Dragons symbolize many things in different cultures; evil, supernatural power, wisdom, strength, hidden knowledge, chaos, and untamed nature are just some of the things the winged, reptilian-esque creatures are said to represent.
It's not surprising, therefore, that they get portrayed in so many different ways in fiction. Movies, in particular, have showcased countless dragons with differing appearances, abilities, and personalities.
In this piece, we'll take you through some of the best films to feature dragons. Some feature them prominently, others in a minor capacity. A wildly versatile range of dragons gets mentioned here. Get ready, dragon fans; these are 22 great dragon movies ranked.
1. Eragon (2006, directed by Stefen Fangmeier)
Eragon is an action fantasy movie loosely based on Christopher Paolini's 2002 novel. It's about the eponymous young farm boy who finds a dragon's egg that leads him on a predestined journey that teaches him he's the only one capable of defending his homeland of Alagaësia against an evil king.
The outstanding cast includes the talented young Ed Speleers as Eragon, Jeremy Irons, Robert Carlyle, Djimon Hounsou, Joss Stone, John Malkovich, and Rachel Weisz. Weisz voices Saphira Bjartskula, the female blue dragon companion of the eponymous character who helps him in his fight. Eragon is a technically excellent film with some adept performances and plenty of dragon action, but it's pretty derivative and not as good as the books.
2. Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023, directed by David F. Sandberg)
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a superhero movie, the sequel to 2019's Shazam!, and the twelfth installment in the DC Extended Universe. In this one, the eponymous superhero and his Shazam-empowered foster siblings go up against the Daughters of Atlas.
The dragon in this one is called Ladon and is from Greek mythology. Lucy Liu's Kalypso utilizes it in her attempts to acquire the life-giving Golden Apple. The excellent cast includes Zachary Levi as Shazam, Asher Angel, Adam Brody, Djimon Hounsou, Helen Mirren, and Gal Gadot. Shazam! Fury of the Gods is fun, charming, colorful, and silly, with great action and special effects, but it lacks the same refreshing appeal as its predecessor.
3. Thor: Ragnarok (2017, directed by Taika Waititi)
Thor: Ragnarok is a superhero movie, the sequel to 2011's Thor, and the 17th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the film, Thor finds himself as a captive gladiator on the alien planet of Sakaar. He must escape to save his home of Asgard from his powerful sister Hela and the impending apocalyptic Ragnarok.
The dragon in this film only appears briefly at the start, when Thor escapes from Musphelheim and Surtur's pet attacks him, but it's too good not to include. Thor: Ragnarok has an outstanding cast, including Chris Hemsworth in the eponymous role, Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Idris Elba, and Jeff Goldblum. It's funny, exciting, action-packed, visually stimulating, and brilliantly performed.
4. Reign of Fire (2002, directed by Rob Bowman)
Reign of Fire is a post-apocalyptic science fantasy movie set in a then-future 2020 London, two decades after a city tunneling project awakened dragons from ancient slumber, resulting in them becoming the dominant species on the planet.
This movie is decent but could be better, considering the excellent cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, and Gerard Butler. It's derivate and sometimes a bit grim, but its good points include great action, decent special effects, and excellent performances from its core cast – especially a wonderfully camp McConaughey. It also successfully and admirably mixes modern technological and medieval ingredients, which isn't easy.
5. Maleficent (2014, directed by Robert Stromberg)
Maleficent is a fantasy movie and a live-action retelling of Walt Disney's 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty, an adaptation of Charles Perrault's 1697 fairy tale. This one tells the story from the perspective of Sleeping Beauty's villain, the eponymous evil fairy who curses the infant princess Aurora to fall into eternal sleep.
The dragon in this film appears when Maleficent transforms her servant, Diaval, into one to assist her. Angelina Jolie is nothing short of magnetic as Maleficent and has excellent support from Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, and Juno Temple. Maleficent is a visual delight with dazzling special effects, a classic feel, terrific performances, and all the magic you'd expect from a Disney movie.
6. Dragonheart (1996, directed by Rob Cohen)
Dragonheart is a fantasy adventure movie in which the last surviving dragon and a disillusioned dragon-slaying Knight must work together to thwart an evil King with partial immortality gained from taking half of that same dragon's heart many years ago.
The dragon, Draco, is voiced by Sean Connery in this one, and he's excellent, while Dennis Quaid, David Thewlis, Julie Christie, and Pete Postelthwaite perform well in important roles. Dragonheart is a lighthearted, cheerful, exciting film with lots of action and some laughs. It's visually stunning, albeit a tad dated now, with superb sets, and it got nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
7. Harry Potter (2001-2011, directed by various)
Harry Potter is a movie franchise based on the eponymous novels by J. K. Rowling. The series consists of eight films, beginning with 2001's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and ending with 2011's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. It follows the eponymous character on his journey through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and chronicles his quest to defeat his arch-enemy, Lord Voldemort.
