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Film / Flash Gordon (1980)

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Savior of the universe!


Flash Gordon is a 1980 film produced by Dino De Laurentiis, based on the Flash Gordon comics and film serials from the 1930s, with a soundtrack by Queen (who would classify the official soundtrack album as their ninth studio album).

Unlike most science fiction or fantasy films of the time, it takes a high camp approach with tongue firmly in cheek, getting high quality theatre actors to deliver large helpings of ham. It is also one of the earliest science fiction or fantasy films to have a rock soundtrack, in this case by Queen; easily the most spectacular element of the film.

Its actual financial success was pants. The only country where it really made it big was the UK, the same country that invented pantomime, wry humour and the band Queen, who did the soundtrack. But it was Vindicated by Cable in The '80s, and became a Cult Classic (to the point that it figures into the plot of Seth MacFarlane's Ted, along with the soundtrack by Queen).

Herewith a rundown of the plot, courtesy of the dialogue sampled for the title track of the soundtrack album (by Queen):

"Seemingly there is no reason for these extraordinary intergalactic upsets. Only Dr Hans Zarkov, formerly at NASA, has provided any explanation... This morning's unprecedented solar eclipse is no cause for alarm."
"What's happening, Flash?"
"Strange object imaged in the Imperial Vortex."
"General Kala — Flash Gordon approaching."
"What do you mean, 'Flash Gordon approaching'?! ...Open fire! All weapons! ...Dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body!"
"GORDON'S ALIVE?!!" ... ive...ive
"Flash! Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"

However, merely reading the above cannot do it justice. Watch the music video and stand in awe. There was even a videogame adaptation for the Atari 2600, which was a proto-Metroidvania game crossed with Defender.

Interesting side note: George Lucas tried to purchase the film rights to Flash Gordon, but Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis was sitting on them. Lucas instead went on to create his own space adventure flick, whose success spurred this one into production, complete with a soundtrack by Queen. Funnily enough, two of the principal actors in Flash Gordon also went on to appear in Star Wars: BRIAN BLESSED voiced Boss Nass in The Phantom Menace in 1999, and Max von Sydow played Lor San Tekka in The Force Awakens in 2015.


The 1980 movie provides examples of:

  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: When Munson leaves Zarkov's greenhouse and sees the crashing plane coming straight for him, he runs back into the greenhouse and gets run over instead of running to the side, though there wasn't much room to run to the side, admittedly.
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: Mongo and the space around it are filled with multi-colored clouds.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The scene in which Ming gives Flash a We Can Rule Together offer in Vultan's palace is quiet and understated, and practically the only time someone isn't Chewing the Scenery. Von Sydow still manages to be a Cold Ham, though.
  • Agony Beam
  • Alien Blood:
    • Ming bleeds green, although his daughter Princess Aura doesn't.
    • General Kala has black blood.
    • After Ming stabs Prince Thun, bright blue blood can be seen on the sword — proving he's a literal Blue Blood.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Ming has a sinister version. Every thousand years he tests all the planets of the universe with natural disasters. If the inhabitants realize that an alien has caused it, he wipes them out.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Apparently Mongo is an English-speaking world group. The novelization explains that the Mongian language was beamed into our heroes' heads during their trip through the vortex.
  • All Part of the Show: When Flash approaches Mongo City in War Rocket Ajax, General Kala explains over the loudspeakers that the city's guns are being fired in continuous salute to celebrate the emperor's wedding. Ming doesn't even question it.
  • All There in the Script: The backstory of Flash's T-shirt was that it was a gift from an anonymous female fan. Flash wore it a lot in the hopes that he would eventually meet the woman.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Dr. Hans Zarkov is never stated outright to be Jewish, although his memories, seen when Ming's secret police attempts to erase them, and his reference to his study of the Talmud as the reason why that attempt failed, make it pretty clear. Plus, he's played by Chaim Topol, Tevye from the Fiddler on the Roof himself. Interestingly, he is also Herr Doktor.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Emperor Ming to Dale Arden.
  • Anything but That!: "No! Not the Bore Worms!"
  • Baby Planet: Mongo's moons. The ones we see aren't round, Arboria is bowl-shaped with everything on "top" of it and the Hawk Men live in a flying fortress.
  • Back from the Dead: Flash himself, after being executed by poison gas. He's saved by a doctor's injection he received beforehand, though Princess Aura pretends that she revived him with a kiss.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Fico (Richard O'Brien) gets in a good one.
      Flash Gordon: Where are the weapons?
