When it comes to picking a fantasy film to watch, you want to make sure it draws you into another enchanting world, filled with mythical creatures and heroic adventures.
The timespan of fantasy films is varied. Some date back to the beginning of cinema such as Bedways of Baghdad from 1923.while others are more recent, such as Tolkien from 2019. The genre also encompasses a range of subgenres, from classical to modern fantasies.
The classic examples, such as The Wizard of Oz, The Neverending Story and Labyrinth often contain a central hero on their journey of discovery. These films, often with memorable soundtracks, use a degree of special effects to bring mythical creatures and fantasy worlds to life for the viewers.
More recent, the fantasy genre has evolved where the Avengers and the Harry Potter series form a central part of modern fantasy. This subgenre relies heavily on action-packed scenes and CGI special effects to draw in viewers and hold their attention. Movies like Star Wars and John Carter explore themes of intergalactic conflict while at the same time following a hero who, by their own merit, rise to challenge the obstacles thay face.
It is also worth noting that there are some fantasy movies that are directed towards adult audiences, such as Pan’s Labyrinth or The Lord of The Rings, which contain dark themes and a great level of complexity.
Some good examples of fantasy films to watch, for both adults and children, include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Golden Compass, Pete’s Dragon and Alice in Wonderland. Each of these movies has a unique style and story that transports you to another world whilestill being connected to our own.
A good fantasy film will not just rely on its narrative to draw in viewers. Creature design and animation plays a large role in good fantasy films and making them popular. Whether it’s the ‘Kraken’ in Clash of the Titans, the Sith Lords in Star Wars, or Smaug in The Hobbit, all these creatures have become iconic in their own right.
These creatures have been carefully designed to give viewers a sense of awe and terror while maintaining a humanised look, which keeps characters relatable while also being able to experience the trauma and challenge of their own narrative – be it in the form of physical battle or an emotional journey.
It is worth noting that different filmmakers and studios take a unique approach to creature design, which can be seen in the Gremlins and The Witches franchises. The Gremlins were designed to be cute but mischievous creatures and the Witches to be evil but beautiful, making them perfectly suited for their particular narrative.
Good stories often form the backbone of many good fantasy films with heroes going on a journey that can last for several hours. Sometimes the hero might be a novice and will be joined on their journey by more experienced companions, as seen in The Hobbit with Bilbo joining the dwarves on their quest to reclaim their treasure from a dragon.
Other times, the hero might of have been prepared for their journey and will be required to overcome numerous obstacles on their way, as seen in the Harry Potter series where Harry had to defeat Lord Voldemort and save the wizarding world.
This kind of storytelling allows viewers to connect with the characters and feel part of their struggles and successes – something which will make the film even more memorable.
One key component of fantasy films is the soundtrack, which will often use powerful emotions and dynamic orchestral pieces to help the viewers become immersed in the world they are watching.
John Williams’ score for Star Wars is perhaps one of the most iconic soundtracks in history. The themes for the main characters, as well as the individual pieces for different sequences, make the viewer feel a sense of power and courage.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ soundtrack for The Social Network is another great example. This soundscape is full of melancholy and haunting notes that draw the viewer in and create a sense of suspense and danger.
Cinematography is also important in fantasy films. Directors and cinematographers often use a combination of sweeping camera shots, bold closeups and creative lighting to create the illusion of a different world.
Both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies are great examples of this. Both make use of aerial shots, sweeping vistas and creative lighting to create the otherworldly vibe of Middle-earth.
David Yates’ direction for the Harry Potter series is also worth noting as his use of creative angles, elaborate shots and inventive camera movements help convey the fantastical elements of the wizarding world.
The script of a film is the blueprint upon which the director and actors will build the world. It is the foundation of a good fantasy film and so it needs to be well-crafted and engaging.
Good examples of strong screenplay writing in fantasy films include the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Star Wars franchise. Each of these scripts have been crafted to include elements of humour, drama and action, which keeps viewers interested and wanting more.
The adapted screenplay for Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was also praised for deftly weaving elements of Tolkien’s diverse source material into one cohesive story. This shows the importance of script writing for good fantasy films.
Special effects play an important role in creating the fantasy world that viewers experience. Directors and studios often use a combination of practical and computer-generated effects to make the fantastical elements of the film seem more real and believable.
The Star Wars franchise is well known for its innovative use of practical effects. From lightsabers to blaster sounds, the special effects team had to come up with inventive ways to create the futuristic universe of Star Wars.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy, on the other hand, makes use of both practical and computer generated effects to create its fantasy world. The battle scenes, which feature thousands of animated warriors and creatures, are particularly impressive.
Computer generated effects have come a long way since the early days of the Lord of The Rings trilogy, with filmmakers now able to create even more realistic and believable CGI creatures and worlds.
Good casting is also essential for fantasy films. The actors involved need to be able to bring believable characters to life and make viewers believe the fictional world they are watching.
The Harry Potter series makes good use of casting with actors such as Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint becoming household names for their performances as Harry, Hermione and Ron respectively.
The casting for The Lord of the Rings is also well-known for its strong performances with each actor adeptly portraying their respective characters. Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen in particular are praised for their performances as Gandalf and Aragorn respectively.
The casting across the fantasy genre is generally well done, with actors being chosen who are able to make the characters they portray believable and memorable to viewers.
Fantasy films have been popular for many years and will continue to be popular in the coming years. When picking a good fantasy film to watch, it is important to consider all the different elements involved – from creature design to script writing – as this will help create an immersive and entertaining experience.
There are a great number of fantasy films out there and this article has only scratched the surface of some of the genre’s most popular titles. It is well worth researching some of the other fantasy films out there and finding the one that is most suited to you.