9 Fantasy Films My Kids Need To See

by admin
Where imagination began!

Look at that friggin dragon! Isn’t it awesome?

I have been a nut for stories of swords and sorcery since I was oh, about 8 or 9 and a friend of mind introduced me to the boardgame, “Dungeon!” which quickly transitioned (much like a gateway drug leads to greater flights of fancy… I mean greater highs and addictions) into Dungeons & Dragons.  We’re talking the first edition with Larry Elmore’s magnificent red dragon on the front – the one after the REAL first edition that had such crappy artwork it looked like it was drawn by one of my schoolmates.

It was a beautiful time, the 80’s and 90’s.  Special effects had taken a quantum leap with Star Wars, and things were beginning to evolve with computer effects.  But script and acting were still king, and some really fun movies came out back then.  Some of them I have shown to my kids, some we haven’t gotten to yet.  But here are my top 9 (I couldn’t find a 10th, sorry) Fantasy films my kids MUST see, if not appreciate. (Note, I didn’t include sci-fi in this list, that is a whole nother ball of wax.)

1. The Princess Bride (1987)

"I am not left-handed!"

“I am not left-handed!”

There was never a more perfect mix of fantasy, action, parody, spot on script, self-awareness, quotability, memorability, and classic storytelling than this film.  I cannot imagine parenting without being able to share giggles with my kids by referencing the dozens of moments this story provides, let alone the great messages it conveys.  And yes, I mean messages – there are tons of lessons in this film that don’t get preachy, but nonetheless are important.  This can’t not be #1.

2. Lord of the Rings (1978, 2001-2003)

"One does not simply walk into Mordor..."

“One does not simply walk into Mordor…”

I am sorry, but I read this book when I was 9 and from that moment I began dreaming what it would have been like to see on film.  I watched the truncated Bakshi production over and over, dreaming of what it would have been like if they had produced the sequel and took us from Helm’s Deep to the end.  (Yes, it sucked, but it was all I had until 2001!)  I was there on opening night for every episode of Jackson’s achievement, including the back-to-back-to-back showings of all three leading up to the midnight premiere of Return of the King.  It is violent, but it is just… oh, I can’t say anything else.  It’s simply a must watch.  For my older boys I screened it with them when the youngest was I think 6.  No ill effects.  The younger ones haven’t seen it yet.

"I'm on a quest of enormous importance."

“I’m on a quest of enormous importance.”

3. Stardust (2007)

I was greatly surprised when I saw this film and thought, “This is almost as good as the Princess Bride!”  A great newer film with a wonderful story, interesting characters.  I loved Robert De Niro’s turn as a cross-dressing pirate.  Michelle Pfeiffer hit her marks as the evil witch well.  The dead brothers were just a delight as they became the peanut gallery to the tale. The fact that so many solid A-list actors were in this film tells you what a fantastic tale it really is.  A little more violence though than TPB but a great deal of fun.

"I stole the baby while he was taking a pee pee!"

“I stole the baby while he was taking a pee pee!”

4. Willow (1988)

I watched this film over and over again, quoting it all the time as a kid.  It begins with a great line from the old wizard (don’t all these films have wise old wizards?) “Forget the bird.  Follow the river!” Madmartigan was my hero – not a perfect guy but awesome.  Great quest movie, the villain is villainous, a bit of a twist as the villain’s daughter turns good, and Willow is an inspiring little guy.  The dogs are a bit scary, so watch for that bit.


"You have no power over me."

“You have no power over me.”

5. Labyrinth (1986)

Surprisingly this is the only Jim Henson production on the list.  But David Bowie was so compelling and seeing Jennifer Connelly at the beginning of her career as gorgeous as ever… Quotable and visual.  Plus the songs.  “You remind me of the babe.  What babe?  The babe with the power.  What power?  The power of VOODOO! Who do? You do!  Do what?  Remind me of the babe…”  And who can’t fall in love with the brave Sir Didymus?

"I'm going on an ADVENTURE!"

“I’m going on an ADVENTURE!”

6. The Hobbit (2012-2014)

Not higher on the list because A) it isn’t finished yet, and B) honestly I liked Lord of the Rings better – the casting is fantastic but I feel like instead of taking the best parts of the books (like Jackson did in LoTR) he crammed in more than was there, which is stealing some of my enjoyment.  Sure, Azog died like a hundred years before, but I can live with that.  But the storm giants – really?    But I guess this is for the kids right?  Right?

"Then, you have learned NOTHING!"

“Then, you have learned NOTHING!”

7. The Secret of NIMH (1982)

One of only two animated features on the list – because really back in the day it was the only way to get really crazy with the effects – draw everything.  Problem was, because everything was still hand-drawn, these films took forever to produce.  The story is amazing, visually stunning.  Hard to believe a young boy like me could get so sucked into a tale of a widowed mother of two, but that’s the strength of the story.

"Ask me your questions, I am not afraid!"

“Ask me your questions, I am not afraid!”

8. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Monty Python’s Flying Circus is not something I’d let my kids watch – it’s so adult and political, it would just be too much.  But they do slapstick like nobody’s business, and this film they keep the politics to a minimum (though I still love the scene where Arthur tries to get help from the Socialist peasant!)  The ending is retarded, and the seduction of Galahad might be a little “erm” for kids, but there is the love story in TPB, Stardust, and Willow, and from what I remember when I saw these films, the “mushy parts” just went over my head.  I’d even fast forward them to get to the “good parts”, so I am not that worried.

"It's a very rare person who is taken for what he truly is."

“It’s a very rare person who is taken for what he truly is.”

9. The Last Unicorn (1982)

Honestly, I haven’t seen this since I was about 14.  But my memories of it are so vivid – the Red Bull was horrific, the lengths the hero went to save the unicorn, the story nearly brought me to tears so many times.  It’s a must see.  You know, I half wonder if I am as stubborn as I am because so many of these movies have themes of perseverance.  Hmm.

Honourable Mentions: Beastmaster – not included because there are some really gross scenes in it – probably too much for kids. Ladyhawke – not included because while it was ok to watch, it never really grabbed me like these other stories.  Legend – I seriously debated about this one, but when a pre-teen can tell the pacing is atrocious, it really is atrocious – but Tim Curry as the Devil is a really good fright!  Dragonslayer – like Ladyhawke, just not quite good enough to remember.  Neverending Story – screened it with the boys, but meh.  Cool dog, weird ending. Dark Crystal – Henson, but story isn’t quite good enough to join the list.  Conan the Barbarian (with Ahnuld) – fun, but quite violent.  Probably for a slightly older demographic. Red Sonja (also with Ahnuld) – again, fun, but violent, and drunk Ahnuld is hilarious.  “Uzzooz me.  I must get up now.” (falls down!)

What do you think?  Let me know!


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