By Lee Parham

With a dragon making an appearance in the latest Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we’re counting down the best appearances of the mythical creatures in cinematic history.


The large, serpentine creatures are often depicted with wings and the ability to breathe fire and have made appearances throughout myth and folklore worldwide, so inevitably dragons appeared in film.

The 1959 Disney animated adaptation of the classic fairytale Sleeping Beauty pictured the film's iconic villain Maleficent transforming into a massive dragon for the movie's final battle.

An early appearance of impressive dragons came in the way of the 1981 fantasy film Dragonslayer featuring groundbreaking stop motion animation effects from ILM.

The 1980s continued to be a breakout decade for dragons with The Neverending Story, a fantasy tale following a young boy trying to save the world of Fantasia from being engulfed by an evil force.

The fantasy and adventure flick Dragonheart was released in 1996 and starred Dennis Quaid as a dragon-slaying knight and the voice of Sean Connery as Draco, the last remaining dragon.

In a comedic turn for the beasts, 2001’s beloved film Shrek featured a common fairy tale trope of a dragon guarding a castle, but this dragon was easily seduced by the likes of Eddie Murphy’s Donkey.

2001 also witnessed the birth of another animated classic in Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away. The anime film included a plethora of creatures, one being a river spirit in the form of a white dragon.

Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey headlined the 2002 post-apocalyptic fantasy Reign of Fire in which the world has been nearly destroyed and overrun by dragons.

Pop culture phenomena Harry Potter highlights dragons a number of times, most notably in The Goblet of Fire as the first challenge for the champions of the Triwizard Tournament.

Another popular fantasy novel of the 2000s in Eragon was adapted into a film in 2006 where actress Rachel Weisz voiced the dragon Saphira, companion to the titular hero Eragon.

Dreamworks found additional animated dragon success with the 2010 smash hit How To Train Your Dragon introducing the world to Toothless, the adored black Night Fury and companion of Hiccup.

One of the most iconic dragons in literature history, 2013 witnessed the revered antagonist of The Hobbit Smaug the dragon making his big screen debut voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.

In 2016 Disney remade their 1977 film Pete’s Dragon with updated special effects, bringing new life to the friendly giant that dwells secretly in the woods and remains shrouded through invisibility.

In 2019 the rebooted Godzilla and Monsterverse franchise added the massive King Ghidorah to the mix in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The humongous dragon has 3 heads with 3 separate personalities.

Disney added yet another dragon to their animated catalogue in 2021 with Raya and the Last Dragon, drawing from southeast Asian cultures to animate the dragon Sisu, voiced by Awkwafina.

Finally, dragons are making their way to the MCU in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsMarvel’s first film with an Asian lead. The movie will encompass many forms of Chinese mythology.

Dragons have inspired awe and wonder throughout storytelling for thousands of years and have made their way into big budget filmmaking as of late in spectacular fashion.

The Neverending Story