How to Train Your Dragon

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
How to Train Your Dragon Movie Poster Image
Thrilling 3D adventure sends brains-over-brawn message.
  • PG
  • 2010
  • 90 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 144 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 166 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids will learn a bit about Vikings and mythology.

Positive Messages

Hiccup's actions prove that cooperation and teamwork can be better than competition and animosity. By looking past the superficial, Hiccup discovered that the dragons weren't the blind, ruthless killers his people thought they were, and that training a dragon had far more benefits than killing a dragon. Another important message is that the love between a parent and child is unconditional and not based on whether the child is following in the parent's footsteps. There's also the message that girls and women (the Vikings are surprisingly pro-girl-power) can be tough and fearless too, and that brains can be just as powerful as brawn.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hiccup may not look as tough as other Vikings his age, but he's smart and courageous and caring. His eventual popularity and his sacrifice to save his fellow Vikings demonstrate that just because someone looks like a "wimp" doesn't mean much. Astrid is a positive role model for girls. Yes, she's beautiful, but it's not her looks that make her notable. She's tough, hard-working, fearless, and loyal. Characters also demonstrate integrity and perseverance.

Violence & Scariness

Some of the dragons -- particularly in the opening and climactic sequences, along with the dragon training scenes --  are scary looking and cause a lot of destruction. The dragons have burned down homes, killed random characters and maimed a couple of central characters. The huge "queen dragon" is big and imposing and is just as likely to swallow a smaller dragon as she is to crush humans in her way.

Sexy Stuff

Mild flirting and two brief kisses between Astrid and Hiccup.

Language

Exclamations like "Thor almighty!" and "By Odin it was rough" that substitute the word God for the names of  Norse gods. Some mild taunts and insults like "coward" and "useless" and one joke about a "breast hat" (a Viking hat formed from a breast plate). One use of "hell."

Consumerism

Expect lots of branded merchandise to accompany this movie.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How to Train Your Dragon is an excellent adventure comedy about a clever young Viking that includes some fantasy violence and potentially frightening images of dragons which could scare some young movie-goers. The dragons attack the Viking village, causing mass destruction, and in a couple of cases, they cripple characters. There's some mild flirting and two brief kisses between teens, and one bittersweet discussion about a deceased mother (and her armored breast plate, which has been fashioned into two helmets). Because the 3-D effects up the intensity level of the action sequences, easily scared older kids may jump out of their seat in the dragon-fighting scenes. On a positive note, with a strong female character and an honorable, brainy protagonist, kids will learn the value of cooperation, teamwork, and seeing beyond the surface of a situation.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bygarnet March 23, 2010
I saw preview of this film with my six year old, and we both loved it. Some of the images/fighting/dragon slaying were a bit dark and may be scary for younger... Continue reading
Parent of a 5 and 8 year old Written byblissful June 14, 2010

May be too scary for the little ones, but depends on the kid

Our whole family loved this movie enough for us to want to see it two weekends in a row! Everything about this movie was amazing and wonderful. Excellent messag... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old May 13, 2010

Kiddie Review

This was the GREATEST MOVIE I WATCHED! It's great for kids and families!
Kid, 8 years old March 26, 2010

wonderful

I think this is a very good movie, but has some inappropriate things such as kissing. I enjoy the music and if some thing violent happens it does not have viol... Continue reading

What's the story?

In HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, on the Viking island of Berk, everyone is bestowed scary monikers and is taught how to kill invading dragons except for a young teen named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) who's the exception to the rule. He's a lanky young blacksmith's apprentice with little dragon-slaying potential -- a fact that chagrins his father, the clan chief Stoic the Vast (Gerard Butler). During a nighttime dragon attack, Hiccup manages to capture the most mysterious dragon of all -- the Night Fury -- but when faced with the creature, he can't kill it. Instead, Hiccup, who is accepted into dragon training with other new recruits -- arrogant Snotlout (Jonah Hill), bickering twins Ruffnut (T.J. Miller) and Tuffnut (Kristen Wiig), timid Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and the beautiful and brave Astrid (America Ferrera), gets to know his new pet dragon, who he names Toothless, and uses his knowledge to quietly calm all of the dragons the recruits must face. But when Hiccup's secret is revealed, will the Vikings (particularly his father) thank him for discovering the dragons aren't all cruel killers or brand him a dragon-loving traitor?

Is it any good?

 

Based on author Cressida Cowell's book, the story is surprisingly touching. It's not just about a nerdy kid hoping to show-up his peers and win the attentions of a pretty girl in the process. It's about the pressure of living up to your father's expectations, self identity, war and peace, growing up, and other seemingly heavy themes that are seamlessly woven into a funny, gripping adventure. Ferrera, who at first seems like an odd choice to voice a platinum blond Astrid, is pitch-perfect, with her authoritative voice making Astrid sound appropriately confident and mature. As in Baruchel's live-action comedy, Astrid seems out of Hiccup's league, but she's open-minded enough to realize he's special -- just like this movie.

How to Train Your Dragon is actually worth the momentary headache that 3-D glasses can cause. It's spectacular, particularly when coupled with fire-breathing dragons flying around a colorful fictional island. The detailed animation on the Vikings (who are inexplicably depicted as more Scottish than Scandinavian, perhaps because Butler and Craig Ferguson, who's the dragon-training teacher, have such great accents) and the dragons (so many different kinds, all with their own quirks and strengths) is on par with Pixar -- the standard-bearer of animation.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes Hiccup a misfit in How to Train Your Dragon. How does having Stoic the Vast for a father make him feel about himself? How is the relationship between Hiccup and his dad portrayed? What changes in their relationship throughout the movie?

  • Astrid looks like a "blond bombshell" type, but she's not the typical pretty blond girl. In what ways does her character rise above stereotypes of unattainable beauty? Is she a good role model for girls?

  • What did you think of the use of 3-D in the movie, especially in the dragon scenes? How did it compare to other 3-D movies? Was anything too scary?

  • Every hero on a journey has some help. Who helps Hiccup? Does he have any mentors or teachers? What about his friends?

  • How do the characters in How to Train Your Dragon demonstrate integrity and perseverance? What about courage and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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