64 Best Fantasy Movies to Watch (Page 4)

Staff & contributors

Written and directed by the film’s star, Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life imagines an afterlife in which purgatory is a courtroom, and whether you’ll be saved or damned is judged based on the life you led on Earth.

Did you live courageously, or did you live fearfully? Were you ashamed, meek, afraid of being vulnerable? Or did you risk some tender part of yourself in order to connect with others, to meaningfully impact another life?

Daniel Miller (Brooks) discovers he may not have lived as boldly as he assumed. In the afterlife and awaiting his day in afterlife court, he meets Julia (Meryl Streep, in what is possibly one of her most captivating roles), who is kind and thoughtful and a capital-G Good person. Of course, it’s only after dying that Daniel tunes in to the great possibility of a life not lived on autopilot. But is he too late to atone for his unexamined life—or is there time yet for a second chance?

If you like: weird movies and / or Scandinavian mythology, this movie is for you. It's about unusual looking border agent with super-human abilities (such as smelling fear and shame) who meets someone like her for the first time There is a big revelation in Border that I can't share but while this movie was directed by an Iranian (Ali Abbasi), it's deeply rooted in Swedish folklore. Themes of identity, gender, and otherness intersect through a thrilling script and beautifully-shot nature scenes.

Joel Coen's minimalist vision of the Scottish play emphasizes that these monstrous acts of hubris and violence are carried out not because of madness or magical prophecy, but out of the rational yet selfish decisions made by grown adults. It's a distinctly character-focused interpretation of Shakespeare that should be insightful for students and fans alike, as Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand lend more sedate performances to what have become two of the grandest characters in theater history. The Tragedy of Macbeth weaken the impact of some of Shakespeare's most famous soliloquies due to the film's more hurried runtime, but it makes for a great tribute nonetheless. Come for the stunningly lit black-and-white sets, stay for the gleefully creepy performance by Kathryn Hunter as the three witches.

Pan’s Labyrinth is often considered director Guillermo Del Toro’s best film, and rightfully so. But if you’re looking for a straight-up ghost story, this is the film that gets the job done. Everything about this film is sad and beautiful and unnerving, from the setting (an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War) to the atmospheric visuals.

Much like the 1976 horror classic Carrie, Thelma centers on a young telekinetic woman whose religious upbringing and sexual repression give way to unpredictable moments of fury and rage. When she meets the cool, charismatic Anja, she falls in love immediately, but the wave of emotions that overwhelm her threaten to destabilize not just their budding romance, but other relationships and lives as well. 

Thelma recalls Carrie in other ways too, most notably in the way it uses supernatural elements to allude to female fury and lust, but it also stands on its own as a singular piece of work; the mesmerizing transitions, the slow-burn pace, and the undercurrent of melancholia are all known trademarks of director Joachim Trier. This layering of old and new makes Thelma an intriguing watch, at once recognizable and wholly original. 

 

How does a standout director follow up to a film like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? With a more profound exploration of style, a further exploration of his originality. Gael Garcia Bernal (who you might know from Y Tu Mama Tambien) plays an imaginative but awkward kind of guy who falls for his cute neighbor, played Charlotte Gainsbourg. Bizarre and whimsical dream sequences follow and a sweet, if hesitant, love story unfolds. An eccentric, funny and very French movie (with most scenes in English).  

The Sea Beast tells the story of Jacob, a legendary sea monster hunter, and Maisie, a wannabe monster hunter herself. When a dangerous encounter isolates them from the rest of the crew, they’re forced to team up and reconcile their opposing beliefs—Maisie believes there’s good in the beasts, but Jacob has yet to be convinced.

Action-packed, fast-paced, and thoroughly entertaining, The Sea Beast is a perfect weekend watch. The part-Moana, part-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean tale also has the added bonus of being age-appropriate (rated PG), making it suitable for those spending their precious movie time with kids.

