80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Conan The Barbarian”



I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I haven’t seen many of those flicks, so I figured I’d watch through. Here, I examine “Conan the Barbarian”. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.


“What is best in life?”
“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.”

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

Okay, not it doesn’t.

“Conan the Barbarian” is just all-around epic. There’s no way to deny this. From the opening scene to the end, we are treated to an epic quest for revenge and overthrow of a really evil snake-cult thingy. The director apparently decided to just throw in all kinds of awesome moments just because. Conan and gang paint themselves with a cool black camo pattern that doesn’t camouflage them at all in the setting they enter. Why have that detail then? Because they look awesome. And that pretty much summarizes the vast majority of this film. Why do things happen the way they do? Not because of some intricate overarching plot. No, the reason things happen is because they are awesome.

Does this quest for epic always work? No. Some moments fall flat, and the amount of gratuitous nudity is very off-putting for me. However, the number of moments the quest for epic works outnumbers the moments it doesn’t work to such a degree that the epic easily wins out.

Speaking of epic, the music. THE MUSIC! Wow. I can’t tell you how well-suited the music was to this film. It basically made the movie twice as good as it would have been otherwise. You can’t help but be swept away by the Wagner-esque orchestral pieces throughout, and they always add to the atmosphere in just the right way.

The characters, it must be admitted, are very paper-thin. There’s not a lot (any, really) backstory for them. Heck, there’s not a lot of story here at all. Conan’s family is killed by this snake cult. He is enslaved and basically through a life of heavy labor and forced gladiator combat becomes an awesome warrior. Then he is set free and decides to pursue vengeance against the snake cult, who just so happen to be super evil too.

On the way he picks up Valeria, an awesome warrior-thief-woman, and Subhotai, whose skill set is unclear but increases over the course of the movie. Basically the movie feels like an awesome Dungeons & Dragons campaign in movie format. You form the party, throw some reason for them all to be together in there, and set them off on a wild adventure. Meanwhile, the director/Dungeon Master just throws stuff in because it sounds like it’d be cool. Yep, that’s this movie.

I loved it.

The Good

+Super epic music
+Consistently entertaining
+Multiple awesome moments and quotes
+Genuinely feels like an epic quest

The Bad

-Gratuitous and unnecessary nudity in parts
-Characters and overall story are paper-thin

The Verdict

Grade: “Consistently epic, ‘Conan’ feels exactly like an epic fantasy adventure should.”


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

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Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.