Dragonslayer [1981]

Despite its box-office failure in 1981, Dragonslayer was gradually recognized as one of the finest fantasies to emerge from the post-Star Wars boom in special effects. It's still one of the best adventures of its kind, featuring one of the most fearsome fire-breathing serpents in movie history. Ominously named Vermithrax Pejorative, this ill-tempered monster terrorizes the peasantry of sixth-century England, feeding on maidens sacrificed by a duplicitous king until a sorcerer's apprentice named Galen (Peter MacNicol, long before Ally McBeal) is recruited as a reluctant hero. Aided by a tenacious beauty (Caitlin Clarke) and his resurrected mentor (Ralph Richardson), Galen confronts the soaring beast in a breathtaking climax. Employing a then-innovative technique called Go-Motion to animate the dragon, the special effects are still dazzling, and stunning locations in Scotland and Wales allow director Matthew Robbins (cowriter of Steven Spielberg's feature debut, The Sugarland Express) to maintain a vivid atmosphere for the wealth of movie magic. --Jeff Shannon

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