The NeverEnding Story (film)

The NeverEnding Story

Theatrical 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
Starring Noah Hathaway
Barret Oliver
Tami Stronach
Moses Gunn
Thomas Hill
Alan Oppenheimer
Music by Klaus Doldinger
Giorgio Moroder
Cinematography Jost Vacano
Editing by Jane Seitz
Distributed by Neue Constantin Film (West Germany)
Warner Bros. Pictures (USA)
Release date(s) April 6, 1984 (1984-04-06) (West Germany)
July 20, 1984 (1984-07-20) (United States)
Running time 94 minutes
(English version)
102 minutes
(German version)
Country West Germany
United States
Language English
Budget $27 million[1]
Box office $20,158,808 (USA)[2]

The NeverEnding Story (German: Die unendliche Geschichte) is a 1984 German-American epic fantasy film based on the novel of the same name written by Michael Ende. The film was directed and co-written by Wolfgang Petersen (his first English-language film) and starred Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway and Tami Stronach. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film produced outside of the USA or the USSR. It was then followed by two sequels: The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter and The NeverEnding Story III: Escape From Fantasia.[1]



Bastian Bux (Barret Oliver), a quiet boy who loves to read, is accosted by bullies on his way to school. He hides in a bookstore, interrupting the grumpy bookseller, Mr. Koreander (Thomas Hill). Bastian asks about one of the books he sees, but Mr. Koreander warns him it is "not safe." Nevertheless, Bastian "borrows" the book, leaving a note promising to return it, and races towards school. He then hides in the school's attic to begin reading The Neverending Story.

The book describes the fantasy world of Fantasia which is being threatened by a force called "The Nothing," a void of darkness that consumes everything. The creatures of Fantasia have gathered to plead for help from the Childlike Empress of Fantasia, but her attendant (Moses Gunn) reveals to the assembled crowd that she has fallen deathly ill due to The Nothing. She has summoned Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), a warrior from the Plains People and a boy about Bastian's age, to help put an end to The Nothing. He is given a magical medallion called AURYN to use as a guide. As Atreyu sets off on his quest, The Nothing summons Gmork (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer), a vicious wolf-like beast, to kill Atreyu.

AURYN, of which the original prop is now kept in Steven Spielberg's office

Atreyu heads to the deadly Swamps of Sadness to see the ancient Morla, the wisest being in all of Fantasia. His horse, Artax, is overcome by the sadness of the swamps and sinks into the mud, forcing Atreyu to continue on foot. Morla cannot help Atreyu, but directs him to the Southern Oracle, which is 10,000 miles away. In the real world, the school bell rings and the school quickly empties, but Bastian remains in the attic and continues to read.

While trudging through the swamp with Gmork on his tail, a despairing Atreyu finally falls under the swamp's spell and begins to sink, when a luckdragon named Falkor (also voiced by Alan Oppenheimer) saves him and takes him most of the way to the Southern Oracle. Two old gnomes named Engywook and Urgl tend to Atreyu's injuries and give him advice to pass the gates that guard the Oracle. Atreyu is able to pass the first gate of the Sphinxes' gaze and reaches the Magic Mirror Gate. As he approaches it, the image of the Gate is shown to reveal a child that matches Bastian's description. Bastian throws the book across the attic in disbelief, but cautiously begins reading it again, wondering if the people of Fantasia really know him.

Atreyu passes through the Gate and meets the Oracle. The Oracle tells him that the only way to stop The Nothing is for the Empress to be given a new name by a human child. Atreyu is nearly consumed by The Nothing, and loses AURYN. He encounters Gmork, who explains that Fantasia is humanity's hopes and dreams, but that The Nothing—representing human apathy, cynicism, and the denial of childish dreams—eats away at it. The monster attacks, but Atreyu manages to kill it. Weak from his wounds and with The Nothing beginning to consume the area, Atreyu nearly gives up hope. Falkor arrives, having found AURYN, and rescues Atreyu.

