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Updated by Kendra Brea Cooper on Sep 23, 2014
Headline for Retro Fantasy: 10 Fantasy Films from the 1980s
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Retro Fantasy: 10 Fantasy Films from the 1980s

The 1980’s had major fantasy film game. If you’re a fan, you’ll likely name at least one as a favorite from this decade. Many of them had messages beyond swords and dragons. Some criticized gen X while others tapped in on the burgeoning environmental movements. Either way, we enjoyed the adventure.

The NeverEnding Story 1984

The Never Ending Story is not a cinematographers dream but it will have you wishing you were riding a luck dragon in the clouds. Bastian is a boy who steals a leather bound book and escapes a world of sadness in the attic of his school. The story is about the beautiful land of Fantasia which is being consumed by nothingness. There are devastating moments in this film (the horse dying) but the point is even when all seems lost, you can keep going. Bits and pieces about meaning and life run through the story making it one of the most memorable fantasy flicks ever. Maybe daydreaming is not so bad after all.

The Dark Crystal 1982

Just take one deep breath and get through this geek love overload. OMG Jim Henson! OMG The Dark Crystal! We love it all. The Dark Crystal has been damaged and Jen the last of the Gelflings sets out to find the missing piece. The evil Skeksis will forever have control if Jen fails to complete this dangerous journey. This is a story about destiny and the constant battle between the good and bad in all of us. Can we have one without the other? It also has unforgettable creatures. Thank you, Jim.

The Princess Bride 1987

This one is a classic. It might be more screwed up fairy tale than fantasy but it is a lighthearted adventure for certain. It’s a hilarious love story where the beautiful Buttercup is engaged to be married to the no good prince Humperdink. Her true love Westly must save her (as Dread Pirate Roberts) from the gang that kidnapped her. Even without the fantasy elements, life and love can play out in unexpected and sometimes uproarious ways.

Willow 1988

Heroes don’t always have to be big and tough. Willow, a magician, must save a baby princess from an evil queen. He meets Madmartigan, a wisecracking swordsman, and they set out on a journey like no other. Some argue that it seems to follow a step-by-step bland fantasy pattern but it’s worth a watch anyway. You might just need that comforting nostalgia that I know you're looking for because you're reading this list.

Labyrinth 1986

MORE JIM HENSON! And this time, he’s with George Lucas.David Bowie plays “Jareth” the Goblin King. Jareth takes baby Toby away after 15 year old Sarah accidentally conjures him up with a bedtime story. She must conquer the labyrinth in 13 hours or Toby turns into a goblin. Bowie’s songs and the story line pick apart the confusions we have when coming of age. Ideas such as materialism and societal roles are also themes in the film. It’s really much deeper than Bowie rocking an epic mullet. Sarah’s subconscious is on display in the form of a complicated maze. Oh the joys of growing up.

Krull 1983

Krull is like a mash up of all sorts of fantasy stories. If you want a campy but loveable fantasy flick that practically wraps the 80s obsession with other worlds all in one, this movie is for you. There's nothing new here, a prince and his group have to save his bride from kidnappers (aliens of course). I'm not sure if aliens abide by earthly gender constructs, but they seem to always grab the women. They probably watch terrible fantasy films for research.

My Neighbor Totoro - 1988

My Neighbor Totoro was created by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. This film is delightful and brilliant, but there are rumours of its underlying darkness, as the meaning is a little more than simple appearances. Two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, discover fantastic creatures in their new backyard. Fun is had.

Legend 1985

Even Tom Cruise had his turn at the 1980s fantasy obsession. The trailer is corny but exciting with it's use of epic words straight from the decade's dictionary. Legend is about a young man who sets outs to destroy "darkness"to make way for "light", and clearly our cultures binaries are plentiful in this one.

Return to OZ 1985

Return to OZ is Disney's fantasy sequel and re-imagination of the film classic "Wizard of OZ". This time around, it's quite different. It's stranger, darker, and definitely out of the 1980s.

Dragon Slayer 1981

"Dragon Slayer" includes a kingdom, a hungry dragon, and virgins being sacrificed. Sounds like a metal song doesn't it? Nope, it's actually a Disney movie. Disney does have a way of masking conservative traditions and messages in magic and fantastic creatures.