Adaptation Dye-Job: Schwarzenegger has dark brown hair instead of the plain black that the original Conan had.
All There in the Script: Valeria's name is never mentioned in the film, despite the fact that she's a major character. Her name is listed in the credits, however.
An Aesop: The Riddle of Steel: Strength doesn't come from a blade, as anyone could be overpowered and killed regardless of the quality of their weapon. Nor does it come from the flesh, as Conan refuses to be defeated even after he is physically beaten and crucified, and left for dead. Rather, true strength comes from within, as Conan finally finds it within him to defeat Thulsa Doom after Valeria sacrifices herself to save him, and he breaks his father's sword while fighting The Dragon.
Ancient Tomb: Where Conan obtains the Atlantean Sword. According to the director's commentary, it's the tomb of an Atlantean General who was buried along with his harem.
Dressing as the Enemy: Conan knocks out and steals a member of Doom's Cult robes and impersonates him so he could sneak in. It doesn't work
Dull Surprise: Some of the characters in the movie. "Thorgrim is beside himself with grief!"
Equivalent Exchange: Conan is mortally wounded by his crucifixion on the Tree of Woe, so his lover Valeria convinces the Old Wizard to work a healing spell to save him from the brink of death. The Wizard warns that the gods demand a price for this sort of thing, and she says she'll pay it. When she's later shot with a snake arrow by Thulsa Doom, she decides that her death is her payment. Whether that's true is not revealed, but it seems consistent with the bleak universe of the film.
Excalibur in the Rust: The Atlantean Sword looks like a solid piece of rust when Conan first finds it in the tomb. That might just be the decayed scabbard, though, since Conan just whacks the sword on stone a few times and the crud comes right off.
Fanservice: Sandahl Bergman in body paint and a skimpy leather outfit.
Plus the multitude of women who strip off at various points in the movie. Lots of chiseled shirtless men as well.
Fed to the Beast: This is the fate of many cultist girls who are being sacrificed to a giant snake, before Conan kills it.
Doom: And that is what grieves me the most. You killed my snake! Thorgrim is beside himself with grief. He raised that snake from when it was born. (Thorgrim glowers)
Forging Scene: The film starts with the forging of the Father's Sword.
He Will Not Cry, so I Cry for Him: Conan tenderly dresses the corpse of Valeria, the love of his life, as he prepares her funeral pyre for her journey to Valhalla. Yet for all his love, any tears that are left from his Men Don't Cry upbringing in childhood has been dried away by his twenty years of pitiless slavery. His best-friend Subotai silently sheds Tender Tears as the sorcerer asks "Why do you cry?" To which Subutai answers: "He is Conan, Cimmerian. He will not cry so I cry for him."
Horny Vikings: Ironically, it is the Cimmerians, not the Vanir (who are actually a fantasy counterpart culture to the Vikings in Howard's stories), who are represented as a culture of psuedo-Vikings. The Cimmerians are described as believing in "Valhalla", and Crom is instead represented as an Odin-like god than the distant, brooding deity he was in the original canon. Granted, this may be a mutation of how, in the original Howard novels, Conan spent most of his adult life amongst the Aesir (another Viking counterpart culture) and had taken come to like their ways more than he did those of his own people.
Heroic BSOD: When Conan realizes that the Children of Doom are the same group that murdered his family, he is so stunned that he nearly gets eaten by a giant snake.
I'm a Humanitarian: Pay attention to the giant soup pot and red-lit antechamber in Thulsa Doom's Den of Iniquity to see what the caterers are cooking up. Mocked on the Director's commentary: "Split-pea-and-hand soup."
Intoxication Ensues: "Black lotus. Stygian—the best!" Cut to Conan and Subotai stumbling through the streets, giggling.
Katanas Are Just Better: The movie has Conan being trained in swordsmanship by the War Masters of the East, basically making him a samurai. He's seen performing a kata with a katana (or nodachi?). Though he's never actually seen fighting with one, instead favoring the broadsword.
Large Ham: The Wizard's narration. Also applies to Max Von Sydow's portrayal of King Osric.
King Osric: What DARING! What OUTRAGEOUSNESS! What INSOLENCE! What ARROGANCE!
King Osric rises from his throne
King Osric: I salute you!
The Lancer: Subotai. He teaches Conan how to be a thief, saves him from the Tree of Woe, and stands by him during the Battle of the Mounds.
Made a Slave: The boy Conan, after Thulsa Doom destroys his village.
Misery Builds Character: The movie opens with the quote "That which does not kill us only makes us stronger" and this is a persistent theme throughout the movie: Conan survived the Wheel of Pain which made him physically strong and tough, he survived being a gladiator which made him an excellent warrior, and he survived the Tree of Woe which strengthened his desire to kill Thulsa Doom.
