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Film / Conan the Barbarian (1982)

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"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

"Fire and wind come from the sky, from the gods of the sky. But Crom is your god. Crom, and he lives in the Earth. Once, giants lived in the Earth, Conan. And in the darkness of chaos, they fooled Crom, and they took from him the enigma of steel. Crom was angered; and the earth shook. And fire and wind struck down these giants — and they threw their bodies into the waters, but in their rage, the gods forgot the secret of steel and left it on the battlefield. And we who found it — are just men. Not gods. Not giants. Just men. The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery... you must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one — no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts... this you can trust..."
Conan's father, touting The Riddle of Steel

Conan the Barbarian is a 1982 film produced by Universal Pictures in association with Dino De Laurentiis, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian, James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom, Mako as The Wizard and Sandahl Bergman as Valeria. It was directed by John Milius, who co-wrote it with Oliver Stone. The highly regarded soundtrack was composed by Basil Poledouris.

The film put Nietzschean philosophy together with an epic tale of revenge. While it wasn't very accurate to the original Robert E. Howard pulp stories, hewing more to Stone's ideas filtered through Milius' direction, it has become a Cult Classic. It helped propel Schwarzenegger to mega-stardom.

It had a 1984 sequel, Conan the Destroyer, which took a Lighter and Softer 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, and although it was a box office disappointment, it - like this movie - did help to propel its own star (Jason Momoa) to stardom. Another sequel is currently in the works. Titled The Legend of Conan (or possibly King Conan), it is stuck in Development Hell but there are assurances (from Schwarzenegger himself no less) that the movie will happen at some point. It will also completely disregard Conan the Destroyer.

Let me tell you of the tropes of high adventure!

  • Abnormal Ammo: Doom is apparently able to paralyse snakes and fire them with a bow (with no fletching!), which he tries on Valeria and Osric's daughter.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Atlantean sword. Being a relic of an ancient magical civilization may have something to do with it.
  • 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 is shown to be just as capable a warrior as Conan. It's best demonstrated in the escape from Thulsa Doom's Mountain of Power, where she ends up getting cut off from the rest of the party by four armed guards. After spending a short while weighing them up, she dispatches them two at a time before catching up with her friends.
  • Actor Allusion: Thulsa Doom (as played by James Earl Jones) asks Conan to join him, and says that he is pretty much his son now. He even repeats "My son" in a way that makes any Star Wars fan widen their eyes. Plus, the whole dark armor/massive helmet combo.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Conan's backstory was rewriten to include a Doomed Hometown and being Made a Slave and forced to fight in Gladiator Games. Thus he's primarily driven by Revenge instead of wanderlust, thrills, and wenches.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: In Howard's original stories, Conan is a tactictal genius. In this film and its sequel, he's much, much dumber. Ironically, Schwarzenegger himself is actually closer in personality to Book!Conan than Film!Conan. The thing is, he wasn't able to speak English fluently enough for the producers' liking at the time, and staunchly refused to have his dialog dubbed by someone else ever again after Hercules in New York.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Schwarzenegger has dark brown hair instead of the plain black that the original Conan had.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Due to the major changes to his backstory, Conan is mostly The Stoic nursing a grudge instead of a free-wheeling Emotional Bruiser.
    • The Cimmerian deity Crom is said to be a tough but benevolent laughing god who is pleased by valour instead of a Perpetual Frowner who doesn't care about his people apart from giving them strength at birth and rewarding them if they prove to have enough valor worth respecting; while Conan's first prayer to Crom despite having "no tongue for it" is a high point of the film, originally Conan didn't pray to Crom because it invites punishment for bothering him.
  • An Aesop: The Riddle of Steel. Conan's father says "in steel alone can one trust", but true strength doesn't come from a blade, as anyone could be overpowered and killed regardless of the quality of their weapon. Thulsa Doom says "what is steel compared to the hand that wields it?" Nor does it come from the flesh, as even Conan (for all his massive strength) can be overpowered, beaten, and crucified. Rather, true strength comes from within, as Conan finally finds it within him to defeat Thulsa Doom by simply never giving up, no matter how long he has to search or how badly he gets mangled or how tremendously he and his companions are outnumbered. Conan's internal growth also shows when Conan resists Thulsa Doom's Hypnotic Eyes, the same move Thulsa used to kill Conan's mother.
  • Age Cut: The transition from child to adult Conan at the Wheel of Pain.
