Hollywood's ten best barbarian movies include Conan the Barbarian, Sign of the Pagan, Conan the Destroyer, The Conqueror, Taras Bulba, Red Sonja, Kull the Conqueror, The Barbarians, Beastmaster and Barbarian Queen.
The Tinseltown barbarians are at the gates once again, ready to wreak havoc and destruction. Here are the ten best Hollywood barbarian movies that are sure to please film fans of this "barbaric" genre. Got your sword, ax, mace and popcorn handy?
Conan the Barbarian (Universal, 1982)
Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian was brought to the big screen in 1982. Made for $20 million and directed with bloody, barbaric flair by John Milius, Conan the Barbarian stars Hollywood muscle man Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role, an ancient warrior who seeks revenge for the slaughter of his people. James Earl Jones (Thulsa Doom), Max von Sydow (King Osric), Sandahl Bergman (Valeria), Ben Davidson (Rexor) and Mako (The Wizard) are also on hand. There's plenty of action in this one, with mighty Conan wielding a mean stick as he encounters an array of incredible sights in what many believe to be the best barbarian fantasy film ever made. Girly men? Not in this flick!
Conan the Barbarian (1982) one sheet movie poster - Heritage Auctions
Sign of the Pagan (Universal, 1954)
Jack Palance plays the legendary Attila the Hun in Sign of the Pagan, a $1.3 million movie spectacular directed by Douglas Sirk. Jeff Chandler (Marcian), Ludmilla Tcherina (Princess Pulcheria), Rita Gam (Kubra), Jeff Morrow (General Paulinus) and George Dolenz (Emperor Theodosius) also appear. Attila leads his mighty Hun army against a divided Holy Roman Empire, only to be stopped by divine intervention. Attila, like Count Dracula, has a problem with crosses in this barbarian movie classic. Check out the eerie scene in which the pope emerges from the mist to confront Attila and his marauding hordes.
Jack Palance in Sign of the Pagan (1954) - Universal Pictures
Conan the Destroyer (Universal, 1984)
The $18 million sequel to the highly successful Conan the Barbarian slammed into movie theaters in 1984. Directed by Richard Fleischer, Conan the Destroyer (apparently he got promoted from Barbarian to Destroyer) once again features Arnold Schwarzenegger as the big guy with the big tool – a sword in this case. In this outing Conan heads into enemy territory, seeking a magic crystal which he believes will restore the life of his dead love. Grace Jones (Zula), Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain (Bombaata), Mako (Akiro the Wizard), Tracey Walter (Malak) and Sarah Douglas (Queen Taramis) round out the principals – and also provide the basis for a pretty good pickup game of basketball in between the blood and gore. Look for Andre the Giant as an ornery horned behemoth.
The Conqueror (RKO, 1956)
The $6 million historical epic The Conqueror invaded movie theaters on March 28, 1956. A pet project of producer Howard Hughes and directed by Dick Powell, The Conqueror stars big John Wayne as Temujin a.k.a. Genghis Khan, the leader of the Mongols who engage in battle with their hated enemies the Tartars. The Duke has his eye on pretty Susan Hayward (Tartar Princess Bortai), precipitating the bloody fisticuffs on the Asian plains. Pedro Armendariz (Jamuga), Agnes Moorehead (Hunlun), Thomas Gomez (Wang Khan) and John Hoyt (Shaman) also appear. The Conqueror earned the nickname "An RKO Radioactive Picture," as it had been filmed near St. George, Utah, some 137 miles from the U.S. government's Nevada Nuclear Test Site, with many of the cast and crew later dying of cancer.
John Wayne in The Conqueror (1956) - RKO Radio Pictures
Kull the Conqueror (Universal, 1997)
Muscle man Kevin Sorbo has the title role in this blood and guts entry directed by John Nicolella. Based on characters fleshed out by Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard, Kull the Conqueror features Sorbo as a young barbarian who ascends to the throne after killing the previous occupant in battle. Tia Carrere (Akivasha), Thomas Ian Griffith (General Taligaro), Litefoot (Ascalante) and Roy Brocksmith (Tu) also appear. When informed that his bride to be is really 3,000-years-old, Kull replies, "She told me she was 19!" Well, at least she's not underage.
