Modern fantasy movies offer audiences an escape from the doldrums of everyday life, with exciting new worlds and adventures that could only take place outside of our reality. But what about magic movies set in the present day that fold the supernatural into the real world, making mundane everyday life just a little bit more magical?
From cult hits like Practical Magic to hard-hitting action flicks like The Last Witch Hunter, magical movies don't always have to be set in forests or castles to scratch that fantasy itch. Some are box-office bombs, others high-grossing critical failures, and there are even some childhood classics that fit the bill. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s definitely something for you below. And, no, Harry Potter isn’t included. Sorry, Potterheads.
- Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Oh, Keanu Reeves, let us count the ways we love you. As the DC Universe's beloved exorcist in this 2005 superhero horror film, Reeves chain-smokes his way through a supernatural investigation that brings him face-to-face with Lucifer himself. The gritty world of demons and an angel or two sit just below the surface and in the fringes of contemporary Los Angeles.
The special effects and cinematography, as well as a layered performance by Rachel Weisz, elevate Constantine firmly into the “underrated” category. Toss in an appearance by chameleon Tilda Swinton, and this film is certainly worth a second look.Underrated?
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Let’s be clear - Big Trouble in Little China could not get made in the 21st century. Chances are, you’ll whisper “oh, no” to yourself several times as you watch Kurt Russell swagger around like Han Solo mated with Bruce Campbell, and let’s not even get into the overt Asian stereotypes and tropes that were controversial even in 1986 when the film was released.
With that being said, Big Trouble in Little China remains a tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top action comedy with a massive cult following, so to leave it off this list would be a massive oversight - and we don’t want to enrage the magical Lo Pan, right? Directed by John Carpenter and co-starring Kim Cattrall, Big Trouble in Little China is a fun, fast-paced film that’s worth a watch, if only for the utter chaos.Underrated?
Nicolas Cage stars as a centuries-old wizard engaged in an eternal conflict with the criminally underrated Alfred Molina as he searches far and wide for someone to teach the sorcerer’s trade to. Enter the forever-geeky yet lovable Jay Baruchel as the fated apprentice he’s been looking for, and you’ve got a fantastical adventure set in the streets of New York.
Taking inspiration from the classic Fantasia sequence where Mickey can’t regain control of his magic broomsticks and buckets (complete with a set piece that acts as a clear homage), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a fun “turn your brain off” flick for a Saturday afternoon, especially if you’re searching for some impressive CGI and a straightforward showdown of good versus evil.Underrated?
- Photo: Lionsgate
The Last Witch Hunter is a 2015 Vin Diesel vehicle in which the king of all things fast and furious takes his personal Dungeons & Dragons character to the big screen, playing an immortal witch hunter who must stop a plague from ravaging the entire world.
Diesel's Kaulder polices the modern world as a member of the Order of the Axe and Cross to make sure that witches refrain from using their powerful magic on unsuspecting humans. From a cursed handler to a hidden traitor, The Last Witch Hunter spices up a fantasy-adventure story with lots of action and decent special effects. The cast itself is shockingly good, with Michael Caine, Rose Leslie (of Game of Thrones fame), and Icelandic actor Olafur Darri Olafsson, who adds a great deal of gravitas to the bombastic fantasy narrative.Underrated?