10 Must-Watch Films for the D&D Player

I’m sure this topic is going to be a contentious one, and given my limited movie repertoire, I’m probably the last person that should be talking about it. Still, my last few blogs have been pretty heady topics, so I figured I’d lighten the tone on this one. Now, in vague order, my top D&D movies:

1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy

I know. Duh. Although recent, they’re the quintessential D&D films. They define many of the classes: ranger, fighter, rogue, wizard. Wait, no leader? Who’s the leader? Ah crap. The ranger is also a warlord. Who went and made the hybrid warlord|ranger? No, I told you, know hybrid-classing in my game, now go and remake your character. Also, Lord of the Ring is a great source of inspiration for epic battles and awesome skill challenges. Climbing over the Misty Mountains. Tracking Orcs across Rohan. Navigating through Moria. If you want an idea how a skill challenge should run, the Lord of the Rings triology can answer the call.

2. The Princess Bride

Your players already quote it. You might as well accept it. The Princess Bride suffuses D&D culture. With its mix of humor, drama (well, sort of), and iconic characters, it’s a must-see for any gamer. The irony is that the hero, Wesley, is really one of the least interesting characters of the movie. So goes many D&D games. That’s why the DM should never have a DMPC. Still, what would Enigo Montoya be without someone to duel? What would Vizzini be without someone to battle wits against? I guess it goes to show that a little friendly rivalry in an adventuring party is okay.

3. Conan the Barbarian

Yes, this classic from the 80s should be a staple for any D&D player. Despite shoddy special effects, something about this film resonates with the Robert E. Howard’s original short story series (which is worth the read, if you haven’t). Although this movie focuses on one PC…err, character, it has a decent supporting cast and enough interesting encounters to make for a well-rounded flick. They’re remaking it for 2011, but without the bad special effects and Arnold, will it really be the same?

4. Star Wars

Okay, sure it’s not fantasy, but let’s face it: It’s Lord of the Rings in space. Star Wars has many of the same tropes, it has the adventuring party: Obi-Wan (wizard), Luke (paladin, or whatever—I don’t want to argue about it), Han Solo (rogue), Chewie (chewie; he deserves his own class), Leia (cleric/leader type), Lando (that other player in your group who wants to play a rogue but doesn’t make his as good as the other one and basically is just lousy), C3PO (3E bard), R2D2 (4E bard). The comparisons go on. I’m sure I could right an entire blog about this subject, and it would be totally awesome, and totally ridiculous.

5. Hellboy 1 & 2

This movie has a party of min-maxers if I’ve ever seen it. Can anyone say dump stat? We’ve got Red, with an 8 in…let’s go with Wisdom. That blue guy—what’s his name, Abe?—who is definitely low Constitution. I’d say low Constitution on Liz, but let’s face it, if she’s doing a little somethin’ somethin’ with Red, then it must be Strength she’s lacking. Anyway, it’s a great movie for awesome battles in dynamic terrain. All the characters feel distinct with a high weirdness factor (must be using Player’s Handbook 3 races).

6. The Mummy

Yes, actually. I mean, let’s face it: If you’re look at what adventurers do (loot treasure and cause mayhem), and you look at the Mummy, they’re basically the same thing. You’ve got a reasonably large cast of characters, most of whom are incompetent and mess up everything they do; they’re obsessed with wealth; and they maintain some pretense of good alignment. I’d say the truth is fairly obvious.

7. 300

Okay, I’m sure this wouldn’t make everyone’s list, but let’s look at the facts: 300 is basically one long line of flavor text splayed across the screen. Take everyone moment that was awesome in your campaign, splice it together, add some sex and gratuitous violence (if your game by some small chance doesn’t already have that), and you’ve got 300. It’s the perfect movie to watch for inspiration on making your character be an F-ing badass.

8. Stardust (and since we’re on Neil Gaiman, let’s go ahead and throw in Mirrormask as well)

This movie has feel-good tingles in spades. Although I’d call it a lesser cousin to the Princess Bride, it still has many of the hallmarks of a good D&D movie. It has some inspiring characters, who go on an adventure, overcome adversity, and triumph in the end. I’d say Stardust wins in the awesome NPC category. Robert De Niro has never been better. Mirrormask is a little too odd to really qualify as a D&D movie, but it’s chock full of puzzles, skill challenges, and the type of randomness that can improve any game. I love the thing about the building shapes like a key. Oh, and the Sphinx’s riddles. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.

