Conan the Barbarian (1982) Poster

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Not to be overlooked
LordBlacklist7 September 2005
People have preconceptions of what makes a good move and more often than not they get tangled up in their own web of closed mindedness. It is no one thing that makes a movie great but a combination of all to create a feeling, and that is one thing that Conan has always done for me.

This was the first film that introduced me to "the goosebump effect" or rather seeing scenes of such emotional and thematic power that they give you chills. After watching this film over and over again it still doesn't disappoint. The scene immediately following the raid on Conan's village is a true masterpiece of visual storytelling. without a single line of dialogue everything that is to come in the next two hours is set up with the Murder of Conan's parents before his eyes. The look of disbelief on his face as his mother's lifeless body falls before him. Staring at his hand and then toward Thulsa Doom. the Villain saluting his freshly stolen steel. It is a perfectly executed scene that were this film not so unjustly written off as a hack and slash "sword and sorcery" picture would be rightfully remembered as one of the great scenes in film history.

The best way to describe Conan would be to call it a philosophical epic. There are real ideas and philosophies at play in the narrative. Conan's father's teachings of steel...the opening scene forging the sword becoming a metaphor for Conan's life. He is a character created by hardship and grief, and like the opening quote says "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" Conan becomes more powerful with the more hardships he overcomes. The film is very well put together. Many scenes and images from the movie are as visually layered and well thought out as any Ridley Scott picture. The prelude to the opening battle in the snow is stunning with great visual flair, a single scout stands atop a boulder breathing heavy, anticipating battle as vibrant rays of sunlight pour through the trees.

There is a ritualistic quality to many of the scenes in the film such as the finding of the atlantean sword, or the lead up to Conan's duel with the snake which is carried through right to the end where after Conan drops his sword the followers of doom extinguish their flames in the fountain. Everyone in the film manages to give a good performance but the big mistake that most people make in judging them is that they do not understand that acting is not simply saying lines of dialogue, it is behavior. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the rest of the cast give outstanding performances without saying all that much. The scene at the funeral pyre where Conan runs his hand through the hair of his fallen love...the subtle look of grief withheld combined with the eloquent score is enough to get the idea across, no dialogue is needed. Basil Poledouris' score for the film has to be one of, if not, the greatest score ever composed and it plays an integral part in creating the rich emotional landscape of John Milius' epic film. Conan the barbarian is a film I saw when I was very young, and through the years as I have gotten a little older and wiser the film has gotten richer and more rewarding with each subsequent viewing.

This is a film of great resonance and subtlety. Most audiences today cannot appreciate a film that requires a bit of deep thinking, but this is one of the rare films that is even more rewarding if you look beneath the surface.
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Brutal, uncompromising, and invigorating
sargon99922 November 2002
In an age of Xena-esque fantasy adventure films (al la the tepid Scorpion King) It is startling to go back and see just how good this movie still is. "Conan" is not for the faint of heart, and not just for gore - there are far more bloody movies out there - but for the uncompromising warrior-ethos John Milius infused into his vision. There is nothing PC about this fantasy world. When he is asked "what is best in life?" Conan paraphrases Genghis Khan: "Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women!" We are not led to believe he is kidding. It is true that Arnold is no great actor, but it is also true he has always stuck with parts he can handle, and he does a fine job as Conan, but the real star here is the director. John Milius is one of the greats, totally unappreciated in his time, and his sweeping scope and epic, gritty battle sequences add a dimension lacking from almost every other S&S film. There is a grim aura of doom pervading the movie that fits the original Howard stories to a T, and I think Robert E Howard would have really liked this movie. James Earl Jones gives a killer performance as the evil Thulsa Doom, rivalling Darth Vader himself. A last point in this film's favor is the score. Basil Poledouris turned out his best score ever for this film: Brooding, powerful and operatic, it lends the film a grandeur Hercules could only dream of. I must have seen this film 40 times and I still never get tired of it.
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Simply Brilliant
ottox28 May 2003
This is one of my top-ten favorite movies of all time. It's quite easy to dismiss this film based on its genre (barbarian slash-em-up) and the limited acting ability of the star (Schwarzenegger), but Conan is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Ok, the story is fairly standard, and the principal actors (Schwarzenegger, Sandahl Bergman & Gerry Lopez) are competent but not outstanding. There are a few brief but memorable performances from James Earl Jones and Max von Sydow that help lend weight to the film, but the real stars are Poledouris' score and the cinematography. I have never seen a more beautifully-shot film in my life. The costumes, props and art direction are all top-notch. They could take all of the dialog out of the movie, and just have the music and pictures and it would still be worth watching.

To fully appreciate Conan, though, you have to watch it and then watch another barbarian-type film from any era (Beastmaster, Krull, etc.) and the difference will be stunning.
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My favorite movie as a child and still the best fantasy!
Mungg25 June 2001
This is really an amazing movie! It is so passionate and intense. It all feels so genuine as well.

During my childhood this was my all-time favorite! From an adult (25) perspective, his movie is as damn amazing as I remember. Thee story and dialog are really damn good. There are so many classic scenes. I got my girlfriend to watch it. She was convinced it was going to be a stupid Arnold muscle movie (it seems almost everyone thinks this) but she loved it.

