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100 best fantasy movies of all time

  • 100 best fantasy movies of all time

    If movies routinely plunge the depths of human imagination, the fantasy genre goes one level deeper. Culling from the tradition of epic storytelling, the best examples introduce all the living entities in parallel worlds. Powerful wizards. Evil creatures. Futuristic spaceships. Distant planet landscapes. When the budget is big enough, all impossibilities are made possible. That’s not to mention animation, which serves up its own unique tier of boundless potential.

    Historically speaking, fantasy films don’t always make for critical darlings. Nevertheless, there have emerged a slate of acclaimed works over the decades, some of which even dominated during award seasons. Meanwhile, certain figures pop up time and time again, such as Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, and Hayao Miyazaki. Each of these masters doesn’t just conjure a unique world, but renders an identifiable style or aesthetic in the process. In essence, they’ve built worlds within worlds.

    Any given list of fantasy films will include family fare, and this one is no exception. However, there also exists a special kind of fantasy film that typically aims for adults and incorporates a psychological element. The viewer is left to wonder whether or not the fantasy is real or merely a figment of some character’s imagination. Prime examples include 1973’s “The Spirit of the Beehive” and 2019’s “The Lighthouse,” to name a couple.

    To give this beloved genre its due, Stacker presents the 100 best fantasy movies of all time. Data was compiled on all fantasy movies to come up with a Stacker score, which represents a weighted index split evenly between IMDb and Metacritic scores. To qualify, the film had to be listed as fantasy on IMDb, have a Metascore, and have at least 5,000 votes. Ties were broken by Metascore and further ties were broken by IMDb user rating. Every film on the list has been considered according to the cinematic history and development of fantasy. Here’s the best of the best.

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  • #100. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

    - Director: Tim Burton
    - Stacker score: 84
    - Metascore: 74
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Runtime: 105 minutes

    One of director Tim Burton’s most personal works is also one of his most quintessential. Johnny Depp stars as a young man with scissors for hands, who serves as a metaphorical stand-in for society’s creative outliers. Wynona Ryder plays his love interest.

  • #99. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

    - Director: Taika Waititi
    - Stacker score: 84
    - Metascore: 74
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Runtime: 130 minutes

    A tonal departure from previous installments, “Thor: Ragnarok” infuses epic adventure with vibrant color and the occasional comic relief. Imprisoned on a distant planet, the titular hero, played by Chris Hemsworth, must escape and save his home from the wrath of a deadly villain, played by Cate Blanchett. Director Taika Waititi is reportedly working on a fourth installment.

  • #98. Undertow (2009)

    - Director: Javier Fuentes-León
    - Stacker score: 84
    - Metascore: 76
    - IMDb user rating: 7.7
    - Runtime: 97 minutes

    More drama than fantasy, this Peruvian film nevertheless incorporates a ghost story. It takes place in a rigidly-traditional seaside town, where a young man grapples with his sexual identity. The debut work from Javier Fuentes-León, it won the audience award for best world dramatic feature at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

  • #97. On Body and Soul (2017)

    - Director: Ildikó Enyedi
    - Stacker score: 84
    - Metascore: 77
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Runtime: 116 minutes

    Two introverted slaughterhouse workers form a magical bond in this Oscar-nominated Hungarian drama. Upon sharing the same dream world at night, they give romance a try in the real world. It’s a starkly original take on the theme of human connectivity.

  • #96. Yellow Submarine (1968)

    - Director: George Dunning
    - Stacker score: 84
    - Metascore: 79
    - IMDb user rating: 7.4
    - Runtime: 85 minutes

    The Beatles were apparently too busy to perform speaking roles in this visual tour de force, which still incorporates plenty of their signature tunes. Set in the psychedelic world of Pepperland, it pits the fab four against music-hating Blue Meanies. A landmark achievement, it paved the way for new modes of animated entertainment.

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  • #95. A Ghost Story (2017)

    - Director: David Lowery
    - Stacker score: 84
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 92 minutes

    Despite its title, this solemn drama is a far cry from traditional ghost stories. After dying prematurely, a deceased man, played by Casey Affleck, drifts through time as a passive observer. To reinforce a minimalist vibe, the ghost wears only a bedsheet with eyeholes.

  • #94. The Tree of Life (2011)

    - Director: Terrence Malick
    - Stacker score: 84
    - Metascore: 85
    - IMDb user rating: 6.8
    - Runtime: 139 minutes

    Terrence Malick explores the history of time in this Oscar-nominated drama. Connecting the macro with the micro, the creation of the universe gives way to a poignant domestic drama. A spiritual restlessness permeates the narrative and provides yet another fantastical foundation.

  • #93. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

    - Director: Dean DeBlois
    - Stacker score: 84
    - Metascore: 76
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Runtime: 102 minutes

    A young Viking named Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel, and his dragon Toothless are back in this beloved sequel. Upon discovering a secret ice cave filled with dragons, the heroes find themselves in the midst of another war. Cate Blanchett provides the voice of Hiccup’s mother, a legendary dragon rider named Valka.

  • #92. The Taste of Tea (2004)

    - Director: Katsuhito Ishii
    - Stacker score: 84
    - Metascore: 77
    - IMDb user rating: 7.7
    - Runtime: 143 minutes

    Director Katsuhito Ishii was best known for pulpy violence until he helmed this quirky drama. Widely viewed as a surrealist answer to Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander,” it chronicles the exploits of a rural Japanese family. A young daughter’s experiences with her doppelganger inject a fantasy element.

  • #91. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

    - Director: David Yates
    - Stacker score: 84
    - Metascore: 78
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Runtime: 153 minutes

    Harry Potter, played by Daniel Radcliffe, returns for his sixth year at Hogwarts and his sixth adventure in the popular franchise. In hopes of taking down Lord Voldemort, played by Ralph Fiennes, the young wizard dives deep into the past of his nemesis. Providing extra help is an ancient book of potions, which once belonged to the Half-Blood Prince.

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