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The 30 Best Fantasy Movies Of The '80s Ranked

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Of all the numerous genres of fiction, perhaps none is more limitless than the realm of fantasy. By its very nature, fantasy lets stories unfold, which aren't beholden to the laws of our own occasionally mundane lives. The only limits here are the imaginations of audiences. Perhaps it's no surprise then that viewers have sought out the escape of fantasy films since the earliest days of cinema, when Alice Guy directed what some argue is the first narrative film in 1896: a fantasy called "The Cabbage Fairy" (via Women Film Pioneers Project).

The fantasy genre evolved over the decades, and arguably, hit its greatest stride in the 1980s. From wizards and witches to heroes and villains, we'll be counting off the 30 best fantasy flicks to be released during the '80s. Don't be too bummed out though if you don't see your favorite at no. 1; the competition is just that fierce. So, dust off your crystal ball and sharpen your sword, as we'll be setting off an epic adventure to find the best of the best.

30. Red Sonja

While it's at the bottom spot on our list, we do have to start somewhere, and "Red Sonja" deserves to be mentioned on any list of great fantasy flicks from the '80s. An example of the barbarian sub-genre of fantasy that was popularized by films like 1982's "Conan the Barbarian," 1985's "Red Sonja" is one that saw Arnold Schwarzenegger return in a similar role, albeit with much less memorable results. Despite that, it remains a solid pick for fantasy fiends looking for a relevant title they might have never seen before.

"Red Sonja" is based on the 1973 Marvel character, who first appeared in the "Conan the Barbarian" comics, and it follows the same story: After becoming the victim of a brutal attack, Sonja (Brigitte Nielsen in her debut film role) vows revenge. Along the way, she encounters the powerful Lord Kalidor (Schwarzenegger), and the two form an unlikely alliance to take down the people that wronged her. Sure, the story is pretty average, the reviews were anything but, and the acting isn't quite what we'd call Oscar-worthy, but "Red Sonja" makes up for it with plenty of campy humor. After all, isn't that what makes '80s fantasy so great?

29. Krull

Released in 1983, "Krull" definitely didn't get the recognition it deserved upon release. Sure, it's not without its imperfections (which critics and audiences were quick to point out), but we think it brings enough to the table to outweigh its faults. If nothing else, its truly unique melding of both your typical fantasy hallmarks and '80s sci-fi themes make it something special among even objectively better fantasy offerings.

The film is set on the faraway planet of Krull, which has become the victim of an alien invasion at the hands of a tyrannical being known as the Beast and his evil legions. The ruling kingdoms of Krull try to fight back, but their armies are annihilated by the invaders. A group of survivors — led by Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) — mounts a desperate quest to slay the Beast and free the planet from his rule. Notable for starring a young Liam Neeson, "Krull" is a lot of things both good and bad, but one thing it's certainly not is something you've seen done before.

28. Hawk the Slayer

"Sword and Sorcery" is a term used to describe fantasy films that focus on a sword-swinging hero fighting against hordes of monsters and magic (via Black Gate Magazine). One of the first films in that sub-genre to grace audiences in the '80s, the 1980 movie "Hawk the Slayer" has been largely ignored by all but the most zealous fans of all things fantasy. 

In a fantastical time and place, a family has been divided, as two brothers are locked in a deadly quarrel that leaves their father dead. The object of their desire is a powerful sword embedded with a magical stone, which allows its user to communicate with the weapon telepathically. From there, the two siblings must raise their respective armies to determine the future of the land.

"Hawk the Slayer" is certainly far from a perfect movie, but there's something special that happens when you put on this forgotten relic, as you realize it's firmly within the "so bad, it's good category" of films. Some questionable set design and too many cheesy moments to keep track of all add up to make it a hilarious yet charming pick for our list.

27. The Beastmaster

If campy '80s fantasy is something you're looking for, 1982's "The Beastmaster" definitely won't disappoint. A child named Dar (Marc Singer) is prophesied to take down the evil wizard Maax (Rip Torn). After Dar narrowly escapes an early death, he is raised in secret. What Dar soon discovers is that he possesses the ability to communicate with the animals of the world, a gift he spends his childhood learning how to control. His life of peace and quiet is forever destroyed, however, when his family is slain by Maax's minions years later, which causes him to swear to get his revenge on his parent's killers.

