The most captivating fantasy films thrust viewers into enchanting worlds full of unforgettable characters, and fans on Letterboxd have chosen the best ones. The highest-rated fantasy movies on the platform represent the best the genre has to offer.
From must-see Ghibli favorites like Spirited Away to iconic classics like The Lord of the Rings, the best fantasy movies are also often popular and influential masterpieces that every film buff should know. With most of them coming out during the late 90s and early 2000s, they’ve defined the genre and continue to set a high bar for their more recent counterparts.
10 Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) – 4.3
Director Hayao Miyazaki’s incredible talent for transporting audiences into fantastical realms is in full display in Howl’s Moving Castle. Its warring kingdoms and gripping magical story are seen through the eyes of its compelling female protagonist, Sophie, who is unexpectedly turned into an old woman by a bitter witch.
The Ghibli film masterfully weaves together its fairytale elements to tackle thought-provoking themes like war, youth, and beauty. When viewers aren’t marveling at its breathtaking landscapes and distinctive technology, they’ll likely find themselves rooting for its delightfully complex cast of characters.
9 The Seventh Seal (1957) – 4.3
Hard-hitting questions about life and death are unapologetically talked about in director Ingmar Bergman’s powerful film, The Seventh Seal. A medieval knight plays chess with the personification of Death himself, which makes for some jarring conversations.
The protagonist’s experience during the crusades, the unforgiving plague, and the existence of God are just a few of the heavy topics the pair tackle as they travel from one scenic cliff to another. It’s a philosophical deep dive that may not be for everyone, but those who do love the film will likely never forget it.
8 Macario (1960) – 4.3
Set during the Day of the Dead, director Roberto Gavaldón paints a distinctive picture of what life is like for a poor woodcutter named Macario who simply wants a whole turkey to himself. In his frustrating quest to defeat starvation on that important day, he unexpectedly meets God, Satan, and Death, each of whom have intriguing offers.
It’s easy to see why Macario is an award-winning film, as it brilliantly explores heavy themes like religion, colonialism, and socio-economic inequality. The protagonist’s macabre story and the haunting backdrop on which it’s set both deliver powerful and necessary lessons.
7 It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) – 4.3
It’s easy to forget how beautifully written director Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life really is, especially for fans who haven’t seen the film in ages. It has become one of the most rewatchable Christmas movies ever made, as powerhouse performances, a groundbreaking narrative, and a rewarding ending all make it a near-perfect classic.
What makes George’s life and story so special isn’t just his quaint town or loving family, but all of the terrible aspects that make him despise it in the first place. His impossible journey through his own crucial decisions and the way Clarence changes him can still move and touch viewers, even if it is the hundredth time they’ve seen the movie.
6 The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – 4.3
The second installment in the iconic The Lord of the Rings trilogy thrusts viewers right back into the engrossing adventures of Frodo, as he and Sam encounter the ring’s former keeper. Director Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers also follows Gandalf’s conflict with Saruman, and Merry and Pippin’s introduction to Treebeard.
Despite the several storylines the movie has to tie together, the transitions between the events are never confusing and its multitude of fantastical events all form a cohesive and captivating narrative. It effortlessly continues the story of the first film and also effectively sets the stage for the trilogy’s flawless finale.
5 The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) – 4.3
Fans first meet the likable hobbits in The Fellowship of the Ring, as Frodo and his friends learn about a powerful figure in Middle-earth, the Dark Lord Sauron. Director Peter Jackson introduces the transfixing world full of well-written Elves, Dwarves, and Men in a way that stays faithful to J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.
The film is considered a classic at this point, as its groundbreaking visual effects, sound design, editing, score, and more raised the bar for and completely elevated the genre. Even fans who have never read the books are easily drawn in by the movie’s grand story that would become permanently ingrained in pop culture.
4 Fanny And Alexander (1982) – 4.3
It’s not surprising that director Ingmar Bergman’s semi-autobiographical work is as absorbing as it is. Fanny and Alexander introduces audiences to the complicated family of the eponymous children, and revolves around their troubling experiences at the hands of their new stepfather.
Thoughtful, well-written, and often grim, the film’s daring use of a child’s perspective to unabashedly critique religion has rightly been praised numerous times. The whimsical vividness of the sibling’s imagination serves as a sharp contrast to their new cruel reality, which somehow only keeps getting darker.
3 Princess Mononoke (1997) – 4.3
Prince Ashitaka is caught in an epic war in Princess Mononoke, as the selfish humans find that they can’t just keep taking from the forests around them. He meets the badass San, who will do whatever it takes to make sure her greedy fellow humans don’t succeed.
The evocative film is memorable because of its masterful use of supernatural elements to convey its core message. Its desperately grim world is a heartbreaking reflection of what director Hayao Miyazaki sees, and an important reminder of the impact someone’s choices can make.
2 The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003) – 4.4
Often considered the best entry in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King caps off the thrilling journey in a breathtaking way. Director Peter Jackson takes viewers along for the last leg of the epic adventure, as Aragorn assumes his rightful place, Gandalf goes to war, and Frodo and Sam struggle in the heart of Mordor.
With its prequels flawlessly setting the stage for the conclusion of each storyline, audiences are treated to a masterpiece that impeccably wraps up the fantastical tales in the trilogy. It’s a timeless classic that continues to inspire and influence filmmakers today.
1 Spirited Away (2001) – 4.5
Arguably director Hayao Miyazaki’s most popular movie, Spirited Away has everything that fans love about Studio Ghibli. From the whimsical premise to its sometimes terrifying creatures, the animated film regales viewers with Chihiro’s breathtaking tale. The 10-year-old is faced with the impossible task of finding a way to rescue her parents from the world of the Kami.
Iconic scenes in Yubaba’s bathhouse and spine-chilling moments with No-Face are still immediately recognizable today. Audiences won’t soon forget the profound journey the endearing protagonist takes and all the magical characters she meets along the way.
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