8. Hungarian Horntail
This mean old sod only gets a couple of scenes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but he certainly makes a fiery impression. When we first meet the Horntail in a forest clearing before the first Triwizard Tournament task, it’s Hagrid – renowned lover of monsters – who describes the fearsome dragon as “a right nasty piece of work”. Just a few scenes later, the Horntail is trying his level best to turn Harry into a charred hunk of barbecue meat, delivering one of the franchise’s most memorable action sequences.
Of all of the dragons featured in the Harry Potter movies, from the adorably bitey Norbert in Philosopher’s Stone to the blind beastie that unwittingly facilitates the Gringotts escape in Deathly Hallows – Part Two, it’s the Horntail that comes to mind first. In just one excellent scene, this fire-breather makes his mark.
Hagrid’s ill-fated forays into the world of teaching are somewhat relegated to the sidelines of the crowded plotting in both Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire. Present and correct, though, is his barnstormer of an opening lesson, in which he introduces the Gryffindor and Slytherin third-years to Buckbeak the Hippogriff. Despite Hagrid’s warnings that Hippogriffs are proud and should not be insulted, Draco Malfoy swaggers in and gets himself mildly scratched on the arm. In true Malfoy fashion, he gets the animal sentenced to death and it’s only some Time Turner antics that save his life.
Like all of the best creatures on this list, Buckbeak has a personality beyond simply being a proud animal capable of visually impressive flight. His interactions with Harry and Hermione during the Time Turner scenes are a welcome source of comic relief during a very tense period of the film. It would have been interesting to see Buckbeak again after his return to Hogwarts, under the bizarre nickname of Witherwings, and his participation in the Battle of Hogwarts, but he made enough of an impact in his one movie appearance.
He also does a CGI poo in Prisoner of Azkaban, which the visual effects team believed was the first instance of a computer-generated creature doing so on screen. Not only is Buckbeak a great beast; he’s a part of cinema history.
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