While "The Beastmaster" is somewhat bogged down by its over two-hour runtime, some gloriously cheesy action and goofy fantasy moments make it an excellent guilty pleasure for devoted fans of the genre. The film's influence lived on as it inspired the spin-off series "BeastMaster" in the late '90s, which makes "The Beastmaster" a name familiar to many '80s kids, for better or worse.

26. The Barbarians

With a name like "The Barbarians," this 1987 film is fittingly rough around the edges on both a technical and storytelling level. The R-rated flick followed in the footsteps of other barbarian films that came before it by telling a narrative typical of these movies, while also embracing the goofier aspects of the sub-genre. All of the unbridled nudity and stomach-churning violence that you might expect is there, so for the right crowd, it'll prove to be a favorite, no matter how many naysayers it might have.

Set in a distant yet fictional past, an innocent tribe is massacred by a roaming warlord known as Kadar (Richard Lynch). The wicked villain makes a terrible mistake, however, by keeping two of the battered tribe's youngest members alive as his prisoners. Years later — and now absolutely bursting with muscles — the pair break free from Kadar's grasp. They reunite with other survivors and prepare a blood-filled quest to right the wrongs committed against them.

25. Legend

1985's "Legend" was the first film released by acclaimed director Ridley Scott after his back-to-back successes of "Alien" and "Blade Runner," but the director's attempt at delving into fantasy was a bit of a mixed bag. Despite being a failure at the time both critically and financially, "Legend" has gone on to become something of a cult classic. Starring a young Tom Cruise just before his breakout role in "Top Gun," as well as being the film debut of Mia Sara (of "Ferris Bueller" fame), it's not hard to understand why this one is remembered fondly by many.

Set in a world on the brink of being consumed by evil, the aptly named Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) plans to reign over the land by annihilating all of the unicorns. Daring to stand against him are the powerful hero Jack O' the Green (Tom Cruise) and Princess Lili (Mia Sara). Despite the somewhat standard plot, Scott successfully evokes some of the gloomier aspects of his prior work to turn "Legend" into a gripping tale of dark fantasy, and one of the better examples of the genre.

24. The Black Cauldron

Nowadays, the name Disney is one that feels almost untouchable. The media powerhouse consistently brings to life some of our favorite properties, and is responsible for imagining some of the most beloved characters and stories in history. Despite the brand's incredible presence in all things pop culture, however, things weren't always so peachy for the house of mouse. 

If we take a trip back to 1985, Disney was in the throes of dealing with what remains their biggest animated flop to date, and one that nearly shuttered the entire Disney animation department for good. Does "The Black Cauldron" deserve its infamous reputation though? We're not so sure.

The fantasy tale that unfolds in "The Black Cauldron" is admittedly familiar territory: A young boy ascends from the lowly ranks of peasantry to a legendary hero. Where the film manages to shine is in its particularly grim tone and solid character development, marking a return to form at the time for Disney animation. While it may be a far cry from the best Disney film ever released, it nonetheless deserves praise for everything it got right and is a treat for any fantasy fan.

23. Willow

Before legendary author J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy "Lord of the Rings" novels were adapted into an equally astounding film series, audiences had to settle for 1988's "Willow" as the premiere fantasy epic of the time. That's not to say this one was lousy by any means, but it's a bit tough to fully enjoy for anyone familiar with "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Still, an imaginative world and truly fun tone make it well worth checking out for casual fans and hardcore fantasy buffs alike.

It is prophesied that a child will be born, who will topple the rule of the tyrannical Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh). So, extreme measures are taken to prevent the queen's demise: All pregnant women are persecuted and imprisoned in the queen's castle. One child, however, is snuck out of this prison and taken to the faraway village of Nelwyn. The villagers soon discover the baby's untapped potential and embark on a journey led by the titular Willow (Warwick Davis) to deliver the child to a safe haven. 

Ron Howard directed and George Lucas produced "Willow," so it's no surprise that this movie is filled with vast world-building and quality performances. All of this combines to make "Willow" a thoroughly entertaining romp, which has become so beloved over the years (more so by audiences than critics) that Disney+ is releasing a sequel series in 2022.

