Reign of Fire

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Reign of Fire Movie Poster Image
Plodding sci-fi dragon disaster tale is OK for older kids.
  • PG-13
  • 2002
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Quinn overcomes his personal terrors (a childhood trauma in which he saw his mum killed) to return to the dragon's lair in London and triumph. Sub-theme about how a modern society might resemble a medieval one if some disaster causes civilization's collapse.

Positive Role Models

Quinn is evidently a reluctant leader, though he seems to have better ideas than his American visitors about how to handle the dragon crisis.


Non-explicit scenes of people killed by being engulfed in flames, falling from great heights, or snatched up in dragon jaws. One human-against-human fistfight. Dragons also shot at and killed.


Birds-and-bees talk about how dragons breed (about as explicit and realistic as claiming the stork is involved).


"A-hole," "wanker," "bitch," "hell."


Names of major news magazines.  A Reign of Fire video game exists. The plotline cleverly insinuates references to The Lion King and Star Wars, as today's movie blockbusters turn into the fairy tales of a movie-less future world.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette and cigar smoking, macho and celebratory drinking of liquor.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that violence in this monster flick includes the mother of a little boy being killed, non-graphically, by fire-breathing dragons. Deaths are not very bloody -- usually characters enveloped in CGI flames, eaten in one gulp by dragons, or falling. There is occasional swearing, smoking, and drinking.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 12-year-old Written bylsdavinci August 15, 2013

A pretty decent dragon movie but careful for the little ones...

I kinda like this movie. Interesting back story. Saw it again just the other day with my 8 and 12 year old. Was a little worried about the 8 yr old seeing th... Continue reading
Parent of a 5-year-old Written byjaredmsherman March 31, 2021

Really fun action movie with very little objectionable content

Okay, the setting is a bit dreary being a dystopian future and all, but overall this is a really fun action movie! The dragons still look absolutely incredible... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bybirdienumnum August 7, 2016

Lots of Dragons

There is a lot of noise, but not much violence, actually. Some punches, but nothing gruesome. While there is minimal violence, the dragon pictures and the noise... Continue reading

What's the story?

As every kid knows, in typical creature-feature there's usually the threat that if a particular giant lizard, monster spider, or ravenous alien isn't eliminated it will reproduce and destroy the world. REIGN OF FIRE is a rare monster movie that actually takes things to that conclusion: 21st-century mankind learned a hard lesson that flying, fire-breathing dragons are no myth but a voracious species that periodically emerges from hibernation, swarms, and scorches the whole planet (killing the dinosaurs was their doing), then goes back underground for thousands of years. Here, in what's left of England in 2020, huddled survivors are led by Quinn (Christian Bale), who, as a boy, witnessed the dragons re-emerge from a London cave. Unexpectedly, Quinn's stronghold gets visitors, American soldiers led by brawny Van Zant (Matthew McConaughey), who claims to have mastered the art of slaying dragons. Van Zant jeopardizes Quinn's colony by demanding they join his troops in a suicidal march on London against the chief "bull" dragon.

Is it any good?

Even with the non-standard approach to a monster-on-the-loose formula, this flick somehow falls flat. Maybe it's just the ultra-serious way thinly-drawn characters approach a comic-bookish premise, or the sense that we've missed the real story -- the rise of the dragons -- and are left with a plodding anticlimax -- an oh-please finale in which ragged characters with bows and arrows fight CGI beasts who withstood combined armies of humanity and nuclear weapons. Once one absorbs the basic story the plotline is largely predictable, though maybe kids will forgive that and the thudding solemnity. In the movie's favor: a short running time and some interesting touches in envisioning a world regressed by dragon-power to a drab, sooty, new Dark Ages. Not enough interesting touches, though.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dragons, so often depicted in human cultures, running the gamut from good guys to baddies. Ask kids what they thought of the specimens in Reign of Fire?

  • Critics like to say that the original Godzilla was a cinematic metaphor for the atom bomb. Ask kids if Reign of Fire makes a good metaphor for global warming? For the WWII Blitz? For anything?

  • Talk about other movies in which civilization is wiped out -- by plague, by alien invasion, by Terminator robots, by the year 2012, by nuclear war, etc. What is the entertainment value of such global-catastrophe flicks?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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