The NeverEnding Story (film)

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The NeverEnding Story
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWolfgang Petersen
Screenplay by
Based onThe Neverending Story
by Michael Ende
Produced byBernd Eichinger
Dieter Geissler
CinematographyJost Vacano
Edited byJane Seitz
Music byKlaus Doldinger
Giorgio Moroder
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
  • April 6, 1984 (1984-04-06) (West Germany)
  • July 20, 1984 (1984-07-20) (USA)
Running time
94 minutes[1]
CountriesWest Germany
United States
BudgetDM 60 million (~US$25–27 million[2][3])
Box officeUS$100 million[2]

The NeverEnding Story (German: Die unendliche Geschichte) is a 1984 fantasy film, co-written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen (in his first English-language film), based on the 1979 novel The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. It was produced by Bernd Eichinger and Dieter Giessler, and stars Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach, Patricia Hayes, Sydney Bromley, Gerald McRaney and Moses Gunn, with Alan Oppenheimer providing the voices of Falkor, Gmork, and others. It follows a boy who finds a magical book that tells of a young warrior who is given the task of stopping the Nothing, a dark force, from engulfing the wonderland world of Fantasia.

At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film produced outside the United States or the Soviet Union. It is the first in The NeverEnding Story film series.[4] It adapts only the first half of the book, so it does not convey the message of the title as portrayed in the novel. The second half of the book was then used as a rough basis for the second film, The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter (1990). The third film, The NeverEnding Story III: Escape from Fantasia (1994), has an original plot not based on the book.


Ten-year-old Bastian Bux is a shy outcast who lives with his recently widowed father. One morning, Bastian's father tells his son of his concern after hearing he drew unicorns in his math book and tells Bastian he needs to stop fantasizing and start facing reality. On his way to school, Bastian is chased by bullies but escapes by hiding in a bookstore, annoying the bookseller, Mr. Coreander. Bastian's interest in books leads him to ask about the one Coreander is reading, but the bookseller advises against reading it, saying that it is not a "safe" story like regular books. With his curiosity piqued, Bastian secretly takes the book, titled The Neverending Story, leaving a note promising to return it. Arriving at school late, Bastian hides in the building's attic to read.

The book describes the fantasy world of Fantasia slowly being devoured by a malevolent force called "The Nothing". The Childlike Empress, who rules Fantasia, has fallen ill, and the young warrior Atreyu is tasked to discover a cure, believing that once the Empress is well, the Nothing will no longer be a threat. Atreyu is given a medallion called the AURYN that can guide and protect him in the quest. As Atreyu sets out, the Nothing summons a vicious and highly intelligent wolf-like creature named Gmork and sends him to kill Atreyu.

Atreyu's quest directs him to the giant, turtle-like adviser Morla the Ancient One in the Swamps of Sadness, containing deadly mud that people will sink into if they let the sadness effects overpower them. Whiles making their way through the swamp, Atreyu's beloved horse Artax is overcome by the sadness and sinks into the mud to his death, leaving a heartbroken Atreyu to continue alone. Morla won't help Atreyu because of her allergies to young people and apathy, and says she doesn't have the answers he seeks; she instead directs Atreyu to the Southern Oracle, ten thousand miles distant before going back to eternal sleep. Gmork closes in as an exhausted Atreyu begins to get overcome by the sadness trying to escape the Swamps. Atreyu almost drownes in the mud, but is narrowly saved by the Luck Dragon Falkor. Falkor takes him to the home of two gnomes who live near the gates to the Southern Oracle. Atreyu crosses the first gate, but is perplexed when the second gate—a mirror that shows the viewer's true self—reveals a boy which Bastian is shocked to recognize as himself. Atreyu eventually meets the Southern Oracle, who tells him that the only way to save the Empress is to find a human child who lives beyond the boundaries of Fantasia to give her a new name. Bastian comments that he would name the Empress after his late mother. Atreyu and Falkor flee, as the Nothing consumes the Southern Oracle.

In flight, Atreyu is knocked from Falkor's back into the Sea of Possibilities by the Nothing, losing the AURYN in the process. He wakes on the shore of some abandoned ancient ruins, where he finds several murals depicting his adventure, including one of Gmork. Gmork then reveals himself and explains that Fantasia represents humanity's imagination and is thus without boundaries, while the Nothing is a manifestation of the loss of hopes and dreams. Atreyu battles and kills Gmork, as the Nothing begins to consume the ruins.

