25 best mythological movies

Written by:
June 9, 2021
New Line Cinema

25 best mythological movies

When someone says a movie is about mythology, the first thought might be Percy Jackson or Hercules. It feels obvious because these films are so explicitly about Greek mythology, which is abundantly familiarized within pop culture, but Grecian legends are not the only ones in existence. Countries all over the world have their own ancient tales, legends, and myths, and they are often the source of inspiration for contemporary stories or have aspects woven into the narrative without one even realizing it. Films like “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Avatar,” and “The Wizard of Oz” all employ features of different mythologies from different parts of the world.

For this list, Stacker compiled data on all feature-length movies to come up with a Stacker score—a weighted index split evenly between IMDb and Metacritic scores. From there, the list was whittled down to movies based on or heavily featuring mythology from any walk of life. To qualify, the film had to have at least 5,000 votes on IMDb and a Metascore. Ties were broken by Metascore and further ties were broken by IMDb votes.

Counting down from 25, these are the best mythological movies that cinema from across the world has to offer.

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1 / 25
DENTSU Music And Entertainment

#25. Princess Mononoke (1997)

- Director: Hayao Miyazaki
- Stacker score: 87.4
- Metascore: 76
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Runtime: 134 minutes

In 14th century Japan, young prince Ashitaka is cursed by a demonic creature and must seek help from a deer-like god named Shishigami. Along his journey, he sees the conflict between man and nature, which incurs the wrath of wolf god Moro and his partner Princess Mononoke. The film is influenced by Japanese folklore, such as with the Kodama—little forest-dwelling creatures in the film that are spirits attached to the trees. A stage production of the film was adapted in 2012 and ran during 2013.

2 / 25
Warner Bros.

#24. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

- Director: Alfonso Cuarón
- Stacker score: 88
- Metascore: 82
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 142 minutes

The third film installment of the fantasy series sees the titular young wizard in his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In it, a new threat: One of Lord Voldemort’s most devoted disciples escapes from Azkaban prison and seeks revenge on Harry. Though many mythical creatures imbue the magical franchise—which is also steeped in its share of real-life myths and legends throughout—this chapter prominently features a mythological creature called a “Hippogriff” named Buckbeak, which was created in the 1500s by Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score.

3 / 25
Twentieth Century Fox

#23. Avatar (2009)

- Director: James Cameron
- Stacker score: 88
- Metascore: 83
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Runtime: 162 minutes

A paraplegic Marine embarks on a mission to the lush planet Pandora, but his objective becomes compromised when his newfound devotion to the planet’s people conflicts with the orders given to him by the nature of his mission. The Na’vi people of Pandora worship a goddess named Eywa, which has been compared to other real-life deities, such as Gaia, Mother Earth; Jörð in Norse mythology; and Papatuanuku, the Maori earth goddess.  

4 / 25
Prima Linea Productions

#22. The Red Turtle (2016)

- Director: Michael Dudok de Wit
- Stacker score: 88
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 80 minutes

In this animated film, a man who is shipwrecked on a deserted island meets a giant red turtle that curiously impedes his attempts to escape. The film has been viewed as an interpretation of the biblical story of Eden and other myths of creation, as a woman, known as Eve, forms from the red turtle’s shell, and she and the man, known as Adam, create a son. The film is a coproduction between the Japanese Studio Ghibli and German Wild Bunch studios, and there is no dialogue spoken.

5 / 25
Touchstone Pictures

#21. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

- Director: Henry Selick
- Stacker score: 88.5
- Metascore: 82
- IMDb user rating: 8
- Runtime: 76 minutes

Pumpkin King Jack Skellington lives a wonderfully frightful existence in his home of Halloweentown, until boredom with his routine leads him to accidentally discover Christmastown. Enchanted, he becomes intent on creating a new lease on life by overtaking the role of Santa Claus. The stop-motion animated film plays on various mythological beings, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, vampires, and werewolves. The idea for the story originated from a poem by the film’s producer Tim Burton.

