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Ten Deep 12.12.13: Top 10 Dragon Movies
Posted by Mike Gorman on 12.12.2013

"Top Ten Dragon Movies"

Tonight at midnight (and some earlier!) theaters will begin the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and soon enough everyone will be talking about dragons! I figured we would kick that discussion off early in this week's Ten Deep as we take a look at the Top Ten Dragon Movies. Not all of the films listed feature wall to wall dragon action but the mythical creatures do play an important role in the movie.

Let's kick things off with a classic from 1964…

10. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster

Listen to the words in the trailer below, Ghidorah (or Ghidrah in the US) arrived in an atomic fireball and ended up battling Godzilla. Born of the atomic scares of the sixties, King Ghidorah was no magical dragon but certainly was a challenge with its 3 heads. We learn in the film that Ghidorah has previously decimated all life on Mars and is now turning its heads towards Earth. This, the 5th film in the Godzilla series is when Godzilla turns from villain to hero defending the planet from this invader with the assistance of several other creatures.

9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

We have seen dragons earlier in this series when Hagrid hatched one of his own but it is in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that the creatures take true prominence. Facing a dragon is one of the challenges that Harry must conquer in his quest to obtain the Goblet of Fire. During this first task of the Triwizard Tournament competitors must face a dragon and retrieve a golden egg from amongst the other eggs the dragon in guarding. In the film we get to see four distinct dragons including the Hungarian Horntail Harry is set against. The scene is pretty intense as you can see below and kicks off this key component of the films story with a lot of action.

8. Spirited Away

Dragons play a role in Hayao Miyazaki's beautiful Spirited Away that weaves the intricate tale of a girl who enters a mystical realm with her parents and soon finds she must battle many challenges, including the witch Yubaba, to stay alive and reunite her family. Part of the girl's adventures involve Yubaba's apprentice Haku who has the ability to transform himself into a traditional Japanese dragon. The film is a gorgeous masterpiece with a story that is easy enough for children to enjoy but complex enough to draw in an older audience as well.

7. Pete's Dragon

The dragon in this Disney classic is not at all destructive but at times can be a bit clumsy. Pete's Dragon is the story of an orphan named Pete and his dragon friend Elliott who can become invisible and usually is to everyone but Pete. The film follows these friends as Pete tries to find a place he truly belongs with a series of mishaps and misadventures along the way. This was the first Disney film to be recorded in Dolby stereo and features an all-star cast for the time that included Helen Reddy, who performs the film's Oscar nominated song, "Candle on the Water."

6. How to Train Your Dragon

Dreamworks Animation's 3D How to Train Your Dragon begins with dragons as adversaries to humans and ends with them in the role of hero as a young Viking goes against his village tradition of dragon slaying and ends up befriending one instead. The film does a fantastic job capturing the wonder involved with encountering such a creature and ends up instilling personality and character in the dragons; Enough character to build a strong franchise including a TV series and an upcoming sequel.

5. The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story features one of my personal favorite dragons of all time, Falkor the Luck Dragon. Falkor aides Atreyu in his quest to save the Empress in Fantasia as the Nothing threatens to swallow the kingdom. As his name implies, Falkor's special ability, besides flying, is his luck that allows him to often be at the right place at the exact right moment. Falkor later breaks the film's fourth wall and helps the young boy who had been reading the Neverending Story, Bastian, face down the bullies who chased him earlier in the film. Falkor's oversized canine features and personality make him a truly endearing character as opposed to a dragon one should fear.

4. Dragonslayer

There is no friendship to be found with the dragon Vermithrax in 1981's Dragonslayer. Instead the story, set in a time when people believed in magic and dragon's made deals to protect kingdom's, centers on a young Sorcerer's apprentice who must set out on a quest to face the dragon after his master is killed. The story takes a variety of twists and turns as the apprentice strives to prove himself while battling the dragon that demands a sacrifice each year to leave the kingdom be. The film opened to mix reactions as US audiences expected a family friendly adventure and were treated to a much darker tale.

3. Reign of Fire

If you know me, you know that I will often fall in love with a film's concept and will hold it above the actually execution of the plot when I make my final assessment. I believe this is the case when I express my support of the film Reign of Fire. Most critics pan this apocalyptic tale of dragons released accidentally by a boy for its sillier moments and unbelievable plot, but I find the use of dragons as a destructive force of nature, like the fire they breathe, to be a unique spin on a tale as old as time. Don't expect it all to make sense but do expect some spectacular action sequences and dragon moments like you can see in the clip below.

2. Sleeping Beauty

My love for Disney aside, I have included Sleeping Beauty at the top of this list for the sheer magnificence that is Maleficent. She strides through the film owning each scene she enters with an ominous air and evil demeanor, but her true success comes towards the film's end when she must become a dragon to face off against the hero prince. Visually this sequence is truly stunning and is one of Disney animation's best in my opinion. When you revisit this classic it seems a true no-brainer that they are centering a live action film on this character, starring Angelina Jolie. My only hope is that we will get to see the dragon again!

And lastly…

1. Dragonheart

There is much that could be said about the story contained within Dragonheart including its clever twists and truly original moments, but the factor that should be addressed first and foremost is Sean Connery's fantastic voice work as Draco the Dragon. 007 himself plays the lead dragon in this adventure film that casts the creature as more than simply hero or villain, but makes him as complex as his human contemporaries in the end; a feat not often attained in a film about dragons. Draco was also the first fully digitally animated character that spoke when it appeared aside live action characters. This movie will not change the world and did not win any awards, nor did it deserve to, instead it is most simply an interesting take on the man fights dragon story that presents the usual details in a most unusual manner.

As I leave you this week I will close with a quick glimpse at the film opening tonight that inspired this week's list. While watching this clip, let me know if I missed your favorite dragon's tale in my countdown.

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