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Fantasy movies are full of magic, swords, creatures, and so forth... but what would they be without beards? The word "fantasy" alone likely has you imagining a wizard right now, and we'll bet every gold piece in our purse that the wizard you are picturing has a beard.
Wizards, knights, talking animals, they've all got beards of some sort, and they're all a part of fantasy cinema. Not all beards are created equal, however; some are more magical than others. Some of them may carry nostalgic value, too.
Do not take us for some conjurer of cheap beards! Here's our ranking of the 7 best beards in fantasy movies. Honorable mention must go to Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia. The courts have ruled that his luxurious mane did not count as a beard. When it is time for us to rank manes, though, watch out!
7. Radagast in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
A fine brown and grey mix of moderate length sets off the look of Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) in The Hobbit trilogy. Of the Istari that we come to know, an argument can be made for Radagast's beard being the most useful. Gandalf doesn't have time to trim his, and Saruman probably has a lackey maintain his beard every hour on the hour. Radagast certainly has some useful animals inside of his beard, and they provide him with companionship.
It's not just a long chin accessory; it's an animal sanctuary! It's as messy as the rest of him, and likely as full of droppings as his sideburns. It shows that the underestimated Radagast cares for animals more than he cares about his own appearance.
It also looks rather comely when it blows in the wind whenever Radagast goes for rides on his bunny sled. Those are Rhosgobel Rabbits! He'd like to see you try.
6. Stoic in How to Train Your Dragon
Get a load of this animated wonder! The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is full of beards, but we are partial to the multi-braided beast borne by Stoic (Gerard Butler). It's almost the size of an apron, and together with his stylish mustache, it lets everyone know who the chief is. It would be easy for a beard like this to lean into comedy, but that's never the case with Stoic. The beard doesn't define who he is, but at the same time we cannot imagine him without it.
On a technical level, it is an insane feat of animation. Hair that has been rendered by digital artisans has taken seismic leaps in recent years, and this trilogy in general is full of examples. Stoic's beard is our favorite out of all of them.
5. The High Aldwin in Willow
Billy Barty enchanted us all the minute he hit the screen in this continually underrated fantasy adventure. As the High Aldwin, Barty was serious, mysterious, and could turn kooky in an instant. He was full of good wisdom, even if you shouldn't go in the direction that the bird is flying.
Barty's performance and costume give you everything you need, but his beard just perfects the entire character. It's white as snow, which potentially shows his age and great wisdom. It's not exquisitely maintained, which shows that he isn't vain. It has a random little braid on the side, which shows that he may twist it around in weird places when he is deep in thought.
The High Aldwin is an eye-popping delight, and he deserves more attention than he gets. The same goes for his beard. "Forget all you know... or think you know."
4. Balin in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hobbit trilogy has 13 dwarves and a wizard in its leading cast. That isn't even counting the many other dwarves and wizards that pop up along the journey to Erebor, to say nothing of the giant man who can change into a bear.
The Company of Thorin Oakenshield is full of amazing beards, but if we had to choose only one, we'd have to go with the beard of Balin (Ken Stott). This isn't because Balin is our favorite member of that company, although he is and that might factor in.
It's another snowy-white wonder, showing Balin's age and wisdom in the midst of other dwarves who do not share either quality. When he first enters Bag End, the beard is pristine. It is a winding, sculpted road of hair, puffing out, and then down, and then up again in two distinctly playful curls. Santa Claus weeps when he looks at Balin's beard; he's a toy-building tramp by comparison.
The beard devolves as the adventure continues, especially after he gets drenched during the barrel sequence in The Desolation of Smaug. It still looks good though, and the fact that Balin doesn't demand time to primp his look before setting out to Laketown speaks volumes. By trilogy's end, Balin's beard has regained it's glory... the only shame is that we know the beard (and Balin himself) will soon venture to Moria. Neither Balin's beard nor Balin ever returned from that darkness. Drums, drums in the deep...
3. Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Yes, we're counting him. It may not be a beard made of hair, but the beard of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) is a festival of wacky tendrils. This unforgettable antagonist ("Let them tehhste tha traple gunsssaaa...") would simply not be the same without his permanently attached rack of seafood.
