Everyday life can be both mundane and soul-sucking. Watching a great fantasy movie can help one escape this. Like Dr. Seuss says, “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” It opens up the heart and mind to magic and infinite possibilities. Why shouldn’t we believe in unicorns, fairies, giants, and dragons? How romantic and adventurous to battle a vampire and save the village, even if only in our imaginations.
At its core, fantasy gives us hope. By escaping, we realize that our heroes are everyday people placed in extraordinary circumstances. Our favorite sorcerer is not that different from us, and if he’s able to cast magic spells, maybe we can as well ⏤ metaphorically at least. Our version of slaying a dragon might be standing up to a mean boss at work, but it’s heroic nonetheless. As Lloyd Alexander says, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it,” so when you need to escape in order to more deeply understand life, try these 10 fantasy movies currently on Netflix.
The NeverEnding Story
This classic fantasy movie was made in 1984 and tells the story of avid 10-year-old reader Bastian Bux, played by Barret Oliver. When he hides in a bookstore to avoid the school bullies, he discovers a book called The NeverEnding Story. Even though the bookseller advises against reading it because it’s not safe like other stories, Bastian takes it, leaving a note promising to return it. Thus, our great adventure begins. Bastian takes the book to the school attic to read and learns all about the kingdom of Fantasia, the sick Empress, and the Nothingness who threatens it. Atreyu, a young warrior played by Noah Hathaway, takes on the challenge of finding a cure for the Empress. Will Atreyu succeed? How does Bastian help? Can reading be adventurous? Watch this fantasy film and find out.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
To create the Dracula legend, Bram Stoker used elements of the real historical figure Vlad the Impaler of Romania’s life. Stoker’s novel published in 1897 would go on to inspire countless imaginations including that of director Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola’s fantasy movie was released in 1992 and has an all-star cast including Gary Oldman as Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina Murray/Elisabeta, Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, and Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker. The film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won 3 for Costume Design (Eiko Ishioka), Makeup (Greg Cannom, Michèle Burke, Matthew W. Mungle), and Sound Effects Editing (Tom C. McCarthy, David E. Stone). While the film does tell the classic tale of Count Dracula’s origins, it is also at its heart a twisted love story between Dracula and his wife Elisabeta, who is reincarnated after taking her life in the form of Mina Murray.
Marketed as a dark comedy fantasy set during the Christmas holidays, Gremlins tells the story of a unique pet Gizmo given as a Christmas present to Billy by his father Randal. Randal tells his son that in order to take care of Gizmo, he has to follow three important rules: do not expose it to light, do not let it come in contact with water, and never feed it after midnight. When one of these rules is broken by Billy’s friend ⏤ who spills water on Gizmo ⏤ more creatures are born and they are not as nice. To find out what happens to the small town of Kingston Falls, check out this fantasy movie on Netflix. The film was written by Chris Columbus and produced by Steven Spielberg, and since there have been talks of rebooting the fantasy film franchise, watching or rewatching the original now can help you prepare.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
If you haven’t seen the How to Train Your Dragon films, do yourself a favor and remedy this. The original movie was overshadowed by Toy Story 3 but is equally deserving of praise. The sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 2, is one of the rare occurrences where it’s just as good as the original. It also stands on its own, as the original film is not currently streaming on Netflix.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 continues the story of Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless the Night Fury, on their quest to have dragons and human beings live in harmony. This harmony is tested when Drago Bludvist decides to capture all dragons and make them slaves. Hiccup must fight and take his rightful place as chieftain of Berk to protect the dragons and his people. Audiences will recognize the voice talents of Jay Baruchel as Hiccup and America Ferrera as Astrid.
A Monster Calls
Anyone who has ever watched someone they love fight an awful illness will understand how grief can be manifested as a monster in a fantasy movie. This is exactly the story that the film A Monster Calls tells. Conor O’Malley, a 12-year-old boy, loves his mother dearly and is struggling watching her die from terminal cancer. A large tree turns into a monster and visits him at 12:07 stating that he will tell Conor three stories and then Conor must tell the monster his own story. This is a powerful film about loss and grief. The cast includes Lewis MacDougall as Conor O’Malley, Felicity Jones as Elisabeth “Lizzie” Clayton, and Liam Neeson as the voice of the monster.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this classic film tells the story of the mysterious chocolate factory run by the eccentric Willy Wonka. Until recently, no one was allowed inside, but when Wonka devises a contest for five lucky winners to tour the factory, Wonka mania takes over the world. It even gets poor, young Charlie Bucket and his Grandpa Joe’s hopes up. In a stroke of luck, Charlie wins a golden ticket and gets to tour the factory. Wonka conceals that his contest was actually a way for him to find someone to take over the factory when he is gone. This beloved classic film was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry, and before you say that it isn’t a fantasy, we have one word for you: Loompaland.
I Lost My Body
This dark French adult animated film was the first animated film to win Canne’s Nespresso Grand Prize. It tells the tale of Naoufel’s severed hand, which is trying to reunite with its body. Naoufel is a Moroccan immigrant who lives in France with his distant uncle because his parents were killed in a car accident. In an attempt to impress the beautiful Gabrielle, he builds an igloo but she is skeptical about his real intentions. This depresses Naoufel, who after a long night of drinking goes to work hungover and accidentally snags his hand on a blade cutting it off. This is a story of how we go on after great loss. Dev Patel voices Naoufel in the English version of the film.
Stardust is based on the Neil Gaiman book of the same name. It has an all-star ensemble cast including Claire Danes as Yvaine, Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia, and Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare. It’s similar in tone to The Princess Bride and tells the story of Tristan, who lives in the fictional town of Wall bordering the magical realm of Stormhold. In order to marry his beloved Victoria, he must capture the fall star in the magical Stormhold. The star, as it turns out, is a woman named Yvaine, who is also in danger. This is one of the many surprises Tristan will discover on his journey.
Interview With the Vampire
If you need more vampires in your fantasy movie life, Interview With the Vampire will more than suffice. Based on Anne Rice’s 1976 novel of the same name, it tells the story of vampires Lestat, played by Tom Cruise, and Louis, played by Brad Pitt. Louis recounts his vampire journey and history to San Francisco reporter Daniel Molloy. This includes his father-like relationship with the young girl Claudia (Kirsten Dunst). They do share a platonic kiss which Dunst has admitted to have hated doing. She says “I hated [the kiss] so much because Brad was like my older brother on set and it’s kind of like kissing your brother.”
Lu Over the Wall
This Japanese animated film was released in 2017 and is directed by Masaaki Yuasa. It follows ansty teenager Kai, who lives in Hinashi Town with his grandfather and father. Lonely Kai befriends a ningyo girl ⏤ a mermaid-like creature ⏤ and introduces her to his town and bandmates, Yuho and Kuino. When she becomes popular, Kai becomes jealous and feels betrayed. Some townsfolk are not as welcoming to the ningyo. Can humans and ningyo live in harmony? Can an emo teenager get over himself? What power does music have in this story? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Fantasy films help us expand our imaginations and better understand the world, and the ones on this list will help you do just that.