- Accidental Innuendo: Stop snickering at the "wood beast", guys. It doesn't help that Gordon has to brave it by sticking his fist into a dark hole...
- Adaptation Displacement: Some fans go for the bitchin' Queen album over the film (and some have no idea the film is itself based on comic strips and film serials from the 1930s)
- Alternative Character Interpretation: SF Debris believes that Ming has fully read the Evil Overlord List, he just chooses not to follow them. He also knows he is a villain and enjoys the villain lifestyle.Ming the Merciless is not what he was called by his enemies, but the name he has taken for himself... don't waste your time on a name that pretends you're a good man. Why conquer the universe if you're going to spend the rest of your life being a spin doctor.
- Anti-Climax Boss: Ming is Impaled with Extreme Prejudice by war rocket Ajax, which could be seen as a bit too quick and easy for anyone looking forward to him having a Duel to the Death with Flash.
- Awesome Music: FLASH! AH-AH! HE'LL SAVE EVERY ONE OF US!
- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Near the beginning of the movie, Flash and Dale's plane is passing through a storm caused by Ming's attack on Earth when Ming's image suddenly emerges from the clouds and seems to attack the pilots, who disappear out of the cockpit. No explanation is ever given for this.
- Broken Base: Fans of the wider franchise are divided over the campiness of the film. Some reason that it could have been more serious like Star Wars (which itself was inspired by the franchise) and the comic strips and serials, since it means the most famous version is almost a self-parody. Others contend that the campiness made the film far more memorable than a serious take would have, so it wasn't completely overshadowed by Star Wars like many other space adventure movies made in the 1980s.
- Complete Monster: Ming the Merciless is the tyrannical emperor of planet Mongo. Every thousand years, Ming tests the life forms of the universe, terrorizing any planet he comes across with natural disasters. If he is recognized as responsible for these catastrophes, he deems the planet and its inhabitants a threat to his rule and destroys it. Setting his sights on terrorizing, and ultimately annihilating, Earth, Ming plagues the planet with natural disasters, causing mass chaos and destruction. The inhabitants of Mongo fare little better under his rule, as Ming is quick to kill them and destroy their kingdoms should they displease him. When Earthlings Flash Gordon, Dale Arden, and Dr. Hans Zarkov are brought before them, Ming lusts after Dale and attempts to force her to be his concubine, ordering Flash executed when he stands against him. He later attempts to brainwash Zarkov, all the while gloating about his plans to destroy Earth. His cruelty extends even to his own daughter, Aura; when he discovers that Aura has helped Flash escape his kingdom, Ming has no qualms with allowing his men to torture her to extract a confession. Upon locating Flash at Sky City, Ming has the kingdom obliterated, before attempting to force Dale to marry him, mentioning his plans to cast her off once he's grown weary of her.
- Cult Classic: One of the cheesiest movies of all time, and among those who have seen it, it is beloved for that very reason.
- Evil Is Cool: Only an actor of Max von Sydow's caliber could bring such gravitas to a character as goofy as Ming.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The film is much more popular in the UK than in the US, hence it's considered a classic in that country.
- Ham and Cheese:
- Harsher in Hindsight: The climax where Flash and the Hawkmen hijack War Rocket Ajax and crash it into Ming's (tower-like) palace may have been awesome in 1980, but after September 11, 2001? Yeah, that's just a little awkward...
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- The following exchange, after Flash spares Prince Barin's life:Prince Vultan: What is this?!
Hans Zarkov: Humanity.
Prince Vultan: Madness!
- Shortly before the final battle, Vultan says "Who wants to live forever??"
- General Kala's outlandish outfits and strange body language remind one quite a bit of Lady Gaga. They even look a little alike. Considering that Lady Gaga's stage name comes from a Queen song...it's enough to blow your mind.
- The incredible number of unlikely astronomic events, in a production scored by Brian May, an accomplished astrophysicist.
- 35 years later Max von Sydow joined the cast of The Force Awakens, a continuation of a franchise heavily inspired by the original Flash Gordon serials.
- Likewise BRIAN BLESSED went on to star in The Phantom Menace.
- Ming asking if Klytus gave his men the right pills during the "football fight" becomes hilarious with the various performance-enhancing drug scandals over the two decades — making it sound like Ming is annoyed that his guards didn't get enough steroids.
- Topol and Timothy Dalton would make their way into the James Bond franchise not long after this film. Topol would play Colombo in For Your Eyes Only, and Dalton would play Bond himself in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. Hilariously, Dalton would've started playing Bond sooner in FYEO (the opening scene where Bond visits Tracy's grave was written as a way of introducing the new Bond) before Roger Moore changed his mind.
- The following exchange, after Flash spares Prince Barin's life:
- Les Yay: Dale and Aura. This scene speaks for itself.
- Memetic Mutation:
- "Pathetic Earthlings! WHO CAN SAVE YOU NOW?!?!"
- "FLASH! AH-AHH! SAVIOUR OF THE UNIVERSE!"
- "GORDON'S ALIVE!!" BRIAN BLESSED said he can't go anywhere in Britain without people asking him to say it.
- Including The Queen.
- "DIVE, MY HAWKMEN! DIIIIIIIIIIVE!"
- Moral Event Horizon: Ming the Merciless leaving his own daughter to be tortured by Klytus and Kala. An earlier candidate happens in the first ten seconds of the movie as you find out his hobby is blowing up planets For the Evulz.
- Narm: The Memory Eraser scene, which is rather intense and not played for laughs, can either be Nightmare Fuel, or this. SF Debris found it unintentionally laughable, especially the moments we see Zarkov's various life events shown in sped-up footage, which makes it look like something out of The Benny Hill Show.
- Narm Charm: The film is campy, cheesy and over-the-top beyond belief. What's there not to like?
- Retroactive Recognition:
- Rooting for the Empire: The title character is fine and all, but he's a little bland. Contrast that with the wonderfully colorful and enthusiastic bad guys in some killer costumes, and you have to wonder how many people were actually hoping for Ming and company to win.
- So Bad, It's Good: A film so deliberately cheesy, over-the-top, and bombastic that it loops all the way around to being enjoyable in its own right. Having a genuinely awesome soundtrack certainly works in the movie's favor.
- Signature Line: Gordons alive?. Helped by BRIAN BLESSED being all too happy to repeat it whenever asked.
- Strangled by the Red String: Flash and Dale hardly knew each other when they left Earth, yet the minute they landed on Mongo they shifted from boyfriend/girlfriend to marriage plans in the span of one movie!
- Tear Jerker: Flash and Dale's conversation before his execution; the music only adds to it.
- Took the Bad Film Seriously:
- Timothy Dalton, especially considering the film also starred BRIAN BLESSED. Dalton's performance actually does work to the benefit of the film, though, since it's not so much a bad movie as a very silly one. According to Dalton himself, he did this intentionally on advice from Max von Sydow. It also notably makes him the only person someone could take seriously as the leader of Mongo.
- Max von Sydow gives a fairly restrained and subtle performance as Ming the Merciless, a character you'd expect the actor to chew the scenery for, and it works extremely well. Or perhaps he just succeeds in the rare art of playing a character over the top (you can hear the sheer enjoyment of what he is doing whenever he speaks) WITHOUT having to pick bits of the scenery out of his teeth.
- What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: The film hearkens back to the 1960's DeLaurentiis films like Danger: Diabolik and Barbarella.
YMMV / Flash Gordon (1980)