20 Most Famous Dragons in Popular Culture, With Pictures

The Most Famous Dragons in Popular Culture, Ranked

Our mainstream stories have a lot of awesome creatures, from grumpy dwarves to glittering fairies.

However, none has reached the reputation of dragons. Whether you think of these flying reptiles as admirable or monstrous, you can’t deny their popularity that has spanned centuries.

Pop culture has ensured that dragons won’t go “extinct” anytime soon by giving us characters that are hard to forget!

Some of the most famous dragons in popular culture include Smaug from The Hobbit, Drogon from Game of Thrones, Toothless from How to Train a Dragon, Mushu in Mulan, and the Ukrainian Ironbelly from Harry Potter, etc. 

We’ll discuss these popular dragons that lived up to their names and more.

The Most Famous Dragons in Pop Culture

1. Smaug (The Hobbit)

The late JRR Tolkien has been influential in the fantasy genre, with The Hobbit being one of his timeless treasures.

Speaking of treasures, meet Smaug, a gold lover whose only mission in life seemed to be hoarding precious stones.

Smaug is the iconic, fire-breathing villain in Tolkien’s fantasy world. Maybe that’s why this dragon is unforgettable.

Right after Smaug stole treasure from the dwarf kingdom Erebor, life was paradise in Lonely Mountains, where he lived for more than 100 years.

His Eden got broken, not by another ferocious dragon, but by a team of courageous dwarves. The obstacle Smaug put up was crucial to this story.

2. Drogon (Game of Thrones)

Drogon - Game of Thrones

The highly popular series Game of Thrones introduced a lot of fascinating characters, both humans and animals.

Amidst the latter is the dragon named Drogon (classic name).

He was first introduced into the series as nothing but an egg before growing into the full-blown dragon viewers immediately noticed.

Drogon was owned by the character Queen Daenerys Targaryen, named after her dead husband, Drogo.

Not surprisingly, he showed utmost loyalty to her, but to others, he was nothing but scary.

His looks only reinforced the ferocious reputation. He was the last surviving dragon in Westeros and the most popular by far

3. Viserion (Game of Thrones)

Game of Thrones 'Ice Dragon' Viserion

Viserion is the sibling of Drogon and the brother Rhaegal, but he wasn’t commanded by Queen Daenerys—though he was hers for some time.

Instead, he stayed under the control of the Night King, a destructive warlord and one of the villains in Game of Thrones.

Under the Night King, Viserion was an ice dragon and a terror.

His size, large wings, and blue fire that looked like ice but was strong enough to melt down the wall. He later died in the Night King’s defeat.

4. Rhaegal (Game of Thrones)

The third dragon brother in the series, Rhaegal left his mark on the development of the plot and in the hearts of viewers.

He remained under the allegiance of Queen Daenerys and was named after Daenerys’ brother of the same name.

Rhaegal was the middle dragon brother, fiercer than Viserion but not as much as Drogon.

Though Viserion was the first dragon to die in the series because he was transformed into an undead ice dragon, many viewers consider Rhaegal to be the first to have fully died.

He was killed in flight by scorpion bolts in a tense scene.

5. Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon)

Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon

The animated movie from DreamWorks introduced us to a Vikings world where the relationship between humans and dragons started as strained, to say the least.

Amid the conflict, we witness an unlikely friendship develop between a young Viking and a black dragon.

The boy is Hiccup, the dragon is an almost extinct Night crawler named Toothless.

The friendship catalyzed the truce between the opposing groups. Toothless looked different from the typical dragon.

According to the filmmakers, he was inspired by multiple animals, including the panther and horse.1

6. Hungarian Horntail (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

The Hungarian Horntail was both a test and a ferocious monster.

In what is arguably one of the most memorable parts of both the book and movie, the protagonist Harry Potter gets into the Triwizard tournament through a plot twist.

One of his challenges sees him coming face to face with the Hungarian Horntail.

