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YMMV / Conan the Barbarian (1982)

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  • Acceptable Targets: Obviously, New Age religious cults of the creepy variety. The film was made not long after the infamous Jonestown massacre.
  • Adaptation Displacement: John Milius's film is likely what many think about when they hear the name Conan the Barbarian and not the Howard stories. And it's very likely that Conan = Arnold for many people. This might explain why any new Conan adaptation has badly failed since Conan will forever be Arnold to many. Anyone who plays Conan gets compared to him. Conan dates back to 1932, he's older than Superman.
    • Even the pronunciation of Conan's name counts - Howard just pronounced it "CONE-un" like Conan O'Brien does. Mako's stentorious "Co-NAHN!" means many still pronounce it that way. Many are even surprised to learn it's a real Celtic name (traditionally pronounced the former way) instead of a mere "fantasy name".
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  • Audience-Coloring Adaptation: The movie visually builds upon the Marvel comics and Frank Frazetta's art before it. Parodies like UHF's ''Conan the Librarian'' tend to mock also Arnold's distinctive accent.
  • Awesome Music: Basil Poledouris' work on this film is considered as one of the best movie soundtracks ever made. In fact, there are some music critics who consider this score to be one of the greatest classical music compositions of the 20th century.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Thulsa Doom turning into a snake. He just does it, the fact that he can do so serves no purpose, and it's not mentioned again. In the novelization of the movie it is explained that he did this cause he felt the presence of Conan and friends and wanted to escape. But the movie never explains why he has this ability or what really are his powers.
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  • Complete Monster: Thulsa Doom starts by slaughtering Conan's village, decapitating Conan's mom while he stands next to her and selling the children as slaves just so that he can obtain weapons of fine steel from the barbarians. Later in the film, he orders a young woman to jump to her death to illustrate how much control he has over his followers before ordering Conan to be crucified. Shortly after that, we find out that he and his followers practice cannibalism. He proceeds to kill Valeria, probably Conan's greatest love in the movie-verse, with a snake arrow. After Rexor and his army's defeat in the Battle of the Mounds, Thulsa coldly tries to do the same thing to the Princess after deeming her no longer useful to him.
  • Cult Classic: An adaptation of the Trope Codifier of Sword & Sorcery, with a notoriously renegade writer and director, starring a virtually unknown bodybuilder and Basil Podedouris' stunning score? That sharply divided critics immediately, but found a dedicated audience? Sounds like a Cult Classic, alright.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory:
    • According to this Overthinking It article the 1980s Conan movies have strong feminist, anti-racist and atheistic themes. Of course, the major screenwriter of the first film is Oliver Stone, which lends some credence to that. On the flip side of that coin, though, director and co-screenwriter John Milius self-identifies as (a highly idiosyncratic) conservative/libertarian in his personal views, Conan himself is a fiercely independent warrior who eventually becomes a king on his own steam, and the film explicitly shows Conan praying to Crom (albeit in a backhanded fashion) and that there is an afterlife when Valeria briefly comes Back from the Dead.
    • This is a possible case of Truer to the Text: In the original Conan stories by Robert Howard there are some problems with the treatment of women and non-whites yet there also surprisingly positive portrayals as well. On the subject of theism and atheism; Conan did revere gods, chief among them Crom, in Howard's stories but considered it best not to draw their attention, coming across as spiritual and acknowledging gods but not religious (we'd probably call him a monolatrist in technical terms).
  • Evil Is Cool: Thulsa Doom is essentially a Darth Vader Expy, especially once he dons his armor for the final battle; and, being played by James Earl Jones himself, oozes the same intimidating charisma that made Vader so compelling.
  • Gateway Series: Although the film is associated with bodybuilding only indirectly, as Schwarzenegger's big movie break (along with The Terminator, but that didn't show his physique off so much) it drew a lot of attention to the bodybuilding scene, and many called it the film that sparked widespread interest in it in The '80s.
  • Genius Bonus: They actually got Turko-Mongol paganism right when they had Subotai (Hyrkanian, basically the Hyborian equivalent of Mongols and Turks) proclaim that he worshiped the Everlasting Sky. In Turko-Mongol paganism, the most important god is Tengri - Lord of the Eternal Blue Sky. In fact, it's more accurate to actual pre-Islamic Turkic beliefs than the original Howard stories were, where the Hyrkanians worship Erlik, who in actual Turkic paganism, is an evil demon and the primary adversary of Tengri.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In the movie, it's stated that Conan will eventually become a king. Decades after this movie came out, Conan's actor would himself rise to a position of political authority as Governor of California.
