Best: Time Bandits (1981)
One of Terry Gilliam’s greatest post-Monty Python achievements, Time Bandits features all of Gilliam’s trademarks, with lavish set design and special effects creating a whole new world that is utterly convincing.
Smart and inventive, Bandits is one for the kid in all of us.
Worst: Ella Enchanted (2004)
A post- Princess Diaries , pre- Brokeback Mountain Anne Hathaway sticks to friendly, fluffy, unoffending stuff as the titular Ella.
The result? A Shrek rip-off with even less charm than that green ogre. Hathaway does her best, perky and winning to the end, but the material she suffers through isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
Best: Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Quite simply the best of the Potters , and all thanks to one man. Y Tu Mama Tambien director Alfonso Cuarón took Chris Columbus’ first two films, scrapped what he hated, and kept what he liked.
The result? The first ‘adult’ Potter film, with production design that absolutely glows, better performances from its three leads, and – crucially – a script that feels tight and purposeful. Unlike the other films in the series, this third Potter movie actually feels like a movie, not just an accompaniment to a book.
Worst: Krull (1983)
Considering the talent involved – a young Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane, not to mention a score from James Horner – it’s a surprise that this fantasy outing doesn’t have more about it.
Unfortunately, it’s as cheesy as last night’s margherita pizza, and shamelessly rips off previous, greater efforts. Then there’s that dreadful ‘80s hair…
Best: Willow (1988)
Dodgy Lord Of The Rings rip-off? Or knowing, affectionate tribute to the great work of JRR Tolkien? We prefer to think of this George Lucas-produced fantasy as the latter. With a winning Warick Davies as the titular hero in a David vs Goliath-style tale, Willow ’s biggest saving grace is its breathless pace.
As we’re introduced to scruffy nomad Val Kilmer, there are also babies to save, annoying little Brownies and a wizened old woman who now looks like an opossum. And just look at those names: Madmartigan, Fin Raziel, Queen Bavmorda, Meegosh. With monikers like that, this is already a winner.
Worst: Tales From Earthsea (2006)
Author Ursula Le Guin famously clutched hold of the rights to her epic book series, afraid of what moviemakers might do to her creation. When she met Studio Ghibli, she was thrilled that they wanted to make an adaptation.
Sadly, it proved to be the studios first big misfire. With Gor Miyazaki directing, Le Guin’s story gets warped and stretched in horrible directions, while even the masterful animation can’t hide the fact that Earthsea needed a defter hand at the reigns. Le Guin herself called the result “disappointing” and “entirely different” from her original stories. Can’t argue with that.
Best: Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s first film together, Scissorhands twists Burton’s penchant for gothic moods with traditional fairytales in order to create something beautifully off-kilter.
Depp’s performance keeps it all together, his turn as the modern day Frankenstein’s monster equal parts faultless, heartbreaking and hilarious. Burton and his star have yet to even come close to replicating the kind of magic evident here.
Worst: Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)
Despite the title, this one just can’t go quickly enough. Production of the futuristic sequel was plagued with injuries (Christopher Lambert had part of his finger chopped off in a fight with Michael Ironside), while John C. McGinley attempted a terrible impersonation of Orson Welles.
Need more proof that it's terrible? The film currently rests at 0% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. That’s one putrid little vegetable.
Best: The Little Mermaid (1989)
Disney’s most magical of fairytale re-tellings - if only because it heralded the Mouse House’s return to diamond-encrusted form for much of the ‘90s, before entering troubled waters once more.
Sure it changed the tragic ending of Hans Christian Andersen’s original fish-out-of-water yarn (c’mon, would Disney really let one of their princesses drown), but their Little Mermaid has one of the most hysterically histrionic baddies (Ursula, what a cleavage) and its fresh formula never feels any less than 100% organic. We hear dolphins like it, too.
Worst: Hawk The Slayer (1981)
The best thing going for Hawk The Slayer is that it’s referenced in an episode of Spaced , with comic shop owner Bilbo boasting that he once hit somebody for calling the film rubbish.
Looks like we’ll have to brace ourselves for a smacking as well, then, because this really is dragon doo-doo. Is it so bad it’s good? Sadly, Hawk can’t even manage that.