Adventure Movies

The 25 most fun fantasy films

May 25, 202416 Mins Read

These days, many fantasy films fall into the category of the “epic” because they involve sprawling stories with existential stakes where the fate of the world itself often hangs in the balance. Every so often, however, there comes a fantasy film that sets aside the big questions, or at least it situates them amidst a fun adventure that invites the viewer to truly lose themselves in a fantastic alternative world that doesn’t obey all (or sometimes any) of the rules of the real one. These types of films are potent reminders of the fact that fantasy, more than any other genre, shows the radical power of escapism.


1 of 25

‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

Warner Bros via MovieStillsDB

Peter Jackson earned significant praise for his adaptation of The Lord of the Ringsso in some ways, he would inevitably return to Middle-earth. With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journeythe first in a trilogy, he introduces viewers to a young Bilbo Baggins, who is recruited by Gandalf the Grey to join a band of dwarves as they set out to retrieve a treasure from a malevolent dragon named Smaug. Though somewhat excessive at times, An Unexpected Journey is still a very fun film, thanks in no small part to the expert comedic timing of Martin Freeman, who brings Bilbo Baggins superbly to life.


2 of 25

‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’

'Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves'

Paramount Pictures via MovieStillsDB

Dungeons & Dragons remains one of the most popular games, so it was inevitable that it would one day get the big-screen treatment. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves  is a riot of a film, anchored as it is by a nimble performance by Chris Pine as Edgin Darvis. It’s one of those fantasy films that immediately catches the viewer up in the sense of adventure and fun. In addition to Pine, Michelle Rodriquez and Hugh Grant give notable performances. With a quest narrative, judiciously used special effects, and a great deal of human magic, this is a bit of a throwback to an earlier period of fantasy filmmaking that embraces the silly and the serious. 



MGM via MovieStillsDB

The 1980s was a fascinating decade for the fantasy film, and it was particularly known for its sword-and-sorcery offerings. One of the most notable of these was Willow which starred Warwick Davis (as the title character), Val Kilmer as the warrior Madmartigan, and Joanne Whalley as Princess Sorsha, all of whom join forces to protect a baby girl from the malevolent Queen Bavmorda. As he would go on to do several times during his career, Ron Howard shows that he has a keen eye for making an entertaining film. Though Willow might lack the mythological coherence of today’s fantasy, there’s still much to love about its old-fashioned approach to the genre.



TriStar Pictures via MovieStillsDB

There’s no question that Jim Henson had a unique visual imagination, and his puppet creations could be either enchanting or terrifying. In the case of Labyrinththey were a little bit of both. What really makes Labyrinth  such a joy is the presence of the late David Bowie, who plays the sinister but beguiling Goblin King Jareth. It’s the kind of fantasy movie with all of the adventure that appeals to children with just enough subtle subtext to make it appealing to adults, as well. Outlandish as it might sometimes be, it is nevertheless a fantasy film that manages to withstand the test of time. 


5 of 25

‘The Princess Bride’

'The Princess Bride'

MGM via MovieStillsDB

Over the years, The Princess Bride  has continued to enchant audiences, thanks to memorable performances from its two leads, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, who star as Westley and Buttercup, respectively. The screenplay is light on its feet, and the film embraces the silliness and adventure inherent in the fantasy genre. It’s no wonder that it has become such a foundational film for many millennials and that, even so many years after its release, it remains eminently quotable. Like all of the best fantasy stories, it is very much a product of its time and yet, paradoxically, timeless. 



20th Century Fox via MovieStillsDB

Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley have devilishly good chemistry in Bedazzled which adds a highly humorous spin to the well-worn tale of Faust, the man who makes a bargain with the devil. In this case, Fraser is Elliot Richards, a very nerdy man who sells his soul to Elizabeth Hurley’s very seductive devil. Mayhem ensues. It’s the type of film that never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, instead inviting the audience to sit back, turn off their brains, and enjoy the ridiculous ride. Thanks to the performances of Fraser and Hurley, there’s more than enough to enjoy.


7 of 25

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’

'Everything Everywhere All at Once'

A24 via MovieStillsDB

The critically lauded Everywhere Everything All at Once is a deliriously fun fantasy film starring Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Quan Wang, a beleaguered woman who unexpectedly discovers that she has the ability to jump through dimensions. She is recruited to fight against a malevolent entity known as Jobu Tupaki, who, it turns out, is a version of her daughter. It’s the type of fantasy film that delights in the unexpected. Yeoh delivers one of the best performances of her career, and, beneath all of the madcap fun, there is also a serious message about the power of family and the necessity of truthfully acknowledging and dealing with generational trauma.



Sony Pictures Releasing via MovieStillsDB

The 1990s was a very strong era for fun fantasy movies, as the success of Jumanji  makes that clear. With its story about a sinister game that unleashes havoc on those who decide to play it, it definitely leans into its own silliness. However, this is a great part of what makes this film such an enduring joy to watch. What makes it stand out is the effervescent presence of Robin Williams, who, as he would do so many times throughout his career, provides a performance that is just the right mix of chaotic and endearingly heartfelt. 