22. Return to Oz

Undoubtedly one of the greatest movies of all time, 1939's "The Wizard of Oz" has become a pop culture staple ever since it was first released in theaters. Adapted from L. Frank Baum's novel of the same name, the film opted to stray from some of the source material's more frightening aspects in the hopes of being more enjoyable for audiences. Far less well-known but perhaps equally worthy of your attention is the spiritual sequel, "Return to Oz," which touches upon themes far, far darker than the original film, which are much more in line with Frank Baum's original story.

Hitting theaters during the summer of '85, the film sees Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) return to the land of Oz only to find it a shadow of its former self: It's overrun by nightmarish creatures and completely crumbling. So, it's up to Dorothy to uncover the truth of what happened in her absence and restore Oz to its former glory. 

Unlike the 1939 classic, this return to the land of Oz failed to enchant many critics. Admittedly, a truly eerie tone hangs throughout the entirety of this one, making it understandable why it may have scared away some audiences who were looking for another lighthearted adventure. That said, if you're like us and prefer your fantasy with a healthy dose of grim darkness, "Return to Oz" is a perfect pick.

21. Clash of the Titans

Inspired by Greek mythology, the 1981 film "Clash of the Titans" is a thoroughly entertaining, yet at times painfully dated take on the legend of Perseus. When a prophecy predicts his death at the hands of his grandson Perseus (Harry Hamlin), the King of Argos (Donald Houston) banishes him from the land. The child's father just so happens to be Zeus — the god of sky and thunder — who unleashes untold destruction on both the king and his city. The already complicated life of Perseus only gets more so from there, however, as he winds up doing battle with some of the most fearsome monsters in Greek mythology.

Both fans and seasoned movie critics agreed that commendable action and storytelling made "Clash of the Titans" one of the better retellings of Greek legend, but some second-class effects by today's standards keep it from becoming truly great. That said, if you're a fan of all things '80s, you might just find its old-fashioned approach to the visuals more charming than distracting.

20. Conan the Barbarian

Perhaps one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's most memorable roles (at least before the release of "The Terminator" later that same year), the 1984 film "Conan the Barbarian" is one in which the bodybuilder-turned-California-governor has plenty of time to show off his muscles. Of course, there's more to the story than that, though it's mainly remembered for containing enough nudity and blood-soaked violence to make this one exclusively intended for a more mature audience.

The film is based on the character created by Robert E. Howard in 1932, which was later adapted as a Marvel comic in 1970 (via Conan.com). The movie follows Conan (Schwarzenegger), who bears witness to his parents' brutal murder at the hands of a wicked warlord. Conan is forced into servitude, and he vows revenge against his enemies. He spends his adolescence training to become a powerful warrior, finally breaking free one day and beginning his life's mission for vengeance. It proves to be easier said than done, however, as he first has to spend his days tracking down the man responsible for his parents' deaths, Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones).

19. Ladyhawke

Though it's not quite at the top, we would likely disappoint many fantasy fans if we omitted 1985's enchanting "Ladyhawke" from our list. Directed by Richard Donner of "Goonies" fame, it has much of the same charm as some of his best known films, while also being intended for slightly more mature audiences. 

The film is set during the medieval era in Italy, when the people live under the thumb of a tyrannical Bishop (John Wood). A band of unlikely characters becomes the only hope to bring freedom to the land: fugitive thief Phillipe (Matthew Broderick), veteran guard turned against the Bishop Navarre (Rutger Hauer), and Anjou royalty Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer). Despite their various backgrounds, the trio must work together if they hope to evade the evil Bishop's reign for good. 

An exciting tale of romance and swordplay, "Ladyhawke" has a lot of things going for it, although a notoriously ill-fitting soundtrack is not one of them. Despite the unforgivable assault on audience's ears, the underrated fantasy epic soared with enough viewers to make it on our list.

18. The Witches of Eastwick

While it may not be set in faraway lands, 1987's "The Witches of Eastwick" certainly incorporates some fantastical elements. This R-rated dark comedy was surprisingly the first feature film of director George Miller to not fall under the "Mad Max" franchise. In fact, it couldn't be further from his sci-fi roots. Despite the major departure from his previous work, the final product of Miller's first venture into comedy is still remembered fondly by many today.

The raunchy comedy stars Jack Nicholson as Daryl Horne, an irreverent newcomer with a mysterious past and strange abilities, who arrives in the sleepy Rhode Island town of Eastwick. There, he meets three women – Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon), and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer) — who have all proven unlucky in love over the years. 