  • 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. Ironically, her name is spoken in the sequel, in which she does not appear.
    • According to the original script, the tomb where Conan gets his sword was from the lost city of Atlantis.
    • The purpose of the Wheel of Pain is to grind grain, but this is never depicted in the film itself.
  • Ambiguously Bi: When the heroes are inspecting the cult orgy, Valeria seems equally enthused as Conan and Subotai are at the sight of so many buxom naked women.
  • Ambiguously Human: Thulsa Doom, who has a very unusual complexion, can transform himself into a snake, enchants people with his Creepy Blue Eyes, and hasn't aged a day from the time he slaughters Conan's people to the latter meeting him again as an adult. It's not clear whether he is actually some kind of magical snake-being or simply a very skilled wizard. Neither, for that matter, have Doom's two Co-Dragons, Thorgrim and Rexor. Word of God says that Doom is a member of an ancient race of people that lives an incredibly long time, possibly through the use of magic, but no such explanation is given for the other two.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Thulsa Doom is played by the light-skinned African-American James Earl Jones, but has distinctively non-African blue eyes and straight black hair. Word of God stated that he was intended to look like a member of an ancient race that had vanished from the Earth.
  • 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." Played for character development rather than comedy; it shows the audience that while Doom places basically no value on human life, he'll get real mad if you mess with his possessions.
    • This applies to his minions as well (note that the trio cut down dozens of guards and acolytes):
      Doom: You killed my snake! Thorgrim is beside himself with grief! He raised that snake from the time it was born!
    • Conan responds, "You killed my father! You killed my mother! You killed my people!" then adds, "You took my father's sword..." The last accusation is the only one that strikes a chord with Thulsa Doom.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Conan's "MightyAtlantean Sword Flourish", twirling his sword around himself in a backhand grip. This serves no practical purpose whatsoever, other than looking badass. Shown here why it's so impractical; a competent opponent will just stick a sword in you in the middle of your move.
  • Badass Boast: Thulsa Doom has a truly menacing one while addressing his cult.
    Thulsa Doom: "Infidel defilers. They shall all drown in lakes of blood. Now they will know why they are afraid of the dark. Now they learn why they fear the night.
    • Also from The Wizard upon first meeting Conan.
    The Wizard: 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!
  • Bait-and-Switch: Conan and crew are dragged before King Osric to answer for their crimes against Doom's cult, and at first the king makes a big deal about how much grief they have caused with their antics. But then the king reveals that he hates the cult, because Thulsa Doom has lured away his daughter, and he would love nothing more than for Conan and his friends to rescue her.
  • Barbarian Longhair: Conan sports unkempt, shoulder-length hair. Doom, Thorgrim, and Rexor, too.
  • Bash Brothers: Conan and Subotai.
    • Also Thorgrim and Rexor.
  • Best Served Cold: Conan's quest for vengeance on Thulsa Doom.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Conan kills Thulsa Doom, avenging his parents, village and Valeria, defeats the cult and rescues the princess, but Valeria, his family and his people are still gone and Conan is left in silent, grim contemplation. Morover, Conan is stated to be destined in the future to live a lonely, troublesome existence as the King of Aquilonia.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Before the Final Battle of the film, Conan gave what has been described as "the most backhanded prayer ever."
    Conan: Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!
    • In other words, if Crom gives him the strength to claim his vengeance against Thulsa Doom, Conan will use that strength to fight for the entertainment of his god. But should Conan's efforts come to naught, he will reject Crom in the afterlife, denying he ever worshiped a god who could not listen to his only prayer. Of course, Conan only demanded that Crom listen to his prayer. Whether or not this entails granting Conan's wish or not is debatable.
  • Blatant Lies: Invoked by Valeria as King Osric's guards drag her and Conan to his throne room, and the king demands to know where Subotai is:
    Valeria: The, ah, lions ate him!
    [the guards drag a hungover Subotai in]
    King Osric: Lions... ate him?
  • Bloodless Carnage: Averted throughout except for the decapitation of Conan's mother, where her head just falls down from offscreen with no blood. It was originally going to be much bloodier, but the props didn't work.
  • Breeding Slave: During his stint as a gladiatorial slave Conan was, shall we say, put to stud. While the slavemasters watched.
    The Wizard: [narrating] And he learned the pleasures of women, and was bred to the finest stock.
