I’m sure this topic is going to be a contentious one, and given my limited movie repertoire, I’m probably the last person that should be talking about it. Still, my last few blogs have been pretty heady topics, so I figured I’d lighten the tone on this one. Now, in vague order, my top D&D movies:
1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy
I know. Duh. Although recent, they’re the quintessential D&D films. They define many of the classes: ranger, fighter, rogue, wizard. Wait, no leader? Who’s the leader? Ah crap. The ranger is also a warlord. Who went and made the hybrid warlord|ranger? No, I told you, know hybrid-classing in my game, now go and remake your character. Also, Lord of the Ring is a great source of inspiration for epic battles and awesome skill challenges. Climbing over the Misty Mountains. Tracking Orcs across Rohan. Navigating through Moria. If you want an idea how a skill challenge should run, the Lord of the Rings triology can answer the call.
2. The Princess Bride
Your players already quote it. You might as well accept it. The Princess Bride suffuses D&D culture. With its mix of humor, drama (well, sort of), and iconic characters, it’s a must-see for any gamer. The irony is that the hero, Wesley, is really one of the least interesting characters of the movie. So goes many D&D games. That’s why the DM should never have a DMPC. Still, what would Enigo Montoya be without someone to duel? What would Vizzini be without someone to battle wits against? I guess it goes to show that a little friendly rivalry in an adventuring party is okay.
3. Conan the Barbarian
Yes, this classic from the 80s should be a staple for any D&D player. Despite shoddy special effects, something about this film resonates with the Robert E. Howard’s original short story series (which is worth the read, if you haven’t). Although this movie focuses on one PC…err, character, it has a decent supporting cast and enough interesting encounters to make for a well-rounded flick. They’re remaking it for 2011, but without the bad special effects and Arnold, will it really be the same?
4. Star Wars
Okay, sure it’s not fantasy, but let’s face it: It’s Lord of the Rings in space. Star Wars has many of the same tropes, it has the adventuring party: Obi-Wan (wizard), Luke (paladin, or whatever—I don’t want to argue about it), Han Solo (rogue), Chewie (chewie; he deserves his own class), Leia (cleric/leader type), Lando (that other player in your group who wants to play a rogue but doesn’t make his as good as the other one and basically is just lousy), C3PO (3E bard), R2D2 (4E bard). The comparisons go on. I’m sure I could right an entire blog about this subject, and it would be totally awesome, and totally ridiculous.
5. Hellboy 1 & 2
This movie has a party of min-maxers if I’ve ever seen it. Can anyone say dump stat? We’ve got Red, with an 8 in…let’s go with Wisdom. That blue guy—what’s his name, Abe?—who is definitely low Constitution. I’d say low Constitution on Liz, but let’s face it, if she’s doing a little somethin’ somethin’ with Red, then it must be Strength she’s lacking. Anyway, it’s a great movie for awesome battles in dynamic terrain. All the characters feel distinct with a high weirdness factor (must be using Player’s Handbook 3 races).
6. The Mummy
Yes, actually. I mean, let’s face it: If you’re look at what adventurers do (loot treasure and cause mayhem), and you look at the Mummy, they’re basically the same thing. You’ve got a reasonably large cast of characters, most of whom are incompetent and mess up everything they do; they’re obsessed with wealth; and they maintain some pretense of good alignment. I’d say the truth is fairly obvious.
Okay, I’m sure this wouldn’t make everyone’s list, but let’s look at the facts: 300 is basically one long line of flavor text splayed across the screen. Take everyone moment that was awesome in your campaign, splice it together, add some sex and gratuitous violence (if your game by some small chance doesn’t already have that), and you’ve got 300. It’s the perfect movie to watch for inspiration on making your character be an F-ing badass.
8. Stardust (and since we’re on Neil Gaiman, let’s go ahead and throw in Mirrormask as well)
This movie has feel-good tingles in spades. Although I’d call it a lesser cousin to the Princess Bride, it still has many of the hallmarks of a good D&D movie. It has some inspiring characters, who go on an adventure, overcome adversity, and triumph in the end. I’d say Stardust wins in the awesome NPC category. Robert De Niro has never been better. Mirrormask is a little too odd to really qualify as a D&D movie, but it’s chock full of puzzles, skill challenges, and the type of randomness that can improve any game. I love the thing about the building shapes like a key. Oh, and the Sphinx’s riddles. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.
9. Indiana Jones
Not technically fantasy, but it has all the spirit of a good game of D&D. Although the PCs change between movies (regrettably, in some cases), the focus remains the same, solving puzzles, getting cool treasure, and stomping out nazis…err, bad guys. Cultists are definitely the nazis of the D&D world. Wherever you turn, they’re popping up, and it takes a good adventurer to put them down.
10. All Those Historical Fiction Movies I Didn’t Get To
Braveheart, Gladiator, Master & Commander, Kingdom of Heaven, etc. These movies, while lacking some of the aesthetic of D&D, definitely capture elements of the game. Whether they’re depicting epic battles, or focused confrontations, they provide a corollary to our imagination. Whatever their weaknesses might be, these movies allow us to experience in vivid detail the most awesome battles of the game.
Honorable Mention (also, because I haven’t watched it in a long time and can’t provide an adequate comparison):
The 13th Warrior
Anything from Studio Ghibli.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some, so please feel free to enlighten me.
Movies That Didn’t Make the Cut:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, et. all. (let’s face it, no one likes a party of all paladins)
Harry Potter 1-8 (wait, weren’t there seven books?)
Prince of Persia (all my hopes for it turned to sand)
The D&D Movie (I don’t think I need commentary on this one).