The Daily Stream: How To Train Your Dragon Will Light A Fire In Your Heart

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "How to Train Your Dragon"

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: Have you always wanted a dragon of your very own? Mythology from all over the world has taught us that dragons are bad. They're dangerous and evil. Knights were supposed to slay them, not become besties with them. Since I was a kid though, I've wanted to have a dragon friend — and I know I'm not alone. A lot of books portray them as misunderstood, or allies to humans. Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonriders of Pern" series was the one that got me hooked on the idea of a dragon friend, though I always hated the stories where they were slain. It was a kids' fantasy book about dragons that brought us one of my favorite animated films as well: In 2003, Cressida Cowell wrote "How to Train Your Dragon," which became a DreamWorks Animation movie in 2010. 

This story introduces us to a young Viking called Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a skinny, geeky kid who doesn't have the killing instinct of his fellow Vikings (he'd prefer to make machines that help people). His people hunt the dragons who attack their island home of Berk, and learn to hate them from a young age, but Hiccup isn't a warrior born. His father is putting pressure on him to fight, but when he tries, he injures a rare breed of dragon known as a Night Fury. Feeling guilty about it, Hiccup takes his love of inventing and fixes his friend, whom he names Toothless. 

Why it's essential viewing

Instead of marching back in to the village and telling everyone how it is, Hiccup tries to gently get them to see that dragons don't have to be vicious. Not that it works. His dragon-fighting class is brutal, his crush Astrid (America Ferrera) is anti-dragon, and his father is putting pressure on him. Hiccup uses his kindness and empathy to find a solution and figure out what the real threat is: one specific dragon, not all of them.

It's a simple story, but between the sweetness of it and the breathtakingly, gut-bustingly, mind-blowingly cute design of Toothless, it will grab your heart and twist it all up, filling it with happy face emojis and tiny hearts. But it's really the messaging in the film that makes this so lovely. 

Not only is the message to be who you are and not try to conform to everyone else's expectations of you, but it's a call to try to bring love and compassion to your friends and peers as well. Hiccup doesn't just use his love and his skills to save his dragon friend. He also convinces the town — and his demanding father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) — that compassion is a better way than killing. (Not going to lie — it's making me tear up to write this with everything going on in the world right now.) 

Love is the answer

This film and the book it came from, which spawned other films, comics, and several TV series, reminds us to use the skills we have — like Hiccup's talent for invention — to make the lives of others better. You don't have to be a superhero with special powers, or big muscles, or even a body that works the way everyone else's does. You can do that with what you have. Even better? It teaches us to judge people (and dragons) based on who they are, not what we're told about them. It also shows us that love is found when you are fully yourself, not what you're told you're supposed to be. 

It's such a lovely message, and so necessary in our world. I watched the news a little too long last weekend, and I did a re-watch of "How to Train Your Dragon" to remind myself that love can still win. I highly recommend this one right now. It's good for the soul.