Willow (1988)

willow poster 1988 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10

Fun action adventure

Dated effects, sometimes feels derivative

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Willow

Studio:  MGM

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  May 20, 1988

MPAA Rating:  PG


Willow…blessed by fairies?

A prophecy has been foretold that a baby born with a certain birthmark will bring about the fall of Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh).  When a child bearing the mark is born, it is sent down river where she is found by a Nelwyn farmer named Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis).  Willow finds himself tasked with taking the child to find her own people and in turn finds himself on a great adventure.  Teamed with a swordsman named Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), an enchanted witch named Fin Razel (Patricia Hayes), and two Brownies (Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton), Willow must find a way to ensure Elora Danan’s survival to overthrow the evil rule of Bavmorda.



Directed by Ron Howard with a story by George Lucas, Willow was a big budget fantasy.  The movie was met with mix reviews but did manage to make a profit.  The movie was nominated for Oscars for Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects but also received Razzie nominations for Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Screenplay.

Willow was one of those big summer movies.  It was everywhere.  There were sponsorships, toys, and video games.  You couldn’t escape Willow and the studio really, really wanted it to be a blockbuster.  Then Willow was released and the buzz seemed to die quickly.  I didn’t see it in the theaters but saw it soon after it came out on video…and thought it was a rather fun fantasy adventure.


Publisher’s Clearance House says I might already be a winner!!!

The story for the movie is probably the worst part of the movie.  It isn’t that it is bad, but it is very generic.  It starts out as a Moses type story and then the story doesn’t really have anywhere to go.  What Willow is supposed to do with Elora Danan is a bit of a mystery to me…and I’ve seen the movie multiple times.  They just seem to wander from place to place and get into trouble.  It could be argued that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I don’t know if that makes for a good plot in this situation.  The movie just seems to throw in a bunch of fantasy garble.

I will say that Warwick Davis doesn’t do that bad of a job as Willow especially considering he was only seventeen at the time the movie was shot.  With only really a Star Wars credit (as Wicket the Ewok), it is a lot to put on a young actor.  This also might be the one of the only Val Kilmer movies where he doesn’t irritate me.  Jean Marsh plays a great evil queen (she played similar roles in Doctor Who and Return to Oz) and the rest of the supporting cast is rather strong.


Hey, Bav…you’ve looked better.

The special effects for the movie haven’t necessarily held up well.  The two headed dragon (who randomly appears from a transformed troll—those things kind of scared me) looks like a pretty weak combination of chromacky and stop motion.   You also get some bad stunt actors who don’t resemble the actors and lots of cutaways of the Brownies who are supposed to be small.  It was good for the time, but looks rather weak now.

I have to say that Willow gets a pass from me.  I can recognize that it isn’t the best movie nor the best fantasy film, but it still stands higher above some of the other (cheaper) fantasies from the period of time.  I enjoyed it as a kid and can still watch it now.  Willow was obviously set up for sequels which never happened but the story was continued in a series of books written by comic book writer Chris Claremont entitled Shadow Moon (1995), Shadow Dawn (1996), and Shadow Star (2000).

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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