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The 26 Best Fantasy Movies That Will Take You to Another World

Animated or live-action, these films will capture your imagination.

Movies always provide an escape—provided you can head to a theater or at least put your phone down for two hours—but sometimes it's about more than just watching a story that takes you out of your own life. Some movies can take you to a completely different world. Our list of the best fantasy movies ever made includes Disney fairytales, magical realism, and otherworldly musicals. You'll find films that are animated, live-action, and a mix of the two. From a fight against evil in a galaxy far, far away to a trip down a rabbit hole, here are 26 fantasy movies that every fan of the genre needs to see.

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Star Wars (1977)

It's not unusual for fantasy to overlap with science fiction, but given that Star Wars involves an epic, ancient fight between good and evil, a space princess, and a variety of whimsical creatures, we're classifying it as more of the former. The 1977 original follows a young farmer, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who gets caught up in a rebellion against the Empire as he learns the truth of his past. Not that one of the most iconic movies ever really needs an introduction.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Speaking of which… The Wizard of Oz is certainly transportive. Travel with Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) as she goes from the black-and-white world of her Kansas farm to the colorful and magical Land of Oz and then has to find her way back home.

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

Another classic fantasy tale is The Lord of the Rings, based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien. A group of hobbits, elves, and wizards band together to destroy an all-powerful ring before it can land in the hands of the evil Sauron (Sala Baker). There are three movies in this series, as well as a prequel series based on The Hobbit.

Spirited Away (2001)

The first animated series on our list is the anime film Spirited Away from beloved filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. It's about a young girl, Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi/Daveigh Chase), who accidentally enters the spirit world with her parents (Takashi Naitō/Michael Chiklis, Yasuko Sawaguchi/Lauren Holly). A witch (Mari Natsuki/Suzanne Pleshette) turns her parents into pigs, and Chihiro then has to figure out a way to change them back and escape to her world with the help of a boy, Haku (Miyo Irino/Jason Marsden), who can turn into a dragon.

Labyrinth (1986)

From director Jim Henson and featuring many puppet creations from the Muppets mastermind, Labyrinth also stars musician David Bowie the goblin king Jareth, who kidnaps the baby brother of Jennifer Connelly's Sarah. He tells the teen if she can solve his labyrinth in 13 hours, she can have her brother back before he is turned into a goblin. The fairytale also features a few original songs, including Bowie singing "Magic Dance."

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The Princess Bride (1987)

The Princess Bride is another classic '80s fantasy flick. This comedy, framed as a bedtime story, is about a farmhand named Westley (Cary Elwes), who must rescue his love Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) after she gets kidnapped prior to her arranged marriage to Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon).

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

Harry Potter is the bestselling book series ever, and the seven fantasy novels were made into eight fantasy films. The first introduces viewers to Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), an 11-year-old boy, who finds out that not only is he a wizard and can attend a wizard school to learn magic, but also that he has a powerful connection to the evil wizard Lord Voldemort (Ian Hart), who killed his parents.

Mary Poppins (1964)

Julie Andrews stars in Mary Poppins as a magical nanny who quite literally floats on the wind into the lives of the Banks family. The Banks children, Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber), have fun exploring and going on magical adventures with their new nanny, while their father, George Banks (David Tomlinson), learns to loosen up and treat his kids better.

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Based on a 18th century fairytale, Beauty and the Beast was a huge animated hit for Disney in 1991 and remains a classic Disney Princess movie today. The musical is about a young woman, Belle (Paige O'Hara), who gets trapped in a magical castle with anthropomorphic household items and a beast (Robby Benson), who can only be turned back into a prince if he finds true love.

The NeverEnding Story (1984)

In The NeverEnding Story, a boy named Bastian (Barret Oliver) finds an enchanted book, The NeverEnding Story, about another world. He soon discovers that he is part of the story, which includes The Childlike Princess (Tami Stronach) and the warrior Atreyu (Noah Hathaway).

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Aladdin (1992)

Disney's Aladdin is based on the folktale from Arabian Nights and is about a young man (Scott Weinger/Brad Kane), who comes into possession of a magic lamp containing a genie (Robin Williams) able to grant Aladdin three wishes. He chooses to become a prince, so that he can impress the sultan's (Douglas Seale) daughter, Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin/Lea Salonga). Meanwhile, he also has to keep the evil Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) from using the genie to take over the kingdom.

