The movie, the myth, the legend
No, not that kind of mythical movie. These are the very real, very enjoyable movies that deal with all manner of mythological beasts, eras, heroes and - as ever - some highly unhelpful deities. Dipping into the various works of Homer (no, the other one), Stoker and Tolkien, as well as many other unaccredited works, these cinematic marvels translate thousands of years of human imagination onto the silver screen, and do a damn fine job of it.
Of course, any old producer can throw a budget at a well-loved tale of daring-do and leave it squarely at that - here's looking at you Wrath of the Titans. This top 30 list is comprised of those movies that went just that little bit further than most, combining faithfulness and fun, and in so doing, succeeded in adding a whole new dimension to some of history's strangest and most enduring fables.
30. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)
The Movie: Andrew Adamson's adaptation of C.S. Lewis' children's classic has a ball visualising the writer's storyworld, full of creatures from Norse, Roman and Greek myth, including dwarves, fauns and centaurs.
Most Magical Moment: Aslan's army battles the forces of the White Witch.
29. Troy (2004)
The Movie: The legendary siege war between Greeks and Trojans gets the epic treatment from Wolfgang Petersen, with Brad Pitt leading an all-star cast.
Most Magical Moment: Beware Greeks bearing gifts, especially if they come in the form of a huge, hollow wooden horse full of armed soldiers.
28. The Mummy (1999)
The Movie: Stephen Sommers' blockbuster, like the classic 1930s monster movie it remade, was based on ancient ideas that the pharaohs left a curse on their tomb that allowed undead mummies to rise again.
Most Magical Moment: Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) finds American archaeologist Burns (Tuc Watkins), only to discover cursed priest Imhotep has got to him first and removed his eyes and tongue.
27. Oedipus Rex (1967)
The Movie: Pier Paolo Pasolini retells the legend of father-killin', mother-lovin' Oedipus. This being the 1960s, the film artily segues from the present day to classical times and back again without warning.
Most Magical Moment: The penny drops, as Oedipus realises that a) he was adopted and b) his wife happens to be his biological mother, and blinds himself in despair.
26. Jack The Giant Slayer (2013)
The Movie: Giants have loomed large over the mythology of many cultures, but Bryan Singer's blockbuster relocates the ancient Cornish folk tale of Jack the Giant Killer to the fantasy kingdom of Cloister.
Most Magical Moment: A handful of magic beans is thrown to the ground. What'dya know? They grow into a beanstalk, headed straight for the giants' realm.
25. The Abominable Snowman (1957)
The Movie: Yeti have reportedly roamed the Himalayas for centuries, making it inevitable that filmmakers would join the hunt. Perhaps the finest is Hammer's Nigel Kneale-scripted horror, which suggests that maybe the creatures aren't mindless monsters but intelligent creatures.
Most Magical Moment: Peter Cushing's scientist discovers the truth when a group of compassionate Yeti arrive to take home a fallen comrade.
24. Splash (1984)
The Movie: Man meets mermaid, as a classic myth gets the 1980s high-concept romcom treatment.
Most Magical Moment: Nudity has always been part of the mermaid's seductive allure, so Tom Hanks waking up next to a naked Daryl Hannah isn't just titillation, but an integral piece of myth-making. Hey, that's our argument and we're sticking to it.
23. Stargate (1994)
The Movie: Mixing Egyptology with sci-fi wasn't new (Doctor Who did it in the 1970s, for example) but Roland Emmerich's breakthrough founded a franchise on the idea that the Egyptian gods were extra-terrestrials.
Most Magical Moment: Turns out there's a very cool reason why Egyptian tombs are pyramid-shaped; it's because that what the aliens' spaceships look like.
22. The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958)
The Movie: After mostly tackling sci-fi, stop-motion maestro Ray Harryhausen turned to myth (not to mention Technicolor) by supplying the creatures for the first (of three) adventures based on the Arabian folk hero.
Most Magical Moment: Cyclops vs dragon; Harryhausen at his best.
21. Pom Poko (1994)
The Movie: Studio Ghibli's most overtly mythical movie draws on Japanese folklore that its tanuki (raccoon dogs) are mischievous shape-shifters.
Most Magical Moment: Warrior tanuki attack from the sky, using their giant testicles as parachutes. Yes, really.
20. Excalibur (1981)
The Movie: Based on Malory's classic version of Arthurian legend, Morte d'Arthur, John Boorman brought a full-blooded visual intensity (half-romance, half-grit) to the material.
Most Magical Moment: The Knights of the Round Table emerge from the dog during the climactic battle with Morgana's forces.
19. Troll Hunter (2010)
The Movie: This Norwegian mockumentary imagines the fate of Hans, the titular hunter trying to track down various breeds of troll familiar from the country's folklore.
Most Magical Moment: Hans and his team lures a troll from under a bridge using - what else? - goats.
18. I Walked With A Zombie (1943)
The Movie: While the zombies of George A. Romero (and countless imitators) don't really come from a mythical background, several films are based on traditional Haitian folklore - notably this celebrated RKO B-movie about a nurse who discovers a woman cursed by voodoo.
Most Magical Moment: En route to a voodoo ceremony, Betsy Connell (Frances Dee) comes face to face with Carre-Four (Darby Jones), guardian of the crossroads.
17. Die Nibelungen (1924)
The Movie: The classic 13th century German poem about a hero who becomes (nearly) immortal after bathing in dragon's blood formed the basis for Fritz Lang's epic, two-part silent movie.
Most Magical Moment: Siegfried's battle with a dragon. Creaky to modern eyes, maybe, but with a charm and tactility that is refreshing in the age of glossy CGI.
