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Film: Conan the Barbarian (1982)

"In between the times when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And onto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler who alone can tell thee of his saga."

"Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!"

For added effect, play this while reading this article.

Conan the Barbarian is a 1982 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian, James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom, and Sandahl Bergman as Valeria. It was co-written by John Milius and Oliver Stone, directed by Milius. The soundtrack was composed by Basil Poledouris.

The film put Nietzschean (Wannabe) philosophy together with rubber snakes and an epic tale of revenge. While it wasn't very accurate to the original Robert E. Howard stories, hewing more to Oliver Stone's ideas filtered through John Milius' direction regarding both plot and themes, it has become a Cult Classic on its own merits. Its awesome music, epic feel, and interesting plot helped launch Schwarzenegger's acting career.

It had a 1984 sequel, Conan the Destroyer, which took a more comical and lighthearted tone under a new writer and director. A second sequel, with the same director as Destroyer, morphed into Red Sonja, with Schwarzenegger playing a character who officially wasn't Conan.

A Continuity Reboot, also called Conan the Barbarian, came out in 2011. Another sequel is currently in the works. Titled The Legend of Conan the film is set for a Summer 2014 release and will feature the return of Arnold. It will also completely disregard Conan the Destroyer.

This film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade:
    • The Atlantean sword. Being a relic of an ancient magical civilization may have something to do with it.
    • Averted with Conan's father's sword: Conan takes multiple swings to chop off Thulsa Doom's head.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene:
    • Pretty much any time Conan and Subotai have a discussion.
    • The scene between Conan and Valeria in bed, trying to talk him out of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • The director's cut has a scene shortly before the final battle where Conan offers Subotai the chance to leave. Subotai refuses and decides to stick with his friend.
  • Action Girl: Valeria.
  • 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.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The closing narration reminds us that Conan has many more adventures ahead of him.
  • Another Story for Another Time: Functions as the Sequel Hook.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • Thulsa Doom tells Conan, "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."
  • Badass: Conan, needless to say. Subotai and Valeria as well.
  • Badass Boast: From The Wizard upon first meeting Conan.
    I'm a wizard, mind you! This place is kept by powerful gods and spirits of kings. Harm my flesh and you will have to deal with the dead!
  • Barbarian Longhair: Conan sports unkempt, shoulder-length hair.
  • Bash Brothers: Conan and Subotai.
  • Best Served Cold: Conan's quest for vengeance on Thulsa Doom.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Conan kills Thulsa Doom and rescues the princess, but Valeria is dead.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Thulsa Doom does not remember specifically plundering Conan's village and selling him and the other children into slavery.
    Conan: You killed my mother... you killed my father! YOU KILLED MY PEOPLE! You took my father's sword!
    Doom: Ah! It must have been when I was younger.
  • Chewing the Scenery:
    • Mako's narration.
    • Max von Sydow as King Osric, "The Usurper."
      Osric: She follows him as a slave! Seeking the "truth of her soul." As if *I* could not give it to her! (throws dagger at camera)
    • Thulsa Doom's Rousing Speech to his cult just before Conan kills him.
  • Circling Vultures: One vulture actually tries to peck the crucified Conan. Conan bites its neck and chokes it.
  • Continuity Nod: Various references to Hyborian peoples, such as the nomads Conan asks directions from, are specified in the supplemental materials.
  • Cool Old Guy: Akiro.
  • Cool Sword:
    • Conan's father's sword, which Thulsa Doom steals and Conan eventually recovers — and breaks.
    • The Atlantean sword that Conan picks up during his adventures.
  • Cowardly Lion: The wizard who aids Conan and helps bring him back from the dead is not particularly cowardly and doesn't really fear Thulsa Doom, however he nearly craps his pants in terror at the spirits who try to claim Conan during his resurrection.
  • Crapsack World: The Hyborean era is harsh and unforgiving. And yes, the nicest people in the film are a bunch of thieves and murderers.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Conan is actually crucified, on the Tree of Woe.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Thorgrimm, one of Thulsa Doom's Co-Dragons, is impaled through the chest by a spike about the size of your average birch tree in a nasty trap set up by Conan.
