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Characters / Flash Gordon (1980)

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Flash Gordon

Played By: Sam J. Jones
"He'll save every one of us!"
  • Action Hero: One of the originals.
  • Adaptational Job Change: In the comics, Flash was a polo player, but polo was deemed a less popular sport by 1980, so he was made a football player.
  • Back from the Dead: Before he gets executed, a doctor gives him an injection and says to him "This will help you on your way."
  • Chekhov's Skill: Flash was a quarterback before coming to Mongo. Luckily, there happened to be an awful lot of football-shaped objects among Ming's tribute.
  • Distressed Dude: Flash in little leather shorts strapped to a chair....
  • Dumb Blonde: "Dumb" may be a bit harsh, as much more of a handsome, golden haired hunk and totally guileless.
  • Dumb Is Good: While being a slightly boorish jock, Flash is a saint compared to the intelligent and conniving but evil Emperor Ming.
  • Dumb Muscle: Downplayed. Perhaps compared to the likes of Ming, Klytus and certainly Dr. Zarkov, but he's no fool, despite his brawny hunkiness.
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  • Face Death with Dignity: Flash goes to his execution calmly.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Flaxen-haired, and just about the most noble and decent fella you could ever meet (though he lacks the Innocent Blue Eyes of his original counterpart, because Sam Jones couldn't wear the colored contact lenses).
  • Hidden Depths: Despite his hot-headed and painfully straightforward tendencies, Flash is said to be a graduate of Yale University and champion polo player (in comic/serial)/New York Jets quarterback (1980 movie).
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Doesn't give Ming's We Can Rule Together offer a second of serious consideration before he shoots it down.
  • Magnetic Hero: Gordon has a stellar track record of this trope in this movie, several examples causing full-on conversions of enemies to allies. Princess Aura's "fascination" with Flash sparks her High-Heel–Face Turn; his duel with and subsequent sparing of Prince Barin generates a Defeat Means Friendship flip, and Prince Vultan, awed by Flash's courage and mercy, swears eternal loyalty and friendship as well.
  • Messianic Archetype: Flash Gordon, due to being brought Back from the Dead by Princess Aura.
    • The Expository Theme Song's lyrics refer to Flash as savior of the universe, a miracle, and king of the impossible, who'll save every man, woman and child with a mighty hand.
  • Mr. Fanservice: See Walking Shirtless scene
  • Nice Guy: What can you say about a guy who not only asks the man who's trying to kill him during a Duel to the Death to promise to team up with his enemies to overthrow Ming (if he dies), and spare that same man's life when he wins?
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: Declines to take part in the challenge of the wood beast... Until Barin sticks his own arm in the stump and calls him a coward.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Flash. (King of the Impossible!)
  • Same Language Dub: Sam Jones's entire dialogue was dubbed by a long-unknown actor because Sam refused to do ADR for post production. It wasn't until 2020 that the actor in question was revealed to be Peter Marinker.
  • Shirtless Scene: In the scene where he gets executed, he's wearing nothing but short tight underwear.
  • Universal Driver's Licence: Flash using the Hawkmen rocketcycle and piloting War Rocket Ajax.

Dale Arden
"We only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"
Played By: Melody Anderson

  • Action Girl: In the scene where she escapes from Ming's palace
  • Damsel in Distress
  • Damsel out of Distress: Dale temporarily rises to Action Girl status with a spectacular display of She-fu during her escape from Ming. She takes out no less than 4 guards before making her getaway.
  • I Gave My Word: Dale swears and fully intends to be a faithful wife (concubine?) to Ming if he will spare the Earth.
  • She-Fu: Dale gives a startling display of this during her escape from the palace.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Just look at the picture.

Emperor Ming
"Pathetic Earthlings!"
Played by: Max von Sydow

  • No Body Left Behind: He collapses into energy and gets absorbed into his ring.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Killing him apparently stops the moon hitting the Earth when it's seconds away.
  • Royal "We": Emperor Ming uses it occasionally, but not consistently.
  • Sadist: He admits to destroying entire civilizations for his own pleasure.
  • The Sociopath: He has no love for anyone, not even his own daughter, beyond their use to him.
  • We Can Rule Together: Offers to spare Earth if Flash joins him and rules in Ming's name with humanity as slaves. Flash turns him down flat.
  • Yellow Peril: An alien inspired by this trope.

Princess Aura
Played by: Ornella Muti

Dr. Hans Zarkov
Played by: Chaim Topol (credited as Topol)

  • All There in the Script: Dr. Zarkov's backstory was that he was a NASA scientist who was fired for his paranoid fantasies that Earth was going to be attacked from outer space. 60 Minutes derided him as "A Poor Man's Billy Mitchell".
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Played by Topol for a start. His Mental Picture Projector scene implies memories of the Holocaust, and the Talmud is among the list of things he says he used for Psychic Static.
  • The Determinator: Manages to resist Klytus's brain-emptying and brainwashing treatment
  • Herr Doktor
  • Ignored Expert: Hans Zarkov's warning about an attack from space got him fired from NASA.
  • Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Zarkov (and Munson) both have one of these. Given that the science they're engaged in mainly requires looking at radar screens and printouts — except whenever they assembled that rather nifty rocket, which would have been better done wearing overalls — there can be no other reason for their labcoats than to visually label them "scientists."
  • Mad Scientist: He can't understand why NASA fired him or why Flash and Dale seemed frightened of him...the scientific community and the media perceive him as a crackpot. That said, he is actually more than a little eccentric.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero;
    • Throws one of them Fabergé egg things to Flash during the football scene and accidentally knocks him out.
    • Played with. Ming claims to only destroy planets that are advanced enough to realize his attacks aren't natural disasters. If his claim is true, and he's not just doing whatever he feels like, it's Zarkov's own attempt to contact whoever was launching the attacks that nearly dooms the Earth. However, Ming and Klytus' commentary at the beginning of the film contradicts this, and suggests Ming said that just to screw with Zarkov.
  • Pretend to Be Brainwashed: Gets mentally reprogrammed and his whole memory is supposed to be wiped out. When he is rescued later, he reveals that he resisted the brainwashing by reciting Shakespeare, the Talmud, the formulas of Einstein, and a song from The Beatles.
  • The Smart Guy: He didn't get all those degrees out of a cereal box.
  • They Called Me Mad!: He's a rare heroic example.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Essentially kidnaps Flash and Dale after threatening his lab assistant with a gun to try to get him to go to space, but is still basically a hero.

