I own 24 copies of the book (it’s not a trilogy, it’s one book that the publishers decided to split into three). I read it every year. My wedding ring is inscribed in Elvish. Is there any question what’s going to come in first?
But of course, the question becomes, what are the other 9? Part of that answer depends on knowing what qualifies for the answer. Field of Dreams and It’s a Wonderful Life do not, in spite of the AFI ballots. Besides, how does Field of Dreams end up on their fantasy list but not their Sports list? Also not on my list are Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins because they already went on the Kids list. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair if Wizard of Oz was at the top of every list.
Anyway, the other films that AFI considers a Fantasy that would make my list if I considered them Fantasy are Purple Rose of Cairo, Being John Malkovich, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (all Comedies), Brazil (Sci-Fi) and King Kong (Horror). And I classify pretty much every Comic Book movie under Action.
When I make a list of Fantasy films, I include films in which the primary world is Fantasy, in which things happen that don’t happen in reality, but not in a futuristic or science based setting. So no Science Fiction films on this list. However, for those of you who like Sci-Fi, check back next week for my review of the book Multireal by David Louis Edelman. It’s worth reading.
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski) – 2003
The sequels were okay, but the original film is fantastic. It’s funny and exciting and has that great Johnny Depp performance that finally made him a worldwide star and Oscar nominee.
9. Excalibur (John Boorman) – 1981
I can never get enough of the Arthur legend. I think it’s what draws me to Fantasy films. This is the best version of the Arthur legend, the only truly satisfying one, even if it is a bit dark. It’s also interesting to see how many people who are much bigger names now have small roles (namely Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart).
8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell) – 2005
The only problem with the later Harry Potter films is that the books have so much in them, that you have to cut a lot out of the film and that can make the storylines seem a bit rushed, because you can’t chop off the conclusion. I think they’ve made the wise move by splitting the final book into two films.
7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuaron) – 2004
The best of the Harry Potter films, because it’s the best director who’s been involved with the series. This also has the best “film” moment, putting in a scene that’s not actually in the book (the one of the boys in the dorm eating the candy). It’s a great moment and it really adds to the sense of companionship that the boys give each other.
6. Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson) – 1994
This is a fantasy film only because of the dream sequences. Other than that, I suppose it could be considered a Horror film if you look at the story. Either way it’s disturbing true story and one of the early showcases for Kate Winslet’s acting ability.
5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry) – 2004
By this point, of course, Kate Winslet had become the foremost actress of her generation. This was her fourth Oscar nomination at the age that Meryl Streep was getting her first. This is the best of the bizarre Charlie Kaufmann scripted films.
4. La Belle et La Bette (Jean Renoir) – 1946
From a statue that turns and watches you walking to teardrops that turn into diamonds, this is an amazing Fantasy come to life. This is one of the few films (much like Yankee Doodle Dandy) that you actually wish had been made in color.
3. The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner) – 1987
The movie that I quote more than any other. “Is this a kissing book?” “As you wish.” “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” “Who said life is fair? Where is that written?” “No more rhymes now, I mean it. Anybody want a peanut?” and of course “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg) – 1981
I often say I have four favorite films. Three of them are at the top of this list. The other one is Star Wars. Like every male my age, I desperately wanted to be Indiana Jones.
1. The Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson) – 2001 / 2002 / 2003
Once again, it’s not a trilogy. It’s one film. They conveniently had to make it in three parts, so I can count it as my #1 film for 2001, 2002 and 2003 (much to the detriment of Moulin Rouge, Gangs of New York and Mystic River). But aside from the fact the films come from the book I continue to read again and again and again, there is also the qualities of the film themselves. The technical qualities are without compare (there’s a reason they won all those Oscars), there is fantastic music (even the end credits songs), amazing Cinematography, the most fantastic visual effects, the script is amazingly compressed from the book, the direction is incredible and the scope and depth of the acting, given how many people are on screen is unlike anything ever put on screen.