The best fantasy movies on Netflix

Thanks to shows like Game of Thrones and The Witcher, the fantasy genre is experiencing 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.

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Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Pan's Labyrinth on Netflix

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.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Genre: Drama/Horror/Science Fiction & Fantasy
Stars: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes

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A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story on Netflix

What if we told you that one of the most beautiful, existential drama-fantasy films involved the leading man, Casey Affleck, wearing a sheet over his body for nearly the entire runtime? You might call us crazy, and that’s okay; but we still urge you to dive into David Lowery’s quiet little masterpiece, A Ghost Story. When C (Casey Affleck) dies in a car crash, he awakens in his new phantasmic form. Returning to the suburban ranch he lived in with M (Rooney Mara), the wraith spends the rest of his days “haunting” the house. Featuring some of the most meditative and emotional performances from the two leads, Andrew Palermo’s lush cinematography, and a heart-wrenching score by Daniel Hart, A Ghost Story may not be for everyone. But those that can appreciate a slow burn of fantastical proportions will leave the film feeling handsomely rewarded. Oh, and we almost forgot to mention that there’s a five-minute, single-take scene involving M, quiet weeping, and a pie. Yes. A pie.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham
Director: David Lowery
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)

Mary and the Witch's Flower on Netflix

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. Netflix also has a pretty good collection of anime series if you need more after this one.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Animation, Art House & International
Stars: Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Bright (2017)

Bright on Netflix

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.

Rotten Tomatoes: 28%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace
Director: David Ayer
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 117 minutes

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The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

The Spiderwick Chronicles on Netflix

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.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Genre: Action Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Stars: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte
Director: Mark Waters
Rating: PG
Runtime: 97 minutes

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Fullmetal Alchemist (2017)

Fullmetal Alchemist on Netflix

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 life 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.

Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Genre: Action Adventure, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Stars: Ryôsuke Yamada, Tsubasa Honda, Dean Fujioka
Director: Fumihiko Sori
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 135 minutes

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Underworld (2003)

Underworld on Netflix

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.

Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Shane Brolly
Director: Len Wiseman
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes

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Horns (2013)

Horns on Netflix

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.

Rotten Tomatoes: 41%
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella
Director: Alexandra Aja
Rating: R
Runtime: 120 minutes

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Swiss Army Man (2016)

Swiss Army Man on Netflix

Making his second appearance on our list, in Swiss Army Man, Daniel Radcliffe plays Manny, a beached corpse that can talk, store water like a well, be used as a surfboard, and produce ungodly farts. Oh, and he also becomes a shipwrecked Paul Dano’s best friend. Over the course of this bonkers hybrid of indie-fantasy meets buddy-comedy, our two leads make a pact to get Dano’s character, Hank, back to civilization. As they plan their voyage, Hank fills Manny in on his love life (giving us brief cameos from Mary Elizabeth-Winstead), teaches him how to eat at a restaurant, and shows him how to have fun at a party. Arguments ensue, tears are shed, and laughs are shared. Yes, this is a bizarre concept, but the fraternal ramblings of the two leads make for quite an adventure of a film. Featuring an emotive score by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell (both of Manchester Orchestra), Swiss Army Man will feel like one of the most wild hour-plus journeys you’ve ever taken through cinema, but it’s one many will enjoy.

Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano, Mary Elizabeth-Winstead
Director: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes

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Groundhog Day (1993)

Groundhog Day on Netflix

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.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Stars: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliot
Director: Harold Ramis
Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Stardust (2007)

Stardust on Netflix

Based on Neil Gaiman’s 1999 novel, Stardust follows Tristan (Charlie Cox) on his quest to retrieve an enchanted star from the magical realm of Stormhold. Meant to be a gift for his bride-to-be Victoria (Sienna Miller), the star turns out to be the disguised form of a woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes). Tristan decides to bring Yvaine back to his lover but must contend with the wretched forces of the magic realm that want him and Yvaine dead. Along this colorful, flight-of-fancy pilgrimage, we’re treated to great performances by all, but particularly Robert De Niro as the swashbuckling Captain Shakespeare. It’s always nice to see De Niro lay his tommy-gun and tough-guy chops aside for more theatrical bouts; and his role in Stardust is a true testament to the maestro’s abilities.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Stars: Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 127 minutes

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The Lobster (2015)

The Lobster on Netflix

In Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, Colin Farrell plays David, the newest resident of The Hotel, a retreat for single people to find their next mate. If they can’t find love and companionship within 45 days, the person is transformed into an animal of their choosing. And, you guessed it, David decides that a lobster would be best for his transfiguration. Lanthimos’ dystopian world plays like an amalgam of David Lynch horrors and laugh-out-loud dialogue. With amazing performances from Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, and John C. Reilly, The Lobster is a high-concept (and at times uncomfortably odd) story done right. Lovers of Lanthimos’ other films, especially Dogtooth and The Favourite, will feel right at home.

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Genre: Comedy, Cult Movies, Drama, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Stars: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Rating: R
Runtime: 118 minutes

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