Tuesday, November 5, 2013

There Be Dragons

Mother of Dragons' by Yama Orce (YamaO) at Deviant Art
While channel surfing this weekend I happened upon a movie with a dragon in it. This made me think-- excluding animated films like 'Shrek' or 'How to Train your Dragon,' I haven't really seen that many movies or television shows with dragons.

This in of itself would not be unusual, but we are seriously up to our eyeballs in werewolves and vampires. Why not dragons? Dragons are an essential piece of the fantasy-genre, yet so few films and television shows have featured them. In years past, special effects artists relied on claymation, animatronics, miniatures, or some poor guy walking around in sweaty costume, but now with the prolific use of CGI, why aren't there more dragons?

I've watched a "lot" of movies, but I can only think of a few films with dragons in them (even less for television). Here are all of the dragon-themed films and television episodes I can think of. Please add some of your own.

Dragons in film

9. Eragon, 2006. 'Eragon' is about a young farm boy in a mystical town who comes across a magical stone that turns out to be a dragon egg. Needless to say, the dragon hatches and Eragon becomes a dragon rider. This movie didn't really pique my interest. It's sweet, but tired. But hey there's a dragon!

8. Dragonheart, 1995 - Bowen (Dennis Quaid) is a chivalrous knight who sets out to slay a dragon. Yes, there was some bad casting here with Quaid, but Sean Connery was the perfect choice to voice Draco, the last remaining dragon. The dragon hunter and the last dragon predictably become fast friends. Essentially, Quaid reprises his role from "Enemies Mine."

7. Godzilla, 1954 What’s the old saying, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?” It’s easy to look at ‘Godzilla’ as cheesy and simplistic through modern movie goggles, but without the original there would be nothing to copy and ‘Godzilla’ has been copied to death. But in 1954 ‘Godzilla’ was the monster movie of all monster movies. Despite being dated, the original will always hold a special place in cinematic history. Inspired by the 1950’s atomic age and the painful destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese cinema created an icon that would live through the ages— a giant lizard mutated by radiation who ravages Japan…over and over and over again.

6. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, 1990 - Technically this creature was a gargoyle, but it's "dragony" enough for my list. I remember seeing this horror anthology as a preteen and it was glorious. Separated into four horrific segments: 1.) Debbie Harry is a witch in a Hansel and Gretel-like story 2.) Steve Buscemi is a poor and lowly graduate student who manages to command an ancient mummy to do his terrible bidding. 3.) George Romero adapts a Stephen King story about a cat from hell, and 4.) Last but not least is a foreboding tale of two star-crossed lovers, one human and one "dragon." Rae Dawn Chong and character actor James Remar star in this segment.

5. The NeverEnding Story, 1984 - This is the quintessential 80s kids movie. If you grew up in the 1980s or even in the 1990s then you've seen this film and you love it. As a little girl I remember having a crush on Atreyu, a young warrior from the Plains People and wanting to ride the luckdragon, Falkor. Falkor was also good at putting bullies in their place! If only he could use the Internet. 

4. Pacific Rim, 2013 - This film got a lot of flack, but I really enjoyed this movie for what it was...fun. Set in the 2020s, massive dragon-like creatures aptly named "Kaijus" have come from a dimensional rift buried deep in the ocean. Earth's only defense against these creatures are gigantic mechanical robots with human drivers. This aspect of the film reminded me of the cult-classic film, 'Robot Jox,' but overall the film was one big love letter to 'Godzilla' from Guillermo del Toro.

3. Reign of Fire, 2002 - Directed by 'X-Files' director Rob Bowman, 'Reign of Fire' stars Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, and Gerard Butler. Unlike most of the films on this list, 'Reign of Fire' is all about dragons, but in this world, there is nothing magical about them. These dragons are just ancient destructive beasts who were buried deep in the earth. When they wake up from their 1,000 year snooze and come to the surface "it's on" and the world becomes ash. There's also a clash between cultures. An American alpha-male played by McConahughey tracks the beast to England to destroy it. He's there to kick butt and chew bubblegum and he's all out of bubblegum. Bale is the gentlemanly Englishman desperately trying to keep his people alive. Both actors were in the best shape of their lives for this film, which prompted a few mandatory shirtless scenes.

2. Dragonslayer, 1981 - Before 'The Hunger Games,' 'Dragonslayer' featured a lottery of young people (specifically young women) to be sacrificed to the meat-eating dragon. Set in the 6th century, like 'Reign of Fire,' 'Dragonslayer' is all about the dragon. This dragon is a real baddie. She is not only taking "tribute" from the King in the form of young maidens, but she is also creating more baddie baby dragons and not the cute kind from 'Game of Thrones.' From the terrifying opening scene to the nail biting ending, we follow young wizard Galen (Peter MacNichol) in his quest to end the lottery and slay the dragon.

