Movie Review: Conan the Barbarian

‘Conan the Barbarian’ is a 1982 fantasy film starring the perfectly rippled, Arnold Schwarzenegger in his breakthrough role as Conan.

With classics such as ‘E.T.’, ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Rambo First Blood’, ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ and ‘Tootsie’ all released in this same year, 1982 was a memorable year for both ‘celebrity’ directors and breakthrough roles.


Arnie’s acting isn’t particularly great in the film, but it somehow makes the film even better. Two years previous to the film, Arnie had won his 7th (and final) Mr Olympia title after just 7 weeks of preparation!


Originally pitched to Ridley Scott, Conan ended up with Italian pulp Producer Dino De Laurentiis – who was then able to pitch it successfully to Universal Pictures.


De Laurentiis only got pitched because he happened to be staying at the hotel next door to Scott after he rejected it. It was one of his biggest hits.


Extremely violent and dark, the movie is based on Robert E.Howard’s 1930’s pulp fiction Conan stories of sorcery – and combined with the famed comic book imagery of Frank Frazetta.



Director, John Milius was a huge fan of Frazetta’s work, and chose a more natural look by avoiding special effects in favour of optical illusions and mechanical ‘smarts’.


In order to balance out the lesser known actors such as Schwarzenegger, dancer Sandahl Bergman and pro surfer Gerry Lopez, Milius cast veteran actors James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow and Mako Iwamatsu.


Schwarzenegger, Bergman and Lopez were each top athletes in their field, and received training from black belt and expert swordsman Kiyoshi Yamazaki who forced them to practice routines over a dozen times before allowing them to step in front of a camera.


The role of Thulsa Doom almost went to Sean Connery, but James Earl Jones — fresh off a mainstream success as the voice of Darth Vader — was cast instead.


It would be remiss of me not to mention the disappointing 2011 remake of this film, but let’s face it – ‘Conan the Barbarian’ is the perfect product of its time and could never be truly recreated. Do yourself a favour and skip the remake.

Available on Netflix and here’s the official trailer for you:


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