  • Brick Joke: After each of his gladiator matches, Conan salutes the audience in the stands, crossing his arms over his chest and bowing. After the final battle, he salutes the sky with the same gesture for the audience of gods who the wizard had said would be watching.
  • 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.
  • Camera Abuse: Blood gets on the lens of the camera when Thorgrim is impaled on a trap set by Conan.
  • Camp Gay: That one priest who Conan mugs for a robe, after asking to go with him to a discreet corner.
  • Cannibal Larder: The antechamber Conan and his allies pass through to reach Doom's sanctum has walls lined with human corpses, gutted and beheaded, that the cult uses for food. There's also a large cauldron with a hand inside as well as a skull.
  • Casual Crucifixion: Averted, surprisingly (because if you'd expect this trope to apply to anyone, it'd be Conan). His crucifixion is of both the binding and nails-in-wrists variety, and he's implied to survive far longer than anyone else could in his position, but he still very nearly dies after being rescued. It's implied Valeria has to trade her life for his in order for Conan to survive and recover.
  • 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.
  • The Chosen One: The witch appears to be a seer as she foretells Conan's future.
    Witch: They said you would come... From the North... a man of great strength. A conqueror. A man who would someday be king by his own hand! (Conan perks up) One who would crush the snakes of the Earth...
    Conan: (sitting up straight) Snakes?! Did you say snakes?
    Witch: (backing off warily) What is it you seek?
  • Circling Vultures: One vulture actually tries to peck the crucified Conan. Conan bites its neck and chokes it.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Michael Fleisher and John Buscema adapted it as issue #21 of Marvel Comics Super Special. There was also a 2-issue standalone adaptation. Conan was drawn in the way the Marvel artists always drew him, with little attempt made to make him look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • Composite Character:
    • Due to being a wizard associated with snakes, Thulsa Doom is reminiscent of Thoth-Amon, but named after a character in the same universe who lived thousands of years earlier (and whose skull-head appearance anticipated Skeletor by decades).
    • Valeria is named after Conan's companion from the story Red Nails, but her role more closely resembles that of Belit from the story Queen of the Black Coast.
    • Due to mentions of Valhalla, the Celtic-inspired Cimmerians have been combined a bit with the Norse-inspired Aesir tribes (Crom is named after the Irish god Crom Cruach).
    • Conan himself isn't as much Conan as half-Conan/ half-Kull. The Made a Slave, gladiator backstory, and somber personality fits Kull more than it ever has Conan.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • The Wizard.
    • King Osric is a pretty chill guy, for a "usurper".
  • Cool Sword:
    • Conan's father's sword, which Thulsa Doom steals and Conan eventually recovers — and breaks.
    • The Atlantean sword that Conan picks up early in his adventure.
  • Cowardly Lion: The wizard who aids Conan and helps bring him back from the dead is not particularly cowardly and doesn't 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 the nicest people in the film are a bunch of thieves and murderers. Of course, their enemies are much worse. Valeria even points out how cruel and dark the world is and how lucky they are to have found each other. They should probably just try to be happy instead of risking their lives every day.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes: On Thulsa Doom. Creepy, in that the character is darkskinned.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Conan is actually crucified, on the Tree of Woe.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Thorgrim, 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. He's wearing full armor and worse, he's still moving.
  • Dark Messiah: Thulsa Doom styles himself a prophet that will "cleanse" the world.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Also 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. The severed heads of Conan's mother and father are also placed on poles as seen when the enslaved children are being led out of the village (his father's being removed after he was already dead, but his mother's was not.)
  • Deal with the Devil: The wizard warns Valeria that the Gods of the Mounds demand a heavy price to save Conan's life, but Valeria is unfazed. After the ritual is complete, Conan recovers, but the Gods later collect their due in the form of Valeria's life.
  • Death by Adaptation: Conan's family, clan, and possibly the entire Cimmerian people, if they're meant to be the only ones. Also Valeria. Poor Valeria...
  • Den of Iniquity: Thulsa Doom's orgy chamber.
  • The Determinator: Conan will not let anything get in the way of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, not even death.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: All three of our heroes take a time out to appreciate the Setite orgy. Even Valeria looks interested.
  • Does This Remind You Of Any Thing:
    • Doom's priests all wear white flowing robes with pointed hoods. The sight of The Klan lookalikes serving a dark-skinned leader may or may not be an intentional Irony. The torchlight night rally is also reminiscent of the Nazis.
