Conan the Barbarian (1982) Poster

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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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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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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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Great Sword And Sorcery Epic!
supertom-323 July 2004
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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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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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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Under-appreciated classic
dave13-115 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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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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Words need not be spoken. I would give this 11 stars if I could
shaolinmasterkev9 June 2018
Music: 11/10

Story: 11/10

Conans' Dialogue: 11/10

Barbarian Action: 9,000/10

Conan hears the silence of Croms unanswered prayers.
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My favouritest fantasy!
panzerman4722 December 2004
This is my all-time favourite fantasy movie ever. The LotR-trilogy by Peter Jackson coming at a very good second place.

Why do I like it?

1: The faraway feeling is overpowering.

2: Arnold Schwarzenegger actually acts.

3: Very few words are being said. The film speaks for itself, few explanations needed.

4: Special effects are scarce (just as well, since it's an old movie) and the film relies on a strong use of natural landscapes, sets and the imagination of the audience.

5: The music. Oh, so painfully beautiful!

6: Thulsa Doom kicks Saruman's butt any Ol' day!

7: Cool fights.
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Come on, people... Conan!
lukacukeric12 August 2021
It is so iconic that it triggered a cascade that has now culture root - in DnD, fandom, everywhere...

This possibly cannot be rated under 8.
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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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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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MR_Heraclius4 March 2020
The movie that put Arnold on the map to becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, The film itself is ok, Nothing brilliant but for its year it was pretty fun, Maybe not as fun as it should of been, It had some good and bloody action scenes and the effects were pretty good for its day, Just your typical revenge plot and it's not greatly acted, Arnold did ok but his main acting goal was to flex whenever the camera was on him, Although what's not to love about him knocking out a camel with one punch or biting off the neck of a vulture (Great stuff) It's a film that just about stands the test of time mainly due to the fact it's the film that created the legend Mr. Schwarzenegger.
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something of a mixed bag
General_Cromwell31 August 2002
It took a long time for Robert E Howard's wonderful creation to make it to the big screen,and the result is something of a mixture.Some of Conan is very impressive,with the atmosphere of Howard's writing perfectly captured on screen,but some of the film is badly misjudged,with daft moments,botched action,and an uneven performance from schwarzenneger.He looks the part but in some scenes comes across as a muscle bound buffoon.Something the literary hero definitely wasn't.The story is ok,apart from having Conan spend half his life chained to the wheel of pain!But it's a dissapointing script,considering greats Milius and Oliver Stone wrote it.There are some excellent sequences in the film though,that are beautifully photographed.The opening attack on conans village is impressive,and Conans encounter with a weird witch is pretty good.But best of all is the orgy sequence,where the action,sets,and music blend together perfectly.It's like a Frank Frazetta painting come to life!The climactic battle of the mounds is ok,but it's all over far to quickly.The film does look good with some gorgeous photography,and set design.Best of all though,is the music by Basil Poledouris.This is an absolutely stunning score,that really captures the savage world of Conan.I'll stick my neck out and say that it's the best film soundtrack ever composed!General Cromwell,over and out.
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22 minutes
garyoldmanisgod15 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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not like the book but all we have
duvallas27 December 2001
This is a great movie. One of Arnold's classics and one of the best, unique movies to come out of the early 80s. The movie doesn't even come close to the grandeur of the books written by Robert E. Howard after the turn of the century though. If only there was a director out there who could read a book all the way through and see the unbelievable stories in the original Conan books, they could make a fortune. Of course it would be hard to find the muscle bound, intelligent barbarian the books portrayed though.
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Epic movie hated by many.
paulilepisto21 June 2019
Like the title says, it is an amazing epic adventure, senselessly hated by many. Perhaps it does not follow the original book it is based on, but i have not read it, and i am reviewing the movie.

I think every movie lover should watch this classic, it is made in 1982 but its ahead of its time in storytelling, the acting is quite wooden obviously because its Arnold but that only compliments the characters, this movie is not about talking and showing emotions, it is about atmosphere and adventure - and it really delivers, even many modern sword epics lack what this film succeeds to deliver.

This film seems like an actual attempt to make a film, unlike the cash grab that was made with Jason Momoa later on. The second Conan the barbarian with Arnold was just weird.

Also the musical landscape in this film gives a very nice enchantment to the atmosphere as well.

This film is EPIC.
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An epic tale of survival and revenge
SnorriGodhi30 May 2006
People who have never seen "Conan the Barbarian" probably expect a sword-and-sorcery movie with a predictable plot, over-the-top action scenes, and pathetic attempts at humor. The reality is very different.

This movie is a statement about two fundamental human values: survival and revenge. In Western society, we can hardly appreciate these values, because we hardly ever need to worry about survival, and with the State taking care of justice, we feel little need for revenge. By watching this movie, we get a different perspective. Of course, not everybody will like this movie: I have actually met people who don't. I put it down to people not appreciating how important survival was to our ancestors.

