Fantasy is a wide spread genre in film and has actually become so diluted that its hardly a specific genre at all anymore. The modern definition of fantasy encompasses movies from all different genres that include a mystical, otherworldly, supernatural, or fairy tail-like quality and those are the films I’m focusing on with this Top 10. Today I take a look back at the year in fantasy films and count down my picks for the best of the best that I had the pleasure of viewing in 2017. These are the films that captured our imaginations perfectly and presented us with stories of love, loss, and escapism that brought a smile to our faces or a tear to our eyes. These are my picks for the Top 10 Fantasy Films of 2017.
For this list I focused on movies that incorporate fantasy concepts into their plot and presentation. These can be stories of love, stories that explore the afterlife, stories that explore other worlds, or stories that include magic, mystery, mysticism and the unknown as long as the film isn’t grounded in what we perceive as true reality. In many ways these films fit the specific designation of fantasy more than the more prominent genres in which they also fit.
As with all my “best of” lists the top 3 movies here will also qualify for my Best of 2017 list and no Netflix movies will be found here either.
What is your favorite fantasy film of 2017? Let me know in the comments below! If you didn’t see a film you thought you’d see on this list it’s possible it is on another 2017 “best of” list so check them all out. On we go with the countdown!!!
10. “The Shack”
I argued with myself thoroughly about whether or not I felt this religious fantasy drama was good enough to make this list, but it takes a lot for a film like this to be memorable especially to a man like me who bucks organized religion. “The Shack”, based on a novel of the same name, has grown on me a lot since I first saw it in theaters and despite its heavy handed religious undertones it’s actually a very powerful film. Exploring a grieving father who finds himself in a peaceful world where depictions of the Holy Trinity try to restore his faith and help him let go of the hurt from his daughter’s death “The Shack” reminds us that religious stories and lessons are about more than belief and can offer truly lasting life lessons as well. The representation of heaven is absolutely beautiful and while we as people may never experience such an awakening in reality, this film’s imagery and social commentary might be enough to warm even the harshest cynic’s heart. In fact in my review I declared “(‘The Shack’) can open the heart of even the most anti-religious viewer if given the chance”.
9. “The Mummy”
Alright so I know a lot of people have slammed this movie in 2017, and for many reasons it deserves it, but I actually didn’t find this film to be completely unwatchable. The first film in the Universal Studios’ planned Dark Universe “The Mummy” might have been imperfect, but it was still an enjoyable fantasy adventure that had its merits, even if they were few and far between. In my review I said the film “took the concept in an interesting direction” and complimented it as a massive improvement over the Brendon Frasier films…like I said my opinion certainly wasn’t the most popular one. Even if it was by the books “The Mummy” on its own was passable and offered just enough entertainment value for me to give it a spot on this list as opposed to my Top 10 Worst Films of 2017 list earlier this month.
8. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”
Few films left me feeling as mixed as “Dead Man Tell No Tales” did in 2017, but in the end it was a fun, swashbuckling continuation of the fantasy franchise that I couldn’t help but have on this list. In my review I complimented the film’s newer cast members and the fresh story that delved into Jack Sparrow’s origin. I concluded “there is still adventure to behold here, but a lot to be desired” but what was redeemable about this movie made it one of the most enjoyable escapism projects of 2017 with fantastic special effects, a worthy villain in Captain Salazar, and a slew of the trademark twists and turns the series has become known for that reminded us why we loved these films in the first place, even if past entries in the series were frankly a lot more fun.
7. “Before I Fall”
This was a film I enjoyed much more than many others and in my opinion it deserved a lot more attention than it got. Based on a young adult novel, this story revolved around a high school girl who finds herself reliving the same day in repeat, otherwise known as the “Groundhog Day effect”, until she gets it right. While this plot device has been used many times in the past this made for a spectacularly under-appreciated fantasy drama as a teenager girl has the chance to do something many of us only dream about, make things right. The film allows its main character to explore her own fantasies and the possibilities of her blessed existence while also presenting the stages of grief as the reality of the situation sinks in. Both an exciting fantasy and gripping drama film, “Before I Fall” was “charming, thought provoking, and enlightening in its own special way”. You can read my review of the film here.
