5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
The Python's first original feature (And Now For Something Completely Different was based on a previous sketch) recently celebrated its 40th birthday, but it's still as brilliantly bonkers as ever. Easily the funniest Python film, Holy Grail revels in surrealism. Slapstick, fourth wall-breaking, innuendo, and dry-as-a-bone delivery all play a key part in its humor. This isn't just a bunch of chain maille gags.
Still, its deceptively simple premise - King Arthur attempts to recruit Knights for his Round Table - is really just cover for some genuinely smart comedy.
4. Ghostbusters (1984)
Spooky goings-on and things that go bump in the night are usually limited to the horror genre. Ivan Reitman's original supernatural comedy dips its slime-drenched toes into a lot of waters. I mean, how can you say a gang of four guys dressed up in crappy overalls blasting away at ghosts isn't a fantasy?
That's where Reitman and screenwriters Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis clean up. Take things like Zuul, the Gatekeeper, the Keymaster; names and mantles that owe a lot to traditional mythic storytelling. What's clever about Ghostbusters, and a hell of a lot of fun, is how those elements are combined with what's essentially an extermination startup to make a fantastical horror that's funny as hell. Or 55 Central Park West. Whatever your preference.
3. Labyrinth (1986)
Jennifer Connelly's petulant teen. Jim Henson's seamless puppetry. David Bowie's, er, music, Labyrinth takes classical fairytales and has fun spinning them on their heads, whether that's in the form of finger-biting fairies, unhelpful guides (“Hoggle is Hoggles friend!”), or mind-bending word games (“One of us always lies, one of us always tells the truth.”)
It's remained a classic for a reason. Several, actually. The grand world and its cheeky inhabitants crafted by Henson still inspire awe, and twinned with Bowie's vocal stylings there's no other movie that touches it. Yeah, it's a tad creepy at times (the bog lady? Hello insomnia) but there's a greater message buried inside the labyrinth, that's all about friendship. Aww.
2. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Lyrical, beautiful, so big that you imagine a few projectionists muttered 'we're gonna need a bigger screen' when the reels came in. The first chapter in Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh's Tolkien adaptation broke all the rules. It also broke the box office, netting an insane $871 million worldwide. It's hard to imagine that was a surprise at the time - for what was an incredibly expensive gamble. But this was over a decade before the likes of Game of Thrones dragged fantasy into the mainstream.
It all paid off, though, the story of a young Hobbit's mission to locate a ring captured the imaginations of an entire generation. Everything was spot-on, from the casting, the gorgeous set designs, the visual effects, the writing. Saying that, it's not quite the fantasy movie to rule them all, though...
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
A children's film that's too scary for children. A book adaptation that totally eclipses the source material. And a musical that you're not afraid to be caught humming along to.
Not only is it the finest fantasy yarn ever committed to celluloid, Victor Fleming's glittering adaptation is also a film that wholeheartedly embraced the technology of the time. With Oz released in Technicolor, that colour was a big deal - so big that Dorothy's original silver slippers were turned ruby to make them really pop. This springs to life all because of those glorious details, making us feel like we're right there with the young Miss Gale, trotting down that bright yellow brick road and befriending the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow.