The best D&D movies based on their ultimate action merits.
The Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing game has evolved from a niche product into a global franchise. A world where adventure awaits around every corner is a great template for an excursion into the movie realm. Four films have been made to date, and despite some huge quality gaps between them they all are chock-full with action and excitement, so let’s have a look at our ranking of the D&D movies!
4) Dungeons & Dragons (2000)
The first take on the franchise became a memorable experience for better or worse. The rogue Ridley and his companions take on a dangerous quest to retrieve a magic scepter that allows its bearer to control dragons. The evil archmage Profion (Jeremy Irons) sends his warlock Damodar (Bruce Payne) after the relic, and a dangerous race begins.
The film looks like a practice run for an actual movie. The quality of the sets oscillates between lavish and a Halloween store decoration, the same goes for the costumes. I’ve also heard that some people became blind after seeing the CGI. Jeremy Irons and Bruce Payne deliver total lunacy in their roles and are hugely entertaining, but the rest of the cast can’t keep up with them.
But where there’s shadow, there’s also some light. The film is colorful and action-packed with lots of fights and wizardry. In its best moments it evokes the spirit of classic Sword & Sorcery cheese like Hawk the Slayer. Dungeons and Dragons often feels improvised just like a typical D&D session, so maybe it actually is the most faithful adaptation of its source material? Decide for yourself if you dare!
The third Dungeons & Dragons film is named after an infamous sourcebook about playing evil characters which was the final proof for many people that D&D is a satanic murderous cult indeed. The priest Grayson joins a band of evil mercenaries that are trying to find the pages of the Book of Vile Darkness for the sorcerer Shathrax. Grayson seeks to get close to Shathrax so that he can free his father but his journey becomes a path into darkness.
We don’t often get a band of murderous psychos as main protagonists in a fantasy film, and while many of their mischievous undertakings come across as contrived, there are some interesting moments of unnecessary cruelty. There’s plenty of action of modest quality at best, and the variety of monsters and magic is a bit on the low side. The film has the unique selling point of featuring the fastest finale in movie history, the curtain falls abruptly after a thirty second showdown. The Book of Vile Darkness is DTV fodder, but D&D fans and Sword & Sorcery aficionados should not be disappointed.
The first D&D film fortunately did not completely destroy the reputation of the franchise, and we got a second installment that dialed down the cheese factor drastically. The undead wizard Damodar (Bruce Payne) plans to awaken an ancient dragon god and destroy the kingdom of Izmir. His machinations are noticed by Lord Berek of Izmir, who assembles a party of heroes with the task of finding Damodar’s hideout and stop him.
This time more care was taken to create a consistent tone and visuals for a more immersive atmosphere. There’s some fun banter between our heroes as they travel through the beautiful forests and hills of Lithuania. Damodar’s underground fortress is a giant escape room with plenty of traps and puzzles. The fights look good with lots of different monsters, some of them made with atrocious CGI, however, like a foul echo of the first film. Wrath of the Dragon God is a quirky fantasy adventure that manages to capture the spirit of its source material.
1) Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)
Welcome to the days of endless adventure! A D&D session should be full of excitement and plenty of laughter, and the 2023 revival of the franchise for the big screen delivers just that! Bard Edgin (Chris Pine) and his companions visit their old partner in crime Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant), who has become lord of the city of Neverwinter, and who keeps a relic in his vault that can bring Edgin’s wife back from the dead. Their reunion turns into betrayal, and the band of heroes must embark on an epic quest that will determine the fate of the city.
Honor Among Thieves jumps in at full speed and never relents. The jokes land, the world-building is done casually and the action rocks! Chris Pine is fantastic, and the whole cast brings their charming characters to life with energetic and sincere performances. Every five minutes there’s a fight or other perilous situation, and the many battles and brawls pack a serious punch. Honor Among Thieves is a crowd-pleaser in the best sense, and let’s hope that this is not the last we see from the fantastic world of Faerûn.