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Ask the Mary Sues: What’s Your Favorite Fantasy Film?

We could all use a little break from the real world.

Noah Hathaway and Falkor in 'The Neverending Story'.

We’re approaching the end of another exhausting month, where it feels like we could all do with a vacation. Unfortunately, travel isn’t a great idea right now, as the panini rages on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a mental break. Many of us are dealing with these stressful times by getting lost elsewhere: in romance novels, in fantasy and science fiction, or in the endless world of reality baking competitions. But there’s something about a good fantasy film that truly takes you away.

For many of us who grew up on fantasy films, these movies have the power to transport us not only to mythical lands, but to our childhoods. There is something so pure, so heartwarming about tapping into that childhood experience, especially as adult life becomes more and more wearisome. Naturally, this got us talking about our all-time favorite fantasy films. It’s such a rich genre with so many classic entries, but here’s what we landed on for our favorites. Although we love it, we didn’t include The Princess Bride because honestly, what more is there to say? That film is flawless.

Princess Weekes:

Pan’s Labyrinth might be a cliché pick, but I think the film encapsulates all the best things about both fantasy and Guillermo del Toro as a creative visionary. It tells the story of a young girl named Ofelia (and with a name like that we know her ending won’t be happy) who, in 1944 Spain travels with her sick pregnant to meet Captain Vidal, her new stepfather. And a fascist. Ofelia meets a faun who sets her on a quest in order for her to gain immortality. Beautiful, terrifying, and painfully bittersweet.

Kaila Hale-Stern:

My favorite thing in any narrative is to be surprised and on uneven ground with where the plot is going. When I first saw Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in high school, I had not yet read the books, and I still remember being on the edge of my seat, never quite sure what would happen next. I laughed, I cried, I read a lot of fanfiction thereafter. I’d argue the first movie in Peter Jackson’s trilogy is the best (my favorite book, now that I’ve read them, is The Two Towers), but maybe I feel that way because it was such a wondrous surprise at the time. I used to fall asleep to this movie every night, which is in retrospect probably explains a lot about me.

Rachel Leishman:

Labyrinth is a beautiful look at fantasy bringing Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie) to life. When Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) wishes that the Goblin King would come to take away her brother, he does. And she’s forced into the labyrinth to try and save him. To this day, I’ll always sing “You remind me of the babe” to nothing in particular.

Alyssa Shotwell:

As my favorite genre, this is really difficult to narrow down. One of my faves is a Fantasy, Cold War Thriller, Romance and more: The Shape of Water. This Del Toro masterpiece is both a delightful, beautiful entertainment by itself and is so important for on and off screen reasons. Before watching it, I had little knowledge about the Creature from The Black Lagoon. Since I have read the book tie-in, about one of the original monster designers (The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick), and watched lots of videos about the creature and bringing it to screen. This is what I mean, I can’t get enough of this movie.

Chelsea Steiner:

Few films impacted my childhood the way that The NeverEnding Story did, and clearly I’m not alone. Children of the 1980s and beyond hold this precious film close for so many reasons. Maybe it’s because the characters are all kids, or maybe it’s that the film truly taps into the joy of getting lost in a good book, but The NeverEnding Story remains a childhood favorite. After all, who among us didn’t dream of riding Falkor with our fist raised triumphantly in the air? And that theme song by Limahl? Perfection.

What’s your favorite fantasy film? Let us know in the comments!

(image: Warner Bros.)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.