    • The Children of Doom also have a cult-like vibe, with one of them committing suicide simply because their leader commands it. The mass suicide in Jonestown had happened just a few years before.
  • 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 Dragon: Rexor to Thulsa Doom.
  • Dragon Hoard: Conan and Subotai break into the Tower of the Serpent and discover a pit in which a gigantic snake sleeps coiled around a kind of altar, on which a large red gem is displayed. Conan succeeds in taking the gem but accidentally wakes the snake with drops of sweat dripping from his face. The snake attacks and nearly kills Conan, but is killed through Conan's and Subotai's joint efforts.
  • Driving Question: What is stronger, steel or flesh? The conclusion that Conan appears to come to after dispatching Thusla Doom is neither; the strongest force is will.
  • Drop the Hammer: Thorgrim wield an absolutely massive banded wooden warhammer throughout the film.
  • Dull Surprise: Some of the characters in the movie. "Thorgrim is beside himself with grief!"
  • Dwindling Party: The children chained to the giant Wheel of Pain die off until an adult Conan is pushing the entire Wheel by himself.
  • Earth/Wind Juxtaposition: At one point, Conan and Subotai discuss their respective religions. Conan's people worshipped a War God named Crom who lived in a great mountain, while Subotai's people worshipped a god of the winds and sky. When the conversation shifts to which god is stronger, Subotai points out that Crom lives underneath the sky, which will always be above him and beyond his reach.
  • 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.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When his slave-owners give him a naked lady to, erm, breed with, Conan gently wraps her up in his fur cloak before laying her down, showing the audience that he can be tender as well as brutal.
  • 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 Extra: 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 the time it was born. [Thorgrim glowers]
  • Foregone Conclusion: "...and onto this, Conan! Destined to bear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow", hence, you know Conan's troubles won't really kill him as long as he's not yet king...
  • Forging Scene: The film starts with the forging of the Father's Sword.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Despite the plentiful violence, we don't see the deathblow for Conan's mother. All we see is that Doom swings his sword, her head falls past the camera, and her body topples over.
  • Heist Clash: While trying to break into the Tower of the Serpent, Conan and Subotai run into Valeria, a thief who also wants to raid the tower. After a short standoff, Valeria is the first to grasp the situation and persuades them to team up for the heist. Thanks to their combined skills, the raid is a full success.
  • 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).
  • Here There Were Dragons: The Wizard recounts how great and powerful beings once roamed the earth long ago, but they're all gone now. Earlier in the story, Conan himself discovered a tomb containing the possible mummies of some of these beings, and finds his Cool Sword there.
    The Wizard: Ooooh... Once great men lived here. Giants! Gods! Once, but long ago.
  • The Hermit: The Wizard is pretty friendly, but apparently his chief social contact is with the dead, who he sings to. It is ambiguous whether he is actually talking to spirits or he is simply insane.
  • Heroic BSoD: When Conan realizes that the Cult of Set are the same group that murdered his family, he is so stunned that he nearly gets eaten by a giant snake.
  • 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 wizard 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 among the Aesir (another Viking counterpart culture) and had taken come to like their ways more than he did those of his own people.
  • Homing Projectile: Shortly before Thulsa Doom uses a bow to shoot a paralyzed snake at Valeria, he whispers "seek!" to the snake, implying the snake is a magic-guided missile.
  • 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. It fits in with the snake Animal Motif, referencing how some snakes can mesmerize birds before killing them.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Valeria's sorrowful speech to Conan, stating she envies the ordinary people who can live in warmth with their loved ones, and wishes she could live a normal life with Conan instead of being a vagabond and a Weirdness Magnet.
  • In Name Only: Besides some elements like names, assorted scenes and most notably Mako's narration at the start, it has very little in common with the Conan books. Conan himself is fundamentally altered since he is orphaned as a boy and grows up in slavery, becoming what he is all due to others, instead of being a master of his own fate who decided on Walking the Earth because he felt like it, Thulsa Doom is a villain in Howard's King Kull stories set thousands of years before the Conan stories with a skull for a head, Cimmerians are evocative of Vikings while in the books they are based on Celts etc. etc. John Milieus has stated that he always wanted to make a Viking movie. Given the Viking imagery all over this film, it is safe to say that he was making a Viking film first and a Conan film second.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Echo: In the beginning of the movie, Thulsa decapitates Conan's mother with Conan's father sword. At the end, Conan decapitates Thulsa with the same weapon.
