Parents' Guide to

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

By Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Raunchier and bloodier than you remember.

Movie R 1982 115 minutes
Conan the Barbarian (1982) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 5 parent reviews

age 12+

All time classic with cult status

In Germany this movie is for 16 years and above. Anyway, this rating is most likely because of the display of violent melee combat including blood, some gore and dismemberment of body parts. Nudity is considered much more relaxed in Europe than in the USA. The display of the latter is still quite soft - you might see some naked breasts of some female extra actors, hear some moaning, but that's about it. This isn't a movie for small children, but it's alright for Teens in my eyes. I consider the German rating to be too harsh. Back in the 80ies when I grew up I watched this movie at the age of probably 10 years together with friends and their older brothers and I was fascinated by it. Back then there wasn't so much nanny state than today and kids weren't that much coddled as today. We still didn't turn out to be mass murderers or psychopaths, despite watching these kind of fantasy movies in the 80ies. In my opinion this movie is alright at the age of 12. Maybe watch it the first time together with your kids and comment some of the scenes and it's no problem at all. Concerning role models, well Conan is a man, who forges his own destiny, despite all the hardship of his world. I consider this to be a good and strong message, instead of being a victim of unfortunate circumstances. There are even side actors, who try to convince Conan, not to follow his path of revenge for the murder of his entire family and village any further, but instead he should live a peaceful live and enjoy the things he's got so far. So there is dissent even among the group of heroes, which show other ways of life. Of course Conan doesn't listen, but he's got to pay a dear price for this, which is also educational in some kind of way, since he almost dies, when he tries to take revenge all alone and later his beloved female companion Valeria will die eventually. If you live by the sword, you (or others, beloved ones) might die by the sword... The female companion Valeria is by the way another example of a strong, independent female role model. So this movie really doesn't turn out to be that flat as others make it to be. Anyway there is reason why this movie has got cult status. The soundtrack is also really great. Movies like this don't exist anymore and I'm happy to watch it together with my son as soon as he's got the proper age for it, which is 12 in my opinion.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
age 18+

Sword and sorcery doesn’t get more dark and gritty.

Conan is a Barbarian. He’s selfish, he’s sexist, he’s brutal and his morals and outlook are self serving. The violence and sex are at a very mature level, but the themes here are worth talking about at any age. Firstly, the film is a very Nordic adaptation of the Conan books. Dyed in the wool fans of the books will often praise the tone, violence and characterisation but bemoan the liberties and changes in Conan’s story. Spoilers may follow. It’s a revenge story, pure and simple. Conan watches his village routed and family murdered by a cult leader. He, along with other children, are captured and raised to be pit fighters for the amusement of nobles. Conan is a champion and has reading and writing taught to him as a reward, plus used as breeding stock. His handler decides that it is time to let him go. He had been chained too long and needed freedom. Conan embarks on a journey that takes him to a town where he has the opportunity to rob riches from a cult’s place of worship. He realises it is the same cult that wiped out his village and a mission of revenge begins. It’s atmospheric, serious and gritty. Blood, breasts and unflinching brutality throughout compliment a simple yet compellingly strong story of a man with a goal, who also harbours regret and dismay. So, the themes are interesting. Is this crusade for just himself or the greater good? Throughout the film peasants and wise men confuse his vendetta as trying to vanquish the cult for the good of the people, but it is apparently purely revenge that fuels him and he couldn’t care less about most people. That said, he agrees to rescue the daughter of a king from the cult. Yes, he uses her as bait in a final confrontation and that makes sense, she’s become something to exploit, but then instead of leaving her as a used tool, he actually carries her back to her family at the end. So was it all purely revenge? Did he feel pity as her situation was similar to his? Was it just for a reward? It’s something not vocalised but left to the viewer to figure out. Conan ponders a lot, and there’s no voice over to say what he’s thinking. He also struggles with his ideology vs the cult leader’s. What is stronger? The steel sword, or the hand that wields it? Film is subjective, you can see these things and appreciate them as the director himself wished or dismiss it as gory sword and sorcery. It’s a well made film, acted satisfactorily (Bergman won a Golden Globe), and has terrific fight choreography.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (5):
Kids say (5):

With a script co-written by Oliver Stone, this sword-and-sorcery hit aspires to be more serious in intent than a lot of films with longstanding comic-book tie-ins, but it's pretty ponderous. Compared to Robert E. Howard's agile prose, this plot dutifully stomps its way from point A to point B without too many surprises or detours. The villainous Thulsa Doom (whose messianic-suicide cult may be some sort of knock against organized religion) doesn't do very much at all, even with lackluster magical powers, and the sword-battle scenes are shot in flat, no-frills fashion.

While Schwarzenegger strikes artful poses and has the required physicality, he really isn't given much of a character to play. Conan just reacts rather than acts. No wonder movie critics of the savage era of 1982 (who failed to appreciate the future California governor in the documentary Pumping Iron or some of his non-action roles) initially wrote off the star as a talentless slab of imported Austrian meat. In later roles -- and in the 1984 sequel Conan the Destroyer -- Arnold flexed his humor and charisma muscles just as much as his biceps and pecs.

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