Jesse’s Top 5 Fantasy Film Universes

Written by Jesse Gelinas August 03, 2013

"Labyrinth", a fantasy musicalThe fantasy writer’s task is a difficult one; he strives to create an entirely new world for you to explore. Something exciting, original and fascinating. The Fantasy genre might have it the hardest out of all fiction in accomplishing this goal, as their worlds need to be expansive, creative, and thoroughly thought out in order to achieve a truly engaging experience. That said, here are my top 5 favourite fantasy universes!

5. “His Dark Materials” Multiverse

"The Golden Compass", the only film adaptation from the "His Dark Materials" fantasy series.

In 2007, Chris Weitz adapted the first book of “His Dark Materials” into “The Golden Compass” – the result was a mixed bag. Having never read the books, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and the strange world it introduced me to. Doing some more research only made me appreciate it more. A world where humans and talking animals (daemons) form completely symbiotic bonds, while an authoritative church attempts to control people’s lives sounds pretty awesome. The movie does well at exploring the strangeness of this world, but the books are even better and I strongly recommend them.

4. The “Buffy-verse”

The Buffyverse soon became one of the most studied and talked about fantasy worlds of all time when its run ended.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” dominated for seven years – and for good reason. What started as a simple vampire story evolved over the years into a modern fantasy epic. From werewolves, to witches, demons, and demigods, this show had everything. The Buffy-verse has since evolved past the original show, with the spinoff “Angel,” and a comic series that goes beyond the end of both. This franchise proves that modern fantasy is still around and going strong. You just need to look for it.

3. Carnivàle

A dark, genre-bending fantasy is found in HBO's "Carnivale"

“Carnivale” holds a special place in my heart. It’s another in a long line of shows axed before their time. Concerning the lives of a group of traveling performers, “Carnivale” dealt with an ongoing battle between light and dark, good and evil. The Avatars were embodied in the characters of Ben Hawkins and Brother Justin Crowe. Beyond its intriguing characters, the world itself is a fantastic character on its own. The Depression-era Dust Bowl is the backdrop for this epic battle, and even the seemingly harmless towns (like Babylon) can be both mysterious and terrifying in their own right. This show did everything right, and will stand the test of time.

2. Westeros

A White Walker looks on at the Wall, in George RR Martin's fantasy epic, "Game of Thrones"

George RR Martin has created a monster in the “Song of Ice and Fire” series. Its HBO incarnation, “Game of Thrones,” is a terrific, faithful adaptation of the fantastical world he created, and allows us to see firsthand the beautiful, dangerous land of Westeros. The world of “Game of Thrones” is not just the war-torn Westeros, but the desert wasteland of Essos, and the frozen wasteland that is ‘beyond the Wall’. Everything and everyone here can kill you, and the constant danger and political intrigue make this universe a powerhouse of the fantasy genre.

1. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth

A shot from "Return of the King", featuring Tolkien's expansive fantasy world, Middle-Earth

J.R.R. Tolkien and fantasy have become synonymous over the last seventy-five years. Since “The Hobbit” first hit bookshelves, readers have marveled at his creation: Middle-Earth. This fantastical land from an age long ago contains all the elements that have become commonplace for the fantasy genre since: Elves, Orcs, Dwarves and dragons wage war; Wizards cast light and dark magic; and the smallest of Hobbits can change the course of history. Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy has showcased this amazing universe in films that have touched fans, old and young, across the world. There’s a reason Tolkien and his books have stayed relevant for the better part of a century. Fantasy is about creating brave new worlds, and taking us on journeys to unknown places, through dangers untold. These books do it all, like no one before or since.

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a TV/Movie review writer and occasional film student. It gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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