      Fico: [knife in Flash's back] Feel one.
    • "Your power is fading, Ming."
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Flash (who is most certainly a beauty) can be covered in mud or slashed with a whip, but by the next scene he'll be uninjured, fresh from the stylists and with a spotless change of clothes. Barin also takes a beating, but is fine a minute or two later. Aura's back should be covered in gashes from being whipped during her interrogation, but there are no traces remaining. Must be Mongo healing technology...
  • Better to Die than Be Killed:
    • Ming, when confronted by Flash, after being impaled by the missile:
      Flash: The game's lost, Ming! Stop your attack on Earth and I'll spare your life!
      Ming: You pitiful fool! My life is not for any Earthling to give or take! [Ming turns the ring on himself and is beamed into his ring]
    • Inverted when Prince Thun is executed after a failed attempt to assassinate Ming:
      Klytus: Now the tributes from Ardentia.
      Prince Thun: Your Majesty, we, the people of Ardentia, we have suffered since you blasted our kingdom. I can offer you nothing this year, except my loyalty.
      Klytus: Prince Thun, we prize nothing more highly. And tell us, how great is this loyalty to your Emperor?
      Prince Thun: Without measure.
      Emperor Ming: We are delighted to hear it. Fall on your sword. Show us this loyalty, throw yourself onto your sword.
      Prince Thun: May this deed of Prince Thun be an example to all the kingdoms of Mongo; death to Ming! [Ming's floating servant droid zaps Prince Thun with a stun ray and Ming stabs him with his own sword]
  • Big Bad: Ming the Merciless, the Evil Overlord destroying the Earth.
  • Big Damn Heroes: At one point or another, pretty much every main character except Ming, Klytus, and Kala, being the Bad Guys. Of course, Flash is the biggest of the heroes as he is the "Savior of the Universe."
  • Big Red Button: Hans Zarkov's spaceship has a Big Red Launch Button.
  • Big "YES!":
    Monitor: Hail Flash Gordon. You saved your Earth. Have a nice day.note 
    Flash: [tossing away his BFS] YEAH!!!!!!!!
    Queen soundtrack: (STAND FOR EVERY ONE OF US!)
  • Black Dude Dies First: In Mongo, Prince Thun (since Munson buys it in the opening, as well as the pilots.) The only black speaking character, whose only brief scene, early on, consists of getting skewered with his sword by Ming.
  • Blatant Lies: During Princess Aura's torture/interrogation, General Kala...who's basically a whipping Aura's back while the Dr. Doom-ish Stalker with a Crush, Klytus, is grabbing Aura's hair and yelling at her. Quoth Kala, "Tell us! And we won't hurt you any more! We don't like doing this at all!". Suuuuuuurrrrrrreeeee.....
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Invoked by screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. The co-creator of the camp 1960s Batman (1966), he claimed in interviews that his campy script was (badly) translated into Italian for the benefit of Dino DeLaurentiis, who thought it was a sci-fi action extravaganza to rival Star Wars, and then translated back into English, resulting in some of the film's more baffling oddities.
  • Blood Sport: Vultan's wobbly arena equipped with Spikes of Doom.
  • B-Movie: Nothing more need be said than "Flash, I love you! But we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!". Still you've got to admire Dale's priorities.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Ming personally meets with Flash after he kills Klytus and, instead of dragging him off, makes him a We Can Rule Together offer if he will serve Ming or else — death. Flash refuses and Ming proceeds to leave him on the floating castle and returns to his ship to bomb the castle, giving Flash time to find one of the Hawkmen's flying vehicles. Averted earlier in the film where Ming successfully (more or less) executes Flash by using a Boring, but Practical gas chamber.
  • Call-Back: Zarkov plans a Heroic Sacrifice, reasoning one life for billions is a fair trade. Flash repeats it later during his attempted Heroic Sacrifice.
  • The Cameo: Richard O'Brien shows up as one of the Arboreans. This is, presumably, how he knows about Flash Gordon being there in silver underwear.
  • Camp: The film's scriptwriter was Lorenzo Semple, Jr., who wrote scripts for and was Executive Script Director of the 1960s Batman (1966) TV series. That explains a lot!
  • Canon Foreigner: Klytus didn't appear in the original comic strip.
  • Cat Fight: Princess Aura (after her Heel–Face Turn) and Dale Arden, much to the amusement of everybody watching. Half of it is a pillow fight, too.
