Dragons are one of the most iconic mythical creatures of all time and still today are a staple of fantasy storytelling on the big and small screens. Cinema is filled with memorable adaptations of these legendary creatures which have come in all shapes and sizes sporting different abilities and characteristics to make each one unique. Those creatures are the focus of my list today. In celebration of the final “How to Train Your Dragon” film hitting theaters this weekend I took a look at as many dragons as I could that have graced big screen pictures over the years and picked the ones I believe to be among the most iconic, memorable and visually stunning versions of this creature spanning different cultures and interpretations. These are my picks for the Top 10 Movie Dragons.
For this list I, of course, looked at any creature considered to be a dragon and took into consideration their design, memorability and legacies and their relevance in pop culture. I only considered organic creatures for this list so robotic dragons like the ones featured in the “Transformers” franchise, were not considered. I DID NOT differentiate between dragons and wyverns HOWEVER sea monsters were out of the question so creatures like Godzilla and the Hydra did not count as they are not technically considered to be dragons.
Before I get to the list here are a few honorable mentions:
– The Jabberwocky, “Alice in Wonderland” (2010)
– Buraki, “Dragon War”
– Draco, “Dragonheart”
– The Male Dragon, “Reign of Fire”
– The Golden Dragon, “Beowulf”
Who is your favorite movie dragon? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list. Also be sure to look for my review of “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” this weekend.
10. Saphira, “Eragon”
Alright so there are VERY few people who actually like “Eragon”, the cinematic interpretation of the popular book of the same name often considered one of the worst mainstream movies of the 21st century to date. However as a story about a dragon rider the movie’s main dragon is one of the few highlights. Saphira’s design evokes her peaceful, elegant nature and it’s hard to resist an extended “awww” when you see her hatch from her egg. With Rachel Weisz providing the dragon’s voice Saphira manages to define everything beautiful that is associated with dragons which is in stark contrast to the evil beings she faces in the climax. She also acts as a fierce partner to her rider, Eragon, who is unsure of his abilities but quickly forms a bond with the dragon that turns them both into heroes. The “Eragon” movie may be a horrendous piece of cinema, but at least this film had a pretty decent dragon to show off.
9. Elliott, “Pete’s Dragon”
While the live action remake was a Disney dud, the original animated “Pete’s Dragon” remains one of the studio’s more underrated classics. The dragon here is Elliott, Pete’s friend who can breathe fire, turn invisible and sports an adorable green design that is much more child friendly than many other dragons on this list. Elliott, while real in the movie, has become the poster…erm…dragon for the stereotypical imaginary friend and as such has evolved into a huge part of Disney lore as the definitive “good guy” dragon in cinema. Elliott’s mission in life is simple, to help kids wherever they need it, and it’s a good thing he sports a fun design to accomplish that mission. While the live action adaptation’s version of the creature is pretty neat, there’s no denying the animated version’s place as a beloved movie dragon and he’s just one of several Disney dragons that will be on this list.
8. The Hungarian Horntail, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
The world of Harry Potter has numerous dragons. Another memorable one I could have added here is the Ukrainian Ironbelly that guards the vaults of Gringotts. However I chose a more memorable dragon, the Hungarian Horntail, featured in the fourth installment “Goblet of Fire”. This was the first time cinemagoers truly got to see what dragons were. Sure we’re introduced to the animal through an adorable hatchling in the first movie, but the Hungarian Horntail is the first full-sized dragon Harry encounters as a challenge in the first round of the Tri-Wizard tournament. The dragon’s role is expanded from the book leaving the confines of the arena as Harry rides his broom in an attempt to avoid the dragon and capture the golden egg it guards. The Horntail is considered the most fearsome dragon in the competition and it’s not hard to see why consider its ruthlessness and persistent nature, immense size and intimidating design.
7. Dragon, The “Shrek” Franchise
The “Shrek” franchise started out as a parody of both Disney and fairytales in general so it’s no shocker the series has a dragon of its own. Simply named Dragon throughout the franchise, this red female dragon is first encountered by the titular ogre Shrek as he tries to rescue Princess Fiona from her tower. By the end of the film she returns to save the day, devouring the evil Lord Farquad in the process. She establishes a romantic relationship with Shrek’s sidekick Donkey and is featured in the remaining installments as Donkey’s significant other with the two even having donkey-dragon hybrid children. Dragon is a unique creature as she displays many of the traditional attributes of her species but also possesses a more human personality and a sense of compassion. Her design is both reminiscent of past dragons but also unique to the “Shrek” franchise as she combines femininity with intimidation giving us a standout creature who is both delicate and emotional while remaining ferocious and animalistic.