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6 / 25
Focus Features

#20. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

- Director: Travis Knight
- Stacker score: 88.5
- Metascore: 84
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Runtime: 101 minutes

A boy named Kubo accidentally summons an evil spirit and finds himself on the run and on a quest to solve the mystery surrounding his fallen samurai father, battling many creatures along the way as he discovers his own mystical powers. While the story is an original idea, the film was inspired by aspects of Japanese mythology, such as with the giant skeleton Gashadokuro, and the Moon King, which connects the film to the Japanese folk tale “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.” Another stop-motion animated film, it won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts best animated film of 2017 award, and received Academy Award nominations for Best Animated Feature and Best Visual Effects.

7 / 25
DreamWorks Animation

#19. Shrek (2001)

- Directors: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
- Stacker score: 89.1
- Metascore: 84
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 90 minutes

In a world inhabited by fairy-tale creatures, a mean ogre's solitary home is invaded by them after the evil Lord Farquaad banishes them from their kingdom. In an effort to get the creatures back where they belong, Shrek makes a deal with Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona to marry him—but Fiona has her own problems. Notwithstanding mythic creatures and characters like dragons, King Arthur, and Merlin, some have noted that the arc of Shrek’s tale embodies the classic hero’s journey of Greek mythology. The critical and commercial success of this first film spurred a franchise.

8 / 25
Walt Disney Pictures

#18. The Little Mermaid (1989)

- Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
- Stacker score: 89.6
- Metascore: 88
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 83 minutes

A young mermaid beguiled by life on land falls in love with a prince on one of her visits to the surface. Determined to be with the prince longer, she cuts a deal with the devious sea witch Ursula, who wants Ariel’s beautiful voice for her own. The animated Disney film is based on the mythological fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen, detailing “the quest for true love.” 

9 / 25
Walt Disney Pictures

#17. Coco (2017)

- Directors: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
- Stacker score: 90.2
- Metascore: 81
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Runtime: 105 minutes

Young Miguel has dreams of being a musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz—but his family has a generations-long ban on music, so he embarks on a quest to the Land of the Dead to both prove his talent and uncover the truth of his family’s history. Drawing from the lore and traditions of the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, the animated film also utilizes Aztec mythology in its depiction of the Xoloitzcuintli—animals that serve as people's guide to the underworld, believed by the Aztecs to be sacred beings that have agency between life and death. The film won two Academy Awards: Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.

10 / 25
Warner Bros.

#16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

- Director: David Yates
- Stacker score: 90.7
- Metascore: 85
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 130 minutes

The conclusion to the epic series surrounding the secret world of witches and wizards sees Harry Potter and his friends battling the evil forces of Voldemort and his Death Eaters on the hallowed grounds of Hogwarts. Beyond the inclusion of various mythic creatures like the basilisk, phoenix, and centaurs, Harry’s journey in both Parts 1 and 2 of the "Deathly Hallows" has been likened by some to a Christ-like journey, as he dies (or tries to, at least) in order to save the world. It is the only film in the original Harry Potter franchise to be released in 3D.

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11 / 25
Elías Querejeta Producciones Cinematográficas S.L.

#15. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

- Director: Víctor Erice
- Stacker score: 90.7
- Metascore: 87
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 98 minutes

Blending fantasy and reality, a girl in rural Spain in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War becomes fascinated by the 1931 American horror film “Frankenstein,” and the story follows her family and school life as well. The film looks at the myths of monsters and what they mean in relation to what it means to be human—specifically, a child living through social turmoil. The film has drawn comparisons to contemporary director Guilermo del Toro’s films “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which similarly blend horror and history during the Franco regime.

12 / 25

#14. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

- Director: Hayao Miyazaki
- Stacker score: 91.3
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 117 minutes

Following an apocalyptic global catastrophe, the earth’s remaining humans live in scattered semihospitable strongholds, one such being the Valley of the Wind, whose inhabitants, led by Princess Nausicaä, struggle to restore balance between people and the planet. Aspects in the film have been linked to Greek mythology, as the lead character’s name, Nausicaä, is lifted directly from a character in Homer’s “Odyssey” who is also the princess of a kingdom. The film is adapted from director Hayao Miyazaki’s own 1982 manga of the same name.