The Barbarians (Cannon, 1987)
This Italian-made film hit movie theaters in 1987. Made for $4 million and directed by Ruggero Deodato, The Barbarians stars twin bodybuilders Peter and David Paul as Kutchek and Gore, respectively, two orphans who grow up to earn their keep as gladiators. Richard Lynch appears as the evil ruler Kadar, with Eva La Rue (Kara), Virginia Bryant (Canary), Sheeba Alahani (China) and Michael Berryman (Dirtmaster) along for the ride. Ample swordplay, dragons, harems, magical stones...it's all here, barbarian movie lovers.
Taras Bulba (United Artists, 1962)
Director J. Lee Thompson brought Taras Bulba to movie theaters on December 19, 1962. Made for $7 million, Taras Bulba features Yul Brynner in the title role, the head of the Cossacks in 16th century Ukraine who leads his armies against the Poles in order to reclaim their land. Tony Curtis stars as Andrei Bulba, "Brooklyn-born" son of Taras, with Sam Wanamaker (Filipenko), Brad Dexter (Shilo), Guy Wolfe (Prince Grigory) and Perry Lopez (Ostap Bulba) in support. There's the love story and then there are the spectacular battle scenes – with the latter proving to be the film's true calling.
Red Sonja (MGM/UA, 1985)
Director Richard Fleischer brought Red Sonja to movie theaters on July 3, 1985. In this entry it's the women who get to kick some barbarian butt, with towering Brigitte Nielsen (didn't she play for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders?) as the title character battling the evil Sandahl Bergman (Queen Gedren). Arnold Schwarzenegger (Kalidor) is present, along with Paul Smith (Falkon), Ernie Reyes Jr. (Prince Tarn), Ronald Lacey (Ikol) and Pat Roach (Brytag). "No man may have me, unless he's beaten me in a fair fight," Red Sonja declares. It's a safe bet the "little lady" will remain a virgin for some time – but Arnold is lurking.
Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Sonja (1985) - MGM/UA
Barbarian Queen (Concorde Pictures, 1985)
The girls are back in town in this estrogen-fueled barbarian flick directed with gusto by Hector Olivera. Filmed in Argentina, the kick-ass Barbarian Queen stars Lana Clarkson as Queen Amethea, a village massacre survivor who leads her scantily-clad female warriors in a quest for revenge. Katt Shea (Estrild), Dawn Dunlap (Taramis), Susana Traverso (Tiniara) and Frank Zagarino (Argan) also appear. "I'll be no man's slave and no man's whore, and if I can't kill them all, by the gods they'll know I've tried," the brassy Amethea declares. Not exactly the line guys want to hear on Match.com.
The Beastmaster (MGM, 1982)
Hollywood strongman Marc Singer stars as Dar in this $8 million barbarian slugfest directed by Don Coscarelli. Dar is the son of a murdered king, making like a barbarian Dr. Doolittle and enlisting animals as his allies as he seeks out his father's killers. Tanya Roberts (Kiri), a hopefully sober Rip Torn (Maax), John Amos (Seth) and Josh Milrad (Tal) are also on hand. "I'm Dar," the musclebound kid introduces himself. Now that's an easy name to remember.
More Hollywood Barbarian Film Favorites
- Gor (1987)
- The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)
- Conquest (1983)
- Deathstalker (1983)
- Goliath and the Barbarians (1959)
- The Pagans (1953)
- Hercules Against the Barbarians (1964)
- Conan the Barbarian (2011)
- Ator, the Fighting Eagle (1982)
- Hawk the Slayer (1981)
- Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer (1984) - Universal Pictures
Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.