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10 Great Fantasy Movies To Watch Instead of ‘Harry Potter’

The best fantasy movies to watch instead of 'Harry Potter,' including 'The Wizard of Oz,' 'Labyrinth,' 'Pan's Labyrinth,' Spirited Away,' and 'The Neverending Story'

If you’re in the mood for magic but don’t have the temperament for transphobia, do I have some movies for you. Or, should I say, if you’re trying to feel some fantasy but not bear some bigotry, you gotta feast your eyes on these films.

No, wait: if you’re feeling sentimental for sorcery without a proclivity for prejudice, mind these here motion pictures!

I’VE GOT IT: If you’re having thoughts of thaumaturgy but lack the disposition for discrimination, you’ve gotta admire these audio-visual presentations!


In other words: If you’re having a hard time revisiting the Harry Potter series because of J.K. Rowling’s persistent transphobia, here are 10 great fantasy movies you can watch instead.

1. The Wizard of Oz

the cast of the wizard of oz

Feeling down because of J.K. Rowling’s anti-LGBTQ hot takes? Wrap yourself in a big gay blanket that’s even older than she is! The Wizard of Oz is one of the earliest films to be canonically claimed by the gays. It has all the magic and wonder that you could possibly desire! A young girl living in a dreary middle-of-nowhere town is suddenly whisked away to a world of color and contentment where fabulous characters abound! It even has a magical article of clothing that is WAY more useful than the sorting hat. One sends you to home and safety, and the other sends you to a dungeon full of coked-out magic-supremacists high on whatever they’ve been brewing in potions class. So you can bet that Dorothy is gonna fight that evil witch hell-bent on stealing her iconic footwear. HANDS OFF MY SLIPPERS, YOU BITCH.

2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy

The cast of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy
(New Line Cinema)

Despite having no “canonically” queer characters, this blanket might be the biggest and gayest of them all. The Lord of the Rings is three movies long! In fact, it just might rule them all. Listen, Sam and Frodo are in love, and NOTHING THAT ANYONE SAYS is gonna change my mind. And all they have to do to solidify their love is travel across the rugged countryside of New Zea—I mean—Middle Earth to drop some evil dead guy’s magic ring in a volcano while some human and elf hotties battle the forces of darkness to save the free world. It’s so Harry Potter. It even has a WIZARD. Gandalf the Gay. Gray? No, gay. I said what I said. C’mon, just look at the belligerent sexual tension between him and Sauron the White. They dated. It was messy. They broke up. Tell me I’m wrong.

3. Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan and Ofelia in 'Pan's Labyrinth'
(Warner Bros.)

Okay so Pan’s Labyrinth is NOT gonna make you feel all warm and fuzzy like the first two movies on this list, but sometimes we all need a movie that’s gonna make us suffer—just a lil’ bit. Guillermo del Toro‘s fantasy is set during the Spanish Civil War, when a young girl named Ofelia basically ventures into the Forbidden Forest and finds a spooky labyrinth where she meets a slew of magical creatures. Fairies! Fauns! Horrifying zombie-men with eyes on their hands! It’s gloriously creepy and not for the faint of heart, but also one of the greatest fairy tales ever told. Without a quaffle in sight.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Azlan and the children from 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe'
(Buena Vista Pictures)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is literally about going into the closet and coming out on the other side. Set during World War II, this film is about four kids who discover a mysterious wardrobe hidden in their countryside home. When they step into it, they are magically transported to the fantastical world of Narnia! What’s in Narnia? Talking lions! Confusingly sexy fauns! An evil witch to be defeated! It’s essentially a magical coming of age story not unlike Harry Potter, where children grow into fierce mystic warriors (and sell each other out for Turkish delight).

5. Coraline

Coraline crawling through a tunnel
(Focus Features)

Have you ever felt bored? Stuck in a rut? Do you live in a dreary house with lifeless parents and nothing to do but watch the paint dry on the walls of your cupboard under the stairs—I mean—room? Well, you might just relate to the protagonist of Coraline much more than you do to Gary Potterman! One day, Coraline discovers a mysterious little crawlspace in her house, and when she crawls through said space, she enters a parallel world where everything is fun! Her parents pay attention to her! They sing songs! They have buttons for eyes! Two out of three of those things aren’t creepy at all!

6. Spirited Away

Haku and Chihiro in 'Spirited Away'
(Studio Ghibli)

Spirited Away is another story about a child whose guardians are a total drag! The young Chihiro is moving across the country with her family in Japan, when her mom and dad get lost on the road. They happen upon a totally abandoned village, and decide to barge right in there and start searching for signs of life despite Chihiro’s protestations. What they find instead are spirits. When the night falls, the city is overrun with mystical beings from Japanese folklore, and Chihiro and her parents are *ahem* spirited away into a bathhouse run by a capitalistic witch! But her parents don’t mind; they’ve been turned into pigs! Now poor Chihiro has to save her mom and dad before they become some ghostie’s dinner!

7. The Secret World of Arrietty

Arrietty and Sho in 'The Secret World of Arrietty'
(Studio Ghibli)

The Secret World of Arrietty has no right to go for the emotional jugular as hard as it does. From the creators of Spirited Away comes a film about a young girl named Arrietty who lives with her parents in a house in the countryside. Sounds normal for humans to do, right? Well, here’s the thing: Arrietty and her family aren’t humans! They are a species of magical creature known as “borrowers”: diminutive little people the size of your finger who live in the nooks and crannies of your house and steal your sugar cubes! Everything changes when Arrietty is spotted by a sickly human boy living in the house, and the two strike up an unexpected friendship that borders on painfully impossible romance.

8. Labyrinth

Jareth the Goblin King and baby Toby in 'Labyrinth'
(Tri-Star Pictures)

Yay! More labyrinths! This movie is far more lighthearted than Pan’s Labyrinth, probably because this labyrinth is managed not by a spooky faun but by David Bowie dressed as a sexy goblin! Labyrinth follows a teenage girl named Sarah who has to navigate a treacherous maze in order to rescue her baby brother from the hands of Bowie’s Goblin King.

9. Bridge to Terabithia

Jesse and Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia

Another movie that will rip your heart right out of your chest, Bridge to Terabithia is about two friends who create a magical kingdom in the woods. They reign over Terabithia as king and queen, and hold court over imaginary creatures! It’s so cute. Until you realize that they’re both using Terabithia to escape their lonely home lives. You will cry. A lot.

10. The Neverending Story

A still from the film The NeverEnding Story depicting Noah Hathaway as Atreyu standing in front of the luck dragon Falkor under a starry sky
(Warner Bros.)

The Neverending Story is a bona fide ’80s classic. Fluffy luck dragons! Morally questionable wolves! Banger soundtrack! This film is about a shy boy named Bastian who steals a book called The Neverending Story from a bookstore. The book is about a young warrior who is attempting to find a cure for the dying Empress of Fantasia. As Bastian reads more and more, he realizes that his imagination is magically connected to the characters, and he’s gonna have to make some crucial decisions in order to save their world!

(featured image: MGM / Tri-Star / Warner Bros. / Studio Ghibli / The Mary Sue)

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Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels in crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.