The NeverEnding Story is a 1984 epic fantasy film based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ende, about a boy in the real world who reads a magical book that tells a story of a young warrior whose task is to stop a dark force called the Nothing from engulfing a mystical world.
At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film produced outside the United States or the Soviet Union.
The film was the first in The NeverEnding Story film series and later followed by two sequels.
One morning, Bastian wakes up with a dream about his mother. As Barney prepares to go to work, he talks with Bastian about how poorly he's doing in school: he draws unicorns in his math book, he doesn't turn in his homework on time, he's afraid of heights which stops him from joining the swim team, and he's afraid to get on a real horse, even though he was talking about wanting to ride them. Before leaving, Barney tells Bastian that he needs to get his head out of the clouds and his feet on the ground.
On his way to school, Bastian is confronted by 3 bullies who frequently torment him: Ethan, Todd, and Lucas. They chase Bastian down an alley and when they find out he has no money, they throw him into a garbage dumpster. When he gets out, he runs into them again, and they chase him again.
Bastian hides in a bookstore, interrupting a grumpy bookseller named Karl Koriander. Bastian, who is a bibliophile, talks with Coriander about his constant fear. Bastian asks Coriander about a specific book in the shop: The Neverending Story. Coriander simply tells him that this book is not for him, but as he takes a call, Bastian steals the book and leaves a note saying that he promises to return it.
Upon reaching his school, Bastian finds that his math test has already started. He races to the school attic, grabs the key, and begins to read the book.
Inside the book, the fantasy world of Fantasia - built upon the imagination of the real world - slowly being overpowered by a destructive force called "The Nothing". Citizens of Fantasia gather at The Ivory Tower, the palace of the Childlike Empress - the ruler of Fantasia. They hope that the Empress can save their world, but Cairon, the herald of the Empress, delivers unfortunate news: the Empress is dying from an illness, and her illness is somehow linked to The Nothing. The only thing that can save her and restore Fantasia is to have Atreyu, a warrior of the Plains People, fight against the Nothing to save them.
Atreyu, revealed to be an adolescent warrior, appears amongst the crowd. Cairon tells him that he will have to embark on a journey to find a cure for the Empress (going alone and without his weapons), and save Fantasia, for if he fails, the Empress will die and the world will be left to ruin. Atreyu agrees to this journey and is bestowed the AURYN, a special medallion that will protect him from danger and guide him. While reading, Bastian notices the AURYN actually appears at the front of the book.
Atreyu starts his quest immediately, riding on his horse Artax, and journey through the Silver Mountains, the Desert of Shattered Hopes, and the Crystal Towers. Meanwhile, The Nothing sends out Gmork, a murderous, intelligent wolf-like creature to hunt down and kill Atreyu, in order to prevent him from reaching the Empress.
Atreyu and Artax realize that they need help from Morla - the wisest being in Fantasia - who lives at Shell Mountain somewhere in the hazardous Swamps of Sadness; anybody who let the sadness of the swamp overtake them would sink into the swamp and drown. The AURYN protects Atreyu from sinking into the swamp. As they traverse through the swamp, Artax suddenly gets stuck and can't move. Atreyu tries to get him out, and initially thinks that it's too difficult for Artax, but soon realizes that Artax actually is in danger, and frantically tries to get him out, to no avail; Artax sinks into the swamp and dies, much to Atreyu's and Bastian's hearbreak.
Atreyu is forced to move on without his friend, and eventually reaches Shell Mountain. He climbs to the top of Shell Mountain, but it starts to move, causing Atreyu to fall to the bottom. Morla reveals herself to be a giant turtle, the appearance of which Bastian screams loudly at in surprise; Atreyu and Morla hear his scream, which further surprises Bastian. Morla does not have the answers for Atreyu, but tells him that he can ask The Southern Oracle, 2 glowing blue sphinxes. When Atreyu asks how he can get there, Morla tells him that it is 10,000 miles away, too far to travel.
