Dragons! Adding a fire-breathing behemoth or a wise-eyed, scaly guardian to a film or book almost always increases its entertainment value. Dragons, from wyverns to Naga, Bewilderbeasts to Swedish Short-Snouts, captivate people of all ages, and why shouldn’t they? They’re like evolved dinosaurs: powerful, magical, and sometimes even talk. If a film’s Dragon is boring, it’s because the filmmakers aren’t trying hard enough. Their stories are told all over the world, inspiring both wonder and terror in successive generations.
Our grandmother used to tell us stories about a dragon terrorizing a land and a hero eventually rising to challenge it when we were kids. Those stories entertained us back then, and little has changed since then, as dragon stories remain a popular theme in Hollywood. Dragons are typically portrayed in films as a threat to human society, but some movies have depicted them as man’s best friend in recent years.
There are dozens of dragon movies to choose from today. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of dragon films in terms of numbers, but there are a good fistful of dragon-themed films that are must-sees for any dragon fan. Here are The 20 best dragon movies of all time, not sorted in any particular way.
1. Merlin (TV Mini-Series 1998)
Merlin is not, technically, a film. It was a made-for-TV miniseries that aired on NBC in 1998, but it deserves to be on this list given its quality and popularity. Some fans believe that the scene in the film in which Merlin’s love Nimue is sacrificed to a dragon is the best in the miniseries. Whether or not that is true, the scene brought dragons into living rooms across the country during prime time television. Fans of Game of Thrones may grow accustomed to seeing Drogon on-screen (though they may not—Daenerys’ dragons are frequently episode highlights), but for many viewers, this was their first “dragon sighting.”
Merlin received high ratings across the board and was nominated for six Emmy Awards and four Golden Globes. Its most outstanding achievement, however, was attracting so many new fans to the fantasy genre. Merlin paved the way for the influx of fantasy productions in mainstream media, paving the way for television shows such as Supernatural, Once Upon a Time, and Grimm. Merlin is filled with drama, (sometimes liberally interpreted) history, magic, and simply good storytelling. Merlin’s Apprentice, the show’s sequel, may also be familiar to fantasy fans.
2. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
One of the top dragon movies of all time is ‘How to Train Your Dragon.’ The plot of this animated film begins with a single goliath man on the top of the Nordic island Berk’s. Viking town has essentially surrendered trust in his intelligent, sensitive sissy shrimp’ child Hiccup, the burdensome understudy of the disabled person metalworker, to shape into a genuine Viking and add to their day by day fights engaging against the numerous monster plague.
Hiccup returns to his feet and wanders through the woods, where he discovers a mythical tethered child after spotting another monster attack. He frees it. Unable to murder it, he decides that it is agreeable and gracious, plans a prosthesis for its half tail, and unintentionally learns how to fly. He goes through the towns of young monster fighters killing without perilous hostility after learning current realities about mythical serpents from it.
Aloof now expects Hiccup to kill a mythical beast and take part in the yearly effort by boats to find and break the winged serpent sheet, but flying innocuous, he learns and takes on the genuine test. The Dragon is one of the fortunate dragons because he is not harmful or violent. This film has some interesting special effects and is considered one of the best.
3. The Flight of Dragons (1982)
It stands to reason that some of the best dragon films are animated. It hasn’t always been possible to capture dragons’ majesty, magic, and even brutality on the big screen, mainly when the technology wasn’t yet available. Take, for example, The Flight of the Dragons. It was released in 1982 and combined star voice talents like John Ritter and James Earl Jones. It also as pieces from fantasy tomes The Flight of Dragons, The Dragon, and the George, to create an animated treat for all ages while asking the intriguing question of whether magic and science can coexist.
Its unimpressive cover art should not put off newcomers to the film. It has the same dramatic, gorgeous, yet gritty fantasy style as films like The Last Unicorn. It is a rare type of film that is simply no longer made, which, while unfortunate for the genre, demonstrates how far creators have come in terms of film-making technology.
Faced with the unavoidable replacement of wizardry by science, the performer Carolinus summons his three siblings (all entertainers) to pitch a wild plan. The creation of a domain of sorcery separate and distinct from the universe of man, where everything enchanted can be ensured. Carolinus’ siblings become involved in the arrangement and offer their assistance.
In any case, Ommadon, one of Ommadon’s siblings, refuses to join this retirement community. Ommadon has another plan in mind; he needs to take the battle directly to a man who wants to use their science against them. The three siblings plan a journey to defeat Ommadon while being shielded from direct opposition. A journey aided by a nearby knight, Sir Orin Neville Smythe, the monsters Gorbash and Smrgol, and a yet unknown pioneer who should handle scientific matters.
