Author George R.R. Martin‘s book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, has an incredible fan following and is considered one of the top fantasy series ever written. A TV adaptation of the stories is set to begin airing on HBO tomorrow night, with the first season based on the first book, A Game of Thrones.
But did you ever wonder what Martin himself considers some of the top fantasy stories ever told? The author wrote a special list up for The Daily Beast running down his personal all-time favorite fantasy movies.
You can find out what he chose by heading on over to the other side now!
For every pick Martin made he also explained why, but instead of pasting the whole thing we’ll just rank off the bottom ones and then look at the top five.
Here’s what the bottom half of George R.R. Martin’s top ten fantasy movies looks like. You can read what Martin had to say about his numbers 10-6 and why he picked them by clicking the link above.
10. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
9. Beauty and the Beast (1946)
8. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
7. Dark City (1998)
6. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
And here are the top five along with why Martin chose them:
5. Dragonslayer (1981)
This underrated 1981 fantasy was a co-production between Disney and Paramount, but it ranks well above most of Disney’s live action from the period. It’s surprisingly dark, and delivers some nice twists and turns along the way. Vermithrax Perjorative is the best dragon ever put on film (the dragons in Reign of Fire are a close second) and has the coolest dragon name as well. Ralph Richardson ranks right up there with Frank Morgan as Best Film Wizard of All Time (Until Ian McKellan Put on the Pointy Hat). I especially loved his first words when he comes back from the dead. Peter MacNichol stars as Galen, an impressively earnest, blotchy, and incompetent sorcerer’s apprentice. There’s also a beautiful, brave, noble princess, who gets eaten by baby dragons after making us believe she’s Galen’s love interest. The real love interest, Caitlin Clarke, spends most of the film pretending to be a boy, a bit of gender-bending one would never have expected from Disney. The film’s bad guys are painted in shades of gray; from where they sit, they’re the heroes, doing what has to be done to save the land. Even Vermithrax has believable motives. Matthews Robbins directed; Robbins and Hal Barwood wrote. Do NOT confuse this one with the much inferior Dragonheart.
4. Ladyhawke (1984)
Romantic fantasy done right. Richard Donner directed this 1985 medieval romance from a story and script by Edward Khmara. Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer starred as the star-crossed lovers, cursed so they can only share a few brief moments together at dawn and dusk; she turns into a hawk during the day, and he transforms into a wolf by night. Both are at their best and most beautiful in this one. Matthew Broderick also excels as the thief Mouse. Haunting, evocative, sweet and sad and magical, Ladyhawke was beautifully acted, directed, and shot… and then nearly ruined by one of the worst scores ever put on film, a mess that attempted to combine the cheesy ’80s sound of the Alan Parsons Project with Gregorian chants and music from the London Philharmonic. If only there was a way to turn off the soundtrack and still hear the dialogue… if only there was a way to convince someone to re-release this film with a brand new score.
3. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Films don’t get much more classic than this. What a cast! Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, the guy who replaced Buddy Epson as the Tin Woodman whose name I always forget, Margaret Hamilton (never been a better Wicked Witch, never will be), Frank Morgan’s avuncular rapscallion of a Wizard (MGM wanted W.C. Fields for the role, which would have been a hoot) and of course Judy Garland as Dorothy (MGM wanted Shirley Temple for that role, which would have been… ah… sweet). And we can’t forget her little dog Toto. The music is marvelous, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” became one of Garland’s greatest hits, and numerous lines from the film have become part of our common culture. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” “Follow the yellow brick road.” “No one sees the wizard, not no way, not no how.” Not to mention flying monkeys, munchkins, and lions and tigers and bears, oh my. As mayor of the munchkin city, I rank this one third.
2. The Princess Bride (1987)
William Goldman’s 1973 novel was a delight, and Rob Reiner’s 1987 film version brought it masterfully to the screen. With Goldman handling the adaptation himself, the movie managed to capture all of the book’s charm and wit–no easy task. The casting was perfect in this one. Cary Elwes as the Man in Black, the lovely Robin Wright as the beautiful Princess Buttercup, Andre the Giant, Billy Crystal, Peter Falk, and Fred Savage in the framing story (a rather different frame than the one in the novel, where Goldman himself is a character, but it worked wonderfully)… and of course Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, everyone’s favorite swashbuckler. The Man in Black’s three duels are each classics in their own way, especially his confrontation with Inigo, which ranks right up with Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone as one of the great cinematic swordfights of all time. And Goldman’s dialogue has never been crisper or funnier. “Why are you smiling?” It would have been inconceivable not to put this one on the list.
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
I suppose I could list these as my Top 3, but they are really one long movie (very long if you watch the extended cuts with their extra footage, which are my preferred versions) just as the Tolkien “trilogy” was actually one long novel sliced into three parts by publisher fiat. Lord of the Rings was long thought to be unfilmable, and the various animated attempts from Ralph Bakshi and Rankin-Bass went a long way to proving the truth of that, but Peter Jackson’s magnificent epic refuted all the naysayers. Elijah Wood was very good as Frodo and Sean Astin even better as Sam. Viggo Mortensen doesn’t fit my own mental image of Strider, but soon won me over all the same. Sean Bean made an amazing Boromir, and Ian McKellan was the perfect Gandalf. The artistry that went into the making of Gollum still astonishes. Yes, they left out Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire. I missed the latter (the former, not so much). This was as faithful and reverent an adaptation as could ever have been hoped for. If you don’t like these films, you don’t like fantasy.