It's such a change to see such an un-ironic passionate movie. I can't see a movie like this being made today. The nudity and violence were great and added realism without ever being flatly gratuitous.

Don't see Destroyer though, that was absolutely awful.
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A Classic and the Best of Schwarzenegger !!
CelluloidRehab18 July 2004
I have a soft spot in my heart for this movie, being that this is one of the first movies I can remember seeing. As I grew up I never stopped enjoying this movie and could come away with something new every time I watched it (now around 50+ times). The movie is multi-layered. On one level there is the action (which is very graphic). There is also philosophical layer (why am i here ?? that which doesn't kill you....). Mix that in with some wonderful cinematography (filmed in Spain) and very appropriately accompanied by dark, serious, foreboding music (by Basil Poledouris - who also did the music for Hunt for Red October) and you get the ultimate action movie (that is more than just an action movie - its the thinking man's action movie).

Conan is based on the work of Robert E. Howard. Howard once described writing the Conan stories (which were published in Weird Tales) as this : At sunset, he could feel the presence of Conan coming into his room, looming over him and compelling or forcing him to write the stories. The movie captures the spirit of Conan, as portrayed in the stories. He is one who has lived a harsh existence, yet endures. He has been everything from a barbarian, to a swashbuckler, to a soldier, to a thief, to a general and eventually to even king. He is considered a barbarian by all the people he meets, include those considered to be "civilized". Conan plays by his own rules and morals. Even though he kills, he does so in much the same way a tiger eats its prey. At the same time, he displays more humanity, mercy and honor than most of the civilized world. This movie is perfect in the above respects. John Milius (the director and co-writer) does an excellent job along with Oliver Stone (co-writer) in getting the feel of the stories into the movie world. Schwarzenegger is cast perfectly in the role of Conan. I don't think anyone else would have been able to pull it off as well as he could have and still kept the role in the way it was meant to be. Conan does not say much, but when he does you better listen because it is important. Along with Schwarzenegger, the rest of the cast does a brilliant job to support the story. James Earl Jones is wickedly evil and Mako is perfect as the reluctant sorcerer.

There are so many wonderful scenes that stick out in my mind. So many in fact that you should go out and see the movie for yourself (make sure you get the special edition DVD since it has extra footage and a great making of with all the cast including Schwarzenegger). By far my two favorite scenes/sequences of the movie are : 1) Prior to the battle in the desert, Conan says a little prayer to his god, Crom. This prayer embodies everything that Conan stands for. WHAT A PRAYER !!!. 2) The sequence thats starts from Conan's return to the Tower of Power to confront Thulsa Doom all the way to the end. It is wrought with meaning and some great cinematography. This movie is an absolute must see. 10/10

-Celluloid Rehab
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Adam Frisch14 October 2005
Conan the Barbarian is one of those films that just shouldn't work on paper, but somehow ends up not only working, but becoming a classic. Everything is right here thanks to Milius unashamed bigger-than-life-direction. He takes him serious and dares to go far enough with the grandness, something few directors would dare do today for fear of being labeled pretentious.

Combine this with probably the best film score EVER written, and you have movie magic. Basil Poledouris score is such a classic that every other composer has ripped it off a thousand times, and rightly so. It's the granddaddy of Wagnerian tour-de-force scoring.
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axemurder28 August 2004
I think this is the best sword and magic / fantasy movie ever made. Unlike the second Conan movie (the destroyer, which was a huge disappointment) this is dark, dirty, violent (with the harsh way) and most of all faithful to the original Conan by Howard. By that i mean that conan wasn't a joker and babyoiled coverboy like in the sequel. Only part of the movie that i weren't content about was the childhood of conan, the part where he grows up spinning some goddamn wheel of fortune, Howard specifically points in many novels that Conan was grown free in the Cimmeria. Despite the this awkward transition to skip the childhood of Conan this still is the best fantasy movie ever made.
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Great Sword And Sorcery Epic!
A cracking sword and sorcery yarn that has divided movie goer opinions since it's release. Some believing it's a beefy and shallow action movie, glossed up with big sets and fancy costumes. Others believing it is a truly eye popping visual feast of a film with hidden depth. The film was panned on its original release but since then has been something of a critical favourite. While the film is too murky and turgid at times, it is still engaging, despite needing to lighten up a touch, because this is based on a comic book after all. The film is fantastical but at the same time the film doesn't go quite as fantastical as the comic books did. This seems to be more based in reality but it still features a snake-man, giant snakes and witches.

The film follows Conan from childhood when his parents are killed and follows him through his early years as a slave to adulthood when he becomes a fighter and a thief. What drives Conan is pure bloodthirsty revenge on the man who killed his parents(James Earl Jones) and he is constantly spurred on by the belief he is doing his god's (Krom the god of steel) will. Conan constantly interprets important moments as messages from Krom.This film is so visual. The dialogue is minimal and yet meaningful. This gives the film a great atmosphere and really brings to mind two other fantasy action movies I really love, Crying Freeman and Highlander. They are all very similar in style. They all have the same strengths, in that they are both great looking, have a lead character driven by a spirit guide, controlled by his beliefs and a sense of destiny and all three have similar romantic subplot, all told with visuals, and little dialogue. They are all also blessed with unique and rousing scores. It's all very mythical and philosophical in each, with love at first site important. It is the love of the women that drive the men to their goals. In Freeman Dacascos wants to break away from his controlled regime, and take back his life when his love gives him the will to do so. In Highlander McLeod wants to lead a mortal life, to love and grow old with someone, to be human. Conan wants a life after he takes his revenge. The greatness of their romantic story and the purely visual way it is told is that during the movie he says only 5 words to her,and they all come in their first meeting. The film should not get away with something like that, yet it works well. The twist in Conan is that his lover sacrifices herself for him and in effect once he has achieved his goal the film is left with the feeling Conan has no further purpose in life.