Carolinus finds Peter Dickenson, a current man of science, and convinces him to join and lead the journey by shouting to the relic. Nonetheless, a spell gone awry creates additional difficulties for Peter, enormous ones in this case. As a result, a wondrous adventure filled with intriguing characters, problems, and hazards culminates in a showdown between Peter and Ommadon.
This story combines the abstract works of Gordon R. Dickson’s “The Dragon and the George” for the main characters and subjects, Peter Dickinson’s “The Flight of Dragons” for the mythical serpent plan and the mechanics of monster flight, and essayist Romeo Muller. He acquires the science section’s sorcery point as well as the sentimental sub-plot.
4. Reign of Fire (2002)
Quinn Abercromby, 12, witnesses the awakening of a mythical sleeping beast from a centuries-old sleep in modern-day London, resulting from a structure burrow managed by his mother and an event for which Quinn feels partially responsible. The grown-up Quinn (Christian Bale) is the fire chief of a fortified palace society twenty years later, accountable for drenching the blasts lit by the monster’s monstrous measure of fire heaving relatives. These airborne juggernauts have created ruin worldwide, burning humankind and transforming humankind into an endangered race.
Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) is an American known for being the first to wreck one of the mythical serpents. Alex (Izabella Scorupco) is a researcher/pilot who is a member of the Van Zan. This passionate battle group includes a shrouded weapon: the Archangels. Paratroopers use themselves as a lure to draw and then dispatch the destructive monsters.
5. Dragonslayer (1981)
It’s all fun and games offering virgins to the local Dragon to eat until one of those virgins happens to be your daughter. While Peter MacNicol may have distanced himself from his 1981 film, Dragonslayer continues to have a cult following. Dragonslayer, with its general weirdness, darkness, and “rescuing the damsel in distress” theme, harkens back to the archetypal dragon story, as well as the story of David’s victory over Goliath, in more ways than one. It even has a lottery system for dragon sacrifices, which is still a popular motif today.
The film contained an unusual amount of gore for its subject matter, incorporating some borderline horror elements into its core. Today’s dragon fans may see it and think the special effects are both outdated and too dark. Still, the film was a massive achievement in cinematography and special effects at the time, portraying a dragon on the big screen in a way that no other movie had done before.
6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe’s) fourth academic year at Hogwarts is about to begin, and he is looking forward to the late spring getaway with his friends. They get the tickets to the Quidditch World Cup Final. Still, after the game, people dressed as Voldemort Lord’s (Ralph Fiennes’) “Death Eaters” set fire to all of the guests’ tents, which, combined with the presence of Voldemort’s image, the “Dull Mark” in the sky, causes a free for all across the mysterious network.
That same year, Hogwarts hosts “The Triwizard Tournament,” a supernatural competition between three renowned sorcery schools: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang. The challengers must be over seventeen and chosen by an extraterrestrial item known as “The Goblet of Fire.”
Even though it is a night of determination, the Goblet of Fire regurgitates four names rather than the usual three, with Harry being mistakenly chosen as the Fourth Champion. Because the enchantment cannot be reversed, Harry is forced to accept it and bravely complete three extremely difficult errands. This film is also regarded as one of the best dragon films on the list.
7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Tolkien fans argue that no film could ever indeed do the books justice, but no one can deny the mesmerizing effects of The Lord of the Rings’ CGI scenes. When audiences first saw those swooping fell beasts in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, they got goosebumps all over the place. One could argue that the Nazgul scenes in Return of the King are even more hypnotic.
While the iconic scene between the Witch King and Eowyn deserves special mention, it was in Osgiliath that viewers first saw the fell beasts that the Nazgul rode while searching for the One Ring. Audiences could almost scream in response to the creatures’ deafening wing-swishing and ear-splitting cries.
According to Tolkien, the fell beasts, also known as Nazgul-birds and hell-hawks, were initially more like pterosaurs. Peter Jackson’s fell beasts resembled wyverns, with their snaky appearances and lack of beaks.
Of course, when you start with the Lord of the Rings movies, you should watch them all, and we have a watch order ready for you in case you need it.
8. Maleficent (2014)
Maleficent, the tremendous winged pixie of pure heart, is taken aback by the intoxicating effect of high school energy, having grown up in the enchanted woods of the Moors—the mystical land on the outskirts of a hostile human realm. However, the delicate time of virtue will quickly end, and as a terrible demonstration of misdirection flaws, the tender still, small voice of the youthful sprite perpetually—an almighty fiendish Maleficent, the powerful gatekeeper of the Moors, will emerge.
At the moment, the vacuum in Maleficent’s core is filled with venom, rage, and a raging need for retribution—nobody is safe in general, especially the lord’s infant daughter, Aurora. The latter should languish over her father’s wrongdoings. A friend or family member once used the mitigating intensity of good feelings toward Maleficent. Will genuine romance irritate the Mistress of All Darkness right now?
