Next month, "The Desolation of Smaug" will hit theaters. This should be the best visual effects of a dragon done yet in a major motion picture. Ever since I saw the original Jurassic Park I've been waiting to see a really well done dragon in a movie. I'm pretty excited about this.
But, this certainly isn't the first live action movie to feature a dragon. Here are some previous attempts at hollywood to imagine a dragon. It is not a complete list, but they are all movies that I have seen.
Dragonheart - 1996
I so wanted this movie to be awesome. I haven't seen it in quite a while, so I can't give it a proper review. It definitely had it's good parts. I was happy with Sean Connery as the voice of the dragon. I also liked Dennis Quiad as the lead. The plot was okay. I really disliked King Einon. He came off more weasely than I would want in an evil king. Effects were pretty good, especially since it's 17 years old now. The dragon was half believable at the time.
Reign of Fire - 2002
This movie featured a bad ass bald Matthew McConaughey. I'm pretty sure it's unique in that aspect. It's also a bit different as it's a post-apocalyptic future instead of a standard fantasy setting. I know I've seen this movie, but I don't remember much of anything about it. The dragons don't have front legs in this, making them closer to actual earth animals. They also refrain from showing one in good lighting which makes up for cheap CGI.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - 2005
It a Harry Potter movie. You're probably seen it. It's probably the most realistic dragon in my list. Probably the most realistic dragon that has been on screen thus far. Unfortunately it's a pretty weak dragon. It's small, and it's fighting a 15 year old kid. Smaug would eat this thing for a snack. Also, it's scene is only 5 minutes or so.
Eragon - 2006
I got a whole group of friends to go see this movie with my the night before I moved away from the Twin Cities. The best part of it was the two hours afterward that we spent at a bar talking about how horrible the movie was. I read and enjoyed the book, but this movie was atrocious. Something just isn't right about how Sephira looks. She's just too cartoony. I think they tried too hard to make her look like the cover of the book instead of making her look good.
Dungeons & Dragons - 2000
This movie.... So bad. Definitely the worst movie on this list. Even worse then Eragon. But what about those dragons. It certainly has a lot of them, and they have a good design and well lit. Unfortunately the CGI is atrocious. They look reeeeaaaaaallly fake. There is a sequel which is a much better movie, and has a much better looking dragon. But there's only one, and it's a short scene.
Evolution - 2001
So, they're not actually dragons in this movie, but they sure look like it. I like this movie a lot. It's a good sci-fi action comedy. The "dragons" look a bit more like dinosaurs than something out of myth and legend. They are also fairly small and not very tough. Similar to the guy in Harry Potter and tGoF. The effects are pretty good. Much better looking than the ones from the D&D movie even though it's only a year between them.