J.R.R. Tolkien’s immortal classic, The Lord of the Rings, has long been the fantasy epic by which other quests are judged and compared. The author essentially laid the groundwork for every other adventure that followed. There’s practically no fantasy book, movie, or TV series around today that doesn’t at least give it some tribute.
But Tolkien’s work and the movies it inspired have been around for years now, and many fans have lingered in Middle-Earth long enough. Luckily for them, the genre is absolutely filled with countless mystical and magical realms for those who have been there and back again.
10 Dragonlance: Dragons Of The Autumn Twilight (2008)
The Dragonlance books are a perfect chaser to anything by Tolkien, but they’re also a great swords-and-sorcery adventure for those needing a break from the Hobbits. Inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, the books had one film adaptation that frankly deserves more attention than it received.
Based on the book by Weis and Hickman, Dragons of the Autumn Twilight concerns a party of adventurers on a quest to stop an evil ruler and his dragons. It’s a bit formulaic, but it features phenomenal voice performances by the likes of Kiefer Southerland, Lucy Lawless, and Jason Marsden in the main cast.
9 The Neverending Story (1984)
This ’80s classic definitely has a few notes of Tolkien in some of its more serious moments, but the world of Fantasia feels more like a dream than something from a storybook. It might have Luck Dragons, Racing Snails, and giants of stone, but its surreal nature earns it distinct recognition.
While the sequels arguably varied in quality, the original still remains one of the most beloved films of the era. Like the adventures in Middle-Earth, the film relies on heroic journeys, mysterious evils, and even encounters with dragons to send its viewers into a whole new world.
8 Princess Mononoke (1997)
The Lord of the Rings was full to the brim with great battles and exciting combat, but so is Hayao Miyazaki’s environmental epic, Princess Mononoke. With its magic, warrior maidens, spirits of the forest, and a translation by the legendary Neil Gaiman, there’s more than enough for fantasy fans to admire.
Even the best anime movies might not be for everyone, but this film is one of such grand scale that no fan of Tolkien’s work can resist such a grand adventure. Though the cast of spirits might lack Ents and Elves, there’s some familiarity here, to be sure.
7 Conan The Barbarian (1982)
While the Terminator might be his most recognized and beloved role, Conan the Barbarian was the film that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a titan in the fantasy genre. His lust for blood and vengeance is unmatched, and like so many heroes of Middle-Earth, he comes equipped with a very powerful sword to slash his way to victory.
While a tad more violent than the traditional high fantasy might be, it does possess all the swords and sorcery one can expect from a traditional hero’s tale.
6 The Black Cauldron (1985)
To say that The Black Cauldron is like The Lord of the Rings wouldn’t be untrue, but it’s only because they pulled from the same source material. This incredibly dark ’80s fantasy film features a farm boy who is swept away on a grand adventure involving an enchanted instrument of war, but its main inspiration was not the War of the Ring.
Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander pulled from Welsh mythology to create their worlds, so there was bound to be some overlap. Both offer similar aesthetics and traditional fantasy formulae, but they can easily be enjoyed by both types of fans.
5 Excalibur (1981)
Excalibur is a very in-your-face type of fantasy. It forgoes all the tradition and classic narrative of the original Arthurian legend and cranks all the fantastical elements up to 12. Every shot in this film feels like a Frank Frazetta painting or a heavy metal poster, but it’s still one of the most incredible adaptations of King Arthur.
The movie follows Arthur as he goes from noble king to fierce warrior and Merlin goes from wise old mentor to powerful sorcerer, and although Lord of The Rings has its own Arthurian elements, this adaptation is one of the best out there.
4 The Princess Bride (1987)
This film is the epitome of a storybook love story, but it has several beloved fantasy elements that pair exceptionally well with its charm, wit, and humor. Brave heroes, beautiful princesses, and strange old wizards are par for the course in this fairytale classic.
While it might not resonate with The Lord of the Rings fans, the classic fantasy and romance movie elements will warm the hearts of those familiar with The Hobbit. The prequel was written as a fairytale, and even the film adaptations recognized that, though with some creative liberties. Even so, it’s a great film with which younger viewers can begin their quest.
3 The Dark Crystal (1982)
The Dark Crystal is a tall order, with or without the prequel series. Some fans have even called it Henson’s Lord of the Rings, and that wouldn’t be an unfair comparison. It has its elves, monsters, and magic, but it’s in the lore where the comparisons truly start to rear their heads.
Both works are impeccably rich in story, but Henson drew from creature designs, where Tolkien based his in a made-up language. Both are passion projects with an incredible fanbase beloved by their respective audiences, so it’s no wonder they keep getting compared.
2 Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Where The Dark Crystal was Henson’s Lord of the Rings, Pan’s Labyrinth could be considered Guillermo del Toro’s. The film has a world rich in lore, inspired by classic mythology and literature. And since this is a del Toro film, it’s loaded to the brim with his beautiful monsters and creature designs.
The film has been referred to as a fairytale for adults, and having a mythical adventure occurring during Francoist Spain will definitely earn that title with little argument. On one hand, it’s beautiful and enchanting with fairies and fauns. And on the other, it’s graphic and frightening with horrific monsters and vindictive army captains with cruelty sharp as a blade. Needless to say, Tolkien would be impressed.
1 The Chronicles Of Narnia (2005 – 2010)
If there’s any realm that could ever be considered an equal to the realm of Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, and all the rest, it’s the mystical lands of Aslan’s Kingdom. From the thrones of Cair Paravel to the Eastern Ocean, there are few realms, books, or movies so large and enchanting as The Chronicles of Narnia.
Since C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were close colleagues, it should come as no surprise that their realms have been compared and contrasted in a friendly rivalry since their books were first published. Even their respected film adaptations echo off each other, whether it’s Jackson’s or Disney’s. Like the books, it’s almost impossible to read one without at least trying the other.