Atreyu wakes on Falkor's back to find only fragments of Fantasia remain floating in a void. With AURYN's guidance, they manage to find the Empress' home, the Ivory Tower, which still stands. They fly towards it, and Atreyu sadly reports his loss to the Empress (Tami Stronach), having failed to find a human child, but the Empress reveals that he in fact succeeded: the quest Atreyu went on was the only way to get in touch with a human child, and he is listening to their conversation at that very moment. Bastian realizes the book is talking specifically about him, and the Empress reveals that Bastian has already chosen her new name. As The Nothing begins to consume the Ivory Tower, the Empress pleads for Bastian to say her new name. Bastian races to the attic window, shouts her new name, "Moonchild" and strong wind blows through the now empty attic at the book's suspenseful end.

Bastian finds himself face to face with the Empress, who reveals that The Nothing has consumed all but one grain of sand from Fantasia. However, Bastian's wishes and imagination can help to restore the world to its former glory. The more wishes he makes, the more it will be restored. Bastian makes his first wish, and is instantly riding Falkor through the skies. All the characters who died or were taken by The Nothing have returned, including Atreyu riding happily on his horse, Artax, again. Bastian then whispers one more wish to Falkor. In the real world, the bullies that chased Bastian the previous day suddenly find themselves chased by Bastian and Falkor. Bastian and Falkor soar triumphantly off into the sky, and a narrator reveals that Bastian made many more wishes and had many amazing adventures.


  • Barret Oliver as Bastian Bux, a young boy with a large imagination. He takes the Neverending Story from Mr. Koreander's bookstore and reads it. He is soon revealed to be the key to saving Fantasia.
  • Noah Hathaway as Atreyu, a warrior from the Plains People, who along with his horse, Artax, is sent to search for a cure to the Empress' illness. He is protected by AUYRN.
  • Tami Stronach as The Childlike Empress, the ruler of Fantasia, who has fallen deathly ill due to the presence of the Nothing.
  • Alan Oppenheimer as the voice of Rock Biter, Falkor, Gmork, and the Narrator
  • Thomas Hill as Mr. Koreander, a bookstore owner whom Bastian meets. He forbids Bastian from taking the Neverending Story. Bastian, however, disobeys, leaving a written promise that he will return the book when he's finished.
  • Deep Roy as Teeny Weeny, a messenger riding on a racing snail. (Only his voice was dubbed in the original English language version).
  • Tilo Prückner as Nighthob, a messenger riding a narcoleptic bat.
  • Moses Gunn as Cairon, a servant of the Empress who gives Atreyu his quest and AUYRN.
  • Sydney Bromley as Engywook, a gnomish scientist and expert on the Southern Oracle.
  • Patricia Hayes as Urgl, Engywook's wife and a healer.
  • Gerald McRaney as Mr. Bux, Bastian's widowed, workaholic father, who worries about Bastian's inattentive behaviour and frequent daydreaming.
  • Darryl Cooksey, Drum Garrett, and Nicholas Gilbert as The Bullies: Three cruel children who pick on Bastian. Their pursuits of him lead to his adventures. Bastian eventually takes revenge with the help of Falkor.


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. It was Germany's highest budgeted film of the time. The novel's author, Michael Ende, felt that this adaptation's content deviated so far from his book that he requested they either halt production or change the name; when they did neither, he sued them and subsequently lost the case.[3]


The music for 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. Norwegian synthpop group Echo Image covered the song on their 2001 maxi-single Skulk, and German techno group Scooter covered the song on their 2007 album Jumping All Over the World.

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."

The American rock band Atreyu got their name from the character of Atreyu.

The American comedy band, The Lonely Island have a track called "Falcor vs. Atreyu (Classy Skit #1)" on their album Turtleneck & Chain.

The Official Soundtrack lineup (composed by Klaus Doldinger, with the exception of the theme tune by Limahl):

Differences from the novel

Since the film only covers the first half of the novel, some plot points and characters were altered and removed. The film introduces Bastian's relationship with his father and being chased by bullies, though it does not reveal his full name. The novel does not start until Bastian bursts into Mr. Coreander's book store.

