Conan the Barbarian

1982

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.

70%

TOMATOMETER

Reviews Counted: 33

74%
liked it

Audience Score

User Ratings: 131,195

TOMATOMETER

N/A
All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0

AUDIENCE SCORE

74%
Average Rating: 3.1/5

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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 (33) | Top Critics (5)

  • 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

    Variety
    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…
  • Following the release of the dreadful 2011 reboot, the original has been labeled a "classic," but let's not kid ourselves.

    Jul 4, 2015 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Conan the Barbarian

½

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 Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

oddly, I almost feel as if this film has improved with age. It has a haunting atmosphere and is set in a perfect fantasy like world. I would have loved a fuller, longer franchise of these films to see what other sorts of adventures the characters would have explored. solid action.

danny d
danny d

Super Reviewer

John Millius' action fantasy film Conan the Barbarian is a thrilling film. The film has its imperfections, which I will get into in just a moment, but for the most part the film is very exciting and is pure fun, if you can forgive its flaws. The films weakness is in the dialogue delivery, and some bits of the dialogue are very cheesy, but in the end, who cares? Conan the Barbarian is a fun action fantasy film based on the comic book character of the same name. The film steadily builds up to a terrific action packed climax. The film story is interesting, but it does lack a bit of substance. However it makes up for it with the action scenes. Conan the Barbarian is a flawed film, but it's also the type of film that you need to shut off your brain to enjoy. If you get past the somewhat cheesy dialogue and ridiculous scenes, then you might actually enjoy this. Conan the Barbarian is meant to be a mindless action film, and it most certainly is that. The film has a comic book feel that comes across very nicely and this is a fine action film. The film lacks effective dialogue, but the film makes up for it with an interesting storyline. John Mlius' directing keeps the film moving at a steady pace, and keeps you interested for the first hour of the film due to stunning visuals, and the story itself. Many viewers have stated that the story is almost nonexistent However, I beg to differ, and I think that the story though not very elaborate still has some merit. For all its faults, Conan the Barbarian is an action classic. This film is the type of action picture that you need to simply shut off your mind to enjoy to the film boasts some impressive action sequences and John Milius has crafted a fine action film based on the Pulp comic character. A fun ride.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

Although it may have the classic 80's feel and the bloody action is very impressive for it's time, the story seems a little unoriginal and the outcome is very cliche. The acting here is very average and the characters are hard to believe. As Conan is on a trail with two partners to rescue a kings daughter, they seem to find many troubles along the way. To me they just seem like excuses to make an action sequence; However, the action is cool to watch and as cliche as it may be, the story is not unwatchable. It is definitely just another average action/adventure flick but I had some fun with it. Conan: The Barbarian is easily forgettable.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

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