9. Pete’s Dragon (2016)
Despite being one of the more lighthearted dragon films, Pete’s Dragon is not without its dark moments. Pete’s childhood wasn’t exactly idyllic, what with the abuse of a backwoods adopted family and the threat of having his Dragon murdered, mutilated, and eaten as magical medicine. Nonetheless, the film’s central message is positive. Despite receiving only a 47 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, families enjoyed the musical numbers, which featured Helen Reddy, Mickey Rooney, and Charlie Callas, who voiced the goofy animated Dragon.
Eliot’s lovable personality, combined with his round, hand-drawn features and Pete’s support, made him a favorite among children and adults alike who had felt the agony of being alone. The animation is also reminiscent of two honorable mentions, The Reluctant Dragon and The Sword in the Stone. The 2016 live-action adaptation of Eliot will feature a furrier dragon.
10. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Following the previous film’s events, Thorin and his company are pursued by Azog and his Orc band. Gandalf takes them to the home of Beorn, a skin-transformer who can assume the form of a bear. That evening, the Necromancer brings Azog to Dol Guldur, who orders him to marshal his armies for the impending battle, so Azog assigns the pursuit to his son Bolg for Thorin.
The following day, Beorn joins the adventure to the Mirkwood outskirts, where Gandalf discovers the Black Speech engraved on an old ruin. He warns the company to stay out and about and departs to investigate the Nazgûl’s burial places, fulfilling his promise to Galadriel.
After entering the woods, the miniature people become disoriented and are captured by monster creepy crawlies. Bilbo begins liberating them with the help of his newly acquired intangibility shield. After fiercely slaughtering an animal to recover it, he eventually loses the Ring and gains control of its blunt force.
Dragons are rarely portrayed as female creatures in films. Shrek not only featured a pink, eye-lashed, and lipsticked dragon, but she also fell in love with a talking donkey, a first in any genre. Most dragon movies have little to no light comedy, but the Dragon in Shrek starts as a threat to battle within the “damsel in distress” trope and then evolves into a love-struck punchline. Later in the Shrek series, Dragon develops into a serious love interest and even creates donkey-dragon hybrids with the series’ sidekick, Donkey.
Dragon was one of the first examples of a dragon created using modern CGI animation, and audiences loved it. The 2001 film spawned three sequels, and a fifth is in the works for a 2019 release. Dragon’s special effects improved throughout the franchise, and he was used as a fearsome beast again during the Shrek Forever After time-warp. Following the success of Shrek, DreamWorks Animation skyrocketed as a company, and the role of Dragon, among the other fairy tale creatures, was a big part of that success.
12. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
A Venusian’s soul (a Martian in the American version) is controlled by a princess from a tiny Himalayan country and escapes from a plane just before it crashes. When this occurs, a shooting star containing Ghidorah, the beast responsible for destroying her planet, falls from the sky. Godzilla and Rodan emerge from hibernation at the same time and attack Japan alongside one another.
Mothra is attempting to persuade Godzilla and Rodan and their twin priestesses to stop fighting each other and work together to defeat the new monster. At the same time, a group of hired fighters is pursuing the princess, hoping to eliminate her so that her opponents can control her country.
13. Willow (1988)
Willow was one of the first fantasy films that many fans of the genre saw. While its troll resembled a cheap King Kong costume and its two-headed Dragon was positively archaic by today’s special effects standards, it still managed to enthrall viewers who fell in love with it in 1988. The scene in which Willow kicks a two-headed hatching dragon into a moat only to watch it exponentially grow and devour humans captivated audiences, paving the way for much more realistic dragons in today’s films.
Although Willow was only a moderate success in the box office, it still has a sizable fan base, as do many fantasy films. Thanks to its strange creatures and Warwick Davis’s hesitant yet steadfast heroics, it still appeals to audiences today. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, and director Ron Howard has told reporters that a sequel is “never say never.”
14. DragonHeart (1996)
Dragonheart, possibly the best dragon film, tells the story of Draco, a dragon who dared to share his heart to save a human prince’s life. Unfortunately, his shared heart was squandered on a cruel tyrant, which caused Draco to lose faith in humanity. Draco, voiced by Sean Connery, easily won fans over with his sarcastic commentary and curmudgeonly persona, teaming up with Dennis Quaid’s scheming, dragon-slaying ex-knight.
The film even ended in tragedy, ensuring a better world for the kingdom and earning Draco a place among the stars alongside his fellow dragons. The film’s script may have been deemed banal by critics, but no one could deny the allure of its visuals and aesthetic value. It has also spawned a video game and two sequels since its initial release.