In the novel, Bastian's widower dad has sunk into despair at his wife's passing. In the film, it is Bastian himself who is in the depths of sorrow at losing his mom, while his dad urges him to move on and meet his responsibilities

Several characters such as the will-o'-the-wisp (Blubb) and the giant shapeshifting Ygramul were cut from the film, likely due to difficulties portraying them during the time the film was produced, their roles given to other characters. The Southern Oracle character does not have a physical form in the novel, but does in the film, appearing as a pair of glowing blue sphinx creatures identical to the Sphinx Gate from earlier in the film; the third gate to reach the Southern Oracle was also cut.

In the novel, the Childlike Empress has white hair and wears a loose, smocklike garment. In the film, her hair is dark and she wears a child-sized version of bridal attire.

In the novel, Atreyu meets Falkor by releasing him from a web and saving him from "Ygramul the Many", a gigantic Spider, while in the film version Falkor instead saves Atreyu from sinking in the swamp and from Gmork's initial attack.

Atreyu and Falkor are separated by the Nothing in the film, while they are blown apart by the four Wind Giants in the novel. The meeting of Atreyu and Gmork is different from the novel; Gmork is not chained to a wall nor dying as he is in the book, but attacks Atreyu before being killed by the latter who stabs him with a sharp rock.

The Nothing is different from its novel form. It appears as a giant formation of stormclouds and according to Gmork, it was created from the people who have no hopes or dreams, causing it to destroy Fantasia (Fantastica in the English translation of the novel). In the novel, the Nothing not only destroys Fantastica but approaches people who have lost their faith and have given up on hoping, and then the people have the sudden urge to jump into the Nothing and be transformed in human lies, according to Gmork shortly before his death.

The ending was altered as the first half of the novel moved right into the second half. In the novel, after Atreyu returns AURYN to the Childlike Empress, she visits the Old Man of Wandering Mountain and forces him to read his chronicle, re-reading the entire Neverending Story which Bastian has read (along with the events involving Bastian first obtaining the actual book) until Bastian gives the empress a new name and arrives in Fantastica. The film's ending was changed so the Empress brings Bastian to Fantasia by pleading with him, the film ending with the land reborn and Bastian and Falkor flying after bullies in the real world.

In the novel, Bastian is overweight and Atreyu has blue hair and green skin, while in the film, Bastian is a wiry youngster, and Atreyu has tanned skin and dark hair. Some early attempts to paint actor Noah Hathaway green were deemed unsuccessful. Artax speaks in the novel, but is mute in the film. Also, it is not until the third NeverEnding Story film that the character of the Old Man of Wandering Mountain is depicted.


Critical response

The film opened to generally positive reviews, and currently holds an 85% at Rotten Tomatoes[4] but only a 46 out of 100 on Metacritic.[5] Film critic Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars and praised its visual effects, saying that they gave the illusion "an entirely new world has been created",[6] a comment echoed by Variety.[1] Joshua Tyler of CinemaBlend referred to it as "One of a scant few true Fantasy masterpieces".[4]

Box office

Despite this, the film underperformed at the box office, grossing only $20,158,808 on a budget of $27,000,000.[2] This was far less than contemporary movies with similar themes such as Time Bandits and The Dark Crystal, both of which grossed more than $40,000,000.[7] However when released on video the movie became one of the highest selling videos ever released and has also become a staple on Christmas Day television.

Home media

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.

Europe has had a few releases of the film on DVD, the most lavish being a 2003, 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.[8] However, there is no English audio for the German version of the film. This edition is now out of print; however, the standard 1-disc edition is still 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 a Czech language and a 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 (and marks the first time a 5.1 surround track has been included on a home video of the film in the US). No special features or theatrical trailer are included.[9]


Warner Bros., The Kennedy/Marshall Co., and Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way are in the early stages of rebooting the franchise by re-adapting Michael Ende's novel of the same name. They intend to "examine the more nuanced details of the book" rather than remake the original film by Wolfgang Petersen.[10]

The Internet Movie Database lists 2014 as a tentative release date for the new film.[11]



External links

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