  • Irony: In the opening, Conan's father tells him that the only thing he can trust is steel, patting the blade of his new-forged sword. In the Battle of the Mounds, that very blade turns out to be unreliable, as Conan is able to break it with a blow of his own sword.
  • 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 rises from his throne]
      King Osric: I salute you!
    • The "What is best in life?" scene is also gloriously hammy, courtesy of the Khitan General and Conan:
      Khitan General: My fear is that my sons will never understand me... HAO! DAI YE! We won again! (cheers) This is good. But what is best in life?
      Khitan Warrior: The open steppe, a fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.
      Khitan General: WRONG! Conan, what is best in life?
      Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!
      Khitan General: [cheers]...That is good.
  • 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.
  • Like a Son to Me:
    • After Conan proves more attuned to his thinking than his own sons in the "What is best in life?" scene, Conan's owner sets him free while drunk. No doubt he regretted it in the morning.
    • Thulsa Doom tries this at the end of the movie. Fortunately it doesn't work.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Before the assault Thulsa Doom's place of power to rescue the princess, Conan, Subotai, and Valeria have a brief montage of preparing and sharpening their weapons, getting their outfits in order, and making and applying warpaint.
  • 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.
  • Mama Bear: Young Conan's mother is ready to fight an entire raiding party to protect him, until Thulsa Doom gets into the act.
  • 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.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never clear if Valeria appears before Conan as a ghost who killed an enemy or if it's just a vision when an enemy is taking out by a trap, but she inspires him to victory.
    Valeria's ghost: Do you want to live forever?
  • 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.
  • Money Is Not Power: King Osric tosses fistfuls of rubies to the thieves who have defied Thulsa Doom and promises them enough to make them kings as well if they will just steal his daughter back. He explains that all his wealth has become meaningless to him, and now all he cares about is his love for his daughter.
  • 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.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Conan, naturally. He's usually shirtless, and Arnold Schwarzenegger played him.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The Wolf Witch, the brunette sacrificial victim, and Valeria, in that order. Oh and the woman from Conan's days of being "bred to the finest stock."
  • Mugged for Disguise
    • Subverted when Conan knocks out a member of the Doom Cult to infiltrate Thulsa Doom's lair. Unfortunately Conan gives an amulet he stole from the Tower of the Serpent to a guard to establish his bona fides. Suspicious, the guard takes it to the Co-Dragons, and they easily locate Conan among the thousands of cult members simply because he's moving and acting differently from the fervent cultists.
    • Earlier in the film, Valeria is seen sneaking up on a female cultist attending a human sacrifice. The movie cuts to Conan for a bit, and when it cuts back to Valeria she's standing where the unfortunate cultist was standing, dressed in her robes. She manages to wing it until the discovery of Conan and Subotai's intrusion.
  • 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 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 named for 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 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.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: After drinking, feasting and carousing away their stolen wealth our heroes are rather hungover when King Osric's guards show up to arrest them. Valeria tries to shake Conan awake but her shove only makes him collapse onto the floor. She then makes a belated attempt to grab her sword only to give up when the guard commander lowers his helmet visor and raises his own sword.
  • 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.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Arnold Schwarzenegger had only had a few minor acting roles, and was still best known for his bodybuilding career. Conan proved his breakthrough role. Sandahl Bergman and Gerry Lopez were both fellow athletes, the former a dancer and the latter a surfer. The filmmakers dealt with this by giving their characters relatively little dialogue, with their nonverbal performances carrying much of the film and letting the more experienced actors like Max von Sydow and James Earl Jones do most of the talking.
  • 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 So Different" Remark: Akiro's narration notes that King Osric the Usurper is basically an elderly version of Conan.
  • 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).
  • Opening Monologue: Mako Iwamatsu has one at the beginning.
  • Outside-Context Problem: 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 will inevitably 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?
  • Protagonist Title
  • The Quiet One: Thulsa Doom's two Co-Dragons, Thorgrim (the clean-shaved one) and Rexor (the one with a moustache.) Rexor has only a couple of lines, Thorgrim never says anything at all.
  • Rated M for Manly: Everything in this film is badass. Even the women.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Thulsa Doom gives Conan one of these before sending him away to be crucified.
    Thulsa Doom: 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.
  • 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.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Valeria tries to dissuade Conan from going after Thulsa Doom (possibly not knowing of his vendetta against him), but Conan cannot let go of the hatred he feels for the man who tore his life apart.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant: Thulsa Doom is a Kull villain, though the film version is more akin to Thoth-Amon who is a Conan villain. Kull the Conqueror brought this full circle with Akivasha, a Conan villain, as its Big Bad.
