Eighties Fantasy Movies You Must See Before You Die
Eighties fantasy movies were a breed of their own. You only need to watch Schwarzenegger punch a camel to realize that. Hot on the coat tails of the huge Star Wars trilogy, everyone was scrambling to create the next big merchandising machine.
From ancient Greece to the depths of space, the adventure came thick and fast. However, not every movie reached Star Wars levels of fame.
Some cursed reputations, while others bombed at the box office but became cult classics later. Read on as we discuss the best eighties fantasy movies you must see before you die.
Clash Of The Titans
Clash of the Titans is proof that sometimes, things were a lot scarier done the old way. This movie tells the tale of legendary hero Perseus as he attempts to save Andromeda from the monstrous Kraken and capture Pegasus. The all-out balls to the wall action is not even the star of the show.
That falls to Ray Harryhausen’s awesome stop motion animations. The angular, juddering monsters are genuinely scary, more so than any CGI effort could ever hope to be. In fact, Medusa is sure to haunt your memories for years to come.
Of course, one other takeaway from the movie is its famous one liner. “Release the Kraken!”
In Willow, Warwick Davis starred in his greatest role to date. Playing the titular hero, he encounters a human baby whom he must return to her rightful home. That home is gone, the baby is the target of a deranged sorceress who wants to kill the child, and Willow is no hero.
The rest of the story continues is a standard adventure plot, whereby they form alliances, break apart and come together at the end. However, this eighties fantasy movie is carried by its excellent cast. Val Kilmer plays Madmartigan, who Willow and his company find hanging from a gibbet.
A George Lucas production, it did well at the box office but met with mixed reviews. A television series is reportedly in the works for Disney+.
David Bowie in a starring role and creating the soundtrack. Monty Python member Terry Jones writing the script. Jim Henson creating the monsters. How could eighties fantasy movies of this calibre fail?
Upon release the movie bombed in the US. While it fared better in the UK, it did not reach the heights of Henson’s previous offering ‘The Dark Crystal.’ In fact, the failure started a downward spiral for Henson who would enter a period of creative turmoil.
Over time, Labyrinth has become a cult classic. It is dark, fun and has a subplot that makes your skin crawl. Sit back and watch as that codpiece gets bigger and bigger while the movie goes on!
Conan The Barbarian
Before Conan the Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting career had been small, bit parts. The box office success of Conan propelled him into action hero stardom. It would start a roll that would include movies such as Terminator, Commando and Predator.
Conan the Barbarian was based on a book by Robert E Howard. Conan is a slave, who escapes his shackles and plots revenge on the evil Thulsa Doom who killed his family. James Earl Jones is excellent as the leader of the evil reptilian cult.
For a teen of the eighties, the movie had everything. Steroid enhanced bodybuilders swinging swords, camels being punched in the face and for all the teenage boys, a tiny glimpse of booby.
The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal was Jim Henson’s crowning glory. The movie had depth and lore that could rival Star Wars and characters that were arguably more likeable. In the movie, Henson managed to concoct a dark subject matter, make it palatable for families while keeping it seat of your pants scary.
The main character is Jen, a member of the race of Gelflings. Her mission is to rescue the Dark Crystal, rescuing it from the abuse of the evil Skeksis. As time has passed, the sentiment of the movie has become more apt, as the ruling elite plunder the soul of the earth for their own personal gain.
The Neverending Story
The Neverending story reads like a literal ‘how to’ guide of how to make eighties fantasy movies. Bullied teenager drawn into another world where he becomes a hero? Check! Smash hit tie in theme tune? Check!
The tale focuses on Bastian, who ends up in the land of Fantasia after studying an ancient book in the library. Here, he must fight off an all consuming storm known as Nothing. Cue princesses, dragons, castles and every wish you could have for a fantasy movie.
The movie proved so popular it even spawned two spin offs, though neither were as magical as the first. The star of the movie was Falcor, the big, furry, flying luck dragon. Unfortunately he has now fallen on hard times and is looking lacklustre in a movie studio in Germany. I know, because I rode on him.
Ladyhawke still polarises opinion to this day, making it a must watch movie. In fact, compared to others on the list it has an extremely unique premise.
Michelle Pfeiffer plays Isabeau, who is cursed to spend her days as a hawk. Her partner is a knight played by Rutgar Hauer, who transforms into a wolf at night. In this eternal struggle they are separated, unless they can lift the curse placed on them by the despicable evil bishop.
The all star cast is boosted by Matthew Broderick who plays a thief nicknamed ‘The Mouse’. On his escape from prison, he comes into contact with the pair and soon realizes their secret. He then becomes part of the plot in which they must face the Bishop and see off the curse.
Krull does go balls to the wall. A movie about knights fighting aliens, it has everything. Apart from a well-known cast.
Liam Neeson is the only recognizable face, though the movie benefits from it in a way. It is B-movie but with a budget and follows prince Colwyn as he attempts to save his bride, Princess Lyssa, from an enemy known simply as ‘Beast.’
Krull is a popular culture phenomenon all on its own. Upon its release, it was shown on a double bill along with Superman III. For a true eighties experience, get in your car and try watching them back to back through a projector in your garage. Just don’t leave the engine running.
The Princess Bride
Columbo and Andre the Giant in the same movie? Yes please! Adapted from a 1973 novel, it tells the story of a farm worker who turns into a pirate and takes on a quest to rescue his true love.
The film was a strange choice for director Rob Reiner, who had make his name with the mockumentary ‘This is Spinal Tap.’ He had been gifted the original book by his father. He was so enamoured with it, that he approached Paramount who refused to make the movie.
This was because the book had been part of a long Hollywood rights war. They had gone to Fox, returned to the original author, then gone back to Fox before Reiner was allowed to adapt it. The movie has been critically acclaimed, even being inducted into the National Film Registry for being cultural significance.
Of all the movies on this list, Highlander could be the strangest. In fact, it was so strange it spawned a number of sequels, an animation, televisions series and videogame. Starting in the 16th century, it follows the story of Connor Macleod as he finds out he is immortal.
Befriended by swordsman Ramirez, played by Sean Connery, he must behead the other immortals so that only one remains. However, the evil Kurgan is already doing this for him and they must meet in New York City in 1985, to finish their eternal battle.
Despite only grossing $12 million on release, it quickly cemented itself as one of the cult eighties fantasy movies. Not bad for a script that was written as a class assignment.