10 Forgotten Fantasy Films of the 1980s, Ranked

10 Forgotten Fantasy Films of the 1980s, Ranked
Image credit: Legion-Media, globallookpress, Group 1 International Distribution

Under-the-radar fantasy tales from the decade that was big for fantasy movies (but not so for CGI).

Here are some of the fantasy films from 1980s you might not have heard much about, but their stories are as colorful and intricate as any.

10. Krull (1983)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 35%

On a planet named Krull, there's a fortress of evil that teleports to a new location each dawn. Enter our young hero Prince Colwyn, whose bride, Princess Lyssa, is kidnapped by the beast in this black fortress. Colwyn, armed with a five-pointed throwing weapon called a 'Glaive,' sets off on a journey across the diverse terrains of Krull to save her. He gathers a motley crew: a wise old seer, a band of outlaws, and a cyclops with a sad backstory involving a deal for foresight, which will ultimately lead to his doom.

9. Hawk the Slayer (1980)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 40%

The story centers on two brothers: the heroic Hawk and his evil sibling Voltan, who sports a black helmet like he's Darth Vader's medieval cousin. After Voltan kills their father, Hawk, armed with a mind-controlled sword, vows vengeance. He assembles a ragtag band – a giant, an elf, a dwarf, and a sorceress – to aid him in his quest. They face all sorts of mayhem orchestrated by Voltan, who's as nasty as they come.

8. Legend (1985)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 42%

In a world of dark fantasy, a young hero named Jack must stop the Lord of Darkness from destroying daylight and marrying the woman he loves, Princess Lili. This isn't your typical knight in shining armor story. Jack is more of a forest dweller, a friend to unicorns and faeries. The Lord of Darkness desires to plunge the world into eternal night, and when Lili's innocence provokes a series of events that could lead to this dark end, Jack teams up with a group of dwarves and a child-like forest sprite named Gump to save her – and the world – from endless night.

7. The Beastmaster (1982)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 46%

Dar, our Beastmaster, is a barbarian with the ability to communicate with animals, whose father, a king, was betrayed by a priest before Dar's birth. Marked by fate (and a peculiar birthmark), Dar can 'talk' to his animal pals: an eagle, a pair of ferrets, and a black tiger. He wanders the lands seeking revenge against the evil priest Maax, who's responsible for his father's downfall and his kingdom's misery. Together with his animal companions and newfound love, Dar sets out to topple Maax and reclaim his birthright.

6. The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%

The story here revolves around the roguish mercenary Talon, who wields a unique sword that can launch its blades at foes. As a boy, Talon witnessed the murder of his royal parents by the tyrant Cromwell and the sorcerer Xusia. Years later, he returns to avenge his family and finds a rebellion in the making. Princess Alana seeks Talon's help to rescue her brother from Cromwell's dungeons, promising him a weighty reward.

5. Ladyhawke (1985)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%

Set in medieval France, Ladyhawke is a story about a pickpocket named Phillipe Gaston (a.k.a. "the Mouse") who escapes the dungeons of Aquila. On the run, he crosses paths with the somber knight, Etienne Navarre, and his beautiful hawk. But there's a twist to this tale: a curse has been placed on Navarre and his lover, Isabeau. By day, Isabeau becomes a hawk, and by night, Navarre transforms into a wolf. Phillipe is swept up in their quest to break the curse, contending with the corrupt Bishop of Aquila who desires Isabeau and would see Navarre dead.

4. The Last Unicorn (1982)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%

In this animated adventure, we follow a unicorn, the last of her kind, who leaves her forest home after learning that she is indeed the last. The unicorn, who later takes the form of a human woman named Lady Amalthea, seeks out others like her, with a clumsy yet well-meaning magician named Schmendrick and Molly Grue, a bandit's wife, joining her quest. They discover that a malevolent king has been capturing all the unicorns of the world with the help of a fiery bull. The unicorn must confront this red bull and the despondent king to free her kind.

3. The Dark Crystal (1982)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%

The Dark Crystal takes us to another world entirely – a planet where a great crystal maintains balance and harmony. But it's a harmony long shattered. The crystal is cracked, and two races have risen from its splintering: the malevolent Skeksis, who use the crystal's power to prolong their own lives, and the wise Mystics. Our protagonist, a Gelfling named Jen, is raised by the latter and sent on a mission to repair the Dark Crystal by finding its missing shard.

2. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

The tale begins with a bullied boy named Bastian who finds solace in a mysterious book. As he reads, he's transported into the world of Fantasia, a land facing obliteration by the Nothing – a force consuming everything in its path. The young warrior Atreyu is tasked with stopping the Nothing, embarking on a quest to find a cure for the ailing Empress of Fantasia. Atreyu faces trials, from swamps of sadness to a meeting with a wise old turtle, and a mirror that shows one's true self. Atreyu searches for a way to save Fantasia, while Bastian begins to realize that he might play a part in this story too.

1. Dragonslayer (1981)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%

Dragonslayer tells of a young sorcerer's apprentice, Galen Bradwarden, who is handed down the tools and responsibilities of his mentor to slay a horrific dragon named Vermithrax Pejorative. The kingdom is in peril, making a sacrifice of virgins to appease the beast's hunger. Galen, with a magic amulet and a weapon of legend, steps forth to challenge the dragon, finding an unexpected ally in the king's daughter, who is disguised as a boy to evade the lottery of death.