Revisiting Conan the Barbarian from 1982

Conan the barbarian He may not be a household name now, but the character is still an American icon. Jumping from novels to comics and finally to the big screen, the character is perhaps best known for his 1982 feature film He Conan the barbarian The film is in many ways an overlooked classic, as despite its praise, most viewers don’t fully understand the impact it had.

In addition to making the character himself more conventional, it launched a wave of sword-and-sorcery adventure films and the film career of star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Likewise, despite his seemingly simplistic storytelling, it was very much a topical reflection of its time, showing far more depth than one might expect.

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Conan the Barbarian ’80s Hot Topics

Directed by John Milius and adapting the Robert E. Howard character of the same name, the 1982 film Conan the barbarian it was the end result of a decade-long attempt to bring the character to the movies. The basic plot has Conan, played by the muscular Arnold Schwarzenegger, growing up to be a fierce but downtrodden warrior seeking revenge against the wizard who killed his family. With all kinds of battles, scantily clad men and women and cheese and general ’80s charm, the film embodied the adventure movie tropes that would come to define the era.


The overly macho tone is, of course, intentional, as Conan has always been a powerful and virile character. In fact, some of the film’s critics noted that the film didn’t quite capture the true level of carnage and sexuality in classic stories. However, there is still enough literary depth to Conan the barbarian, even looking outside of Howard’s works. For example, the treatment of swords, curses and prophecies recalls stories like The Iliad Y Beowulfshowing the triumph of one man’s will against seemingly inhuman and impossible odds.

Such harsh individualism was also in line with the “Reaganomics” of the time. These allusions were made stronger by the “communist” aspects of the villain Thulsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones), which was an amalgamation of various Robert E. Howard creations. Doom was also intended to be analogous to cult leaders like Jim Jones, with fears that these religious figures were as strong as those of communism. Of course, this is all mere subtext, and the gist of the film is a good fun time that can’t help but be over the top. Even then, the film’s influence and legacy cannot be minimized as Conan the barbarian it would go on to influence fantasy films for years to come.


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The enduring legacy of Conan the Barbarian

As mentioned, Conan the barbarian it was a great launching pad for Schwarzenegger’s film career. Having been known primarily for his bodybuilding, Schwarzenegger would soon become a household name after the success of Conan. Chosen due to his extremely muscular build, he was seen as the spitting image of Frank Frazetta. Conan artwork The paper would even be used during his political campaigns, referring to Schwarzenegger as “Conan the Republican.” Sandahl Bergman played the heroine Valeria, a role for which she became the latest Golden Globe winner for New Star of the Year. Sadly, she remains her biggest role of hers thus far, as she was primarily a dancer.


The biggest testament to the film’s legacy was easily the rise of sword and sorcery movies that followed. These films were clearly based on the aesthetics of Conan the barbarian, which had eschewed the Greco-Roman/Middle Eastern aspect of previous sword and sorcery movies for something entirely its own. The following years saw the release of films such as Legend, Ladyhawke, The Lord of the Beasts Y Krullneither of which probably would have been done if Conan the barbarian It hasn’t been as successful as it was.

Conan the barbarian therefore, it could be seen as the fantasy equivalent of the first Star Wars movie. At the same time, it could be argued that the former had an even bigger impact on its genre than the latter. While Star Wars was followed by the vaguely similar Battlestar Galactica and a film revival of the classic star trek, didn’t have as many obvious rip-offs as you’d expect from such a huge pop culture behemoth. On the other hand, most of the sword and sorcery fantasy movies of the next decade had their roots in Conan the barbarian.


The fantasy movie wouldn’t get a creative reboot until Peter Jackson’s release. The Lord of the rings adaptations nearly two decades later. This was a fact witnessed by Conan historian Paul Sammon on the book Conan the Phenomenon: The Legacy of Robert E. Howard’s Fantasy Icon. The film is now 40 years old, and its swordsmanship and use of Schwarzenegger’s muscles are still famous today. Having raised hundreds of millions of dollars, the 1982 Conan the barbarian it was perhaps the decade’s best example of rugged manly fantasy.

Conan the Barbarian can be streamed on Hulu.


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