The cast are good. Arnold was made into a star here. He is physically the best shape he's ever been in a movie. He is smaller than his bodybuilding days yet as big as he's ever been on screen and at the same time fleet of foot and nimble. Lest we not forget by the time he hit mega stardom he was in his 40's, but Arnold is truly in his prime here. It is a performance though of glaring inconsistency which is the likes of which I have never seen. It is at once his best and his worst performance. For all that Schwarzenegger does with a depth and humanity not seen in his films since, he overplays and looks amateurish in others, because of course he was an amateur here. What really does work is the chemistry between Sandahl Bergman and Schwarzy. She gets the best out of him and their scenes together are generally his best. Bergman received a Golden Globe for this and had Arnie consistently been as good as his higher points here, who knows? You get the feeling the philosophical side might occasionally have gone over his head. At times he would bawl out "Kraaoomm!!!" without knowing why he was delivering the line. Bergman is good. She is enigmatic and quite sexy in a "why is she sexy?" kind of a way. Bergman kicks ass and her dance background shows as she moves with grace. The showstoppers though are the supporting cast with the legend Mako, excellent as the wizard and narrator. Max Von Sydow is superb as king Osric and he gets some of the best dialogue but it is the chilling James Earl Jones who is particularly excellent as Thulsa Doom.

What makes this film great is the fact that it feels older than it is. It feels like a b-movie fantasy film from the golden ages of the 50's and 60's, with some of the charming elements of the legendarily cheap Italian fantasy films. The film even at times feels like it is dubbed. While all it lacks is a stand out Ray Harryhausen moment. The nearest we get is the giant snake. I would have loved to have seen more creatures and beasts in this movie with some HarryHausen effects but it come a tad too late really. Also Basil Poledouris' score is fantastic and old fashioned a big reason the film feels like it is from the golden age of this sword and sorcery quest movies. The score is the real standout part of the movie. It's very old fashioned, medieval and a bit baroque and works marvellously well with some rousing themes.

The film is directed with visual flourish by John Milius, whose tragically lame career since makes you wonder what happened. In that sense it has another similarity with Highlander as the even more talented Russell Mulcahy was never matched the quality or success of Highlander since. This is a top notch film that fantasy enthusiasts will love. ****
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The most manly movie in filming history
wwhulkgr22 February 2016
Well friends , im 41 years old now..and i have seen this movie over 40 times..maybe 50.I have seen hundreds of movies..action and sci-fi and fantasy movies,Police movies, all mafia movies, cyberpunk movies you name it and i have seen it..i love movies. But Conan the barbarian is the most manly movie i have ever seen.The soundtrack by Basilis Poledoures my countryman is perhaps the best epic mousic ever, the photography is glorious, John Millius done a great job.the cast is great.the plot is great. everything is great.The intro is know...That which does not kill us make us strongest..i got the chils every time..and then the narrator speaks ..and the anvil of Crom start playing ..and Conan 's father tell him the story of know..this you can trust! not men, not women.., hell yeah!!They brought so nice and smooth the cimmerian is the film..well he is not so dark haired or blue eyes..but OK!Arnie is great as a Conan! There no movies like that anymore kids.forget it..this golden era is finished.

ps.Thanks Dino De Laurentis for this epic film, I m sure Robert E Howard..would love this film. ps2..The remake sucks big time.
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Whoever gave this movie a 6.9 should go kill themselves
adonis98-743-18650325 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Conan The Barbarian is basically the first Comic Book movie ever made. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger who fits the role perfectly and James Earl Jones who is great as always and Sandhal Bergman as Valeria. The film is not 100% as the comic but it still keeps it's spirit the violence, the characters and the action. It's pretty easy to say that Conan The Barbarian is a Classic Movie that will live forever it's pretty sad to see that it has a 6.9 in IMDb and 70% on Rotten Tomatoes since the film was judged for it's violence but it has the R-Rating so maybe the critics should stop being so in 'love' with Marvel Movies and watch some real great epic films. Skip the Remake it's garbage. 10/10
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Between the Time when the Oceans Drank Atlantis, and the Rise of the Sons of Aryas... Warning: Spoilers
Let's face it - The "Sword And Sorcery" genre is not exactly known as the best in cinema, and for good reasons. Most specimen of this particular Fantasy sub-genre range from entertaining cheese to boring cheese, depending mainly on the level of sleaze and violence. Of course, the low quality of the vast majority of these films (which I usually still enjoy immensely) is partly due to low budgets and the lack of real actors, but mainly due to the fact that these films (especially those from the 80s) are entirely unworthy and unspeakably inferior rip-offs of the one supreme highlight of the genre - The awesome, unmatched and totally bad-ass "Conan The Barbarian". Besides the original "Terminator" of 1984 and "Total Recall", this 1982 cult-flick is easily the greatest film that Arnold Schwarzenegger ever starred in, and it outshines everything else in the field by far, and in all aspects.