9. Indiana Jones

Not technically fantasy, but it has all the spirit of a good game of D&D. Although the PCs change between movies (regrettably, in some cases), the focus remains the same, solving puzzles, getting cool treasure, and stomping out nazis…err, bad guys. Cultists are definitely the nazis of the D&D world. Wherever you turn, they’re popping up, and it takes a good adventurer to put them down.

10. All Those Historical Fiction Movies I Didn’t Get To

Braveheart, Gladiator, Master & Commander, Kingdom of Heaven, etc. These movies, while lacking some of the aesthetic of D&D, definitely capture elements of the game. Whether they’re depicting epic battles, or focused confrontations, they provide a corollary to our imagination. Whatever their weaknesses might be, these movies allow us to experience in vivid detail the most awesome battles of the game.

Honorable Mention (also, because I haven’t watched it in a long time and can’t provide an adequate comparison):

The 13th Warrior

Excalibur

Willow

Anything from Studio Ghibli.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some, so please feel free to enlighten me.

Movies That Didn’t Make the Cut:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, et. all. (let’s face it, no one likes a party of all paladins)

Harry Potter 1-8 (wait, weren’t there seven books?)

Prince of Persia (all my hopes for it turned to sand)

The D&D Movie (I don’t think I need commentary on this one).

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33 thoughts on “10 Must-Watch Films for the D&D Player

    1. Yes The Gamers: Dorkness Rising is a must see. Also the second D&D movie is not half as bad as the first. (OK that still means it sucked but it was not an outright slap in the face like the original.) Why couldn’t anyone from WoTC see that it was a trainwreck in the making?

  1. Actually in the comics Abe takes quite a lot of abuse and manages to live through it. He’s not as fragile as the movies sometimes make him seem.

  2. Hmm… take skill challenge ideas from LotR trillogy? So theres my excuse to watch them even one more time ^^

    Gona check that Stardust though 😛

    great post 🙂

  3. Forgot Legend and Ladyhawk in the honorable mentions.

    I also recomend The Last Legion and Arthur, sure they are not great Arthurian movies, but like the LotR trilogy if you think of DnD while you watch them they are great.

    Also I think Indy is the quintessential “skill challenge” movie series – heck the movies just about go, skill challenge, plot, fight, repeat (with some variation).

    But I very much agree on the LotR and Star Wars comments.

  4. The 13th Warrior is the perfect dnd movie(spoilers below), and should have been in the top 10, rather than a honorable mention. While watching it at the theaters all I could think about was all the relations to DnD. Its got some similarities to Conan in layout too.

    Its got it all:

    *Omar “f’n” Sharif, YES THAT Omar “f’n” Sharif

    *Main character banishment. Which starts out the adventure because of Banderas’s character, Ahmed, fell in love with a Caliph’s bequeathed so he’s sent away to be an emissary.

    *After feeling raiders Ahmed meets up with an adventure group the vikings in the story.

    *Quick battle of the heirs to be to of the next king of the Vikings.

    *Request from a distant land for help! The boy asking for aid from another great northern clan and their “oracle” telling them they need 13 warriors (can you say hobbit) 12 of north blood and 1 of non-north blood, Ahmed of course! This is a quest line!

    *Overland travel. Traveling by ship to a distant foreign land. Ahmed along the way “levels up” puts points into his language skills and learns to speak the Vikings language!(Old Norse?) (before this everything was translated from the vikings language to English by Omar “f’n” Sharif.)

    *Arrival at the Kings court,. Questions abound of the “thing that not be named” that is terrorizing the land, mention of a “fire wyrm”.

    *Fierce Battle which again only confounds the matters as no bodies are left though many of the enemy were slain.

    *Ahmed again levels up! Learns some new skills gets some new gear, has a blacksmith make him a weapon.

    *Prep for larger battle ensues (similar to end battle in conan)

    *Political intrigue where one of the sons of the king test the strength of the visiting Viking King and a one on one battle ensues, similar to a knights duel (Bluff, Diplomacy anyone)

    *Discovery of what the “fire wyrm” is and the huge battle.

    *Oracle informs they must enter the lair of the “eaters of the dead” and kill the Mother in the Earth and their Leader, they must kill both.

    *Dungeon Crawl! The adventure group now smaller from losses in battle, delves deep into the earth and battles with the Mother in the Earth. The viking king is badly wounded!

    *The adventure group unable to escape finds a way out by swimming under the rocks (skill checks) and makes it back to the kings court.

    *Final battle takes place as the Leader of the eaters of the dead wasn’t killed.

    *Another Quick Battle, and the menace defeated. The loss of a Honorable King and laid to rest and the adventure is complete. Ahmed levels up and writes the tale down in his adventure journal!

