The Finest Fantasy: 25 Must-See Sword & Sorcery Films

Despite its consistent popularity as a literary genre, Fantasy has been only intermittently in vogue at the box office. The 80s were a particularly fertile time for the genre, spurred in large measure by the success of Conan the Barbarian, one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature roles. Of course, defining Fantasy is an imperfect science. In a certain sense, many horror films could be, and are, called "dark fantasy," and most superhero movies are Fantasy also, to say nothing of much science fiction, several comedies, and not a few dramas. For ease of classification, everything listed below falls into the Sword & Sorcery subgenre of Fantasy. Sword & Sorcery films often (though not always) share certain common elements. They are the most legendary and epic of Fantasy films, stories of brave warriors and beautiful damsels in distress, of mythical monsters, mysterious wizards, and kindgoms in the balance.
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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron's army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring. (201 mins.)
Director: Peter Jackson
“ The greatest trilogy in the history of cinema comes to an epic conclusion in this, the crown jewel of all Fantasy. Can Frodo persevere in his quest to destroy the Ring of Power, or will he fall prey to Gollum or even the darkness within himself? ” - ksj870
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle Earth from the Dark Lord Sauron. (178 mins.)
Director: Peter Jackson
“ Splendorous first entry in the Lord of the Rings saga. The evil Sauron plots to conquer the realm of Middle-Earth, while a fragile band of heroes unite in a desperate bid to destroy the Ring of Power which is the key to the fates of all who live. ” - ksj870
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron's new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard. (179 mins.)
Director: Peter Jackson
“ Enter: Gollum. Includes one of the greatest castle sieges ever filmed. ” - ksj870
Excalibur (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Merlin the magician helps Arthur Pendragon unite the Britons around the round table of Camelot even as forces conspire to tear it apart (140 mins.)
Director: John Boorman
“ The Matter of Britain may be the greatest legend of all time, and this is perhaps the finest cinematic treatment that legend has thus far received. Exciting, majestic, and generally faithful to the original tales, Excalibur is grand fantasy. ” - ksj870
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A barbarian warrior sets off to avenge his parents and his tribe whom were slain by an evil sorcerer and his henchmen when he was a boy. (129 mins.)
Director: John Milius
“ Arnold Schwarzenegger is a masterful embodiment of Robert E. Howard's iconic Fantasy hero. Bloody, violent, and grim, this is the film that started the Sword & Sorcery craze of the 1980s. ” - ksj870
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Four kids travel through a wardrobe to the land of Narnia and learn of their destiny to free it with the guidance of a mystical lion. (143 mins.)
Director: Andrew Adamson
“ C.S. Lewis's classic children's novel makes the jump to the big screen in this lavish, beautiful adaptation. The inherent Christian message shines throughout and there are a number of superb performances, including Liam Neeson as the voice of Aslan. Perfect for kids of all ages. ” - ksj870
Immortals (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
Theseus is a mortal man chosen by Zeus to lead the fight against the ruthless King Hyperion, who is on a rampage across Greece to obtain a weapon that can destroy humanity. (110 mins.)
“ Is there a better source for high Fantasy than Greek mythology? Epic adventure blessed with great special effects and ferocious action. The well-written script conveys a strong pro-faith message as well. ” - ksj870
Willow (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A reluctant dwarf must play a critical role in protecting a special baby from an evil queen. (126 mins.)
Director: Ron Howard
“ Inspiring high fantasy in the Star Wars vein, courtesy of George Lucas (of course). ” - ksj870
300 (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
King Leonidas of Sparta and a force of 300 men fight the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. (117 mins.)
Director: Zack Snyder
“ Brutal, edgy, and highly stylized action. Surreal and unforgettable. ” - ksj870
DragonHeart (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
The last dragon and a disillusioned dragonslaying knight must cooperate to stop an evil king who was given partial immortality. (103 mins.)
Director: Rob Cohen
“ Like Willow, this is an extremely inspiring family-friendly film with outstanding special effects, engaging characters, and a great moral center. ” - ksj870
Knights of the Round Table (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
King Arthur's rule is threatened by the adulterous love between Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere, a relationship the king's enemies hope to exploit. (115 mins.)
Director: Richard Thorpe
“ Rivaling Excalibur as the best Arthurian film yet produced, this is classic epic filmmaking at its best. Robert Taylor is supreme as Lancelot and Ava Gardner is delectable as Guenevere, the forbidden object of his affections. Not nearly as bloody as Excalibur, but the action scenes are still effective with several fine sword fights. The inherent Christian morality from the writings of Sir Thomas Malory comes through as well, as opposed to many more recent adaptations which opt for Political Correctness instead. Sadly, they don't make them like this anymore. ” - ksj870
Clash of the Titans (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Perseus must battle both Medusa and the Kraken to save the Princess Andromeda. (118 mins.)
Director: Desmond Davis
“ The remake isn't bad, but the original still takes the prize. Tremendous stop-motion effects make the numerous Titans in all their monstrous glory very believable. A bit slow at times, but all the same fabulous entertainment. ” - ksj870
Kull the Conqueror (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.8/10 X  
An barbarian warrior becomes a king when he defeats a king in armed combat and the king's heir conspire to overthrow him and reclaim the throne by resurrecting an evil sorceress. (95 mins.)
