Adventure Movies

20 Best Fantasy Adventure Movies of All Time

August 1, 202313 Mins Read

When you get home from a long day of work, how do you momentarily escape the world? Some people pick up a book, their phone, a controller of some sort, or even the remote to unwind and get away from the hustle and bustle of reality for a brief period of time. It’s common for people to simply want to take their minds to a different place, and thus, the fantasy genre was created. Outlandish worlds have been fabricated on paper as well as on screen. When this genre is paired with an adventurous tale, audiences are able to dive into a world with relatable characters and enjoy living through someone else for a short time.

Fantasy adventure movies are meant to entertain people just like any other genre, but on a deeper level, they hold valuable lessons and messages that can only be learned while going on a journey with a little bit of magic in the air. Some critics may argue that stories dealing with the fantastic are for children, but in reality, they help people work through problems and scenarios in a safe environment. If you, like many others, feel like you can use a short break to escape the world, check out the 20 best fantasy adventure movies of all time.

20 The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz cast

After Dorothy realizes she and her loyal dog Toto are not in Kansas anymore in The Wizard of Oz, they find themselves going on the biggest adventure of their lives. In the magical land of Oz, animals can talk, witches cast spells, and nothing is what it seems. Dorothy befriends a scarecrow, a man made out of tin, and a cowardly lion. The four new friends, along with a scrappy little pup, follow the yellow brick road in hopes of being granted a wish. The end result is not what anyone expects, but the journey getting there taught everyone something new.

19 Peter Pan (1953)

PeterPan (1)
Walt Disney Production

All children want to go on a great adventure, and the boy who simply refuses to grow up makes sure that the three Darling children get the best experience of their lives in Peter Pan. Peter Pan meets Wendy, John, and Michael, and without much hesitation, the three children follow him — with the help of some pixie dust — to Neverland. They see mermaids, fight with pirates, and experience everything that they’ve ever been told about in the storybooks. In the end, reality resumes for the Darlings, but Peter Pan is always ready to bring them back.

18 The Princess Bride (1987)

Farm Boy and Buttercup with their heads together
20th Century Fox 

In the form of a frame narrative, a grandfather tells a story to his sick grandson about a brave farmhand who went on an epic adventure to be with his true love. For many years, Westley in The Princess Bride was presumed dead, and the love of his life, Buttercup, was set to wed a cruel prince. When Buttercup gets kidnapped, Westley makes a grand appearance, saves her, and then the two have to remain on the run from her vengeful fiancé. From sword fights and chase scenes to the heartwarming love shared between the two, this film is full of adventure as well as iconic one-liners.

Related: The 20 Best Fantasy Movies of All Time

17 Jumanji (1995)

Jumanji movie
Sony Pictures

Some people get really wrapped up in board games, but Jumanji takes things to the next level. When a young Alan and Sarah sit down to play, they quickly realize that the game has magical powers, and every move they make can very well be their last. Alan gets sucked into the game and transported to a jungle, and grows up still Sarah traumatized by her friend’s disappearance. 26 years later, after the game is found by two different children, they four must come together to face the deadly challenges and complete the game to restore the natural order of everything.

16 Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Michael J. Fox and Cree Summer in Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Walt Disney Pictures

Milo Thatch is a humble linguist and cartographer who has made it his life’s mission to find the city of Atlantis in the aptly titled Atlantis: The Lost Empire. When presented the opportunity to join Commander Rourke and his crew on an expedition to the lost city, he happily climbs aboard. Once they arrive at their destination, the ship is attacked, and many people lose their lives. Milo, however, survives and learns that the people of Atlantis have mystical crystals that grant them longevity. He quickly discovers the true nature of the voyage (Rourke wants to steal the crystal), so Milo and Princess Kida must do everything they can to save the native people and city.

15 Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The four hobbits; Frodo, Pippin, Samwise and Merry
New Line Cinema

Taking J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic high-fantasy novel, The Fellowship of the Ring, and creating the scenery and characters on-screen was a difficult task because of how fanciful and detailed everything needed to be. Frodo, accompanied by his best friend, Samwise, goes on an adventure across Middle-earth. The two are initially tasked with staying away from Sauron and his minions, but eventually, the journey becomes a quest to destroy a powerful ring. Frodo learns a lot during his time away from the Shire, but most importantly, he discovers what it means to be loyal to a team with a task.