Back in the real world, the school bell goes off, and the kids inside the school leaves. Bastian sees the group leaving, then goes back into the attic just as a thunderstorm hits. Slowly but surely, Bastian starts to become scared of the creepy paraphernalia, and at one point falls backwards while a wolf puppet falls on top of him.
Back in the Swamps of Sadness, Atreyu slowly succumbs to the swamps power. Exhausted, he falls into a deep muddy area just as Gmork closes in. A flying luckdragon named Falkor arrives and saves Atreyu and takes him to the house of two gnomes named Engywook and Urgl, who live 109 miles away from the Southern Oracle. Days later, he wakes up clean and bandaged. Falkor tells him not to give up on his quest, as good luck will find him if he accomplishes it.
Atreyu finds out, through one of Engywook's machines, that there are two gates to pass through in order to reach the Southern Oracle, one of which is right near the house. The first gate is the Sphinx Gate, where one must prove their true worth to pass, but be judged by the sphinxes. Anyone who feels a single bit of doubt will be blasted and destroyed by laser beams fired from the sphinxes' eyes.
Atreyu and Engywook watch as a knight mounted on a horse rides forth, but is obliterated by the beams. Atreyu, feeling his worth, decides to give it a shot, but Engywook, worried for Atreyu's safety, hasn't told him about the second gate, which is worse than this one. As Atreyu walks toward the gates, he feels no fear until he looks at the corpse of the knight, now reduced to a skeleton in armor. With Atreyu starting to feel doubt, the sphinxes' eyes open. Bastian and Engywook scream out for Atreyu to run. Atreyu does so, and narrowly avoids being blasted by the lasers. As Atreyu continues on his quest, Engywook, although estatic that Atreyu made it, reveals that the next gate is the Magic Mirror Gate, a reflective gate where people have to face their true selves: kind people may discover that they are actually cruel people, and brave people may discover that they are cowards. Most people can't handle being confronted with their true selves, and run away screaming.
Atreyu is caught in a massive blizzard, but comes across the Magic Mirror Gate. Looking into the mirror, he sees himself, but slowly another person is reflected. It is revealed to be Bastian, reading the book. With both of them surprised, Bastian closes the book and throws it. He thinks the story is going too far before wondering if the inhabitants of Fantasia actually do know about him. He picks the book back up, lights some candles, and continues to read.
Meanwhile, Atreyu realizes that he can actually walk through the Magic Mirror Gate, and does so. Eventually, he reaches the Southern Oracle, who tells him that the Empress needs a new name, and only a human child can give her a new name. As they tell him this, they begin to crumble and die. The Southern Oracle tells Atreyu that he can find a human child "beyond the boundaries of Fantasia" (meaning Earth), and that if he wishes to save Fantasia, he'll have to hurrry. By this point, the faces have eroded away, and Atreyu runs off, screaming for Falkor, as the Nothing continues to consume the statues.
As Bastian continues to read, he realizes that his mother had such a wonderful name, and hopes that he'll be the Earthling child to name the Childlike Empress. Falkor and Atreyu fly over different types of landscapes before eventually flying over the Sea of Possibilities, where the Nothing attacks. During flight, Atreyu gets knocked off of Falkor's back, plunging hundreds of feet into the ocean, screaming all the way.
Atreyu somehow survives and wakes up on a beach near an abandoned city. The AURYN is missing from around his neck, and Falkor continues to search for him. Eventually, he comes across the Rock Biter, filled with sorrow over having not been able to save his friends Teeny Weeny the snail-racer and The Nighthob and his bat, as the Nothing blew them out of his hands. Atreyu shares his sorrow as he was chosen to fight the Nothing, but has lost the AURYN and Falkor. The Rock Biter warns Atreyu that the Nothing will arrive any minute, and wishes to be taken away to join his friends.