  • Dark Messiah: Thulsa Doom styles himself a prophet that will "cleanse" the world.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Conan's way of ending Thulsa Doom and destroying his cult. Once he displays Doom's severed head to them, the spell is broken and they all turn away.
  • Den of Iniquity: Thulsa Doom's orgy chamber.
  • Doomed Hometown: Conan's village is razed early in the film.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: Thulsa Doom, cult leader of the Children Of Doom, who await the day of doom when they'll rain doom upon their enemies while chanting "dooooom".
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    Narrator: The children of doom...doom's children.
  • The Determinator: Conan will not let anything get in the way of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, not even death.
  • The Dragon: Rexor to Thulsa Doom.
  • 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.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Thulsa Doom.
  • 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.
  • Fluffy Tamer: The henchman who cares for the giant snake.
    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."
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Characters actually do tend to wear helmets when fighting in this movie, except when context doesn't justify it, like when they're sneaking around a temple, or in the antagonists' case, getting their orgy interrupted by the heroes. Almost totally averted during the Battle of the Mounds, except when Conan uses his to lure Thorgrim into a trap and Doom removes his to aim his funky snake-arrow (He's not in any major risk of getting head wounds either, given his distance from his foes).
  • The Hermit: Akiro.
  • 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.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Thulsa Doom is a master of this technique. It helps that he is an Atlantean with dark skin and piercing blue eyes who has seen a thousand years.
  • 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."
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: The last words said by Valeria.
  • 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.
  • Loveable Rogues: Conan, Subotai and Valeria.
  • Living Relic/Time Abyss: Thulsa Doom is over a thousand years old, and is the last survivor of the fall of Atlantis. He has seen one age give way to another, the shifting of continents, and the rise and fall of empires.
  • Made a Slave: The boy Conan, after Thulsa Doom destroys his village.
  • Mangst: You wouldn't think someone like Conan the Freaking Barbarian would Angst, but you'd be wrong. Illustrated perfectly in this exchange between two of Conan's sidekicks at Valeria's Viking Funeral:
    The Wizard: (noticing that Subotai has tears running down his face) "Why do you cry?"
    Subotai: (points to where Conan is standing in the shadows, staring at Valeria's pyre) "He is Conan! A Cimmerian! He will not cry. So I cry for him."
  • 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 is a master of this, and uses it to build an empire of willing servants who will gladly kill and die for him at his command. He uses it on Conan's mother before lopping her head off. He tries it on Conan too, but it doesn't work. When he is finally killed, the spell is broken.
  • 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. He's shown wielding large axes as masterfully as he does swords. Some of the weapons he fights with early on are fairly rare and exotic.
  • 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 of the Elephant.
    • Conan being crucified and surviving it mirrors a scene from A Witch Shall Be Born.
    • 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.
    • The scene of Conan being chased by wolves and finding the sword is a reference to "The Thing in the Crypt" by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. The only difference is that Conan doesn't fight an undead thing.
  • Narrator: The old wizard.
  • Nature Lover: The followers of Thulsa Doom present the appearance of this. They tell Conan to throw down his sword and return to the earth. Conan (as told by the Wizard) scoffs at this; "Time enough for the Earth in the grave!"
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The final scene, where Thulsa Doom addresses his followers, has cinematography similar to Triumph of the Will such as the Balcony Speech, Doom discusses a "cleansing" of the world to come, and even begins to rant with Hitler-like vocalisations as opposed to his usual Tranquil Fury. (Though the final mass suicide scene is actually based on the Jim Jones mass suicide, which occurred not long before the filming of the movie).