14 Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

a series of unfortunate events
Paramount Pictures

As Lemony Snicket writes about the many unfortunate events of the Baudelaire children, the story shifts to their life after just being orphaned. In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Violet and Klaus lost their parents in a house fire, and for some unfortunate reason, they were put in the care of Count Olaf. From there, they experience death, new homes, trickery, and everything in between. Their adventure is one filled with dark humor and chaotic circumstances, and Snicket recounts it all in his book. In the end, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the two orphans, but they will never be the same due to the series of unfortunate events that led them there.

Related: 9 Epic Adventure Movies That Will Have Your Heart Pounding All the Way Through

13 Ella Enchanted (2004)

Ella Enchanted

In Ella Enchanted, when Ella of Frell was just a baby, a fairy godmother bestowed the gift of obedience onto her. Ella grew up obeying commands from anyone and everyone, and her wicked stepmother and stepsisters use this to their advantage. Ella decides that she’s had enough, and she goes on a journey to find the cruel fairy godmother in hopes she will take back the gift. Along the way, Ella encounters ogres, giants, fairies, and many others. When she makes it to the handsome prince’s coronation, with her gift still intact, Ella has to realize that her own will is more powerful than the magical curse.

12 The Polar Express (2004)

Hero Boy on the Polar Express
Warner Bros. Pictures

There comes a time when children become skeptical about the magic of Christmas and the notion of Santa Claus, but for one particular boy in The Polar Express, he will believe in the man in the red suit forever. On a cold Christmas Eve’s night, a train pulls up to a house, and a young skeptic gets on. He learns that the train is going to the North Pole, and everyone will get to meet Santa. While on the journey, the boy voices his concerns, makes friends, and eventually, all of his doubt about magic and things he’s never seen goes out the window — just like a certain golden ticket.

11 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

The Chronicles of Narnia
Walt Disney Pictures

The Penvensie children thought their biggest adventure would be moving to a countryside estate to escape the air raids of WWII, but they were greatly mistaken. In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy, the youngest of the four, is the first to discover the magical world of Narnia, and the others eventually enter the winter wonderland themselves. Though the land is beautifully blanketed by snow, the children quickly learn that their fate is to kill the horrible White Witch. This is where their real journey begins. With the help of hundreds of talking animals and mythical creatures, the Pevensies are able to complete their destiny.

10 The Golden Compass (2007)

New Line Cinema

In a mystical world where human souls come in the form of an animal companion, a young girl is destined for great things. The Golden Compass follows Lyra Belacqua as she finds herself possessing a highly sought-after compass that reveals the truth, but there are many people wanting to take it from her, no matter the cost. Lyra then ends up on the run from government officials who wish to steal the artifact, but that soon turn into a rescue mission when she discovers that her friend and many other children have been kidnapped for experimentation purposes.

9 Stardust (2007)

A scene from Stardust
Paramount Pictures

Between magic, adventure, and romance, what more could a great movie have? In Stardust, Tristan is an average young man (or so he thinks) that vows to bring back a fallen star from a magical kingdom to impress a woman and ask for her hand in marriage. While in the fanciful world, he realizes that the fallen star is personified as a beautiful woman. Nevertheless, he captures her and tries to take her back to his town. On their adventure, they meet pirates, witches, and other mythical creatures. The two grow fond of one another, and as fate would have it, they fall in love.

8 Where the WIld Things Are (2009)

Where the Wild Things Are by Spike Jonze
Warner Bros. Pictures

After getting into a fight with his mother and sister in Where the Wild Things Are, a young Max runs away from home. He finds a boat in a nearby pond and decides to sail far away from his troubles. He discovers an island filled with giant monstrous creatures who question if they should eat the young boy, but after some bluffing, Max is able to make them believe he is a magical king. Max runs and plays and wreaks havoc with the great beasts, but he soon realizes he misses his life back home. Max says his goodbyes to his new friends, and returns to make up with his family.