This dragon is depicted as one of the most dangerous creatures in the fictional world of magic and a Wizarding school.

Its black scales, spikes, largeness, and fiery breath all serve to make for a captivating conquest.

7. Ukrainian Ironbelly (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

The Ukrainian ironbelly may not have the same reputation as its counterpart mentioned above, but it wasn’t portrayed as a dragon to be underestimated.

Harry, Hermione, and Ron come in contact with this monster as a guard of the Lestrange vault.

As the name implies, the ironbelly is not a guard to be trifled with. Its scales are like steel, the talons are long, and the wings huge.

Though slow and heavy, it was dangerous nonetheless.

8. King Ghidorah (Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster)

Ghidorah makes his first appearance in the 1964 film Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster.

Since then, viewers have followed his conflict with the famous Godzilla, the radioactive dinosaur that took pop culture by storm. 

As the debut movie title stated, Ghidorah was distinct from other dragons by its three heads. It also had large wings and two tails.

No enemy of Godzilla was as hard to fight as King Ghidorah, and the former enlisted the help of his old enemies to fight the threat. 

9. Sisu (Raya and the Last Dragon)

The 2021 Disney animated movie Raya and the Last Dragon introduced Sisu, the humorous blue dragon who at the same time was depicted as wise.

Unlike the aforementioned creatures on the list, Sisu has a positive reputation.

When the ancient dragons of Kumandra died in a bid to save the world from the Druun monster, only Sisu survives.

Human conflict spoils the sacrifice of the dragons, leaving the protagonist Raya on a mission to locate Sisu, the last surviving dragon.

10. Mushu (Mulan)

The animated movie Mulan has been around for some time, and while the focus was on the brave lady protagonist, who would forget Mushu, the sidekick, and deuteragonist?

In line with the Chinese view of dragons, Mushu wasn’t depicted as dangerous.

His personality was more playful, overconfident, and mischievous.

Many Chinese viewers didn’t seem to think Mushu was a good representative of Chinese dragons due to the high view China has of them.2

This explains Mushu’s absence in the live-action remake.3

11. Elliot (Pete’s Dragon)

In both the 1977 animated musical and the 2016 live-action remake, we follow another human-dragon friendship a la Toothless and Hiccup.

The story centers around an orphaned boy named Paul who forms a bond with the dragon Elliot.

Elliot is another departure from the villainous dragon archetype, though he can be scary when needed.

The animated movie’s Elliot is more colorful than the live-action remake, the latter being modeled to look more like an actual dragon.

12. Shenron (Dragon Ball)

Given the name of the franchise, one would expect there to be many dragons, and there are.

However, few are as striking as Shenron, the eternal dragon.

This creature is a better fit for the Chinese dragons than Mushu, given its many positive qualities, dignified posture, and looks. 

Shenron features in Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball Super.

It was like a genie, being able to grant wishes and deliver joy. 

13. Haku (Spirited Away)

Imagine a dragon disguised as a boy. Haku manages to pull it off in the classic 2001 anime movie Spirited Away.

Haku is the deuteragonist of the movie, following the young ten-year-old protagonist named Chihiro.

Haku’s a river spirit that comes as a river dragon and disguises himself as a boy. 

When Chihiro’s father decides to take a shortcut while traveling to their new home, Chihiro’s life gets turned upside down when her parents wound up as pigs.

Together with Haku, she sets out to save her parents. Haku’s presented as a stern but also kind and patient.

14. Blazey (Onwards)

The idea of a domesticated dragon the size of a puppy is rare, and even in other movies that showcase a human-dragon bond, the creature is often not like a Pomeranian.

This makes Blazey distinct as she is the family pet of the Lightfoot family and is treated as such (down to getting scolded as a “bad dragon”).

Blazey is an enthusiastic, kind, and gentle pet dragon who shows affection to her owners.

The similarities between her and a domestic dog are striking, warming the hearts of viewers, especially all the doggy fans out there.

