Willow (1988)


“The last thing she’s gonna want is a hairy chest!”

The Scoop: 1988 PG, directed by Ron Howard and starring Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, and Joanne Whalley.

Tagline: Beyond Good… Beyond Evil… Beyond your wildest imagination…

Summary Capsule: Little guy protects little baby to overcome big bad queen.

Justin’s rating: I have magic peanuts, don’t tempt me or I SHALL USE THEM!

Justin’s review: Fantasy movies saw a renaissance in the eighties, only to die a pathetic death in the nineties. No fantasy epic released during this time period were amazing box office hits, but movies like The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story gained enough of a cult base to spawn a bunch of good tries, including this one from a story from Ewok-obsessed George Lucas. This isn’t a subtle film, it has MASSIVE FANTASY EPIC stamped all over it, from the music to the big skeleton guy. It’s all-out or nothing in trying to achieve this status, and sadly flounders somewhere in the middle.

The beginning of Willow is lifted directly from the story of Moses in the Bible. The evil queen is killing all firstborn kids, trying to prevent a special child that is prophesied to overthrow her High Helmetness. A midwife sneaks the suspected child out of the palace, then sets it afloat down a stream in a basket. And that’s where the little people come in.

Okay, the little people aren’t from the Bible, exactly (unless you count that little guy who sat in a tree to see our Lord). But they definitely are from the Lord of the Rings, what with hobbits and tunneled hovels and all. Anyway, nothing makes great cinema than a clan of little people that find a baby that’s half their size. Head little person Willow (Warwick Davis, who went on to be the evil Leprechaun in many bad films) is sent on a quest to find a decent day care center.

Along the way he meets several new friends, and they fight bad creatures and power up to level 67 and obtain the +6 Magical Sword of Elvira. Well, no swords, but Willow does get a handful of magic ACORNS, I kid you not. Lethal nuts, what was Lucas ON?

Also, he meets Val Kilmer sitting in a cage. This, for me, would’ve made a great movie. Two hours of Val slowly dying in a cage. Don’t get me wrong, I like Val, but the fewer hot Hollywood hunks in the world, the more women for the rest of us. Val plays Madmartigan, a Han Solo junkie for fantasy times. He performs more or less the same role you’ve seen a million times before in rapscallions. And he cross-dresses.

Willow also meets little tiny creatures so that he can feel like a giant. One of these fairy children falls in love with a cat, which does make complete sense.

Ultimately, in fantasy films you have to have a really good story. Without a really good story, you have a bunch of ridiculous effects and creatures that beg to be mocked. Willow has a really okay story. It’s nothing more than getting the ring, er, baby, away from the bad guy, and learning a bit about life and love and acorns on the way. The FX is zippy for the time, but none of the characters did it for me. The story is hardly original, but I can see how it might have its own fan base. It’d make a good addition to any fantasy marathon, though I can hardly think of any reason to watch it otherwise.

In place of a Dark Lord, you would have a queen! … Oh wrong movie, so sorry.


  • The character of the evil general Kael is said to have been named after film critic Pauline Kael (we never get movie characters named after us…)
  • Tinkerbell! Clap! Clap!
  • According to the press kits and subsequent novels, the two-headed dragon was named “Eborsisk”, a reference to the movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. The word does not occur in the film but made it into some reviews.
  • After meeting on the set of this film, Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley were married (but later divorced).

Groovy Quotes

The High Aldwin: [throws an apple into the air which turns into a bird] Go in the direction the bird is flying!
Burgelcutt: He’s going back to village!
The High Aldwin: Ignore the bird. Follow the river.

Willow: See this acorn? I’ll throw it at you and turn you to stone!
Madmartigan: Ooh, I’m really scared. Help! There’s a peck with an acorn pointed at me!

Madmartigan: It’s good for ya! Puts hair on yer chest, doesn’t it, sticks?
Willow: Her name is NOT sticks, she is Elora Danon, the future princess or Tir Asleen! And the last thing she’s gonna want is a hairy chest!

Sorsha: What are you looking at?
Madmartigan: Your leg. I’d like to break it.

Madmartigan: What happened back there?
Willow: You started spouting poetry. “I love you Sorsha! I worship you Sorsha!” You almost got us killed!
Madmartigan: “I love you Sorsha?” I don’t love her, she kicked me in the face! I hate her… Don’t I?

Sorsha: What happened to “You are my sun, my moon, my starlit sky”?
Mad Martigan: It went away.
Sorsha: “I dwell in darkness without you,” and it *went away*?

Willow: Absolutely, under no condition whatsoever, is anyone in this family to fall in love with that baby!

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