  • Chewing the Scenery: One could be forgiven for assuming the red, yellow and green costumes and sets were meant to evoke ketchup, mustard and relish.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Ming, but he also foments it among his subjects, having them squabble among each other so they don't join forces against him.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: In Zarkov's lab, the television just happens to be talking about his wild and crazy ideas about an alien apocalypse.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: "No! Not the Bore Worms!"
  • Cold Ham: Max von Sydow manages to out-ham BRIAN BLESSED by being as smirkingly quiet as Blessed is loud.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: There was one written by Bruce Jones and illustrated by Al Williamson.
  • Covers Always Lie: Most printed marketing for the movie, including DVD covers and posters, shows Flash wielding a golden sword as though it’s his signature weapon (a notion reinforced by the opening credits showing clips from the original comics, including several of Flash fencing with Ming). In truth he picks it up from a guard right at the end and never actually uses it in a fight.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Pretty much the entire movie soundtrack by Queen. Especially the theme song. It's Queen. What do you expect?
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Ming the Merciless.
  • Deadly Gas: Flash is apparently executed with poisonous gas.
  • Death by Adaptation: Prince Thun. In the comics, he's a full-on character with a story arc and everything, but here, he's sadly reduced to a dog for Ming to kick.
  • Death's Hourglass: When Flash is in Ming's dungeon, Klytus shows him an hourglass and tells him that he has until the sands run... up.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Flash and Barin.
  • Defiant to the End: Flash threatens Ming with his BFS, and Ming just retorts his life isn't something that can be bargained with.
    Ming: Pitiful fool! My life... is not for any Earthling to give... or take!
  • Demoted to Extra: The Frigians. We don't have time for everybody from the comics.
  • Dig Attack: While Flash is escaping from Prince Barin he's attacked by a monster living under the ground. It grabs him with its legs and expands around him, capturing him and trying to eat him.
  • Disintegrator Ray: The flying robot in Ming's palace uses one to destroy an escaping lizard man and the pistol in Dr. Zarkov's pocket.
  • Disposable Pilot: The film's first casualties are the pilots of Flash's and Dale's charter plane, ripped out of their cockpit in mid-flight by Ming's power.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • At the start of the Arborian Male-Coming-Of-Age Ceremony (with the wood-beast), the men pound large staffs on the ground while one of them does panting noises. It goes at a faster pace into a climax. "I love initiations!" says Aura.
    • When Dale's captive in Ming's bedroom, she is served a drink that makes her "time with Ming more agreeable". It's also apparently either alcoholic, a drug, or an aphrodisiac (or some combo of all three). As part of her escape plan, she talks a handmaiden into drinking the stuff until she passes out with, "C'mon, this is quality stuff!". The slave girl later seems to be either aroused or in a drug haze (or both).
    • Intergalactic steroids? Sounds rather peculiar...
      Ming the Merciless: Klytus! Are your men on the right pills? Maybe you should execute their trainer!
    • Klytus and General Kala, (mentally) experimenting on Dr. Zarkov, is very evocative of the Nazi experimentation on human (mostly Jewish) subjects, headed by Dr. Josef Mengele during World War II. To drive the point home, when Hitler's face shows up in Zarkov's memories, Klytus comments "Now he had promise."
  • Doom as Test Prize: Ming claims that he subjects planets to induced natural disasters to see if they are capable of recognizing them as an attack and retaliating. If so they are a threat to him and get destroyed or conquered. It's possible, though, that he's just saying this to torment Professor Zarkov: the opening scene suggests that he attacked Earth because he was bored (one of the environmental attacks he can and does summon is "hot hail", which most Earthlings would surely notice is not a natural phenomenon).
  • Double-Edged Answer: Emperor Ming offers to give Earth to Flash to rule.
    Flash: You'd call off the attack? ... Everyone would be saved?
    Ming: Yes, and no. After the earthquakes and tidal waves, they won't be the same human beings. They'll be more tractable. Easier for you to rule, in the name of Ming.
  • Dystopia Is Hard: Ming maintains his control over his empire by keeping his subject kings too busy quarreling with each other to oppose him. When Flash convinces a mere two of them (Barin and Vultan) to stop their infighting and rebel simultaneously, Ming's empire falls in half a day.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The film ends with a close-up of Ming's ring, lying where it fell as he died — then a gloved hand picks it up, Ming's laughter is heard, and the words THE END? appear.
    • According to his actor, the hand belonged to Klytus, who had gained a new body and was to ascend to Big Bad in the [never-produced] sequel.