Falkor manages to retrieve the AURYN and rescue Atreyu. The two find themselves in a void with only small fragments of Fantasia remaining, fearing that they have failed, until they spot the Empress's Ivory Tower among the fragments. Inside, Atreyu apologizes for failing the Empress, but she assures him that he has succeeded in bringing to her a human child who has been following his quest – Bastian. She explains that, just as Bastian is following Atreyu's story, "others" are following Bastian's, making this part of the Neverending Story. As the Nothing begins to consume the Tower, the Empress explains that Bastian must call out her new name to save Fantasia. Disbelieving he has been incorporated with the story and remembering his father's words, he denies these events are actually happening. He gives in after she pleads directly to him to call out her new name, running to the window of the attic to call out "Moon Child".

Bastian awakens with the Empress, who presents him with a grain of sand – the sole remnant of Fantasia. The Empress tells Bastian that he has the power to bring Fantasia back with his imagination. Bastian re-creates Fantasia and flies on Falkor's back to see the land and its inhabitants restored, including Atreyu and Artax. When Falkor asks what his next wish will be, Bastian brings Falkor to the real world to chase down the school bullies. The film narrates that Bastian had many more wishes and adventures before returning to the ordinary world, but it is another story.



Author Michael Ende was initially happy about his book being turned into a film. Ende worked with Wolfgang Petersen as a script advisor and was paid only $50,000 for the rights to his book. Ende claimed that Petersen later rewrote the script without consulting him, and that this adaptation 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.[3] Ende called the film a "gigantic melodrama of kitsch, commerce, plush, and plastic" (German: Ein gigantisches Melodram aus Kitsch, Kommerz, Plüsch und Plastik").[5]

Helmut Dietl was originally attached to direct the film, but later dropped out and was replaced with Wolfgang Petersen.[6]

The film only covers the first half of the book. German producer Bernd Eichinger saw his children reading the book, and they urged him to make a film out of it. He was reluctant to adapt the book, but agreed to do so and acquired the rights to the book. The bulk of the film was shot at Stage 1 of the Bavaria Studios in Munich, with the street scenes and the school interior in the real world shot in Vancouver, Canada (the Gastown Vancouver Steam Clock is in the scene where the three bullies are chased down Cambie Street past the steam clock at the intersection of Water Street and then on down Blood Alley[7]),[8] and the beach where Atreyu falls, which was filmed at Playa de Mónsul in San José, Almería, Spain.


The film score of The NeverEnding Story was composed by Klaus Doldinger of the German jazz group Passport. The theme song of the English version of the film was composed by Giorgio Moroder, with lyrics by Keith Forsey, and performed by Christopher "Limahl" Hamill, once the lead singer of Kajagoogoo, and Beth Anderson. 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 song has been covered by Armonite, The Birthday Massacre, Creamy, Dragonland, Kenji Haga, New Found Glory, Echo Image, and Scooter. This Limahl song, along with other "techno-pop" treatments to the soundtrack, is not present in the German version of the film, which features Doldinger's orchestral score exclusively.

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.[9] The track listing (Doldinger is responsible for everything from track 6 onwards) is as follows:

The NeverEnding Story (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
1."The NeverEnding Story"3:31
2."Swamps of Sadness"1:57
3."Ivory Tower"3:10
4."Ruined Landscape"3:03
5."Sleepy Dragon"3:59
6."Bastian's Happy Flight"3:16
8."Atreju's Quest"2:52
9."Theme of Sadness"2:43
10."Atreyu Meets Falkor"2:31
11."Mirror Gate – Southern Oracle"3:10
13."Moon Child"1:24
15."Happy Flight"1:21

