Hello friends and neighbors! After this week’s Genre Crush of fantasy, it got me thinking more about movies and stories that shaped my childhood. There were so many, from Dungeons and Dragons to The Fifth Element, that affected how I saw stories and, in turn, created them. So, I thought I’d go digging around a little in my memories for the five fantasy movies that shaped my childhood. Maybe you’ll find a little of your own childhood in the list below!
This movie terrified the living crap out of me. For a fantasy movie aimed at middle school children, this movie started more like a horror flick. When Alan Parish draws the unfortunate fate of being sucked into the board game until someone rolls doubles I decided right then and there that board gaming wasn’t for me. Especially if board games drew you to them with the pounding of drums that sounded just like a giant’s heartbeat. Thankfully, the movie rebounds and maintains a more upbeat tone the rest of the way and fast became one of my favorite stories (and Robin Williams films) of all time. In fact, by the end of the movie, I’d completely overcome my fear of a living board game that brought doom and inflicted pain upon your friends and bought the only game that Cardinal Games made that kids knew. It was only slightly disappointing to find that the game did not come to life, and instead of seeing your fortune play out in a cool green orb, you drew cards instead. I experienced this letdown for the first time when I opened the game at my grandparent’s beach condo and saw the stack of cards. I think I might have played the game once since. What fun was it to not actually fight lions, monkeys, and terrifying large mosquitos? It wasn’t long after seeing Jumanji that I moved on from dangerous jungles to something that completely revolutionized my idea of fantasy, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
Castle in the Sky
This animated fantasy tale introduced me to two things simultaneously. First, it was my doorway into the anime style of movies and shows. Although I wouldn’t go on to fully fall in love with the genre, I still have a soft spot for Studio Ghibli and similar anime films. Secondly, Castle in the Sky lead me deep into the steampunk genre. A 1920s world where there were robots, steam-powered flying machines, and entire floating islands threw me headlong into an obsession with the genre. The idea that an entire world existed in and above the clouds fascinated me for years. I even tried my hand at writing in the genre, though to no avail. Castle in the Sky stands as king, in my mind, in the steampunk and animated genre for bringing a heartwarming tale of adventure to life. I’ve seen this movie well over twenty times and is a film I plan on watching with my future children. That is unless my future children are more into the terrifying side of fantasy adventure, in which I will be showing the next film to them.
The king of sleepover movies for me and my friends. Now I know what some of you might be thinking, “This isn’t a fantasy movie, it’s an action film!” And you’re pretty much right, but the reason it falls into the fantasy genre for me is the fact that magic is sort of involved. An ancient curse and an accidental uncovering of an evil Egyptian priest bring this 1920s period film into full swing as Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz combat legions of undead and flesh-eating scarab beetles. The first time I saw this film was right on the heels of my father trying to get my friends and me to watch Night of the Living Dead in 1999. It was a breath of fresh air as it wasn’t too horrifying and had just enough action and fantasy for nine-year-old boys to maintain interest. Upon completing the film I wanted to be an adventure like Jonathan in the movie. It wasn’t until I learned that there wasn’t such a profession (and even if there, was it any lucrative) I promptly gave up the dream because it was right around that time that I was uncovering a former love.
When I was much younger I had a borderline unhealthy addiction to Disney movies. Ask my parents. They will tell you that I watched The Jungle Book so many times that the VHS tape started to wear. But amongst the vast library that was my Disney collection, there was one movie that I kept coming back to, Peter Pan. I couldn’t get enough of the idea of traveling to a distant land (possibly among the stars) where kids fought pirates and hung out with Native Americans in tree houses. What young boy wouldn’t like that? So when I discovered Stephen Spielberg’s 1991 film Hook I was instantly thrown back into my former love affair. It also came at a time in my life where I was really starting to get into Robin Williams, so I consumed pretty much everything the man-made. And let me tell you, friends and neighbors, this one is one of Williams’ best. The continuation of the story of Peter Pan doesn’t sound all that appealing at face value, but in the hands of Spielberg and Williams, along with powerhouse actors like Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook and Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell, it becomes a masterpiece. They manage to expand the universe of Neverland and update it to the 80s and 90s in a plausible, yet still a magical way. Everything about this film was and still is, awesome. The baseball scene is a classic, Hook’s catchphrase of, “Bad form, Peter!” became a household saying amongst my compadres, and we can even forgive the odd love scene between Peter and Tinkerbell. Despite what critics, and even Spielberg himself, say about Hook, it will always remain a close second on my list of top childhood fantasy films. That’s because the first spot goes to something entirely different.
This film falls into my Top Five Movies of All Time list. A true modern fantasy, this movie blends so many folklore and mythologies that half the fun of watching it is seeing which ones Tim Burton is giving a nod to. It weaves a beautiful tale of love, lore, loss, and redemption with the distinct style that is Tim Burton. I bought this movie on a whim and is one of the few cases that I rightly judged a film by its cover. At the time it was also my first Tim Burton film since the rest of his catalog seemed more out of the horror genre (and rightly so). What I loved about this movie was the heavy emphasis on story, both as to how individual characters tell them as well as how the film plays out as a whole. Even the title, Big Fish, is a nod to storytelling and how we as humans tend to stretch things in the name of a good story. The colors and whimsical feel of this film had me hooked from the start. I believe it was this movie that sparked my love and passion for storytelling. It seemed like every character I met in the movie was a piece to some folklore or urban legend, which got my mind whirring with ideas. It’s a movie that finds a warm place in my heart and is one every storyteller (or just lover of stories) should watch.
So, was I right? Did you find a little piece of your childhood amongst my ramblings of iconic fantasy movies from my own? If not, send us a message over at our website, or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook, and let us know what your favorite fantasy films are!