25 fantasy films that lock horns, swords, and wands with Harry Potter
2007 1:43:58 PM
Wizards and teenage angst in the form of broken wands is no new spell. The Harry Potter series, with its centaurs, giants, and invisible cloaks, is a neat little package ― but it’s just that. J.K. Rowling didn’t invent the genre, after all, and, when it comes to movies, a whole lot of fantasy films exceed the Potter pap in brains, humor, quests, spells, and imagination. On the eve of Rowling’s last book in the Potter series, we offer a list of those movies. Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, we unearthed 25 fantasy films that lock horn, swords, and wands with Potter. No reading required.
The Dark Crystal, with its three suns and misshapen Muppets, is not kiddie fantasy. The vulture-like Skeksis of planet Thra do more for sci-fi than real aliens. And, compared to SkekUng — the evil Skeksis Emperor — Voldemort looks like a regular Muggle.
THE DARK CRYSTAL
Tom Cruise walks the woods of stolen dreams and stolen horns as Jack O’The Green in this fantasy film about, well, good and evil. Search the Internet Movie Database far and wide: there is no Harry Potter quote as good as this: “She was so sweet, I could eat her brains like jam!” Thank you, Blunder (Kiran Shah). Shah has since been reduced to a mere stuntman by the Harry Potter franchise. Though, he does currently hold the Guinness World Record for “Shortest Professional Stuntman Currently Working in Film.”
THE LAST UNICORN
Before Red Bull was a shitty-tasting energy drink, it was a fiery, white-eyed apparition with frothing fangs. The Last Unicorn, with Butterfly, Skull, Mommy Fortuna, and Red Bull, is a classic tale of enchanted forests and extinction. The Unicorn is on display in Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival and with it in its cage are all of our imaginations. So beguiling is a cartoon of tides, white with the immortal unicorn.
Unable to secure the rights to The Hobbit, George Lucas wrote Willow, a 1988 J.R.R. Tolkien knock-off starring dwarfs and Val Kilmer as who-can-forget Madmartigan. Queens, rogues, sorcerers, and possums — this cult wonder has it almost together. And, it was the first film to use morphing special effects, which was a really good idea at the time.
Imagine yourself a rodent in a room full of wiggy, high-heeled witches. Such is Luke’s foreboding lot — as boy turned mouse — in the movie based on Roald Dahl’s oft-censored children’s book The Witches. Anjelica Huston’s purple-eyed Grand High Witch, with her greasy gnarled humpback is the stuff kid’s nightmares are made of. And nightmares, like banquets of bald-headed hags, should never be subject to censorship.
SWORD IN THE STONE
Save Dumbo’s surrealist “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence, this could be one of the most complex Disney cartoons of all time. The Sword in the Stone wanders like the mind of its wizard Merlin — who turns Wart into a fish, a squirrel, and a very small bird to the tune of “Higitus Figitus” and “Mad Madame Mim.” So smart and sophisticated is a magical hero that slays a dragon, not with a sword, but a germ.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS (Trilogy)
This trilogy defined the modern fantasy genre with its exceptional book-to-film translation and its faithful rendering of epic battles. If you’re reluctant to go in for the long haul, try the drinking game: take a shot every time Frodo says “Oh, Sam …” and you’ll be done before Gandalf reincarnates.
Luckily for Bastian, his elementary school has a convenient, spooky attic where he can skip class to travel to the mystical land inside a book that he stole on a whim. If he doesn’t sound like a good role model to you, recall that he’s skipping school to read a book. The book in question is the only Choose-Your-Own-Adventure that doesn’t suck.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Jack Skellington, the jaded Pumpkin King of Halloween-town, destroys Christmas in a misguided attempt to revamp the holiday Halloween-style. Tim Burton’s animated movie-musical still enjoys cult status for its haunting soundtrack and fantastic plot. You can enjoy this creepy classic at any time of year, but every October, the 3D version re-releases in theatres nationwide.
Picture Indiana Jones, except with a group of inept kids. The Goonie gang runs way over the recommended daily value of dead bodies, ancient skeletons, and booby traps, all in search of a hidden treasure that could save their town from demolition. Warning: may cause severe feelings of nostalgia and an unrelenting wish to find a pirate’s map in your parents’ attic.
STAR WARS (First Trilogy)
The most classic of classics. Watching Return of the Jedi again will remind you of the good old days, when everybody’s biggest gripe about the Star Wars franchise was the unrealistic Jabba puppet. (Incidentally, Leia’s slave bikini is still the best thing about the trilogy, despite widespread abuse of her outfit by unfit Star Wars convention attendees.)
Hook is the best Peter Pan spin-off out there, if only because Robin Williams’ portrayal of Pan can bring grown men to nostalgic tears. There's just something about the littlest lost boy contorting Williams’ face into a smile that gets you every time. Not to mention that Dustin Hoffman was born to play the villain of childhood nightmares.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDOBE