A 1996 soft core porn film disguised as an action film. So when you're watching it, and your mom walks in, you can just point to some of the explosions and claim it's an example of female empowerment... or something...
The movie stars Pamela Anderson Lee doing what she does best - running around with the minimal amount of clothing on, and the opening credits involve a prolonged scene with Pam wet-dancing on a trapeze to "Word Up". There's also no small number of other women wearing very little as well, but honest to goodness mom, look at all the explosions and Pam kicking the asses of all those men; it's just packed with female empowerment!
And, considering the way the women in this movie are assertive, vital to the plot, and get solid screentime, and the guys are portrayed as douches or bad guys, you might have more of a point than you know. Hell, the movie passes The Bechdel Test, although to be honest that tells you more about the test than the movie.
Anyway, apart all the boobage - err, the explosions - this was Pam's attempt for her to bridge her career from television to mainstream Hollywood film. And quaint as seeing her toting vast amounts of guns in skin-tight black leather is, it kinda failed. It has earned its reputation for completely ripping off the plot of Casablanca in a way that makes Overdrawn at the Memory Bank look like Citizen Kane (to stretch a metaphor beyond the point of logic). Has been Snark Bait for many a reviewer.
The film is based on the eponymous series printed by Dark Horse Comics during their attempt at creating a shared comic book universe, Comics' Greatest World, which resulted as In Name Only compared with the source.
- Absolute Cleavage: Gene Siskel scoffed most of the drama came from whether Anderson's breasts would topple out of her outfit or not. (Roger Ebert didn't mind.)
- Action Girl: No matter how much of Pam got showed off, Barb Wire is definitely a hard-up, bad-ass action girl to be proud of.
- Anti-Villain: Police Chief Willis. He may be a corrupt, lying asshole who makes Barb's life difficult, and a pawn of the oppressors, but he's not actually evil. For one thing, he knows his men are thugs and idiots, but they're still his men. He doesn't agree with the murder of Barb's blind brother, and at the end he saves them all by not handcuffing Barb and giving her a grenade to use.
- Artistic License Biology: A character fools a retina scanner using colored contact lenses, which actually might've worked if it had been an iris scanner. Evidently the writers didn't know retinas are at the back of the eyeball.
- Berserk Button: "Don't call me Babe!" (Which led to many jokes about talking pigs.)
- Big Bra to Fill: Inverted. Pam's breasts were actually larger in the movie than the original comic character.
- Biker Babe: Downgraded compared to her comic book counterpart.
- Bury Your Disabled: Barb's blind brother Charlie is tortured to death by the villains.
- Call-Back: Being a blonde curvy girl, riding a motorbike and using the Catch-Phrase "Don't call me babe!" are the only references to the original comic book and nothing else.
- Captain Obvious:
Willis: "Look out, she's got a grenade!"
- Police Chief Willis deliberately does this near the end of the film.
- The beauty of this line is the almost monotone way he says it. It is, after all, the grenade he gave Barb.
- Combat Stilettos:
- While not doing as much hand-to-hand combat as usual for this trope, she does enough fighting in them to justify it.
- And also, she throws one in a guy's head.
- Cute Bruiser: Barb and also the young leader of the resistance within Steel City. Technically this can also cross with Badass Adorable and Little Miss Badass
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Colonel Pryzer is good at these. He makes two threats."Let me make this perfectly clear. If Cora D escapes, I will personally rip your heart out of your ass, and shove it back down your throat.""Goddammit Willis, I'm gonna rip you in half!"
- Damned by Faint Praise: To Gene Siskel's astonishment, Roger Ebert said he liked it because it didn't bore him.note
- Disproportionate Retribution: Barb once shot a person for calling her a "babe."
- Disney Villain Death: Colonel Pryzer, when Barb drops his forklift.
- Evil Laugh: Barb Wire hears the villain do it for at least two minutes as he tries to kill her with a forklift!
- Since the plot completely rips off Casablanca, pretty much everybody is an Expy of somebody. The most obvious though, is the corrupt but on-the-side-of-good Police Chief Willis as Captain Louis Renault.
- The Fat Man is played by.... a really fat man!
- Extended Disarming: Barb has one of these sequences when she and her friends get caught.
- Eye Remember: Stupidly attempted on a blind man.
- Fanservice: A film with so much that is only being known for it. As said at first, this is more a sofcore porn movie than an action movie.
- Fat Bastard: Big Fatso.
- Feminist Fantasy: Almost a parody of one. Fanservice-style.
- Forklift Fu: Pryzer does this to Barb in the final battle.
- Guns Akimbo: Barb on a couple of occasions.
- In Name Only: So far that it's an interesting existential question whether this movie can be considered based on the Dark Horse comic book at all.
- Lock and Load Montage: After Barb decides to help out the Resistance, she gets one of these.
- Made of Explodium: Things blow up very easily.
- Ms. Fanservice: Guess who?
- Mythology Gag: The whole "Don't call me 'Babe'◊" Catch-Phrase was from the comic book, where Barb was Leaning on the Fourth Wall about John Byrne's comic Babe, which was accused of being Hot Amazon Brainless Beauty softcore. With the film starring Pamela Anderson, oh, the Irony!
- Naked on Arrival: Barb isn't exactly fully clothed during the credits when the audience first sees her and later, she meets her ex-husband's fiance' just after getting out of the bath.
- Putting on the Reich: Colonel Pryzer.
- Recycled In Space: Casablanca in a semi-apocalyptic Detroit; With Boobage.
- Shout-Out: A villain named Big Fatso, an obvious allusion to "The Fat Man" played by Sidney Greenstreet.
- Slip into Something More Comfortable: The gentleman in question decides to slip into something less comfortable; a gimp suit. However for Barb this pretty much seems to be wearing almost nothing at all.
- Theiss Titillation Theory: The Movie. Gene Siskel outright invoked the trope, stating that the entire film was about whether Anderson's breasts would pop out of her outfits or not.
- Villainous Glutton: Big Fatso
- Whole Plot Reference: Casablanca. One can make a Drinking Game on pointing out references to the 1941 film — if they wanted to be passed out on the floor by the end.