15. Meleys (House of the Dragon)

A prequel to the Game of Thrones series, the events are set 200 years in the past.

Unlike the world of Daenerys and Jon Snow where dragons were considered almost extinct, in House of the Dragon there were multiple appearing on the screen.4

While there was a lot to keep up for some viewers, Meleys stood out because of its owner, “The Queen That Never Was” named Princess Rhaenys Targaryen.

Also called the Red Queen, Meleys shows up in the early episodes, and while her appearances were brief, they were enough to capture the attention of viewers.

Everyone will remember the dramatic entrance in episode 9, as well as her first appearance in episode 5. 

16. Falkor (The Neverending Story)

Falkor appears in both the movie and novel titled The Neverending Story.

This character looks more like a samoyed than a dragon judging from the face, which serves to reinforce its reputation as a loving, wise creature. 

Falkor is one of the main characters in the movie, going on adventures alongside Atreyu and Bastian Balthazar, his friends.

Besides being optimistic and encouraging, Falkor also could bring luck. 

17. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

1959 animated musical introduced us to Maleficent, the evil fairy who has a grudge against the royal couple King Stefan and Queen Leah for not being invited to the christening of their daughter Aurora.

What better way to express a grudge than to place a curse on a baby?

Turns out Maleficent was more than just a touchy fairy with a knack for crashing into a party.

In a fight with the prince, she takes on her dragon form, and early fans of Disney will remember the shadowy, looming beast who breathed out green fire. 

18. Jabberwocky (Alice and the Wonderland)

The first mention of the Jabberwocky (the creature was more accurately called Jabberwock) was in the nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll,  author of Alice and the Wonderland.

The character Alice locates this poem in the sequel Through the Looking Glass.

It’s in the 2010 live-action Disney remake that we truly see this creature.

In the movie, the creature is called “the Jabberwocky” and is under the control of the Red Queen, the villain.

Alongside the Red Queen, the Jabberwocky remains a terror to the Underland’s inhabitants.

It looks like a typical dragon in every way, except instead of fire, it spills out purple lightning. 

19. Ramoth (Dragonriders of Pern)

The dragons in Dragonriders of Pern fall on side of gentle and noble as opposed to ferocious and violent, leaning towards the Chinese perspective.

They are known to show allegiance to their owners and bond closely with them.

Amongst these dragons, there is Ramoth, owned by the weyrwoman Lissa.

Ramoth was also known as the senior queen, and interestingly she had a personality.

She showed mood tantrums, lost her temper a couple of times, and even had a bossy side.

That said, no one can deny the loyalty she showed to her owner.

20. Tiamat (Dungeons and Dragons)

When the fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons were published in 1974, perhaps the game owners already had the dream of it making waves.

If so, then they succeeded. It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of DnD, even those that aren’t fans.

Amidst the dragons in this game, there is Tiamat, the evil Queen of all dragons characterized by five heads.

Each head was distinct from the other, having its abilities. This alone made her feared amongst fictional dragons.

She was dubbed “mother of all evil dragons” for a reason.

Related: 40 Dragon Facts & Legends You Probably Didn’t Know

Final Thoughts 

Dragons remain evergreen creatures, stemming from ancient writings to modern cinemas.

From Smaug to Ramoth, each of the most popular dragons described on our list has had a role to play in whatever creative work it appears.

Pop culture has generally two views of dragons. One is of them as villains, breathing fire and causing havoc.

The second is more positive, with dragons portraying wisdom, kindness, and even humor. 

References & Notes

Facts Sources:
  1. Toothless. Dreamworks Animation Wiki, Fandom.
  2. Chinese Dragons: Their Types, History, and Significance. Chinese Language Institute.
  3. The Real Reason Mushu Was Dropped from Disney’s Mulan Remake. MovieWeb.
  4. A Handy Guide to the Dragons in House of the Dragon So Far. Elle.

About The Author