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Film: Jason and the Argonauts

"Some people say Casablanca or Citizen Kane... I say Jason and the Argonauts is the greatest film ever made!"
Tom Hanks, giving Ray Harryhausen a special Academy Award

Jason and the Argonauts is a well known Sword And Sandal film produced by Ray Harryhausen and loosely based off a Greek myth. It is famous for its skeleton fight scene, one of the best stop motion sequences in history. It is looked on fondly by many nostalgics who remember loving it as a child, and has actually held up reasonably well over time.

There was another movie made in 2000 produced by Hallmark with the same title that followed the original myth more closely, its ending aside. Many fans of the Harryhausen movie often mistake the Hallmark version for a remake of it despite them both being based on the same myth and having virtually nothing in common apart from the titles.

The stories of both films revolve around the hero Jason, rightful heir to the throne of Iolcus (Thessaly, in the 60s film), whose throne was usurped from his father by Evil Uncle Pelias. Pelias offers to give Jason the throne if he sails to the end of the world to claim the Golden Fleece, something which many have tried but failed. Jason gathers a crew and sets sail aboard the ship Argo. Together, the Argonauts encounter all sorts of adventures along the way. Jason's love interest in the both films is Medea, a temple dancer in the 60s film and a sorceress in the Hallmark version, and the gods Zeus and Hera play roles in the story as well.

The most famous contemporary source for the original myth is Apollonius of Rhodes' Argonautica.


The Harryhausen film provides examples of:

  • The Adventure Continues: Zeus stops Hera from "clearing the board" because he's not done with Jason yet.
  • Animate Dead (In both senses of the word!): Aeetes summons the skeletons of warriors killed by the Hydra to stop the Argonauts.
  • Attack Its Weakpoint: The Talos fight.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In both films, Jason receives an Amulet of Dependency, which is not from the myth. In the 1963 film, it is a gift used to call for Triton's aid in escaping the Clashing Rocks.
  • Creator In-Joke: The skeletons' shields depict creatures from Harryhausen's previous movies.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Between Hercules and Hylas in the competition to be an Argonaut. Hylas is able to cast a discus farther by skipping it over the water, to Hercules' great amusement, and they become best buds. Hercules even leaves the quest when Hylas dies.
  • Dem Bones: The skeleton fight scene. The skeletons are Perpetual Motion Monsters and Jason actually can't defeat them by fighting—they keep getting up and all they need is one slip in the heroes' guard to kill. So Jason jumps off the cliff instead.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the Harryhausen film only Hercules, Hylas, Argus and Acastus receive any development whatsoever and other Argonauts are only mentioned by name.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Poor Phineas. He's condemned to have harpies attack and steal his food for the rest of his life. It's left him quite bitter at the gods.
    "Zeus, I was a sinner! But I didn't sin every day..."
  • Divine Chessboard: Zeus and Hera use one to influence and observe Jason's journey.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Inverted. Medea is a princess in the original myth but here is just a priestess to Hecate. She gets to be a princess again in the Hallmark film.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Clashing Rocks. When Jason asks what they are, Phineas says "they speak for themselves, don't they?"
  • Executive Meddling: Harryhausen stated that he wanted to avoid the Italian muscle man stereotype present in films at that time when casting Hercules.
  • Final Battle: Jason and three Red Shirt Argonauts versus a horde of reanimated skeletons. And it's epic.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Hera warns the Argonauts not to take anything but supplies from the Isle of Bronze. Then Hercules and Hylas find a gods' jewelry box, with a brooch pin that Hercules fancies as a javelin. You can guess how well this ends.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: In this version, Zeus decrees that Hera is only allowed to help Jason five times, since that was the number of times his elder sister Briseis called upon her by name to protect him. This is a handy explanation for why Hera, as Queen of the Gods, can't just come in and magically solve every problem for our heroes, which works fine in a myth but would be pretty anti-climactic in a film. (Of course, she still finds ways around it...)
  • Hero of Another Story: Hercules. Spelled out by Hera when he leaves the quest to look for Hylas.
  • Hydra Problem: Averted. Despite having a Hydra, it remains with only 7 heads.
  • Island Of Mystery: The Isle of Bronze.
  • It's All My Fault: Hercules blames himself when Hylas disappears on the Isle of Bronze and leaves the quest to find him, or rather, to find his body because he was crushed by Talos.
  • Large Ham: King AeŽtes romps home with the prize. "DESTROY THEM! KILL! KILL, KILL, KILL THEM ALL!!!"
  • Left Hanging: The movie ends with the heroes escaping from the skeletons but we never see a resolution between Jason and Pelias. Rather than continuing Jason's story, Harryhausen did Sinbad sequels instead. (Possibly because Jason and Medea have the most Downer Ending possible.)
  • Oh Crap: When Hercules realizes he has awaken Talos.
  • The Mole: Acastus, sent by Pelias to kill Jason when he looks like getting the Golden Fleece. Jason twigs to his purpose just before they reach Colchis, but Acastus escapes and warns AeŽtes about the visitors. (And then tries to steal the Fleece for himself, which gets him killed by the Hydra.)
  • Nay-Theist: Jason doesn't believe in the gods, so Hermes brings him to Mount Olympus. Jason still refuses Zeus's help (but accepts Hera's, since she's already started), though Zeus is pleased by this. He's not so pleased later when Jason declares "screw gods!" at the Clashing Rocks.
  • The Queen's Latin: More like The Queen's Ancient Greek, but the gods speak rather posh.
  • The Quest: Get the Golden Fleece and overthrow Pelias.
  • Never My Fault: Pelias tries to blame Zeus for the slaying of Briseis in Hera's temple, as it was Zeus who decreed that Pelias would take Thessaly's throne but be killed by the king's children. Hera says that he did it all his own self.
  • Red Shirt Army: Jason apparently picked the best athletes etc in Greece, yet hardly any of them actually do anything interesting apart from the two who get killed by the skeletons at the end. Oh, and the guy who jumped in after Acastus.
  • Rightful King Returns: This is what Jason would like to do, but he wants to have something more inspiring for his people than just stomping up to the palace and killing Pelias. Hence, the quest.
  • Rule of Cool: The fight between the hero and a skeleton went down so well in Harryhausen's previous Sinbad movie that Harryhausen decided to take it Up to Eleven and made the hero fight seven skeletons.
  • Same Language Dub: The two lead actors, Todd Armstrong (Jason), and Nancy Kovack (Medea) both American actors, were dubbed by British actors, Tim Turner and Eva Haddon respectively.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Jason gets fed up with the gods shortly after helping Phineas escape his divinely-decreed punishment and calls for the end of the gods when it looks like the Argo will be destroyed in the Clashing Rocks. This impresses Hera and she moves Triton to intercede.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Apart from Zeus saying that Hera is allowed to help Jason's baby sister Philomena, no mention is made of her after she's left on Hera's statue.

