This week, we reviewed The House with a Clock in its Walls and it made us wish we could cast a spell so we could be watching any of the films listed below instead. With that being said, here are some of our favorite movies about magic!
Fantasia (1940) – I dare say there is not a person alive that didn’t grow up without a viewing of Mickey Mouse as the mischievous apprentice who steals his master’s mystical hat in order have magic do his chores. Brooms carrying buckets, water crashing against cliffs, the grand music, and Mickey Mouse wielding the Power Cosmic! Brings the kid out in me with every wonderful thought.
Dragonslayer (1981) – This is the first film I had ever seen that showed magic in a serious way. The image of Ulrich the Sorcerer’s glowing magical amulet and the sounds of baby dragons chewing the flesh off a princess’s bones is still very vivid in my mind. Although this is a Disney film, it is in the era when PG just meant “Not R” so there were a lot of adult themes. I remember the struggle of the main character having to make a choice to have all the power in the world or give it up to be the hero. Odd, ‘cause I was only five or six at the time. Matter of fact, I don’t believe I have seen the movie since the ‘80s! It is a true testament that I can remember it in such detail after over three decades. I need to watch this shit again! That dragon was awesome!
The Worst Witch (1986) – No other film in my life has been so unwittingly burned into my head at Halloween quite like this one! So many times, did my sister play this movie; over, and over, and over, and over… It is by no means a good movie, but it is definitely a cult classic to many and, if you have not had the misfortune of seeing it originally, it’s a cringe-worthy view! Tim Curry’s performance as the Grand Wizard is amaze-balls, and his epic in-movie music video “Anything Can Happen on Halloween” has a strange throwback feel of Rocky Horror Picture Show and gives a new meaning to pink cape accessories.
Harry Potter (All) – The first time I heard the iconic music for this film series, I was hooked! I had seen quite a few fantastic movies about magic, but none really captured the true essence of what a magical world would look like if it were real like these. The epic world building and beloved characters have forever shaped the way I will view any film that dares to wield magic, in our world anyway! This is a story akin to Star Wars that has many facets to be explored and will continue to thrive in media for many generations to come. Fantastic Beasts anyone?
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Long before Harry and his eleven-inch wand, there was Mithrandir and his wooden staff of power. As the Wielder of the “Flame of Anor” and servant of the “Secret Fire”, the very powers of Arda itself, the Maia, Gandalf, in his many forms, shaped the destiny of Middle-earth and the creatures therein. I have always been obsessed with the works of Tolkien and his vast world with an unmatched level of detail, as is evident by the Elvish letters etched into my very flesh. Seeing these films brought to life with such artistic perfection and respect for the literature was and will be one of the greatest cinematic experiences of my life. “From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth… Until at last I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountain side… Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time… The stars wheeled overhead, and every day was as long as a life age of the earth… But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I’ve been sent back until my task is done.” – Gandalf the White.
The Prestige (2006) – A true embodiment of the power of cinema. With a brilliant script and an amazing cast, Christopher Nolan weaves a perplexing tale of two magicians who wish to be the best at all cost. I’ve seen this movie well over a dozen times and every time I see it, I spot something new.
Spirited Away (2001) – One of my top 5 Miyazaki films, Spirited Away deals with issues of love, family, and greed. While trapped in a spirit world, the main character, Chihiro, must contend with a manipulative witch that wants to slaughter her greedy parents while they are in pig form. The movie does an amazing job of making you feel lost in a world you do not understand, much like childhood.
Harry Potter (All of them!) – I loved growing up with this story. Even though I was well into my late 20s when the first book came out, there was a little wizard in me that got to experience life at Hogwarts. The source material was vast and detailed, while the movies remained thrilling and enchanting. I don’t believe this generation will ever experience anything like that.
Hereditary (2018) – I watched this movie a few days ago and it still haunts me. When time allows, I would like to write a review of the movie, but for now, the reason it is on this list is for its use of magic. The use of magic is subtle. It feels real. It feels as if I am just an incantation away from summoning my own demons if I chose to do so.
The Craft (1996) – Back in the mid-90s, I was in love with these broads and their magical powers. Great soundtrack as well.
Excalibur (1981) – We normally don’t rank our picks, but this is #1 with a bullet for me. The Arthur legend is something I’ve loved since I was a little kid. I remember reading a thousand-page book about the mythical king and his Knights of the Round Table in the third grade, and Excalibur perfectly brought to life what was in my young imagination. Based on Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, this visually stunning film directed by John Boorman features a great performance by Nicol Williamson as Merlin, a young Helen Mirren as the sorceress Morgana, and an epic score that includes the music of Richard Wagner. Fans of this movie no doubt enjoyed hearing Merlin’s “Charm of Making” in Steven Spielberg’s recent ‘80s-nostalgia-fest Ready Player One.
Dragonslayer (1981) – So I guess 1981 was a good year for fantasy movies. At least it seems like the ones I like came out that year. Anyway, I saw this movie when I was a kid and fell in love with it. Ulrich of Craggenmoor is the ultimate “work smarter, not harder” wizard. Think about it. He didn’t want to walk all the way to Urland, so he let his apprentice carry his ashes there and resurrect him in time to fight the great dragon, Vermithrax Pejorative. Of course, he had to let Tyrian stab him in the chest and kill him to do so. OK, so the “smarter” part is debatable, but I digress. This is one of those movies that got me interested in filmmaking when I was young, what with ILM’s incredible work on the practical dragon effects. Did you know that 25% of the film’s budget went towards bringing ol’ V.P. to life? For my money, it’s the best rendition of a mythical dragon put on film so far.
Willow (1988) – One of Ron Howard’s better films, Willow stars a 17-year-old(!) Warwick Davis in his first film role where he wasn’t wearing a costume or mask that covered his face. It also stars Val Kilmer as the dashing and reckless Madmartigan, a disgraced knight that Willow encounters on his journey. Kilmer also delivers a line that my friends and I still quote to this day. Come on, say it with me now: “Out of the way, peck!”
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Peter Jackson’s adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels perfectly captured the images I would get in my mind whenever I would read the words he or any of my other favorite fantasy authors put on the page. This especially goes for the opening scene in The Two Towers that showed Gandalf and the Balrog locked in battle as they plummeted into an underground lake. And those huge battle scenes. An absolutely epic filmmaking achievement.
The Dark Crystal (1982) – I guess I have a soft spot for ‘80s fantasy flicks. What can I say? I’m nostalgic when it comes to my favorite movies. But I guess we all are. Anyways, it was down to this movie, Labyrinth, or The NeverEnding Story for the last spot. The Dark Crystal won out because of the Skeksis (“Friend? FRIEND?!”). They were terrifying to me when I was a kid, but I now think they’re among the coolest creations to come out Jim Henson’s workshop. They were, however, nowhere near as horrifying as Augrha and her damn eye. This is another movie that I was fascinated with the making of and made me want to work in the film industry. Still hoping for that long-teased sequel.
Honorable mentions: Labyrinth, The NeverEnding Story, Stardust, Legend, Clash of the Titans, The Witches of Eastwick, The Witches, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Wizard of Oz, Return to Oz, Lord of Illusions, The Witch, The Brothers Grimm, Passion of the Christ, Mr. Boogedy, Dr. Strange, Sleepy Hollow, Shrek, Hocus Pocus, Kubo and the Two Strings, Conan the Barbarian