. THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN - released the same year as WILLOW - is a great, great fantasy film that isn't just aimed at 6-year-olds; I also love LABYRINTH and THE PRINCESS BRIDE. All three of those films have reputations that have grown over the years, and rightly so. WILLOW just benefits for the incredible appetite people have for anything "fantasy" and "80s" but it's just too derivative and poorly-made to deserve it.
For me, this movie was one of the few 80's fantasy that wasn't totally geared towards children. Yeah, you had your darker Dark Crytal, your Legend and your Dragonslayer, but most of them were more along the lines of The Never ending Stry, Labyrinth and the like. those are still good movies, but Willow was a bit more serious. Also, even though it's quite a long movie, there's few slow spots in Willow. It's almost beginning to end action. The movie has heart and as someone already mentioned, is one of the few movies that have actual little people in the cast. Warwick Davis, who played Willow, has played in a ton of movies... Harry Potter, Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Leperechaun and more and his face is always covered up. That's kinda sad little people are though of that way, so it's nice to see him in Willow just as he is, or was at the time. The movie is visually stunning and Ron Howard decided to film it in New Zealand way before LOTR made it famous. Also don't forget visual morphing in video owes its existence to Willow as it was developed specifically for this movie. Willow is my favorite movie of all time and I can't wait to see it on DVD. I knew once Disney acquired Lucas Film it wouldn't be long. Those wide shot outdoor scenes are going to look phenomenal.