As you might have noticed, I’ve been doing some lists of movies that I haven’t seen. Before I went on vacation, I did my list of fantasy films that have escaped my viewing. On that list was this movie called Dragonslayer. It’s from 1981 and about this wizard’s apprentice (Peter MacNicol) and his quest to slay a dragon. I was surprised that it had somehow slipped off of my radar. Needless to say, when I was scrolling through Netflix the other day, I was pleased to discover that Dragonslayer was there and ready for me to enjoy.

You can guess what happened next, dear readers: I watched it.

I don’t know what movie I was expecting, really, but the one I got was not it. Before you freak out, I’m just going to say that the fact that it wasn’t what I expected made it more awesome. See, I guess was expecting something a little more paint-by-numbers. You know, nerdy hero saves everyone and gets the girl. Bing, bang, boom. I should have known better considering what Micah had to say about the movie.

I don’t want to give away any major plot spoilers for those of you who, like me, haven’t seen the movie yet. What I am going to say is that the film took some twists and turns I didn’t expect and the two female characters in the movie had more agency and plot involvement than a lot of female characters in more modern movie fare. Princess Elspeth’s (Chloe Salaman) arc in particular came as quite a surprise.

You know what else surprised me? The treatment of Christianity in the movie. Usually, when Christianity and/or monotheism appears in fantasy films and TV shows, it’s shown as the “better” way of life and an inevitable philosophy. Not so in Dragonslayer. It’s not really mocked, per se, in as much as it’s sort of viewed as an eyeroll-worthy response to the obviously supernatural phenomena going on around them. You can interpret that however you’d like.

In any event, I rather liked Dragonslayer. I liked how the nerdy hero learned hubris and how the movie surprised me by being as progressive as it was, especially considering when it was made. I loved the special effects. If I’d seen this when I was growing up, I probably would’ve been terrified by the dragon just like Micah.

Seriously, if you’ve got Netflix, it’s totally worth a watch. It’s up there now. Yeah, I guess it can wait until after you’re doing binge-watching “Orange is the New Black,” but don’t wait too long.



  • Jim Husband

    I’m glad you liked it. It was surprisingly ahead of its time, in the ways you described and regarding the special effects (Vermithrax’s breath was two military flamethrowers against a green screen, which worked surprisingly well). I also really liked that they gave the dragon herself an actual character, with mannerisms and a backstory and her own goals, while still retaining her uncompromising ferocity, evil-ness (though she’d never admit to such), and position as a metaphor for natural disaster. Vermithrax is still the gold standard for cinematic dragons (although I admit, I haven’t seen the Hobbit movies yet), and really makes the movie.

  • Rebecca C

    Yeah, it was one of the first trope-busting movies I saw as a kid. Good stuff.

  • micahp

    Further evidence that I am always right!

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