The NeverEnding Story (film)

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The NeverEnding Story
American release poster
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Produced by Bernd Eichinger
Dieter Geissler
Screenplay by Wolfgang Petersen
Herman Weigel
Based on The Neverending Story 
by Michael Ende
Narrated by Alan Oppenheimer
Music by Klaus Doldinger
Giorgio Moroder
Cinematography Jost Vacano
Edited by Jane Seitz
Distributed by Neue Constantin Film
(West Germany)
Warner Bros. Pictures
(United States)
Release dates
  • April 6, 1984 (1984-04-06) (West Germany)

  • July 20, 1984 (1984-07-20) (United States)
Running time
107 minutes
Country West Germany
United States
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget DM 60 million (~$27 million)
Box office $100 million

The NeverEnding Story (German: Die unendliche Geschichte) is a 1984 West German (English language) epic fantasy film based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ende, about a boy who reads a magical book that tells a story of a young warrior whose task is to stop a dark storm called the Nothing from engulfing a fantasy world. The film was produced by Bernd Eichinger and Dieter Giessler and directed and co-written by Wolfgang Petersen (his first English-language film) and starred Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Tami Stronach, Moses Gunn, Thomas Hill; and Alan Oppenheimer as the voices of both Falkor and Gmork. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film produced outside the USA or the USSR. The film was later followed by two sequels.[1]

Ende felt that this adaptation's content deviated so far from his book that he requested that production either be halted or the film's title be changed; when the producers did neither, he sued them and subsequently lost the case.[2] The film only adapts the first half of the book, and consequently does not convey the message of the title as it was portrayed in the novel. The second half of the book would subsequently be used as the rough basis for the second film, The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter. The third film, The NeverEnding Story III: Escape From Fantasia, features a completely original plot.


The film opens with Bastian Balthazar Bux (Barret Oliver), a shy and friendless bibliophile child who has the habit of day dreaming and is mourning the recent death of his mother. On his way to school one day, Bastian is pursued by a group of adolescent bullies who chase him down an alley and throw him into a dumpster. When Bastian thinks the coast is clear, he attempts to sneak out of the dumpster only to be seen and chased again. This time he escapes the bullies by hiding in a local bookstore, interrupting the grumpy bookseller, Mr. Coreander (Thomas Hill). Bastian becomes intrigued by a rare book he sees titled "The Neverending Story" with an elaborate AURYN symbol on the cover. And asks for permission to read it. To his dismay, Mr. Coreander strongly advises against it; despite this, Bastian cannot resist and seizes the book. He silently flees the store, leaving behind a note promising to return it. Bastian makes his way to school, only to discover he is late for an important math test. He then hides in the school's attic to read the book instead.

The story takes place in the enchanted universe of Fantasia, an endless dimension where every fantasy dream ever thought up by mankind exist and magical things are possible. However, Fantasia has become threatened by a dark force called "The Nothing" that is erasing the vast realm and consuming its inhabitants very existence. Because of this the mysterious and ethereal Childlike Empress (Tami Stronach) who benevolently rules Fantasia and dwells in its capital called the Ivory Tower, has fallen ill and will eventually die if something is not done. As a last resort the Empress and her imperial physician, Cairon (Moses Gunn), have summoned the young warrior named Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) to search for a cure. Atreyu is therefore given the AURYN necklace that will help guide him on his mission. As Atreyu sets out, The Nothing unleashes its evil minion called Gmork (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer) that has taken the form of a werewolf to kill Atreyu before he can succeed.

AURYN, based on the Ouroboros, representing infinity/eternity. The original prop is now owned by Steven Spielberg.[3]

Atreyu's quest directs him to a wise being known as "Morla the Ancient One" who will advise him. While traveling, Atreyu happens upon the muddy Swamps of Sadness, a gloomy enclave that causes feelings of despair and hopelessness. Halfway into the swamp his beloved and loyal horse named Artax gives into the sadness and is lost within the swamp which consumes its victim like quick sand. Devastated, Atreyu continues alone and soon finds Morla. Atreyu yells loudly when Morla reveals itself as a giant, underground female tortoise who is allergic to youth. Bastian, reading, is also shocked and lets out a scream. According to the book, Atreyu and Morla appear to hear him. Morla does not have the answers Atreyu seeks, but directs him to the Southern Oracle, which is a long ten thousand miles away. In the walk through the swamps, Atreyu seemingly gives up and falls unconscious to also be consumed by the mud. Luckily, he is rescued by a flying Luck-Dragon with soft white fur named Falkor (also voiced by Oppenheimer).