Sword-and-sorcery movies, such as "Conan the Destroyer", "Red Sonja", and "The Scorpion King", have nothing to say about survival and revenge: they are too light-hearted (but at the same time their attempts at humor are too coarse). "Conan the Barbarian" is closer in feel to "The Road Warrior", or "Escape from New York", two other movies set in worlds where survival and the rule of law cannot be taken for granted.

Another relevant comparison is with the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Here the difference is that "The Lord of the Rings" is a struggle between Good and Evil, while "Conan the Barbarian" is a struggle for survival (and revenge).

While the movie is not very realistic, it feels much more "real" than the sequel. Apart from a bit of sorcery, which does not affect the plot, there is nothing glamorous about the life story of Conan. It seems strange that somebody who grows up pushing a wheel ends up with a well-proportioned Schwarzenegger physique: how can you develop your biceps muscles if you always push? However, I was not too bothered by this flaw.

Arnold's acting is (to put it mildly) less than brilliant. Still, this is not a drawback: how articulate do you expect Conan to be, when he grew up as a slave? Speaking of which, R.H. Howard purists often complain that the "real" Conan would never be a slave. However, the movie would be much poorer if Conan did not have some real hardship to take revenge for.

There is no question that visuals and music play a big role in this movie. I have been listening to the soundtrack a few times a week for nine years, and it is better than Prozac.

Yet dialog (or rather, monologue) also has its moments. There are a couple of intriguing speeches, by Conan's father and by Thulsa Doom; but the most stirring monologue is Conan's first and only prayer, delivered just before the crucial Battle of the Mounds. The philosophy that transpires from this prayer is pretty straightforward: nobody will remember if we were good men or bad, but people will remember if we were brave; revenge is what Conan most cares about; and if his gods won't help him, then he'll help himself.
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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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A Visual & Aural Masterpiece
clauzy8220 May 2021
Has a story ever been told so well on the big screen with so little dialogue? Everything in this movie is meaningful, has its place from the music to every little high impact word spoken, creating one of the most atmospheric films of all time. Every piece of dialogue is crucial, packs a punch and a lot of the actors that generate this dialogue have powerful voices like James Earl Jones, Mako, William Smith and Max von Sydow. Some not as powerful but memorable and unique in their own way like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sandahl Bergman and Gerry Lopez to name a few. Bustling with quotes you'll remember forever.

How does this film get so much negativity? Because it is an absolute masterpiece. I put it down to arrogance, close mindedness or delusions of grandeur: too low brow of a film for a certain breed.

It also gets a bashing as being so far removed from the original stories by Robert E Howard. Wrong. I only ask you to read those stories and see for yourself how this film actually brought Conan and his world of the Hyborian Age to life, it might not follow a specific storyline, but this is Conan in the flesh and blood direct from the pages. CROM!

We are delivered into it straight away by epic music from Basil Poledouris and an overwhelming narration by the chronicler Mako (who also plays The Wizard), along with a great visual of a sword being made and finally the riddle of steel by Conan's father (William Smith). Already you are completely invested in this movie. This sense of mythical awe is quickly overshadowed by fast paced action with a great fight scene, high impact emotion and the music to match. In short Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who's village is destroyed, is captured and sold into slavery. This is a film about him growing from a boy to a man, as he seeks to find himself. A story for the ages, characters you'll never forget, a journey of revenge, greed and adventure. Two snakes come together as one.

The acting is all solid Arnold Schwarzenegger (Conan) knew his limits, learned a lot from the other cast and threw himself head first into this film with the scars to show for it. He owned it and is the epitome of Conan. Like Arnie, Sandahl Bergman (Valeria) threw herself into this role and it paid off, being her most iconic film. James Earl Jones (Thulsa Doom) was brilliant as usual and plays a memorable villain. Max von Sydow (King Osric) has a small role but impactful. Gerry Lopez (Subotai), William Smith (Conan's Father), Ben Davidson (Rexor), Mako (The Wizard), Valérie Quennessen (The Princess), Cassandra Gava (The Witch), Jorge Sanz (Young Conan), Sven-Ole Thorsen (Thorgrim) and the beautiful Nadiuska (Conan's Mother) all put in masterful performances.

If somehow you have missed this epic... Watch it now. It is a standout in film making, when they knew their limits and got everything spot on.

For the cheese fans it does have a lot of borderline cheese, but you get lost in the film you might not even notice: One moment during a crucifixion, a vulture meets a fitting end/Smashing the rust off the sword to reveal a perfect sword under it are two of my favourites.
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All time great
jushubble14 February 2021
This is a polarising film. People love it or hate it. For me it is simply the best. The music, the cinematography, the raw brutality of it. Sure the dialogue is dodgy but everything else is epic. I loved this film when I first saw it and again now as a much older individual (five O). What is best in life?!
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Powerhouse of Might and Magic!
CuriosityKilledShawn12 September 2006
Before CGI allowed filmmakers to cheaply create any fantasy world they can think of fantasy films had to rely on real locations, practical effects, and deep imagination to bring those worlds to life before the camera rather than in post-production. It may not be bestowed with Oscars, but Conan The Barbarian is just as classy as Ben Hur and more brutal than Gladiator.

