Best Fantasy Movies

WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley ranks the best fantasy movies of all time in the gallery below.

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30. ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ – Benh Zeitlin

Quvenzhané Wallis became one of the youngest Oscar-nominated actresses ever in this fantastical Sundance-winning allegory for Hurricane Katrina.

29. ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ (2008) – David Fincher

Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, Brad Pitt magically aged backward in a cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson and Mahershala Ali.

28. ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ (1972) – Luis Bunuel

Luis Bunuel’s surrealist classic follows a series of dreams surrounding six middle-class folks consistently interrupted as they try to eat a meal together.

27. ‘Juliet of the Spirits’ (1965) – Federico Fellini

After “La Strada” and “Nights of Cabiria,” Fellini reunited with his wife Giulietta Masina for their first color feature about a woman using mystic dreams and memories to find the strength to leave her cheating husband.

26. ‘Eraserhead’ (1977) – David Lynch

Funded by the American Film Institute, David Lynch’s dark, fantastical directorial debut is arguably the most bizarre experimental film ever made.

25. ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1951) – Brian Desmund Hurst 

Of all the versions of Dickens’ classic, from Albert Finney to George C. Scott, the definitive one is this black-and-white British standard with Alastair Sim.

24. ‘Elf’ (2003) – Jon Favreau

Will Ferrell is utterly endearing as Buddy the Elf, who grows up thinking he’s an elf at the North Pole, only to realize that he has a human dad in Manhattan.

23. ‘Avatar’ (2009) – James Cameron

James Cameron pioneered 3D technology in this box-office smash about a paraplegic marine sent to help the oppressed Na’vi population of Pandora.

22. ‘Being John Malkovich’ (1999) – Spike Jonze

Charlie Kaufman’s screenwriting debut blew our minds as John Cusack’s puppeteer discovered a portal into the head of movie star John Malkovich.

21. ‘The Shape of Water’ (2017) – Guillermo del Toro 

This bizarre Best Picture winner starred Sally Hawkins as a mute janitor who romances an amphibious creature held captive at a 1960s research facility.

20. ‘Big Fish’ (2003) – Tim Burton

Ewan McGregor stars in Tim Burton’s candy-colored gem about the power of storytelling and the joy of parents telling tall tales to their children.

19. ‘Babe’ (1995) – Chris Noonan

Produced by George Miller, this fantastical tale saw Babe win over Farmer Hoggett as an unlikely sheep-herding pig with the phrase, “That’ll do, Pig.”

18. ‘Harvey’ (1950) – Henry Koster

James Stewart’s Elwood P. Dowd is so sincere in his belief of his invisible friend rabbit Harvey that he actually gets us to believe him in the original, more whimsical version of “Donnie Darko.”

17. ‘Ugetsu’ (1953) – Kenji Mizoguchi

Mizoguchi’s poetic camera explores a poor fool who yearns to be a samurai, while another falls for a mysterious woman with haunting secrets.

16. ‘Ghost’ (1990) – Jerry Zucker

Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar as a psychic helping a murdered Patrick Swayze find his killer before harm comes to his widow, Demi Moore.

15. ‘Wings of Desire’ (1987) – Wim Wenders

Remade in Hollywood as “City of Angels,” an angel wishes to become human when he falls in love with a beautiful mortal near the Berlin Wall.

14. ‘Ordet’ (1955) – Carl Theodor Dreyer

You’ll feel born again watching an aging Danish patriarch attempt to hold together his three sons: One is agnostic with a pregnant wife, another swoons with puppy love, and the third claims to be Jesus Christ himself.

13. ‘Breaking the Waves’ (1996) – Lars Von Trier

On the cusp of his stripped-down “Dogme 95” movement, Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier cast Emily Watson in one of cinema’s best performances, believing she’s actually talking to God while grappling with a paralyzed husband (Stellan Skarsgard) and building to a finale of magical realism.

12. ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ (1985) – Woody Allen

Jeff Daniels leaps off a movie screen to meet moviegoer Mia Farrow, who in turn falls for the real-life Hollywood actor who plays him (also Daniels).

11. ‘Big’ (1988) – Penny Marshall

Tom Hanks charmed our hearts as a 12-year-old in a 30-year-old’s body, dancing “Chopsticks” on a giant piano on the floor of a toy store.

10. ‘Harry Potter’ (2001-2011) – Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell, David Yates

Daniel Radcliffe grew up before our eyes in a deep cast of child actors and screen veterans for a film franchise that did justice to J.K. Rowling’s novels.

9. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1946) – Jean Cocteau

Long before Disney animation, Belle’s tears turned into diamonds in a magical gothic fable of handy candelabras — and a different fate for Gaston.

8. ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990) – Tim Burton

Johnny Depp became a star in this “fish out of water” tale of a gentle man with scissors for hands, who tries to co-exist in a candy-colored suburbia.

7. ‘The Seventh Seal’ (1954) – Ingmar Bergman

In one of the most ingenious premises ever, Max von Sydow plays chess with Death during the Black Plague, told with Bergman’s signature bleak style.

6. ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (2006) – Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro enchanted us with this tale of a bookish stepdaughter who escapes into an underground fantasy world amid the backdrop of Falangist 1944 Spain.

5. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (2001-2003) – Peter Jackson

Shot successively in New Zealand’s gorgeous countryside, this epic fantasy trilogy changed CGI filmmaking with its forced perspective of Hobbits and motion-capture by Andy Serkis’ Gollum.

4. ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948) – Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Moira Shearer danced in Hans Christian Andersen’s magical ballet shoes in some mesmerizing dance numbers that show the deadly price of great art.

3. ‘Amelie’ (2001) – Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Audrey Tatou melted into puddles as the naive yet mischievous Amelie, first seeking vigilante justice, then deciding to help those around her.

2. ‘Groundhog Day’ (1993) – Harold Ramis

Harold Ramis invented his most genius premise ever by forcing Bill Murray’s cocky meteorologist to relive the same day over and over in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, until he can learn to be a good person.

1. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946) – Frank Capra

Frank Capra’s masterpiece of magical realism is not only a five-hanky holiday classic, it’s a Dickensian tale of George Bailey’s suicide averted by the power of friends, family and community, as revealed by his fantastical ability to see what the world would look like if he were never born.

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