13 / 25
Apple Original Films

#13. Wolfwalkers (2020)

- Directors: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart
- Stacker score: 91.8
- Metascore: 87
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 103 minutes

In 1600s Ireland, wolves are viewed as demonic creatures and humans are at odds with nature, and a girl and her father travel to the country to rid it of the last wolf pack. But a chance encounter forever alters the girl’s life and aligns her with the wolves in a magical way. The third film in co-director Tomm Moore’s “Irish Folklore” trilogy, “Wolfwalkers” employs real Irish myths of people who turned into wolves, brought about in Medieval times from Oliver Cromwell’s conquering and subsequent wiping out of the local wolf population.

14 / 25
Studio Ghibli

#12. The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2013)

- Director: Isao Takahata
- Stacker score: 92.3
- Metascore: 89
- IMDb user rating: 8
- Runtime: 137 minutes

A tiny girl is found inside a stalk of bamboo, taken in by the elderly couple who found her, and she grows into a beautiful young woman with many suitors. Eventually, she must confront the true nature of her appearance on Earth. Based on one of the oldest Japanese myths in existence of the same name, the Japanese animated film features an English dub voice cast including Chloë Grace Moretz, Mary Steenburgen, James Caan, Darren Criss, and Lucy Liu.

15 / 25
Adam DeZayas Pictures

#11. Sita Sings the Blues (2008)

- Director: Nina Paley
- Stacker score: 92.3
- Metascore: 93
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 82 minutes

This animated comedy-musical parallels the mythological narrative of the “Ramayana”—one of two major Indian Sanskrit epics involving the Hindu goddess Sita—with a contemporary narrative about the film’s director Nina Paley. It is set to jazz vocals from the 1930s singer Annette Hanshaw. “Sita Sings the Blues” drew controversy in India upon release for its depiction of the “Ramayana.”

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16 / 25
Svensk Filmindustri (SF)

#10. The Seventh Seal (1957)

- Director: Ingmar Bergman
- Stacker score: 92.9
- Metascore: 88
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Runtime: 96 minutes

Set in Medieval times, the classic Ingmar Bergman film follows a disillusioned Swedish knight who makes a deal with Death. Antonius Block challenges the Grim Reaper to a chess match for his life as his country grapples with plague, and he embarks on a journey to commit one last redemptive act in the remaining time he has left on Earth. Considered to be a pioneer of folk horror, Bergman imbues “The Seventh Seal” with aspects of witchcraft, paganism, and fantasy, all within a classic Grail myth adventure. The film is immensely influential in the film world and has been often referenced and parodied in pop culture, namely in its depiction of Death.

17 / 25
Les Films André Paulvé

#9. Beauty and the Beast (1946)

- Directors: Jean Cocteau, René Clément
- Stacker score: 93.4
- Metascore: 92
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 93 minutes

Jean Cocteau’s adaptation of the well-known fairy tale centers on the beautiful Belle, whose father is sentenced to death for picking a rose out of the garden of the menacing Beast. When Belle agrees to take her father’s place, the Beast falls in love with her. The story plays with the oft-told mythology surrounding the animal and the human—whether falling in love, or fusing together, and in this case it is both. The film is considered to be a classic of French cinema.

18 / 25
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#8. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

- Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, Richard Thorpe, King Vidor
- Stacker score: 94
- Metascore: 92
- IMDb user rating: 8
- Runtime: 102 minutes

Young Dorothy wakes up and realizes she’s not in Kansas anymore—she’s in the magical land of Oz, and being pursued by an evil witch. With the help of three new friends, Dorothy and her dog Toto must journey to meet the Wizard of Oz who can help her get back home. Aside from the mythological hero’s journey, the film weaves in aspects of Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, from the land of Munchkins who are dwarfs, to the Good Witch, and the winged monkeys. The film’s use of Technicolor was considered groundbreaking in cinema.

19 / 25
Python (Monty) Pictures

#7. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

- Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
- Stacker score: 94.5
- Metascore: 91
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Runtime: 91 minutes

In his quest given to him from God, King Arthur and his loyal squire set out to recruit the Knights of the Round Table to assist in Arthur’s search for the coveted Holy Grail. The comedic send-up of the classic, mythical tale of the Middle Ages and the legend of King Arthur was used as the groundwork for the stage musical “Spamalot,” adapted by Monty Python member Eric Idle.