Falkor brings Atreyu to two elderly gnomes (Patricia Hayes and Sydney Bromley) who help Atreyu recuperate. They explain to him that the Oracle, including the trials that one must face before reaching it. Atreyu completes one trial and is perplexed when the second trial, a mirror that shows the viewer's true self, reveals a boy matching Bastian's description; whereupon Bastian throws the book aside in disbelief, but cautiously continues. After Atreyu passes the trials, he boldly stands before the Oracle. It informs him the only way to save the Empress and Fantasia in general, is to find a human child beyond the boundaries of the realm to give the Empress a new, unique name. Weakening due to Fantasia's approaching demise, the Oracle then begins to slowly crumble and fall apart. Shortly after, Atreyu and Falkor encounter The Nothing, and Atreyu is knocked from Falkor's back into the Sea of Possibilities, and accidentally loses the AURYN in the process. He wakes on the shore near the ruins of where a kingdom once stood and finds a series of wall-paintings depicting his quest. Here Gmork confronts Atreyu and explains that Fantasia represents humanity's imagination, and that The Nothing represents the growing apathy and cynicism against it, thus causing all things magical to disappear. When Gmork attacks Atreyu he kills Gmork with a stone knife. Atreyu and the AURYN are then recovered by Falkor. Fearing his quest has failed, Atreyu and Falkor reach the Empress's Ivory Tower, which is the only thing left standing in the empty abyss of what was once Fantasia. Upon entering the Empress's chamber, Atreyu apologizes for his failure. As The Nothing returns and starts to demolish the Ivory Tower's foundation, Atreyu is knocked unconscious in the process.

The Empress tearfully pleas directly to Bastian himself and desperately reaches out, begging him to give her a new name before it is too late; whereupon Bastian shouts the name of his dead mother, "Moon Child". He suddenly finds himself before the Empress, who reveals that his pure and fathomless imagination can re-create Fantasia and bring its inhabitants back to life by simply following his dreams and wishes. With this done, Bastian rides on Falkor's back over the fully restored Fantasia, and sees Atreyu happily reunited with Artax. Crossing back over into the real world, the bullies that chased down Bastian in the beginning, are chased by the flying Falkor as revenge. The film closes with a narrator saying that Bastian had many more adventures, but that is another story.



This film adaptation only covered the first half of the book. The majority of the movie was filmed in Germany, except for Barret Oliver's scenes, which were shot in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and the beach where Atreyu falls, which was filmed at Monsul Beach in Almería (Spain). It was Germany's highest budgeted film of the time.


The film score of The NeverEnding Story was composed by Klaus Doldinger of the German jazz group Passport. The theme song of the North American release of the film was composed by Giorgio Moroder with lyrics by Keith Forsey, and performed by Limahl (lead singer of Kajagoogoo) and Beth Anderson. This song, along with other "techno-pop" treatments to the soundtrack, are not present in the German version of the film, which features Doldinger's orchestral score exclusively.

The theme song performed by Limahl was released as a single in 1984, it peaked at No. 4 on the UK singles chart, No. 6 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. The American theme song has been covered by The Birthday Massacre, Creamy, Dragonland, Kenji Haga, and New Found Glory. The song has also been covered by Norwegian synthpop group Echo Image on their 2001 maxi-single Skulk and by German techno group Scooter on their 2007 album Jumping All Over the World.

In 1994 Italian house music group Club House released the song Nowhere Land (featuring Carl), which combines the melody of the tune Bastian's Happy Flight with original lyrics.

An official soundtrack album was released featuring Doldinger's score and Moroder's theme tune (Moroder also rescored several scenes for the version released outside Germany).[4] The track listing (Doldinger is responsible for everything from track 6 onwards) is as follows:

In Germany an album featuring Klaus Doldinger's score was released.


Critical response[edit]

The film has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 81% based on reviews from 37 critics.[5] Metacritic gives the film a score of 46/100 based on reviews from 10 critics.[6]

Film critic Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars and praised its visual effects, saying that "an entirely new world has been created" because of them,[7] a comment echoed by Variety.[1] Joshua Tyler of CinemaBlend referred to it as "One of a scant few true Fantasy masterpieces".[5]

Vincent Canby panned the film as a "graceless, humorless fantasy for children" in a 1984 The New York Times review. Canby's criticism charged that parts of the movie "sounded like 'The Pre-Teenager's Guide to Existentialism'". He further criticized the "tacky" special effects, and that the construction of the dragon looked like "an impractical bathmat."[8]

Box office[edit]

The film performed very well at the box office, grossing $100 million worldwide against a production budget of DM 60 million (approximately $27 million at the time). Almost five million people went to watch it in Germany, a number rarely achieved by German productions, resulting in a gross of about $20 million domestically. It also grossed a similar amount in the United States; only a modest sum in the American market, which director Wolfgang Peterson ascribed to the film's European sensibilities.[9]


This film won two awards in 1984 and three in 1985

  • 1984 won the Bambi Award for: National film
  • 1984 won the Golden Screen Award
  • 1985 won the Saturn Award for: Best Performance by a Young Actor
  • 1985 won the Brazilian Film Award for: Best Production
  • 1985 won the Film Award in Gold for: Best Production Design


This film was nominated for three awards in 1985

Home media[edit]


The film was released by Warner Bros. on LaserDisc with a digital stereo soundtrack in 1985.

A widescreen laserdisc was released on August 28, 1991; no special features were included.


The Region 1 DVD was first released in 2001 by Warner Bros, containing only the North American release of the film. The only audio option is a 2.0 stereo mix in either English or Spanish. The theatrical trailer is the lone extra feature presented.