The film starts out with the Nietzsche Quote "That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger", and it immediately continues equally archaic with the voice of a mysterious narrator who announces the tale of Conan. The film is set in a mysterious ancient time ("between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas"). As a young Cimmerian boy, Conan sees his northern village destroyed and his people killed by the armies of the warlord Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), who declares himself a god. The boy is enslaved, and, over the years of working in a mill called the wheel of pain, he becomes stronger and stronger. Adult Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) becomes a gladiator, and subsequently a powerful warrior - with the intention to avenge his people...

The film's raw, archaic atmosphere, fantastic sceneries and characters, and especially its fascinating mythology make this an absolute must- see for every fan of Fantasy, 80s cinema, or even films in general. The role of Conan fits Arnold Schwarzenegger like a glove, and it is hardly imaginable for anybody else to play the role. The performances of Schwarzenegger as Conan and and Sandahl Bergman, who plays Conan's lover and partner in battle, the Amazon warrior Valeria, are not exactly masterstrokes of brilliant acting, but this is not the point. The main intention for Conan is to look (and be) archaic and grim - and he does. The main intention for Valeria is to look like a wild Warrior princess - and she does. Therefore, Schwarzenegger and Bergmann fit perfectly in their roles. Apart from Miss Bergmann, there are several other beautiful female cast members, such as Cassandra Gaviola who is great as a witch, and the late Valérie Quennessen who plays a princess. Mako, who plays the Wizard who also narrates the story is also great in his role, and the supporting cast includes the great Max Von Sydow. THE great performance in the film, however, is that of James Earl Jones. Jones is brilliant in his villainous role Thulsa Doom. Mysterious, diabolical, haunting, incomparably menacing and absolutely brilliant - these are just some of the words to describe the role of Thulsa Doom, and James Earl Jones plays the role with ingenious perfection.

The atmosphere is raw, archaic and absolutely fascinating, throughout. The combination of brutish battle, and surreal and supernatural elements, the sorcery and bizarre rituals - all these elements make this film so fascinating. The film is outstandingly photographed in ingenious settings, and visually stunning from the beginning to the end. Director John Milius deserves big praise for his visual talent in this film alone. This is a film that was fascinating in my childhood, and it is still awesome as an adult. "Conan The Barbarian" is THE highlight in the Sword And Sorcery genre, and a stunning cult-flick that should not be missed. The awesome finale will leave you breathless. Highly recommended!
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Wow... they don't make movies this good anymore.
TreeOfWolf26 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The remake was so bad that I got weary of the sexism and dropped it. But this old movie got me fascinated to the end.

There is more depth in silent stares than many lines I've heard in recent movies. It was poetic. It's brutal, but that allowed a profound beauty.

A child forced into slavery ends up discovering how precious is freedom, friendship... and love.

I was impressed that they had a strong woman who was an equal to the lead male 30 years ago. The newer version was too disrespectful to be entertaining.

The villain is African so it's also respectful of different races. It's a strong role, not some goofy stupid guy who gets killed right after the movie starts. The actor did Darth Vader's voice... It's as epic as you would expect. I got genuinely impressed and intimidated. He had grandiose plans to basically become a god... crushing everything in his path... not some neurotic guy who seem to have taken too much cocaine and be out of control... He was calm, calculated, assertive... freaking scary.

Arnold was a father figure for me growing up, so there was an emotional attachment that made me enjoy this movie on a deeper level... I expected some brute waving his sword mindlessly... but it was so much more. So much thoughts and emotions.

He tasted rock bottom before rising to the top... He gained his strength from being abused as a slave, so it gave him humility and compassion. He had simple goals but accomplished grandiose things in the process. He wanted revenge to be safe and to help one person... but he ended up liberating a lot of people. He struggled every steps of the way, tortured almost to death... his superior strength wasn't enough to guarantee victory... but he managed to get back up, thanks to the help of his loved ones, and persevered... until he succeeded... That's a great lesson to learn.

30 years later, that movie didn't feel old, but like the film makers properly showed an old barbaric era. I was captivated by how much meaning and events they managed to put in a short movie, how much was understood from silence... A movie should be more than action scenes, and it still had plenty of those, but the victories felt earned after struggles, instead of a big violent blur.

I was touched that he kinda stole the most precious stone in the land... to offer it to the woman who helped him, letting her know that she's even more precious to him. He didn't boss her around, he didn't demean her, he didn't try to crush her with his strength and take whatever he wanted by force... he appreciated her strength and her kindness after having known such misery... he wouldn't threat her like his slave now that he had the chance to be on top. He was so gentle and loving... only brutal when he was forced to retaliate against brutality... All the characters have more depth than they seem... The movie touched my heart on many unexpected levels.

The people who made the remake should go watch that old version and face palm themselves in shame. They failed as a Conan movie, they even failed as a movie. But that one is an eternal classic.

