Reign of Fire is a 2002 action/science fiction film directed by Rob Bowman and starring Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Izabella Scorupco, and Gerard Butler. It takes place in the year 2020 in England, after dragons have reawakened. The film grossed about $82 million on a $60 million budget.
During construction on the Underground in 2008, a huge hibernating dragon awakens, incinerating the construction workers. The only survivor is 12-year-old Quinn Abercromby, whose mother (Alice Krige) was chief of the construction crew. The dragon escapes and multiplies at an exponential rate. Brief newspaper and TV news accounts reveal that scientists have proven the dragons are a separate species that coexisted with the dinosaurs and were responsible for the dinosaurs' extinction. Scientists infer that when the dragons began to starve, they went into hibernation until the Earth could replenish itself.
Twelve years later, Quinn (Christian Bale) leads a small community of survivors living in a castle in Northumberland. Their hope is to outlast the dragons and wait until they die out. However, they are beginning to starve while waiting for their crops to ripen. While everyone sleeps, Eddie (David Kennedy) steals the keys to the truck from Quinn and go to gather crops. However, the group is attacked by a dragon. One of the children is killed, and the group is surrounded by fire. They are rescued by Quinn, Creedy, and Jared. While trying to escape, the dragon lands in front of them and kills Eddie's son. The dragon then eats the ash.
Later, a team of Americans arrive, led by Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey), bringing a Chieftain tank and an Agusta A109 helicopter, piloted by Alex Jensen (Izabella Scorupco). Van Zan and his heavily armed band of 200 soldiers have devised an elaborate tracking system to hunt and kill dragons. Quinn and Van Zan work together and kill the dragon that destroyed the crop. The inhabitants of the castle celebrate the victory, only to be chastised by Van Zan, who has lost three of his men. Afterwards, Van Zan and Alex tell Quinn that all the dragons his unit have encountered so far are female. Additionally, they have discovered that each female is already carrying unfertilized eggs for the next generation and that the dragons' metabolism is so high that most will not live more than a few months. Their hypothesis is that there is only one male. If they kill the male, the dragons will not be able to reproduce.
Van Zan orders his soldiers to pick the best of Quinn's men at the castle. Quinn becomes enraged and engages Van Zan in a fight, but loses. Quinn states that if Van Zan's group is attacked by a dragon, it will find their castle. Van Zan and his unit head towards London to find the male dragon and are attacked by him en route. He kills almost all of Van Zan's soldiers and heads towards the castle to attack it. Some successfully hide in an underground shelter designed to survive the heat. Creedy attempts to bring more people to the shelter but is killed by another attack that seals the shelter entrance.
Defeated, Van Zan returns to the castle and frees Quinn and the other survivors from the castle's shelter. Quinn tells Van Zan that they will hunt the male dragon in London, which has become a nesting ground for the dragons. Quinn knows where the male dragon lives, the mine where he first saw the dragon. They find hundreds of dragons in the ruined city and watch smaller dragons flee from the much larger male, who is resorting to cannibalism. With only the male dragon left in the city, Van Zan, Quinn, and Alex move into the city. Van Zan's plan is to fire a magnesium and C4 explosive charge into the dragon's chest during the brief moment it exposes its chest as it breathes fire. During the battle, Van Zan is unable to destroy the dragon using his crossbow and dies. Quinn and Alex lure the dragon to street level and Quinn kills him with his own crossbow by firing the explosive bolt into the dragon's mouth.
At least three months after the male dragon is slain, the situation has changed: the sun is shining brightly, and it is said that there have been no dragon sightings for three months. Quinn and Alex, who is now living with Quinn's community, are seen erecting a radio tower. They receive a transmission from another group of survivors in France. He hands over the leadership of the group to Jared and sends him to talk to them. The now hopeful Quinn resolutely dedicates himself to rebuilding civilization, undaunted by the remote possibility of the dragons returning, stating that, if they ever return, "they'll burn, we'll build". Before joining Alex and the rest of the group, Quinn takes Van Zan's axe from the ground near him, and walks away with it in his hand.