Dragons have been thrilling us on the big screen for almost as long as the medium has been around. Additionally, television shows such as Game of Thrones have recently brought renewed attention to these mythical fire-breathing creatures. And although Daenerys Targaryen’s pets may be some of the most frightening dragons ever portrayed on a TV show, there have been many other dragons portrayed in movies that might even give her dragons a run for their money in the intimidation department. With that in mind, we thought we would take a look at some of the most fearsome flying reptilian creatures that have been depicted on the big screen. Here are seven badass dragons listed in the order of the release dates for the films in which they appeared, from oldest to newest.
1. Vermithrax Pejorative in Dragonslayer (1981)
Set in a fictional medieval kingdom, Dragonslayer features a vicious dragon named Vermithrax Pejorative that preys on virgin girls who are selected via lottery twice a year. While some corrupt officials in the kingdom are willing to continue offering up sacrificial victims to the dragon, a young woman named Valerian (Caitlin Clarke) seeks out a wizard named Ulrich of Craggenmoor (Ralph Richardson) and his young apprentice (Peter MacNicol) for help in defeating the creature. Although Dragonslayer was supposedly intended as a family-friendly fantasy film, several scenes featuring Vermithrax Pejorative are particularly graphic. The film’s frighteningly realistic dragon and other groundbreaking special effects garnered Dragonslayer a Best Effects, Visual Effects Oscar nomination and the movie currently has an 86% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
2. Q in Q aka Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)
Directed by B-Movie veteran Larry Cohen, this fantasy-horror film features a creature that is based on the Aztec feathered serpent deity Quetzalcoatl. In the film, Q spends its time on top of New York City’s iconic Chrysler Building when it is not preying upon the city’s human inhabitants. Fortunately, Detective Shepard (David Carradine) and Sergeant Powell (Richard Roundtree) are hot on the trail of this bloodthirsty dragon. Besides being terrifying for its tendency to randomly snatch New York residents off rooftops and city streets, Q is also scary for its ability to reproduce, which means that a sequel to this cheesy cult classic is still a remote possibility.
3. Two-headed dragon in Willow (1988)
This Ron Howard-directed fantasy movie about a small statured amateur wizard tasked with protecting a human baby from an evil queen features all kinds of intimidating mythical monsters. However, perhaps the scariest creature to make an appearance in this film is a two-headed dragon that Willow (Warwick Davis) accidentally creates with a magic spell while trying to fend off an attacking troll. Although the two-headed dragon does not live for long thanks to Madmartigan’s (Val Kilmer) brave counterattack, this insane-looking creature still manages to incinerate and eat several combatants before it is killed.
4. Multiple dragons in Reign of Fire (2002)
Like Q, Reign of Fire explores what it would be like if these mythological flying creatures actually existed in modern times. In the film, most of the world’s population has been killed by fire-breathing dragons that were inadvertently revived during an underground construction project. Quinn (Christian Bale) leads a small group of survivors in northern England who struggle to feed themselves due to regular aerial attacks from the dragons. After encountering a group of American survivors led by Denton (Matthew McConaughey), Quinn and his team finally learn how to kill the dragons using a helicopter, some nets, and several very brave skydivers. However, even with the use of modern weapons and technology, each individual dragon still manages to kill several of its human attackers. Needless to say, driving the human race to the brink of extinction definitely qualifies these creatures as some of the most memorable dragons ever portrayed on film.
5. Hungarian Horntail dragon in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
There are several different dragons that show up throughout the Harry Potter series of films, including Hagrid’s loveable pet Norbert and a neglected albino dragon that helps Harry and his friends escape from Gringotts Wizarding Bank. However, perhaps the most menacing dragon to make an appearance in this film series is the Hungarian Horntail dragon that Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) must face in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the film, Harry Potter tries to retrieve a golden egg that is guarded by this fearsome dragon. In a memorable aerial chase scene, the Hungarian Horntail dragon alternates between trying to burn, crush, and bite Harry.
6. Golden dragon in Beowulf (2007)
Inspired by an ancient epic poem of the same name, Beowulf features several memorable monsters, including a demonic humanoid creature named Grendel (Crispin Glover) and its mother (Angelina Jolie). In the film, a great warrior named Beowulf (Ray Winstone) dispatches Grendel before seeking out its mother in order to kill it too. Instead, Beowulf is seduced by Grendel’s mother, who offers him a deal to make him the greatest king who ever lived. Years later, Beowulf’s pact with Grendel’s mother comes back to haunt him as his kingdom is ravaged by an evil, fire-breathing dragon. Besides featuring one of cinema’s creepiest dragons, this Robert Zemeckis-directed movie is also notable for its use of an all-digital motion capture filming technique.
7. Smaug in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Although the gold-loving Smaug didn’t have as much screen time as many of the other dragons featured on this list, he definitely made a lasting impression. We first saw Smaug in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which ended with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his band of dwarves inadvertently setting the malevolent dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) loose upon the people of Lake-town. However, we see the full destructive power of Smaug when he attacks Laketown in the beginning of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
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