16. O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Movie: Trust the Coen brothers to relocate the Odyssey to Depression-era America, with George Clooney playing the tellingly-named Ulysses trying to find his way back home.
Most Magical Moment: The Cyclops is re-imagined as John Goodman's violent, eyepatch-wearing Bible salesman Big Dan Teague.
15. Time Bandits (1981)
The Movie: 'Myth bandits' would be more accurate, as a group of thieving dwarfs drag a young boy on an adventure through time that includes visits to Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest and Ancient Greece (complete with minotaur).
Most Magical Moment: The bandits think they're safe aboard a ship, only to discover the vessel is actually a hat worn by a giant.
14. 300 (2006)
The Movie: Forget the actual historical Battle Of Thermopylae, as Zack Snyder and Frank Miller print the legend of how 300 Spartan warriors defeated a Persian army full of weird monsters.
Most Magical Moment: Just in case a hapless Persian messenger hasn't figured out where he is, King Leonidas helpfully spells it out by kicking him down a well. "This is Sparta!" indeed.
13. Thor (2011)
The Movie: This is what you get if you take Norse mythology, pretend it all actually happened in space, and then mix the characters with the rest of Marvel's superheroes.
Most Magical Moment: Thor is forced to destroy the Bifrst, the bridge that connects Asgard to Earth. For scholars of Norse mythology, this is officially A BIG DEAL.
12. Clash Of The Titans (1981)
The Movie: Gods (a roll call of Britain's finest thesps) vs monsters (courtesy of Ray Harryhausen), with Harry Hamlin's muscle-man Perseus caught in the crossfire. Avoid the remake.
Most Magical Moment: Perseus takes on Harryhausen's Medusa, a slithering stop-motion nightmare with snakes in her hair and a stare that can turn you to stone.
11. An American Werewolf In London (1981)
The Movie: John Landis takes the legend of lycanthropy and boldly merges it to an even greater myth, namely what Americans think England is like.
Most Magical Moment: David Naughton's still startling transformation, Exhibit A in proving that old-school prosthetics are better than CGI.
10. Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975)
The Movie: King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his Knights of the Round Table ride off in search of the titular goblet. Well, we say 'ride,' although it'd be more accurate to say that they pretend to ride on horses while their servants provide the coconut-based sound effects.
Most Magical Moment: The arrival of the (hitherto unheralded) legend that is the killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. More mythical stories should have a killer rabbit.
9. Aladdin (1992)
The Movie: Borrowing heavily from 1940's The Thief Of Bagdad, Disney adds music and comedy to the best-known of Arabian folk tales.
Most Magical Moment: Aladdin rubs the lamp. Out pops the Genie, who has the voice (and comic timing) of Robin Williams.
8. Orphe (1950)
The Movie: Jean Cocteau borrowed the Greek myth of Orpheus' journey into the underworld as the basis for his surreal modern-day drama about a man plagued by visitations from Death and weird radio messages.
Most Magical Moment: Orpheus (Jean Marais) plunges his hand into a mirror - the gateway to the underworld - and it dissolves into liquid.
7. How To Train Your Dragon (2010)
The Movie: Less a specific myth than an abstraction of Viking and dragon lore, this DreamWorks classic - with assistance from cinematography legend Roger Deakins - redefined how epic animation can be.
Most Magical Moment: Hiccup and Toothless take flight. Wow.
6. The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)
The Movie: The definitive screen version of Sherwood Forest's finest sees Errol Flynn speak treason (fluently) as he robs from the rich to give to the poor.
Most Magical Moment: Robin's climactic duel with Guy of Gisborne sees the men spar with words as much as swords. "Do you know any prayers, my friend?" asks Guy, to which Robin cheekily replies, "I'll say one for you!"
5. Princess Mononoke (1997)
The Movie: The clue is in the name. 'Mononoke' means spirit, and Hayao Miyazaki's historical fantasy creates its dramatis personae from the various spirits of traditional Japanese folklore.
Most Magical Moment: The kodama (tree spirits) awaken to watch the 'nightwalker', the Great Spirit of the Forest.
4. The Lord Of The Rings (2001-3)
The Movie: Peter Jackson does J.R.R.R.R.R.R. Tolkien. Worth remembering, though, that Tolkien based much of Middle Earth on his lifelong interest in Old Norse mythology.
Most Magical Moment: "You shall not pass!" Gandalf - modelled partially on Norse god Odin - makes his stand against a Balrog on the Asgard-esque Bridge of Khazad-dm.
3. Nosferatu (1922)
The Movie: Let's be honest, we could fill this list with films based on vampire legends. Instead, we're singling out the most influential: F.W. Murnau's silent adaptation of Dracula, which swaps Bram Stoker's urbane gentleman vampire for Max Schreck's hideous monster.
Most Magical Moment: Count Orlok rises from his coffin. Shudder.
2. Jason And The Argonauts (1963)
The Movie: Jason (Todd Armstrong) goes in search of the Golden Fleece, but - thanks to Ray Harryhausen's iconic creature designs - it's the journey, not the destination, that counts.
Most Magical Moment: Jason kills the Hydra only for its teeth to re-emerge as sword-wielding skeleton warriors - one of the most complex live-action/stop-motion sequences ever devised, but worth the effort.
1. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
The Movie: Amidst the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, reality and fantasy collide as young girl Ofelia finds her way into a labyrinth controlled by a faun-like creature modelled on Pan, the Greek god of hunting.
Most Magical Moment: Ofelia is pursued by the Pale Man - in fact, a nightmarish creature from the imagination of Guillermo Del Toro rather than any overt mythological basis, but so creepy you'd believe he'd been haunting us for centuries.