Smaug The Stupendous
One of the things that I love best about Smaug (and I love so fucking many things about Smaug, okay, he’s been my favorite dragon since I was a kid watching the 70’s Hobbit cartoon through my fingers b/c that shit was scary as fuck) is that, more than any other cinematic dragon I’ve seen, Smaug is an actual dragon.
Dragons in movies are almost always misunderstood in some way or another - Draco from “Dragonheart” or the slash dragon (I’m sure he got a real name but I don’t care) from “Merlin,” Toothless from “How to Train Your Dragon” - when dragons are shown as creatures with comparable intelligence to humans, they are almost inevitably on the side of good. There is, moreover, usually something accessible about them - they’re funny, or they miss their home, or they show loyalty to someone. We are able to recognize elements of ourselves and thereby relate.
But with Smaug, there is absolutely nothing accessible about him. Even his avarice is inhuman (or in…dwarfish? whatever) - there’s nothing he can use the riches of Erebor for, he doesn’t need it for food or power or status or safety. While he is “cunning,” his intelligence is completely alien to Bilbo and the dwarves; when he asks Bilbo if he thinks that flattery will keep him alive, he expresses genuine surprise and puzzlement. He confidently ascribes all of Thorin’s motivations to greed and ambition because those are probably the only dwarvish emotions he can possibly understand. When he discovers that Bilbo cares about the people of Laketown, it’s useful him only because it means he can inflict more pain on Bilbo before returning to kill him.
This is the kind of dragon that I like best, and the kind of dragon that makes the most sense given the origin of their kind within this world - if I’ve got my mythos right, Melkor created the dragons specifically for the wars he was waging, and each one was considered as mighty as a full army. These were creatures that were not just bred but made to be fire and death; made to hate the other races of Middle Earth and disdain any good thing about them. Smaug is either a descendent or (more likely, since we don’t know if dragons can even breed) a survivor of those wars, and most likely what he’d seen of the dwarves and elves and men in those wars has done nothing to make him respect them.
In short, Smaug is the most frightening dragon in movie history because for all his intelligence and ability to communicate, he is still utterly alien and evil. And I LOVE HIM FOR IT.