As Atreyu reaches the ruins of the ancient city, he comes across paintings depicting his journey, which ends with a painting of Gmork. Gmork then appears, lying in wait, revealing that Fantasia has no boundaries because it's existence is built upon the imagination of humans. Gmork also reveals to Atreyu that the while Fantasia represent's humanity's imagination, the Nothing is an entity that represents adult cynicism that feeds off of humanity's dying imagination, and has the intent to seize control and power. When Atreyu asks who Gmork is, Gmork reveals that he is a servant of the Nothing, was sent to kill Atreyu. Atreyu grabs a stone shard like a dagger, and reveals that he is Atreyu (Gmork did not know whom he was talking with), and Gmork lunges at him to attack, but Atreyu stabs and kills him.
Meanwhile, Falkor finds the AURYN underwater and returns to the sky to continue searching for Atreyu. The Nothing arrives at the abandoned city, and blows away whatever remains. Atreyu only survives by grabbing onto a tree branch just as Falkor comes in and rescues him.
Atreyu wakes up in a black, galaxy-like void, surrounded by floating fragments of the world that was once Fantasia. Atreyu believes that he has failed his quest as he has not contacted an Earthling. They let the AURYN guide them toward the Ivory Tower, which is still standing.
Upon entering the Ivory Tower, Atreyu meets the Childlike Empress, who assures him that he has succeeded his quest, as he has brought the Earthling child with him, and that he is listening to every word spoken in the book, revealing Bastian to be the Earthling child all along.
As the Ivory Tower begins to crumble, the Empress also reveals that while Bastian is following Atreyu's stories, other people are following Bastian's, meaning that Bastian has been part of the "neverending story", much to Atreyu's confusion. She also reveals that Bastian doesn't understand that he is the one with the power to stop the Nothing. As Bastian doubts that he is actually the one, dismissing it as just a story, the tower breaks apart again, causing Atreyu to fall backwards and hit his head on the floor, dying instantly.
With Bastian as the only hope, the Empress directly calls out his name so that he can call out hers. After a brief hesitation, he races to the open window, during a raging thunderstorm, and, just before he passes out, he screams out the Empress's new name: Moonchild.
When Bastian wakes up, he is surrounded by blackness, with the Empress. In her hand, she holds a grain of sand; the last piece of Fantasia that remains. The Empress places the grain of sand in Bastian's hand, and tells Bastian that he has the power to restore Fantasia using his imagination, getting as many wishes as he wants.
Bastian recreates Fantasia, bringing back the inhabitants such as the Rock Biter and his friends, and reuniting Atreyu with Artax. Falkor then asks Bastian what he will wish for next, and Bastian whispers his wish into Falkor's ear.
Back in the real world, the bullies from the beginning of the movie see Bastian riding Falkor, and run in terror. Falkor chases them down the exact same alley where they had attacked Bastian, and chases them into the exact same dumpster from before.
The film ends with a narration, saying that Bastian had many more adventures before finally returning to the normal world, adding "but that's another story".
- Barret Oliver as Bastian Balthazar Bux.
- Noah Hathaway as Atreyu.
- Tami Stronach as The Childlike Empress, whom Bastian renames "Moonchild".
- Stronach also provides the voice for The Southern Oracle.
- Sydney Bromley as Engywook, a gnomish scientist.
- Patricia Hayes as Urgl, Engywook's wife and a healer.
- Gerald McRaney as Barney Bux, Bastian's widowed, workaholic father.
- Moses Gunn as Cairon, a servant of the Empress.
- Alan Oppenheimer as the voices of Falkor, Gmork, Rock Biter, and the Narrator.
- The latter three are uncredited.
- Thomas Hill as Karl Konrad Koriander, a grumpy bookseller.
- Deep Roy as Teeny Weeny, a messenger riding on a racing snail.
- Tilo Prückner as Nighthob, a messenger riding a narcoleptic bat.
- Robert Jadah as Morla, the wisest being in Fantasia, a giant turtle.
- Darryl Cooksey, Drum Garrett, and Nicholas Gilbert as Ethan, Todd, and Lucas, three bullies who torment Bastian and get their comeuppance in the end.