Don't be afraid to enjoy old things... sometimes we must look back to make sure that we're not losing precious values in the name of progress.
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A serious and not-for-everyone stab at the sword-and-sorcery genre
David Conrad12 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Long ago, in the distant time before "The Lord of the Rings" (well, before Peter Jackson's LOTR, not before the books or the earliest adaptations), before "Thor" (before the modern movies, I mean; not before the "Thor" comic character, which itself came long after the "Conan" pulp character), before "Skyrim" (OK, it was unequivocally before that), there was "Conan the Barbarian!" It would be wrong to say that "Conan" was the progenitor of anything other than Arnold Schwarzenegger's film career; the origins, influences, and manifestations of the major sword-and-sorcery franchises are complex and mostly separate from one another, hearkening back to and appropriating for their own purposes centuries-old, half-imagined stories and traditions that at this point in history belong equally to all.

In the case of "Conan," the milieu is the fuzzy line between West and East in the age of Genghis Khan's Eurasia-spanning empire, imagined here as a world of tribalism and ritualism. "Conan"'s immediate textual source is itself, a cartoon from a 25-cent cult magazine. Director/writer John Milius, however, infuses his adaptation with overtones from the ostensibly more serious traditions of sword-and-sandal films and quests films: it is difficult not to think of "Spartacus" (1960) during "Conan"'s first half hour, which sees the hero go from slave to pit fighter to outlaw iconoclast, and hard to miss the connection to "The Searchers" (1956) at the end. Milius, who also wrote "Apocalypse Now" (1979), takes Conan's made-for-action-figure characters and genre trappings seriously in a way that not every filmmaker might have, and his commitment keeps it from becoming too campy. It is not a cheap production: attractive Spanish shooting locales, titanic sets with a sense of weight, endless detailed costumes, and thoughtful iconography elevate the basic storyline, as does an enthralling score by film composer Basil Poledouris. In all production categories "Conan" outperforms its near-contemporary, the noble but spectacular failure "Excalibur" (1981). "Conan"'s supporting cast also stacks up well with the inclusion of Max von Sydow and James Earl Jones, two actors who are constitutionally incapable of bringing anything other than gravitas to a role. But the most surprising of "Conan"'s achievements is its female lead Valeria, played by Sandahl Bergman. Her skill and capability are unqualified, and in a movie that is not always judicious in its depictions of women, her equal and at times grander stature to Conan's is a relief.

However, the element that most sets "Conan" apart from later and earlier examples of its genre is its well-earned R rating. Today, studios that make their shareholders happy by dint of teen and preteen ticket sales do not allow their blockbusters to cross that line, so movies of this ilk today are often bloodless and sexless affairs. That is not to say that they are not violent and frequently sexist: they merely code their violence and objectification of women in ways that modern censors (MPAA reviewers) are either too dim or too hypocritical to acknowledge. The downside of "Conan"'s show-it-all approach to sex and violence is that it is occasionally degrading and often excessive. Yet there is something to be said for the principle of taking off the reins and making a film that is proudly not meant for all audiences: something few fantasy movies today have the courage—or, yes, the naivety—to attempt.
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"Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!"
Al_The_Strange22 March 2014
Fantasy films are rarely bold in spirit. Most of them offer colorful, vivid spectacles in wonderful places, but when drawing on ancient myth and legend, very few truly recognize that our history is full of darkness and savagery. In the 1930s, Robert E. Howard created a legend of his own, channeling all the primal brutality and bloodshed of the ancient times into one savage hero: Conan, the Cimmerian who would become a warrior, a pirate, a conqueror, and eventually a king. Conan's adventures in literature took him across all corners of the ancient Earth, to battle countless enemies, vicious monsters, and the darkest magic. Films with this same rawness seem to only come once in a great while.

1982's cinematic debut of Conan is a welcome break from the typical sugar-coated fantasy fare; the film doesn't hold back on showing brutal warfare, liberal bloodshed, rampant sex, and savage landscapes. Right from the beginning, the savagery is palpable. At the same time, the film is not all that trashy about it; is uses only as much blood and gore as it needs to to tell the story. Using only a light amount of excess, the film progresses through a lengthy adventure full of cool battles and memorable scenes, with the right pacing and an appropriate tone that's not too bleak but not too lightweight. As it is, this incarnation of Conan is fun and awesome to watch, and even after a sequel, remake, and video game, it hasn't been matched since.

The original stories can get a bit derivative: Conan usually appears somewhere to slay some bad guys, get the girl, get the treasure, defeat evil, blah blah blah. This film ventures into the same formulaic territory, but before doing so, it lays the groundwork by chronicling Conan's origins, in a tragic opening sequence that's so fundamental in nature that it's been seen before. From then on, the film maintains a solid pathos that allows us to follow and root for Conan on his sprawling quest of vengeance. Conan is a fundamental hero to the core, and the film expresses all his characteristics - his strength, his beliefs, his motivations - aptly. The side characters he picks up are lovable, and their enemies are bad guys we love to hate. The plot is pieced together using some scenes inspired by the original stories, but it all flows really well, thanks mostly to the characters and their chemistry. It's all set in a world that looks primal, but not quite as dark or magical as the original stories.

This film boasts some good-looking photography. It can be pretty murky and drab at times, but the camera angles are great and the imagery overall is solid. Editing has a few weak parts, but is still mostly good. Acting can be a bit silly, but Arnold Schwarzenegger fits Conan both in body and spirit. I love Sandahl Bergman's performance as Valeria. James Earl Jones is literally hypnotic as the main villain, and everybody else does okay. Writing has a few weak spots, but there are still quite a few good lines. This production uses some limited, but very real-looking and detailed sets, props, and costumes. Basil Poledoris' music score is epic, grand, and a thing of beauty in itself.

