There are so many good fantasy movies, but the 80s had quite the collection of fantasy films! Here are my picks for the top five, with a runner-up. This list is far from complete and there were so many to choose.
I am going to let y’all in on a little secret; I am not a fan of this movie, but I knew that no fantasy films list would be complete without it. It is a classic example of the 80s fantasy movie. It has Jim Henson voicing Jen, a Gelfling. (Henson also directed the film and wrote the story.) The first of two collaborations on our list between Henson and Brian Froud, The Dark Crystal is about a Jen who must find a missing piece of a magical crystal. His world is in disarray, and this is the only way to fix it and overthrow the ruling Skeksis.
This 80s film features an all-star cast: Matthew Broderick as Gaston, Rutger Hauer as Navarre, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Isabeau. Navarre and Isabeau are star-crossed lovers cursed to not spend time together as humans. During the day a large wolf accompanies Isabeau as she travels the land; at night Navarre carries a large hawk on his arm. Their mission? To kill the person responsible. Gaston adds the comic relief that helps carry the story.
This underrated classic features Tom Cruise as a forest boy named Jack. His love, Lili (Mia Sara), thinks she has made a grievous blunder by touching one of the two white unicorns that live in the forest causing the sun to not rise as high and leaving the land covered in snow and twilight darkness. The perpetrator, Darkness (Tim Curry), sets his sights on Lili and a plan to submerge the world into complete darkness. While perhaps not as fun as others on this list, Legend is still a solid 80s fantasy movie.
This Jim Henson film is a classic. Henson and Froud team up once more for this fun family film. There is so much to love about this movie. First, David Bowie with tight pants, heavy eye makeup, and a mullet. Second, the soundtrack is so good. Third, the cast is dotted with Jim Henson PUPPETS! The Goblin King, Jareth (David Bowie), steals the brother of the main character, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), and she must go on an adventure through the labyrinth to rescue him. With traps at every turn, will she be able to make it to the castle at the center of the Labyrinth?
I don’t think this film even needs an introduction. Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinken, André the Giant, Fred Savage, and Peter Falk star in this hilarious film. Westley falls in love with Buttercup. He goes to make his fortune and then he dies. Heartbroken, Buttercup does nothing but mope. As the most beautiful woman in the country, the dastardly Prince Humperdinck picks her to be his bride. A black masked man rushes in to save the day. The movie ends on a high note and is sure to please all ages of watchers. As described by the opening scenes, the movie features many things. Falk sums it up best:
Sick Grandson: Are there any sports in it?
Grandfather: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…
Hands down the best of the 80s fantasy films, in my opinion. Val Kilmer shines in the role of Madmartigan, the crazy warrior who begrudgingly helps Willow Ufgood (the amazing Warwick Davis) take care of the baby Elora Danan who is rumored to bring about the fall of the evil Queen Bavmorda. Fin Raziel and Sorsha round out the main cast of characters. There are trolls, dragons, and magic; what more could you ask for? Between strong female characters and an unlikely hero, this film is truly a masterpiece.
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