  • Enemy Mine: Prince Barin and Prince Vultan hate each other at first, and even Ming's presence is barely enough to keep them from attacking each other on sight. It takes no less a hero than Flash to convince the two to team up and fight Ming. After the day is won, Vultan is quick to accept Barin as the rightful heir to Mongo's throne, while Barin appoints Vultan as the new general of Mongo's armies (much to Vultan's delight). This ends any leadership squabbles before they can arise.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Played with. Ming even admits in the personal encounter with Flash that he's "never before met your like: A hero." Even then Ming thinks either bribery - rule over Earth - or threat of death - blowing up the Hawkmen's fortress with Flash still on it - will win Flash to his side.
  • Falling into the Cockpit: Flash. (Stand for every one of us!)
  • Fanservice:
    • Aura, Dale, Ming's handmaidens, and every other female in the film.
    • Flash's very little leather shorts in the execution scene. There's something for everyone!
  • Femme Fatale: Aura, though she does a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: Hawkmen vs. War Rocket Ajax.
  • Finish Him!: Vultan to Flash, during Flash's Duel to the Death with Prince Barin. Flash is too heroic to let Barin fall out of the sky.
    Vultan: You've won! Let him go.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Dale's brief moment of badass is foreshadowed in the tribute scene: she must've been a cheerleader in high school and college.
    • The brief superimposition we see of Ming charging right at Flash and Dale from the fireball of death as they are being transported via airplane to Dr. Zarkov.
    • Munson's run from the crashed plane foreshadows Ming's death by impalement on War Rocket Ajax.
    • When asked about his name after brainwashing, Zarkov says, "Zarkov", then immediately corrects after Kala gives him a Death Glare, "Agent Zarkov", then rattles off his designation. This hints that Zarkov wasn't brainwashed.
  • For the Evulz: "I like to play with things awhile... before annihilation."
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Flash proposes to Dale in the middle of their fourth conversation, ever.
  • Future Spandex: Both General Kala and Princess Aura wear lycra/spandex costumes.
  • Futuristic Jet Injector: The title character is treated to one of these following the encounter with the Wood Beast. While recovering from its sting, Flash has a gun-like injector that has a green ball in place of a needle pressed to the outside of his arm (rather than the inside, close to the vein). It makes a sharp 'hiss' implying that it works like a hypospray.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Ming the Merciless' reveal that he threatens whole star systems with destruction definitely places him on this level. He is also referred to as the Emperor of the Universe and the Galaxy.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The soldiers in Ming's palace.
  • Genre Savvy: Ming surprisingly. He fails to keep to almost all of the Evil Overlord List, but when he orders Flash’s execution Ming doesn’t put him in an easily escapable death trap or assume no one could have survived that. He sticks him in a gas chamber and stays to make sure he’s dead. Flash gets better because Ming didn't count on his lustful daughter Aura wanting to seduce Flash for herself.
  • Gladiator Games: Vultan forces Flash and Barin to fight it out in a spinning arena. With whips. Over a bottomless pit. With spikes randomly popping up out of the platform.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Dale, once she falls into Ming's hands.
  • Groin Attack: One of Ming's goon squad to Flash before the "football game" begins.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Every single scene with any dialogue. Period.
  • Hand in the Hole: In Arboria, with the woodbeast.
  • Handshake Refusal: When Prince Vultan pits Flash and Prince Barin against each other, Flash first attempts to make peace with Barin by offering a handshake... but the Prince of Arboria is having none of it.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: A rocket flies over Ming and Dales wedding, pulling a banner that says "ALL CREATURES WILL MAKE MERRY". A second rocket follows with a banner reading "UNDER PAIN OF DEATH".
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Aura: After realizing that Ming not only allowed Klytus to torture her, but enjoyed it.
    • Barin: Flash showed Barin The Power of Friendship. Also, Defeat Equals Friendship.
    • Vultan: Vultan hates Ming, and Flash's open defiance of Ming shows him there's actually a chance to overthrow him.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Zarkov intends one, with his pistol. ("One life for billions? A fair trade.") Ming's security bot vaporizes it while in his pocket.
    • Prince Thun intends one, with his sword. He succeeds only in showing Flash what a bloodthirsty monster Ming really is.
    • Flash intends one, piloting War Rocket Ajax into Ming's wedding ceremony. Even Vultan thinks Flash will be a martyr, pronouncing that today would forever be known as Flash Gordon's Day. Flash even repeats Zarkov's earlier line about one life for billions.
  • Herr Doktor: Hans Zarkov.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Princess Aura.
  • Highly-Conspicuous Uniform: Hoo boy, are they ever. Ming's mooks sport bright red and gold outfits with massive pointy shoulder pads and big round chestpieces that make excellent targets.
