Over the past few decades, there have been several attempts to bring the popular tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons to the big screen. Its difference from other games that get adapted into movies makes it a lot harder to make, however. With no one storyline nor specific characters everyone is expected to know, all the movies can do is lean on the lore of the books, trying to use game mechanics in action while also bringing in recognizable locations and monsters.
The game has inspired many forms of media too, other than movies, including comics and video games. With a recent revival in D&D’s popularity thanks to streams, podcasts, and of course, the pandemic, Hollywood decided it was the perfect time to try and revive the franchise, bringing us Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves with a big Hollywood budget. The movie exceeded expectations upon its release, bringing a promising future for other potential D&D projects. Still, it’s hard not to forget the movie’s roots, no matter how the past movies performed.
6 Dungeons & Dragons
The first movie released in 2000 was aptly named Dungeons & Dragons. The film follows a group of adventurers who meet each other accidentally as they’re swept up into a much larger conflict. They work to help defeat the evil mage Profion who intends to overthrow a peaceful kingdom, trying to find a magic staff before him, so he can’t use its powers for his evil will.
Unfortunately, the D&D movie didn’t perform well for various reasons. In part, the movie couldn’t pick a tone, jumping from comedy to serious moments without any transition or explanation. The movie also felt distanced from the rich D&D lore, as it didn’t really pay attention to it in favor of filling the movie with Hollywood clichés that didn’t excite fans or critics.
5 Scourge of Worlds: A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure
The animated Scourge of Worlds: A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure is a unique entry on this list. The ultimate weapon, named the Scourge of Worlds, was safely hidden for hundreds of years before a new villain is trying to claim its power for evil. A group of heroes now band together to try and fight against evil and save the world, except their adventure can go differently every time you watch.
This is because it’s actually a choose-your-own-adventure movie, where you control the characters and the plot, progressing them forward for better or for worse depending on what you choose. It wasn’t very popular, but it did spark the creation of many D&D-inspired choose-your-own-adventure novels.
4 Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight
Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight is an animated D&D film based on the first novel in the Dragonlance campaign setting, also titled Dragons of Autumn Twilight. After a five-year break, a group of adventurers bands together once more after discovering their town is no longer a peaceful paradise but is being taken over and turned into an armed camp for the conquest of the continent. Now they must work together to free the town and stop the villains from achieving their goals.
Overall it was not received well, with the majority of the complaints set around the animation and the pacing. The animation was a blend of 2D and CGI, a combination that in the end didn’t work out well. Trying to condense the entire movie into one book also made the pacing too fast, and didn’t allow the characters to breathe, or give the audience a chance to properly understand what was happening.
3 Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness
Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness brings an end to the first trilogy. The Book of Vile Darkness turned anyone who read it evil and was consuming kingdom after kingdom until a brave group known as the Knights of the New Sun chased it away with the magic of the god Pelor. However, as the years passed and people began to forget of the book and those involved in its creation, the power of the knights began to diminish. Thousands of years later, a new person threatens the kingdom with the book, and the newly knighted Grayson teams up with a few other adventurers to try and save the kingdom from this threat.
Though the movie made more attempts at bringing the D&D lore into its story, pleasing the fans, it ultimately didn’t have a large enough budget to achieve its full potential, meaning it fell short, especially for those not involved in D&D.
2 Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God
The made-for-TV and standalone sequel Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God performed better than its predecessor. Set a hundred years later, the evil Damador is revived after dying in the first movie and intends to get revenge on the kingdom and the descendants of the adventurers that killed him in the first place. He’s searching for a powerful orb that can summon a fabled black dragon god in the hopes to convince him to help destroy the kingdom. Of course, a group of misfit adventurers joins forces to try and stop him from achieving his goal.
The movie felt like it fit better into the world of D&D, using more classes and other elements, making the plot flow like an actual game might. It didn’t overdo it, however, meaning it was still enjoyable to those who didn’t know much about the universe.
1 Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
The recently released Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has already become a hit, proving the D&D movies just needed a better budget to pull off something show-stopping and enjoyable. As expected, the movie follows a group of adventurers fighting against evil as they discover they accidentally helped set the villain’s plans into motion. This band of misfits is even led by a bard, a support class more often used for jokes in games than anything else.
The movie was sure to keep true to the source material while not choosing anything that would require too much explanation for those not in the know. It also managed to keep the balance of humor and action, and finally felt like a real D&D game come to life.