10 best fantasy movies, according to AFI

In 2008, the American Film Institute published numerous Top 10 lists for various categories of films, including the fantasy genre. As expected with such a prestigious organization, most of the films are classics, some of them only dating back decades. Many of these films have been preserved by the Library of Congress because of their cultural, historical and aesthetic importance.

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There are many fantastic movies that have impacted viewers and box office numbers, but what works were so outstanding that AFI singled them out as the best of the best?

ten Large (1988)

Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia dancing on the floor piano in Big

With Tom Hanks, Big is about Josh, a teenage boy who makes a wish on a fortune teller at a carnival to be taller so he can spend time with his oldest child. The next morning, he wakes up to find himself in the body of a man. Combining the fantasy and comedy genres, the film was a hit upon release.

Big received critical acclaim, earning Hanks an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. This established Hanks as a leading man, marking a turning point in his career and making him more bankable for the studios. Many find the story inspiring and heartwarming, as Josh learns to enjoy being a kid, and it’s considered one of Hanks’ best comedy movies.

9 The Thief of Baghdad (1924)

Douglas Fairbanks and Julanne Johnston in The Thief of Baghdad

This silent swashbuckler adapted from the collection of popular tales Thousand and one Night tells the story of Ahmed, a thief who falls in love with the daughter of the Caliph of Baghdad. To be with her, Ahmed must face several dangerous trials to find the rarest gift for the princess and win her hand in marriage.

The film was directed by Raoul Walsh, film legend Douglas Fairbanks starring in one of his best films, and it launched Anna May Wong’s career. Most contemporary viewers will be more familiar with the story because of Disney’s Aladdin, but this version still holds up today.


8 Groundhog Day (1993)

Groundhog Day - Bill Murray

groundhog day is the iconic comedy starring Bill Murray as Phil, a jaded Pittsburgh meteorologist who finds himself stuck in a time loop while covering the annual Groundhog event in Punxsutawney, forcing him to live the day on multiple occasions . It’s a beloved classic and one of the best time travel movies ever to be made.

The film has been the subject of analysis over the years, due to the themes it explores. According to Vulture, writer Danny Rubin receives calls from strangers, family and friends every year to tell him what the movie is about. While he didn’t set out to write any special sort of allegory, the story explores what it means to feel stuck in certain parts of life.

seven Harvey (1950)

Jimmy Stewart and the rabbit in Harvey

In the 1950 film Harvey, James Stewart plays Elwood, an eccentric man whose best friend is a six foot tall bunny named Harvey who can be real or an illusion. Reviews of the film were mostly positive, calling the performances of the main cast sweetheart, adding that it was performed perfectly.

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Harvey has been adapted for television several times since its release and has been featured in many other forms of media. The most notable is that of 2001 Donnie Darko, where the main character is haunted by a six-foot-tall rabbit named Frank, although writer / director Richard Kelly has claimed to have never seen the film. Harvey’s character is a pooka, a mischievous but harmful creature from Celtic mythology, and his use in other works can be attributed to the film’s success.

6 Field of Dreams (1989)

Field of dreams

Sports drama comedy Field of dreams stars Kevin Costner as Ray, a farmer who builds a baseball field in his cornfield, which attracts the ghosts of baseball legends. He is afraid of growing old without accomplishing anything and the ghosts convince him to pursue his dreams. The film also features Burt Lancaster in his final role as Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham.

An adaptation of the novel by WP Kinsella Joe without shoes, Field of dreams achieved box office success and won three Oscar nominations. It is considered to be one of the best baseball movies of all time. In August 2021, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Mike Schur would adapt the feature film as a scripted drama for the Peacock streaming platform.

5 Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

The holiday classic Miracle on 34th Street follows Doris, a divorced New York mother, who is surprised when the nice old man she hires to play Santa at Macy’s pretends to be the real deal. A lawyer defends him in court because he thinks he’s telling the truth. Based on the story of Valentine Davis, the short novelization was released alongside the film’s release.

The film won three Oscars, with Edmund Gwenn winning Best Supporting Actor, Davis winning Best Original Story and Best Writing for a Screenplay. In 1994, it was remade by John Hughes and received a more serious tone than the original. Miracle on 34th Street is watched by many every year and is considered one of the best depictions of Santa Claus in a movie.

4 King Kong (1933)

The original King Kong from 1933

Iconic monster horror movie King Kong premiered in 1933, with Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. It focuses on a film crew that travels to a tropical island for an outdoor shoot, only to discover a colossal monkey who takes a liking to the blonde star of the film. The monkey is captured and brought to New York for public display.

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The film opened in New York City and received rave reviews and has since been named the 6th greatest horror film of all time by Rotten Tomatoes. He is well known for his revolutionary use of special effects, including thumbnails and stop-motion animations. King Kong received significant accolades in the years since its release and is one of the biggest inspirations for other monster movies.

3 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

The family celebrates Christmas on It's A Wonderful Life.

Directed by Frank Capra, It’s a wonderful life is about a Guardian Angel sent to help the deeply frustrated businessman George by showing him how he touched the lives of others and what the lives of those close to him would be like if he had never existed. It is based on both the short story The best gift and the new one A Christmas Carol.

It’s a wonderful life was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, and won the Technical Achievement Award. It was considered one of the most inspiring films of all time by AFI, which included it in several other lists as well. It has been remade and adapted for stage and radio several times and has served as inspiration for films like Click on.

2 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

lord of the rings community casting

Adapted from the novel by JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is an epic fantasy adventure film set in Middle-earth. A humble Hobbit and his companions set out to destroy the mighty One Ring and save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.

The Fellowship of the Ring was critically acclaimed and nominated for thirteen Oscars, winning best photography, visual effects, makeup, and best original music. While the film and its sequels aren’t flawless adaptations, there are many aspects of the novel that he understood well, and it has become a classic since its release.

1 The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion on the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is a fantasy musical film adapted from the children’s novel by L. Frank Baum The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The film stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, who, along with her dog Toto, is swept away by a tornado from her Kansas farm, landing in the world of Oz. She and her new friends embark on a quest to see the wizard so that she can return home and they can make their wishes come true.

The Wizard of Oz is iconic and the most successful adaptation of Baum’s work. It’s no surprise that AFI calls it the greatest fantasy film ever, as this 1930s adaptation is still one of the most beloved classics in movie history.

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