    • James Earl Jones was given blue contact lenses despite being a light-skinned African-American because he was intended to look like a member of an ancient race that had vanished from the Earth. Fast forward to 2018 and genetic testing on the remains of the Cheddar Man, Britain's oldest complete skeleton, turned out exactly the same coloring combination.
  • Ho Yay:
    • The scene where the priest examines Conan's chest, with the words "you have a beautiful body, you should not be afraid to show it!" just drips with homoerotic undertones.
    • The orgy scene, where the ministers of the cult are making love and eating human meat. But where are the two main lieutenants of Thulsa Doom? When the battle begins, they appear together, and half-dressed...
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • If not for The Terminator, then for many people Arnold would forever remain Conan.
    • Even people who haven't seen the movie can quote the "what is best in life?" scene (although the original is attributed to the real Genghis Khan, an expy of which is in the scene).
    • Mako's prologue is so epic that it was later copied many times and parodied in other films.
  • Narm:
    • Conan's grunts of pain don't sound very convincing. This is most noticeable during his very first gladiator fight.
    • Max von Sydow briefly sounds like Yoda when he says, "You alone have stood up to their gods, and what are you?"
    • While Thulsa using a live snake as a arrow is meant as Nightmare Fuel, it's somewhat undermined with everything in his cult being about snakes.
    • An alternate take of Doom's death is sometimes shown on TV, with Conan throwing his head down the steps being replaced with a shot of his body tumbling down them instead. Sounds equally gruesome, except that the "body" is a floppy-limbed, Three Stooges-esque dummy.
  • Narm Charm: Although many of the quieter scenes are actually well done, a good portion of the movie is narm. Awesome, glorious narm that fits both the setting and the story like a glove, somehow managing to be incredibly moving when in many other movies it would be just plain ol' Narm without any of the charm.
  • Nausea Fuel: The soup the cultists serves during the orgy. Not only is it filthy green, it's also filled with human body parts.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Max von Sydow's performance as King Osric is half pure glorious Ham and Cheese, part unusually heartfelt, and is often singled out by critics.
    • The camel who gets punched out by Conan. It returns in the sequel, where it suffers the same fate.
    • Conan's father, played by William Smith, only gets one scene and one speech. It's all he needs.
  • Signature Scene: Conan's father's monologue about the Riddle of Steel, and later Thulsa Doom's monologue about the Riddle, power and how he "made" Conan. Also the cannibalistic orgy scene, where Doom slowly transforms into a snake to Poledouris' nightmare score.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Although some parts might be regarded as Narm or Camp (largely due to the influence of the Lighter and Softer sequel and the Shallow Parody of Schwarzenegger that ensued), at the time it was revolutionary both in its violence and in its deliberately Nietzschean philosophical overtones about masculinity and power. Truth is that Sword & Sorcery/Sandal movies were usually the preserve of cheap schlock and rapidly became so again.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Pay close attention to all of Conan and Valeria's scenes together after they first meet. He doesn't say one line to her! She does talk much more to him, and he kind of emotes non-verbally when needed (which, given it is Arnold we talk about, is a feat), but their relationship is still a bit awkward due to Conan's perpetual sulleness.
  • Unfortunate Implications:
    • As Roger Ebert noted as early as the film's release: Conan becomes a Germanic superman with a black arch-enemy. As hinted by his name, the original Conan was Celtic (or rather, his people were ancestors of the Celts) and in his original stories he had no arch-enemy at all. Also, the literary Thulsa Doom has blue eyes and straight hair and is swarthy rather than truly black; rather than seeming like an African, his race was intended to be that of a mysterious, mystical people that had vanished from the world long ago. The literary Thoth-Amon (the other inspiration for the film's Thulsa Doom) while being non-white and wicked had several noble qualities; the movie's Thulsa Doom doesn't have any redeeming qualities.
  • Values Resonance: Despite it being from The '80s and a franchise mostly associated to muscled macho men rescuing damsels in distress, the leads of the movie include a strong female character who has control over her own life and every bit of competence as her male co-protagonists. It is telling that while many an old school Contemptible Cover from the books has a vulnerable female clinging to his leg, the poster of this film has the female character turned away from Conan, squatting out in a martial pose and wielding her own sword.


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