One of the most famous films of all time, The Wizard of Oz portrayed a memorable but ultimately not-too-faithful portrayal of author Frank Baum’s original concept. Decades later, and unfortunately released by critics with much less fanfare, 1985’s “Return to Oz” managed to capture a tone that was much closer to the dark and sinister world of Oz that Baum had envisioned (via Rotten Tomatoes).
After a visit to a sanatorium gone awry, the aptly named Return to Oz follows Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) returning to the whimsical land of the 1939 classic, only to find it in ruins. The streets have cracked, the Emerald City is crumbling around them, and the familiar faces we know and love are nowhere to be found. Instead, people have turned to stone and the streets are infested with nightmarish creatures known as Wheelers, who harass and stalk anyone in their path. From there, the film gets even darker as Dorothy discovers that her old friends are now prisoners of a being known as the Nome King, who has claimed the city’s emeralds for himself. Now she has no choice but to stand up to the powerful villain and save the world of Oz.
Like Coraline, Return to Oz explores a dark fantasy realm through the eyes of a female protagonist who is unhappy with her life. And despite being the oldest choice on our list, the film still manages to deliver some genuinely haunting imagery that has lasted to this day.