In an almost wordless set-up, a young Conan is orphaned by the androgynous warlord Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and dragged off to some kind of weird labor camp where children are exploited and punished, kinda like a primitive version of Disneyland Paris. Years go by and Conan grows up into a huge, bloated and bulging muscle-bound killing machine.

At this point, he is used as a money-making tool by his captors, who set up death matches with other killing machines. Soon, he becomes the most honored fighter in the land, so his captors set him free as he can win no more tournaments. In the opening act alone we see him transition from innocent child, to orphan, slave, gladiator, warrior, adventurer, and thief.

He has a hard time surviving on his own until he finds a special sword, makes a new best friend in Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and finds a girlfriend in Valeria (Sandahl Bergman). Together, they live the high life of barbarians, mainly involving robbing, grunting, and clubbing people. All goes well until Conan makes it his personal quest to go after Thulsa Doom for revenge.

James Earl Jones appears threatening, even though he doesn't even look like the kind of guy who would say boo to a goose. Imagine Oprah Winfrey in Hells Angels biker gear and you'll have an accurate description of Thulsa Doom. He's not a totally formidable foe for Conan in the larger-than-life sense, but psychologically he's a scary dude.

Schwarzenegger does a great job. There really is only one person in the world who could play Conan, as sympathetic and brutal as he is, and Arnie definitely pulls it off, in this, his first major starring role. Of course, there is not much acting going on - he says only five words to Valeria in the whole movie - but it's all about physical presence, rather than thespianism. Most of the dialogue is unspoken. Conan was brought up to be a killing machine, but he learns humanity through feeling his own mortality.

Producer Dino De Laurentiis, a veteran movie-maker, brought a whole load of money to give Conan a massive scale. John Milius stages some h-u-g-e scenes, with excellent production values, and his cinematographer Duke Callaghan uses widescreen framing brilliantly. The gore and violence is on a par with Paul Verhoeven and is so frequent that after a while it becomes almost comical. Basil Poledouris, who wrote wonderful music for RoboCop and many others, creates a truly majestic score that is absolutely spellbinding.

As a tribute to Robert E. Howard's pulp hero, as a stand-alone movie, as an Arnie vehicle and cult picture, Conan is now almost a classic. Sure, there are faults, but you'll be too damn entertained to care.
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...And if you do not listen, then the Hell with you!
Hey_Sweden12 September 2017
Robert E. Howards' pulp hero got envisioned for the big screen in a majestic way, with this initial starring vehicle for champion weightlifter and future action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger. Its extremely impressive production values, and vivid storytelling, make it absolutely tops for its genre, and indeed superior to many of the imitative sword and sorcery epics that it spawned. Conan is orphaned as a boy when evil cult leader Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and his minions slaughter the people of Conans' village, including Conans' parents (played by Nadiuska and the legendary movie tough guy William Smith). The film charts Conans' odyssey from young slave to pit fighter to thief to avenging hero, giving him some faithful companions in the form of Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), Subotai (surfer Gerry Lopez), and the Wizard (Mako, who also serves as narrator).

With a screenplay credited to director John Milius and Oliver Stone, "Conan the Barbarian" is grand in its scope. Excellent location shooting (entirely in Spain) helps a great deal in creating the atmosphere, along with eye popping production design by Ron Cobb and cinematography by Duke Callaghan. Unlike some of its imitators, "Conan the Barbarian" is definitely a fantasy feature for adults, with a fair amount of female skin bared and some effectively nasty violence. Milius keeps optical effects to a minimum, and employs some enjoyable practically done effects along the way. The action scenes are nicely executed. But soaring above a lot of the other assets is the grandiose score composed by Basil Poledouris. It is simply perfect for the material.

Arnold is of course an ideal choice for the title role. His physical prowess, and physique, are on full display. The supporting cast is also up to the task. Jones is a wonderfully odious, yet charismatic, villain. Bergman is not much of an actress, but she too shows off an effective athleticism. Lopez (who is actually dubbed by actor Sab Shimono) is engaging, and Mako a hoot as he so often was. Smith is seen much too briefly, but Max von Sydow makes the most of his limited screen time, relishing a rare opportunity to ham it up. Arnolds' weightlifting associates Franco Columbu & Sven-Ole Thorsen, and football player Ben Davidson, play assorted heavies. Cassandra Gava makes a memorable appearance as a witch. Expatriate actor Jack Taylor, a familiar face to fans of European horror and exploitation, has a cameo as a priest.

If one is looking to delve into this genre, they simply can't do better than this.

Nine out of 10.
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