Netflix doesn’t have a huge collection of fantasy movies, but you can find several charming (and eclectic) gems. Many combine the fantastic with real struggles, including the remarkable Closet Monster. Or dive straight into the high fantasy realm with The Golden Compass, based on Philip Pullman’s classic novels.
Hopefully you’ll find an intriguing gem below.
Technically a superhero movie, The Old Guard features a series of impressive action sequences, which crop up with each of star Charlize Theron’s gunshots. Theron plays Andy, leader of a group of immortal mercenaries, including a knight who fought in the Crusades. The ancient warriors go on a revenge mission, bringing with them progressive heroes and slick combat, though it can’t dodge every cliché.
This dark fantasy drama comes from Spanish director JA Bayona, who has since branched out into huge franchise chapters, including Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and the first two installments of Prime Video’s upcoming Lord of the Rings series. But perhaps his best work focuses on coming-of-age stories; A Monster Calls follows a troubled boy who encounters a tree that promises to tell him three stories as long as Connor tells him only one. With roots in dark themes, including death, A Monster Calls is a clever, moving fantasy story.
This dark fantasy, co-produced by Sam Raimi, is engraved with the best horror references. Still aimed at younger viewers, Nightbooks flips through a mystery about a young boy who must figure out how to escape a magical apartment owned by Krysten Ritter’s witch Natacha. A grave of pleasure.
A Boy Called Christmas (2021)
A Christmas cracker that delivers a lot of holiday feeling. A Boy Called Christmas won’t win awards for originality, but it certainly delivers what it says on the tin. Young Nikolas embarks on a quest to find the fabled village of the elves, with his friend Blitzen in tow. No prizes for predicting the gift-giving shenanigans to follow.
From Christmas we go to Halloween: Errementari, translated from Spanish as The Blacksmith, is a horror fantasy about a deal with the devil. In northern Spain in the 1830s, a blacksmith keeps a demon captive until an orphaned girl unwittingly releases him. War, murder, kidnapping, suicide and more await in the furnace of this infernal horror with surprising loads of dark comedy.
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Settle in for a fantastic story that may or may not be true. Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) visits his dying father, whose thrilling, impossible stories about his life begin to gain credibility. This sprawling Tim Burton-directed adventure takes us back to the childhood of Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor), where we see his stories come true for themselves. With witches, a circus and bank robberies, Big Fish is a charming prize catch.
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Under the banner of magical realism, Midnight in Paris is as romantic as the city the protagonist saunters in. Owen Wilson plays Gil Pender, a lost screenwriter who escapes his strained relationship while traveling back in time to the 1920s, where he meets the likes of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. Witty, light-hearted and enchanting, Midnight in Paris brings the stars closer to home.
The Aquarius won’t be for everyone. More drama than pure fantasy, this family-friendly adventure deals with themes of grief, loss and friendship. Eleven-year-old Gunner and his family move to a new city, where the bookworm struggles not only with a lack of friends, but also with a hard-hearted father and a mother who suffers from leukemia. His escapism takes him to a fairytale forest, where his fantasy comes to life. An adventurous story about bigger problems.
Closet Monster unlocks multiple genres and uses its fantasy elements to open the door to a fresh and moving coming-of-age story. Scarred by witnessing a homophobic assault, hidden and imaginative teenager Oscar must struggle with his feelings for Wilder. Be warned, Closet Monster blends David Cronenberg levels of body horror into the bigger picture of internalized homophobia. Capped off by Connor Jessup’s outstanding performance, Closet Monster is an indie gem.
The Golden Compass (2007)
Fans of Philip Pullman’s classic fantasy novel series are probably better served by HBO’s adaptation of the TV show. But The Golden Compass, based on the first book, is a solid chapter with generous doses of fantasy escapism. Follow Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards), a young adventurer on a journey from the prized halls of Oxford colleges to the polar bear kingdom of the frozen north. Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Eva Green round out a rich cast.
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It’s not Tim Burton’s best entry, but Dark Shadows offers another chance to admire the director’s signature Gothic visual style. The comedy horror, based on the soap opera of the same name, follows a wealthy playboy who unwisely breaks the heart of a witch (Eva Green). She turns him into a vampire and buries him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas (Johnny Depp) resurfaces and discovers the world of the 1970s while harboring a penchant for revenge. While the characters and plot could be fleshed out considerably, Dark Shadows has a great cast including Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter. Plus, you get Barnabus’s hilarious fish-out-of-water reactions to 1970s pop culture.
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