Netflix Fantasy Adventure Classic Is An R-Rated Delight

By Michael Heuer | Updated

Sometimes, a single film can propel an actor from relative obscurity to superstardom in the entertainment world. Sylvester Stallone had Rocky, Paul Newman had The Hustler, and Arnold Schwarzenegger had Conan the Barbarian. The 1982 film made Schwarzenegger an A-list film star in the action genre.

Conan The Barbarian

arnold schwarzenegger

Conan the Barbarian has excellent production values and a fantastic supporting cast that includes James Earl Jones and Max Von Sydow. Jones was enjoying great success as the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise at the time, while Von Sydow is a highly respected and accomplished Swedish-French actor who appeared in more than 150 films and television shows in the United States and Europe. 

The Rise Of Conan

The film blends action and supernatural elements with a classic underdog tale while telling the story of a young slave boy who rises far above his status and eventually overthrows the powerfully oppressive snake cult led by Jones. Conan the Barbarian features outlaws, witches, and wizards who combine their particular sets of skills to steal riches and gain revenge over those who oppressed them earlier in their lives.

The Quest For Revenge

The necromancer, Thulsa Doom, played by Jones, attacks Conan’s village, slaughters his family, and enslaves the child who would become a legend. The boy is forced to push the wheel of death for many years, which has the unintended effect of making him very strong with lots of stamina. That strength and stamina become Conan’s trademark virtues as he escapes his captors as a young man and sets out to avenge his family’s death while stealing riches from those who enslaved him and would kill him if they could.

A Smash Hit That Made A New Star

Esteemed screenwriter and director John Milius directed the fantasy sword-and-sorcery film he co-wrote with Oliver Stone, who would gain global recognition for writing and directing the Academy Award-winning film Platoon. Milius’ many film credits include Jeremiah Johnson, Apocalypse Now, and Red Dawn.

Conan the Barbarian debuted as the most popular film in the United States on May 14, 1982, with an opening weekend taking more than $9.6 million in ticket sales and grossing more than $68.85 million globally throughout its theatrical run. Rotten Tomatoes shows a critic score of 67 percent and an audience score of 74 percent, making it an enduringly popular action-adventure film. A sequel, Conan the Destroyer, was released in 1984, and a remake of the original film starring Jason Momoa was made in 2011.

Based On The Book Series

The Conan saga also aired on television with the Conan the Adventurer series, which lasted one season, and a cartoon series called Conan and The Young Warriors featuring a kinder and gentler Conan character for children. A more distant sequel was also filmed in 2023 called She is Conann, which French writer and director Bertrand Mandico created.  

The Conan films are based on a popular book series by American pulp fiction author Robert Howard. Netflix subscribers can stream Conan the Barbarian and enjoy watching the film that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a movie star.