Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian

D: John Milius (1982); with Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Sandahl Bergman, Mako, Gerry Lopez.

While Gladiator snapped up a Golden Globe, some fans may want to revisit this early Eighties gem. True Conan fanatics may dispute its authenticity, but as a fantasy film, it works brilliantly. Conan (Schwarzenegger) is orphaned when his parents are butchered by the evil Thulsa Doom (Jones, in a marvelous role). After being sold into slavery, he becomes a gladiator and eventually begins a quest to avenge his parents. Along the way, he meets fellow thieves and cutthroats including Subotai (played by surfing great Lopez), a nutty magician (Mako), and Valeria (Bergman). Some special effects haven't aged well, but the swordplay is solid. Schwarzenegger's childlike expressions and physical presence makes for a sympathetic yet brutal Conan. Jones is over the top, but delightful as the evil cult leader. His evil is apparent, but Jones uses a subtle charm that makes him all the more credible. Some may shove this into B-movie category (its sequel Conan the Destroyer belongs there), but the principal story (by Millius and Oliver Stone) is very good, and the final product is still an action classic.

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