Conan the Barbarian


Conan the Barbarian

Critics Consensus

Though Conan may take itself too seriously for some, this adventure film about a former slave seeking vengeance is full of quotable Schwarzenegger lines and gritty action.



Total Count: 34


Audience Score

User Ratings: 131,228
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Movie Info

John Milius's jingoistic direction and pulpy screenplay fit perfectly into this film version of the Robert E. Howard fantasy story of the sword and sorcery hero, Conan the Barbarian. Complementing Mulius's heavy metal production is Arnold Schwarzenegger's leaden acting, which in any other context would be deadly, but here (as in The Terminator) corresponds nicely with the whole sonorous project. The story begins when a horde of rampaging warriors massacre the parents of young Conan and enslave the young child for years on The Wheel of Pain. The Wheel of Pain seems to have as its only purpose the building up of Conan's muscles, so it's no surprise that one day Conan grows up to become Arnold Schwarzenegger. As the sole survivor of the childhood massacre, Conan is released from slavery and taught the ancient arts of fighting. Transforming himself into a killing machine, Conan travels into the wilderness to seek vengeance on Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), the man responsible for killing his family. In the wilderness, Conan takes up with the thieves Valeria (Sandahl Bergman) and Subota (Gerry Lopez). The trio comes upon a weird snake cult, linked to Doom, and Conan wants to trek off to Doom's mountain retreat to kill him. But he is prevented from doing that by King Osrik (Max Von Sydow), who wants the trio of warriors to help rescue his daughter who has joined Doom in the hills. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Conan the Barbarian

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (11)

  • There is a real anticipation as Schwarzenegger is unveiled as the barbarian and sets off on the road to independence. But for whatever reasons, the actor has a minimum of dialog and fails to convey much about the character through his actions.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Match verdict: no goals, slow build-up, but much absorbing action off the ball.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Chris Petit

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Not since Bambi's mother was killed has there been a cannier movie for kids than Conan the Barbarian.

    Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Conan the Barbarian is an extremely long, frequently incoherent, ineptly staged adventure-fantasy set in a prehistoric past.

    Aug 30, 2004
  • Even 17 years after its release, Conan the Barbarian still weaves a spell capable of ensorcelling fans of fantasy adventure.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Its plot is confusing and the production is limited. [Full Review in Spanish]

    Aug 22, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Conan the Barbarian

  • Sep 21, 2017
    The movie that put Arnold on the map to becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, The film itself is ok, Nothing brilliant but for its year it was pretty fun, Maybe not as fun as it should of been, It had some good and bloody action scenes and the effects were pretty good for its day, Just your typical revenge plot and it's not greatly acted, Arnold did ok but his main acting goal was to flex whenever the camera was on him, Although what's not to love about him knocking out a camel with one punch or biting off the neck of a vulture (Great stuff) It's a film that just about stands the test of time mainly due to the fact it's the film that created the legend Mr. Schwarzenegger.
    Jamie C Super Reviewer
  • Mar 09, 2013
    The first film to get Arnie on the way to the man he is today, and the first of three very similar fantasy flicks. Based on a pulp comic character from the 30's this film franchise turned the idea on its head and into a cult spanning many different formats and influencing other fantasy films, it also helped some videogames along the way. The plot is simple, Conan is taken from his family who have been conveniently killed by a band of nasty warriors dressed in black. He is put into slavery and made to do hard labour for the rest of his foreseeable future. The torturous slavery makes Conan big and strong despite the apparent lack of decent food, nutrients, fishfingers or milk. He eventually is sold into gladiatorial fighting where he becomes a brilliant battler and swordsman and wins his freedom. From there on he's off to avenge his families death, as you do. Obvious premise but its an old film folks. Yes the film is old, back in 82 things were different, what you see now when watching is a horribly cliched, predictable, hammy, semi cheap looking mess, but back then it was fresh...ish. All the bad guys wear black and look a bit camp with their wigs and handlebar moustaches, you wonder why exactly these groups of bad guys always attack and kill helpless useless peasants, what's in it for them? why they always leave one kid alive to grow up and take revenge on them?? and what is James Earl Jones character actually up to? what's his goal? his plans? why do all those people follow him? etc... Yeah I know I'm being picky, it matters not really, the film is old and all these barbarian films are pretty much the same, its all about the spectacle and fantasy right. This first film is definitely more adult than the rest, lots of blood splashing about with limbs being hacked off...good stuff. Yet despite that there isn't too much action really, more character development surprisingly and what action there is has some nice effects too, nice snake work and some nice animated spirits also. To be honest I've actually always preferred the original 'Beastmaster' film over Conan. There a few nice moments in this but really its pretty tepid, if only 'The Beastmaster' starred Arnie. And what the hell was that huge wheel thing Conan pushes for half his life suppose to be? a mill? a well? or merely for torture? a plan that backfired for Thulsa Doom methinks. In the end the final teasing image and narration about King Conan is actually far more interesting and intriguing than the film that preceded it.
    Phil H Super Reviewer
  • May 03, 2012
    It's Arnold Schwarzenegger's seminal role...Conan the Barbarian. Based on Robert E. Howard's fantasy series, Conan and his band of thieves are hired to free a king's daughter from the clutches of an evil sorcerer. While Schwarzenegger doesn't do much "acting" per se, he has a tremendous screen presence that carries the film. Additionally, Basil Poledouris provides a majestic score which does an excellent job at giving the film an epic feel. However, there are some pacing issues that cause the film to drag at times, and the storytelling is a rather weak. Still, Conan the Barbarian is a classic '80s action film that delivers a thrilling adventure.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 30, 2011
    It wouldn't surprise me if all the dialogue in Conan the Barbarian could fit on ten pieces of 8 1/2 x 11 letter paper. And, mind you, this movie is over 2 hours long. The titular character, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, gets his first line approximately 20 minutes into the picture. (Probably a good idea, since he appears labored each time he speaks.) There's also a bigger problem, something in the script stage which should have been worked out ahead of production: the film feels like it was designed to be broken up into smaller adventures for a future release. Scenes fade to black after an action sequence and, truth be told, I could imagine the screenwriters adapting Conan comic books for this film, taking random books and trying to make them go together. Oh, the movie is bloody and violent with a booming score and all the pulp/camp you can take. Not much of it makes sense, though I'm not sure it's supposed to. This is designed to be goofy fun, mimicking the original source material. On the heels of Star Wars, didn't audiences expect just a little more from their fantasy movies?
    Jason V Super Reviewer

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