The NeverEnding Story follows a boy who happens upon 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. 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.
Bastian Bux is a shy and outcast bibliophile ten-year-old who lives in the fictional city of De Forest, Washington. He is raised by his widowed father and teased by bullies from school. One day on his way to school, he escapes the bullies by hiding in a bookstore, annoying the grumpy bookseller, Carl Coreander. Bastian’s interest in books leads him to ask about the one Carl is reading, called “The Neverending Story”. Carl advises against reading it, saying that it is not a “safe” story like regular books. With his curiosity piqued, Bastian secretly seizes the book, leaving a note promising to return it, and hides in the school’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 the cure, believing that once the Empress is well, the Nothing will no longer be a threat. Atreyu is given a medallion named 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 to kill Atreyu.
Atreyu’s quest directs him to the turtle-like adviser Morla the Ancient One in the Swamps of Sadness. Though the Auryn protects Atreyu, his beloved horse Artax is lost to the swamp, and he continues alone. Morla does not have the answers Atreyu seeks but directs him to the Southern Oracle, ten thousand miles distant. Gmork closes in as Atreyu succumbs to exhaustion trying to escape the Swamps, but the warrior is narrowly saved by the luckdragon Falkor. Falkor takes him to the home of two gnomes that 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 recognizes as himself. Atreyu eventually meets the Southern Oracle, who tells him 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. Atreyu and Falkor flee before the Nothing consumes the Southern Oracle. In-flight, Atreyu is knocked from Falkor’s back into the Sea of Possibilities, losing the Auryn in the process. He wakes on the shore of some abandoned ruins, inside he finds several murals depicting his adventure, including one of Gmork. Gmork then reveals himself from lying in wait 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 they have failed until they spot the Empress’ Ivory Tower among the fragments. Inside, Atreyu apologizes for failing the Empress, but she assures him he has succeeded in bringing to her a human child who has been following his quest: Bastian. She further 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 pleads directly to Bastian to call out her new name, but in disbelief that he himself has been incorporated into the story, he denies these events as just being a story. Atreyu’s death at the hands of the Nothing spurs Bastian to pronounce the name he has chosen before losing consciousness: “Moon Child”. Bastian awakes 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. Falkor asks what his next wish will be, Bastian then brings Falkor to the real world to chase down the school bullies. The film ends with the narration that Bastian had many more wishes and adventures, “but that’s another story”.