  • Honor Before Reason: Dale refuses Aura's offer of a poison she can give Ming on their wedding night, because she has promised to be a good wife to Ming in exchange for his sparing Prince Barin and Dr. Zarkov.
    Aura: My father has never kept a vow in his life!
    Dale: I can't help that. Keeping our word is one of the things that make us better than you.
  • Hover Bot: The Emperor Ming has a roughly spherical robot that floats around acting as an escort, spying on people and zapping anyone who tries to escape or kill Ming.
  • Human Aliens: The people of Mongo, as well as the Arboreans. This is almost true of the Hawkmen, as well.
  • Humanity on Trial: Ming tests planets (Earth in this case) with natural disasters. If they show signs of recognizing that aliens did it, he wipes them out. Or so he tells Zarkov.
  • Humans Are Special: Aside from Ming viewing them as a threat due to Zarkov attempting to stop the disasters with a single rocketship, the latter also tells Dale he never got brainwashed due to focusing on human songs and thoughts. Hence he was never really under Ming's control later in the film and simply acted as if he was.
    Zarkov: "You can't beat the human spirit!"
  • Iconic Outfit:
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: "Prepare her for our pleasure!", also Ming's "wedding vows" on the trope page.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Flash uses football tactics to beat up a bunch of imperial guardsmen. Justified as he's a quarterback for the New York Jets football team.
  • I'm Melting!: General Kala's body dissolves into inky liquid, which drips down the stairs from her collapsing costume, when she's killed on a stairway.
  • Impairment Shot: Flash's vision clears from blurred as Zarkov tosses him a football, which allows him to mop the floor with Klytus' soldiers.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
    • Klytus on a bed of spikes.
    • Ming on the nosecone of the Ajax rocket ship.
    • Ming to Prince Thun, with his own sword, no less.
  • Impostor-Exposing Test: When Ming's main ship is captured by the rebels and flown towards his palace, his people realise it's been hijacked because it's not following that day's approach pattern - then they promptly open fire on it.
  • Incest Subtext: Ming has a rather... disquieting fixation on his daughter.
  • Inertial Dampening: Zarkov needs a co-pilot to keep their foot on a pedal in his rocket or else the g-forces will kill them.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet:
    Ming: Klytus, I'm bored. What plaything can you offer me today?
    Klytus: An obscure body in the SK system, Your Majesty. The inhabitants refer to it as the planet... Earth.
    Ming: How peaceful it looks... [activates button marked EARTH QUAKE]
    • Ming tests planets every thousand years. If they don't realize that an alien is interfering with them then he leaves them alone.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Prince Vultan to Flash before Flash's suicide run.
  • It's Up to You: "Flash! I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"
  • Join or Die: Emperor Ming offers to let Flash join him and rule the Earth under Ming's control. If he refuses, he will be killed. Flash declines the first and avoids the second.
  • Just in Time: To save the Earth — down to the second! Apparently a little impalement did the trick.
  • The Kingslayer: Flash kills Emperor Ming by driving a rocket ship's pointy prow into his back.
  • Lampshade Hanging: When Flash declares that he needs to save his friends and stop Ming, Princess Aura snarks about him saying that to Ming's daughter.
  • Large Ham: Enough ham to end hunger in a medium-sized third world nation. Special mention goes out to BRIAN BLESSED's Prince Vultan, largest of them all.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Vultan's refusal to help Flash ends up with his city being destroyed and forcing him into exile in the realm of his hated enemy Barin.
  • Last Request: Klytus asks if Flash has "any final requests" before his execution.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Produced by Bally in 1981, and treated the license with all seriousness, unlike the movie. Although it lacked a soundtrack by Queen, it ended up becoming Bally's best-selling game of the year.
  • Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: Played with. A rock cover of the Lohengrin chorus plays in Ming's wedding scene.
  • Love Dodecahedron: As in the comics, Barin loves Aura, who lusts after Flash, who loves Dale.
  • Ludicrous Precision: At one point, Zarkov calculates how long until the moon crashes into Earth:
    Zarkov: I'd say very roughly 14 hours, 9 minutes and 20 seconds.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Princess Aura, though Ming is a Mad Emperor rather than a Mad Scientist.
  • Made of Evil: Kala dissolves into a puddle of black liquid when she dies.
  • Magic Countdown: The timer that shows how long is left before the Earth is destroyed.
  • Mask Power: Klytus.
  • Mental Picture Projector: The Mind Probe/Memory Eraser also functions as a way of projecting memories on a screen.
