A fantasy movie can be a perfect escapist therapy of sorts, transporting us to worlds mysterious and unknown. Sometimes the worlds are similar to our own but different enough that they allow us to escape. Here are some of the best fantasy films to watch during dark times (but not end times).
10. Big Fish
Big Fish is one of those Tim Burton films that works. It’s a blend of magical realism and pure fantasy, and it’s a truly charming film with Ewan McGregor at his most adorable. The escapism this film offers is quirky and unusual, and it’s definitely worth a watch. It’s available for rent on most streaming platforms.
9. How to Train Your Dragon
How to Train Your Dragon is exactly what it says on the tin: a fantasy movie all about the wonder of dragons. It’s beautifully animated, with a stirring score and great voice acting. Hiccup is the cutest dragon you’ll ever see, and it has a powerful message about acceptance. It transports you to another world, which is exactly the point of a good escapist fantasy. It’s available for rent on most streaming services.
“How do you know/he loves you?” This is a beautiful, romantic fantasy movie that’s also…a musical! Unlike musical trends of recent years, this film dives deep into escapism that fairy tales bring. It’s a live-action Disney animated movie, which just makes it utterly charming. Amy Adams is truly at her best as a Disney Princess who has to discover what life in the real world is like. Enchanted is available on most streaming platforms for rent.
7. The Princess Bride
We all need a laugh these days. Why not spend an evening with The Princess Bride? It’s probably the most hilarious comic fantasy movie ever. With a star-studded cast (for the 80s), a great script and outstanding jokes, it’s well worth that twentieth rewatch. Because let’s face it, you’ve seen it and escaped into it plenty of times. It’s available on Disney+ and for rent on other streaming platforms.
6. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Despite a reboot film adaptation by Tim Burton and a musical adaptation, the original Willy Wonka is the best of the lot. From the Oompa-Loompas to the body horror, this is still a charming movie about a candy factory that’s much darker than it seems. Led by a key lead performance by Gene Wilder, the rest of the cast is also good. It’s a comical, musical film, with some good lessons about greed. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is available for rent on most streaming services.
5. The Cat Returns
This is a charming film from Studio Ghibli, which is a spin-off of a previous film, Whisper of the Heart. All about a young girl and a cat on a mission, it takes us to new lands beyond our own with that signature Ghibli imagination and style. I remember watching this movie as a kid and being entranced by its beautiful animation and interesting story. And that is what a good fantasy movie is all about. The Cat Returns is available for purchase on most streaming services.
4. The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro’s science fantasy masterpiece is one of the best films of recent years. It won Best Picture at the Oscars in 2018. Yes, it’s a love story between a woman and a half-man/half-fish hybrid, but oh, it’s a magical film about respect between species and the romance that can bloom from that. It’s not pure escapism, but it’s pretty close. The Shape of Water is available on Hulu and for rent from other streaming services.
3. The Fall
Tarsem Singh is one of those visionary directors who doesn’t do much. Still, his film The Fall is one of the most visually stunning fantasy movies of the past two decades. Does the movie make much sense? No, not really. But it’s worth escaping into the gorgeous visuals, and its fairy tale charm. The Fall is currently only available for rent on iTunes, unfortunately. Hopefully, this film finds its way onto a streaming service, and soon!
Babe is one of those films from my childhood, that I wouldn’t quite call fantasy, but that I wouldn’t quite call realistic, either. It’s about a talking pig who wants to become a sheepdog…and despite the odds, does indeed make it. It’s okay to spoil this film because it’s about the journey Babe and his owner (James Cromwell) go on, not the ultimate destination. Babe is available for streaming on Hulu and for rent on other streaming services. “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
- The Lord of the Rings
It kinda had to be the top spot on the list, right? The Lord of the Rings movies are the perfect kind of fantasy movies. They’re gritty but idealistic; somber but joyful. They transport you to another very detailed, fleshed-out world, with well-drawn characters and exciting action. They’re also beautiful films, highlighting New Zealand and its myriad of natural settings. They easily land the top spot on this list.
Escape to Middle Earth! It’ll do you some good. The theatrical versions of the films are available for rent on most streaming services, and the extended editions are available for purchase on most streaming services, too.
Jump into new worlds with these films, as well as some quasi-familiar ones. They’re all well worth the journeys they’ll take you on.