With the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledorefans once again seem to split as to whether it’s up to the standard set by the classic Harry Potter films. But for those who enjoy them, the Fantastic Beasts series is a fun romp through one of the Wizarding World’s most fascinating periods, showing how Wizards would react to an impending war.
While Fantastic Beasts may be a famous historical fantasy film, it’s merely the latest in a long line of unique visions of what the past would look like with a little magic sprinkled (or poured) in. For fans of the adventures of Newt Scamander, these movies offer a fun trip where the past truly is another world.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
Stream On Disney+
Like the Fantastic Beasts films, Bedknobs and Broomsticks deals with World War II themes, albeit more directly and with a much more lighthearted tone. It also feels like it could’ve provided some inspiration, with its setup involving a trio of orphans being taken in by Miss Price (Angela Lansbury), who takes the fight to the Nazis with a great helping of witchcraft.
A fun family film in the vein of Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is highly imaginative, combining live-action and animation to bring the anthropomorphic animal-populated Isle of Naboombu to life. It also knows that everyone likes to see the Nazis get their just desserts, and seeing a horde of their troops get defeated by animated suits of armor is satisfying indeed.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Stream On Amazon Prime, Paramount+, Hoopla, & The Roku Channel
Director David Fincher has a sterling track record in a wide variety of genres, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is arguably where he went the most against type. A decades-spanning romantic drama about a man who ages in reverse, it’s a generally low-key, intimate film, focusing on how Benjamin’s condition leaves him isolated from those he loves despite his best efforts to make things work.
As can be expected from a Fincher period piece, the historical details are impeccable, recreating moments in time down to the smallest detail. From the naval battles of World War II to the architecture of early 20th century New Orleans, the film succeeds at drawing the viewer into Benjamin’s world, no matter the time or the place.
Crimson Peak (2015)
A gothic romance masquerading as a horror movie, Crimson Peak was a new direction for Guillermo del Toro while still in keeping with many of his favorite macabre themes. Being a ghost story, the film has its share of creepy imagery, but it also has campy and engaging melodrama, filled with enough murder and incest to make even dedicated soap opera fans blush.
Crimson Peak is also notable for being del Toro’s first period piece in a non-Spanish setting, with the action taking place mainly in rural Edwardian England in a stately country manor. It’s the perfect haunted house setting, showing off the kind of visuals that Guillermo might have brought to the Wizarding World if he’d gotten the chance to direct a Harry Potter movie.
Stream On Amazon Prime, Peacock, Vudu, & Tubi
highlander may be set partly in the (then) present, but the saga of the Immortal Connor MacLeod begins in 16th century Scotland, a great setting for romantic swashbuckling action. The flashbacks to Connor’s backstory are among the film’s highlights, setting up his motivation for going up against the Kurgan by showing how the ravages of time have left him with nothing but a thirst for vengeance.
While highlander received mixed reviews at the time, but quickly developed a cult following for its action sequences, unique mythology, and fun performances from Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, and Clancy Brown. Connery in particular is wonderful as Connor’s mentor Ramírez, a noble, charming old man who might remind fans of a certain magical headmaster.
Time Bandits (1981)
Stream On HBO Max & The Criterion Channel
Time Bandits tells the story of Kevin, an 11-year-old boy who finds himself traveling through time with a group of treasure hunting dwarves. A ridiculous premise on its face, but the movie is loads of fun, with director Terry Gilliam being the perfect fit for a time travel comedy that plays by its own rules powered by pure imagination rather than hard science.
One of Gilliam’s first films not connected to Monty Python, Time Bandits could still work as a more narrative-driven version of one of their famous parodies, particularly with its hilarious spoofs of Napoleon, Robin Hood, and Agamemnon, and special appearances by Python alums John Cleese and Michael Palin. But the film knows when to get dark, with its cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil giving it some extra dramatic weight.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Rent On Vudu
A murder mystery inspired by the short story by Washington Irving, Sleepy Hollow was Tim Burton’s first foray into horror territory, ramping up the blood and gore while still keeping the sense of fantastical wonder that the auteur is famous for. It may not be one of Burton’s more famous movies, but it deserves a lot of credit gorgeous visuals, and Hammer Horror-inspired atmosphere.
The film is also a great choice for viewers who miss Johnny Depp’s take on Grindelwald but want to see him fight against evil rather than embrace it. His performance by him as Ichabod Crane is vintage Burton-Depp brilliance, an eccentric but competent hero who uses his skills by him as a constable to unmask a supernatural serial killer.
Stream On Apple TV+
While all of Cartoon Saloon’s unofficial Irish folklore trilogy are fantastic, Wolfwalkers is probably the one that would appeal most directly to fans of Fantastic Beasts. While very different in style and tone, their stories have some interesting parallels, like a main character with a magical connection to animals, and a villain bent on dominating a race/species different from his own.
One of the best aspects of Wolfwalkers is its focus on a mythology and part of history rarely seen in mainstream movies. Ireland’s folklore, and the hardships they faced under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, may seem like actual subject matter, but the film makes it relatable for an international audience with universal themes of fighting for freedom and staying true to one’s self.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)
Stream On Disney+
While Pirates of the Caribbean may be a multi-billion dollar franchise, the first film still stands above the rest as one of the truly great pirate movies. A theme park attraction may have seemed like odd source material for a movie, but BlackPearl challenged the skeptics, grossing over $650 million worldwide and launching Johnny Depp to mega-stardom.
Like all great fantasy adventures, BlackPearl is filled to the brim with great action set-pieces and memorable characters, with Captains Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa being icons in their own right. It’s also interesting to see a pirate story that delves into their more fantastical elements, with the cursed Aztec gold and undead crew setting it apart from its (slightly) more fact-based brethren.
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Stream On HBO Max, Kanopy, & The Criterion Channel
Arguably Ingmar Bergman’s most famous work, The Seventh Seal is a classic that set a new standard for portraying the Middle Ages on film. The story of returning Crusader Antonius Block playing a game of chess with Death in order to forest the inevitable, the film perfectly captures the sense of impending doom that the Black Death brought to medieval Europe.
Coming from a director like Bergman, who helped codify many of the most common avant-garde tropes in film, The Seventh Seal is surprisingly accessible, dealing with relatable (albeit depressing) themes and a cast of very sympathetic characters. Whether it’s the dark humor of Block’s squire Jons or the sweet family dynamic of Jof and Mia, everyone has a vivid personality that makes the viewer want them to escape their fate.
Indiana Jones (Original Trilogy) (1981-1989)
Stream On Paramount+
As a world-famous trilogy where all three films are iconic in their own right, Indiana Jones needs no introduction. The adventures of Harrison Ford’s tough, clever, and ruggedly charming archeologist have entertained critics and audiences for decades, with memorable characters, innovative action sequences, and a library of endlessly quotable lines.
Although the Indiana Jones Movies fall squarely in the action-adventure category, all of them are heavily steeped in the most fantastical elements of real-world religions, with the Ark of the Covenant, Shankara Stones, and Holy Grail lending the movies an otherworldly feel.
NEXT: 20 Connections Fantastic Beasts Makes To Harry Potter
Every Robert Eggers Movie Ranked Worst To Best (Including The Northman)