Tales of myths and legends, knights and magicians, creatures of all kinds and more have been popular since the dawn of time. They’ve been at the center of many great films, but the 1980’s were jam-packed with ’em!
There’s no doubt that we’ve seen some incredible movies in the realm of myth and fantasy since (Hello, Lord of the Rings trilogy and all of your 87 Oscars…it’s that many, right?!), the Eighties were arguably a peak era for the genre. And because it demonstrates its influence in this month’s crate (Stranger Things is set in the 80’s, Thor is about to appear in a new film with 80’s influences… Ghostbusters actually is an 80’s classic!), we thought we’d dedicate this week’s Friday Five to some favorites from the decade where fantasy and myth ruled… specifically some which you might not have revisited in a while, and really should!
NOTE: Obviously there’s no way we could fit everyone’s fave into this list. So many others we just didn’t have room for, and we love those too! So after you’re done with these, go watch Conan the Barbarian, or Excalibur, or The Dark Crystal, or The Neverending Story, or Legend, or… yeah, just clear your weekend. 😉
At the time of its release, this George Lucas-produced, Ron Howard-directed fantasy took some flack for what critics perceived as essentially a re-write of Star Wars in a fantasy setting. To which we ask: What the hell is wrong with that, exactly? In all honesty though, the film is much, much more; it might share some archetypes, but from Val Kilmer’s roguish rapscallion to Joanne Whalley’s not-so-evil warrior princess, to the incomprarable Warwick Davis shining in the lead role of pint-sized wizard supreme (and with no prosthetics in sight!), it’s tremendous fun. Also: Elora Danan, unquestionably the cutest movie baby of the 80’s. This is a fact.
Make no mistake about it, Krull is an… odd movie. I knew that watching it as a kid, when all of the sudden a craggy rock-like spacecraft in the opening credits appeared to land on a planet and suddenly turn into a villain’s lair. Is it a space saga?! Is it a sword and sorcery epic? Turns out Krull is both, and while the FX are dated and the dialogue is a bit stodgy, if you’re a genre fan it’s still a really fun ride. The production design is great and James Horner’s score is truly exceptional. Plus, very young Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane! And real talk, the Glaive is one of the the coolest weapons in any fantasy flick. Ever.
Time Bandits (1981)
Most cinema geeks would cite 1986’s dystopian masterpiece Brazil as Terry Gilliam’s greatest film. Much as I do love that film and respect its legacy, Time Bandits is one of my sentimental favorites of all time. A time-travel heist meets coming of age classic, with a stunningly huge and talented cast anchored by the great David Warner as the most hilariously droll incarnation of ultimate evil ever committed to film. (“Oh, Benson,” he tells his dimwit minion,”you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence.”) And of course, culminating in that ending which is seemingly so bleak for its child hero, many audiences didn’t know what to do with it. (In time, the beauty of the film is in realizing it’s probably the happiest ending he could have.)
Return to Oz (1986)
Walt Disney Pictures released a number of darker-themed films fantasy films in the 80’s (The Watcher In the Woods; Something Wicked This Way Comes), but most probably didn’t expect one of these to be a sequel to The Wizard of Oz. (Although, come on; Dorothy kills a witch by melting her into a slurry in the first one.) Walter Murch’s adaptation of two L. Frank Baum Oz follow-up books is gorgeously designed and memorably insane, from the screeching Wheelers to the incomparable Jean Marsh – who was also evil queen Bavmorda in Willow! – as head-stealing Princess Mombi. (“DOOOOOOROTHY GAAAAAAAALE!” *shudder*) Childhood nightmare fuel, but in the best way.
Flash Gordon (1980)
Is there any 1980’s mythical menagerie as bright, or as brash, or as totally bonkers as FLASH!….AAAH-AAAH!? We’re hard pressed to think of any; the Dino DeLaurentiis-produced big screen version of the popular 1930’s serial may have been a flop on release but it’s since earned its share of die-hard fans. Max Von Sydow merits his own brand of ham as Ming the Merciless, and though star Sam Jones is a bit wet behind the ears as the ex-football star turned legendary intergalacic hero, he’s buffeted by the acid-trip visuals, the rockin’ Queen soundtrack, and some very big presences. (Personally, I swooned way more over Timothy Dalton’s Prince Barin. *sigh*) And of course, that unmistakeable baritone bellow of Brian Blessed. Say it with us, won’t you?…