08 of 31 Fantasy Films in 31 Days: Ladyhawke (1985) - Exiled knight Navarre and the Lady Isabeau were cursed by an evil bishop for their love: by day, she is a hawk and he a man, by night he is a wolf and she a woman again, never again to touch in the flesh. Aided by the pickpocket Mouse, who keeps up a constant litany to God, the pair intend to confront the bishop and break the curse.

Rutger Hauer is the handsome and angsty Navarre, his hotness in this only ever matched by his turn in Blade Runner. Michelle Pfeiffer is the angelically gorgeous Isabeau. Matthew Broderick is the chatty Mouse, and while plenty hate his character/performance I will always love the little asshole. There’s a star-crossed love story with Beauty and the Beast overtones – similarly set in a medieval France – and not even the ridiculously 80s synth soundtrack can mar the fact that this is pure romantic fairy tale greatness. SUPER formative for me in terms of aesthetics and tropes, and I shan’t hear a bad word against it.

05 of 31 Horrors: Tremors (1990) - Nothing ever happens in the tiny desert town of Perfection. That is, anyway, until subterranean monsters begin attacking the unsuspecting inhabitants. Suddenly the odd-job men Earl and Val find themselves leading the rag-tag survivors in a bid for safety. But how can you escape when the monsters know every move you make, and can drag you underground before you can run three steps?

Another film that helped define my childhood - while other people may associate Kevin Bacon with Footloose, he’ll forever be Valentine McKee in my books. Just a solidly fun creature feature with some likable characters and hilarious moments. When the Graboids try to take on survivalist Burt Gummer, they certainly choose the wrong goddamned rec room.

14 of 31 Fantasy Films in 31 Days: Ever After (1998) - The passionate Danielle is reduced to the role of servant when her beloved father dies suddenly, leaving her in the care of an ambitious stepmother. When she impersonates a courtier to save the life of a family servant sold into slavery, she attracts the attention of the dissolute Prince Henry. Refusing to hold her tongue in the presence of royalty, her spirited debates with Henry turn into something deeper – but can this Cinderella have a happy ending with everything from palace society to a ruthless stepmother standing in their way?

MY GOD, THIS MOVIE. THIS MOVIE IS JUST… AAAAAAHHHHH HOW CAN I EVER BE OBJECTIVE ABOUT THIS MOVIE? First time I ever paid the story of Cinderella the slightest attention, because THIS Cinderella has a mind, and a voice, and saves *herself*, thank you very damn much. She and the Prince fall in love through TALKING, through the sharing of ideas and philosophies, and she inspires him to CREATE A DAMN UNIVERSITY. She tricks the Gypsies into letting the Prince go, she saves the life of a faithful servant, she is just SO DAMN FIERCE AND I LOVE IT. The Prince starts as a whiny idiot, only to understand the world and himself better through his love for *her*. This is a story where the woman CONSISTENTLY saves everyone around her, and I just…. *lies on the floor and cries about it for hours* Plus, the cinematography, costumes, and score are beautiful; you’ve got Anjelica Houston as the evil stepmother, and LEONARDO DA VINCI IS THE FAIRY GODMOTHER. I mean, REALLY. If you haven’t seen this film, correct this grave mistake IMMEDIATELY.


If I were to, hypothetically speaking, make a soundtrack to our collective childhoods – what songs would you expect to see on there?

Thus far I have:

  • “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan, natch.
  • “This is Halloween” from Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • The Mortal Kombat theme.
  • “Beauty and the Beast”.
  • SOMETHING from Sailor Moon.
  • One of the many brillig songs from Animaniacs.
  • The Muppet Show theme.

07 of 31 Fantasy Films in 31 Days: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997) - Lovely Cinderella toils away as a virtual slave to her uncaring stepmother and overbearing stepsisters; handsome Prince Christopher sneaks into the city disguised as a commoner, tired of his stifled life in the palace and mother’s persistence that he marries. With the help of her Fairy Godmother, Cinderella goes to the ball, wins the heart of the Prince, and decides to break away from her toxic family and live on her own terms.