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

Die Unendliche Geschichte — Das Album
1."Flug auf dem Glücksdrachen (Flight of the Luckdragon)"3:12
2."Die Unendliche Geschichte (Titelmusik) (The NeverEnding Story (Main Title))"2:44
3."Im Haulewald (In the Howling Forest)"3:01
4."Der Elfenbeinturm (The Ivory Tower)"1:54
5."Atréjus Berufung – AURYN Thema (Atreyu's Quest – AURYN Theme)"2:47
6."Phantásien (Fantasia)"0:52
7."Artax's Tod (The Death of Artax)"1:13
8."Die Sümpfe der Traurigkeit (The Swamps of Sadness)"2:39
9."Atréju's Flug (Atreyu's Flight)"2:27
10."Die uralte Morla (Morla, the Ancient One)"2:27
11."Das südliche Orakel (The Southern Oracle)"3:19
12."Die drei magischen Tore (The Three Magic Gates)"3:25
13."Spukstadt (Spook City)"1:37
14."Flug zum Elfenbeinturm (Flight to the Ivory Tower)"3:02
15."Mondenkind (Moon Child)"1:19
16."Die kindliche Kaiserin (The Childlike Empress)"2:16
17."Flug auf dem Glücksdrachen (Schlußtitel) (Flight of the Luckdragon (End Title))"1:19


Chart (1985) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[10] 69


The film was released on 6 April 1984 in West Germany (Die unendliche Geschichte)[11] and on 20 July in the United States.[12][13]

Box office[edit]

The film performed very well at the box office, grossing US$100 million worldwide against a production budget of DM 60 million (approximately US$25–27 million at the time).[2][3] Almost 5 million people saw it in Germany, a number rarely achieved by German productions, resulting in a gross of about US$20 million domestically. It grossed a similar amount in the United States—only a modest sum in the American market, which director Wolfgang Petersen ascribed to the film's European sensibilities.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The film has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 83% based on reviews from 46 critics, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "A magical journey about the power of a young boy's imagination to save a dying fantasy land, The NeverEnding Story remains a much-loved kids [sic] adventure."[14] Metacritic gives the film a score of 46 out of 100 based on reviews from 10 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[15]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3 out of 4 stars and praised its visual effects, saying that "an entirely new world has been created" because of them,[16] a comment echoed by Variety.[4] Ebert's co-host Gene Siskel said that the special effects and art direction were cheap-looking and that Falkor the luckdragon resembled the stuffed toy. He also referred to Noah Hathaway as a "dullard" and said that the film was "much too long", even after Ebert pointed out that the film was only 90 minutes.[17] Joshua Tyler of CinemaBlend called the film one of a few true masterpieces in the fantasy genre.[14][better source needed]

Vincent Canby panned the film as a "graceless, humorless fantasy for children" in a 1984 review in The New York Times. Canby's criticism charged that parts of the film 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.[18]

Colin Greenland reviewed The NeverEnding Story for Imagine magazine and thought that the film and its story were clumsily edited.[19]




Home media[edit]


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

A widescreen Laserdisc was released on 28 August 1991; no special features were included.[citation needed]


The region-1 DVD was first released in 2001 by Warner Bros, containing only the North American release of the film.[citation needed] 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 lavish 2003 European version, which is a two-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.[20] There is no English audio for the German version of the film. This edition has gone out of print. The standard single-disc edition is also available for the region-2 market.

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

In 2008, Czech- and Slovak-language DVD versions appeared in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.[citation needed]


The first Blu-ray release is a region-free Dutch edition on 24 March 2007.[citation needed]

Warner released a region-A Blu-ray edition of the film in March 2010. 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.[21]

German releases feature the original Klaus Doldinger soundtrack with the original English audio track.[citation needed]

An 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray was released in October 2014, 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.[22] 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.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In The Simpsons episode "New Kid on the Block", Lionel Hutz claims to have filed a suit against the film for fraudulent advertising.[23]
  • The metalcore band Atreyu is named from the film.
  • Korn's album The Nothing is named directly in reference to the Nothing in the film. Korn frontman Jonathan Davis chose the title as he was still struggling with the death of his estranged wife Deven Davis.[24]
  • In 2019, the theme song for the film was incorporated into the final episode of the third season of the science fiction thriller show Stranger Things, which takes place in 1985, furthering its status as a staple of 1980s pop culture.[25] After the episode was aired, the Internet paid streams for the original theme songs went from 300,000 to 1.5 million downloads a month.[26]

Possible remake[edit]

