Conan the Barbarian (1982)

conan the barbarian poster 1982 movie arnold schwarzenegger
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Introduced the Arnold to the masses, nice representation of Howard's work

So-so effects look dated

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Conan the Barbarian

Studio:  Dino De Laurentiis

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  March 16, 1982 (Spain)/May 14, 1982 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R


Let’s raise some hell!!!

Conan’s people the Cimmerians are massacred by Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) leaving Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to grow-up a slave.  Growing strong, Conan escapes imprisonment to become a barbarian and finds himself travelling the land.  Befriending a thief named Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and a warrior woman named Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), Conan finds himself making an enemy of the Cult of Set whose leader happens to be Thulsa Doom…the man who destroyed his life.  Conan, Valeria, and Subotai are recruited by King Osric (Max von Sydow) to rescue his daughter (Valerie Quennessen) from Thulsa Doom.


Love me…love my glorious locks!

Directed by John Milius and produced by Raffaella De Laurentiis, Conan the Barbarian adapted the popular stories by Robert E. Howard which at the time were also being told in a Marvel Comic series.  The movie was well-received by critics and brought in a big profit.

Conan first appeared in 1932 in Weird Tales magazine and gained popularity through a series of adventures.  Howard basically invented the sword and sorcery genre, and Conan is the primary example of the style.  Howard’s stories served as the basis for the Marvel Comics series Conan the Barbarian which premiered in October 1970.


That’s right! I have a sword!!!

The film was partially scripted by longtime Conan writer Roy Thomas and also had involvement with Oliver Stone (whose drug induced script set in the future was mostly scrapped).  The film ended up using parts of Howard’s story “A Witch Shall Be Born” and “The Tower of the Elephant” from the Stone script.  Many see Valeria as a parallel to the famous “Queen of the Black Coast” Bêlit though her name was taken from “Red Nails”.  Thulsa Doom actually came from Howard’s Kull stories.  The use of Howard’s original stories do give the film some substance and leave it feeling a lot like a Howard story if you’ve ever read them.


You don’t know how hard it is to get a nice matching headdress

The movie also created a star.  Arnold Schwarzenegger took the role that was almost played by Charles Bronson or Sylvester Stallone.  Schwarzenegger won Mr. Universe in 1969 and went on to win Mr. Olympia multiple times.  He had been in a few films and the pseudo-documentary Pumping Iron which gained him film attention, but this movie made him a star.  Many credit the fact that at the time, Frank Frazetta was also portraying Conan in a way that resembled Schwarzenegger…I always pictured Conan strong, but not as brawny as Schwarzenegger from the stories.  I do like that the movie brought in some other decent actors to bolster Schwarzenegger’s performance, but I know that James Earl Jones had to really be questioning that wig.

Visually, Conan the Barbarian is hit or miss.  Though it looks like the movie went big…real big, the effects haven’t always held up well.  I love some of the imagery, but it of course led to some really cheesy rip-offs.  Conan the Barbarian does it decently however, and I think for the time it was made, it is about as good as you can get.

Conan the Barbarian is still a fun movie.  I loved it growing up so it does hold some sentimental space in my heart.  The movie’s huge box-office gain led to a sequel (of course), and Conan the Destroyer was released in 1984.

Related Links:

Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Red Sonja (1985)

Conan the Barbarian (2011)


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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