There are two kinds of dragon movies. In one, the dragons are the evil creatures everyone's out to slay. And in the other, the dragons can be man's best friend or at the very least a beast worthy of friendship and respect. Here's a sampling of the best dragons to be found on screen.
If you are in the pro-dragon camp this is probably the film you keep on your shelf. How can you resist Phil Tippett's creature design and Sean Connery providing the voice of the dragon Draco? Dennis Quaid seems a little out of his time period as a dragon-slaying knight who has a change of heart. But Draco makes even adults believe in honor and chivalry. There is a direct to video sequel called Dragonheart: A New Beginning.
Here's another for the dragons-can-be-your-friend camp. Hayao Miyazaki's tale of a spoiled young girl named Chihiro who ends up entering a spirit world to save her parents contains a classic kind of serpent-like Asian dragon. Haku is a young boy whose true form is that of a long white dragon. Haku devotes himself to Chihiro and ultimately helps to defeat her enemies in the spirit world.
Michael Ende's novel features both a good and a bad dragon. In the film, Falkor is a serpent-like white dragon known as a luck dragon that helps the young protagonist of the story. There are two sequels in the 1990s as well as TV show spin-offs, and a remake is also in the works. It's just never ending. Ul De Rico, who did little beside this film, is credited with the cool creature design for Falkor.
There's a motto at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: "Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus." That's Latin for, "Never tickle a sleeping dragon." Good advice, apparently. Hogwarts' gamekeeper Hagrid is known for his love for the fire-breathing beasts and at one point he owned a Norwegian Ridgeback called Norbert. But in Goblet of Fire, dragons play a key role in the young wizards' training. Watch for the Hungarian Horntail Dragon.
Okay, now we come to some of the dragons-are-dangerous films. In this film, a king makes a pact with a dragon: the king provides the beast with some tasty young virgins and the dragon leaves the kingdom alone. But when the king's daughter is the next sacrifice, an old wizard and his young apprentice take on the task of slaying the dragon. The dragon design is again from the amazing Phil Tippett. Working here for Industrial Light and Magic, Tippett developed an animation technique known as "go motion" that was a variation on stop-motion animation. His work helped garner the film an Academy Award nomination for Visual Effects. Although fairly mature and dark in tone, this film is co-produced by Disney.
A futuristic dragon tale in which a hibernating beast is awakened in London and hatches a bunch of little dragonlings. Eventually the dragons rise to scorch the earth. Some years after, Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey lead a band of survivors in a battle against the fire-breathing beasts. Unintentionally silly but with some good-looking evil dragons.