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Film / Red Sonja

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Sonja: No man may have me, unless he's beaten me in a fair fight.
Kalidor: So, the only man that can have you, is one who's trying to kill you. That's logic.

Red Sonja is a 1985 film based on the Marvel comic book series, starring Brigitte Nielsen in the title role. Arnold Schwarzenegger also stars as Prince Kalidor (an expy of Conan the Barbarian).note  Ennio Morricone composed the soundtrack.

After the slaughter of her family and her rape by the men of the evil Queen Gedren, a young redhead woman named Sonja is empowered by a mysterious being so that she can seek revenge, and becomes a matchless sword-wielding warrior. She gets her chance when Gedren steals a powerful object named the Talisman (which only women can touch), and she is tasked to destroy it. She is joined in her journey by Lord Kalidor and the young Prince Tarn and his aide Falkon, who both are the remnants of a fallen kingdom.

A new live action Red Sonja project was in Development Hell for quite some time and eventually started filming in August 2022.

Has a character sheet.

This film has the examples of:

  • Action Girl: Both Sonja and Gedren are proficient sword fighters (especially Sonja).
  • Adaptational Modesty: Sonja never wears her iconic chainmail bikini, instead wearing standard action-girl fantasy attire (mostly-covered torso while keeping her arms and legs bare).
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Sonja learns sword fighting from the Grand Master, who is East Asian along with the rest of his students. Even little Prince Tarn knows some moves (though being a child, there is a lot he still has to learn).
  • Artifact of Doom: The Talisman can cause disasters on demand.
  • As You Know: The movie starts out with the title character lying barely conscious in a field as a mysterious spirit grants her the power to get her revenge, but first it explains Sonja's own backstory to her in great detail. It's especially awkward because it presumably all happened to her moments before the movie started, and involves her being raped and having her family killed off, which are things you'd think she wouldn't need (or want) to be reminded about.
  • Badass Boast:
    Brytag: I will tell the future in your entrails, Red Woman!
    Sonja: I know my future. You have none.
  • Bad with the Bone: Falkon's weapon of choice is a bone club.
  • Battle Butler: Falkon is both Prince Tarn's bodyguard and manservant.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: The character is the former Trope Namer. The film provides the page quote.
  • Big Bad: Queen Gedren. She threatens neighboring kingdoms with her powers, and she is Sonja's personal enemy.
  • Broken Bridge: In the opening credits, Kalidor is seen riding on the way to the temple of the Talisman. At one point, a broken bridge over a ravine forces him to take a detour that prevents him from being there when Queen Gedren's forces storm the temple.
  • Captain Ersatz: Kalidor to Conan, to the point where he's played by the same actor as Conan. He was initially supposed to be Conan, invokedbut legal troubles prevented it.
  • Captain Obvious: Sonja is weeping over her sister, who's just died. Kalidor leans down, touches her lightly on the shoulder and says "She's dead."
  • Collapsing Lair: Gedren's castle after destroying the Talisman.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: It got adapted in Marvel Super Special #38.
  • Court Mage: Queen Gedren has a wizard who serves her. He aids her in the final battle against Sonja, until the latter kills him.
  • The Creon: Ikol acts as the loyal second-in-command to his Queen Gedren, as The Dragon with no desire to become The Starscream, he never tries to take over! On the contrary, he suggests caution in regards of the Talisman, and after a last failed attempt to convince her he abandons his Queen!
  • Disappointed by the Motive: When Sonja and Gedren finally face off, Sonja asks Gedren why she had to kill all of her family (she thought that it was only because of the Talisman). Gedren shows her the scar on her cheek and goes on about how it's a just revenge for such a besmirch. Sonja gets pretty angry at the fact that the people she loved were massacred over such a petty slight.
  • Disney Villain Death: Gedren falls into a river of lava after she is stabbed by Sonja.
  • Disposable Woman: Every single female character except Sonja and Gedren is this. They (including Sonja's sister) are massacred or tossed into a pit to die early on, and once Sonja learns of Gedren from her dying sister, are quickly forgotten for the rest of the film.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Queen Gedren has Sonja's entire family killed and her gang-raped. Why? Because Sonja gave her a small cut on the cheek when fending off unwanted advances which Gedren had made on her.
  • Does Not Like Men: Discussed and subverted. Sonja understandably has issues being touched by men, after she'd been gang-raped. However, when the Grand Master urges her to get past it, Sonja denies hating all men, and shows affection for him (he's much older, saying it would have made his day thirty years ago). She warms up to Kalidor, kissing him, but prevents anything going further (as she's vowed not to unless a man ever beats her in combat) until the finale where they kiss again (when it's implied they get together).
  • '80s Hair: Sonja's waist-length mullet certainly qualifies.
  • Enigmatic Empowering Entity: The spirit that grants Sonja's strength in the opening.
  • Evil Is Petty: Gedren ordered the massacre of Sonja's entire family because she got a scar on her cheek from her. Sonja, who up until the moment Gedren explained herself thought that the massacre had been because of the Talisman, gets even more enraged as a result.
