Rotten Tomatoes recently published its list of the 50 Best-Reviewed Fantasy Fims of all time. Such lists are by their subjective natures both entertaining and infuriating, designed perhaps to produce reactions ranging from nostalgic admiration to sputtering, slack-jawed amazement, and opening debate as to whether not only a particular film should have been selected, but also whether whole categories of films should have been selected.
What counts as a fantasy film? RT’s list, for example, is dominated by decades of Disney and Pixar films, from classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (#3 on the list) and Pinocchio (#2) to the Shrek franchise, not to mention all five of the Mayazaki releases. Sure, somebody casts a magic spell in each one of them, but are these fantasy movies or kid’s movies? If a bit of magic is all you need to qualify as a fantasy film, where are all the movies featuring Santa Claus? Why is Mary Poppins not on the list?
Few viewers loved The Princess Bride (#15) more than I, and while Miracle Max could not have brought Wesley back to life without a magic pill, is it a fantasy or a comedy? If it isn’t a comedy, Monty Python and The Holy Grail (#7) surely must be. And if comedies involving any sort of magic count as fantasy movies, why aren’t Groundhog Day and Splash on the list? What about Ghostbusters, featuring not only a panoply of ghosts, but also a Mesopotamian demigod with the power to create a giant marshmallow man?
Does Stephen King’s Carrie become science fiction if we distinguish her magical ability with the scientific moniker of psychokinesis? Since the gentle giant in The Green Mile has no name for his magical healing ability, does that film qualify?