How to Train Your Dragon



Thrilling 3-D adventure sends brains-over-brawn message.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: March 15, 2010
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.

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.


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."


Expect lots of branded merchandise to accompany this movie.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this excellent adventure comedy about a clever young Viking 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.

What's the story?

In the Viking island of Berk, where everyone is bestowed scary monikers and is taught how to kill invading dragons, a young teen named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is 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?


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.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what makes Hiccup a misfit. 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 26, 2010
DVD release date:October 15, 2010
Cast:America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Gerard Butler, Jay Baruchel
Directors:Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Book characters, Friendship
Character strengths:Courage, Integrity, Perseverance, Teamwork
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language

This review of How to Train Your Dragon was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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 children - particularly in 3-D. Aside from that, it was a lovely film with well developed characters, a certain sweetness, and good messages about doing the right thing, even if it means that you are "different" from the rest of the crowd. Also, nice displays of loyalty and perseverance, and the benefits of living in peace rather than at war. There is some very mild romantic content, but it involves little more than a peck on the cheek and one kiss, far less than what my kids see on Nickelodeon or in other films. All in all, I'd say it's a solid film that everyone in the family can and will enjoy.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Parent of a 5 and 8 year old Written byrush2112 March 27, 2011

This one is really special.

We've seen this countless times now that we have the DVD and I still get goosebumps and a lump in my throat at the key moments. My kids love it for obvious reasons. I love it for the breathtaking flight scenes, the beautiful music, the friendships that develop, and the positive messages throughout. As many have pointed out, some of the scenes are scary/intense. My 5-year-old was a bit frightened in the theaters, but not so much at home. And there's one aspect I haven't see discussed very much here: what Hiccup loses in the end. It was a really gutsy move by the writers. And it makes Hiccup a role model for all those children who have also lost a part of themselves.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 10 years old May 13, 2010

Kiddie Review

This was the GREATEST MOVIE I WATCHED! It's great for kids and families!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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