20 / 25
New Line Cinema

#6. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

- Director: Peter Jackson
- Stacker score: 95.1
- Metascore: 87
- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Runtime: 179 minutes

In the second installment of the epic fantasy trilogy, the Fellowship of the Ring has splintered, and hobbits Frodo and Sam continue on their fraught quest to Mordor, now flanked by the sinister creature Golum. Meanwhile, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli journey to the besieged kingdom of Rohan. Author J.R.R. Tolkein drew on many myth stories from across Europe to create the lore of Middle-earth, which itself has a place in the mythological canon. The second in the series of film adaptations was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

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21 / 25
Walt Disney Pictures

#5. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

- Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
- Stacker score: 95.6
- Metascore: 95
- IMDb user rating: 8
- Runtime: 84 minutes

This animated Disney adaptation of the classic tale follows the bookworm villager Belle, whose father has been imprisoned by a menacing young prince—now a beast from the curse of a wicked enchantress. The spell can only be broken if Beast can learn how to love, and soon he and Belle find themselves falling for one another. The original story was not a fairy tale, but the “classic myth of Cupid and Psyche.” At the 64th Academy Awards, “Beauty and the Beast” became the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture.

22 / 25
New Line Cinema

#4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

- Director: Peter Jackson
- Stacker score: 98.4
- Metascore: 92
- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Runtime: 178 minutes

The first film in the “Lord of the Rings” saga sees hobbit Bilbo Baggins relinquishing his treasured ring to his nephew Frodo—who discovers it keeps the ancient, evil Lord Sauron alive, and must be destroyed in the fires from whence it came. Frodo embarks on a journey with eight other companions to defeat the forces of Mordor and keep Sauron from returning. J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth utilizes numerous classic mythical creatures, such as elves, dragons, dwarfs, orcs, and sorcerers. All three stories were filmed concurrently, and amassed 438 days of shooting.

23 / 25
Estudios Picasso

#3. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

- Director: Guillermo del Toro
- Stacker score: 98.4
- Metascore: 98
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Runtime: 118 minutes

In Francoist Spain, young Ophelia travels with her pregnant mother and her mother’s new husband, the sadistic Captain Vidal, to a remote forest in order for Vidal and his soldiers to flush out rebels. Ophelia distracts herself from the horror of her stepfather with a magical realm that exists just in her backyard. Guilermo del Toro’s film creates a new spin on the myth of Pan with the faun, a Greco-Roman creature who is half goat, half human. “Pan’s Labyrinth” is a spiritual sibling film to del Toro’s “The Devil’s Backbone,” a similar tale of a child coping with wartime through fantasy.

24 / 25
Tokuma Shoten

#2. Spirited Away (2001)

- Director: Hayao Miyazaki
- Stacker score: 99.5
- Metascore: 96
- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Runtime: 125 minutes

The 10-year-old Chihiro happens upon an abandoned amusement park with her family where her parents are turned into giant pigs. Chihiro learns that the park is a getaway for spirits and supernatural creatures, and she must work at the park to not only free her parents, but herself. Inspired by Japanese folklore, the anime film tackles the legend of kamikakushi: “humans abducted by the gods and taken to the spirit world,” and most of the spirits in the bathhouse are based on real entities as well. At the 75h Academy Awards, “Spirited Away” won Best Animated Feature.

25 / 25
New Line Cinema

#1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

- Director: Peter Jackson
- Stacker score: 100
- Metascore: 94
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Runtime: 201 minutes

The final chapter in the tale of Frodo and the One Ring sees the hobbit ring bearer and his companion Samwise Gamgee finally entering Mordor and closing in on the ring’s destruction. Meanwhile, their friends battle Mordor’s forces in the Gondor city of Minas Tirith. This particular installment in the “Lord of the Rings” series plays on the medieval legend of a king returning to his kingdom. It remains the first and only true fantasy film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

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