Although its sequel was too terrible for words, Dragonheart’s original story combined the delightful fantasy tale of two jaded characters duping villages out of their money; with the first genuinely realistic modern-day depiction of a dragon. Hence, earning it a spot as one of the best dragon movies of all time.
15. Spirited Away (2001)
There are very few films that feature Asian dragons. While Eddie Murphy plays the Dragon Mushu in Disney’s Mulan (who also lends his vocal talents as the paramour to another dragon on this list). The best representation of an Asian dragon in a film is Haku, the River Spirit in Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film Spirited Away.
Like many Miyazaki characters, Haku is a mix of light and dark, torn between his desire for power and his willingness to be a good person. In dragon form, he serves his mistress, the witch Yubaba, while fighting to protect the film’s protagonist, Chihiro. Ultimately, it is Chihiro’s story, and she is the one who saves them both.
Most of Miyazaki’s films are so magically delicious that they put other animated films’ one-note, two-dimensional characters to shame, and Spirited Away is no exception. The film has received enough critical acclaim to prove its worth, as well as enough audience approval to speak for its inventiveness and enjoyment. It grossed over $289 million worldwide and quickly became the highest-grossing film in Japanese history.
16. Mulan (1998)
It was always questioned whether animated films could deliver a story aimed at a more mature audience, but animation studios have proven themselves repeatedly. Mulan is a good example. The film was a great combination of a grittier war theme and unnerving fun.
As the Huns prepare to attack China, the imperial army drafts one man from each family. The Fa family lacks a son, so the father decides to go alone. Mulan, his daughter, steals his armor and disguises herself as a man to join the army. The ancestors dispatched a dragon to protect the Fa family’s fate and bring Mulan home safely. The journey that follows is one of bravery, trust, and love.
17. Dragon Wars: D-War (2007)
Take heart if you’ve been missing Japanese monster movies. “Dragon Wars: D-War” (from South Korea) demonstrates that the genre is still very much alive. It’s impossible not to be entertained by this breathless, delirious stew, provided — and this is critical — you have a sense of humor.
Giant serpents, known as Imoogi, once roamed Korea. Buraki was a bad one because he had armored troops. Narin, a girl, had this glowing bubble, the Yuh Yi Joo, which transformed Imoogi into dragons. But she and her lover-protector, Haram, sacrificed themselves without giving it up.
Take a deep breath. An eruption in Los Angeles indicates that something big, something cranky, has awakened. When Ethan Kendrick (Jason Behr) discovers the truth, he remembers being taught as a child by the mystic Jack (Robert Forster) that he is Haram reincarnated. Narin is now Sarah Daniels (Amanda Brooks).
Got all that?
18. Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God (2005)
The film was a sequel to the original Dragons and Dungeons, and it was based on the D&D games. Despite being a low-budget production, the film managed to do everything its predecessor failed to do:
- Create a dramatic environment.
- Receive a commendable performance from a small group of unknowns.
- Provide appropriate dialogue at all times.
The sequel takes place 100 years after the events of the first film. Damodar survived Freeborn’s attack and now resides on Earth as an undead. With nothing but the agony of his pitiful existence, he seeks vengeance on the descendants of the kingdom of Izmir by resurrecting the mighty dragon Faluzure. Lord Berek and Melora must now prevent Damodar from completing his evil plan before it’s too late.
19. The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Falcor, the luck dragon, is modeled after a Chinese dragon rather than a European dragon, but most viewers remember him as a giant, shiny puppy who liked children—but not for breakfast. This flying, smiling luck dragon was the most beloved creature in The Neverending Story, displaying so much passion and positivity about Atreyu’s quest that he might as well have been known as the Leslie Knope of dragons.
His enormous brown eyes and fuzzy fur may have seemed strange in 1984. Still, the popularity of Wolfgang Peterson’s film has remained consistent, with parents introducing their favorite childhood films to their children year after year. Falcor’s gleeful inclusion in a primarily harmless retaliation scheme against Bastian’s bullies cemented his place in the hearts of both young and old.
Falcor’s appearance may have inspired David Lowery in the new Eliot in the 2016 Pete’s Dragon film. Eliot has been depicted with furry, cat-like features reminiscent of Falcor and Toothless.
20. Eragon (2006)
A mediocre adaptation of the well-known novel Eragon. Other than some awe-inspiring dragon visuals, the film isn’t much to brag about, but it was a success nonetheless (thanks to its highly successful novel).
The plot revolves around Eragon, a 17-year-old living on the farms with his uncle Garrow. Eragon discovers a blue egg in the forest and decides to keep it. Saphira, the Dragon, born from the egg, is named by him. When the king of the land finds out about the egg, he decides to take it for himself. As Eragon tries to protect the Dragon and his uncle, things go wrong.