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After The School for Good and Evil, watch these movies

There’s magic in fantasy movies that aren’t Harry Potter

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charlize theron in a dark suit and curly red hair casts a knowing glance at kerry washington, who wears a golden ballgown; behind them, michelle yeoh looks ahead in a purple dress in The School for Good and Evil Photo: Helen Sloan/Netflix

The School for Good and Evil has quietly dominated the Netflix top 10 in October. And while reviews are all over the place, director Paul Feig’s take on the much-loved fantasy series seems to be hitting with the intended audience — mainly, anyone in need of a Harry Potter alternative as the Fantastic Beasts movies try to figure themselves out. C’est la vie.

Starring Charlize Theron, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh, Kerry Washington, and a handful of up-and-comers, The School for Good and Evil hits that magical sweet spot between, well, good and evil. It’s not too dark, not too sugarcoated, and it has a wizardly school where witchery is commonplace. But where can fans of the film fall under the same spell that isn’t just Harry Potter 1-8?

If you’re looking for more fantasy movies with a twist, YA-adjacent blockbuster fun, or just some lower-key wizarding, here are movies like The School for Good and Evil that fit the bill, suggested by Polygon’s movie recommendation team.


Ella Enchanted

Ella (Anne Hathaway) holding a book beside Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy) in Ella Enchanted. Image: Miramax Films

The 2004 Anne Hathaway-led adaptation of the children’s classic tells the story of Ella, who is cursed at birth to follow any order another has given her, and who journeys to find the fairy godmother who might revert the spell. Ella Enchanted reimagines the fairy godmother trope into something both goofy and sinister, and the world is bursting with magic, from witches to elves to talking books. Truly, the movie has it all: action, adventure, romance, multiple dancing numbers, evil stepsisters, and a Heidi Klum cameo. Most importantly, it’s a coming-of-age story about a young woman learning to live for herself. —Nicole Clark

Ella Enchanted is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, Google Play, and Vudu.

Halloweentown

Kimberly J. Brown and Debbie Reynolds in Halloweentown. Image: Walt Disney Television

In this 1998 Disney Channel Original Movie that absolutely holds up, a young girl and her siblings learn they are descended from a long line of witches and are transported to Halloweentown, an alternate dimension where supernatural creatures from across all planes of existence live together in harmony. There are ghosts and ghouls, witches and warlocks, goblins and werewolves, a wisecracking skeleton that drives a taxi cab, a giant jack-o’-lantern in the town square, flying broomsticks, a Willy Wonka-looking mayor pulling a lollipop out of his ear — need I go on?

The first movie is honestly the high point of the Halloweentown franchise, as everything after the sequel just goes downhill. Sure, one wouldn’t necessarily expect that a 1998 Disney Channel Original Movie ages well, but Halloweentown manages to stand the test of time. Debbie Reynolds is wonderful as the kids’ estranged grandmother Aggie, as is Kimberly J. Brown as the precocious apprentice witch Marnie. If you’re looking for a fun holiday-themed movie with eccentric characters, colorful sets, and some spooky-but-not-too-spooky thrills, Halloweentown is a sure bet. —Toussaint Egan

Halloweentown is streaming on Disney Plus.

The Kid Who Would Be King

The moppet-headed brunette kid Alex looking at the sword’s hilt with Scottish green hills behind him in The Kid Who Would Be King Photo: 20th Century Studios

Fans of Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block did not show up for his long-awaited follow-up, which was dumped by 20th Century Fox shortly before the Disney acquisition went into effect. But anyone looking for the authentic revival of ’80s adventure movies like The Goonies should go back to find this low-key gem, which finds a 12-year-old boy inheriting Excalibur and leading an army of his pals in battle against Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson). Cornish knows that to entertain the whole family, a movie needs to be thrilling, wide-eyed, and a little scary. The Kid Who Would Be King fulfills the wish. —Matt Patches

The Kid Who Would Be King is streaming on Disney Plus.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki flying her broomstick over the sea in the animated movie Kiki’s Delivery Service. Image: Studio Ghibli/GKIDS

Studio Ghibli’s fourth feature film follows the plucky protagonist, Kiki, on a rite-of-passage trip for young witches. When she arrives in town, she finds a home by starting a flying service for a bakery. The film weaves witchcraft into the fabric of metropolitan life, taking fantastical themes and making them feel slice-of-life. The lovable cast of characters and wholesome story make it a great watch for any age, but it also has a mature core. In Kiki’s pursuit for a place in the world, Hayao Miyazaki beautifully captures that lonely middle ground between childhood and growing into independence. —Nicole Clark

Kiki’s Delivery Service is streaming on HBO Max.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

A teen with red hair and black gloves, a little curly haired brunette in a sailor’s outfit, an invisible boy dressed in a newsie outfit, two terrifying masked kids dressed in all white, and a blonde twentysomething wearing a blue dress stand in front of a cave opening in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Photo: 20th Century Studios

