6. Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton, 1999)
Back when Tim Burton and Johnny Depp made good films, Sleepy Hollow was their weirdest, darkest achievement. It still holds that sweet core of many of Burton’s films, which are precisely what made him so good before he went full-on big-studio cynicism, but it’s a bloody, colorless affair that borrows the sense of childish wonderment when confronted with impossible, scary things.
Johnny Depp serves his Burton muse purpose well here, incorporating the character’s stern manner and playing well against the lavish production design, the true star of the film. Sometimes comic, sometimes truly scary, this little gem of a film reminds you what kind of director Burton was when he told the stories he actually wanted to tell.
7. The Company of Wolves (Neil Jordan, 1985)
A curious mixture of Little Red Riding Hood and The Wolf Man, this Neil Jordan classic tells of a young girl who dreams of a strange breed of werewolves just outside her house. It’s a clever metaphor for growing up that smartly posits men as dangerous predators who learn to “hunt” from a young age, while not relegating the women to the role of victims.
The film’s stunning visuals acquired fame way beyond the movie itself, with the haunting image of a wolf literally coming out of a young man’s mouth inspiring each and every werewolf transformation scene that came after it. It’s a film of little subtlety, but a lot of insight and competence.
8. Something Wicked This Way Comes (Jack Clayton, 1983)
With a script by the author himself, Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of the finest Ray Bradbury adaptations Hollywood has ever done. And while cinema hasn’t always been good to the legendary author, it’s still an enjoyably dark and deep movie with killer performances by Jonathan Pryce and Jason Robards. They play the opposing adult forces that gravitate around the two pre-adolescent leads.
The story tells of a small town in the heart of America – one fateful night, Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival arrives and two boys, Will and Jim, soon discover there’s something sinister going on in it. Bradbury’s work is all about evocative storytelling, tackling issues of growing up in America and the maladies of small-town living, while never losing touch with the whimsical side of his story.
9. Legend (Ridley Scott, 1985)
This early Tom Cruise vehicle (post-Risky Business, pre-Top Gun) is sometimes maligned for being the weakest in a batch of good fantasy adventure films to come out in the 80s. While it certainly doesn’t measure up to The Princess Bride, Ladyhawke or Willow, it is probably the most daring of the batch.
The story of a young forest boy (Cruise) destined to save a princess (Mia Sara) from the evil plans of a demon (Tim Curry) is pretty straightforward, but Ridley Scott goes all out in the visuals and tone of the film, encouraging a scenery-chewing performance for the ages by Curry and filling the movie with little details that stand out with repeated viewings.
10. Nochnoy Dozor (Timur Bekmambetov, 2004)
While the furor around it was a little overwhelming back when it was released, Nochnoy Dozor (or Night Watch, in the US) is a better film that its reputation. Timur Bekmambetov is not a master filmmaker, but this film in particular plays well into his skill set, as he essentially works as a highlighter for all the crazy, surreal things the script, based upon the novel by Sergey Lukyanenko, comes up with.
It’s a darker, grimier version of all of Hollywood’s dull attempts at a really adult vampire film, or fantasy epic. With a charismatic turn by Konstantin Khabenskiy and one hell of a cliffhanger, the film grabs the spectator’s attention immediately, and never lets up. If you’re tired of fantasy films that are all exactly the same, this is your movie.
Author Bio: Caio Coletti is a Brazilian-born journalist, a proud poptimist, and has too many opinions to keep them all to himself.