The 10 best films involving a dungeon and/or a dragon

From creepy subterranean swellings to fire-breathing monsters

For the second instalment of our new NME Screens series, we’re hosting an advance screening of Dungeon & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, the brand new action-adventure movie starring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez based on the epic board game. Taking place at Finsbury Park Picturehouse this Thursday, March 30, at 6pm, tickets are free and you can get them on Dice here. To get you in the mood, enjoy our pick of the ten best movies with dungeons or dragons.

How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

In a mythical Viking village, one frequently attacked by dragons, a 15-year-old boy named Hiccup wants to be a dragon slayer. Until, that is, he meets a Night Fury, a dark-hued rare species of dragon, that he calls ‘Toothless’ on account of his retractable teeth. Toothless isn’t exactly fierce – he likes being fed fish, until he burps them up, chases insects around the glade and enjoys being scratched behind the ears like a puppy. The pet we all wished we had growing up.

Dungeon or dragon? Toothless is surely the cutest dragon. Ever!


The Man In The Iron Mask (1998)

Ah, there’s nothing like a 17th century dungeon. In this take on Alexandre Dumas’ classic Musketeers tale, Leonardo DiCaprio is the titular prisoner, his face incarcerated inside a cast-iron mask (which must be very annoying if you need to scratch your nose). Held on an island prison, he’s locked away in a dank dungeon which at least has a tiny window that allows him to gaze upon the moon and pine for his freedom.

Dungeon or dragon? A French gaol – this might be the smelliest dungeon on this list.

Dragonslayer (1981)

In the sixth century, a 400-year old dragon terrorises a post-Roman kingdom in this groundbreaking fantasy. Legendary animator and special effects guru Phil Tippett, who worked on Return Of The Jedi and Jurassic Park, invented a whole new stop-motion animation style called ‘Go Motion’ to bring the creature to life. It was so good, Guillermo Del Toro even said the dragon, named Vermithrax Pejorative, is “perhaps one of the most perfect creature designs ever made”.

Dungeon or dragon? In the 1980s, this was Hollywood’s go-to dragon.


The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

In Christopher Nolan’s trilogy-closer, Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne/Batman has his back broken in a fight with the villainous Bane and is plonked in an underground prison cave in Jodhpur, India. There, after recovering from his injuries, he climbs up an enormous vertical chamber, as the Hans Zimmer soundtrack swells to the sound of the phrase ‘deshi basara’, meaning ‘rise up’. Taking a leap of faith, it’s a spiritual moment in a superhero epic.

Dungeon or dragon? No dungeon can hold the Dark Knight – you should know this by now.

Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard are the adults here, but they’re soon outshone by a hulking great green, furry dragon named Elliot in this live-action/CG remake of the 1977 Disney classic. As the orphaned boy Pete befriends this beast, in a Pacific Northwest forest, they’re soon skimming through the sky. Directed by David Lowery, who went on to do the brilliant fantasy The Green Knight, it’s like Tarzan meets The Iron Giant.

Dungeon or dragon? When Disney do dragons, you know it’s going to be heartwarming.

Life of Brian (1979)

In Monty Python’s Jesus parody, Brian (Graham Chapman) is thrown in jail, where he meets Michael Palin’s moany prisoner, hung upside down until yesterday. “My idea of Heaven is to be allowed to be put in manacles just for a few hours!” he shouts. The killer line comes when he starts talking about how crucifixion is a good thing – or else the country would be in a right mess. “Nail ‘em up I say!”

Dungeon or dragon? Look on the bright side of life – the funniest dungeon scene of all time.

Reign of Fire (2002)

Emerging from a cave beneath the London Underground (no, really), these dragons really didn’t like having their slumber disturbed. Apparently, before hibernation, they even destroyed the dinosaurs. Now in a post-apocalyptic England, humans are on the verge of extinction, while the dragons are in desperate need of food, toasting and roasting any person they can. Christian Bale leads the survivors while Matthew McConaughey yee-haws as a gung-ho Yankie dragon-hunter.

Dungeon or dragon? The fiercest dragons in town – and you might find them on the Circle Line.

Return Of The Jedi (1983)

Jabba the Hutt’s palace is one big dungeon. First there’s that torture chamber where C-3PO watches in horror as a poor old power droid gets his feet burned. Then “the mighty” Chewbacca gets slung in a cell, where he’s soon reunited with old friend Han Solo, de-frosted from his Carbonite prison. Best of all, Jabba’s got the Rancor monster in its own pit of despair, the ultimate dungeon, that Luke will be tricked into falling into.

Dungeon or dragon? In a galaxy far, far away, there are dungeons aplenty down on Tatooine.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Considered the last great dragon of Middle-earth, dwelling in the aptly named Lonely Mountain, Smaug is one serious fire-breather. In Peter Jackson’s film, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic, Benedict Cumberbatch not only voiced the character but played him via motion capture techniques. “You really just have to lose your shit on a carpeted floor that looks a little bit like a mundane government building,” the actor said of finding his inner Smaug.

Dungeon or dragon? The most territorial and cunning of all dragons.

The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

It’s a toss-up as to what’s creepier: the subterranean maximum security prison that holds serial killer Hannibal Lecter or the terrifying dungeon pit where Buffalo Bill keeps his victims (even his kitchen was modelled on the one found in real-life murderer Ed Gein’s house). We’ll go for the latter, and the moment the kidnapped Catherine Martin sees the fingernail of a previous victim stuck in the wall, as they’d desperately tried to claw their way out.

Dungeon or dragon? Two dungeons for the price of one here – doubly scary.

‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves’ hits UK, Irish and US cinemas on March 31. Get tickets here

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