More than Mind Control: Thulsa Doom uses this on Conan's mother. He tries it on Conan too, but it doesn't work.
Multi-Melee Master: While, as we all know, Heroes Prefer Swords, Conan's experiences as a gladiator have made him this, especially once he goes to train with the weapon masters in the east. Some of the weapons he fights with early on are fairly rare and exotic.
He's shown wielding large axes as masterfully as he does swords.
Mythology Gag: The film contains several references to the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard, such as:
The scene where Conan, Subotai, and Valeria climb the Tower of the Serpent is similar to a scene from The Tower of the Elephant where Conan and Taurus of Nemedia scale the tower mentioned in the title.
The character of Valeria is Conan's companion in the story Red Nails (although in Red Nails she's a pirate, while in the film she's a thief).
The Wolf Witch may be loosely based on Zelata from The Hour of the Dragon, although Zelata aids Conan in his quest while the Wolf Witch seduces and then attempts to kill Conan.
Valeria returning from the afterlife to save Conan's life mirrors a scene from The Queen Of The Black Coast when Conan's lover, Belit, does the same thing.
The name of Thulsa Doom is from Robert E. Howard's Kull stories, which exist in the same universe as his Conan stories (albeit thousands of years earlier). Name aside, the Thulsa Doom in the film is more similar to Howard's Thoth-Amon, a priest of the serpent god Set who appears in three of the Conan stories.
Off with His Head!: Thulsa Doom decapitates Conan's mother during the raid on the village. At the end of the movie, Conan does the same to him.
Old Master: The Asian swordmaster in the movie was actually played by the movie's swordmaster.
Ominous Latin Chanting: "Riders of Doom", and "The Orgy" (which plays when the trio are inside the Mountain of Power).
Outside-Context Villain: A truly epic introduction of the villain in this fashion, as the Riders of Doom descend upon Conan's village out of the blue.
The ashes were trampled into the Earth, and the blood became as snow! Who knows what they came for... weapons of steel? Or murder? It was never known, for their leader rode to the south, while the children went north with the Vanir. No one would ever know that my lord's people had lived at all. His was a tale of sorrow.
Rage Against the Heavens: Conan's prayer to Crom before the Battle of the Mounds has traces of this. He basically tells Crom "I'd love it if you'd help me beat these guys. But if you won't, then you can go fuck yourself."
Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Thulsa Doom's cult makes liberal use of snake imagery and keeps giant snakes as guardians.
Revenge: Conan's quest for vengeance after his family and people are slain by Thulsa Doom.
Rule of Cool: The famously awesome opening sequence in which Conan's father forges the sword that will become his son's has exactly nothing in common with real swordsmithing (swords are usually wrought from lumps of hot iron, not cast as liquid in molds as depicted in the film), but even actual swordsmiths consider it to be a magnificent piece of film-making.
Scaled Up: For reasons that are never explained, Thulsa Doom transforms into a giant snake while watching his followers have an orgy.
Most likely like he did at the ceremony where Conan is captured he sensed his presence and since he wasn't surrounded by thousands of followers and guards that time he transformed so he could sneak away without being confronted by him. Notice that the hole is big enough for his reptile form to fit through but not enough for a human (or a large barbarian) to get into.
In the director's commentary it's revealed that they wanted Thulsa Doom to look like he was a member of a race that has long since vanished from the earth. He has black skin, but he also has straight hair and blue eyes.
Sequel Hook: The final shot of the film shows an older, bearded King Conan sitting upon a throne as the narrator tells of things to come.
The Wizard: So, did Conan return the wayward daughter of King Osric to her home. And, having no further concern, he and his companions sought adventure in the west. Many wars and feuds did Conan fight. Honor and fear were heaped upon his name. In time he became a king by his own hand... but that is another story.
This Is Unforgivable: After Conan raids one of Thulsa Doom's towers and steals his treasures, he is most upset because Conan kills a giant snake guardian.
Thulsa Doom: You broke into my house, stole my property, murdered my servants, and my PETS! And that is what grieves me the most! You killed my snake. Thorgrim is beside himself with grief! He raised that snake from the time it was born.
Trick Arrow / Unusual Ammo: Thulsa Doom fires snake-arrows — arrows that are originally snakes, are pulled out and magically made into arrows, then fired, then they turn back into snakes. Fortunately, this is too awesome to be laughed at.
Virgin Sacrifice: Thulsa Doom has a tower full of virgin girls who are being sacrificed to a giant snake.
Wheel of Pain: Conan's immense strength comes from working on one while he was a slave.
Wrongfully Attributed: Many think the quote, "What is the best in life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women" originates here. It was actually said by Genghis Khan.