Young Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) dreams of being a true Viking, killing dragons and defending his people. But he is a scrawny youth who feels he will never be worthy of his father’s attention or praise. His father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), is the Viking leader. He is the strongest and most fearless of all Vikings.
Hiccup’s life changes when he tries out one of his own inventions. Using the invention, he shoots down a Night Fury. Night Furies have never been seen before, and are believed to be the most dangerous of all dragons. No one believes Hiccup when he tells them what he has done. When his father goes off with a fleet of ships in search of the Fury’s nest, Hiccup sets off to find the dragon that fell from the sky. On the brink of giving up, Hiccup stumbles across the trapped and injured creature. It is more magnificent and terrifying than anything he has ever imagined.
Hiccup finds that he cannot kill the Fury. Instead he slowly befriends it, naming it Toothless. When Hiccup discovers that Toothless cannot fly, he makes it a tail and teaches it to fly again. In the process, Hiccup discovers that everything his people know about dragons is wrong.
Hiccup begins to win the respect of the Viking village as the villagers watch him control dragons with the tricks he has learned. More importantly, he begins to get noticed by Astrid (America Ferrera), an aspiring dragon slayer on whom he has a huge crush.
Stoick is furious when he learns that his son will not kill dragons and launches a mammoth attack on the dragon’s lair. Hiccup and Toothless now have to show the villagers, and also the dragons, what you can do when you work together.
Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.
Cruelty to animals; family breakdown
Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.
This movie contains some violence. For example:
- Dragons attack a Viking village, destroying everything they can. The Vikings retaliate by trying to kill as many dragons as possible. Meanwhile swords are clashing and houses are exploding.
- It is said that Stoick killed a dragon when he was just a baby by snapping off its head.
- Hiccup’s invention backfires and knocks out one of the Vikings.
- A dragon chases Hiccup, almost setting him on fire and eating him.
- Hiccup shoots a cannon-like object at a Night Fury and hits it. The dragon falls from the sky.
- Hiccup holds a dagger over the dragon and says he is going to kill it. Toothless (the Night Fury) jumps onto him with a terrible scream and then flies away.
- A group of youths are thrown together to learn to fight dragons. They run, scream, bash and shove each other, hide, throw things and dodge fire.
- Hiccup reads a book on dragons and finds that all the information says they are dreadful. They have names like Bone-napper and Whispering Death. Some spray acid; others set themselves on fire; and some turn their victims inside out. All are to be killed on sight.
- The Viking flag shows a dragon with two swords thrust through its body.
- One dragon blasts spikes at a child.
- Astrid punches Hiccup.
- A huge dragon eats whole, live animals.
- The Vikings fire rocks into the dragon’s lair with a catapult. A huge dragon comes to attack them, eating people and burning the catapults.
- A dragon almost eats Astrid.
- Hiccup and Toothless try to kill a huge dragon, which is also trying to kill them. They burn holes in its wings but are then struck by fire themselves. Hiccup is knocked unconscious and loses part of his leg in the battle.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie contains some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example:
- The dragons are depicted as fearsome and deadly creatures throughout most of the movie. Their menacing appearances could frighten some younger viewers, especially after the opening scenes where they furiously attack a village, burning and destroying everything they can. There is one especially alarming dragon, which bursts into flame before advancing on Stoick.
- When Hiccup finds the Night Fury, he decides to kill it. It is trapped, injured and helpless, and Hiccup stands over it with a dagger, about to plunge the dagger into the dragon’s body. Their eyes meet, and he can’t do it. Instead he cuts the dragon free. Immediately it pounces on him, pinning his head between its claws as if about to kill him. Hiccup is completely terrified. The dragon releases a horrifying scream before dashing away. Hiccup faints.
- Hiccup makes a tail for Toothless and tries to teach it to fly. They have a rocky start and some trouble when they get into the air. Hiccup falls out of the safety harness and is falling out of control towards the earth. Toothless has tail troubles and is unable to help until the last possible second. They pull out of the dive and whiz between rocky islands and caves at a very fast speed. The scene is pretty intense.
- Hiccup is meant to kill the dragon that sets itself on fire, but he refuses. He is about to show people there is another way when the dragon gets spooked and begins to attack. Toothless comes to Hiccup’s aid, only to be captured and taken away by Stoick, who plans to use Toothless to find the dragon’s nest. Hiccup is devastated as he watches his father chain and subdue his friend. He launches a plan to save him and is nearly killed along with Toothless. They are knocked overboard into the water, and Hiccup is unable to break the chains that bind Toothless. The scene is fairly suspenseful until Stoick comes to the rescue and saves them both.
- A huge dinosaur-like dragon bursts out of the mountain, trying to destroy everything in its path. It eats Vikings, burns their ships and tries to kill Toothless and Hiccup, who draw it up and away from everyone else. There is an battle in the sky. The scene is very suspenseful and dramatic. It looks like Toothless and Hiccup have won by destroying the dragon’s wings, but then something happens to Toothless’s tail. They fall to earth. The last thing we see of Hiccup is him falling into a wall of fire.
- Stoick locates Toothless’s limp form lying on the ground, but Hiccup is nowhere to be found. Toothless is injured but alive, and Stoick is devastated by the loss of his son. While assuming the worst, Stoick thanks Toothless for his efforts to help them and apologises for all he has done. In response, Toothless unfurls a wing to reveal an injured and unconscious Hiccup. He is alive, but he has lost a leg in the battle. He must come to terms with this when he wakes up.
Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.
This movie contains some sexual references. For example:
- One of the guys in the special training class tries to flirt with Astrid. He says things like, ‘I’ve got a basement room … want to come and see it?’
- Astrid falls on Hiccup while fighting a dragon. She lies on top of him for a second, and someone calls out, ‘Love on the battlefield’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
None of concern
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie contains some nudity and sexual activity. For example, Astrid wears a tight top throughout. She is shown in a sexy pose while Hiccup ogles her from afar.
None of concern
There is some name-calling in this movie.
Ideas to discuss with your children
How to Train your Dragon is a computer-generated animated adventure featuring fantastic special effects, especially in the facial expressions and personalities of the dragons. The plot is predictable but interesting. Although the violent content limits the movie’s suitability for younger viewers, it is certainly a movie that parents and older children could enjoy together.
The main messages from this movie are to be positive and focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. The movie also suggests that it’s important to be true to yourself and willing to see things that others can’t, even when they seem impossible.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:
- a sense of justice
- mercy and compassion
- ingenuity and creativity
- tolerance and understanding.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as:
- poor communication in families, especially parents not listening to their children
- the decision to go off on your own without anyone knowing where you are
- the choice to take the path less travelled.