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.
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):
"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:
- 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 Large Ham, though.
- Adaptational Job Change: In the comics, Flash was a polo player, but polo was deemed a less popular sport by 1980, so he was made a football player.
- Agony Beam
- Alien 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.
- 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.
- Dr. Zarkov's backstory was that he was a NASA scientist who was fired for his paranoid fantasies that Earth was going to be attacked from outer space. 60 Minutes derided him as "A Poor Man's Billy Mitchell".
- Ambiguously Jewish: 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 Beard: Prince Vultan.
- 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."
- Fico (Richard O'Brien) gets in a good one.
- Badass Mustache: Barin.
- Bald of Evil: Emperor Ming.
- The Baroness: General Kala.
- Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: Both male and female examples.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: All Mongo's moons seem to be within its atmosphere.
- Beard of Evil: Ming.
- Better to Die than Be Killed:
Klytus: Now the tributes from Ardentia.
- 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:
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]
- Ming, when confronted by Flash, after being impaled by the missile:
- Big Bad: Ming the Merciless, the Evil Overlord destroying the Earth
- Big Damn Heroes
- 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.
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 Dominatrix...is 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.....
- 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.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Vultan. Not surprising, since he's played by BRIAN BLESSED.
- 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 return to his ship to bomb the castle, giving Flash time to find one of the Hawkmen's flying vehicles.
- Break the Haughty: Princess Aura, courtesy of her Cold-Blooded Torture. It cures her of being a Rich Bitch and able to talk to Dale as an equal.
- 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 TV series. That explains a lot!
- Canon Foreigner: Klytus didn't appear in the original comic strip.
- Cat Fight: Princess Aura (after her HeelFace Turn) and Dale Arden, much to the amusement of everybody watching. Half of it is a pillow fight, too.
- Chekhov's Skill: Flash was a quarterback before coming to Mongo. Luckily, there happened to be an awful lot of football-shaped objects among Ming's tribute.
- 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.
- Co-Dragons: Klytus and General Kala.
- 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.
- Covert Pervert: Aura swears she won't watch Flash change out of his little black briefs - but is staring in a mirror to watch anyway, telling him, "I like you - a lot!"
- Cult Soundtrack: Pretty much the entire movie soundtrack by Queen. Especially the theme song. It's Queen. What do you expect?FLASH! AAAAAAAHHHHH-AAAAAAAHHHHHH! SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE!
- Daddy's Little Villain: Princess Aura, until redeemed by the love of a good man.
- Damsel out of Distress: Dale temporarily rises to Action Girl status with a spectacular display of She-fu during her escape from Ming.
- Dark Chick: General Kala.
- Dastardly Whiplash: Ming the Merciless.
- Deadly Gas: Flash is apparently executed with poisonous gas.
- Deadpan Snarker: Klytus.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dimension Lord: Ming is specified to rule the entire universe.
- 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.
- Distressed Dude: Flash in little leather shorts strapped to a chair....
- 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!
- Doom As Test Prize: Ming claims that he subjects planets to induced natural disasters to see if they are capable of recognising 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.)
- 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.
- The Dragon: Klytus to Ming, General Kala to Klytus.
- Duel to the Death: Between Flash and Prince Barin.
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- Egopolis: Mingo City
- The '80s: A rather impressive example. The film came out in 1980 and already had it all. Queen, synth, garish colour scheme and '80s Hair.
- '80s Hair: All over the place, except for Ming and Klytus.
- The Emperor: Ming the Merciless.
- The Empire: Mongo
- 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.
- Enemy Mine: Princes Barin and Vultan hate each other at first. Only Flash is able to convince them to team up and fight Ming. After the day is won, Vultan is quick to note that Barin is the rightful heir to Mongo, ending 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.
- Evil Gloating
- Evil Laugh
- Eye Scream: Klytus' eyeballs bugging out of his mask when he dies. Yucko!
- Face Death with Dignity: Flash goes to his execution calmly.
- Falling into the Cockpit: Flash. (Stand for every one of us!)
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Klytus.
- 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 HeelFace Turn.
- Fighter-Launching Sequence: Hawkmen vs. War Rocket Ajax.
- Finish Him!: Voltan to Flash, during Flash's Duel to the Death with Prince Barin. Flash is too heroic to let Barin fall out of the sky.Voltan: You've won! Let him go.
- Five-Man Band:
- 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.
- For Great Justice: Vultan
- For the Evulz: "I like to play with things awhile... before annihilation."
- Frickin' Laser Beams
- Future Spandex: Both General Kala and Princess Aura wear lycra/spandex costumes.
- 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.
- Gender Flip: Kala, who in the comics was a male fishman, is here a female general who looks basically human.
- Genre Savvy: Ming surprisingly. He fails to keep to almost all of the evil overlord list, but when he orders Flashs execution Ming doesnt 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 hes dead. Flash gets better because Ming didn't count on his lustful daughter Aura wanting to seduce Flash for herself.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Ming "tests" Dale with his ring (complete with Forced Perspective), he's clearly forcing her to have an Immodest Orgasm. If that weren't enough, you have this exchange:Ming: [fascinated] Did you ever see such... response?
Klytus: No. Truly. She even rivals your daughter.
- Gladiator Games: Vultan forces Flash and Barin to fight it out in a spinning arena. Over a bottomless pit. With spikes randomly popping up out of the platform.
