The variety and versatility of fantasy movies on Netflix is impressive. To choose the best fantasy movies on Netflix, you’re going to need to dive deep, expanding as much as possible your definition for how to categorize fantasy films in the first place.
Fantasy can be more than just swords, hobbits, dragons, or wizards. As great as those things are, and as much as they will be celebrated across the fantasy movies to watch on Netflix that I’ve brought together, let’s also say a kind word for fantasy and horror. Or fantasy and comedy. We also can’t forget that fantasy and animation have enjoyed a rich, multifaceted relationship for almost as long as film itself has existed.
From the iconic chaos of Monty Python, to Chinese animation epics, an existential crisis set on a blended ground of reality and surreal madness, and so much more, this list of fantasy movies to watch on Netflix will take you well beyond what you consider to be the ordinary.
The Best Fantasy Movies On Netflix
1. The BFG (2016)
Director: Steven Spielberg
One of the lowest-grossing films of Steven Spielberg’s storied career, The BFG as a fantasy film deserves better than simply being an also-ran in one of the most famous directing careers in movie history.
Adapted from the novel by Roald Dahl, The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) immerses us in not only the story of a young girl (Ruby Barnhill) finding her place in her world, but also in a fantastical world of giants. The BFG in question (an excellent performance by Mark Rylance) provides a human being’s entrance to a world that has been beautifully realized with its special effects and other visuals.
While perhaps not as action-packed as some of the other entries on this list, The BFG proves that Spielberg can still tell a good story about the dangers, confusions, and joys of childhood.
2. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (2017)
Director: Paul Urkijo Alijo
An orphaned child (Uma Bracaglia) inadvertently interferes with the determination of a blacksmith (Kandido Uranga) to torture a demon (Eneko Sagardoy) for the agony he has suffered. What follows from there is a brilliant, clever fantasy epic about love, and a degree of obsession which can cause unimaginable damage.
Errementari combines excellent performances with a strong, original story, and some of the most compulsory action sequences to be found anywhere on this list. This is a film which creates a distinctive world of fantasy, and then strengthens it with powerful emotional stakes among a very likable cast of strong characters.
The last 20 minutes or so of this film alone are quite frankly breathtaking.
3. Hook (1991)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Once again, we turn to a Steven Spielberg film that performed beneath expectations at the box office. Spielberg himself considers the film to be less than his best efforts, and critics were roundly dismissive of a movie many felt brought nothing new or notable to the story of Peter Pan.
Some still feel that way, but the film has nonetheless grown in regard over the years. While I wouldn’t call it a cult movie, Hook still has a large audience of fans who love its cast, particularly Robin Williams as the adult Peter, its story of Captain Hook (one of Dustin Hoffman’s best performances, frankly) kidnapping Peter’s children, and the efforts of Pan to rediscover the magic of his legendary youth.
No, the movie is not perfect. However, as we witness this fantasy story with likable characters (the Lost Boys are another fan favorite for this film) also work well as a satisfying adventure story, I think this film is easier to appreciate several decades after the hype of its initial release died. The special effects are at the very least endearing, as well.
And if nothing else, the movie is worth seeing for Hoffman as Hook and Bob Hoskins as Smee. Their relationship as portrayed here steals the movie to an impressive degree.
4. I Lost My Body (2019)
Director: Jérémy Clapin
The story of a disembodied hand trying to reconnect with its owner may strike you as the plot of a charming animated short. It may even sound like something Pixar might do, before the start of the main feature.
However, I Lost My Body is not a short film. Rather, it’s a full-length French animated movie that explores the concept of loneliness within one of the strangest storytelling structures ever built.
The film finds humor in this concept, naturally, as we travel along with not only the separated hand, but also the journey of the rest of the body and mind to find meaning and community in a grim world. In doing so, the story and characters remain fairly grounded, even as this sumptuous animated feast picks up the pace, taking us to stranger and stranger heights.
Available in both French and English audio, this is one case where both language tracks are equally superb.
5. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
Director: Charlie Kaufman
While it’s easy to include Charlie Kaufman’s latest surrealist existential slow burn on this list of the best fantasy movies on Netflix, it’s just as easy to understand why some wouldn’t.
Either you’re all in for a young woman (Jessie Buckley) traveling with her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to visit his parents (David Thewlis and Toni Collette, no strangers to the strange), or you’re going to be frustrated with everyone and everything after about 20 minutes.
