Red Sonja (1985)

red sonja poster 1985 movie review
2.5 Overall Score
Story: 2/10
Acting: 1/10
Visuals: 3/10

Red Sonja has potential

Red Sonja's potential is wasted

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Red Sonja

Studio:  Dino De Laurentiis Company/Famous Films (II)

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Comic Book/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  July 3, 1985

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

red sonja queen gedren sandahl bergman

She will be mine…oh yes…she will be mine!

Red Sonja (Brigitte Nielsen) rejects the advances of Queen Gedren (Sandahl Bergman) resulting in the deaths of her parents and brother.  Blessed by a spirit promising revenge, Red Sonja begins her quest to become the master of the sword and avenge the deaths.  When her sister reveals Gedren has captured the Talisman, Red Sonja must venture after Gedren to Berkubane to retrieve it.  Joined by a barbarian named Kalidor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a young prince named Tarn (Ernie Reyes, Jr.), and Tarn’s guardian Falkon (Paul L. Smith), Red Sonja must stop the threat of Gedren forever and save the world from destruction.

Directed by Richard Fleischer, Red Sonja is a fantasy sword and sorcery movie.  The film is based on the Marvel Comics and originally was intended as a spin-off of the Conan the Barbarian series.  The movie was met with negative reviews and nominated for Razzies for Worst Actress (Brigitte Nielsen), Worst Supporting Actress (Sandahl Bergman) and Nielsen won the Razzie for Worst New Star.

red sonja brigitte nielsen ernie reyes jr paul l smith ending

Listen, kid…if it weren’t for you half of our problems wouldn’t even happen…

Red Sonja has a strange history.  The character is credited to Conan the Barbarian’s creator Robert E. Howard, but it isn’t the same character that Howard wrote about.  Howard created a character named Red Sonya in a 1934 story called “The Shadow of the Vulture” but she wasn’t a barbarian.  Red Sonja on the other hand was created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith for Conan the Barbarian #23 (February 1973) and kind of based on Red Sonya.

The movie version of the film was meant to be a sort of sequel to Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, but the makers decided to change Schwarzenegger’s name Kalidor and make the film its own storyline…which is probably smart since the movie is pretty poor (though Conan the Destroyer was no great film either).  This doesn’t make much sense either since there is virtually no difference between Conan and Kalidor (though it might have been a bit confusing for some since the actress playing Queen Gedren was Conan’s love in Conan the Barbarian).

The problem with the film is that it is very generic.  The acting, the sets, the sword-and-sorcery all scream B-Movie.  While it felt like the producers put some effort into Conan the Barbarian, this movie feels just thrown together.  The movie also did receive some criticism for its portrayal of homosexuality as evil…Queen Gedren is pure evil and wants to kill Sonja for rejecting her.

red sonja brigitte nielsen kalidor arnold schwarzenegger

Me…I’m definitely not Conan the Barbarian…or Destroy…Nope…not me

The movie also is hindered by horrible acting.  It says something, when Schwarzenegger is one of the films better actors.  Brigitte Nielsen was cast for her looks off of a magazine, and it shows in scenes like the unconvincing romance moments with Schwarzenegger…and for a campy movie, Sandahl Bergman’s portrayal of Gedren is even over the top.  Also, the plot might as well be called “Tarn gets into trouble” since most of the fights are due to the annoying idiot boy king.

Red Sonja isn’t even a very enjoyable bad movie.  The story, the look, and the acting all combine to a rather dull, dull film that feels much longer than the less than hour and a half it runs.  With a dynamic character and a ton of story potential, Red Sonja has always been floated around for new adaptations…fortunately, any new Red Sonja won’t have much to live up to.

Related Links:

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

The Adventures of Red Sonja—Volume 1

The Adventures of Red Sonja—Volume 2

The Adventures of Red Sonja—Volume 3

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @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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