Dragons appear sporadically in the series, most notably in 2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Hogwarts' Triwizard Tournament includes a task that involves getting past one to collect an egg. The series stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, with support from many Hollywood talents. The Harry Potter films were nominated for twelve Academy Awards but won none. The series has something for everyone and gets gradually darker and more mature as it progresses. It has excellent performances, magical action, fantastic imagery, and intriguing characters.
8. Willow (1988, directed by Ron Howard)
Willow is a high-fantasy adventure movie about an aspiring dwarf sorcerer who must ally with a disgruntled warrior to protect a baby princess from an evil queen.
The dragons in Willow were atrocious by today's special effects standards – there's a scene involving a two-headed specimen that's genuinely laughable – but it's a brilliant film. Warwick Davis is endearing in the eponymous role, and Val Kilmer is excellent as the warrior he teams up with. It has a great story, a magical feel, and abundant charm. Willow was nominated for two Academy Awards but won none.
9. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013, directed by Peter Jackson)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an epic high-fantasy adventure based on J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit. It's the sequel to 2012's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the second installment in The Hobbit trilogy, a prequel to Jackson's outstanding The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the film, the eponymous Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, and his dwarf allies are on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug.
Smaug, the dragon, looks stupendous in this. Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of the beast is brilliant and commanding. The excellent cast includes Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, James Nesbitt, and Orlando Bloom. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was nominated for three Academy Awards and is spectacular, well-acted, mysterious, and has a great story. It is, however, overly long.
10. Godzilla (1964-present, directed by various)
Godzilla is a monster movie franchise that started in Japan but has since expanded into Hollywood. It centers on the iconic eponymous fictional kaiju Godzilla, a prehistoric giant reptilian monster awakened and powered by nuclear radiation. The franchise started with the 1954 Toho movie Godzilla, and the most recently released film is 2021's American offering Godzilla vs. Kong.
One of Godzilla's recurring enemies is the three-headed dragon King Ghidorah, who first appeared in the 1964 Toho movie Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and, most recently, in the 2019 American film Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The quality of the movies varies wildly, especially regarding the special effects, but they all guarantee epic monster-fighting action. The most recent franchise stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Charles Dance, Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, and Brian Tyree Henry.
11. Dragonslayer (1981, directed by Matthew Robbins)
Dragonslayer is a dark fantasy movie that occurs in a fictional medieval kingdom and follows a young wizard who finds himself in a risky situation and faces dangerous foes while he hunts a dragon.
It stars Peter MacNicol as Galen Bradwarden, the eponymous character. Dragonslayer is a feast of dragons and boasts some excellent special effects for an early 1980s film. It's a compelling story that feels fresh despite its familiarity, and it boasts interesting characters, exciting action, an intriguing setting, and some captivating acting performances.
12. Pete's Dragon (1997 and 2016, directed by Don Chaffey and David Lowery)
The 1977 Pete's Dragon is a partially animated musical fantasy movie based on the unpublished short story “Pete's Dragon and the USA (Forever After)” by Seton I. Miller and S. S. Field. The 2016 version is a fantasy adventure movie and a live-action non-musical remake of the original film. In both movies' cases, the action follows an orphan boy named Pete and his best friend Elliott/Elliot, who happens to be a dragon.
Both versions of the film are fantastic, with the original holding a lot of nostalgic value, though the remake is arguably better. They're both sweet and brilliantly performed, and the music in the original is excellent. The remake gives it a visual update without losing any of the story's charm. Elliott/Elliot is a wonderfully likable character and one of the best fictional dragon characters. The likes of Helen Reddy, Mickey Rooney, and Red Buttons star in the original, while Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, and Robert Redford grace the remake.
13. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a superhero movie and the 25th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The plot follows the eponymous character as he must confront his past when his father, the head of the Ten Rings organization, pulls him and his sister into the search for a mysterious and mystical village.
The dragons in this one – the Dweller-in-Darkness and the Great Protector – appear in the climactic battle and are fantastic. The excellent cast includes Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Ben Kingsley, and Tony Leung. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an exciting origin story atypical of the overused superhero film formula. It's colorful, action-packed, and engaging, with likable characters.
14. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023, directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley)
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a fantasy heist comedy movie based on the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, it follows a charming thief and an unlikely group of adventurers on an epic and dangerous quest to retrieve a lost relic.
Its incredible cast includes Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Hugh Grant, and Bradley Cooper. While it has “Dragons” in the title, the only prominent one in the movie is an obese red dragon named Themberchaud. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is an infectiously entertaining, funny, feel-good film with plenty of fantasy action and top-notch special effects. A previous Dungeons & Dragons trilogy hit theaters between 2000 and 2012, but it was terrible.
15 The Flight of Dragons (1982, directed by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass)
The Flight of Dragons is an animated fantasy movie about a young 20th-century Boston writer who gets taken back into a medieval era where magic, wizards, and dragons reign, and science is an almost non-existent concept.
The voice cast is excellent in this and includes stars like John Ritter and James Earl Jones, and the performances are unsurprisingly outstanding. It's a beautifully animated dragon-fest (especially by 1982's animation standards) pitting science against magic. The Flight of Dragons is intelligent, with great dialogue and a lovely story, and both children and adults alike can undoubtedly enjoy it.
