The 1970s were a time of bell-bottoms, disco balls and dark fantasy films that were so awesomely weird that they’re still watched today. If you’re a fan of the macabre and want to dive into some of the best dark fantasy movies from the ’70s, this post is for you.
Buckle your seatbelt, grab your popcorn and flip on your lava lamp!
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Wicker Man is a movie that’s impossible to forget once you’ve seen it (and, yes, there was a remake… but we’re partial to the OG).
Directed by Robin Hardy, this film follows a police sergeant named Howie as he investigates the disappearance of a young girl on a remote Scottish island. As he delves deeper into the central mystery, he discovers that the island is home to a pagan cult that’s planning a sinister ritual for the upcoming May Day celebrations.
The Wicker Man is a slow-burning horror movie with Dark Fantasy elements that’s known for its eerie folk soundtrack and haunting ending.
Phantasm is a low-budget horror film that’s become a cult classic over the years. Directed by Don Coscarelli, this movie follows a young man named Mike as he tries to uncover the truth behind a series of bizarre murders in his hometown.
Along the way, he discovers that the local mortician has been using an inter-dimensional portal to enslave the souls of the dead. Phantasm is a strange, surreal movie that’s known for its iconic villain, the Tall Man… and its overall creepy atmosphere.
You might be wondering why we’re classifying this as Dark Fantasy. Phantasm explores themes commonly found in Dark Fantasy, such as the idea of a malevolent force controlling and manipulating reality, the struggle between good and evil, and the concept of death and the afterlife. The film’s surreal imagery and dreamlike sequences further blur the lines between reality and fantasy, adding to its dark and otherworldly feel.
While the horror genre often focuses on terrorizing the audience through jump scares and gore, Dark Fantasy often seeks to explore deeper psychological fears and themes. Phantasm does just that by delving into the fears of death, loss, and grief, and the desire for eternal life, themes that are common in Dark Fantasy stories.
The Brood (1979)
Brood is definitely the film for you.
We can always count on director David Cronenberg to deliver best-in-class cinematic weirdness.
The movie follows a man named Frank as he tries to uncover the truth behind his wife’s bizarre therapy sessions. He discovers that her therapist has been using experimental techniques that have unleashed a group of homicidal mutants.
The Brood is a creepy and unsettling movie that’ll have you questioning the ethics of therapy for years to come.
Zardoz is a movie that defies categorization, because it blends elements of science fiction, fantasy and surrealism. While it does feature some typical science fiction elements such as futuristic technology, its surreal and often disturbing imagery and the themes it explores, makes it more fitting for the Dark Fantasy genre.
This movie is nearly impossible to describe. Directed by John Boorman, this film takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where a group of immortals called the Eternals rule over a group of barbarians. The Eternals are protected by a giant floating head called Zardoz, which speaks in a booming voice and shoots guns out of its mouth.
Yes, you read that correctly.
It’s bizarre and it’s stylistically very interesting. Sean Connery wears a mankini, for godsake!!
Suspiria is one of the most visually stunning films ever made. The cinematography and set design feature vibrant colors and surrealist elements. It’s full of very unsettling imagery.
Directed by Dario Argento, the movie follows a young woman who enrolls in a prestigious ballet academy, only to discover that it’s run by a coven of witches.
Suspiria is usually categorized as a horror film, it also has several elements that make it a prime example of the Dark Fantasy genre, including its supernatural elements, exploration of otherworldly themes, surreal imagery and striking visual design. For example, the Academy is shown as a labyrinthine maze, filled with hidden chambers and secrets, which adds to the film’s sense of mystery and otherworldliness.