The 25 best fantasy movies for when life just gets too much

20. Pleasantville (1998)

Pleasantville’s premise is straight-up fantasy: Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire play modern siblings who get sucked into a black-and-white 1950s sitcom. Sounds cool enough on its own, but the real treat comes from the changes their very existence impresses upon the small town of Pleasantville. Their presence slowly blushes the world into startling Technicolor.

 That development is seen as utterly taboo by the conservative townsfolk, leading the movie to dabble with conformity versus being true to one's self. It's beautifully realised throughout the film, but the most heart-breaking example is Maguire helping his screen mom (a superb Joan Allen) apply her b&w make-up. Swoonsome stuff.

Watch Pleasantville now on Amazon Prime Video 

19. Mary Poppins (1964)

Released at the height of Disney's cinematic powers, this sugar-coated musical benefits from Julie Andrews' bewitching turn as the titular nanny. It's a wondrous blend of live-action and animation that pops to vivid Technicolor at every opportunity. As Mary teaches the Banks children how to knuckle down in life but have fun doing it, she heals a lovely family who’ve forgotten how to be together. Cinematic genius or foolproof way of making a generation of youngsters excited about doing the vacuuming? 

It's the cinematic equivalent of a spoonful of sugar. A spoonful that's possibly been laced with PCP - which may go someway to explaining Dick Van Dyke's insane Lahndaan accent. 

Watch Mary Poppins now on Amazon Prime Video

18. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

It’s “Scrumdiddlyumptious!” yelled the film's original poster, and I couldn't agree more.By replacing Charlie with Wonka in the title, we're forewarned that this film is really about the nutty factory owner himself and less about the young whippersnapper who comes to idolise him.

Yes, it's Wonka himself, brilliantly played by a twinkly-eyed Gene Wilder who commands your attention throughout. A confectioner with a love for embracing the childlike wonder within, it's impossible not to become enamoured with his brightly-coloured world. But, that's not to say this is all sweetness and light. Like Wonka's chocolate, this is dark, occasionally bitter, but always delicious.

Watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory now on Amazon Prime Video 

17. The Witches (1990)

Only writer Roald Dahl could dream up something this wickedly simple, and only director Nicolas Roeg could translate Dahl's vision onto the screen without watering it down a jot. This is a blissfully dark fantasy.

Alright, so he fixed the downer ending which whiffs of studio meddling that Dahl himself wasn't impressed with. Despite those changes, you can't fault the audacity of Anjelica Huston's hideous transformation. She plays Eva Ernst, an aristocrat who's actually the Grand High Witch in disguise. It's her unmasking - literally, she peels off her face - that sums up Roeg's otherwise no-holds-barred approach to the source material.

Watch The Witches now on Amazon Prime Video

16. The Neverending Story (1984)

Somewhat creaky with age when you watch it back now, The Neverending Story’s dated effects and patchy puppets offer a rickety charm to the book adaptation. Be warned, the title is a bit of a lie as it does actually have an ending. 

Still, The Neverending Story holds up to continuous watches and is packed with plenty of warmth, which is surprising as the central 'villain' is a depression epidemic called The Nothing. The Nothing threatens to wipe out all that is good and creative in the world of Fantasia, which we learn about through a young lad named Bastion. He finds solace in a storybook about the apparently fictional land, but things take a strange twist when it turns out that Bastion himself might be part of the plot, and essential to the survival of Fantasia.

Watch The Neverending Story now on Amazon Prime Video