- Go-Go Enslavement: Dale.
- 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.
- 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".
- HeelFace Turn:
- 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 fails.
- 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 quotes Zarkov's earlier line about one life for billions.
- Herr Doktor: Hans Zarkov.
- High-HeelFace Turn: Princess Aura
- Highly Conspicuous Uniform
- 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.
- Human Aliens: The people of Mongo, as well as the Arboreans. This is almost true of the Hawkmen, as well.
- 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..
- Hypno Ray: Ming's ring.
- Hypnotize the Princess. Ming does this to Dale Arden, and apparently his own daughter!
- Hypno Trinket: Ming's ring
- Iconic Outfit:
- I Gave My Word
- Ignored Expert: Hans Zarkov warning about an attack from space.
- 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.
- I'm Melting!: Happens to General Kala after being shot on a staircase.
- 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 a rocket.
- Incest Subtext: Ming has a rather... disquieting fixation on his daughter.
- 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.
- 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 prow into his back.
- Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Zarkov and Munson both have one of these. Given that the science they're engaged in mainly requires looking at radar screens and printouts — except whenever they assembled that rather nifty rocket, which would have been better done wearing overalls — there can be no other reason for their labcoats than to visually label them "scientists."
- 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.
- Mad Scientist: Zarkov, who can't understand why NASA fired him or why Flash and Dale seemed frightened of him...
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Princess Aura, though Ming is a Mad Emperor rather than a Mad Scientist.
- Made of Evil
- 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."
- Mondegreen: Many people think Vultan is screaming, "DIEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!", not "DIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!" Both work, though. Later in the battle he actually does yell "DIEEEE!!" in the same way while fighting.
- When the citizens of Mongo chant "Hail Ming!", it almost sounds like "Heil Ming!"
- 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:ALL CREATURES WILL MAKE MERRY...
...UNDER PAIN OF DEATH
- Moral Event Horizon: 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.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Barin's reason for entrapping Flash into a deadly ritual. He realizes he underestimed Flash after he successfully passes the test twice, refuses to keep alternating with Flash - essentially forcing him to to the test over and over til he dies.
- Music of Note: With a soundtrack by Queen.
- 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 claims to only destroy planets that are advanced enough to realize his attacks aren't natural disasters. If his claim is true, and he's not just doing whatever he feels like, it's Zarkov's own attempt to contact whoever was launching the attacks that nearly dooms the Earth.
- 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 Indoor Voice: Ming, Vultan, and Kala are the main offenders.
- 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 Baron and Zarkov being executed before Ming's wedding starts.
- Notable Original Music
- Not So Different: When Klytus is probing Hans Zarkov's brain to learn more about humans, he sees images of Adolf Hitler and World War II. He then comments that "Now, he showed promise!" as he watches those scenes play out.
- Ominous Floating Castle
- One-Woman Wail: The "Aura Revives Flash" song.
- Only Mostly Dead: Flash. (King of the Impossible!)
- 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.
- 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 while watching his daughter be tortured.
- Pistol-Whipping: Dale Arden takes out a couple of Ming's guards this way.
- Planetary Romance
- 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.
- 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.
- Public Execution: Flash's "death" by lethal gas by order of Emperor Ming.
- Puny Earthlings: Pathetic earthlings, who will save you now?
- Race Against the Clock: Flash must stop Emperor Ming before the Moon crashes into the Earth.
- Raygun Gothic: The source material is one of the Trope Codifiers, along with Buck Rogers and the Lensman series, so it's preserved here.
- Reality Ensues: 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.
- Really Gets Around:
- Princess Aura.
- Ming is a male example.
- 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...
- Royal "We": Emperor Ming uses it occasionally, but not consistently.
- Same Language Dub: All of Sam J. Jones' lines were dubbed by an uncredited actor whose identity remains a mystery to this day.
- Scenery Porn: The swirling background colors that accompany Flash's entire voyage to Mars.
- Secret Test: Emperor Ming puts the entire human race through one of these, or so he claims. More likely, he's just bored and evil.
- 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.
- She-Fu: Dale gives a startling display of this during her escape from the palace.
- 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 sands...run 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.
- A variation of "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
- Klytus wears a metal mask with a moving mouth underneath a hooded cloak, which makes him look a lot like Doctor Doom.
- 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.
- Three from The Wizard of Oz (1939).
- 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 vs. 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: Flash does this for Barin at the end of their duel.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Barin. You have to be handsome to play James Bond, after all.
- 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!: Dr. Zarkov is a rare heroic example.
- 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 Kinky to Torture: Princess Aura according to Klytus; obviously subverted in reality. Although she seemed angry and bored more than anything, until they brought in... the Bore Worms.
- 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.
- Universal Driver's Licence: Flash using the Hawkmen rocketcycle and piloting War Rocket Ajax.
- 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 noble's uniform and turns around. However, she uses a mirror to watch Flash 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Flash and Barin duel with whips in one scene. Luckily, Defeat Means Friendship.
- Winged Humanoid: The Hawkmen.
- World of Badass: Mongo.
- World of Ham: Mongo again. BRIAN BLESSED is just one of its many hammy kings.
- "YEAH!" Shot:Monitor: Hail Flash Gordon. You saved your Earth. Have a nice day.
Flash: [tossing away his sword] YEAH!!!!!!!!