Walt Disney Pictures via MovieStillsDB

Of all the major studios, Disney is often the one that has had the keenest sense of how to create a magical film that embraces joy, fun, and utopia. It’s all present in Encantoa film about a Colombian family and their unique magical gifts. The story’s centerpiece is Mirabel, the only member of her family to lack such a gift. Filled with wonderful music, truly dazzling animation, and more than a dash of the old Disney magic, Encanto is a reminder of the importance of family and the transcendent, magical power of love.



Walt Disney Pictures via MovieStillsDB

Zootopia is one of those Disney films that is a skilled blend of traditional Disney magic, buddy cop, and social parable, focusing as it does on a fictional city where anthropomorphic animals of all kinds live in (supposed) harmony. The real heart of the story is the unlikely friendship between a rabbit cop named Judy Hopps and a fox conman named Nick Wilde. Vibrantly animated and with a surprisingly complex message about the dangers of criminal profiling, Zootopia is the kind of pure fun that seems vanishingly rare in the film landscape. To top it all off, it is also a very funny film, with lots of witty banter and repartee. 



DreamWorks Pictures via MovieStillsDB

Even though it was released over two decades ago, there’s still much to enjoy about Shrekone of those fantasy films that pokes fun at its own genre. This, indeed, is the beauty of Shrek  and the key to its longevity. It knows how to have fun and, just as importantly, how to subvert and obey the various generic conventions of fantasy. Add some great animation — even if it is a bit dated compared to today’s standard — and stellar voice work from the likes of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow, and Eddie Murphy, and what results is one of the most enduringly funny fantasy movies ever made.



TriStar Pictures via MovieStillsDB

The story of Peter Pan has enchanted generations of children and adults. The most enjoyable takes on the story is the 1991 film Hook Starring Robin Williams in the role of Peter Pan, it follows the adult Peter as he races to save his children from the clutches of the nefarious Captain Hook (played with scene-stealing panache by Dustin Hoffman). Steven Spielberg proves once again that he knows how to capture the magic of the movies, and Williams delivers a performance that is both genuinely funny and emotionally endearing.



Walt Disney Pictures via MovieStillsDB

During the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s, the studio managed to craft a hit almost every year, and one of the most straight-up fun films of the period was AladdinBased on the Arabic folktale, it follows the title character as he befriends a genie who changes his life while trying to win the heart of Princess Jasmine and defeat the nefarious Jafar. Filled with vibrant animation and unforgettable songs, to say nothing of the energetic and dynamic vocal stylings of the late Robin Williams, this kind of Disney film serves as a potent reminder of the unique magic of traditional animation.


14 of 25

‘The Wizard of Oz’

'The Wizard of Oz'

Loews Inc via MovieStillsDB

The Wizard of Oz remains one of the most beloved films ever made, and it is one of a number of highly regarded films from the magical year of 1939. It’s easy to see why it would remain so beloved, as its combination of brilliant Technicolor cinematography (to bring Oz to magical life), star power (Judy Garland remains sublime), and great music (the numbers are enshrined in collective memory) ensured it would become a true classic. More than anything else, however, it is a fun movie to watch — a reminder of the power of film to transport viewers into a world not bound by the rules of reality.


15 of 25

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’

'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'

New Line Cinema via MovieStillsDB

With The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the RingPeter Jackson earned himself a place in the history books. Somehow, the film stays largely true to Tolkien’s vision of Middle-earth while bearing Jackson’s inimitable stamp. While it keeps the epic scope in mind, it doesn’t shy away from the lighter aspects of the original novel. The early scenes in the Shire are particularly light-hearted and funny, and the unmistakable warmth and affection among the various members of the Fellowship allow this first film in the trilogy to truly shine, 


16 of 25

‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’

'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone'

Warner Bros via MovieStillsDB

The first entry in the enormously successful Harry Potter series is, in some ways, the one that is closest to the source material. Director Chris Columbus captures much of what made JK Rowling’s original novel such a beloved classic, as the young Harry Potter finds himself swept up in the magical world of wizards and witches. No one can ever forget the unique experience of first experiencing Hogwarts alongside Harry. While The Sorcerer’s Stone does have some moments of darkness, including the confrontation between Harry and Professor Quirrell, for the most part, the film embraces the fun and light-hearted side of being a young wizard.


17 of 25

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'

Warner Bros via MovieStillsDB

The success of Harry Potter meant that there was going to be a spinoff, and the result was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemThe first in (so far) three films follows Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander as he goes from pursuer of magical creatures to becoming involved in the broader events reshaping the wizarding world. Filled with dazzling special effects and at least some of the magic that made the original novels and movies so enormously popular, Fantastic Beasts works best when it focuses on Newt’s various misadventures and his unlikely friendship with the muggle Jacob Kowalski.