6. “Personal Shopper”
I never got to review this film simply because it was never theatrically release in my area, but I did eventually get to view it on home release and while it may only loosely qualify as a fantasy film I felt it fit the bill enough to land here. Featuring Kristen Stewart as a young personal shopper for a celebrity who begins to suspect her deceased brother is reaching out to her from the other side “Personal Shopper” was a true mind bender that left a lot open to interpretation allowing the audience themselves to see it as either fantasy, horror, or psychological thriller. The story is engrossing, the acting committed and if it weren’t for some pacing issues and a few moments that caused the film to drag into dull territory for a time it might have been a perfect film. I’m happy to add it to this list if for no other reason than its tackling of the human psyche offering a combination of fantasy and suspense elements to keep us guessing throughout the whole experience.
5. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”
One of my more recent reviews, many scoffed at the idea of bringing another “Jumanji” movie to life after the death of Robin Williams, who starred in the 90s nostalgia classic, several years ago. The sequel went ahead anyways and to the surprise of many, myself included, it was actually good! With an all-star cast portraying the in-game avatars of a group of young high schoolers transported into a video game version of the cursed board game I called the movie “a truly solid film and one that feels necessary” in my review. It modernized the classic game-comes-to-life story and offered adult friendly humor with kid friendly concepts to create an all-around great and balanced viewing experience. It also felt timely as it showcased the realized fantasy of what it would be like to be transported into your favorite video game. One of 2017’s biggest surprises I was genuinely shocked to give “Welcome to the Jungle” my seal of approval earlier this month.
4. “Beauty and the Beast”
Disney has found a niche in the animated world but as the company continues to dominate they have also found success adapting their own animated classics to live action. In 2017 their newest offering yet, a live action retelling of “Beauty and the Beast”, hit the big screen in a big way becoming the highest grossing film of the year prior to December. Nearly a shot for shot remake with some more story elements and scenes added in for spice, as well as new music, in my review I called “Beauty and the Beast” a worthy take on the classic story that “does its best to balance respect for the classic film while trying to be its own story and in more ways than not succeeds”. It’s charming, it’s fun, it’s powerful and in many ways it might have been one of the most magical fantasy offerings of the year. The tale as old as time was reborn and it was a delight to see the final product come to life.
3. “The Shape of Water”
Lauded by many as a major Oscar contender I absolutely loved this Guillermo del Toro directed passion project that exposed the bond and eventual romance between a mute janitor and an amphibious beast. I very recently reviewed this film and in that review I called it “a magical, mystical, and at times thought provoking love story” that honestly hides more significance than you may realize at first. The film was very artsy in its fantasy-laden approach to the star-crossed lovers scenario and took inspiration from past stories to make those clichés feel fresh and new all over again like only great films tend to do. I called it “cinematic art from start to finish” and it’s no wonder it is being considered a contender for many film of the year lists, including my own.
2. “A Monster Calls”
The first, and maybe only, film to qualify for my Best of 2017 overall list without an actual review from me on “Cinema Spotlight”, “A Monster Calls” was one of the first movies I saw in 2017 and helped inspire me to make this blog what it is today. It told the story of a young boy whose mother was dying from an unidentified illness and the tree-like monster that arrived to tell the boy three stories, each with powerful moral significance, to help the boy accept the situation and grow into a young man. Highly quotable and insanely poetic “A Monster Calls” brought a literal tear to my eye when I watched it and even topped my list of films you probably missed in the first half of the year as one that was worthy of catching up on before year’s end. I have no review to quote here as I had yet to truly dedicate myself to this project t the time of my viewing the film in January, but I would have given this a five-star rating easily based on its powerful narrative, incredible acting and social significance alone. The only thing that keeps it from toping this list for me is that one other fantasy film captured the reality of mortality just a little better in 2017.
1. “A Ghost Story”
Some have called it horror. Others a drama. For me thought this was a spectacular fantasy movie that was one of the most mesmerizing viewing experiences I had all year. The story of a man who, after his death, wonders as a typical image of a ghost in a white sheet viewing his fiancée and the world around him moving on in his absence, “A Ghost Story” was haunting, mesmerizing, and fantastic. In my review I noted the movie “takes simplicity and makes it complicated not just as a story, but as an emotional experience.” This movie encapsulated all the mystery, regret, wonder, and uncertainty of death with spectacular performances, amazing atmosphere, and an appropriately chaotic pace that made us as the viewers feel just as lost, confused, hopeless and frustrated as the man we saw wondering through the afterlife hoping for something to hold on to. It was poetic and truly something that needed to be seen to be understood. While it did take a special kind of mindset to completely enjoy this film it was one worth appreciating and offered a dark, inspiring and somewhat magical depiction of what happens after we die, a fantasy that all of us explore in our own minds every single day. That is why it’s my favorite fantasy film of 2017.