  • 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.
    • Pushing the Wheel of Pain for years would not give Conan the muscle definition and size that Conan has in the film. But it still serves as a cool metaphor for "that which does not kill us only makes us stronger."
  • Same Language Dub: Gerry Lopez's scenes as Subotai were redubbed by Sab Shimono before the film's release.
  • 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.
  • Schmuck Bait: Conan comes across a beautiful woman living alone in the woods, inviting him into her tent for "warmth and fire", Conan's first reaction is to reach for his sword hilt. He's right to be cautious as she has already captured Subotai and tries to do something nasty to Conan as well.
  • Serpent Staff: Having freed King Osric's daughter from Thulsa Doom's lair, Conan and his companions flee on their horses. Thulsa Doom straightens out a living snake in his hand, turning it completely stiff, and launches it after the escapees; the snake-missile hits and kills Valeria.
  • 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.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: When Conan's crew raid Thulsa Doom's party, he eludes them by slithering away as a snake, leaving his robes behind.
  • Shout-Out: In addition to numerous shoutouts to the original Conan stories, listed above:
    • The imagery of Conan on the Wheel of Pain is a homage to one of the Maciste movies.
    • The evil Teutonic Knights in Alexander Nevsky are homaged through Thulsa Doom's horned helmet, the sequence of Thorgrim presenting Conan's father's sword to Thulsa Doom (instead of consigning a baby to the flames). In addition, Thulsa Doom's line about steel vis-a-vis its wielder is paraphrased from a line spoken by Alexander himself ("The strength of a sword is measured by the arm that wields it.")
    • Conan's line about crushing your enemies and hearing the lamentation of their women is a paraphrase of a statement attributed to Genghis Khan.
    • His companion Subotai is named after Genghis Khan's best general.
    • 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.
    • The Children of Doom seem to be a weird mix of the Jim Jones cult, an evil version of early Christians, and hippies.
    • The Wizard, who is a bald man played by a Japanese actor, mentions singing songs of battle to the spirits, and Conan is brought back to life by having characters written all over his exposed skin. These three plot points resemble the story of Hoichi the Earless, a Japanese Buddhist monk (bald, of course) who was contracted to sing tales of war and heroism by a group of spirits, and was protected from their wrath by having characters written on his exposed skin. (Unlike Conan, however, Hoichi unfortunately fell foul of the spirits - he lost his ears, since the people writing on his skin forgot to do those.)
  • Sickening "Crunch!": Heard when Thorgrim hits someone with his hammer.
  • 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.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: When Conan attempts to infiltrate Thulsa Doom's palace, he hands off the priest's necklace to a guard whose face is covered by a mask and whom does not have a single line. But this guard realizes something is wrong and gets Doom's Co-Dragons to capture him.
  • Speaking Simlish: In the scenes showing his career as a gladiator and his "breeding to the finest stock," the spectators jabber at each other in Simlish.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Sandahl Bergman is only two inches shorter than Schwarzenegger, and consequently has the honor of being one of the only Ahnuld love interests in history who doesn't look like a midget standing next to him on screen.
  • Succubi and Incubi: Conan has sex with a succubus. Although it could be said she was a witch or sorceress instead. In any case, she starts changing into something not human during the act, thoroughly spooking out Conan, who throws her into the fire. She somehow escapes, with a disembodied cackling, and Conan can only mutter "Crom..."
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Subverted. While Conan's bad acting may be able to fool the priest, the guard Conan gives the jade necklace to immediately realizes something is wrong and gets Thorgrim and Rexor to capture Conan.
  • 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. After a Time Passes Montage on the Wheel of Pain, he lifts his head to reveal himself having aged into a well-muscled Austrian.
  • Trick Arrow: 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.
  • Triumphant Reprise: When Conan ascends the stairs of the temple to kill Thulsa Doom the music that plays is the same ominous drum rhythm that opened the film.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Conan, Subotai and Valeria, who later become True Companions.
  • 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.
  • 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 Kill It, You Bought It: Played with — after Conan kills Thulsa Doom, King Osric's daughter throws herself at his feet, but Conan has no interest in taking Doom's place and just takes her back to her father. Whether he got some Rescue Sex on the journey back is left to the audience's imagination.
  • 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.