Like many of the great beards on this list, Jones' beard reflects who he is and what choices he has made. He's abandoned his charge and doomed the entire crew of the Flying Dutchman to the fate of becoming sea creatures. This beard is both a curse and a choice. It also makes us ask quite a few questions.
When he sleeps in a bed (and not at his organ), do parts of it move around? Will Turner didn't have much of a problem stealing a key out from under it, so the tendrils may just droop wherever he sleeps. Is any maintenance required, though? If he trims bits off of this thing, does it hurt? Does he bleed? Jack Sparrow cuts some of it off in At World's End, and Jones didn't look happy. Some of the beard continued to crawl around, too. Has any barber ever waned to see a customer less than Davy's does?
We're thinking that the beard just grows longer for the entirety of his curse. If he had triumphed in these movies and grew to a much older age, these skinny octopus arms might have gotten to the point where they are dragging on the floor and he's tripping over them constantly. Does he fear death? No, but he might fear tripping on his own slimy beard.
2. Gawain in The Green Knight
This is the most recent entry on this list, and it is coming in hot. We absolutely loved The Green Knight, and central to our love is Dev Patel's perfect work as Gawain. It is an understated performance loaded with meaning, and the movie would not work at all if Patel's work wasn't as good as it is.
His look is secondary to his acting, but it naturally plays a part. In a movie full of imagery that is instantly iconic, the look of the leading man will obviously be important. Gawain's giant ochre cloak is memorable, as is his entire wardrobe. The best part of his look, for us at least, is his beard.
Gawain is not yet a knight. All of his reasons for wanting to be a knight are selfish; he wants to be a gallant hero, but he doesn't necessarily want to be of service. Even so, Gawain looks as noble as possible every time the camera lingers on his face. His black beard brings his lower face to a perfect point, his mustache is of perfect length, and he looks like he was born on the pages of medieval fantasy.
He learns what true nobility is by movie's end. He learns what sacrifice really is, and he learns the difference between playing a part and being a part. His heart has to grow to earn nobility, but his look already contained multitudes of it. His beard is the beard of a virtuous knight, something he's always had without realizing it. Every shot of Gawain in this movie is a painting, and Gawain is not Gawain without the beard. It's one of the most perfect beards in any movie, and it is only rivaled by the most iconic fantasy character that has ever existed.
1. Gandalf the Grey in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The team behind both The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy were already ahead of the game when it came to casting the greatest wizard in all of fantasy literature. How does anyone do justice to Gandalf the Grey? Casting Sir Ian McKellen was a great place to start.
After that, they had to get the look right... and they did. It's got to be the perfect hat, and it's got to be the perfect cloak. His staff has to look right, and Glamdring has to be perfectly designed. "Old Greybeard" naturally has to have one hell of a grey beard, too. Without that, he wouldn't be a complete. Not to worry, because Gandalf Stormcrow's grey/white beard is just as magical as he is.
We've already bet that you picture someone with a beard when we say the word "wizard." We'll go one further; more likely than not, you are picturing McKellen's Gandalf. His beard is a no-frills affair. He is not a wizard that locks himself in a tower and rules from a distance, not even close. When he has to, he rides across all of Middle-Earth to deliver a message, stopping only to sleep in bushes.
In Tolkien's original writings, the most formidable soldiers of the enemy were Balrogs. They took gargantuanly monstrous forms. The Istari, by contrast, were given the bodies of old men. The intention was that this would make them humble and empathetic, and while this failed famously with some of them (Saruman), it worked well enough for Gandalf. His beard is a sign of his humility, his wisdom, and his kindness. In different lighting, it can reflect the spark and storm that resides within him. Do not take Gandalf for some conjurer of cheap tricks.
We like the beard of Gandalf the White as well, and we almost put him on the list also. That didn't seem entirely fair, especially when the Grey is our all-time favorite. This fantasy beard graces the face of the greatest character in any fantasy movie. It will never be topped.