Based on the 13-episode series of the same name, Violet Evergarden tells the story of Violet, a scribe commissioned to write letters at a time when telephones and computers had yet to exist. Shell-shocked from her time in the war, Violet is exceptionally stoic, except when she remembers Gilbert, her military superior and sometime lover. His parting words were "I love you," and through her letters, Violet has been examining the meaning of the phrase since then. 

Fans of the series will have no trouble following the events of the film, but if you're going in cold without any prior exposure to the franchise, it might take a while for you to adjust to its world. More an amalgamation of multiple cultures than a reflection of just one, the imaginary Leidenschaftlich is filled with Japanese-speaking citizens, in modern-day-influenced clothes, with architecture and vistas that could fit right in 1800s Western Europe. Against this backdrop, Violet attempts to restart her life as a writer. Living often doesn't feel easy, especially when PTSD comes in the form of shocks and painful flashbacks, but loving, as she finds out, might be even harder. A tale of self-forgiveness and forging on, despite all odds, Violet Evergarden is a moving ode to life and love at a time of war. 

When David and his sister Jennifer fight over the TV remote, they are suddenly transported to David’s favorite sitcom, Pleasantville. They’re told by a spirit guide that their best bet at getting out is fitting in, but their modern sensibilities prove to be too much for the genteel ‘50s town. Soon, the residents learn about sex, art, criticism, and politics, and it’s up to the twins to control the ensuing mayhem and guide them to the right path. 

In hindsight, Pleasantville seems ahead of its time, preceding Marvel’s WandaVision as the ultimate, deconstructed homage to 20th-century television. But unlike the series, Pleasantville dives deep into personal and social politics, all while maintaining an impressive balance of wisdom and humor. Equally notable is the film’s transformation from black and white to Technicolor, which, aside from being a symbolic and technical feat, is also a piece of pure, mesmerizing cinema.

Written, directed and starring the auteur Stephan Chow, Kung Fu Hustle is a distillation of decades of Hong-Kong Cinema's greatest export : the martial arts comedy. Full of numerous allusions and witty nods to other greats in the genre, this film is nonetheless entirely fresh and new. Equal parts hilarious and breathtakingly action-packed, Kung Fu Hustle showcases an enormous amount of raw talent, cinema magic and ass-kicking for any true cinema connoisseur.

An indigenous language is dying, and the last two people who speak it have not spoken to each other in 50 years. In this calm drama from Mexico, linguists are sent to try to get them to talk so they can document the language. 

The story goes that two men have stopped talking because they fell in love with the same woman, so there is a romance wrapped neatly within the linguistic story. What truly steals the show, however, is the breathtaking nature in which it's all set - the stunning region of Chiapas.

In this raw, psychedelic drama, an American drug dealer living in Tokyo with his sister is killed at a night club. His spirit continues to float above the city and past, present, and future are woven together to complete the tale of his life. Taking a page from the Tibetan book of the dead, the film aims to explore one answer to life's most epic question: What happens when we die? Definitely not for the faint of heart, there is drug use, gore, and challenging themes throughout the movie. Its unique cinematography also captures Tokyo quite well.

This extremely unusual movie about the life of legendary Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (as in Jodorowsky's Dune) was financed by an Indiegogo campaign, giving his already unusual style full freedom. There are cardboard trains, ninjas, and disturbing sex scenes. It all serves to tell his life of growing up in a bohemian neighborhood in Santiago, Chile, going against his family, becoming a poet, and joining the Chilean avant-guard movement. Jodorowsky, now 91 years old, went on a 23 year hiatus before making this movie and its prequel, The Dance of Reality, both about his life.

A poetic and peculiar movie from Senegal about a girl who is forced to marry a wealthy businessman instead of her love interest. The latter, a poor construction worker, embarks on a risky journey across the sea to Europe. The story takes a supernatural turn thereafter, one that is unlike anything seen before in stories around immigration, but one which makes sense. Still, the excellent acting and the long takes that immerse you in what life is like in Senegal, both in and out of the margins of society, are the reasons to watch here. Atlantics' characters are believable and will capture your interest throughout the usual and unusual parts of the movie. They provide rare insight into narratives that most of us have never been exposed to.