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Sandie Angulo Chen

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Sandie Angulo Chen is a movie critic, WAFCA member, mother to three budding cinephiles, and a paid expert on what movies will give kids nightmares.

Which Series Of Fantasy Films Has The Best Cast?

“Beautiful Creatures” stars two attractive but relatively unknown young actors, Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert, as the story’s central star-crossed lovers – he’s a mortal, she’s the youngest in a powerful line of witches (a.k.a. Casters). The Gothic romance’s adult cast, however, features award-winning actors with the kind of Hollywood clout to make whatever movie they please. Name actors like Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson and Viola Davis round out a surprisingly familiar set of faces.

Such prestige isn’t out of the question for a literary franchise, but it was impressive enough to make us wonder just how “Beautiful Creatures”‘ esteemed ensemble stacks up against the other big book-based series.

7.) “The Twilight Saga”: Stephenie Meyer’s four paranormal romance novels were adapted into five blockbusters, but there was barely any buy in from “distinguished” actors. The one exception is Michael Sheen, who may not have scored an Academy Award nomination for “The Queen” or “Frost/Nixon,” but does boast a dozen critics’ association prizes, a BAFTA and other accolades. Anna Kendrick earned an Oscar nod for “Up in the Air”, but that was after she appeared in the first “Twilight.” Of course, if we were counting the number of surfboards or popcorn buckets on the sparkly young cast’s mantles, “Twilight” would be the head of the pack. And not for nothing, it’s the only fantasy series to earn the endorsement of Mike Dexter himself, Peter Facinelli.

6.) “The Hobbit”: Despite its large (mostly male) cast, Peter Jackson’s fourth trip to middle-earth doesn’t star nearly as many legendary actors as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. There are the usual suspects of Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo and, naturally, Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey, but otherwise all those dwarfs are a band of largely unknown British character actors, several of whom are relative newcomers to Hollywood films.

5.) “The Chronicles of Narnia”: The three adaptations of C.S. Lewis’ beloved Narnia series aren’t exactly critically acclaimed, but the family friendly fantasies managed to shove an impressive slate of lauded British actors into the wardrobe, including the voice of the Messianic lion Aslan, Liam Neeson (“Schindler’s List”), the White Witch Tilda Swinton (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”), and Professor Kirke (“Iris”). Even hairy little Mr. Tumnus was played by a Golden Globe nominee – James McAvoy (“Atonement”).

4.) “Beautiful Creatures”: From the moment the adult cast was announced, it was clear “Beautiful Creatures” would have more cred with grown-ups unfamiliar with the YA series than comparable supernatural romances. Not only does the movie star Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis and Emma Thompson – a trifecta of celebrated Oscar winners/nominees, all in pivotal roles – but it also showcases beloved character actresses Eileen Atkins (“Cold Mountain”) and Margo Martindale (“Million Dollar Baby”) as secondary, scene-stealing witches.

3.) “The Hunger Games”: The odds were definitely in director Gary Ross’ favor when he finalized the cast for “The Hunger Games,” starting with now two-time Oscar nominee and SAG/Golden Globe winner Jennifer Lawrence, who is by far the most acclaimed young star of a literary franchise. Boozy ole Haymitch is also a double Academy nominee (Woody Harrelson), while colorful commentator Caesar Flickerman is played by Stanley Tucci, and Golden Globe winner Donald Sutherland is creepy President Snow. “Catching Fire” will add Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright to the ensemble, and we can only imagine what amazing actress will play the revolutionary President Coin in “Mockingjay.”

2.) “The Lord of the Rings”: Let’s recount the number of Oscar nominees who helped Frodo destroy the One Ring: Ian Holm, Sean Astin (it’s true, he made a nominated live-action short), Cate Blanchett, Viggo Mortensen, and Ian McKellen. Add to that respected stage-and-screen thespians like Bernard Hill (King Theoden), Christopher Lee (Saruman), and John Noble (Denethor), and it’s clear that from the greens of the Shire to the tower of Isengard, Middle-earth is full of prestigious actors, not to mention the king of motion-capture, Andy Serkis.

1.) “Harry Potter”: Both on the side of the Boy Who Lived and He Who Shall Not Be Named, the cast is filled with a Who’s Who of the United Kingdom’s best and brightest. Bill Nighy – who didn’t pop up in the films until the seventh installment – once said, “I think I am the only remaining English actor not to work in ‘Harry Potter.’” When he finally got the call to play Minister for Magic Scrimgeour, he joined a long line of highly regarded thespians who’ve waved a wand: Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Jim Broadbent, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, John Hurt, Imelda Staunton, Brendan Gleeson and Julie Walters… to name but a few. It’s hard to imagine another fantasy series ever attracting such a ridiculously stellar cast.


Categories: Features, Lists

Tags: Beautiful Creatures, Harry potter, Jennifer Lawrence, Narnia, The hobbit, The Hunger Games, The lord of the rings, The twilight saga