As this week sees the release of the latest live action adaptation of a classic animated film from Disney in the form of Pete’s Dragon, my friend Cameron Hoy and I are tackling the topic of our favourite movie dragons. Dragons are of course a staple of the fantasy genre and have appeared in countless films, both animated and live action. Before we get into the lists I have to say a huge thank you to Cameron for doing this last minute. So without further ado here are our Top 5 Film Dragons.
- Shuggie: Falkor (The NeverEnding Story) – I’m going to be honest, Falkor the Luckdragon is a little dated, but then The NeverEnding Story is a 1984 film, so that’s to be expected. Looking a little more like a dog than a dragon, Falkor, voiced by Alan Oppenheimer, is a proper old fashioned, friendly, wisdom-spouting dragon. Assisting Atreyu and Bastian in their quest to save the Empress and Fantasia he offers great help transporting them the most memorable scenes from the film. So “Never give up and good luck will find you”.
- Cameron: Hungarian Horntail (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) – This dragon, from the 4th film in the Harry Potter franchise, is solely on this list due to the sheer terror it can inspire in the audience, especially due to the knowledge that a 14-year-old boy has to face its wrath. Its fierceness is also intensified by the fact that it was a nesting mother and that of the four dragons that could have been chosen it was the biggest and most dangerous. The dragon escaping from its chains and chasing Harry around Hogwarts highlights the growing danger Harry will be subject to over the course of the film. It is my least favourite dragon of the five I’ve chosen primarily due to its wyvern look and the fact that it is only in the film for a short amount of time and as such had less time to build a bigger image in my mind.
- Shuggie: Mushu (Mulan) – 1997’s Mulan is part of that golden age of Disney from the 90s, and in Mushu we got one of the best supporting animal characters they ever created. Comedian Eddie Murphy voices him in one of his first roles in animation (so Donkey from Shrek owes Mushu a debt of gratitude). Obviously when you have Murphy in a role he’s going to be responsible for a lot of the comedy, and he doesn’t disappoint here giving a truly hilarious performance. And who could forget the fact he gave us the classic line “Dishonour on your whole family, dishonour on you, dishonour on your cow”?
- Cameron: Draco (Dragonheart) – This dragon from the film Dragonheart always sticks with me even to this day, probably due to the distinctive accent of Sean Connery. The intelligence and honour shown by Draco is significant throughout the whole of the film and the fact that he willingly gives half his heart to a child to prevent their death shows a clear sign of his innate willingness to do good. His intelligence is highlighted via his willingness to perform cons with a known dragon slayer (Bowen) to ensure the survival of himself and the survival of his species. His death at the end of the film was genuinely sad to me at the end due to the fact that he has to force Bowen to kill him to ensure the death of the villain.
- Shuggie: Smaug (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) – Say what you like about the Hobbit films, but they nailed the depiction of Smaug. Benedict Cumberbatch’s mo-cap and voice work on the antagonist of this second part of the franchise is brilliant. And the scene between him and Martin Freeman’s Bilbo is straight off the page of Tolkien’s book. You really get the fearsomeness, intelligence, and cunning of the character in this scene, and that is so important for the interaction to work. He is also probably the best looking dragon to have ever appeared on film thanks to some incredible CGI work.
- Cameron: The Dragons (Reign of Fire) – I remember watching this film way back not long after it came out and the key thing I remember about this film is the sheer size of these dragons. I remember having nightmares about these dragons as a child due to the sheer terror that they inspired in me. The premise of the story only enforced the monstrosity of these dragons and the modernish setting of the film further enforced how scary the reality of giant fire breathing lizards would be in today’s society. The manner in which the film portrays the fire breathing the dragon performs is exceptional and seems to be reused by later films involving dragons. This idea of fire breathing being made via chemicals being released via glands in the neck which then catch fire via sparks in the dragon’s mouth is ingenious in showing how it could be possible for a species of animal to breath fire.
- Shuggie: Draco (Dragonheart) – A dragon voiced by Sean Connery. Really I needn’t say any more, but I will. Dragonheart is one of those cheesy fantasy romps of the 1980s and 90s that might not actually be a great film, but that can captivate young viewers, just as this film does for me. Draco’s interactions with Dennis Quaid’s Bowen are at the heart of the film. From enemies, to fraudsters, to friends, and heroes, their relationship makes this one of the best campy fantasy films of the time. But hey I know why he really deserves to be this high on the list, so I shall merely reiterate the fact that Draco is a dragon voiced by Sean Connery.
- Cameron: Mushu (Mulan) – How could I not put Mushu on this list? Eddie Murphy brings this dragon to life in a witty and humorous manner that quickly makes Mushu one of the standout characters of the movie. Unlike most of the dragons that will follow in this list Mushu is physically smaller and is unlikely to inspire much fear or awe in the audience. This problem is rectified with the seemingly exceptional intelligence of Mushu who uses his intelligence to take control of the fireworks and use them to not only save Mulan but also fire the Khan into a stockpile of fireworks that explode and ruin his attempt at conquest.
- Shuggie: Toothless (How To Train Your Dragon franchise) – The How to Train Your Dragon films are by far some of my favourite animated films of the last 5 years, and so much of the is down to Toothless. He’s so different from his literary counterpart, but frankly that doesn’t matter at all when he’s this adorable. Toothless may be the only dragon on this list who can’t actually speak, but that doesn’t prevent him from having as much character as anyone else on this list, or in the How to Train Your Dragon films. This is something for which every credit deserves to go to the animator for doing such a wonderful job making him so expressive.
- Cameron: Toothless (How To Train Your Dragon franchise) – Easily one of my favourite dragons on the big screen. This dragon combines both the fierceness expected of a dragon with a certain childlike innocence. Unlike its book counterpart Toothless is a much bigger and dangerous dragon whose role in the film is to be, alongside Hiccup, the unifier in the war between the Vikings and Berk. I prefer this version of Toothless to his book counterpart, who although is exceptionally written and a good dragon in his own right, the film Toothless fits my idea of a dragon more. There are some things I don’t like about this characterisation of Toothless mainly due to the lack of speech between him and Hiccup which in the book were exceptionally well written and did much to show both Hiccup and Toothless’ love and appreciation of each other and also shows a surprisingly witty and sarcastic approach to life.