That luck is seemingly about to change, however, as Daryl enters into a relationship with each member of the trio. What none of them anticipate, though, is that this unlikely love affair is going to transform the three women into a coven of witches, whose newfound powers might just be the only thing that can match Daryl's own abilities.

17. The Sword and the Sorcerer

"The Sword and the Sorcerer" is, as you might expect, another example of the sword and sorcery sub-genre. Receiving generally mixed reviews, this 1982 flick got plenty wrong and just as much right, but we still think it's a thoroughly exciting adventure and one that might just be a bit underrated.

The peaceful rule of King Richard (Christopher Cary) finds itself in peril, as dark forces led by the undead sorcerer Xusia (Richard Moll) march on his kingdom. At the order of the rival King Cromwell (Richard Lynch), King Richard and his army meet a gruesome fate, which leaves his kingdom in shambles. One of the only survivors amidst the carnage is Richard's son Prince Talon (Lee Horsley), who swiftly goes into hiding to plan his revenge. Years later, he returns with a fittingly epic if not wholly impractical three-bladed sword, ready to make good on his promise to vanquish both Xusia and Cromwell.

16. Highlander

With 30 fantasy offerings on our lineup and countless more films in the genre released throughout the '80s that didn't make the cut, it's understandable that things might get a bit repetitive story-wise. However, that certainly can't be said for the 1985 film "Highlander," and the film makes that clear right from the beginning. Opening with a grisly duel to the death in present day New York City, it only gets wilder from there, as "Highlander" descends down a rabbit hole through time and fantasy.

For centuries, a select few people born with the gift of immortality have been locked in a constant stalemate marked by bloodshed. Their long battle will only end on a day known as the Gathering, in which the final fighter standing will harness the power of all those who came before them. Of the immortals, one in particular named Kurgan (Clancy Brown) plans to use power for evil should he win, which causes others of his kind to try and stop his wicked plans.

Generally loved by audiences and critics alike, and not content with simply being a beloved fantasy epic of swordplay and warriors, "Highlander" was even followed by a '90s television series bearing the same name. Continuing the story where the film left off, the series spanned six seasons and received praise in its own right. That said, it's hard to top the original tale of centuries-old fantasy warfare.

15. Excalibur

1981's "Excalibur" is our second entry to star a young Liam Neeson (in his third film role), and it is also remembered as an early film for Patrick Stewart, just a few years before his breakout success on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." A dramatic retelling of the legend of King Arthur, "Excalibur" did solid numbers upon release and was one of the top-grossing films of the year (via Box Office Mojo). It did pretty well with critics too and many agree that it's one of the best, if not the best, film adaptations of the legends of King Arthur to date.

Thanks to its early 1980s release, "Excalibur" helped pave the way for some of the other fantasy offerings of the decade thanks to its stylized approach to the Arthurian legend. Director John Boorman also wasn't afraid to incorporate some brutal violence and equally graphic sexual themes into his version of King Arthur's life, which adds a distinct feel to the film. On top of all of this, thrilling action and mythology plus a stellar cast (including Sean Connery and Helen Mirren) combine to help round out "Excalibur" as a must-see for any fantasy fan.

14. The Flight of Dragons

1982's "The Flight of Dragons" is set in a world that was once dominated by the laws of magic. But new discoveries in the realm of science threaten to unseat the ways of the old world and make it disappear for good. So, a group of the last remaining wizards decide to establish a sanctuary, which follows the ways of magic and can ensure its continuation.

However, the wizard Ommadon (James Earl Jones) goes rogue and plans to destroy all of mankind that he believes abandoned him and his magical brethren. The wizards enlist the help of a group of heroes to stop the evil Ommadon and a present-day scientist Peter (John Ritter) gets teleported back into this time to work with them.

Thanks to its cheesy poster, you might feel tempted to dismiss this one as only suitable for a younger crowd, but "The Flight of Dragons" is a film that's enjoyable for all ages. With the central theme of the film asking audiences the question of whether superstition and science can truly coexist, it deserves its spot on our list of greatest fantasy adventures of the '80s.

