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Screencap from \"The Last Unicorn\"
Screencap from \"The Last Unicorn\"
Jensen Farley Pictures

“The Last Unicorn” Is A Forgotten Fever Dream  

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Temple chapter.

We all have that one movie from our childhood that feels like some sort of fever dream. For me, this is the movie “The Last Unicorn” from 1982 based on the novel by Peter S. Beagle. Interestingly, many of the animators that worked on animating this film went on to work for Studio Ghibli. It’s about how a unicorn learns she is the last of her kind and goes on a journey with some humans to find what happened to the rest of her species from the king of the land and defeat the villainous ghostly red bull.  

When I was a child and I had this movie on DVD and would watch it every now and then, I remember admiring the stylistic animation and the mythological fantasy it was set in. It was a world filled with unicorns, wizards, magic, and harpies. Another reason I think this film felt like a fever dream was because it was a little disturbing. For one, the animation is very 80s and stylistic and so some of the character and creature designs are quite creepy. The most prominent scene that disturbed me though is when one of the main characters, an apprentice wizard, is chained to a tree and the tree comes to life and begins to suffocate him with her tree “breasts”.  

One thing I remember appreciating and noticing about the film when I was younger was the dialogue. The dialogue was both written and said very poetically, and thus felt very different than other animated movies I was watching at the time. The dialogue didn’t stray from using bigger words and more “old English” (sort of) style of speaking. I think this is super important because it didn’t dumb down what it was saying for kids, a reason why this film stood out in my childhood.  

Now that I’m older, I can see the film in a new light and appreciate it much more for its substance in addition to its visual or auditory style and the slightly off-putting scenes. The film grapples with the concept of mortality and the nature of humanity. The main character, and the namesake of the film, is turned from an immortal unicorn to a human named Amalthea and experiences what it means to be in a mortal body for the first time. She is now not only grieving the possibility of being the last of her race but grieving her past ignorance of mortality. One quote that has always stood out to me is when she turns, she says “I can feel this body dying all around me”. Although she says this when there is no immediate danger, it demonstrates to the audience how foreign her human body’s impermanence is to her.  

The film also sets up beautiful parallels concerning immortality and humanity with Amalthea and various other humans she encounters on her journey. Namely, the King Haggard is obsessed with finding immortality and eternal happiness, which ultimately leads to his demise. He refuses to accept his transient life as a human and attempts to use unicorns to gain happiness and eternal life. This also leads to unicorns as a metaphor for a loss of innocence. As he captures the unicorns, and Amalthea experiences humanity, we see how she is no longer innocent to the world of humanity and its greed and evil. She learns what it means to be afraid, vulnerable, and momentary in the scheme of time.  

Overall, while “The Last Unicorn” feels like a fever dream from my childhood and many others, I find it a beautiful film stylistically and thematically that comments on what it means to be human. Many people might not even remember or know it because it was not as widely distributed or popularized, but I think it is a film that should not be ignored.  

Amaya Lam

Temple '26

Hello, my name is Amaya Lam and I am in the class of 2026 at Temple University! I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I’m a staff writer in the Arts and Entertainment section. I’m currently a Media Studies and Production major on the Media Analysis track. I love films and an avid Letterboxd user (@amay4) !