Barbie (2023)

Travel to the idyllic world of Barbieland with Barbie, the biggest blockbuster of 2023. The movie begins with various Barbies and Kens all living peacefully in their matriarchal society. But, when one Barbie (Margot Robbie) begins having an unexpected existential crisis, she travels into the human world and finds out just how different it is from her own.

Matilda (1996)

Mara Wilson stars in the comedy Matilda (based on the Roald Dahl book) as a little girl who can move objects with her mind. She uses her powers to get back at her mean parents (Danny DeVitoRhea Perlman) and her school's abusive principal Miss Trunchbull (Pam Ferris).

Shrek (2001)

An ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers) goes on a mission to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) on behalf of the villainous Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) and with help from a donkey named Donkey (Eddie Murphy). The problem is, Shrek and Fiona—a secret ogre herself— begin to fall for each other, even though she's meant to marry Farquaad.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

There are two holiday-themed worlds to discover in the musical The Nightmare Before Christmas. In the stop-motion animation movie, Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon/Danny Elfman) is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who discovers that there is another place called Christmas Town. Jack attempts to takeover the Christmas holiday himself, causing all sorts of chaos in the process.

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Encanto (2021)

The animated musical Encanto follows Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), a teenager whose family members all have their own magical power, though she does not have one herself. Mirabel tries to come to terms with being without magic, while also figuring out why her relatives are losing their power.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

One of Gene Wilder most famous roles was that of the titular chocolate maker in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Also based on a Dahl book, it follows a poor boy named Charlie (Peter Ostrum), who wins a trip to Wonka's chocolate factory along with a group of other children. But while the factory is unbelievable and full of treats and surprises, things take a dark turn as the spoiled children begin to leave the tour in unexpected and frightening ways.

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

There's something fantastical and haunting about labyrinths, because this is the second one on our list. (One of the Harry Potter movies features a maze, too.) Pan's Labyrinth is set in Spain in the 1940s and is about a young girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), who encounters a faun (Doug Jones) in a labyrinth who tells her that she is the reincarnation of a princess and can become immortal if she completes three tasks. This one leans more horror-fantasy and could even be classified as historical fiction.

Jumanji (1995)

A board game comes to life with terrifying results in Jumanji. Siblings Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) begin playing an old board game they've discovered, only to find that it releases jungle-related obstacles with each turn—including giant mosquitoes and a stampede of animals. They also come into contact with Alan (Robin Williams), who was sucked into the game 26 years earlier when he was a teen. Two revival movies featuring a new cast and changing Jumanji into a video game came out in the 2010s.

Coco (2017)

Coco is inspired by and revolves around the Mexican holiday el Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old boy, is trying to figure out why his family won't allow any type of music in the house and travels to the Land of the Dead to find his answer.

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James and the Giant Peach (1996)

James and the Giant Peach (the third Dahl adaptation on the list) combines live action and animation as a boy names James (Paul Terry) climbs into an enchanted giant peach, becoming a cartoon character and befriending various talking insects. They then all set off on an adventure from England to New York City, so James can flee his cruel aunts (Miriam MargolyesJoanna Lumley).

Coraline (2009)

Coraline is another animated pick, but this one is darker than most of the others here. In her new home, a girl named Coraline (Dakota Fanning) finds a passage to the Other World, an alternate universe with creepy doppelgängers of her parents (Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman) and other people in her life. Here, she meets three ghosts (Hannah Kaiser, Aankha Neal, George Selick) and sets off on a mission to free them back into the real world.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Humans and cartoon characters—from both Warner Bros. and Disney—coexist in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It's about a cartoon, Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer), who has been framed for murder, and the private detective, Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), who helps clear his name.

Frozen (2013)

Let it go, let it goooo. Even if you haven't seen Frozen, you probably remember its most famous song. The animated movie is about sisters Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell), who reunite after Elsa has been locked away due to not being able to control her powers of making cold weather, ice, and snow. Elsa has to learn to master her magic, so her kingdom can be free from an eternal winter.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

A humanoid creation with scissors for hands made by an inventor (Vincent Price) is taken in by a normal family where he falls in love with their teenage daughter. Directed and co-written by Tim Burton, it's a fantasy romance with a very surreal premise. Johnny Depp stars as Edward Scissorhands, while Winona Ryder plays Kim.

Alice in Wonderland (1951)

We go back to 1951 for this Disney classic. Alice in Wonderland is based on Lewis Carroll's 1865 book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and is about a girl (Kathryn Beaumont) who enters Wonderland after falling down a rabbit hole. There, Alice meets the Mat Hatter (Ed Wynn), the Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton), the Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway), and more memorable characters.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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