13. The Last Unicorn

Another animated entry, "The Last Unicorn" is one that is likely near and dear to many fantasy buffs' hearts. It has many of the hallmarks of a great fairy tale: Our heroes must overcome seemingly overwhelming odds and an enchanting love story fully develops by the end. It's further improved by a truly compelling story, and one populated by characters that at times defy fantasy conventions.

An unnamed unicorn (Mia Farrow) believes that she is the last of her kind still roaming free because the rest of the unicorns have been imprisoned by an evil entity known only as the Red Bull. So, she embarks on a quest to liberate her species. Along the way, she is joined by a magician named Schmendrick (Alan Arkin) and Prince Lir (Jeff Bridges). 

Where it departs from your typical fairy tale is in both its clever dialogue rarely seen in a children's film, as well as more realistic heroes who occasionally have less than selfless motivations. Of course, solid reception from critics and even better response from audiences help set it apart from most fantasy films as well. Altogether, "The Last Unicorn" is one fondly remembered by fantasy fans in the know, and one well worth giving a watch for those who aren't.

12. Beetlejuice

"Beetlejuice" might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of fantasy films, but just hear us out on this one. Following a tragic motor accident that sends their car careening off a bridge, married couple Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) return home to find that they actually died in the wreck. Now forced to haunt their former house for the foreseeable future, the Maitlands' attempts to scare away its newest residents all end in failure. When they turn to the chaotic specter Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) for help, however, he winds up doing far more harm than good.

Hardly any of your typical fantasy tropes are to be found in "Beetlejuice," but the hilariously bureaucratic world of the undead and its assorted creatures that dominate the film still plant it firmly within the category of fantasy. Plus, the macabre story truly goes above and beyond when it comes to world-building, taking its time to fully explore its comically twisted setting. While our protagonists and just about everyone they meet belong six feet under, "Beetlejuice" still deserves the high praise it gets.

11. The Dark Crystal

Best known for creating "The Muppets," Jim Henson is fondly remembered as one of the most talented and creative puppeteers in history. Not all of the beloved artist's projects starred his most famous oddball cast of characters though, with Henson directing two wholly original fantasy stories in the '80s shortly before his untimely passing. The first of the two was 1982's "The Dark Crystal," which takes both Henson's puppetry skills and boundless imagination to the next level.

On the distant reaches of the planet Thra, the destruction of a magical crystal marked the beginning of a millennia of fighting between two races. The larger and more powerful Skeksis have since learned how to use what remains of the crystal to steal the lives of the less powerful Gelflings. With the planet now on the brink of falling into permanent control of the Skeksis, the future of all Gelflings rests in the hands of one named Jen, who is prophesied to repair the crystal and save the rest of his kind. Like much of Henson's work, "The Dark Crystal" remains a tour de force for the art of puppetry, and one that's been rightly remembered by audiences and critics as such. 

10. Labyrinth

Following his first major foray into a non-Muppet world in "The Dark Crystal," Jim Henson continued on his exploration of fantasy with "Labyrinth" in 1986. "Labyrinth" still stands as one of the greatest fantasy films of the decade, even though the film's numbers at the box office would make you think otherwise (via Box Office Mojo). After recklessly wishing for her brother Toby to be sent to the fictional land of goblins, 16-year-old Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is shocked to see the Goblin King Jareth (David Bowie) appear to grant her wish. 

Realizing the error of her ways, her desperate pleas to free her brother are met with a challenge by Jareth: If she successfully traverses his mystical labyrinth within 13 hours, he'll free her brother. If she fails, Toby will remain with the goblins for good and become one himself. Now lost in the titular labyrinth, Sarah must rely on her own wit and the creatures within to save her brother.

The dazzling story of "Labyrinth" is only made better by its downright masterful use of puppetry that only an artist like Henson could've provided. Of course, the cast alone could have just been the best part, as a young Jennifer Connelly stars alongside David Bowie (in a role he almost never had). The two of them join forces to make this one a decidedly '80s flick that we'll never stop loving, and one that, despite being comparable to "The Dark Crystal" when it comes to reception, we just couldn't leave off the top 10.

9. Dragonslayer

In early medieval times, Vermithrax, a wicked dragon, is the true ruler of the kingdom he lives in. With the surrounding people going about their lives in a state of constant fear, their only hope for survival is to regularly sacrifice their peers to the colossal beast. Hoping to end the reign of terror, a wizard's apprentice takes on his mentor's last mission: He vows to slay the dragon and bring lasting peace to the land.