There is also a quite lavish 2003 European version, which is a 2-disc special edition with packaging shaped like the book from the film and containing both the North American and German releases of the film. Various extras, such as a 45-minute documentary, music video, and galleries, are presented on the second disc.[10] However, there is no English audio for the German version of the film. This edition is currently out of print. The standard 1-disc edition is also available for the Region 2 market.

A Dutch import has also appeared on the Internet in various places, which only contains the North American release of the film but also includes a remastered DTS surround track, which is not found in either the German or the Region 1 release.

Also, in 2008, Czech and Slovak language DVD versions appeared in Czech Republic and Slovakia.


The first Blu-ray release was a region-free Dutch edition on March 24, 2007.

On March 2, 2010, Warner released a Region A Blu-ray edition of the film. The disc includes a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which marks the first time a 5.1 surround track has been included in a US home video version of the film. No special features or theatrical trailer are included.[11]

On October 7, 2014, a 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray was released, which duplicates the DTS surround track of its predecessor. Originally described as a "newly" remastered version of the film, Warner released a statement indicating that "the only remastered version is The NeverEnding Story II", while not elaborating further on this current US release.[12] The 30th Anniversary Edition contains the original theatrical trailer, a commentary track by director Wolfgang Petersen, documentaries and interviews from both 1984 and 2014, and a German-language/English-subtitled feature detailing the digital restoration process of the film.


The film has since been an inspiration in popular culture.


  • The American metal band Atreyu derived their name from the character of Atreyu.
  • The American rock band Bayside have used quotes from the film as titles of their songs. Examples include "They look like strong hands" and "They're not horses, they're unicorns".
  • American comedy rock band The Aquabats wrote a song inspired by the film called "Luck Dragon Lady", and live performances of the song are accompanied by a large Falkor puppet.[13]
  • The melody of Palma's Overworld theme from SEGA's Phantasy Star[14] RPG has resemblances to Limahl's Never Ending Story.[15]
  • The American rock band from Austin, TX They Look Like Good Strong Hands also derived their name from the film. They wrote a song inspired by the film called "RIP Artax"
  • The American rock band Rooney made reference to the film in the song "I'm Shakin'" ("I tossed and turned all night 'cause I was looking for an ending / This was so because I watched all day The NeverEnding Story with Atreyu")

Similar story[edit]

  • CLAMP's Magic Knight Rayearth also had a childlike Empress (named "Émeraude", French for Emerald), who also contacted an outsider to save her fantasy style country. The story was patterned to resemble a RPG; an actual RPG version of it was later on released for the SEGA Saturn.
  • Hudson-SEGA's Sonic Shuffle for the SEGA Dreamcast pretty much followed the same theme as the NeverEnding Story and Magic Knight Rayearth, with its Maginary, an entire world created by the imagination of its goddess, Illumina. But the game also used contemporary elements, such as from CLAMP's Card Captor Sakura and the upcoming (back then) SEGA of America's Sonic Adventure 2's theme of Duality.

Warner Bros planned adaptation of the novel[edit]

In 2009, it was reported that Warner Bros, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, and Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way were in the early stages of creating another adaptation of Michael Ende's novel. They intend to "examine the more nuanced details of the book" rather than remake the original film by Wolfgang Petersen.[16]

In 2011, producer Kathleen Kennedy said that problems securing the rights to the story may mean a second adaptation is "not meant to be."[17]


  1. ^ a b Variety staff (1984-01-01). "The Neverending Story Review". Variety. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  2. ^ Logan Bentley (1984-08-24). "An Irate Michael Ende Blasts the 'Disgusting' Film Made from His Best-Seller, The Neverending Story". People. Retrieved 2013-11-07. 
  3. ^ Brian Jacks (2010-03-15). "EXCLUSIVE: The Never-Before-Told Tale Of Steven Spielberg's Involvement In 'The Neverending Story'". MTV. Retrieved 2014-07-06. 
  4. ^ "Klaus Doldinger / Original Soundtrack - Never Ending Story". Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Rotten Tomatoes (2008-07-13). "The Neverending Story at Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  6. ^ Metacritic (2010-10-30). "The NeverEnding Story at Metacritic". CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  7. ^ Roger Ebert (1984-01-01). "Roger Ebert reviews The Neverending Story". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  8. ^ Canby, Vincent (July 20, 1984). "The Neverending Story (1984)". New York Times. Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Haase, Christine (2007). When Heimat Meets Hollywood: German Filmmakers and America, 1985-2005. Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture 14. Camden House Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 9781571132796. 
  10. ^ "Review of: The Neverending Story - Special Edition". Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ "Coachella 2011: The Aquabats make dragons and Danny DeVito appear on stage". Los Angeles Times. April 2011. 
  14. ^ ""Phantasy Star - Palma Overworld Theme - SEGA Master System ."". SEGA. August 25, 2014. 
  15. ^ ""Never Ending Story"". Limahl. August 25, 2014. 
  16. ^ ""The NeverEnding Story" to be Rebooted". WorstPreviews. February 26, 2009. 
  17. ^

External links[edit]