The fantasy movies on the recently rebranded Max streaming service are a mix of cult classics, duds, and some of the best fantasy ever made. Among the hits you’ll find the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, a selection of charming Studio Ghibli films, Harry Potter, DC Comics blockbusters and more. Whether you’re looking for mainstream hits or something new, you’ll find it here streaming service.
The Lord of the Rings is a master class in adapting beloved books to the screen and weaving multiple stories into one cohesive narrative. All the fantasy tropes are here: elves, dwarves, wizards, orcs and more. But The Lord of the Rings takes them to new heights with its stunning cinematography, shockingly compelling costumes and powerful performances. Put another way: this trilogy won 17 Academy Awards, including 11 wins in 11 nominations for The Return of the King. If you’ve been holding off, now’s the time to watch, and if you’ve seen them before, there’s never a bad time to re-watch – especially with the extended editions available on Max.
One of the strongest DC superhero films of the last decade, Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot as Diana, Princess of Themyscira. Her peaceful life is turned upside down when fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on her secluded island. The film follows Diana as she leaves her native paradise to try to end the First World War. Director Patty Jenkins pits Wonder Woman’s hope against a desperate world.
A classic fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz follows Dorothy as she is transported from Kansas to a land of witches, wizards, living scarecrows and more. Judy Garland shines in her most iconic role as the lost but determined Dorothy. This is a great early movie for kids who will enjoy the colorful characters and musical numbers, and adults may appreciate a quick look at how movies were made 80 years ago.
This transformation movie really made me feel transformed the first time I watched it. No other movie has affected me like this one. Possibly the best film from a director responsible for many excellent films, Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro, a little girl who gets lost in the spirit world while her family moves around Japan. The animation is spectacular and director Hayao Miyazaki’s careful pacing gives each character the perfect time and space, delivering one of the most unique and compelling fantasy films ever made.
An underrated pure fantasy film based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, Stardust conjures up a trickle of magic to transport you to the magical kingdom of Stormhold. Tristan (Charlie Cox) meets a fallen star in the form of a young woman (Claire Danes), helping her survive her pursuers.
Parisa Taghizadeh / Focus Features
Last Night in Soho (2021)
“Shaun of the Dead” director Edgar Wright tackles psychological horror, with several dips into the fantasies of a young girl. Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) is a young fashion student who travels by night to the Swinging Sixties. She observes the life of another young woman (Anya Taylor-Joy) who strives to achieve her dreams. But Last Night in Soho is no Midnight in Paris – prepare for unsolved mysteries and a few spooky scares.
One of DC’s most underrated superhero movies, Shazam follows teenager Billy Batson as he finds himself in an adult’s body and supernatural powers like the strength of Hercules, the power of Zeus, and more. Despite being easy fodder for kid jokes, this movie has one of the most emotional lines of DC’s recent roster.
The 2014 reboot of towering terror in Tokyo is unloved and underappreciated. No Godzilla movie before or since has done so much to sell the truly awesome scale of the monster. Yes, the film takes a slow-burn approach to revealing Godzilla, but the time it spends building up makes the payoff that much sweeter. While some may not like the film spending more time on the humans following Godzilla, these characters add emotional stakes to the carnage. You can also find the sequels King of the Monsters and Max’s Godzilla vs. Kong (along with the ’54 original), but this is the best rendition of Godzilla.
Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET
Part superhero action film, part World War II alternate history, part demon child fantasy film, Hellboy defies easy categorization. But director Guillermo del Toro weaves it all together into a dark and funny story about a man fighting against his apparent destiny. Hellboy is a cult classic because it takes its characters seriously while remembering that movies are meant to be fun, and Ron Perlman wearing sharpened demon horns while being overprotective of cats is nothing but fun.
Princess Mononoke will scar you. It is a violent, tragic film that deals with the devastation of the natural world as a result of industrialization. It’s also the most visceral, harrowing film Miyazaki has ever made. Giant wolves, ferocious boars and squirming parasitic demons play vital roles in a story that features more violence and gore than anything else in the Ghibli collection. That’s part of what makes Mononoke so great—it stands out from all of Miyazaki’s other films because of its unflinching look at themes of fear, violence, and fighting to protect the things that matter to us.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Thought we were done with Miyazaki movies? Each one is worth watching (Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Nausicaa are additional highlights), but Kiki’s Delivery Service holds a special place in my heart because of how authentic it is, even as a fantasy film. Kiki is a smart, warm-hearted young witch, and as she steps out on her own for the first time, she must learn to deal with her powers, her feelings, and her dreams all at once. It’s a moving story, sometimes painful in how accurately it describes Kiki’s struggles, but it’s an inspiring story for children and adults alike.
The Secret World of Arietti (2010)
Studio Ghibli is often synonymous with Miyazaki, but this film is proof that the studio is perfectly capable of making good films with other directors. An adaptation of Mary Norton’s book The Borrowers, Arrietty focuses on a young girl from a race of little people who “borrow” things like tissue paper and sugar cubes to survive. It’s a sweet little story about growing up, helping others, and facing the uncertainty of the future.
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