If you’re feeling that way by then, and you’ve got a long way to go, no one will blame you for just watching something else instead. Because while many, including myself, find this story to be a rich nightmare of introspection and the horrors of time itself, you may find the proceedings ponderous and ultimately pointless. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is both broad and specific enough to invite a wide range of opinions and feelings.
One thing is certain: If you stick around, you’re almost definitely going to be depressed by the end. Or at least spiritually burnt the hell out.
6. The Mad Monk (1993)
Director: Johnnie To
If the only Stephen Chow movie you have ever seen is Kung Fu Hustle, congratulations. It’s one of the best martial arts movies ever made. That it also happens to be one of the best comedies ever made is a nice bonus, as well. A notable portion of that stature comes from Chow himself as a filmmaker, producer, and actor of the highest order.
Now, if you want to see other Stephen Chow works that range from amazing to pretty good, Mad Monk can be a perfect way to get started.
Taken from one of the most well-known examples of Chinese folklore, The Mad Monk features Chow as the famous Dragon Fighter Lohan, who’s tasked with changing the fates of a prostitute, a beggar, and a villain, but must do so as a mortal being. The premise is simple enough, but The Mad Monk offers a flurry of fast-paced comedy, characters, and information.
A lot happens in the film’s span of just 85 minutes. A rewatch may be necessary, as you’re often going to be too busy laughing to pay complete attention.
7. A Monster Calls (2016)
Director: J.A. Bayona
Many examples of good fantasy will bring together reality and the realm of the impossible in a way that no other work by comparison can fully and exactly replicate. While A Monster Calls isn’t the story of a child whose crumbling personal life finds solid ground within the power of imagination, it goes about its story with a sweet somberness that can sometimes be frustrating, but never as much as it is engrossing.
A Monster Calls is very effective at creating a fantasy that many of us can very easily remember from our childhoods. The idea of escaping from the real world to something fantastical is not new. Where A Monster Calls is significantly unique is in how it combines the fantasy and the reality in a complex, even messy way. More than once, this film goes off the rails in the best way possible, surprising you.
Lewis MacDougall as the child and Liam Neeson as the voice of the monster the child meets go a long way in this film, which stays the course on presenting its story slowly and carefully. Significant attention is paid to the characters, before we ever move them to something else entirely, and it pays off in a remarkable fashion as the film goes on.
8. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Directors: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
The oldest film on this list of Netflix fantasy films, Monty Python and the Holy Grail continues to earn its reputation as one of the funniest movies of all time. Given that the film features killer rabbits, knights who can withstand multiple dismemberments, and a God who actually gets involved once in a while, it stands to reason that Holy Grail is also one of the best fantasy-comedies of all time.
The film is more or less about King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table, and their quest to find the Holy Grail. What Holy Grail really wants to do is have just enough of a story for the Monty Python troupe to run amok on subjects like religion, history, culture, and the immense value of something that’s simply ridiculous for the sake of being ridiculous.
That suits me fine. The group, which extends to essential Python associates like Carol Cleveland, is in flawless anarchic form here.
9. Ne Zha (2019)
Based on the Chinese mythology figure Nezha, Ne Zha is spectacular as an action fantasy epic. Without ever losing sight of the value of its characters and story, this 3D animated film on Netflix creates an ideal for maintaining those components against a truly stunning backdrop.
If aesthetics, movement, and character design were the only things that mattered in an animated feature, Ne Zha would already be considered one of the most impressive accomplishments in the field to date. The movie has an incredible ability to command attention, as well as the feeling that it might be impossible to really take it all in properly the first time around. It’s easy enough to get swept up in just these qualities.
However, and thankfully, Ne Zha also brings everything else you would want from a great fantasy film. It’s a moving story told with powerful characters that exists within a limitless universe.
10. PK (2014)
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Despite the premise of an alien becoming stranded on our planet, the massively likable Indian comedy PK is really more fantasy than science fiction. This is because the film doesn’t go into any sort of science fiction, beyond the fact that PK himself is a space alien. Rather, the film quickly establishes a fanciful tale of a visitor from another world, discovering, questioning, and ultimately connecting to the various cultures, religions, and other hallmarks of people that he encounters.
PK obviously wants to delve into some satire on the various points of interest that it takes us through. However, while the humor and gentle parody of humanity as a concept are very present, PK doesn’t let that come at the expense of its writing, production design, performances, or anything else.