Though the tale of a plucky band of heroes setting off to slay a powerful dragon is nothing new, few have done it better than "Dragonslayer" before or since its 1981 release. While the story that unfolds is enough to carry the film on its own merit, it's the fearsome antagonist that steals the show. Critics agreed that the dragon was the greatest part of the film too. 

Richard Schickel of Time Magazine referred to the beast as "one of the few feature creatures who actually live up to the descriptions offered by terrified witnesses during the buildup. He has scale as well as scales, snorts realistic fire and generally represents an artful blending of mechanical and special-effects work." If you're going to have your story revolve around a dragon, you darn well better get it right, and "Dragonslayer" certainly does.

8. The Company of Wolves

Fantasy and horror are two genres that can be seamlessly intertwined by a talented artist. The endless boundaries of fantasy allow the darkest parts of a writer or director's mind to be fully explored, with the end result being some of the most frightening stories ever told. While most fantasy films of the '80s weren't adventurous enough to truly combine the two genres, a few trailblazers like 1984's "The Company of Wolves" dared to experiment with the concept.

A twisted reimagining of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, this one relies heavily on visual symbolism to spin a cautionary tale of trusting those you don't know. Given that the story almost entirely takes place within the mind of a sleeping girl, it's blanketed in a fittingly dreamlike quality that at times transforms into a nightmare during its many haunting sequences. 

Critics praised the film for its originality, with Roger Ebert commending its chilling tone in his 1985 review: "The movie has an uncanny, hypnotic force; we always know what is happening, but we rarely know why, or how it connects with anything else, or how we can escape from it, or why it seems to correspond so deeply with our guilts and fears. That is, of course, almost a definition of a nightmare."

7. The NeverEnding Story

Beyond the confines of reality, there lies a sprawling and beautiful empire known as Fantasia. Its future is now called into question, however, thanks to a mysterious and withering force known only as "The Nothing." Consuming and destroying all in its path, the Nothing threatens the very existence of Fantasia should it manage to engulf the land. Standing alone against the barren expanse is a young boy named Atreyu, as well as his steed Artax. Together, they hope to cure the dying Empress of Fantasia and restore the realm to its former glory.

Packed with some of the most imaginative creature designs you'll find in film, 1984's "The NeverEnding Story" surely has a special place in the heart of anyone lucky enough to watch it growing up. The love both critics and audiences feel for this one is truly never-ending itself, as even today we remember it as one of the greatest entries in the fantasy genre

It's also one of the most unsettling children's films of the '80s, as the truly terrifying nature of the story's unseen antagonist is always looming in the back of viewer's minds. Combined with the increasingly bleak chances for Atreyu's success as the film progresses, all the pieces work together to make this just as captivating of a story as it is chilling.

6. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Hayao Miyazaki is a name familiar to animation enthusiasts everywhere thanks to his frequent usage of the medium throughout his outstanding filmography. Best known for his work released under Studio Ghibli, the Japanese director actually created a number of films prior to his time with them, with 1984's "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” being one of his greatest.

Generations after an apocalyptic event occurred that forever changed the natural balance of the world, humans have been unseated as the dominant organism on Earth. In their place, various species of giant insects roam the planet throughout a newly formed ecosystem that blankets much of the planet known as the toxic jungle. Amidst the chaos is a 16-year-old girl named Nausicaä (Sumi Shimamoto), whose unusual ability to communicate with the colossal beasts may be the key to forging a lasting peace between them and mankind.

Arguably one of the most influential and best anime films of all time, "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” is a favorite of both critics and fans, and is remembered for helping pave the way for later films in the genre. The film's success also helped Miyazaki found Studio Ghibli, which makes this one especially enjoyable for both fantasy enthusiasts and those looking for a crucial piece of animation history.

5. Time Bandits

Even if you've never heard the name Terry Gilliam, there's a good chance you're familiar with his work. From the beloved "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" to the mind-bending dystopia of "12 Monkeys," Gilliam's creative range is nearly limitless. The director typically incorporates real-life and mature themes into his movies, which can sometimes make them unapproachable for younger audiences.