Director: John Nicolella
“ Underrated epic fantasy with Kevin Sorbo in top form as a barbarian who becomes King of Velusia and inherits a host of enemies to go along with it, not the least of which is the diabolic Akivasha, played to the hilt by the spectacular Tia Carrere. Lots of action combined with a keen sense of fun culminating in a fantastic climax. ” - ksj870
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Sinbad and his crew intercept a homunculus carrying a golden tablet. Koura, the creator of the homunculus and practitioner of evil magic... (105 mins.)
Director: Gordon Hessler
“ High adventure in the East courtesy of Sinbad. Black magic and nonstop swashbuckling adventure, all of which is greatly enhanced by the beautiful presence of the luminous Caroline Munro. ” - ksj870
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
Conan leads a ragtag group of adventurers on a quest for a princess. (103 mins.)
“ Not nearly as good as the original Conan the Barbarian, but still very entertaining. ” - ksj870
The 13th Warrior (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A man, having fallen in love with the wrong woman, is sent by the sultan himself on a diplomatic mission to a distant land as an ambassador. Stopping at a Viking village port to restock on supplies, he finds himself unwittingly embroiled on a quest to banish a mysterious threat in a distant Viking land. (102 mins.)
Director: John McTiernan
“ The best film version of the Beowulf legend so far, albeit a rather unconventional one. ” - ksj870
Ladyhawke (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Philipe Gastone, a thief, escapes from the dungeon at Aquila, sparking a manhunt. He is nearly captured when Captain Navarre befriends him... (121 mins.)
Director: Richard Donner
“ Fine story of a knight and the woman he loves, living in the shadow of a curse designed to keep them apart forever. Rutger Hauer is a strong presence and Michelle Pfeiffer is almost unbearably lovely. Soundtrack is a bit anachronistic, but it grows on you after a while. Rich, glorious medieval adventure with a heavy dose of high romance. ” - ksj870
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
When a princess is shrunken by an evil wizard, Sinbad must undertake a quest to an island of monsters to cure her and prevent a war. (88 mins.)
Director: Nathan Juran
“ Cyclops, dragons, and evil wizards threaten Sinbad at every turn. Outstanding effects and a clever script brought to life by a strong cast. ” - ksj870
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
The Pevensie siblings return to Narnia, where they are enlisted to once again help ward off an evil king and restore the rightful heir to the land's throne, Prince Caspian. (150 mins.)
Director: Andrew Adamson
“ A bit darker than The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the religous message is somewhat minimized, but still great entertainment with an uplifting core. ” - ksj870
Krull (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
A prince and a fellowship of companions set out to rescue his bride from a fortress of alien invaders who have arrived on their home planet. (116 mins.)
Director: Peter Yates
“ Creative, ambitious film from the 80s. Combines elements of fantasy and science fiction to great effect. ” - ksj870
The Beastmaster (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
A sword-and-sorcery fantasy about a young man's search for revenge. Armed with supernatural powers, the handsome hero and his animal allies wage war against marauding forces. (118 mins.)
Director: Don Coscarelli
“ Likeable story of a young man's quest to track down his father's killer. FX aren't always first-class but the film's enthusiasm and sense of wonder allows it to rise above any other weakness. Solid cast featuring the beautiful fire-haired Tanya Roberts. ” - ksj870
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
Lucy and Edmund Pevensie return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace where they meet up with Prince Caspian for a trip across the sea aboard the royal ship The Dawn Treader. Along the way they encounter dragons, dwarves, merfolk, and a band of lost warriors before reaching the edge of the world. (113 mins.)
Director: Michael Apted
“ Less exciting and action-packed than the other two entries in the film series, but thoughtful and good-intentioned. Lots of valuable insights into the nature of good and evil and learning to value oneself. ” - ksj870
Red Sonja (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.0/10 X  
A vengeful woman sets out to retrieve a magic orb from an evil queen whom she vows vengeance upon after the evil queen slain her family and her loyal warriors raped her. (89 mins.)
“ Would have been a lot better with a bigger budget, but even so this is a much better film than its often given credit for. Brigitte Nielsen is great as the eponymous warrior-woman with a vendetta against the dark queen who left her for dead. Arnold Schwarzenegger adds his inimitable presence and there's lots of excellent swordplay. More in the vein of Kull the Conqueror than Conan the Barbarian, but the humor never ruins the story. ” - ksj870
The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
A mercenary with a three-bladed sword rediscovers his royal heritage's dangerous future when he is recruited to help a princess foil the designs of a brutal tyrant and a powerful sorcerer in conquering a land. (100 mins.)
Director: Albert Pyun
“ Richard Moll stars as the monstrous Sorcerer from the title, brought back to life by an evil tyrant looking for conquest. At times a little darker than some of the other films on the list, but never loses its sense of adventure. ” - ksj870
Legend (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
A young man must stop the Lord of Darkness from both destroying daylight and marrying the woman he loves. (94 mins.)
Director: Ridley Scott
“ Enchanting fairy tale...can the lovely Mia Sara resist the temptations of Darkness with the fate of the last unicorns at stake? Good early vehicle for Tom Cruise. Tim Curry delivers a bravura performance while showcasing one of the truly great makeup sets in movie history. Deserves a bigger audience than it has received. ” - ksj870