There is going to be another Conan the Barbarian movie. Get over it. Aging action star Arnold Schwarzenegger is attached to star in a continuation of Conan’s adventures with an eye on a 2016 release date. Seriously, get over it.
It wouldn’t be much for us to make the argument that the general populous is not banging down studio doors or sending sacks full of letters to producers desperately attempting to bring back the Marvel Comics character. In fact, sword and sorcery films are not exactly box office gold. The original Conan movie back in 1982 maybe have made its money back with a few extra bucks to tip the doorman, but it was hardly a blockbuster.
This is likely why since 1984 Hollywood hasn’t exactly churned out a plethora of sword and sorcery genre films. There have been a few – some good, some laughably bad – but sword and sorcery flicks have an unfortunate tendency to find themselves heading straight to rental shelves or Netflix queues instead of getting the big screen release treatment.
Our staff ripped off our shirts, raped women in a nearby village and rode off with our bounty into the mountains to discuss the best sword and sorcery films and we came up with a small list of 10 films that deserved to be mentioned. Our Top 10 starts here:
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Arnold Schwarzenegger was only 34 when James Earl Jones killed his father and he set out on his quest for revenge. The movie which was largely faithful to the Robert E. Howard stories was a crowd pleaser and put the Schwarz on the map. Conan brandished a sword bigger than a small car his adventures were filled with action, blood and the occasional love interest – one that will sacrifice herself for Conan by film’s end. Watched in glorious HD, Conan still looks sharp today and thanks to the lack of dialogue, the movie feels less dated than the release year should relate.
Lord of the Rings
We are sort of cheating here by lumping the three Peter Jackson epics into one entry, but had we not, Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King would take up three of the precious spots on a small list of 10. There is no denying that these films should be at the top of our list. Frodo, Sam, Gandolf and Gollum’s journey to the fiery mouth of Mount Doom was an incredible odyssey filled with swords, sorcery and some of the best action and battle sequences ever put on film. Some might not consider The Lord of the Rings a sword and sorcery film, but why not? It meets every criterion and has enough swords and sorcery for 100 hours of special features on the DVD sets.
The Beastmaster (1982)
This campy crap starring Marc Singer and Tanya Roberts holds a special place in our cold heart. The story is a simple fantasy about a man’s search for revenge (sensing a theme here!). Singer plays the Beastmaster – a blonde strapping hero that has the ability to communicate with animals and uses his unique powers to fight against the impeding evil. Tanya Roberts flashes some skin in a film that was shown on HBO so many times in the 80’s that many joked that HBO stood for “Hey, Beastmaster’s On”. As a film, there isn’t much there to appreciate. But as a bit of 80’s lore, this cheese is one of the best.
“There can be only one” was a phrase that star Christopher Lambert would become known in this adventure that also had the graceful presence of one Sir Sean Connery. With a poster than shows a modern day man holding a sword in the air with a car in the background, you might not think this fits the mold of the sword and sorcery films set in the days times of cave living and horsebacks, but Highlander is indeed a worthy entry to the list. The film focuses on a Scottish swordsman who becomes immortal and fights off another swordsman whose goal is to kill all the Highlanders and take their immortal power known as the ‘prize’. The film begins in the year 1518 and takes us through to present day New York City where the Highlanders will try not to lose their heads in a sword battle known as “The Gathering”. Highlander sparked a few sequels – all of them worse than their predecessor – and even a television series in the early 1990’s. But it’s the first film that shows any promise and Lambert is perfectly cast as Conner McLeod, the poor Scotsman that outlives his love and is unwilling to give up his head to the evil Kruger.
Starring a dream cast of Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne, this epic film directed by John Boorman is one of those hidden gems that should be sought by those who it has eluded. Excalibur tells the story of King Arthur and the legend of the sword in the stone. The Knights of the Round Table, Merlin and some ample sword play are all part of this steamy story where evil half-sisters and bastard sons all play large roles in unraveling this sword and sorcery epic.
The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
Hard to find but worth the search, it is no surprise that a movie with the words ‘sword’ and ‘sorcerer’ ends up on our list of the Top 10 Sword and Sorcery films. Starring Lee Horsley of televisions Matt Houston fame, The Sword and the Sorcerer tells the tale of a mercenary with a unique three-bladed sword that sets on a quest to aide a lovely damsel against an evil sorcerer. The story sounds routine, but the three bladed sword and a scene where Horsley’s character is nailed to a cross are the highlights of this underrated and tonafun flick!
Oh so bad. It was bad in 1983 and it is worse today. It is also one of those ‘so bad it’s good’ movies and cannot be ignored from our list. If you can stand from laughing while watching the trailer, Krull reveals to us the story of a prince and a group of followers that travel through treacherous landscape in an attempt to free his bride from a horde of aliens. It sounds outlandish, it is outlandish. But between the smiles and the groans you will understand why it made our list. And don’t even get us started on the main weapon in the movie which features what can best be described as a five pronged metal starfish ninja star with blades at each tip!
Red Sonja (1985)
Much debate was made by the KR Staff through our debate over Red Sonja’s inclusion to our list. Starring Bridgette Neilsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger again answering to the Conan the Barbarian call, this highly watchable but ultimately unforgettable film follows a female girl who after witnessing her parents being slaughtered, spends the rest of her life learning to master swordplay so that she can avenge their death. The story is ripped right from Conan the Barbarian and the characters in the film are far less interesting than what was on display in 1982. Still, Neilsen has some charm and it’s always good to see Arnie (he even gets top billing and the larger profile on the film poster).
The Scorpion King (2002)
Laugh you may, but The Scorpion King is actually a half-descent movie and a top 10 pick in the sword and sorcery film genre. Starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, the story set in ancient Egypt tells of story of hired assassin Mathayus (Johnson) that is hired by surviving tribes to defeat the evil king Memnon. The Scorpion King came courtesy of the brains behind 1999’s The Mummy starring Brandon Fraser. There are some good battle sequences and CGI effects to help catapult through the films rough spots and The Rock proved for the first time that he could headline and carry a film.
Ok, ok. We give. We can find one more slot on the list without having to talk about Tom Cruise, Ridley Scott or Val Kilmer. Our last pick for the best in sword and sorcery films goes to…
Fire & Ice (1986)
Our first and only animated film on our list tells the story about a village that is destroyed by an evil Ice Lord (are there any other kinds) named Nekron. A young survivor from the village vows to avenge the town and when a beautiful young girl is abducted by Lord Nekron, the young man adds to his emotional weight the goal of attempting to save her and have good triumph over evil. The DVD box art kicks ass and the animation is a tad above average considering the year to which it was produced. It’s definitely an outsider on our list but we concede that it would get enough write-in votes to have it included.