All of it builds up to a journey that is almost overwhelmingly sweet, even kind. Never dopey or pretentious.
11. The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
Director: Mark Waters
Just in case you want a fantasy movie with just about every popular creature highlighted, The Spiderwick Chronicles will more likely than not deliver on your expectations. That isn’t to say the film, in which a young boy (Freddie Highmore) travels to a world of wonder, hidden within the crumbling remains of a sprawling, ancient estate home, is just a series of buzzes for fantasy movie fans.
As you’re going to find, if you’ve never seen this striking blend of special effects and memorable human performances, The Spiderwick Chronicles is so much more than a fantasy creatures greatest hits compilation.
Serious worldbuilding, creature designs, and a story with enough to engage most likely the entire family make up the foundation of a film that continues to find fans a decade and change after its release.
12. Stardust (2007)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
A consistent thread throughout many of these films is the idea that our world is just one of many.
Based on a book by Neil Gaiman, Stardust sets its determined young protagonist (Charlie Cox, impressively standing out against an ambitious story and strong cast) in a town that exists side-by-side with a path that leads to a magical kingdom in another world altogether.
The path is guarded, but the call of this world of princesses, fairies, pirates, witches, and other magical beings is just too much for our hero. What follows then is a story that consistently surprises our expectations for what a fantasy story should say and so. Nothing better represents this fact than Robert De Niro in one of his best performances of the 2000s.
It isn’t surprising that Matthew Vaughn continued his crowd-pleasing, sometimes very-gentle subversions of genre tropes with X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service.
13. Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (2006)
Director: Liam Lynch
Questing for fortune and glory is another thread you can find in many of the best fantasy movies on Netflix. Who says those desires can’t be contained within something as seemingly simple as a guitar pick?
No, you probably don’t need to get stoned out of your mind to appreciate the decidedly Cheech and Chong vibes that permeate this fantasy epic from Jack Black and Kyle Gass of the forever-great Tenacious D. However, in a film that features Dio singing on a poster, drug-induced encounters with Bigfoot, espionage, car chases, and a spectacular duel with Satan himself, a couple of joints, if you’re into that sort of thing, will probably be useful to have on hand.
If not, or if that’s just not your thing, don’t worry. Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny has enough cheerful insanity and humor to appeal to almost anyone.
14. What Dreams May Come (1998)
Director: Vincent Ward
Director Vincent Ward has helmed only two films since 1998’s impressively unique What Dreams May Come. Given the overwhelming humanity of this film, and how seamlessly it works in cooperation with its stunning, sometimes frightening depictions of the afterlife, it’ a shame he has worked as a director so infrequently.
If you’ve never seen the film, which tells the story of a recently-deceased man descending into Hell to rescue his soulmate, you’re in for a pretty emotionally intense experience. The two leads are a profound part of the essential human component amidst so many visual tricks in an unpredictable atmosphere. Robin Williams is one of the best choices in his time for an actor who could connect us to something very relatable under even the strangest circumstances. Annabella Sciorra beautifully and sometimes frighteningly conveys the other half of this essential soulmate concept.
What Dreams May Come can knock you over in a variety of ways. Not just in terms of the subject matter, but in the sense of how well the movie plays on our fascination with death, and what may or may not happen afterwards.
Maybe nothing. However, one of the strongest features to this film, which also includes a highlight performance by Max Von Sydow, is its optimism. Simply being able to dream while alive is an extraordinary experience. Even in a fantasy setting, the idea that this experience can carry over into the great beyond makes for fascinating cinema.
15. A Whisker Away (2020)
Directors: Junichi Sato and Tomotaka Shibayama
The anime feature A Whisker Away uses the story of a middle school girl who gains the ability to transform into a cat as a way to explore what it means to grow up. There is a little more to this film than that, but the story is ultimately one of childhood, the notion that reality is often crueler than the fantasies we develop for ourselves.
Or in the case of A Whisker Away, reality is crueler than the alternate world we can suddenly escape to. Many great fantasy films allow us to explore this idea to the logical conclusion that we cannot fully escape from our reality. Most of the time, we just plain shouldn’t.
A Whisker Away explores these ideas with breathtaking animation, strong voice performances from both the English and original Japanese dubs, and all without ever getting too dark. It isn’t a movie just for children, but it does let you explore these themes on a fairly safe path.
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