16. Raya and the Last Dragon (2021, directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada)
Raya and the Last Dragon is a computer-animated fantasy action-adventure movie about the eponymous warrior princess searching for the fabled last dragon to restore the dragon gem that could bring her father back and banish evil spirits from her homeland.
The incredible voice cast includes Kelly Marie Tran as Raya, Awkwafina as Sisu, the last dragon in existence, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, and Alan Tudyk. Raya and the Last Dragon received a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. It's gorgeously animated, brilliantly voiced, creative, highly detailed, funny, emotional, and action-packed.
17. Belle (2021, directed by Mamoru Hosoda)
Belle is a Japanese animated sci-fi fantasy movie inspired by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's 1756 French fairy tale Beauty and the Beast and the 1991 Disney animated film of the same name. It's about a shy high school student living in a rural village who enters a massive virtual world, comes out of her shell as a singer, and falls for a near-unbeatable user playing as a formidable dragon character.
In the English dub, Kylie McNeill voices the eponymous Belle, and Paul Castro Jr. voices Kei, AKA the Dragon. The art and animation in Belle are simply dazzling. This movie is sweet, touching, and full of fantasy, wonder, and heart. Its characters are highly developed, and its ability to world-build is second to none.
18. Spirited Away (2001, directed by Hayao Miyazaki)
Spirited Away is a Japanese animated fantasy movie about a sulky young girl who, while traveling to her family's new home in the suburbs, inadvertently wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, where humans transform into beasts.
Haku, one of the film's main characters, metamorphs into a dragon as a crucial part of the plot. Spirited Away is a gorgeous and enchanting movie with excitement and tension galore, and the story is completely gripping. The voice cast of the English dub of this one includes big Hollywood names like John Ratzenberger, Tara Strong, Michael Chiklis, and Lauren Holly.
19. The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003, directed by Peter Jackson)
The Lord of the Rings is a series of three epic high-fantasy adventure movies based on J. R. R. Tolkien's three-volume novel from 1954 and 1955. The films occur in the fictional world of Middle-earth and follow a heroic group called the Fellowship on a quest to destroy the One Ring, which, in turn, will destroy the evil Sauron.
Dragons, or wyverns, certainly exist in Tolkien's epic canon, and they first appear in 2002's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, when the Fellbeast played a significant part and looked incredible. Jackson's outstanding trilogy is one of the best in cinema history and was nominated for 30 Academy Awards, winning 17, including Best Picture for 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The fantastic cast includes Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, and Sean Bean. The films are groundbreaking, action-packed, magical, and gripping. They're brilliantly written, directed, and performed by all concerned.
20. The NeverEnding Story (1984, directed by Wolfgang Petersen)
The NeverEnding Story is a fantasy movie based on Michael Ende's 1979 novel The Neverending Story. It's about a young boy who finds a magical book with a tale of a young warrior inside and gets tasked with stopping a dark force called the Nothing from taking over the fantastical world of Fantasia.
The dragon in this one is Falkor, a “luck dragon” who saves the film's hero, Atreyu, from drowning in the Swamps of Sadness and becomes an integral part of the plot. The NeverEnding Story is a bona fide classic and a fantasy masterpiece. It's a lovely, charming, sometimes scary movie with an intriguing plot, terrific characters, and brilliant special effects for its time. It also has an iconic theme song. There are two sequels, but frankly, they're both awful.
21. Shrek (2001-2010, directed by various)
Shrek is an animated fantasy comedy movie franchise loosely based on William Steig's 1990 picture book Shrek! There are four films, starting with 2001's Shrek and ending with 2010's Shrek Forever After. It mainly follows the eponymous bad-tempered but good-hearted ogre on his quest in a fairytale land to rescue a princess, meeting friends and enemies and having adventures along the way.
The dragon in the Shrek franchise is known simply as “Dragon” and is a red creature that started as an antagonist before befriending the core cast of heroes and becoming Donkey's love interest (even spawning some half-donkey-half-dragon babies). Shrek is a fantastic franchise that always delivers, with some of the most engaging characters in animation history. It's brilliantly animated, an epic adventure, hilariously funny, and teeming with action. The superb voice cast includes Mike Myers as the eponymous character, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, and John Lithgow.
22. How to Train Your Dragon (2010-2019, directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois)
How to Train Your Dragon is a computer-animated action fantasy movie trilogy loosely based on Cressida Cowell's series of children's books. The trilogy started with 2010's How to Train Your Dragon and ended with 2019's How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The series mainly follows Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, a character nobody initially takes seriously but becomes a renowned and brave dragon expert.
It's a consistently brilliant franchise teeming with dragon-based action. The animation is gorgeous, and the dragons look amazing. The How to Train Your Dragon films boast great scripts and surprising dramatic depth and are teeming with action and humor. The voice cast includes Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, T.J. Miller, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and David Tennant. All three movies received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and the first installment got a Best Animated Score nod, but none won. Notably, a live-action reboot is on the cards in 2025; we can't wait.
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