    *Omar “f’n” Sharif

    -david 😀
    http://www.d4d6d8d10d12d20.com

    my honorable mention would be “the sword and the sorcerer” as its got cheezey effects, an epic tale, and one bad ass sword that shoots its BLADES which it has THREE! pure awesome.

    avoid at all costs sadly “the dnd movies” they are horrible and I like horrible sometimes!

  5. I still have a soft spot for Neverending Story. My mom read the book to me when I was little and we saw the movie as soon as it came out (she preferred the book). Tons of things in my stories can be traced back to them, including the “evil” ring of confidence from my current game. It’s not as awesome to watch as some of these movies, but I love the type of story it tells.

  6. I’m really surprised Dragonslayer didn’t make the list. If there’s a movie that totally defines what a Red Dragon is like, that one’s it.

    Also, I have to agree with Dielzen. Any more, a working knowledge of Monty Python & The Holy Grail is sort of a requirement for sitting down at the game table.

  7. While the original D&D movie did, indeed, suck terribly, I kind of liked the second one — Wrath of the Dragon God. Even though it aired straight to the SciFi channel (Siffy!), it had a great story and a hot barbarian chick.

  8. Three films that made a huge impact on me during my role-playing formative years were Legend, the Dark Crystal, and the fantasy masterpiece Hawk the Slayer. 😉

  9. Well, I don’t feel too bad about missing some of those, since I haven’t seen a bunch of them. Clearly I need to watch 13th Warrior again, and I need to see Hawk the Slayer and Dragonslayer, which I haven’t even heard of.

    I have seen the second D&D movie, and I did enjoy it more than the first. Still, it didn’t merit making the list.

    Monty Python and the Gamers movies definitely should be on their list, but they’re sort of in their own category. Gamers is more about the experience of gaming, whereas I guess my list was focused on movie stories that emulate the D&D experience. Still, they merit honorable mention.

  10. Excellent list. (I got a big kick out of the classifications of C-3PO and R2-D2.) I can’t quibble with your Top 10 at all.

    My one honorable mention would be the Harryhausen epic from the ’60s, Jason and the Argonauts. Quests from the gods, giant statues, the Hydra, plus the climactic battle with the skeletons = awesome.

  11. Mongel General: Conan, what is best in life?

    Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

    Mongel General: That is good.

  12. What about Ladyhawk?? Ok, so the soundtrack sucks, but it has a thief, a paladin, a drunk monk, an evil priest, and duel shot crossbows!

  13. 2 That I think are important are Dragonslayer and the SyFy Channel’s D&D movie Wrath of the Dragon God. That was very good in comparison to the D&D movie.

    1. Quite agree with the list, and I’d actually throw Pirates of the Carribean 1 in there too. Although not a movie, the last airbender cartoon series is like a heroic to epic campaign rolled into 3 awesomesauce seasons.

  14. What, no wuxia movies?

    “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” as well as “A Chinese Ghost Story” should be on the list.

    Also others that have made an impression on me are Neverending Story and Labyrinth.

  15. It’s different thematically, but when I think of a bunch of freelancers getting together under mercenary auspices and pulling off a job, I immediately think of Ronin. Maybe better Shadowrun fodder than D&D, but you (hopefully) see my point.

    Honorable Mention: Cradle 2 the Grave. Laugh if you must – it’s not a legendary flick by any means – but it features teamwork, good action, and some out of the box thinking.

  16. Some bad ass (and sorta bad) old movies that rock the D&D scene are “Sword and the Sorcerer”, “Krull”, and “Hawk the Slayer”.
    I mean, really! A three bladed sword!
    Rock on!

  17. Sorry, but I REALLY need to get this out of my sistem: “Mazes and Monsters” with Tom Hanks. I hate this movie, but is part of the D&D history. There are some very good anime like “Record of Lodoss War”, “Escaflowne” and “Claymore”.

  18. How the heck did “The Beastmaster” get left out. This was a total D&D movie, the scene where he goes to the temple is the best “dungeon crawl” scene I’ve seen in a movie. Plus you got Tanya Roberts as a hot slave girl.

    Also surprised how little mention “Krull” got. It was a bit over the top but still very D&D.

    Also another vote for 13th Warrior. One of the warrior dudes, the tracker/archer guy who fought with 2 swords, I mean how more D&D can you get.

  19. I knew it that The Princess Bride is an awesome inspiration for DnD! And to think I never knew the movie until my girlfriend forced me to watch it, because I thought it was a chick-flick (Princess Bride? Hello? girly). But it turned out to be a DnD story with a daring rogue as the main character. 🙂

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