  • Fiery Redhead: Sonja is a red-haired, hot-blooded swordswoman who has righteous fury for Queen Gedren, who had her raped and ordered Sonja's family slaughtered, on whom she has sworn vengeance.
  • Flynning: Subverted; Sonja shows the prince why this wouldn't really work in a real fight.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: Wielding the Talisman can only be done by women. If touched by a man, he instantly disintegrates. Gedren's soldiers find this out the hard way.
  • Girl-Powered: The McGuffin can only be handled by women. Men who touched it are instantly killed.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Gedren is a brutal female ruler who orders people killed if they stand in the way of her acquiring a magical artifact, or Sonja's entire family when Sonja cut her cheek after she had tried to force her to have sex with her. After acquiring the artifact, she uses its magic to conquer everything in sight.
  • Hands-On Approach: Sonja with young prince Tarn.
  • Harmful to Touch: The Talisman can only be touched by women. If a man touches it, he will instantly disintegrate.
  • Inventional Wisdom: The Trap Door through which Falkon falls leads to the Gedren's mooks' mess hall, for some reason.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Gedren, though not able to do magic innately, becomes this after she acquires the Talisman. A cruel yet elegant queen, she uses it to conquer many rival kingdoms and destroy any who resist.
  • Lady of War: Queen Gedren serves as an evil example. She's a beautiful and elegant conqueror who leads her troops into battle, using a powerful magical artifact named the Talisman against enemies.
  • Large Ham: With this sort of film it's arguably inevitable, but Sonja and the boy prince in particular can get quite dramatic with their lines. It really says something when, in the famous scene with the page quote, Arnold Schwarzenegger seems quite subtle and nuanced compared to Brigitte Nielsen.
  • Leotard of Power: Sonja's outfit, in lieu of the regular Chainmail Bikini.
  • Literal Disarming: Kalidor cuts off the arm of one of Gedren's soldiers in the fight following Falkon's involuntary "Dynamic Entry".
  • Mechanical Monster: Sonja and co. fight an aquatic one on their journey to Gedren's castle.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: When Sonja accuses Gedren of slaughtering her family, she dismisses the accusations as from her point of view, the victims' lives are nothing in comparison with a minor scar Sonja made on her cheek.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Ikol is in chrage of Gedren's men.
  • Ms. Fanservice: While Sonja's outfit in the film is not quite as revealing as her Chainmail Bikini in the comics, it's still quite stripperific.
  • Off with His Head!:
    • Kalidor beheads one of Gedren's mooks who's after Varna after the storming of the Talisman's temple.
    • Sonja beheads Gedren's court wizard after he tries to kill her.
  • Protagonist Title: Red Sonja is the protagonist.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Queen Gedren propositioned Sonja in the backstory. Sonja had rejected her, slashing her face as Gedren tried to force things. In retaliation, Gedren orders Sonja gang-raped by her soldiers, and her family killed.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: Queen Gedren doesn't shy away from combat, as she takes on Sonja herself in the climax.
  • Rape and Revenge: Half of Sonja's motivation. The other half is her dead family.
  • Ribcage Ridge: Used as a bridge over a river of lava.
  • Royal Brat: Prince Tarn starts as an arrogant little snot, really getting on Sonja's nerves (she almost spanks him at one point, and had urged his servant earlier to), but he mellows over the course of the film.
  • Shoot the Mage First: In the climax of the film, Sonja is fighting Queen Gedren. Every time she gets close enough to attack, a mook teleports Gedren away and Sonja has to chase her down again, while the mage uses Voodoo-like magic to cut Sonja with a dagger. After this happens two or three times, Sonja has enough and chops the guy's head off.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Brigitte Nielsen, aside from being a looker, is 6'1 and it shows.
  • Take Over the World: What Gedren plans to do with the Talisman.
  • Virgin Power: Sonja got powers bestowed on her by the goddess Scáthach. With the rule that she'd lose them if she slept with a man who hadn't beaten her in fair combat.
  • Vow of Celibacy: Sonja swore to never have sex with a man after her rape, unless he beat her in a fair fight.
  • Warrior Monk: The priestesses from the Order of the Talisman wield swords to protect the artifact from Queen Gedren and her troops. Although they get massacred in the end, they take many soldiers with them first.
  • We Can Rule Together: Gedren's offer to Sonja...or would have been, if not for the whole "scar" thing.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The final fate of Gedren's handmaiden (i.e. her younger teenage consort) remains unknown (out of the rest of the cast), though she is shown running away after being forced by Gedren to serve as bait in order to catch the prince.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Arnold Schwarzenegger was to reprise his role as the Hyborian Conan the Barbarian. Instead, Schwarzenegger plays the Original Character Kalidor.
  • You Killed My Father: Sonja swears vengeance on Queen Gedren for murdering her whole family, (along with ordering her to be raped) because Sonja had rejected her advances), and gave her a slight cut on the cheek.
  • You're Insane!: Ikol reacts this way when Gedren rejects his plea to stop using the talisman before it's too late. Sonja shoots this at her, too.

Alternative Title(s): Red Sonja 1985