The Hallmark film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: A pretty unique inversion. In mythology, Atalanta was an Amazonian Beauty with blond hair that had suitors lining up for her. Here she is portrayed as a rather plain tomboy.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: Atalanta doesn't really show much interest in the thief that is attracted to her, having eyes for the strong Jason. The trope isn't played literally since she shows no interest in Hercules himself.
  • Amazon Brigade: The women on the Isle of Lemnos
  • Back Up Twin: Jason London's twin Jeremy doubled for him a few times.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Mopsus has grown one since Pelias took over.
  • Betty and Veronica: Atalanta is the Betty to Jason - childhood friend and already very close to him. Medea is the Veronica - exotic Hot Witch. The set-up is played with as Jason never saw Atalanta as anything other than a friend - and Medea never knows about Atalanta's feelings for him.
  • Billing Displacement: Natasha Henstridge gets third billing in the Hallmark film but has only 20 minutes of screentime out of 3 hours. Ditto for Derek Jacobi. The two of them only appear in part 1 of the unedited version.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Echion in the Hallmark film lasted long enough to suggest they kill Acastus for stowing away before he was drowned by Poseidon. Averted with Orpheus who survives.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The Thief already proves useful for snatching the Fleece. He also proves useful by revealing to have stolen Jason's amulet when he dropped it in Lemnos.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the Hallmark film, Jason's Amulet of Dependency it is a memento from his childhood and turns out to be the key that opens a secret tunnel to the palace, allowing the Argonauts to sneak in and surprise Pelias.
  • Chekhov's Skill: "The legs are springs, the arms wings"
  • The Danza: Jason London
  • Dirty Old Man: Argos, watching the women of Lemnos bathe.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jason's mother hearing false news that he died.
  • Dull Surprise: Jason London and Jolene Blalock in the Hallmark film.
  • Evil Twin: Aspertes and Medea are definitely brother and sister but we don't know if they're twins
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Pelias's hair gets greyer the further along the story moves in the Hallmark film. Also Mopsus is shown with long shaggy hair and beard when Jason meets him. When the ship sets sail he has cut his hair short and shaved his beard.
  • Fan Disservice: In the 60s film did we really have to see all the topless old men? And Hercules is definitely not a catch.
  • Fanservice: The Isle of Lemnos in the Hallmark film. Also where Medea rubs magic oil onto Jason to protect him from the fiery breath of a bull.
  • Five-Man Band: There are loads of Argonauts but the main group is as follows:
  • Good Is Not Dumb: The majority of the situations the Argonauts get into are solved by Jason's quick thinking, like him creating a zipline for them to cross the gorge and tying a noose to the dragon guarding the Fleece.
  • The High Queen: Hypsipyle, Queen of Lemnos. At least to her own people anyway.
    • Hera is portrayed this way too. The film does play up her jealousy but it's mostly used to show that she and Zeus are both being idiots.
  • Hot Witch: Medea in the Hallmark one.
  • Improbable Hairstyle: Pelias, Aetes, the Sage, we're looking at you.
  • Incest Subtext: Between Medea and Aspyrtes as he seems especially jealous of Jason's attraction to her, and not just because it means losing the throne.
  • Ironic Echo: "My destiny is to rule"
  • Lady Land: The Isle of Lemnos. It turns out there used to be men but they were all killed, sacrificed to Artemis.
  • Large Ham: Zetes in the Hallmark film and Acastus in the Harryhausen one.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Jason drops this on Atalanta. For an added sting, he says "you're as dear to me as a brother".
  • The Lost Lenore: Orpheus's Eurydice - his love for her stops him from being seduced by the women of Lemnos.
  • Loveable Rogue: In the Hallmark film a thief joins the crew and ends up taking the Fleece off its tree and finding Jason's lost amulet.
  • Maybe Ever After: The thief and Atalanta get a lot of Ship Tease moments and some scenes hint that Atalanta might reciprocate his feelings notably when he catches feathers for her arrows. The two of them are seen standing together at the end of the film.
  • Meaningful Echo: The Golden Fleece is referred to as "worth a kingdom". Towards the end of the movie Jason says the same thing about his amulet.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Medea reveals she can heal wounds when Acastus is shot with an arrow. She doesn't bother healing her brother though
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Played with as Jason considers Atalanta to be a sister (he actually says brother) and rejects her romantic advances but Atalanta does catch the eye of the thief who stows on board.
  • One of the Boys: Atalanta is the only woman on the ship, yet is treated as if she were one of the men (by everyone except the thief that is).
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Castor and Pollux from the myth get bumped up to this.
  • Psychic Link: Between Jason and Medea in the Hallmark film. A convenient plot device to introduce Medea earlier in the film.
  • Race Lift: Orpheus is commonly imagined as white in Greek mythology. Here he is played by Anglo-African actor Adrian Lester.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Unlike in the myth where the Argonauts are famous heroes or princes prior to the quest, Jason mostly recruits peasants not as much for skills but for pluck. Castor and Pollux are stoneworkers. Odysseus's future dad Laertes is a cowherd who vaults over charging bulls for fun. Later he vaults straight into the dragon's mouth.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Medea's long black tresses.
  • Red Shirt Army: Several Argonauts die in the course of the film, even Hercules and old Argus himself. The body count snowballs as the film progress.
  • Shout-Out: May be coincidental, but Orpheus is black and there happens to be a 1959 multi-awarded Brazilian film called Black Orpheus.
  • Those Two Guys: Castor and Pollux
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Atalanta is the tomboy huntress while Medea is the girly girl princess.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Atalanta towards Jason.
  • Our Dragons Are Different