  • Mind Probe: "We're going to empty your mind as we might empty your pockets... doctor."
  • Mood Dissonance: The wedding of Ming and Dale:
    • Instead of the white dress she'd been put in earlier, she's now wearing a black empress getup covered in sequins.
    • "Here Comes The Bride" as an electric guitar rock riff with dirge undertones. And the war rockets flying by in the background towing signs:
  • Moral Event Horizoninvoked: In-universe. Aura states that she never truly understood how evil her father was til he allowed Klytus to torture her, especially considering Klytus was Aura's Stalker with a Crush who was getting some petty revenge for her sleeping with everyone but him.
    • The real tipping point appears to be Ming allowing Klytus to use creatures called "Bore Worms" on her. Until that point, she was more angry than frightened about the whole incident.
  • Natural Disaster Cascade: The film opens with Ming causing disasters around the world, all part of the Moon starting to move in closer to the Earth and crash with it. He later explains it's a Secret Test of Character to see if the Earthlings would know if it was an attack, rather than being unexplainable.
  • Nested Mouths: Lizard men have faces inside their mouths.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes it look like Ming faces off with Flash using his ring. In the film he just turns it on himself and is vaporized.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ming tries to slap Zarkov with this trope, claiming that he only destroys planets that are advanced enough to realize his attacks aren't natural disasters (which Zarkov has indeed discovered). In reality, Ming is simply destroying Earth For the Evulz.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: General Kala orders Zarkov to be programmed with high-level information about Mongo's technology and security systems, thus equipping him with all the knowledge he'll need to assist the revolution. Downplayed in that he was getting information programmed into his mind anyway, just not as much (the programming is literally numbered, and Kala was told to use a lower number rather than not programming Zarkov at all).
  • No Body Left Behind: When Klytus and Kala die, their bodies melt out of their clothes.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Barin apparently shut down Ming's machines mere minutes before his attack on the Earth reached the point of no return, but there's no mention of how much damage having the moon even temporarily deorbited, not to mention all the other things Ming did, caused the planet.
  • No Indoor Voice: Ming, Vultan, and Kala are the main offenders, especially Vultan, who is portrayed by BRIAN BLESSED.
  • Non-Mammalian Hair: In the Comic-Book Adaptation when Flash and Aura are passing Frigia, we see an animal that looks like a triceratops covered in shaggy hair.
  • Noodle Implements: Those gosh-darn bore worms!
  • No Such Thing as Alien Pop Culture: Mongo is implied to have TV as Kala says all the channels will show Barin and Zarkov being executed before Ming's wedding starts.
  • Oh, Crap!: Aura faces torture with more indignation and anger than fear... then Klytus sends for the bore worms.
  • Ominous Floating Castle: The Hawkmen live in one, though it looks quite majestic rather than scary.
  • One-Woman Wail: The "Aura Revives Flash" song.
  • Ordered to Die: Defied. Ming orders Prince Thun to kill himself for providing inadequate tribute. Thun attacks Ming instead, and Ming kills him.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Aura crying because she was betrayed by her father, who allowed Klytus to torture her with The Dreaded Noodle Implements, is what convinces Dale she's being honest.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: Flash hauls himself free from drowning in an Arborian swamp, right onto a gigantic Sloth Spider.
  • Parental Incest: Ming's fixation with his daughter - and with torturing her - edges into this territory. All but stated outright in the novelization when Aura pouts to Ming about 'missing their closeness.' They're into bondage too.
  • Pass the Popcorn: A very dark example. Ming is eating something in a popcorn-like manner while watching (and enjoying) his daughter being tortured.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Dale Arden takes out a couple of Ming's guards this way.
  • Planetary Romance: The film is based on one of the ur-examples, and it shows.
  • Pleasure Planet:
    • Princess Aura has her personal pleasure moon, Cytherea and Sybaria where she sneaks off to with the doctor.
    • One of the servant girls mentions an entire galaxy of pleasure where a certain drink comes from.
  • Plot-Sensitive Button: When Aura teaches Flash to pilot a spaceship she says the left lever controls direction and that the right controls altitude. Flash is later seen using them for the opposite purposes.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Just in case the movie itself wasn't campy enough for you, it's got a soundtrack by Queen.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Some of the planets and creatures were cut out, but are at least mentioned, and ones that are featured get major focus. The main story beats are all hit.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Both the Hawkmen - a race of Winged Humanoid Vikings — and the Arborians — basically a race of Robin Hood people. Strongly hinted that Ardentia is one, too.
  • Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Dale does this during the telepathy sequence between Flash and Dale.
  • Psychic Static: Dr. Zarkov uses this tactic to resist memory draining.
    Zarkov: As I was going under, I started to recite Shakespeare, The Talmud, the formulas of Einstein, anything I could remember, even a song from The Beatles. It armored me, girl! They couldn't wipe those things away. You can't beat the human spirit!
  • Public Execution: Flash's "death" by lethal gas by order of Emperor Ming.
  • Puny Earthlings: Invoked by Ming.
    Ming: Pathetic earthlings, hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would've hidden from it in terror.
  • Race Against the Clock: Flash must stop Emperor Ming before the Moon crashes into the Earth.
  • Race Lift: Prince Thun in all other adaptations is a humanoid lion. For whatever reason, the film portrays him as a stereotypical African with a tribal theme — and is immediately killed off.
  • Raygun Gothic: The source material is one of the Trope Codifiers, along with Buck Rogers and the Lensman series, so it's preserved here.
  • Really Gets Around:
    • Princess Aura, who attempts to sexually manipulate basically every male she interacts with (excepting only her father and Klytus).
    • Ming is a male example, if his harem (with drugs straight from the "galaxy of pleasure") is anything to judge by.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning:
  • Refusal of the Call: Zarkov's assistant, Munson, who balks at being shot into space. He gets killed because he ran away.
  • Removable Turret Gun: Prince Barin takes one away from one of Ming's mooks and uses it to Shoot Out the Locks and go through doors.
  • Retro Rocket:
    • Zarkov's ship
    • War Rocket Ajax with its swept wings, pepper-shaker body, and nice pointy spike...
  • Same Language Dub: Most of Sam J. Jones' lines were dubbed by Peter Marinker.
  • Scenery Porn: The swirling background colors that accompany Flash's entire voyage to Arboria.
  • Secret Test: Emperor Ming tells Zarkov that he's putting humanity through one of these with the disasters he's inflicting on Earth, and because Zarkov discovered "the hand of Ming" behind it all, Earth will have to be destroyed — thanks to Zarkov complaining for months that some alien force was screwing with Earth.
  • Sequel Hook: Someone picks up Ming's ring.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: The Movie. There's plenty of all three in the film.
  • Shirtless Captives: After Flash is taken into custody, he is next shown in the dungeon, wrists shackled to the ceiling, shirtless.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Prince Barin does this several times with a Removable Turret Gun he took away from one of Ming's mooks.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Three from The Wizard of Oz (1939).
      • A variation of "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
        Dale: Back home?
        Flash: I don't think so.
      • While Flash was in Ming's dungeon.
        Klytus: You have until the up.
        Dale: It won't turn over! It won't turn over!
      • After General Kala is killed, her body melts in much the same way as the Wicked Witch of the West did after Dorothy "liquidated" her.
    • Klytus wears a metal mask with a moving mouth underneath a hooded cloak, which makes him look a lot like Doctor Doom. However, according to DeLaurentiis, it was a Darth Vader Expy.
    • In the scene where Princess Aura first appears she tells her dwarf servant "Come along, Fellini", a reference to the famous Italian film director Federico Fellini.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Followed by Pathetic Earthlings.
    Zarkov: But why? We are only interested in friendship. Why do you attack us?
    Ming: Why not?
  • Single-Biome Planet: At least two of the moons of Mongo fit this trope, and the clues are in their names. Arboria is a Jungle/Swamp Planet and Frigia is described as an Ice Planet.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Flash. Vultan.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Wonderfully idealistic.
  • Small Universe After All:
    • Ming is implied to rule the entire universe.
    • When Hedonia brings Dale an alcoholic drink, she says "Many brave men died to bring it here from the the galaxy of pleasure".
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: In probably the most kickass manner yet.
  • Stealth Parody / Stylistic Suck: The movie came out in 1980. It looks like it came out about twenty years earlier. And it's glorious.
  • Take My Hand!: At the end of their duel, Flash shows mercy to Prince Barin in this way.
  • Tap on the Head: Vultan to Ming's goon squad and Hans Zarkov to Flash.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Aura gets whipped as part of her Cold-Blooded Torture.
  • Technicolor Science
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Ming promised Dale that if she married him, he would spare Barin and Zarkov (Flash was presumed to be killed when Ming blew up the Hawkmen's floating city). However, during the wedding, General Kala broadcasts to the people of Mongo that "all channels" will show "for your entertainment" the execution of Barin and Zarkov.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dale gives one to Aura after refusing to poison Ming on their wedding night.