'Hocus Pocus'

Walt Disney Pictures via MovieStillsDB

Though it wasn’t particularly successful during its original theatrical run, Hocus Pocus has become a true classic. Focusing as it does on the nefarious Sanderson sisters (led by Bette Midler’s Winifred) and the teenagers who try to stop them, it is peak 1990s fantasy. Midler is clearly having the time of her life in this high-camp role, but the script is also surprisingly funny. It’s the type of fun fantasy movie that bears up to repeat viewings, and it is also one which has managed to repeatedly pass the test of time. It remains as enchanting now as it was when it was first released in the early 1990s.


19 of 25

‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’

'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'

EMI Films via MovieStillsDB

The legend of King Arthur has repeatedly captured the cinematic imagination, but seldom with as much panache and absolute fun as in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In this version of the story, Arthur is a bit more hapless than usual, and the film as a whole has a wildly irrelevant take on the entire mythos. However, there’s also no doubt that it is one of the funniest of the several films made by the famous comedy troupe. It features its various performers at the top of their craft, with Graham Chapman particularly hilarious as King Arthur. 


20 of 25

‘James and the Giant Peach’

'James and the Giant Peach'

Buena Vista Pictures Distribution via MovieStillsDB

The works of Roald Dahl have long proved to be entertaining in their own right and their big-screen adaptations. One of the most artistically sophisticated of these is James and the Giant Peachwhich tells the story of a boy named James who sets out on an extraordinary adventure in the titular giant peach and the giant insects and arachnids and worms that inhabit it. It’s the kind of animated film that manages to retain Dahl’s offbeat (and somewhat macabre) sensibilities while also providing a visual feast. It’s the kind of story that could only have flourished in animation and remains a testament to Dahl’s enduring appeal.


21 of 25

‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’

'Bedknobs and Broomsticks'

Buena Vista Distribution via MovieStillsDB

Even though Mary Poppins is most often seen as one of Disney’s best films, less attention has been paid to Bedknobs and Broomstickscombining live-action and animation. In this case, the film focuses on Angela Lansbury’s Eglantine Price, an amateur witch whose life is turned upside down when she takes in a group of children (and a charlatan magician) during World War II. Featuring some truly unforgettable songs, some lively and vivacious Disney animation, and a fight against the Nazis, this fantastic piece of filmmaking remains as fresh and funny as when it was made.


'Robin Hood'

Walt Disney Pictures via MovieStillsDB

The 1970s was a bit of a difficult decade for Disney, but one of the gems to have emerged from the period was the studio’s take on Robin Hood. Featuring animals in the roles of the traditional characters — Robin Hood, Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Maid Marian, etc. — it’s a truly fun film that retains its power to amuse and delight. To be sure, it does reuse some animation from earlier features, but what helps the film to succeed is the sparkling and witty nature of its dialogue, which helps to explain why it remains so popular among Disney aficionados. 


23 of 25

‘The Emperor’s New Groove’

'The Emperor’s New Groove'

Walt Disney Pictures via MovieStillsDB

While it may not be officially part of the Disney Renaissance, there’s no doubt that The Emperor’s New Groove remains one of the studio’s most beloved films. It is also one of its funniest, thanks in no small part to the dynamic voice cast, which includes such greats as David Spade, Eartha Kitt, and John Goodman. The writing is top-notch, with a script that is one of the cleverest to ever emerge from Disney. Its willingness to take some risks with the classic Disney formula more than pays off and it has only continued to grow in esteem through the years. 


24 of 25

‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’

'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'

Paramount Pictures via MovieStillsDB

There is a strange sort of brilliance to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factorythe big-screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryAt times more than a little demented (and frightening), there is something riotously fun about this version of the story, and much of this can be ascribed to Gene Wilder and his performance as Willy Wonka. At once gnomic and endearing, there is always more to Wonka than meets the eye. Like the best of children’s fantasy films, Willy Wonka knows how to evoke both the terror and the fun of being a kid. 


'The Mummy'

Universal Studios via MovieStillsDB

With The Mummy Brendan Fraser proved once again that he had the stuff of a true leading man. In the film, he stars as Rick O’Connell, an American adventurer who finds his fate intertwined with an evil mummy who sets out to capture Rick’s love interest, Evelyn (played by the great Rachel Weisz). It’s the type of monster film that never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously. Instead, like the great adventure films of the past — including, most notably, Indiana Jones — it simply invites the viewer to surrender themselves to the absurdity of it and, above all, to have a riotous good time.

Thomas J. West III earned a PhD in film and screen studies from Syracuse University in 2018. His writing on film and TV has appeared at Screen Rant, Screenology, FanFare, Primetimer, Cinemania, and in a number of scholarly journals and edited collections. He co-hosts the Queens of the B’s podcast and writes a regular newsletter, Omnivorous, on Substack. He is also an active member of GALECA, the Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics.

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