With shows like Game of Thrones and The Witcher captivating audiences worldwide, the fantasy genre is in a bit of a renaissance. Although Netflix doesn’t have as many fantasy films as it does sci-fi, there are still a few solid options for those looking to get their fix given the broad scope of the genre.
All the movies on our list have some sort of fantastical element, but not all of them take place in a traditional fantasy setting. In fact, some of them are indistinguishable from the real world, aside from one or two elements. Here are the best fantasy movies currently streaming on Netflix.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Pan’s Labyrinth is a film Guillermo del Toro mentally developed for 20 years, one that launched the director into the mainstream. The film’s use of special effects, makeup, animatronics, and CGI gives the movie a stunning and unique visual feel that lends to its fairytale-esque story.
Set in the years following the Spanish Civil War, the film follows a young child (Ivana Baquero) who moves in with her mother and new stepfather, Vidal (Sergi López). The first night she stays in her new home, a fairy leads her into the garden, where she meets a faun (Doug Jones) that believes she is the reincarnation of Princess Moanna, the princess of the underworld. To attain immortality, she must accomplish three tasks the faun gives her.
It’s a stunning movie that deals with complex issues through the lens of childlike wonder and despair. If you haven’t watched it yet, it is well worth your time.
Dragonheart is a classic, plain and simple. It begins with a dragon who shares part of his heart to save a young prince from a mortal wound. When the boy turns out to be vicious and mean-spirited like his father, however, his mother blames the dragon for tainting him and decrees all dragons be slain. Bowen (Dennis Quaid), a renowned dragon-slayer, is then tasked with slaying the beasts, only to befriend one (Sean Connery) upon learning that he is the last of his kind.
The film is lighthearted but still has some heavier moments, making it suitable for children and adults alike. Sadly, although it received numerous sequels, none of them had the same charm as the original.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)
Studio Ponoc, a studio composed of Studio Ghibli alums, made a splash with its first film, Mary and the Witch’s Flower. The film, based on a Mary Stewart novel and centered on a young girl who discovers a flower that transforms her into a witch for one night, is as fun as it is beautiful, namely due to its spectacular animation and gentle approach to the source material. It walks in the footsteps of well-known Studio Ghibli films like Arrietty and Ponyo — a given, considering director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s involvement — yet it hits all the right emotional beats, proving Miyazaki isn’t the only one who has mastered the art of a good story.
Bright wasn’t well-received when it arrived on Netflix, but since its premiere in 2017, it has become one of the most-streamed films on the platform. That’s because, while the movie is flawed, it does have a unique world, impressive practical effects, and a timely story about crime and discrimination.
In Bright, humans coexist with a variety of fantasy races. The film follows Ward (Will Smith) and his partner Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the first orc police officer. The two have a strained relationship because Ward was previously injured by an orc robber, and it is believed that Jakoby let the robber go on purpose. The film tries to juggle complex issues of race, identity, and loyalty while also telling a larger-than-life fantasy story. It doesn’t always juggle those topics particularly well, but it remains one of the most ambitious fantasy films of the last several years.
The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
Based on Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi’s popular book series, The Spiderwick Chronicles continues the trend of quality, emotionally-complex fantasy films aimed at children. It was received well by audiences and critics alike and features impressive performances to boot.
The film follows Jason (Freddie Highmore), his twin brother Simon, and their sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger). After moving into their great-great-uncle’s estate following a divorce, Jason discovers Arthur Spiderwick’s study and a book detailing his observations and knowledge of faeries. As the film progresses, all three children are pulled into a struggle between the faeries and the ogre Mulgarath, who wants to use the information in the book for evil.
The film is well-paced and exciting, and it is the perfect entry point for young fantasy lovers.
Fullmetal Alchemist (2017)
Fullmetal Alchemist is a live-action film based on the popular manga and anime of the same name. The film, like the subsequent versions, follows brothers Edric and Alphonse. The two brothers live with their ill mother in the countryside, where they study alchemy. After their mother dies, however, they try to bring her back to live with a forbidden Human Transmutation. The alchemy fails and has severe consequences: Edric loses his arm and leg, and Alphonse loses his entire body, and his spirit possesses an empty suit of armor.
The two brothers grow up to become state alchemists while continuing to hide their taboo act and pursue a stone that has the power to restore their bodies. The film received mixed reviews, but it does feature some pretty advanced film techniques and high production value, rendering it worth the watch, especially for fans of the show and manga.
Most of the Underworld series is on Netflix, and while each entry is entertaining, we still think the first film is the best. Like subsequent entries, Underworld explores the secret history of vampires and lycans (i.e., werewolves), as well the complex mythology behind each. It follows Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a vampire who specializes in hunting lycans, and her struggle to choose between her order and her love interest, who was bitten by a werewolf.
The film sports some slick Gothic visuals, a great performance from Beckinsale, and plenty of vampire-on-werewolf action. It wasn’t well-received by critics, sure, but audiences loved it, leading to its success at the box office.
Horns is based on Joe Hill’s bestselling novel of the same name. It begins with Ignatius Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) waking up from a bender to find a pair of horns growing from his head; this comes after he is accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend. While he professes his innocence, most of the community believes he did it.
The horns give Ig the unique power to force people to reveal their darkest secrets, and Ig uses them to discover who the true killer is. As the film progresses, Ig’s horns grow larger, and he begins to take on the appearance of the Devil more and more. It’s a shocking and surprisingly human story about redemption, love, and revenge.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Loosely based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story of the same name, this fantasy romance from David Fincher is powerful, beautifully-shot, and well-acted. The bulk of the film is a flashback that follows the story of one Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), a man who is born with the appearance of an elderly man and ages in reverse. The decade-spanning story interweaves Button’s life with those of Daisy Fuller (Cate Blanchett), his partner at multiple points throughout his life, resulting in a story that’s as timeless as Forrest Gump and as captivating as anything in Fincher’s impressive filmography.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Fantasy is often geared toward a certain kind of audience, but many cornerstones of American film are, in fact, fantasy movies. Take, for example, Groundhog Day, a beloved comedy and one of Bill Murray’s most memorable works.
In Groundhog Day, weatherman Phil Connors (Murray) provides half-hearted and condescending coverage of Groundhog Day. After being trapped in town by a blizzard he inaccurately predicted, Phil wakes up on the exact same day as he did previously, and finds himself in a loop he can’t escape. At first, he realizes his actions have no consequences, and he fulfills his most base desires. He quickly becomes depressed in the loop, however, and tries to find a way to escape.
The charming film captures Bill Murray at the peak of his career while serving as a prime example of fantasy’s mainstream appeal.