We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
I like a good dragon movie as much as the next girl. But what I really love is an AWESOME dragon movie. You know, with mayhem and death and revenge against bullies. All of these movies feature awesome dragon moments. They’re also movies where the dragon plays a pivotal role in the film; I left out the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies because the dragons are more incidental. With the opening of How to Train Your Dragon on March 26, it seems like a good time to look back on some of the best dragon-y dragons in the history of cinema.
Recap: The titular character finds a dragon egg and secretly raises a dragon named Saphira. But when the evil king finds out and comes looking for Saphira, his quiet life is over and he begins planning to become a dragon rider.
Reason it is awesome: Dragon rider. Who doesn’t want to ride a dragon? Sure Eragon is a bit whiny and annoying but he is riding a dragon and that is super cool. Also, no one will ever mess with him because he has a pet dragon. Oh, you have a pit bull? Well, my pet BREATHES FIRE. That’s how arguments are won.
6. Mulan (1998)
Recap: A young woman joins the army in her father’s stead after he is conscripted despite being old and infirm. Her father sends along a helper, in the form of a small dragon, Mushu (Eddie Murphy) to protect her. He’s a family spirit guardian who has failed in the past, so … no way could that go wrong.
Reason: Mushu is the comedian of the dragon world. His looks aren’t as imposing as some of his brethren but he can still tie your shoelaces together if you piss him off. Of all the dragons listed, he would be the best to keep as a pet, mostly because he’s pretty small and would be less likely to knock over all the furniture. He’s the purse chihuahua of the dragon world. Though don’t expect him to wear pink hairbows, I doubt he’d roll with that.
5. Dragonheart (1996)
Recap: Probably the best looking film on this list in terms of special effects, Dragonheart stars Dennis Quaid as a knight who teams up with his traditional enemy, a dragon, to stop a tyrannical king.
Reason it is awesome: Because Draco is a dragon con artist! He is a dragon who wants to steal your money. He could just go in, breathing fire and being a big jerk, but no, he not only wants to scare you, he wants to make you look like a big idiot who got conned by a dragon. Draco is the Keyser Soze of dragons.
4. The Hobbit (1977)
Recap: Bilbo Baggins, a stay-at-home kind of hobbit, becomes wrapped up in intrigue when a wizard, Gandalf asks him to join a band of dwarfs in an effort to steal treasure from the dragon, Smaug.
Reason it is awesome: Smaug is a dragon’s dragon. He’s a badass who sleeps on a pile of motherf#ckin gold, people! How is that not cool? Also, though not a dragon, Gollum is pretty creepy. I don’t know if it’s that I saw this film as a kid but he’s way more disturbing than the one in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The whole thing about his “precious” kept me up at night.
Recap: After running away from bullies, Bastian finds refuge in an antique book store where he begins reading The Neverending Story, a book about the magical land of Fantastica. As Bastian reads about the boy warrior Atreyu, the luckdragon Falkor and the Child-like empress, he becomes drawn into the story until he realizes that he has become a part of the story.
Reason it is awesome: Have you seen this movie? Because if so you will recall that Bastian ends the film riding Falkor down the street, scaring the crap out of the same bullies that menaced him during the beginning of the film. Falkor, the only mammalian dragon on this list, also looks more fun to ride than your typical scaly, hard reptilian dragon. Plus he seems more reasonable than your run of the mill, burn-whatever-I-want dragon.
2. Pete’s Dragon (1977)
Recap: An orphan who was adopted by an abusive group of scam artists runs away and meets a drunk lighthouse keeper and his kind daughter who take him in and try to protect him. They are aided in this by Pete’s invisible friend, a dragon named Elliott.
Reason it is awesome: Pete has an invisible dragon friend. Seriously, if you could only have one friend, who wouldn’t choose a dragon? The invisibility may seem like a hindrance, but frankly Elliott is not the most terrifying dragon ever so it’s probably better that he’s invisible, that way he sounds scary. Plus they live in a lighthouse, how cool is that? Though this film isn’t afraid to teach the dangers of keeping a dragon indoors. Elliott has a tendency to knock over furniture and make a nuisance of himself; though to be fair, it’s hard to move around when you have a big ass tail behind you.
1. Reign of Fire (2002)
Recap: In the near future, a dragon wakes from deep within the earth under London and begins wreaking havoc across the country. She reproduces and soon dragons take over the world, leaving only isolated pockets of survivors. Quinn (Christian Bale) leads one such group outside of London where they live a subsistence existence, surviving as best they can until the arrival of a group of American soldiers lead by Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) come to town, ready to kill them some dragons.
Reason it is awesome: Before McConaughey exclusively played the-man-who-needs-a-woman in half the romantic comedies out there, he was the most badass, dragon-killing soldier of them all. But the beauty of the film lies not only in McConaughey’s batsh*t crazy performance, but how that performance is completely the opposite of what Bale is doing, creating a realistic portrayal of a man in a post-apocalyptic dragon society. This is akin to George C. Scott’s general from Dr. Strangelove and Bale’s own John Connor from Terminator Salvation going head to head in a movie that also happens to be full of dragons. And these dragons are the real deal, they will burn you up for no good reason. Maybe they will eat you, but more likely they will just burn everything because they are DRAGONS and THAT’S WHAT THEY DO.