Mostly due to a common source, both of the films provide examples of:

  • Ancient Grome: Set in Greece yet he calls himself Hercules.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Acastus gets a pretty rough deal in both adaptations. In the first he betrays the Argonauts to Aeetes and in the Hallmark film he steals the fleece and brings it to Pelias. He didn't betray them in the original myth and ended up becoming King in his father's place. He did end up banishing Medea from the kingdom, but then again she did cause his father's death...
    • And really inverted with regards to Jason and Medea. Jason goes off to technically steal the fleece just so he can become King in the original myth but in the Hallmark film he must do it to save his mother's life. He didn't really love Medea either and only agreed to marry her to get the fleece, while the film shows him to genuinely love her. Medea as well was a Manipulative Bitch in the original myth and killed Pelias herself as part of a trick to become queen.
  • Big Damn Heroes
  • Blessed with Suck: Phineas is given the gift of making prophecies but has lost his eyesight.
  • Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity: Climbing down cliffs.
  • Costume Porn: For the royal characters, anyway.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Everyone Chasing You
  • Face-Heel Turn: Acastus. Also King Aeetes when he finds out Jason wants the Fleece
  • MacGuffin: The Golden Fleece
  • Scenery Porn


The 7th Voyage of SinbadFantasy FilmsThe Golden Voyage of Sinbad
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It's a Wonderful LifeDanny Peary Cult Movies ListThe Killing
Ghost ShipSea StoriesK19: The Widowmaker
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alternative title(s): Jason And The Argonauts; Argonautica
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