Conan the Barbarian is one of the very few epic/fantasy films that's so raw and brutal, but it's still a fine adventure with lovable characters and solid plotting. Some may call this film overly violent or stupid, especially in the way it revels in savagery. But I've always valued the beauty of savagery, for I believe there is something compelling about the primal nature of this character. If you enjoy stuff like this - like the 300 series, the Berserk manga, the God of War video games - then Conan should be a must-see.

On home video, the unrated cut of the movie includes a few bonus scenes that elaborate a bit more on the characters, but aren't really all that necessary for the plot.

4.5/5 (Entertainment: Very Good | Story: Very Good | Film: Good)
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Epic film, EPIC film score!
m_22319 December 2013
This is one of my Top 5 favorite films of all time. This isn't your typical hack and slash blood-fest like the film industry has become saturated with in present times. I remember seeing this in the theater with my dad when I was 11 and I was blown away. Conan the Barbarian is action, romance, drama and just plain fun. Excellent screenplay, sets, design and costume all around. And the film's score, from the late great Basil Poledouris, really puts the icing on the cake and makes this film truly memorable. I won't even speak of the remake of this classic piece, other than the fact that I made it about half way through before I turned it off. I LOVE THIS FILM!!!
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Under-appreciated classic
Dave from Ottawa15 April 2012
When Conan came out in 1981, critics griped about its elephantine pacing and ponderous dialogue, and long stretches in which nothing much happened, giving evidence that they expected traditional action- adventure in the vein of, say, Sinbad. But director John Milius had set out to create something very different: an epic Aryan myth which translated the qualities of Wagnerian opera to cinema, and in large part he succeeded.

Conan has a sweeping epic feel, and is heavily dependent upon and driven by its setting and music to a degree that is very rare. As important as the deeds of the legendary hero, which are shown in brief and violent spurts of action, are the place and the culture that shaped that legend. The journey that created the myth, in short, is equal to the myth itself, and this is the logic and justification for the setting-heavy approach taken by Milius. And Basil Poledouris' wonderful music, which starts out Wagnerian and brassy, but adds middle Eastern touches as Conan's journey takes him in that direction, tracks along with Conan to show up the breadth of his epic journey while celebrating his heroic achievements.

Ultimately the story that gets told is somewhat less worthy of Milius' Wagnerian ambitions than are the music and the visuals, but the overall results more than justify the effort, especially when compared to the Italian sword and sandal knock-offs which followed this much copied but never equaled classic of the fantasy genre.
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way better than anything Hollywood put out before it...or since
krazywumpus3 April 2008
this really is an amazingly well done fantasy movie. and i shudder to think that gladiator has gotten better reviews than this movie. it may not be an over-the-top blockbuster, but that's kinda the point. it's pretty minimalistic in it's dialog and some other aspects, but i only think that helps, not hurts it. personally, i can't stand to watch overdone Hollywood dramatizations such as gladiator. even lord of the rings, which were very well done movies, could've done without much of their over dramatic dialogs and extreme facial close ups that seem to go on forever. people have cited this movie as "laughable" but i personally think that many of peter jackson's choices for LOTR were equally laughable.
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Hah! Crom laughs at the four winds!
tieman648 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Directed by John Milius, "Conan the Barbarian" is an exaltation of all things barbaric.

Some context: Milius is mostly known today for being the basis of Walter Sobchak, the gun-loving right-winger of the Coen Brothers' "Big Lebowski". There he's hilariously paired with his antithesis, a left-wing stoner called The Dude. In real life Milius himself proudly claims to been have blacklisted from Hollywood due to his "hard-right politics", which he lovingly equates with "rugged individualism, personal mastery, survivalism, a Nietzschean warrior's code, self-actualisation, outlaw glory, free-markets and a Darwinian credo". Milius' films ("Big Wednesday", "Magnum Force", "Dilinger", "Conan", "Red Dawn" etc) themselves typically involve macho warriors slaying villains in the name of property rights and individual freedoms, shotgun or broadsword in hand. For writing "Dirty Harry", Milius even requested as payment, in addition to his agreed-upon fee, a James Purdy shotgun, apparently because "guns are more honourable than money". "Conan" was also written by Oliver Stone, who like Francis Coppola (Milius co-wrote "Apocalypse Now") salivates over megalomania, power and authority whilst pretending to do otherwise. At least Milius is upfront about his stance.

Milius' ideals are attractive, but breakdown in the real world. In the West Indies, for example, the seemingly simple issue of property rights (or private property) to this day confers dominance to East Indians (who were granted land rights as Indentured labourers) and Anglo Saxons over Africans. "Conan" doesn't take place in the real world, though. Set thousands of years before recorded history, when the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia were a single land mass, the film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan, a camel punching Ubermensch who fights for vengeance and freedom. His target? Thulsa Doom, a black guy who (ironic) takes kids into slavery. It's another of Milius' "everyman warriors" vs "the evil Other who steals our Freedom" tale (Spielberg would consult Milius for the cryptofascist "Private Ryan").