In 2009, Warner Bros., The Kennedy/Marshall Company and Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way Productions were in the early stages of creating another adaptation of Ende's novel. They intended to "examine the more nuanced details of the book" rather than remake the original film by Petersen.[27] In 2011, producer Kathleen Kennedy said that problems securing the rights to the story may mean that a second adaptation is "not meant to be".[28]

In September 2022, a bidding war for the film and TV rights of The NeverEnding Story between studios and streamers had emerged.[29]

In March 2024, Michael Ende Productions, in association with See-Saw Films, announced plans for a series of films based on the book.[30]


  1. ^ "THE NEVER ENDING STORY (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 26 June 1984.
  2. ^ a b c d Haase, Christine (2007). When Heimat Meets Hollywood: German Filmmakers and America, 1985-2005. Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture. Vol. 14. Camden House Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 9781571132796. DM 60 million, about $27 million at the time
  3. ^ a b c Bentley, Logan (27 August 1984). "An Irate Michael Ende Blasts the 'Disgusting' Film Made from His Best-Seller, The Neverending Story". People. it cost a whopping $25 million to make—the most expensive German production in history
  4. ^ a b "The Neverending Story Review". Variety. 31 December 1983.
  5. ^ "Ende gegen die "Unendliche Geschichte"". Der Spiegel (in German). 2 April 1984. p. 274.
  6. ^ Rosy Cordero (18 December 2019). "'The NeverEnding Story' oral history: How 3 brave kids helped save the world with their imaginations". Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  7. ^ "The NeverEnding Story Movie Filming Locations". The 80s Movies Rewind.
  8. ^ Wolfgang Petersen (2014). The NeverEnding Story: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray commentary. Warner Bros. Pictures.
  9. ^ "Klaus Doldinger / Original Soundtrack – Never Ending Story". AllMusic.
  10. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 283. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  11. ^ "Die unendliche Geschichte". (in German).
  12. ^ Movies - Theater Guide New York Magazine. 25 July 1984, p.64
  13. ^ "Around Town". New York Magazine. 25 July 1984.
  14. ^ a b "The Neverending Story". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media.
  15. ^ "The NeverEnding Story Reviews". Metacritic.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (1 January 1984). "The Neverending Story". Roger Ebert.
  17. ^ Siskel & Ebert – The Neverending Story, Electric Dreams, That Sinking Feeling. 21 July 1984. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021 – via YouTube.
  18. ^ Canby, Vincent (20 July 1984). "The Neverending Story (1984)". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Greenland, Colin (May 1985). "Fantasy Media". Imagine (review). No. 26. TSR Hobbies (UK), Ltd. p. 47.
  20. ^ "Review of: The Neverending Story – Special Edition". Archived from the original on 26 August 2014.
  21. ^ "The NeverEnding Story Blu-ray: Die unendliche Geschichte". Blu-ray.
  22. ^ "The NeverEnding Story Blu-ray: 30th Anniversary Edition". Blu-ray.
  23. ^ McCormick, Colin (18 October 2019). "The Simpsons: 10 Lionel Hutz Quotes That Are Still Hilarious Today". Screen Rant. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  24. ^ "Jonathan Davis Explains The Title Of Korn's New Album, The Nothing". Kerrang!. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 26 June 2020. I know it's from The NeverEnding Story – The Nothing was coming to destroy the fairytale land with Atreyu.
  25. ^ Gooden, Tai (4 July 2019). "The Song Dustin & Suzie Sing In 'Stranger Things' From 'The Neverending Story' Was An Epic Choice For The Teen Couple". Bustle. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  26. ^ "Why The NeverEnding Story will never end: interview with Limahl". The Shortlisted. 28 May 2020. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  27. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (25 February 2009). "'NeverEnding Story' gets new beginning". The Hollywood Reporter.
  28. ^ "ABOUT THAT NEVERENDING STORY REMAKE..." IGN. 16 December 2011.
  29. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (7 September 2022). "The Dish: Fantasy Classic 'The NeverEnding Story' Subject Of Film & TV Rights Bidding War". Deadline. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  30. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (20 March 2024). "'The Neverending Story' To Be Adapted As Series Of Live-Action Films From See-Saw & Michael Ende Productions". Deadline. Retrieved 20 March 2024.

External links[edit]