I wish… for a selection of scary, silly, great-looking movies where the characters’ dreams come true for better or worse. Usually worse. I wish to see magical monsters and dysfunctional families and nerds turning their lives around under the influence of beautiful women. I wish for amazing animation and iconic puppetry and eye-popping practical effects. In short, I want some of the best wish fulfilment films out there and I want them… now.
From executive producer Wes Craven and director Robert Kurtzman comes this late-90s horror about a malevolent djinn (Andrew Divoff) who feeds on people’s souls. Tammy Lauren’s Alex inadvertently awakens the djinn and must make three wishes to unleash his unholy legions on the world, and he’ll do anything to make it happen. Being an evil genie, his granting never quite works out – whether the wishers end up dead from longing for their pain and fear to cease, turn into a shop mannequin from wanting to be beautiful forever, or lose a loved one after desiring a million dollars, these poor souls get a lot more that they bargained for.
It’s a quintessential ‘be careful what you wish for’ film, and add in impressive practical effects and make-up, plus a bevy of genre stalwarts (Robert Englund, Alistair Scrimm, Tony Todd, Ted Raimi and Kane Hodder to name a few) and you’re in for an entertaining time watching people’s worst nightmares come true.
This beautiful adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2002 novella of the same name was the first feature film from acclaimed animation studio Laika, who would go on to bring us ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Missing Link. Directed by Henry Selick, and voiced by Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Keith David and Ian McShane, Coraline follows the titular 11-year old and her dreams of escaping her dreary life with disinterested parents into a magical realm created just for her by Other Mother – a facsimile of her real mum who has creepy buttons for eyes and some not-so-wholesome intentions.
The story is rendered in gorgeous stop motion and although Coraline doesn’t overtly wish for delicious dinners, friends who can’t talk back and a sentient garden created to look like her face, it’s clear that she longs for it. Of course, once the other shoe drops and she realises she and her family are in danger, it’s up to the adventurous youngen to save the day. Now a classic of animated dark fantasy, Coraline delivers all the wonder and precocious peril you could desire.
Leprechaun 3 (1995)
For a magical wish-granting creature, it’s curious that the Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) doesn’t actually do any wish-granting in the first film from this comedy-slasher series, but by the third installment he’s feeling more generous. Also for the third installment of a comedy-slasher series, it’s curious that Leprechaun 3 is so much fun. Amidst rhyming couplets, gore, nudity and violence a lot of the comedy lands, spurred on by winning performances from the cast, most notably the brilliant Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series).
There’s some dated stuff here too – the script feels very mid-90s at points – but the wishes come thick and fast with Las Vegas residents using Lep’s gold to go on roulette winning streaks, gain problematic hook-ups with the objects of their affection, and – in a noteworthy use of practical effects – be sexy and beautiful again. But of course nothing quite goes according to plan. It’s a daftly horrific comedy romp that’s worth a roll of your dice.
Freaky Friday (2003)
Walt Disney’s body-swap comedy has seen a few iterations now, including the 1976 version starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, but surely the most popular is 2003’s Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan vehicle. Mother and daughter are at odds in this light-hearted fantasy film and believe they could do better in each other’s shoes and live an easier life, until a magical Chinese fortune cookie gives them their wish.
Curtis and Lohan are the true novelty here, flexing their comedic muscles as they “drab up” and “grunge down” in order to switch roles until selfless love changes them back, aka they learn a valuable lesson and begin to see things from each other’s perspectives. There are musical interludes and meme-worthy moments galore, with hilarious performances from the leading ladies, making this wish fulfilment movie a modern classic.
Harold Ramis helmed this remake of the 1967 film of the same name, written by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (keep your ears peeled for a dog-shaped easter egg for the original creators in this 2000 version) with Elizabeth Hurley as The Devil in a variety of red hot outfits and Brendan Fraser as Elliot Richards, an absolute loser, crying himself to sleep because he’s alone and no one likes him. In return for his soul, Hurley offers him seven wishes but as we’ve come to see, one must be specific with our wants if we’re not to receive more than we bargained for. Amongst other misjudged desires, Elliot wishes to be rich and powerful, emotionally sensitive, and a professional athlete in order to win his love interest but with The Devil behind the deal, nothing turns out how he’d like until he… makes one selfless wish and learns an important life lesson – you’ve heard this one before.
There’s more outdated humour – maybe our wish should be for less casual racism, sexism and homophobia in these pictures – but on the whole this is a good time, with stellar turns from Hurley and Fraser, and an enjoyable entry to the wish fulfilment bracket.
Liar Liar (1997)
Jim Carrey’s lawyer Fletcher Reede is great at his job but neglectful as a father to his little boy who is regularly disappointed and let down by the broken promises of his father. When Fletcher doesn’t show for his son’s birthday party because his boss is riding him (literally), he makes a wish over his candles that for only one day his dad can’t tell a lie. Cue Tom Shadyac’s smash hit comedy that perfectly utilises Carrey’s unique manic rubber-faced energy as he desperately tries to win that day’s court case for disgruntled divorcee Jennifer Tilly, gain a promotion, and stop his estranged family from moving to another state. It’s a big ask for a man who functions on lies and now can’t even utter the smallest fib.
In the process, of course, Fletcher realises how much he really wants to be with his son and once the 24 hour curse is lifted he’s a better man. It’s a rip-roaring Carrey-fest with very funny, very famous sequences like Fletcher being pulled over by a traffic cop and admitting to his son a lot of lies that grown-ups tell their kids. It’s also worth sticking around for the credits sequence where we’re treated to some riotous outtakes.
Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is a young girl who lives in a land of make-believe where she escapes to when the real world is too mundane and unfair. She lives in a room of childhood toys, reluctantly caring for her baby brother until she wishes for him to be stolen away to the Goblin City beyond the Labyrinth from her favourite story. Director Jim Henson captured the imaginations of ‘80s kids around the world, mustering all his puppeting prowess to bring the wish-based adventure to life.
Stunning costuming and visual effects add to the spectacle as Sarah is plunged into a world of talking worms, giant friendly beasts, sentient door knockers, masquerade balls and of course David Bowie’s Goblin King, Jareth. It’s a dazzling musical fantasy film that holds up just as beautifully today as it did over 35 years ago.
Weird Science (1985)
“So, what would you little maniacs like to do first?” John Hughes unleashed the ultimate teen boys’ dream on the world in 1985 when he released this entry into his Shermer, Illinois canon. Weird Science follows the exploits of school friends Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) as they electronically Frankenstein a beautiful woman into existence, in the form of Lisa (Kelly LeBrock). She rockets into the boys’ lives to transform their world into a place of sharp suits, fast cars, hard parties and hot women and in the process brings them greater confidence, a lot of laughs and some inevitable parental anxiety.
The late great Bill Paxton does a star turn as the obnoxious older brother Chet, and Robert Downey Jnr. shows up too as a school bully. There are wonderful sequences of the boys feeding their dreams into Wyatt’s computer and even a funny fourth-wall-breaking moment akin to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s eighties fashion galore and sports a theme song from Danny Elfman’s Oingo Boingo. Fabulous fantasy fulfiling fun for all the family.