Opening with a quote by Nietzsche - "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" - the film eventually grows to becomes a literal translation of your typical mistranslation of Nietzsche (Nietzsche's writings, with their fascist associations, would have negative effects on everyone from Hitler to Rand). So Arnie, a superman whose paternity draws a straight line from Beowulf to Enkidu, Atilla, Alexander and Genseric, is a warrior who embodies Nietzsche's personification of "the will to power", the expression of human existence superior to that of the "conventional, sentimental, bourgeois moral majority". Nietzsche "attacks man's moral principles" such that "the new superman is a law unto himself". He is autonomous, destined to fulfil his highest dreams, a man who "builds himself up into a being beyond the mob". "His secret nobility," Nietzsche then says, "will be of an aristocratic elevation for which no pattern exists". The film itself ends with Arnie becoming a king, sitting triumphantly on a throne.

So Conan may be a barbarian, but he is manliness at its pinnacle, the survival of the fittest, a keen mind with 20-pack abs. And while Conan's "mind and flesh are greater than steel", Thulsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones) by contrast is the lowest, the animal, the reptile, that which we have left behind in our rise toward humanness. He is of the gutter, a cannibal, a shape-shifting black man who mocks all with his pretence of being human. Unlike Conan, Thulsa relies on skills not won by hardship, self-discipline and a triumphant will but that are simply emanations of his own reptilian baseness.

Beyond all this stuff, the film features some of Milius' best direction. Milius' crew find some superb locations, his crowd scenes are well shot, his set designers cook up a convincing pre Bronze/Iron Age world, and his injection of blood, gore, sex and nudity – gratuitous in another picture – only seem to add to the realism. The film's action sequences are also at times unconventionally structured, wordless, stretched and prolonged, with lots of creeping and slashing set to catchy music. The film's memorable Wagner inspired score was by Basil Poledouris. It, along with Milius' aesthetic, would prove a big influence on Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" movies. One of Poledouris' themes here, titled "Theology/Civilization", has itself become well known in concert circuits.

Like "Star Wars" (also with James Earl Jones as a bad guy), the pg rated fantasy/mythological film which preceded it, "Conan" is heavily influenced by Kurosawa and Ford. Milius' R rated blockbuster, however, at times feels like an art film, with huge portions devoid of dialogue, and a monosyllabic hero who can barely speak. Unsurprisingly Milius cast non actors for his three lead roles, Gerry Lopez a champion surfer, Sandahl Bergman – who plays a kind of Nordic, goddess-warrior – a dancer and Arnie a body builder. Their dialogue has a similar physicality about it. When a Mongol General yells "Conan, what is best in life?", Arnie responds like a caveman: "To crush your enemies and hear the lamentations of their women!" Elsewhere characters spout WW1 battle cries - "Do you want to live forever?!" - or opine about hacking, slashing and besting their enemies.

The film was followed by a worthless sequel. "Conan" itself has a terrible reputation, but there are no better R-rated sword-and-sorcery movies out there, it's one of the better superhero origin movies, its depictions of religious blood-cults remains creepy, and it's the only good film to contain a shape-shifting mutant snake villain.

Upon release the film was attacked for being fascist. Today such films are the norm. Indeed, most cinematic form echoes a totalitarian aesthetic (most humans are unconsciously fascist), designed to lull the viewer into a state of docility, awe and wonder. As cinema and fascism are about actualising fantasy and wilfully surrendering reality, cinema more naturally lends itself to fascist theatre then other art-forms. Milius' next film was "Red Dawn", essentially Conan with kids.

8/10 - Worth one viewing.
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Conan the Barbarian, do not underestimate this
akahdrin27 December 2011
If you're looking for the best spoken dialog in a movie, this isn't where to look.

If you're looking for acting that is much more than overacted dialog, then this is for you. The body language used in this movie is real, it's not over acted. The fighting scenes are believable that require no strings. The beauty of this movie is it's cinematography, landscapes, costumes, attitudes, the grace of each character, and most of all...the soundtrack.

No other movie has this little of dialog in recent times that requires just a complete video experience with music to take you to another world. Every time you hear the primal nature of Basil's music, you literally just want to stand up and cheer.

There have been no movies in recent times that are on the same level as this movie. Gladiator, LotR, Willow to name a few are excellent movies, but they required dialog and a lot of special effects and/or excellent actors to do it. Conan was done with a cast of people who I feel felt the role and when you saw them just standing there, fighting, walking,'s like you felt their feelings. The music only adds to this.

This is and always will be one of my favorite movies of all time, not only for nostalgia value, but because it's a beautifully crafted masterpiece.

Before anyone says this movie is bad, give the movie another view. Turn the lights down low, turn the sound up high, and be ready to go for an adventure.
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One of the greatest movies ever made
Time Saver20 October 2016
The movies that I can watch over and over again are very rare. Those movies have such story and such atmosphere, that each time I see them they only get better and better. Conan the Barbarian undoubtedly belongs to that category.

It is one of the first movies I have ever watched and, up today, never have I seen such a powerful atmosphere and such perfect blend of picture and music, where each track so faithfully belongs to its scene. The composer Basil Poledouris really surpassed himself.