6. Mushu, “Mulan”
A sidekick in Disney’s animated classic ‘Mulan”, Mushu is the smallest creature on this list barely bigger than the average household cat, but don’t let his size fool you. What he lacks in stature he makes up for in personality. Mushu is a disgraced former guardian spirit of Fa Mulan’s family but gets a chance at redemption when he becomes Mulan’s guardian and follows her into battle. The comic relief of the film voiced by Eddie Murphy, Mushu rises above his own ego and insecurities to help Mulan defeat the evil Shan-Yu. Mushu’s design is pretty neat as he is an amalgamation of numerous animals which come together to form a somewhat subversive interpretation of Chinese dragons of lore. He also possesses outstanding stamina, even for a cartoon, making him surprisingly resilient. Muchu may not be the most intimidating dragon, but his creative design and his memorability earn him high honors.
5. Smaug, The “Hobbit” Trilogy
Smaug is an antagonist in the “Lord of the Rings” prequel “Hobbit” trilogy who serves as the namesake to the second movie in that series, “The Desolation of Smaug”. Voiced and portrayed through motion capture by Benedict Cumberbatch, Smaug is the keeper of stolen dwarf gold and is one of the most lifelike dragons ever brought to the big screen. His size, distinct personality, and ego all making him a formidable foe for the heroes before he is vanquished during his attack on Lake-Town thanks to an exposed week spot from a previous attack on the human city-state of Dale. Smaug is one of the most dangerous and destructive dragons on this list, possessing an awesome and striking design and earning a place in pop culture thanks to his association with the “Lord of the Rings” franchise alone. While the characters still to come might be more legendary and iconic, Smaug is by far one of if not the most completely realized dragon ever put to film.
4. Falcor, The “Neverending Story” Franchise
The only luckdragon to appear on screen in “The Neverending Story”, Falcor becomes an ally to the hero Atreyu in finding a cure for the Empress. Falcor’s popularity has transcended his franchise as he has become the most iconic single character from the story eventually appearing in both sequels and the animated television spinoff series. While his friendly personality and memorability as a character help earn him a spot on this list, a big factor in his inclusions here is his design and characteristics. Falcor is a unique looking creature with fur and a dog-like head making his appearance much more inviting than other dragons which fits with his character’s role as an ally of good. As a luckdragon he makes up for his lack of might through the luck he experiences with everything he does and while he retains the classic fire breathing ability of the typical dragon his fire is unique in that it’s blue. Falcor proves that not every dragon has to be intimidating to be memorable or iconic.
3. Toothless, The “How To Train Your Dragon” Franchise
Probably the most iconic modern dragon in cinema, Toothless is one half of the main heroic duo of the “How to Train Your Dragon” series that inspired this list. In the first film Toothless, a rare Night Fury dragon, befriends a young Viking named Hiccup who goes against his people’s instinct to hunt and kill dragons and instead trains and bonds with Toothless, changing his entire society’s perspective in the process. Sporting a deceptively simple design and the ability to shoot lightning instead of fire, Toothless is not only one of the most adorable dragons in film history, he is one of the coolest and most badass dragons of all time using his small stature, speed, and mental acuity to his advantage to conquer every obstacle with his trusted human companion by his side. He even defeats dragons multiple times his own size even earning the title of “alpha” among his kind.
2. King Ghidorah, the “Godzilla” Franchise
One of the most legendary movie monsters of all time, Ghidorah, sometimes called King Ghidorah, originated in his own self-titled Japanese film in 1964 and has since become the most infamous villain to face the prehistoric sea monster Godzilla. Directly inspired by the ancient dragon Yamata no Orochi, Ghidorah sports one of the most unique designs of any dragon ever put to film. With three heads, two tails, no arms, bat-like wings, and a bulky muscular build and having the ability to fire gravity beams, Ghidorah is among the intimidating monsters ever conceived. Ghidorah’s origins have changed over the years ranging from being an alien experiment to the result of genetic engineering and even acting as an ancient protector of Japan. Regardless of how he came to be, Ghidorah has cemented his place in cinema history and will get the modern movie treatment later this year when he appears in “Godzilla: King of Monsters”.
1. Maleficent Dragon, “Sleeping Beauty”
The oldest dragon on this list that set the bar for every other creature on this list, the Maleficent Dragon of “Sleeping Beauty” is more than just a standard bearer. Sporting a terrifying design with a black and purple visage, the evil fairy Maleficent’s dragon form is a big part of the villains iconic status as she tries to keep Prince Phillip from awakening Aurora from her slumber. Even still today her dark and threatening design continues to influence nearly every dragon that has ever been featured in cinema. The Maleficent Dragon has appeared on numerous Disney products and has even been incorporated into shows at the Disney theme parks, most notably as the final challenge for Mickey in “Fantasmic”. This dragon trumps every other creature of its kinds in terms of design, memorability, and cultural impact making it, in my opinion, the best movie dragon of all time.