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Five Essential Movies about the Power of Imagination

Some movies defy imagination. Breathe-taking places. Never before seen monsters.  Heart-pumping adventures. These are some of the things that such movies bring. But more than exploring the power of the imagination, a few leaves us wonderful message and great lessons. That after watching the film, we are not only awed by its creativity and grandeur, but also overwhelmed with its story and message. Here are five essential imaginative movies.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth (Spanish: El laberinto del fauno, “The Faun’s Labyrinth”) is a beautiful epic masterpiece by Mexican film-maker Guillermo del Toro, one of the best movie directors in the recent age. The movie is in Mexican and Spanish language and though opened in 2006, it was only widely released in 2007.

The movie wonderfully intertwined reality and imagination in a child’s mind as she braves a trying time. It is set in Spain in May-June 1944, five years after the Spanish Civil war. Ofelia, a lonely girl, travels with her pregnant mother and arrives at the post of her new stepfather, an officer of the post-Civil War Spain. The place is near the mountains where Spanish guerillas were also living. Unknown to the officer’s knowledge, several guerillas disguise and work inside the post. One day, Ofelia discovers an abandoned labyrinth, and inside, she meets a Faun who tells the fairy tale of Princess Moanna of the Underground Realm who escapes to the Earth, forgets her past and dies.Both Ofelia and the Faun believe she is the reincarnated Princess and before she can come back to the underworld, she must pass several missions. As Ofelia accomplishes the challenges, the war in the mountains builds up, her mother becomes more ill with her pregnancy, and sooner, Ofelia is suspected as one of the guerillas as she does things in secret. In the end, Ofelia, despite her heart-breaking death, becomes the hero for both worlds.

Pan’s Labyrinth became an instant classic the moment it was opened. The movie effortlessly weaved great fantasy with a distressful and troubled world. The fantasy was all so real that after watching the film, audiences would wonder if everything has been real despite certain small clues in the movie. Expectedly, the movie is very well received. It gathered a rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and 98% on Metacritic, becoming the fourth highest rated movie of all time in Metacritic. In box office, it also performed brilliantly as it places itself as one of the highest-grossing foreign films of all time. Pan’s Labyrinth also appeared on several critics’ top ten lists of the best movies in 2006, particularly in TIME Magazine (#1), and New York Post. Lastly, the movie received nomination as Best Foreign Language Film in both Academy and Golden Globe Awards in 2007.

The world inside the labyrinth is very magical. Each of Ofelia’s adventures is exciting and sometimes scary. The monster “Pale Man” and the Faun itself are some of the best creatures in the movie. Pan’s Labyrinth is undoubtedly one of the most creative, most original and freshest movies of all time. (See full review)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a 2009 fantasy film directed by Terry Gilliam. It stars Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Andrew Garfield, Tom Waits and Lily Cole. Ledger’s sudden death temporarily suspended the shooting, but his role was later recast with Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell.

The movie follows the wandering of a theater troupe whose leader, Doctor Parnassus, has previously made a bet with the Devil which he wins and is awarded immortality. The troupe now travels around, taking audiences through a magical mirror to explore their imagination. They are then presented with a choice between self-fulfilling enlightenment or gratifying ignorance. Later, the Devil appears to Doctor Parnassus and reminds him of their earlier agreement – that the soul of her daughter Valentina will be his when she turns 16, which is due in three days. However, Parnassus manages a wager with the Devil and both agree that whoever wins five souls first, Valentina will stay with him. The troupe suddenly makes extensive shows every night, now with a stranger named Tony. Near the end, Parnassus, Tony, and Valentina enters the mirror and faces the imaginations brought alive by their secrets, lies, dreams, frustrations and failure. Valentina is eventually freed from the bargain, Tony “dies”, and Parnassus succumbs to a miserable life.

Filming of the movie has really become challenging as Ledger dies along the way and as the film is shot through several locations like London and Vancouver. Production began in December 2007 and was finished only by late 2008. All the hassle was compensated by the huge success of the movie. It debuted #3 on its first weekend at the UK box office and #2 in both France and Italy. It already did break even, even before its opening in North America. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a rating of 66%, and 63% for Metacritic, which are highly positive. The movie also received several nominations, including two for Academy Awards.