However, with 1981's "Time Bandits," Gilliam crafted a story specifically for a younger crowd and used his skills to make something with lasting appeal, which is enjoyable for audiences of all ages. Plus, this one proved to be a hit, both critically and at the box office, further establishing Gilliam as a master of his craft and allowing for his more unconventional films like "Brazil" to see the light of day not long after.

Kevin (Craig Warnock) is a young boy who has a keen interest in all things history. He's shocked one night when the line between fantasy and reality is broken by way of a portal hidden in his room. With all manner of beings now crossing between the planes of reality, Kevin is swept up into an elaborate adventure involving a horde of stolen treasure. "Time Bandits" is easily one of the best '80s fantasy films thanks to Gilliam's vision and its truly expansive cast of characters across both history and mythology, played by such legends as Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, and John Cleese.

4. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Though it's perhaps not quite as well known as some of the other more iconic entries on our list, "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" definitely deserves more recognition. Another one directed by Terry Gilliam, the 1988 film was his last to be created during that decade, following the release of both "Time Bandits" and "Brazil" a few years earlier. While it wound up crashing and burning at the box office, the few people who did see it gave it glowing reviews at the time, which makes this a hidden gem in the renowned director's filmography.

Set during the 18th century in an alternate history Europe that has been gripped by war, a small city is under siege by an invading Ottoman army. Among the people inside the city is an elderly man who claims to be the real Baron Munchausen (John Neville). Legends are based upon Baron Munchausen, and he claims that he's the only one who can save the city from annihilation. The downright bizarre ways in which he plans on doing that are so unpredictable that only a truly eccentric director like Terry Gilliam could have ever made it work.

3. The Secret of Nimh

Returning to the realm of animated entries, "The Secret of Nimh" is easily one of the best in its class, proving that animated titles can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. In fact, we'd be hesitant to put this one on for some of younger audiences, as despite the G-rating and cheery looking video cover, "The Secret of Nimh" is a surprisingly dark and twisted story. Death and hopelessness are central themes that the characters must cope with on a daily basis, which combine to make their desperate bid for survival feel that much more dire.

Set on a plot of land owned by a human farmer, a lowly field mouse named Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman) struggles to get by with her children. When one of them falls ill, she has no choice but to seek the assistance of a nearby community of rats. Once there, however, Brisby discovers that not all is as it seems with the rats, and getting the help she needs will be far more difficult than expected. Although it may be surprising to see this lesser-known title so high up, it's hard to argue with the overwhelmingly positive reception it's received, making it hard to beat.

2. My Neighbor Totoro

One of the first films by famed Japanese production company Studio Ghibli and notable for being the second they released under the direction of Hayao Miyazaki, "My Neighbor Totoro" remains one of their best films in the decades since the famed company's 1985 founding. The whimsical story is set during '50s Japan, in a part of the country where people live side by side with magical creatures. The only catch is that most of the humans don't seem to notice their mystical neighbors.

After moving to the area to be closer to their ailing mother, a young girl named Satsuki (Noriko Hidaka) and her little sister Mei (Chika Sakamoto) are lucky enough to witness the woodland spirits. The girls' interactions with them help provide respite from the stress of their everyday lives and they embark on a light-hearted adventure that has something for everyone. 

While many of the incredible animated films produced in Japan may have regrettably slipped past some Western audiences, "My Neighbor Totoro" is likely one of the best-known internationally, serving as a testament to its enduring greatness. Receiving near unanimous praise over the years, this animated gem falls just short of our number one pick.

1. The Princess Bride

Though the '80s was a decade defined in part by its incredible contributions to the genre of fantasy, there can only be one that deserves the title of the greatest. Despite the stiff competition, we're not afraid to call "The Princess Bride" the best of the pack. A satiric take on both the romance and fairy tale genres, this '80s gem is endlessly quotable, downright hilarious, and absolutely packed with unforgettable moments.

Told quite literally from the pages of a storybook being read to a young boy by his grandfather, "The Princess Bride" begins with the tragic separation of its protagonist Westley (Cary Elwes) from his one true love, Buttercup (Robin Wright). Years later, they must again stand side-by-side to escape the clutches of evil and live happily ever after. Earning itself a veritable mountain of praise from just about everyone who's seen it since its 1987 release, there's just no beating "The Princess Bride" when it comes to '80s fantasy.