You probably know we are Fantasy Lovers. Here’s our Top 10 List of the best Fantasy Series to watch before you die! All of them are from our childhood and teenage years. Of course, they were all sources of inspiration for our own TV series Black Forest Witch.
What makes good Fantasy? There are a lot of factors, but first and foremost, it’s about the world these stories are set in. The world of Fantasy is supposed to be a bit different world from ours. As an audience, we want to explore it in all of its rich details. Every series listed below provides an extraordinary experience in that regard. They aren’t sorted in any particular order, but we wanted to include Live-Action as well as Animated Series.
Live-Action Fantasy Series were rare back in the day, probably due to budget restrictions. But when they were made, most of them were quite popular, like the first seven on our list:
1. Xena the Warrior Princess
Former Amazon and tribal warlord Xena is on a quest to redeem her sins of the past. On that quest, she meets the spirited youngster Gabrielle and the two become companions for life. This was a surprising Saturday afternoon Action-Adventure.
The series always had an issue with tonality. It jumped from totally dark and serious to light-hearted and fun in a heartbeat. But since it had two charming main characters on a great journey, fans embraced it quickly, with all its quirks. It played loosely with historical facts, which in turn created some amazing visuals from Ancient Greece to China.
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In every generation, one girl is given the powers of the slayer, having to defend the world of the living from evil monsters like vampires. The storytelling of this series was way above and beyond what we were used to in the 1990’s. Buffy is arguably the beginning of The Golden Age of Television. Its beautiful main character was a femme fatale in the making: A girl lost in the normal world, a girl with a gift, a girl with a burden. Her lover Angel was the epitome of the bad guy.
Any young fellow was immediately hooked by this story setup, but that wasn’t all. Buffy was one of the first truly serialized shows with ongoing complex storylines which continued for 7 strong seasons.
An alien baby boy is sent to earth where he’s adopted by a childless mid-western couple, but when he grows up and develops superpowers he has to decide what kind of person he’s going to become. This is a super cool prequel story to the Superman myth, with built-in character changes. Unfortunately, the creators didn’t follow through. While they teased them with loads of dramatic irony in the first seasons, the show’s quality dropped off very quickly.
From mild-mannered teenage boy Clark Kent to Superman, visionary leader of mankind – that’s a great change in character. Making him friends with his future adversary Lex Luthor, struggling to become a good person, also added a lot to the dramatic tension of the show. Our recommendation: Watch the first three seasons. They were much more entertaining than a regular soap opera. For the surprising twists and turns they provided, we are eternally grateful.
4. Quantum Leap
Scientist Dr. Sam Beckett is stuck travelling through time by inhabiting people’s bodies. This was a weird Science-Fiction Fantasy Odyssey. The fun of this series were the strange circumstances he finds himself in each episode, always ending with his iconic exclamation “Oh, boy!”. In this episode, he actually jumps into his former self and tries to set things right with his own family. Of course, they don’t believe he’s actually from the future, until he sings John Lennon’s “Imagine” – a song that hasn’t been written yet . . .
5. The Incredible Hulk
On the first look, this is one of the stranger shows of its day: Dr. David Banner uses gamma radiation to explore superhuman strength, because he lost his wife in a car accident. Back then, he just didn’t have the power to save her. Of course, the experiment goes wrong and from now on he turns into the incredible Hulk, whenever he gets angry or hurt. After the destruction of his lab, in which a colleague dies, David Banner is on the run. From the authorities, from the press, but also from the demon inside of himself . . .
Even though the Hulk was played by a bodybuilder in green paint, this fact rarely broke the illusion. The series had so much heart, but also so much thought put into it. No film version was able to come even close to this depth of character. David Banner is a lonely man. Now he’s moving from town to town, in the hope of finding a cure for the beast inside of him. In the beginning of every episode, he finds new friends, but when the Hulk breaks out and wreaks havoc, Banner has to leave again. Every episode ended with this amazing piece of music over the credits:
After a plane crash, a group of survivors has to bond together to get off the otherworldly island they are stranded on. To this day, Lost is the embodiment of the Fantasy Mystery Series. The trick to this type of story is to always layer a mystery on top of another mystery. You should never open the mystery box completely (unfortunately, the creators did).
No matter what you think about the ending, the first season was great for several reasons: First, it introduced a lot of fascinating main characters with a lot of different storylines. Second, it had an interesting flashback structure, cutting past and present events together. And third, it managed to create a great supernatural intrigue about the island.
Around the world, people realize they have superpowers, but their lives intertwine as they have to find together and prevent the Apocalypse. Heroes was an original superhero story, not based on any pre-existing material. The first season was a contained storyline, with amazing narrative drive towards the season finale. Thankfully, it still stands on its own, since the series’ quality declined episode by episode afterwards.
Animated fantasy series are much more common than live-action, but the truly great ones are rare, like the last three:
8. Dragonball Z
An alien boy is sent to Earth to conquer it, but he hits his head and becomes its greatest lovable hero instead. This series is the most well-known Anime Series of all time, but only some storylines are actually good – namely the stories about the evil Saiyans, Freezer and Cell.
The theme of the show was self-Improvement through struggle. Son Goku trains very hard to come out on top, and he always pushes himself further and further. What we especially loved about it as kids was how long they were able to drag out the tension. Sometimes, a whole episode was just about people standing opposite each other, loading up their powers, but not actually fighting. You had to wait for the next episode to see how it turns out. In school, we used to draw fan concept art and hang it up on the walls.
This is the story of rogue swordsman Guts, fighting his way into the royal court. It’s a gritty exploration of the human abyss, set in a world similar to the middle ages, but peppered with fantastical elements. Beware of the bloody trailer, as this is a show made for adults. It’s dirty, gritty and cruel. If you are looking for the definition of pulp, this is it. Despite its insane violence, the world of the series is fascinating, the atmosphere breathtaking and the characters won’t let you go for a long time.
One thousand years ago, superstition and the sword ruled. It was a time of darkness, it was a world of fear, it was the age of Gargoyles. A group of Gargoyles — monsters who turn to stone by day — is enchanted by a magician for a crime they didn’t commit, so that they can only wake up again if the castle moves above the clouds. A thousand years later, when a crazy billionaire fulfills the legendary description, the Gargoyles awake in modern time New York.
The epic nature of this series cannot be overstated. Yes, this was developed by Disney, but it doesn’t have any of the fluff you know from their typical productions. All of the characters were three-dimensional, every episode was atmospheric, the plot airtight and the action simply great.