Okay, yes, this is cheesy as hell and the same story we’ve heard ad nauseum. BUT. This version also has some really solid messages that a lot of fairy tale retreads leave out – advocating that girls be active participants in their own lives, for one; being up front about unhealthy relationships and the importance of breaking away from them for another; and of course treating people like PEOPLE regardless of their social standing. ALSO, this is easily the most ethnically mixed cast I HAVE EVER SEEN in a fairy tale adaptation, and I don’t give two shits if it doesn’t make sense for a white dude and a black woman to have a Filipino son – REPRESENTATION IS IMPORTANT. Plus you’ve got Bernadette Peters being stellar as always; Victor Garber throwing some Grade A sass around; THAT HOT FILIPINO PRINCE; Whitney Houston’s Godmother is actually INTERESTING; and Jason Alexander really channels Inigo Montoya’s accent. Just silly, frothy fun that I loooooooove.

13 of 31 Fantasy Films in 31 Days: Robin Hood (1973) - The legendary thief steals from the rich to feed the poor in this animated, all-animal take on the mythic folk hero.

Shut up, I can TOO count this in my Fantasy Films Challenge – Robin’s story is full of fantasy tropes, as much a fairy tale as Snow White or Cinderella at this point. This was the film that started me off on my lifelong love affair with Robin, Maid Marian, and the whole bunch; still sad that Much or Will Scarlett wasn’t included in this take, but at least they threw in Allan a Dale, who so often gets overlooked. The voice cast is superb – ANDY DEVINE AS FRIAR TUCK!!!!! – and the animation is fun. Still love the perfection of the animal choices; of COURSE the world’s most infamous thief-with-a-heart-of-gold would be a fox, and the faithful and irascible Tuck is perf as a badger. Love the songs, love how much of the story they fit in, love ALL THE THINGS. That one time we were all attracted to an animated fox…

17 of 31 Fantasy Films in 31 Days: Beauty and the Beast (1991) - Brainy, bookish Belle doesn’t feel like she belongs in her small French village. When her hapless father incites the ire of a prince who was transformed into a monster by an enchantress, she makes a deal with the Beast: she will be his prisoner so long as her father goes free. And while the Beast has a terrible temper, the two work past their rocky first encounter and come to care for one another. Will Belle’s love be able to break the spell before the last rose petal falls?

It’s my favourite fairy tale of ALL the fairy tales, so of course I’m biased: but this story just means so damn much to me. I’ve always felt a connection with Belle, an outsider more comfortable with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds. In fact, it’s the outsider commentary that makes this film so poignant: Howard Ashman, who helped pen the film’s incredible songs, was a gay man dying of AIDS when this film was being completed, and he meant for Gaston to represent the uncaring and judgmental society he faced daily while Belle and the Beast both embodied the perpetual outsider attacked at all sides. And then there’s the beautiful animation and a great cast of supporting characters; Jerry Orbach will always have a large piece of my heart thanks to his work as Lumiere. One of Disney’s best outings, and one of the best takes on the classic fairy tale.

06 of 31 Fantasy Films in 31 Days: Big Trouble in Little China (1986) - Truck driver Jack Burton finds himself mixed up in some crazy shenanigans in Chinatown when he agrees to help his friend Wang pick up his fiancee Miao Yin from the airport. Suddenly there are 7-foot-tall ghost sorcerers, elemental masters, hellspawn beasts, prophecies about green-eyed girls, and warring Chinese gangs to contend with – and a mystical wedding to stop before the evil Lo Pan reclaims a physical form.

Rhetorical question: HOW FUCKING AMAZEBALLS IS THIS MOVIE? It’s got everything, really; you absolutely could not go wrong with John Carpenter or Kurt Russell in the 80s (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times to come: the 1980s were a boom decade in the horror and fantasy genres). There’s great action, a great cast, touches of romance and plenty of magical mayhem; and Dennis Dun is just THE CUTEST as Wang Chi – pretty sure he was my first Asian crush. Laugh out loud funny and all around fun.

05 of 31 Fantasy Films in 31 Days: Willow (1988) - A prophecy foretells that the evil Queen Bavmorda will be defeated by a child bearing a unique birthmark. When farmer Willow Ufgood rescues the child, he finds himself facing black magic and terrible armies with only the rascal swordsman Madmartigan, a pair of mischievous Brownies, and the enchanted sorceress Fin Raziel at his side. Can a tiny Nelwyn achieve his dreams of becoming a great sorcerer and save the princess Elora Dannen before Bavmorda’s forces trample the world?

DAMN GOOD CHILDHOODLERY RIGHT HERE. Lucasfilm was so instrumental in my formative years; sure, the special effects are dated and a bit goofy at times, but there’s some damn fine sword and sorcery action, Val Kilmer was never sexier than as the roguish Madmartigan, Warwick Davis is grand as the titular hero, and it’s a film that never fails to put a smile on my face no matter how many times I watch it.