    Dale: Keeping our word is one of the things that make us better than you.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: A weird second-person type in that "Vultan's Theme" is one for the player ship in Vanguard.
  • They Called Me Mad!: Zarkov gives the standard speech about NASA booting him because of his crazy theories about Earth being under attack by an alien power. Yet Zarkov soon learns that he is, in fact, utterly correct.
    Flash: Are you crazy?
    Zarkov: Unfortunately not.
  • Title Drop: All the damn time, since it's the main character's name, but particularly notable is Flash's coffin after his execution, which bears the movie's logo.
  • Title Theme Tune: By Queen.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Seriously, Klytus? You drop in uninvited into Prince Vultan's kingdom (the same guy whose young daughter you threatened like 24 hours ago), attempt to arrest an already hot-headed and hostile Prince Barin, and to top it off, you brag to his face about torturing his fiancée, joking about how she ''probably enjoyed it''. Should you really be all that shocked Barin and Flash bodyslammed you onto the Serta Posturepedic of Pointy Death?
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Princess Aura, according to Klytus, but obviously subverted in reality. At first, she seems angry and bored more than anything... until they threaten her with the Bore Worms.
  • Torture Technician: Both Klytus and (especially) Kala enjoy serving this role for Ming.
  • Trapped in Another World: Dale, Flash and Zarkov are brought to Mongo where they save the Earth. In the end, they are still in Mongo and Dale asks if they'll ever get home. "I don't know but we'll try," says Zarkov. Barin instead offers for them to stay.
  • Tricked into Escaping: Barin has promised not to kill the imprisoned Flash but wants to find an excuse, so has an associate trick Flash into escaping from captivity into a temple, where Flash finds that, through no provable fault of Barin, he's obliged to take part in a test which may well be lethal.
  • True Love's Kiss: Played with. Princess Aura lies to Flash, telling him that she brought him back to life with a kiss after his execution. She actually had a doctor give him a drug that simulated death before the execution and another wake-up shot later.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The film is rather hammy and campy, and Ming is a brutal tyrant who ruins entire planets just for fun.
  • Villainous Rescue: Barin saves Flash from being eaten by a swamp creature so he can off him.
  • Watching the Reflection Undress: In the scene after Flash is revived, Princess Aura tells him to change into a pilot's uniform and turns around. However, she uses the mirrored lid of Flash's coffin to watch him while he undresses.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: This is why Ming isn't overthrown; he has arranged matters so that the races of Mongo are busy fighting amongst themselves.
    Aura: It's a really brilliant strategy.
  • We Can Rule Together: Ming offers Flash rulership of the Earth in Ming's name at one point.
  • Wedding Smashers: Ming and Dale's wedding ceremony is interrupted by Flash crashing the Ajax ship into Mongo City's wedding hall and impaling Ming with its bow.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Once Flash gets loose of the cell in Arboria, the other prisoners whom he'd promised to come back for are never seen again. Considering they were all about to drown...
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Basic human emotions have been driven out of Mongo by Ming, where honor, justice, even crying have been forgotten and replaced by constant violent bickering and infighting, stirred up by Ming.
    Aura: Look! Water is leaking from her eyes!
    Ming: It's what they call "tears". It's a sign of their weakness.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Flash and Barin are given whips to fight with in their duel. Whips are notoriously difficult weapons to master. It's pretty clear that Flash has no experience using one, and the first time he tries, he ends up hitting himself and splitting his lip open. Barin, on the other hand, knows exactly how to use one.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Vultan's second-in-command chides him while the Hawkmen are hiding in Arboria about not backing Flash while he still had the chance. Vultan's only response is "I know, I know!" irritably.
  • Whip It Good:
    • Flash and Barin duel with whips in one scene. Luckily, Defeat Means Friendship.
      • The first time Flash tries to use the whip, he actually ends up hitting himself.
    • Aura being tortured.
  • Winged Humanoid: The Hawkmen.
  • World of Badass: Mongo.
  • World of Ham: Mongo again. BRIAN BLESSED is just one of its many hammy kings.
  • World Shapes: Arboria is bowl-shaped with everything seeming to be on its concave side.
  • "YEAH!" Shot:
    Monitor: Hail Flash Gordon. You saved your Earth. Have a nice day.
    Flash: [tossing away his sword] YEAH!!!!!!!!
  • Yellow Peril: The character of Ming and his style of dress was a holdover from the way he was portrayed in the 1930s, as a Chinese-looking evil tyrant.

Queen. FLASH!