I think you’ll find some surprises in this list.
1. Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948) stars William Powell as a Boston man in a mid-life crisis who falls in love with a real, live mermaid (Ann Blythe). This movie is just chock-full of witty lines and preposterous situations: like when Mr. Peabody enters “The Wee Shop of Intimate Things” and tries to buy “half a bathing suit.” Or when a nosy P.R. man spots him bending over a fish pond and whispering heart-felt words of love to… a fish, it seems. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore!
2. Jason and the Argonauts (1963), in which Ray Harryhausen created some of the greatest, most eye-popping special effects ever, using clay models and his trademark stop-motion techniques. To this day, in spite of all our technological advances, no one has ever surpassed Harryhausen’s rendition of the giant bronze statue of Talos coming to life, and his battle between the Argonauts and a platoon of homicidal skeletons: two of the greatest special effects scenes ever, in one movie.
3. The Princess Bride (1987), William Goldman’s “bent fairy tale,” featuring pro wrestling legend Andre the Giant in his one and only movie role. But it’s Mandy Patinkin who steals the show, with his immortal lines, “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” You’ll never see a movie with a sprightlier, more creative screenplay.
4. One Touch of Venus (1948) Ava Gardner is a statue of the goddess Venus who comes to life and falls in love with department store clerk Robert Walker, and turns his humdrum life upside-down. This film is another festival of wit: song lyrics by Ogden Nash, and Eve Arden in a supporting role, delivering a fusillade of droll one-liners. Compared to this, movies today are made by cavemen.
5. Ugetsu (1953), directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Many of you probably have never heard of this one. It’s a grim little tale of two idiots, a potter and his clod of a brother-in-law, who get caught up first in a civil war and then in supernatural events. Watch what happens when the potter thinks he has become the lover of a princess of a noble house. Sweet dreams!
All five of these movies have one thing in common: they are fantasies that thoroughly succeed in carrying you away for an hour and a half or so–and I do mean far away. But don’t worry. You can always come back.