Special Effect Fireballs

There’s no ignoring or denying Dragonslayer’s marquee value lies in the creature itself. Held back from full view until the final 20-minutes, Dragonslayer takes a risk that doesn’t always appease viewers, but without any doubt, the finale’s spectacle makes the wait worthwhile.

Among ILM’s greatest achievements – yes, even against Star WarsDragonslayer’s mythical beast is an astonishing, eye-catching example of cinematic trickery. Blending early animatronics, stop motion, puppetry, and blue screen, the result is a completely jaw-dropping battle that, without exception, holds up in every single frame today. In wow factor, few surpass this work. Losing the Oscar to Raiders of the Lost Ark, divested from the movie quality itself, was unfair.

Dragonslayer’s mythical beast is an astonishing, eye-catching example of cinematic trickery

Peter MacNicol carries this story from a script hitting each trope on the fantasy tree. Virgins, wizards, sacrifice, scared villagers, and magical amulets all factor into this fairy tale. Typically, it’s marginally interesting, holding much of the attention on a corrupt king who accepts bribes to not feed the wealthy virgins to the nearby monster.

In the final act, a priest begins baptizing citizens to protect them from the dragon, a worthless gesture of course, and mocking the ignorant culture war against Dungeons and Dragons that came from religious communities in the ‘80s. Dragonslayer’s most comical moment happens near the epilogue, where the king takes a sword, piercing the monster’s exposed innards with a sword as if the champion (or posing for a photo, as if such things existed). The script liberally borrows from generic genre cliches, but doesn’t flinch when calling out willful blindness within an indoctrinated society.

What Dragonslayer lacks is the legs to sustain the runtime, filling itself with a typical Hollywood romance, mundane conflict, and fears toward magic. MacNicol is fine, and well cast considering his underdog status. Given his lithe appearance, his fear looks legitimate, and any hesitation in his body language logical. The odds seem impossible given the entire village refuses to acknowledge his contribution, making the hero’s journey an obvious one perfect for this light fable.


Someone at Paramount’s restoration division must love Dragonslayer. This UHD debut comes from a meticulous, fresh 4K scan that removes any and all print damage, leaving the imagery scuff free. Preserved grain looks fantastic, resolved brilliantly by the encode.

Texture thrives, easily producing the forests and busy fantasy set designs without issue. Facial definition shows everywhere, close-ups or medium shots equal. The resolution makes an immediate impression, enough to make Dragonslayer look almost new at its best – and that’s most of the time. Grand black levels add the needed depth to help this movie pop in 2023.

Firm color gives potent energy to flames, of which Dragonslayer has plenty of. Primaries thrive over previous home video releases, the flesh tones pure and costumes bold. Greenery in forests carries brilliant zest.


Mixed for the modern era, Dragonslayer’s Atmos mix is truly wonderful. Sporting one of the best sounding, boldest, deepest score of the ’80s, it’s arguable whether the music is too bold in the mix, but the fidelity makes this worth it. Dragonslayer’s score deserves this treatment.

Expertly designed, surrounds and stereos help this track sound wholly modern, from the simple like an insect’s wings panning the stereos to the awesome such as a dragon flying overhead, completely, totally, and convincingly natural. In terms of catalog audio, Dragonslayer ranks among the elite for accuracy. Add in particularly dense low-end for the final punch (especially a rock slide about 38-minutes in, let along the dragon’s stomping about) for this mix to join any home theater enthusiast’s demo arsenal.


Director Matthew Robbins joins Guillermo Del Toro for a commentary track, with a screen test and lengthy multi-part documentary following.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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One of ILM’s finest moments hides in Dragonslayer’s epic finale.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 50 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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