7 Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Alice in Wonderland
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Lewis Carroll originally created the fanciful world of Wonderland, and nearly 150 years later, Tim Burton managed to turn it into one of the most visually stunning places. As the story of Alice in Wonderland goes, Alice follows a white rabbit down a hole, and to her surprise, she ends up in an elaborate and colorful world where animals talk, greenery has feelings, and her destiny is revealed. With the help of a truly Mad Hatter and several unique characters, Alice goes on an adventure to eventually slay a terrifying Jabberwocky and put an end to the Red Queen’s reign.

6 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

_______The Hobbit- An Unexpected Journey

Bilbo Baggins’ existence in the Shire has always consisted of an easygoing lifestyle, a comfortable home, and tons of food. When he is voluntold to host Thorin and his clan of dwarves in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo’s life is shaken a bit. Then, when he makes the official decision to join them on a dangerous journey to the Misty Mountains, Bilbo is completely thrown out of his comfort zone. He knows that the adventure will be filled with terrifying creatures who wish to stop them, but the experience of being accountable for something other than tea time is more important to the young hobbit.

5 Moana (2016)

Walt Disney Pictures

16 years after being chosen by the ocean, Moana’s grandmother tells the young adventurer that she must find the demigod Maui and have him restore the heart of Te Fiti to save her people. Moana secretly sets sail against her parents’ wishes. She finds Maui and convinces him to restore his good name by returning the heart he stole. On her journey across the sea, Moana learns that she is much stronger than she has ever given herself credit for. With the help of Maui and some encouragement from the magical ocean, Moana is able to save her island.

4 Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Pete's Dragon Trailer #2 Fully Reveals Elliott the Dragon
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

After a car accident left a young Pete orphaned and alone in the woods in Pete’s Dragon, a large green dragon came to his rescue. Six years later, Pete and his loyal dragon companion, Elliot, peacefully live in the forest. Unfortunately, one day, they notice people clearing the land, and their safety is compromised. Pete gets hurt and taken to the hospital while Elliot is discovered by other humans. The two eventually reunite, but they both realize that they are in danger. Being the protector, Elliot chooses to separate from the little boy, so he is out of harm’s way. Years later, the pair are both happy and healthy with their new families.

3 The BFG (2016)

A scene from Steven Spielberg's The BFG
Walt Disney Pictures

An elder giant and an orphaned little girl are the unlikeliest of friends in The BFG, but Big Friendly Giant (BFG) and Sophie would not have it any other way. After Sophie sees BFG outside of her window, he steals her away and takes her to Giant Country because he cannot risk her exposing his kind. They quickly become friends, and Sophie learns all about how BFG is an outcast among the other giants, and that he can bestow dreams and nightmares on sleeping creatures. As a team, they fight off the man-eating giants, and Sophie hatches a plan to get rid of them once and for all.

2 A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A Wrinkle in Time Golden Globes TV Spot Arrives with New Footage

Four years after their father went missing, Meg and Charles meet three strange women named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which in A Wrinkle in Time. They inform the children and their mother that their father, Alex, successfully managed to travel through time, and a seer named Happy Medium tells them that he is currently trapped on a dark planet named Camazots. Without hesitation, Meg, Charles, and their friend Calvin travel to save Alex. With the use of some gifts from the three Misses, the children are able to accomplish their mission and learn what is truly important in their own lives.

1 Dumbo (2019)

A scene from Tim Burton's live-action Dumbo
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Anyone can sympathize with a baby elephant who was born with abnormally large ears; that is, anyone except the circus owner, Max Medici. When Dumbo was born, Medici tried to hide him. Then he tried to exploit him, but people were mean towards the young calf which sent his mother into a rage that destroyed their tent and killed a man. After Dumbo’s mom is sent away, and it is discovered that Dumbo can fly, Medici sees the financial benefits. With the help of some kind circus performers, Dumbo and his mother are eventually reunited, and they no longer entertain patrons.

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