The story of this movie, while adventure in every respect, gives out the feeling of clear purpose and carries a strong, epic philosophy. The choice of characters is simply flawless. Here, Arnold Schwarzenegger does not play Conan. Here, Arnold Schwarzenegger IS Conan, and no other actor could express that role in such a downright manner. And probably never will.

This movie pins me down to the TV screen every time I randomly come across it. And every time that happens I watch it until the end, thinking how great this movie is. I can say that I am grateful that John Milius has made this masterpiece and I believe that Robert E. Howard would be proud to see how inspiring his creation is.
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One of a kind warrior epic
rehams16 June 2016
Many great reviews have been written already, for one of the best most in depth check out user: tieman64, currently found on the second page. That review has most of the cinematic knowledge, so I will just touch on my personal opinion on this film as a student of European history, myth and pre-history.

I watched this film first as a teenager and enjoyed it, mostly for the action sequence and the naked women (this was before easy internet access).

Having rewatched it now as an adult, a whole new world opens up. To decry this movie as 'simple' or 'primitive' is really just a reflection of a closed mind or objection to the morality of the film.

The fact is that Conan is a brilliant warrior epic straight from the tradition of Beowulf and the Illiad. By 'epic' I mean just that, a timeless story of boy becoming a man through overcoming adversity and the quest for glory and honor, which most of us have somewhere inside.

Much can be said about this film to it's credence. The cinematography, the images, the musical score, is really excellent. While it is easy to dismiss this kind of fantasy setting now as cliché, that is only because Conan made this entire genre. In reality, Conan is a beautiful film that is in fact quite realistic in its portrayal of pre-history Europe, Iron-Age Europe, just on the dawn of civilization.

Through Conan's adventures, he encounters Mongol warlords, walled cities and Oriental snake cults. Each presented with great props and settings. No doubt Conan is a visual and musical masterpiece. I'd actually rank it close to some of Bergman's in its natural harsh setting.

Conan is an epic which will resonate deeply in some and repel others. That is so by design. The film is a literal embodiment of some of Jungs archetypes. It's also a rare film in the sense that it would never be made the way it was made today. It takes itself too serious, and therefore is too scary for today's PC Hollywood. There is humor yes, but Conan is not meant as a laughing stock, it is meant quite literally as the triumph of the European man over the barbary of the ancient death cults of the Levant (see Baal, Moloch).

I'll end this review and recommend anyone with a real interest in cinema watch this again as adults. The irony of this film is that while it is derided as primtive, it actually requires historical and philosophical knowledge to even remotely be able to fully appreciate.
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Who needs dialogue in a movie ?
bthr9 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
i usually don't review a movie unless i feel there is something that must be said. and in this movie there is something like that.

do you want deep and long conversations ? yells and roars of battle ? well you came to the wrong place !

in this one they speak short and important, the rest, the viewer must know threw visual and music purely.

the visuals which were not too much but not too little, always was completely synced with the exact music and sounds that led us through the movie. but when needed some 'push', a few sentences came but enough to be considered unnoticeable.

this movie, which is 2 hours long with some weird sorcery and costumed fighting that most of the time make the viewer(me) unconformable and unwatchable, this one actually make us even more deep in the movie's experience, no matter the age.

with this new age of extremely developed CGI technology, there is no need in casting 100 people for a ceremony and action scenes will be much more faster stronger, but they will always miss something that i find very important, sometimes much stronger than the use of CGI, REALITY.
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Manly! Exciting! Ah-nold!
irelanda6926 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This film is the epitome of manliness. If I deem something "manly", it better be a super-buff barbarian giving a one-punch knock-out to a camel! That is NOT satire either; I'm completely serious! This movie rules.

People say that it is cheesy or over-done, but how many films have you seen lately that take place on ancient Earth with barbarians and rogues trying to take out an occultist sorcerer on a revenge streak? Thought so...

Look, this won't be everybody's thing. If you didn't like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, that means you don't like fantasy-based story lines, and in turn, you probably won't care for Conan.

At least be honest and say that though. Don't attack the film where it is truly strong. Great film if you're into fantasy.
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a classic epic
hazeldine-118 September 2011
i first remember seeing this movie about 20yrs ago when i was in my teens and remember it well,iv'e seen the film several times since and still rate it as one of my favorite few films of all has a very powerful storyline about how a young boy's family and home was taken from him and how he grew up to be a great warrior and king from being taken as a slave and forced to fight to the death by his captives.his ultimate revenge on his enemies gave me a sense of justice.the acting is good to,arnold was tailor made for the role of conan and james earl jones played an excellent bad guy.the fight scenes were well choreographed to and there was even a love interest for the central character which moulded well into the storyline.the music is epic and is well used throughout.this film is nearly 30yr old now but has not lost it's appeal as a classic epic.
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22 minutes
Johanna Evans15 August 2006
You know, Conan doesn't speak for the first 22 minutes of the movie, but it's worth the wait. "Crush enemies, see them driven before you, hear the lamentations of the women" is Conan's description of what is best in life.

If you're a dialog person, this movie may not be for you. If you never paid attention to the dialog, you might do so now. Sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll! (except, without the rock'n'roll. The soundtrack is pretty awesome, though).

What can I say? It's a classic. Intense blood and gore, Eighties-esquire special effects, intense sensuality with were-vixens, magic, revenge, true love...sounds like the Princess Bride with an R rating. Just kidding.
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