Or, has Anne McCaffrey cashed her check yet? I'm never going to let it go. There is just too much easy material, and it makes such a good introduction.
I thought the flying lizards from Avatar did look very good, but I remembered another one from nearly thirty years ago which combined good looks with a pure menace which I think hasn't been equaled yet. That would be Vermithrax Pejorative, the dragon from 1981's Dragonslayer.
There is a movie that should have done everything right. It had Englander thespians doing their best for a Hollywood sized check, villages which looked Dark Age-y but not hip deep in mud, and best of all, a dragon that didn't look like someone put bat wings on their pet iguana. There has been a lot of suggestions about what went wrong; most rotate around Disney being unable to detach their family name from a more serious film, leading to audience confusion.
I disagree. What kept Dragonslayer from being a blockbuster was it's unrelenting message that cowardice is the best option, and trying will only get you killed. It's one of the most depressing movies I've ever seen, and this is coming from someone who sat through The Plague Dogs.(If you haven't, don't. Just don't.) To prove, let's just examine all character's actions.
Ulrich, the sorcerer:
Brave Act: Challenges Tyrian to stab him. Result: Death.
Brave Act: Comes back to life to kill Vermithrax. Result: Blowed up, resulting in death.
Galen, the apprentice:
Brave Act: Tries to bury dragon underneath a pile of rubble. Result: Dragon burns down village.
Brave Act: Tries to stab dragon. (With his magic superhard spear.) Result: Angrier dragon.
Brave Act: Does as Master commands. Result: Blows up Master.
Cowardly Act: Hides in hole under anvil. Result: Lives.
Cowardly Act: Dresses daughter as a boy. Result: Daughter lives.
Cowardly Act: Makes dragon killing spear, but hides it. Result: Blacksmith lives.
Brave Act: Lets daughter dress like girl. Result: Daughter runs off with Galen, leaving him alone. (Holding a broken spear.)
Brave Act: Rigs the dragon sacrifice lottery to make up for her father keeping her out. Result: Gets chosen.
Brave Act: Walks into dragon den. Result: Eaten.
Tyrian, official thug:
Cowardly Act: Stabs helpless old man. Result: Lives.
Cowardly Act: Shoots helpless old man from ambush. Result: Lives.
Cowardly Act: Beats up Galen while others hold him down. Result: Lives.
Brave Act: Tries to do the right, if evil, thing and stop Galen from making the dragon even more angry. Result: Skewered by a first level magic-user! (With superhard magic spear.) Death.
Hodge, the manservant.
Brave Act: Tries to carry ashes of Ulrich to burning lake so he can magically come back to life. Result: Shot.
Brave Act: Tries to defeat dragon by calling it hellspawn. Result: Horrible burning death.
Casiodorus, the king:
Cowardly Act: Holds lottery choosing girl to be fed to the dragon. Result: Everyone else lives.
Cowardly Act: Keeps daughter out of lottery. Result: Daughter lives.
Cowardly Act: Steals Galen's magic D-8. Result: Minor burns.
Cowardly Act: Shows up after the party, claims to have killed dragon. Result: Casiodorus Rex, Dragon Slayer.
There is a little stiffness in the movements and some obvious bluescreen, but Disney flat out has the best design house in the world when it comes to ships, creatures, aircraft and such.