The fantasy genre is always one that involves the most magic and mystery. Some incredible world building has to go into the creation of a fantasy universe, but this is part of what makes it so immersive. The quest mission aspect is as old as time, and something we can all relate to. The great thing about fantasy as well is that, if done well, it makes us want to be like the characters we are watching.
Fantasy movies are all the rage since Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings took the box office by storm. But, back in the ‘80s, the genre was probably at its peak in terms of the diverse range of great fantasy movies that were around. Here are five wonderful fantasy flicks that we feel were highlights of the ‘80s.
The Princess Bride (1987)
The movie that’s recently celebrated its 30th anniversary is a fantasy classic and still holds up as one of the most enjoyable fantasy flicks ever. With a screenplay by William Goldman (adapted from his novel of the same name), it should come as no surprise that the script is full of clever humor, fascinating characters, and a touching tale. Starring a young Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, and an unrecognizable Mandy Patinkin, The Princess Bride is a movie that appeals to everyone.
The Dark Crystal (1982)
This masterful fantasy epic from Jim Henson and his band of geniuses is actually the first movie ever to be made using all puppets. It’s dark, sprawling, and captivating, and pits a young Gelfling named Jen, against the wicked Skesis, as he undertakes a dangerous mission to return the missing crystal shard to the Dark Crystal, thus healing it and bringing balance back to the world. The Dark Crystal is inventive, interesting, and creepy – and one of the best fantasy movies ever, never mind just of the 1980s!
The movie that gave Warwick Davies his big break, Willow is one of the original fantasy adventure movies. It’s got magic, sword fights, epic quests, wicked Queens, and Val Kilmer being awesome! The brilliance of the movie is that it’s perfect for families, so kids and adults will all take something from it. There are some iconic scenes, and quotes, and many of the themes found in Willow made appearances in subsequent fantasy works.
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
One of the more underrated movies in Arnie’s back catalog, the first Conan movie has everything a high fantasy flick should have. The Austrian Oak stars as the titular barbarian warrior who seeks revenge against the wicked sorcerer who murdered his parents. The movie is considered something of a classic among fantasy fans, and for good reason. It has just the right amount of magic, some epic fight scenes, and a screenplay by Oliver Stone of all people! The sequel was disappointing, and the recent remake shall not be spoken of, but this is a strong offering in the ‘80s fantasy canon.
Another incredibly underrated offering from the pantheon of ‘80s fantasy, this time starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Ladyhawke follows the story of two lovers who are cursed to never meet – he is a man by day and a wolf by night, while she is a hawk by day and a woman by night. Gorgeously shot by Richard Donner, and very likable, this is a movie that can be enjoyed time and time again.
Of course, we could talk all day about the wicked and wonderful fantasy films released throughout the decade. But, we feel like these five give a great snapshot of the genre in the ‘80s, and some of the best epic, sprawling filmmaking, combined with more light-hearted offerings.