Tim Burton’s last truly great film might be Sleepy Hollow in 1999, so as a blockbuster cranked out by an aging visual artist running on steam, no, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is not top-tier. But in an era of homogeneous superhero movies, it pops. Adapted from Ransom Riggs’ popular fantasy novel of the same name, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is basically X-Men for goths, following a group of superhuman children all taming their abilities under the eye of shapeshifting headmistress (Eva Green). While the movie mostly drifts from set-piece to set-piece, Burton goes to town with special effects, macabre design, and even a bit of stop-motion to bring the world of quirky Peculiars and evil monsters to life. He even casts Samuel L. Jackson as a fanged, white-haired demon guy, and lets him Go. To. Town. There are little gifts aplenty in this fantastical romp, even if the whole thing doesn’t gel. (We didn’t get a sequel for a reason.) —MP

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is streaming on Disney Plus.

Mirror Mirror

Snow White (Lily Collins) ascends the throne room stairs in a lavish blue gown with white trim and a giant orange bow on her back as people dressed in equally colorful costumes cheer her own Photo: Relativity Media

This confectionary take on Snow White was completely overshadowed by 2012’s other Cinderella reimagining, the action-heavy Kristen Stewart vehicle Snow White and the Huntsman (which stinks btw). Starring Lily Collins (Emily in Paris) as the fair princess and Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, Mirror Mirror is all about storybook whimsy, as interpreted by the visual extremist Tarsem. There is whackadoo physical comedy courtesy of the dwarves (rightfully played by a cast of little people), there are Bollywood-style musical sequences, and there are lavish costumes courtesy of the legendary Eiko Ishioka, who was nominated for an Oscar for this eye-popping-but-forgotten film. There were few successors to The Princess Bride made after The Princess Bride, but with a light-footed approach, Mirror Mirror is one of them — but no one ever talks about it. —MP

Mirror Mirror is streaming on Starz and for free with a library card on Hoopla.

Practical Magic

Gillian (Nicole Kidman) and Sally (Sandra Bullock) casting a spell on a man laid out on a table in Practical Magic. Image: Warner Home Video

This bewitching fantasy rom-com directed by An American Werewolf in London’s Griffin Dunne stars Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock as two sisters trying to undo a family curse with some help from Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest. Sally (Bullock) and Gillian Owens (Kidman) are part of a family of witches, which includes their aunts (played by Channing and Wiest), who raised them after the death of their mother. That sounds like a dream (minus the dead mother), really, but Sally and Gillian struggle to come to terms with their abilities, and the ye olde family curse: Any man loved by an Owens woman dies an untimely death. (If that’s not enough, a witch actually put a curse on the production.)

Practical Magic is kind of like a thirty-something The Craft, what with its love spells, budding covens, and dark humor and twists. But there’s also a compelling family drama at its core: Bullock and Kidman are a real fire-and-water combination, yet are still believable as sisters. And Wiest and Channing are the fairy — er, witchy — godmothers of our dreams. —Danette Chavez

Practical Magic is streaming on Hulu.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Balthazar (Nicolas Cage) casting a spell while defend Horvath (Alfred Molina) in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Image: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

In this reimagining of a Disney Fantasia short, Jay Baruchel and Nicolas Cage battle the forces of evil and awkward adolescence in a fizzy action-fantasy concoction. Directed by Jon Turteltaub of the National Treasure franchise, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice follows a sorcerer named Balthazar (Cage) and his reluctant apprentice, Dave (Baruchel), who’d rather be playing with his Tesla coils and romancing his childhood crush, Becky (Teresa Palmer), than waging war against a bunch of other occult beings. But when things get grim (this is a pun you’ll appreciate more if you take our recommendation), Dave steps up and into the “old man shoes” that are part of his new magical uniform.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is as sweet as it is strange, thanks to Cage’s surprisingly restrained performance — he was the driving force for the movie, so it could easily have gone off the rails — and Baruchel’s hangdog earnestness. This allows Alfred Molina to ham it up as the main adversary in a film that balances wonder and reason much better than its initial critical reception suggests. —Danette Chavez

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is streaming on Disney Plus.

Sky High

kurt russell in his superhero costume holds a young michael angarano by the shoulders in sky high Image: Buena Vista Pictures

In many ways, this is the superhero equivalent of The School for Good and Evil. A superhero comedy about a high school for teenage superheroes, Sky High has developed a bit of a cult following for its cheesy fun times and lighthearted spoofing of the superhero genre (right before the genre exploded into the all-encompassing blockbuster mainstay it is today). It stars Kurt Russell! There’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead, before she was famous! And it’s one of the only live action projects to do stretchy powers well. —Pete Volk

Sky High is streaming on Disney Plus.

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