Fantasy Films to Rent
Both “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” are bringing new fans to the fantasy genre. If you’re one of them, and not sure where to start in the vast sea of rentable fantasy films, here are a few suggestions!
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Jean Marsh, Patricia Hayes, Kevil Pollack, Rick Overton
One of the best fantasy films of the last several decades, “Willow” (1988) is a masterpiece by Ron Howard. It tells the tale of Willow (Davis), a Dwarvish would-be wizard who finds himself charged with protecting a baby destined to end the reign of an evil queen. Assisted by swordsman Madmartigan (Kilmer), a pair of brownies (Pollack and Overton) and Fin Raziel (Hayes), a sorceress who spends most of the film as a goat, Willow must succeed against the classic overwhelming odds. Filled with humor, drama, and a heart dose of smarm-free optimism, “Willow” is perfect for preteens and above.
Directed by Jim Henson
Starring David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Jim Henson’s creatures
A fantastic mix of live action and Jim Henson puppeteering, “Labyrinth” appeals to both children and adults. Sarah (Connelly) loves her fantasy books and hates babysitting her infant brother. When she wishes angrily for the goblins she’s read about to come and take her brother away, they do and she finds herself fighting to win him back by solving the labyrinth of the Goblin King (Bowie). Filled with wonderful creatures by Henson and saturated with magic and wonder, “Labyrinth” appeals to children, but the wit, character depth, and psychological overtones will draw adults in as well.
The Dark Crystal
Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz
Starring John Baddeley, Stephen Garlick, Barry Dennen, Jim Henson’s Creatures
Another Jim Henson film, “The Dark Crystal” (1982) is done entirely with puppets, and follows the quest of Jen, the last of a fairy-like race, to save the world by putting a piece of the titular Dark Crystal back where it belongs. The sheer sense of wonder in this film is staggering; rather than actors, we are given Muppets, but these are not the Muppets of Sesame Street. These are lively, moving characters. Although the withered, vulture-like villains and some scenes may be too intense for some elementary students, preteens and older who love visiting other worlds will love it.
The NeverEnding Story
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Starring Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Tami Stronach
This film is a classic of children’s fantasy. Bastian (Oliver) is an unhappy boy, tormented by bullies, who seeks escape in a fantasy novel. When the strange and enchanting book draws him into its story, he makes some important discoveries about both the nature of reality and himself. Filled with enchanting characters and a hero many kids will easily identify with, this is a perfect film for mature elementary schoolers and older.
These four films are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fantasy films. They are an excellent place to begin if you are just starting your journey into the realms of fantasy, and wonderful flashbacks if you are a long-time fan.