1. Excalibur, 1981 - Although an actual dragon was never shown, the "dragon's breath" was prominent in the film. Before Merlin was tricked into the netherworld by Morgana, he released the dragon's breath for his own purposes. One such purpose was to cloak Uther Pendragon into the likeness of Cornwall so he could seduce Ingraine, Morgana's mother. We all know what Uther's purpose was and Arthur was born soon thereafter. Ultimately, the Pendragons may not have been actual dragons, but they had a pretty cool name and coat of arms. Lest we forget the dragon's breath must have come from somewhere?


5. Supernatural - Episode 12, Season 6 "Like a Virgin" - When a slew of teenage girls disappear, the Winchesters find out that dragons are somehow behind it. In order to vanquish the dragons they have to mete out a blade forged with dragon blood. In this reality dragons look like humans, but they can breath fire, melt stuff with their hands, and they have wings. Clearly this show is on a budget. Just go with it.

4. The Munsters, 1964-1966 - Thankfully, ‘The Munsters’ can be enjoyed through perpetual reruns. Even if it’s before you’re time, you’ve likely seen an episode of ‘The Munsters.’ So Spot the pet dragon should need no introduction. Unfortunately, the puppeteers never let poor Spot leave the stairs!

3. Doctor Who, 2005 - The new 'Doctor Who' series has had various episodes to feature dragon-like creatures. 'Doctor Who' can always be relied upon to contain at least one wild/fantastical creature per episode. If you haven't watched this show then you're missing out.

2. Merlin, 2008-2012 - Again no Arthurian legend would be complete without dragons. Unlike 'Excalibur,' there were lots of dragons and dragon references in the Merlin television series. In fact Uther Pendragon, played by Anthony Head imprisoned the last dragon deep underneath his kingdom. The last dragon is the one who forges the sword Excalibur.

1. Game of Thrones - No list would be complete without the "Mother of Dragons," Daenerys "Stormborn" Targaryen. After receiving three petrified dragon eggs as a wedding gift, Daenerys has been tried by fire, quite literally. Her dragons hatch when she "attempts" to commit suicide by surrendering herself to the funeral pyre of her beloved husband. Out of the ashes a "clearly" fireproof Daenerys emerges, along with three "cute" baby dragons.

Upcoming films to feature dragons

'Maleficent' - Is a live-action prequel to 'Sleeping Beauty' and stars Angelina Jolie as the title character. As we all remember from the Disney version, Maleficent eventually turns into a dragon and is defeated by the Prince!

'The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug' - Smaug the dragon is a greedy, murderous dragon with impenetrable scales who kills dwarves in order to claim their treasure. Bilbo has to figure out a way to kill the wretched beast. I don't know how 'The Hobbit' went from one book to three movies, but we'll see.


  1. There aren't too many. Reign of Fire was a great dragon film.
    The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader had a dragon.
    So did Dungeons and Dragons. Yeah, that was a cheesy film.
    I don't recommend the Korean film Dragon Wars though.

  2. Great list! There aren't that many Dragons out there. Like Alex I thought of the Dawn Treader, at least he turned into one. Using Godzilla was cool, His new design is looking great. I can't wait for Desolation of Smaug, like you how can it be 3 movies?

  3. This is a brilliant list Ms. Mariah. You're right that we don't get a lot of dragons these days. Of all of these I'd vote for Dragonheart because it had Sean Connery as the dragon.

  4. Alex-- Thanks! I missed those. I knew there more I hadn't thought of. Ha, I actually remember watching 'Dragon Wars.'

    David-- Thanks! I knew I was forgetting a couple. Thank you for your compliments. Yes, this website is constantly changing...hopefully for the better.

    Maurice-- Thanks. I liked Dragonheart for Connery too. He was the perfect choice as the voice of Draco.

  5. You've got all of them here than I know about (and some that I don't). Out of the group, I'd say that Reign of Fire and Never Ending Story were my favorites. Now I have that song stuck in my head!

  6. Pat-- Now that you say that I remember the song. Oh no I have it stuck in my head now!

  7. I really hope they'll include the dragon in new Maleficent, cannot wait for this movie!

  8. Great post- give me dragons over werewolves any day- have you read Dragon Masters by Jack Vance/

  9. I'm surprised that Harry Potter isn't included on your list as I recall there being dragons in that franchise. Dragon movies are tricky. There's something very ye olde worlde about them and in an era of technologically robust transforming robots bashing each other about, dragons may seem too anachronistic. If one was to make a dragon movie today (not necessarily fire projecting reptilian by-products of nuclear warfare), then the beast will need one heck of a personality to connect with kids.

    Also, your comment about British black actors immigrating to the States because of Hollywood's pulling power is probably correct. Yet one still believes that Britain's obsession with period pictures limits opportunities for black actors and filmmakers here. America, as a culture, looks forwards, focussing on where it can go and advance. Britain, on the other hand, looks back - forever harking to its heritage in order to figure out where it's at. We need a happy medium.

  10. Sati-- I know. I'm really looking fwd to that movie!

    Paul-- I haven't read that. I take it you recommend it? I'll have to check it out.

    Movies on Mind-- You're right I should have added the Harry Potter dragon. I knew I was missing one.


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