During the 1980's fantasy movies came to prominence and exposed a whole new generation to high adventure, Shakespearean actors, and Ray Harryhausen special effects. Let's look at the five best fantasy films from the decade of Reaganomics and big hair.
We are going to count down from number five to number one of the 1980's best movies of monsters, myths, and mayhem.
5. THE CIRCLE OF IRON/ PG (1978)
Although not exactly an 80's movie,
this flick definitely fits into this era of celluloid craziness. From an idea by the late, great Bruce Lee, this martial arts cheese fest is chock full of flying kicks, odd pop up characters, and the crazy cameos from respected actors. From Eli Wallach to Christopher Lee, cameo appearances are part of the fun of this film.
At the core of the the film is Kung-Fu tv legend David Carradine, playing multiple roles to challenge our hero named Cord, played with wooden aplomb by Jeffery Cooper. Cord, typical of fantasy male leads of this time, hops easily from pushy to whiny to brave warrior within a scene. The multiple roles played by Carradine from blind master to Monkey King and even Death creates the idea that our hero is being tested by a supernatural trickster/teacher.
Full of fortune cookie philosophy, Kung fu theater fight scenes, and a plot straight out of an old comic book,this film is good popcorn fun for fans of the martial arts or fantasy film genres.
4. CLASH OF THE TITANS/PG (1981)
Harry Hamlin as our hero Perseus, Laurence Olivier as the mythological God Zeus and Burgess Meredith as our hero's mentor Ammon are all part of a fun jaunt into Greek mythology. Co-produced by special effects legend Ray Harryhausen this film is full of flying horses, giant scorpions, and one of this first depictions of the Gorgon Medusa, the genius behind the effects are on full display for the audience. Our hero's humble beginnings from full fledged monster slayer is underlined by Hamlin's pseudo-Shakespearean speech patterns and golden boy good looks. An epic final battle with the titanic Kraken and dramatic rescue of a damsel in distress make this a fantastical romp a fan favorite.
3. BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA/PG-13 (1986)
Kung fu craziness and epic battles with (alleged) Chinese sorcery, are just part of the fun of this urban fantasy film. Kurt Russell plays Jack Burton, truck driver, master of inflated ego, and in way over his head. Starting with the kidnapping of his best friends finance that leads to an epic Kung Fu/machine gun/magic warrior battle. Soon after an insane rescue attempt and escape the heroes then go to the ultimate showdown. Our hero, with his brave best friend,and a junk dealer with amazing magical aptitude, rush to the rescue. Against them an evil immortal sorcerer, and his horde of vicious killers, malicious eyeballs, and twisted wizards of the weather adds to the insanity. All in all a fun, frenetic romp through Chinese mythology and the underbelly of a fantasy San Francisco you won't soon forget.
2. THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER/R (1982)
We are introduced to an evil conqueror named, King Cromwell. Cromwell hates King Richard, who wisely and justly rules a neighboring country. Cromwell decides to waken a sleeping evil wizard, played by pre-NIght Court Richard Moll, to help beat Richard's formidable army. After beating Richard’s army,Cromwell kills the Sorcerer, to avoid the promise of land and money, because Cromwell’s a jerk. He then hunts down and kills almost the entire royal family. But, the young Prince Talon survives, and manages to use and escape with his father’s three bladed, missile launching Sword. Caught somewhere between behaving like Conan the Barbarian and James Bond, the now grown Talon returns to his homeland to take down Cromwell and avenge his family. Unlike your typical ‘hero-with-dead-parents’ stone around his neck, Talon is only grim and serious when he needs to be, otherwise he is a swashbuckling, hard living merc, trying to do some good while hiding who he is. The costume special effects, and epic fight scenes lend well to this genre, and is still a good popcorn movie for the adults in the house.
1. THE PRINCESS BRIDE/PG (1987)
Have you ever told someone “Inconceivable!!”? Ever told someone your name was Inigo Montoya and proceeded to monologue about your father? You can thank The Princess Bride for that. Framed by the outlier story of Peter Falk’s Grandpa reading to his sick grandson, played by Fred Savage, this movie gives love and a few kindly jibes to the fairy tale genre. With our dashing hero, Westley , played by Carey Elwes, and our irascible princess played by Robin Wright, we start off with fresh innocent faces to launch our story. With a stellar ensemble cast including Mandy Patinkin, Andre The Giant, Chris Sarandon, Billy Crystal, and Sean Wallace, there are plenty of stars to fill the skies over the country of Floren. Miracles, sword fighting, true love, pirates, and rodents of unusual size all are part of this wonderful fairy tale young and old can enjoy. Often cited as one of the best romantic fantasy films ever made, this film raised the bar for the genre films that came after it.
There you have it, the best five fantasy films of the 80's, still loved by fans of fantastic films even today.