The worlds inside the Doctors Parnassus’ mirror are the best parts in the movie. The imageries are all vivid, colorful, alive and mesmerizing. How enlightenment and ignorance are represented inside the mirror, like the beautiful motels, gondolas, and endless desert, are very creative and inspiring. Truly, it is a mind-boggling and partly sad movie.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is one of the best films produced by Japan. It is an animated fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki in 2001.

The movie begins with a family getting lost when moving to a new town and then discovering an abandoned amusement park. They explored the park and when the parents tasted some delicious food, they are turned into pigs. Chihiro Ogino, the only child in the family, becomes desperate to save her parents. When nightfall comes, a “ghost” boat emerges on a river and only then Chihiro realizes that her family has entered the world of the spirits. With the advice of a friend she meets, Chihiro asks for a job in the bathhouse so she can stay and rescue her parents. Chihiro, whose name is now changed to Sen, undergoes several trials and misadventures. But Chihiro must pursue and pass the tests. And along this journey, Chihiro moves from a child to a young adult, capable of love and wisdom.

Spirited Away is a very huge success, becoming the highest-grossing film in Japan. It also received a high rating of 97% at Rotten Tomatoes, ranking as the thirteenth-best animated film in the site. In 2002, it bagged the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film. In 2010, Empire Magazine ranked it as #10 on its “The 100 Best Films of World Cinema.”

The movie is very imaginative that it gave us a splendid bathhouse with fanciful funny creatures inside. The more original creations in the film are “No Face” and Haku, the river spirit.

Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia is a 2007 fantasy drama film based on the novel of the same name by Katherine Paterson. It is produced by Walt Disney and stars child wonders Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb.

The movie is about two ten-year old neighbors, Jesse Aarons and Leslie Burke, and the world they invented called Terabithia. The world they discover is inside the woods which they can only visit when they swing across a creek on a rope (the bridge). In Terabithia, they race and play and fight against unknown creatures like the talking trees and the troll. Here, anything they imagine comes to life. But it is not only pure adventure for Jesse, for eventually, he learns to come to terms with his distraught family and his frustrations in school. And just when things seem so beautiful, he must learn to face a tragic and sad ending – Leslie’s death.

The film deals with imagination and death in such subtle ways that audience root for each character and each event. With the movie, viewers will see a beautiful and serene world where lovely creatures dwell. The monsters are portrayed with good heart and their violence is only driven by certain loneliness and lack. Bridge to Terabithia was very much welcomed by audiences and critics that it got a positive rating of 85% at Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 74 at Metacritic.

The Neverending Story

The NeverEnding Story (German: Die unendliche Geschichte) is a 1984 movie adaptation of the novel of the same name by Michael Ende and is co-produced by German and American companies. It stars Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway and Tami Stronach.

The movie tells about the boy who discovers a magical book. Bastian Bux, a quiet boy who loves to read, stumbles about a book entitled “The NeverEnding Story” while he hides in a bookstore to escape from the school bullies. He manages to “borrow” the book from the grumpy bookseller despite his warning that it is “not safe’. He then hides in the school attic and began reading the book. The book describes the magical world of Fantasia which is being threatened by a force called “The Nothing”. The Childlike Empress of Fantasia summons the warrior Atreyu and gives him a magical medallion called the Auryn to help him defeat The Nothing. Atreyu goes through several adventures and finds out that the only way to stop The Nothing is for the Empress to be given a new name by a human child. Only when the kingdom is placed in a desperate situation that Bastian realizes that the book calls for his help. He shouts the name “Moonchild” and he suddenly finds himself inside the story, face to face with the Empress. With his imagination and wishes, Bastian saves the world of Fantasia from the evil forces.

The NeverEnding Story is one of the most imaginative films in the 80s. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film produced outside of the USA. The film opened to mostly positive reviews, garnering a rating of 85% at Rotten Tomatoes but only a score of 46 out of 100 on Metacritic. The movie is greatly praised for its stunning special effects and creativity. Despite this, the film underperformed in the box office.

The fantasy world of Fantasia is beautifully created and very breathe-taking. Audiences would truly love the characters Atreyu and the luck dragon Falkor. The movie was then followed by two sequels: The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter and The NeverEnding Story III: Escape From Fantasia.

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