There are a lot of movies that succeed because they have terrific imagination, plotting, dialog, and story. And then there are movies that are decent but not special, until one performer lifts them up and makes them shine. Take a look at ten hit-making performances in fantasy.
10. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Look, we all know this should be at number one. The Pirates movies were imaginative, but they were also overlong messes centered on anemic romance. Depp's performance didn't just make a movie, it made a franchise. (It also made a good five percent of con-goers' costumes for the last few years.) But with this list coming out on the day the movie opens, we'd all see it coming, and the top spot wouldn't be a surprise.
9. Keith Richards as Teague Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Depp was great as Captain Jack, but that movie was almost three hours long and he needed reinforcements. There's no shame in that. And this was one of the best jobs of stunt casting I've ever seen.
8. Tim Curry as the Devil in Legend
The Devil always steals the film. This film knows it, with a shot of Tim Curry as the Devil, very much alive and laughing after the end credits.
7. David Bowie as Jareth in Labyrinth
Yes, I know. Many of you think The Dark Crystal was the far superior movie. Why can't people see that it was deeper and more engaging? Why can't people see that the protagonists were better and the storyline more interesting? Why, oh why is Labyrinth such a fan favorite? David Bowie, that's why. David Bowie and his spiked hair and tights kept your movie from being more popular.
6. Amy Adams as Giselle in Enchanted
That movie was both a parody of Disney movies and a Disney movie. And, let's face it, it was weak sauce at both. For the concept to work at all, the 'Princess' at the forefront of the story has to play the role straight while being incredibly silly. If she'd leaned too much in either direction, the movie would have face-planted. Either the kids going to see it would feel insulted or their parents would have. Adams managed to slalom back and forth between straight-faced Princess romance and out-and-out lunacy, and she actually pulled it off.
5. Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder as Superman and Lois Lane in the Superman movies.
It's not hard to portray Clark Kent as a giant dork and Lois Lane as a nuisance. What's hard is playing Clark Kent as a giant dork who delights us with his dorkiness and Lois Lane as someone you actually do want to head up the Eiffel Tower towards a hydrogen bomb. The chemistry between the two, and the cheerful way they occupied their characters kept the series bubbling.
4. Eddie Murphy as Chandler Jarrell in The Golden Child
Except for the dancing soda can, the movie was often an eye-roller about some child, destined for greatness, who got kidnapped by the forces of darkness. Eddie Murphy plays the social worker who tried to find the kid and stumbled into a fantasy world full of snake women and flying demons. He turned in a heavily-sarcastic performance that makes you pretty much amnesiac to any moment of the movie when he wasn't talking. Or the soda can wasn't dancing.
3. Jack Nicholson as the Devil in The Witches of Eastwick
Like I said, the Devil always steals the film. One day I'd like to hear the story of how this movie made the transition from grindingly slow novel by John Updike to screwball eighties comedy. Although it was a decent movie, it wouldn't have been much to write home about if the devil weren't involved. This was pretty much the part Jack Nicholson was born to play.
2. Madeline Kahn in the many almost-fantasy films she did.
Madeline Kahn almost made this list many, many times. She always delivered a fantastic performance, so that wasn't a problem, but the movies were. She was in The Muppet Movie, which with its outlandish plots and animal characters should have been a fantasy film, but in the context of the time wasn't one. She was fantastic as the witch in Wholly Moses, but that was a biblical epic parody and so not technically a fantasy film. She was hilarious as Jenny Hill in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, and we consider Holmesian media to be vaguely fantasy in a steampunk way, but that's another comedy film. She was phenomenal in Young Frankenstein, but that was a great movie anyway, and so doesn't quite fit the list. Let's just say that all of her parts added up to an incredible turn in an incredible fantasy film, and leave it at that.
1. Ron Perlman as Hellboy in Hellboy
Well, could you picture anyone else as Hellboy?