Played by: Peter Wyngarde

  • Admiring the Abomination: During Zarkov's brainwashing session (viewing his memories of the Holocaust), he opines that Hitler showed promise.
  • Black Cloak: His body is completely covered by one, except for the golden mask he wears.
  • Canon Immigrant: He was made up for the movie but later appeared in the Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist comics.
  • Catchphrase: "With Pleasure."
  • Cool Mask: A shiny gold, rather Doctor Doom-ish one, at that.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Can spew excellently barbed witticisms even from behind an expressionless metal mask. Check out this exchange between Klytus and Flash, as the latter is chained up in the dungeon with a "pain helmet" over his head:
    Flash: "I demand to see the Governor! I can hardly breathe in this thing!"
    Klytus: "Yes, you don't look well. And I'm told you refused your final meal. The chef will be upset."
    Flash: "Tell him to go to hell!"
    Klytus: "Maybe it's just as well. Gas works more quickly on an empty stomach."
  • The Dragon: Ming's right hand man.
  • Evil Brit : Rocks that inexplicably upper class Brit accent, as evil space people often do in movies.
  • Eye Scream: Klytus' eyeballs bugging out of his mask when he dies. Yucko!
  • The Faceless: He is never seen without his mask.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Klytus. See Impaled with Extreme Prejudice just below.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Flash and Barin toss him onto a spike-covered platform.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Always wears a gold mask, and is definitely no hero.
  • Not Quite Dead: According to Peter Wyngarde, it's supposed to be Klytus who picks up Ming's ring at the end of the film, as he was intended to be the Big Bad in the never-produced sequel.
  • Rage Helm: Which never gets removed, even upon his death.
  • Red Right Hand: Gold one, anyway.
  • Stalker with a Crush: To Aura.
  • Villainous Harlequin: In addition to being The Dragon, he seems to serve as a court jester type person to Ming.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Warns that Prince Vultan will sacrifice his daughter (who looks to be no more than ten years old) if he refuses to stand down during his skirmish with Prince Barin in the Imperial Court. And no one in attendance doubts he'll follow through on his threat.

Prince Barin
Played by: Timothy Dalton

  • Action Hero: As Flash is the main hero of the movie, Barin doesn't get as many action scenes, but once the two have broken into Ming's fortress, the Prince of Arboria quickly makes up for lost time!
  • Alien Blood: Like all Arborians, it's thick and green.
  • Berserk Button: God help you if he thinks you're beating his time with Aura. And if you hurt her...
  • Defeat Means Friendship: He spends much of the film trying to kill Flash as a rival for Aura's affections, but finally teams up with him after Flash spares his life in a Duel to the Death.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Barin is haughty and more than a little hot-headed to the point of murderous rage, especially when dealing with Flash and Vultan. But he ultimately wants what's best for everyone on Mongo and will fight by an ally's side to the death.
  • Master Swordsman: He definitely knows how to handle a blade.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: His reason for entrapping Flash into a deadly ritual. He realizes he underestimated Flash after he successfully passes the test twice, refuses to keep alternating with Flash - essentially forcing him to do the test over and over til he dies.
  • Princesses Rule: Played with. He rules the Arborians as a prince with no mentioned father/king above him, but he's actually the King, but since Ming is in charge...
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The cultured version to Vultan's outright barbarian.
  • Rightful King Returns: After Ming is defeated, it's revealed Barin's lineage is the rightful royal line. There's a reason he's called a Prince, after all.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: You have to be handsome to play James Bond, after all.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Fatally blasts General Kala, though it was totally in self-defense.

Prince Vultan

  • Boisterous Bruiser: Usually he carries a large, wicked-looking war club - and relishes chances to use it - but he also enjoys knocking mooks out with a hammerlike blow of those meaty fists.
  • Death Glare: Gives Klytus a brief but intense one when Kyltus threatens to sacrifice Vultan's daughter if he refuses to stand down.
  • Frontline General: Vultan gets down and dirty with the rest of his troops. There's a reason he's appointed as Barin's military leader at the end of the film.
  • Large Ham: See above.
  • No Indoor Voice: He bellows a lot. Which means BRIAN BLESSED is having a good day.
  • Papa Wolf: Vultan is ready to throw down (probably to the death) with Barin during Ming's court, and still won't back off after he and Barin are ordered to. A direct threat from Klytus to Vultan's young daughter makes him swiftly comply, but he is clearly pissed that Klytus would dare.
  • Princesses Rule: He rules the Hawkmen and has no mentioned father/king above him. Ming being Emperor probably forces all those who would be rulers to be Princes under his rule.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: You want to fight about it? To the death, on a platform over a fifty-mile drop, with the tilting and the spikes? Oh, and with whips. And did we mention the spikes?
  • The Starscream: Admits he'd overthrow Ming if he could and Ming knows it.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Names the trope before going into a suicidal battle. Not actually an example.
  • Winged Humanoid: He and all the other Hawkmen.

General Kala
Played by: Mariangela Melato