The Best ’80s Fantasy Adventure Is A Fan-Favorite Secret Gem, Stream Without Netflix

By Brian Myers | Published

The 1980s brought a decent number of fantasy films to the big screen with varying degrees of box office success. While some were box office successes with an immediate fan base, others, like the 1982 film The Beastmaster, had lukewarm receptions at theaters and used cable TV to build their audiences. While it took The Beastmaster time to find its fan base, the film is regarded as one of the greatest in its genre and can now be streamed for free.

The Beastmaster

The Beastmaster stars Marc Singer as Dar, a young barbarian-type who lives in a farming village in a remote area of the kingdom of Aruk. Dar was to be born to the King of the land, Zed. But when it’s prophesied that the child of Zed will lead to the destruction of the evil sorcerer Maax (Rip Torn), Maax uses sorcery to try to kill the child.

Maxx employs the skills of a witch to transport the unborn child into the womb of a bull.

The witch cuts the baby out, brands its arm, and is ready to sacrifice it when a passerby catches her. He kills the witch and spares the baby’s life. The man takes the baby to his home village where he and his wife name the child Dar and raise him as their own.

Communicating Telepathically With Animals

The Beastmaster gets its name from the unique ability Dar begins to show from a young age. He can communicate telepathically with animals, a skill that he uses to his advantage throughout the film. Shortly after coming of age, Dar’s village is attacked by a group of warriors known as Juns and finds himself to be the only survivor.

Sacrifice, Sorcery, and Vengeance

Dar learns that Maax has used the Juns to take total control over the kingdom of Aruk, and he sets out on a quest for vengeance. On his journey, he finds himself aided by several animals (two ferrets, a golden eagle, and a black tiger) whose skills he employs. After making it to the temple at Aruk, the Beastmaster discovers that Maax is routinely sacrificing the children of the village to the god Ar.

As The Beastmaster continues, Dar is joined by Tal (Josh Milrad), whose older sister, Kiri (Tanya Roberts), is scheduled to be sacrificed, and Seth (John Amos), Tal’s bodyguard. The three set out to save Tal’s sister Kiri from death and to save the kingdom from Maax’s rule.

The Hero’s Journey

There are a number of elements that make The Beastmaster a solid fantasy film, among them the great use of the hero’s journey trope that is deeply embedded in the story. Dar has been marked with the sign of Ar (courtesy of his branding just before the failed sacrifice), which makes him able to communicate with wildlife. His use of human comrades and animals help set up great battle scenes, and even provide a bit of light humor along the way.

The Beastmaster‘s depiction of evil sorcery and witchcraft is done rather well and succeeds in making these characters (particularly the witches) the stuff of nightmares. Dar’s various encounters with other beings during his journey are also great sub-plots, and give audiences unique looks at other lifeforms that show themselves as strong adversaries but equally strong allies. The bird-people in particular resonate powerfully as they present as horrifying monsters that end up aiding Dar when he needs them.

Film Score Enhances The Viewing Experience

The costuming and sets are also worth noting. Filmed in Valley of Fire State Park, Los Padres National Forest, and Simi Valley, the production was able to successfully capture the essence of the kingdom of Aruk with landscapes that range from arid grasslands to lush, dense forests. The Beastmaster is filmed in such a way that it makes Aruk seem so real that you’ll feel like you’ve been there before.

The greatest features of the film are Don Coscarelli’s (Phantasm) brilliant direction and how it’s overlaid by Emmy Award-winning composer Lee Holdridge. Coscarelli certainly brought out the most in his performers and helped to create a fantasy world balanced with strong elements of realism, while Holdridge enhances each scene with a masterful musical composition.

Stream The Beastmaster Today


Truly the best fantasy film of its era.

If you’re ready to dive into The Beastmaster, you can stream it for free with Prime or rent it On Demand with AppleTV.