The 80’s were a critical time for films, none so more than the fantasy genre. Many of the classic films from this era helped inspire the directors of future decades to go deeper into the fantasy genre, while carrying on the legacy and fan base that was really developed during that period of time. During that time, there were many A and B list films that came to popularity, and we’ve compiled five of the best ones to come out of the decade.
Conan the Barbarian
Regarded as one of the most fantastic fantasy films of all time, Conan the Barbarian hit movie theaters in 1982. Inspired by comics from the 30’s, Conan was ready to hit movie theaters as early as the 1970’s, but didn’t make its debut until the 80’s. Arnold Schwarzenegger played the muscle clad, sword swinging protagonist Conan in what would be one of the actors finer roles. This movie inspired a cartoon show to follow, not to mention all the spin offs and frequent Conan-esque shows that have followed in the years since its premier.
The Princess Bride
A cult classic today of the fantasy world, The Princess Bride has become a movie that is quoted from house to house. And what’s not to love about the movie, as it is a textbook example of the fantasy genre. Released in 1987, The Princess Bride offered something for every kind of viewer. The overall love story narrative maintains its authority, while also bringing in fantasy lands, comical characters with deep backstory, and a villain that you can’t help but despise. It would be inconceivable not to love this movie, and it has stayed around as a frequent rewatch to this very day.
The Dark Crystal
Unknown to some at the time, The Dark Crystal is the first of a pair of movies made by Jim Henson, the same mind behind The Muppets. Similar to The Muppets in overall style, it has a decent amount of humor, but is also a little dark at times. The overall story follows Jen, a Gelfling, on the iconic mission of restoring balance to the world (nothing is more fantasy than restoring balance to a world). The Dark Crystal, while not seeing the commercial success of some other fantasy films of the 80’s, has drawn quite a following, with Netflix creating and picking up a spin-off series in the 2010’s.
Castle in the Sky (Laputa)
In what would be the first movie release for Hayao Miyazaki, Castle in the Sky is a fantastic fantasy film in the world of animation. Premiering in 1986, it follows two children, Pazu and Sheeta, who are trying to find the mystical floating city of Laputa. While it premiered in 1986, it wasn’t translated into English until later in the decade. Finally, in the 2000’s, when Disney picked up most of Miyazaki’s films, there was a remastered voice over with actors such as Mark Hamill and Jim Cummings joining on for this fantastic film. It is a must watch for fantasy films enjoyers.
The Secret of NIMH
Rounding out the list with another animated fantasy classic, The Secret of Nimh was released in 1982. The story of The Secret of Nimh is similar to the book series it was based off of. The movie follows Ms. Brisby, a field mouse who is intent on saving her son. Ms. Brisby must go through a series of adventures long and wild to save him, making for a fantastic and exciting film. It can be sad at moments, but The Secret of Nimh is a staple of the genre.