  • Nemean Skinning: When a fleeing Conan finally finds a weapon, the wolves that had been hounding him reappear. Cut to Conan wearing their skins.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Thulsa Doom even Lampshades this without foreseeing the inevitable conclusion: He killed Conan's parents and tribe, sold him into slavery under the Vanir who put him under a decade of hard toil until he became as strong as an ox, then pitted him in gladiatorial fights, teaching him the basics of combat, and later taught him advanced combat in Khitai. Thulsa Doom takes the credit for all of this work that made Conan the peerless warrior he is today, yet completely fails to accept that Conan will not be deterred from his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • No Name Given: Mako's character is simply called "the Wizard" and doesn't receive the name "Akiro" until Conan the Destroyer.
  • Novelization: Done by L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter and Catherine Crook de Camp. Notable in that de Camp and Carter had not only edited collections of Howard's tales, but also had written their own additions to the canon.
  • Not Too Dead to Save the Day: Happens with Valeria, a Mythology Gag to Belit from the original Conan story "Queen of the Black Coast."
  • 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.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Children of Doom.
  • Patricide: Thulsa Doom's power is such that he can compel his followers to murder their own parents. King Osric is afraid that his wayward daughter may do the same.
    Osric: You see this? They call it the "Fangs of the Serpent". And this one was thrust into a father's heart by his very son! And my own daughter has fallen under this Thulsa Doom's spell. Is there a dagger such as this in her hand for me?
  • Power Trio: Conan, Subotai and Valeria, who later become True Companions.
  • Protagonist Title
  • 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."
  • Rated M for Manly: Everything in this film is manly. Even the women.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Thulsa Doom gives Conan one of these before sending him away to be crucified.
    Look at the strength in your body... the desire in your heart! I gave you this. Such a waste. Contemplate this on the Tree of Woe.
  • Religion of Evil: The Children of Doom.
  • 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: Thulsa Doom transforms into a giant snake while watching his followers have an orgy.
  • Scary Black Man: Thulsa Doom, played by James Earl Jones. 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... and this story shall also be told.
  • Shout-Out: In addition to numerous shoutouts to the original Conan stories, listed above, the film includes numerous references to historical villains and badasses:
    • Conan's line about crushing your enemies and hearing the lamentation of their women is a paraphrase of a statement attributed to Genghis Khan.
    • Thulsa Doom has moments echoing the actions of Adolf Hitler (while addressing his followers from the balcony) and Hassan-i Sabbah, founder of the original Order of Assassins (or Hashishim), who is reputed to have demonstrated the devotion of his followers by ordering one to leap to his death.
  • Silence Is Golden: The movie has a very sparse script. Much of it contains no dialogue at all. Conan exchanges only five words with his love interest. In place of spoken words, the bombastic music is allowed to do the talking instead.
  • The Stoic: Conan. At Valeria's funeral pyre, Subotai poignantly pointed out: "He is Conan, Cimmerian. He Will Not Cry, so I Cry for Him."
  • 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.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Conan throws his axe at one of the Vanir warlords in the battle of the Mounds.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Jorge Sanz plays Conan in the childhood scenes.
  • 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.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Valeria.
    Valeria: All the gods they can not sever us. If I were dead and you still fighting for life I would come back from the darkness, back from the pit of Hell, to fight at your side.
  • Viking Funeral: Valeria's body is put on a bonfire.
  • 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.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Mako's narration. Not nearly as bad as some examples, but still a little cheesy.
  • You! Exclamation: Rexor says this upon seeing Conan (who is supposed to have been executed) in the big fight in the orgy chamber.
  • You Killed My Father: And his mother, and his people. Not to mention taking his father's sword. And you better believe Conan will make you pay for it, Thulsa Doom.

Citizen KaneTropeNamers/FilmCreepshow
Clash of the TitansSword And SandalHercules
The Chronicles of NarniaFantasy FilmsConan the Destroyer
Red NailsFranchise/Conan the BarbarianConan the Adventurer
ConfuciusNotable QuotablesDirty Potter
Class Of 1984Films of the 1980sThe Dark Crystal
High-Altitude InterrogationImageSource/Live-Action FilmsWheel of Pain

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