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Flash Gordon (1980)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this adaptation of an old newspaper sci-fi comic strip has gruesome scenes; a cyborg’s eyes are ripped out, and another slain machine-man rapidly decays. Expect abundant ray-gun fire, disintegrations, and explosions and fires, as well. Characters are stabbed or impaled or whipped, drawing blood (not always red). There's an apparent execution via gas chamber. There are a few scantily clad harem-type girls and some non-explicit sexy talk. Drinking an intoxicating alien beverage is made to look pleasurable. Some minor profanity.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Flash Gordon (Sam Jones), a handsome football star, is on a chartered plane caught in a meteor storm caused by an alien supervillain, Emperor Ming (Max Von Sydow), who actually is at a giant console in space, tormenting Earth while pushing buttons that say “METEOR STORM.” The plane crashes near the greenhouse-lab of rogue NASA scientist Dr. Zarkov (Topol), ready to launch his homebuilt rocket ship to visit Ming’s world and beg for peace. Flash and his pretty travel agent Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) wind up on Zarkov’s rocket and land in Ming’s planet surrounded by low-atmosphere moons, each inhabited by a different race (dwarves, lizard-men, hawk-men) enslaved by sadistic Ming. With the secret help of a lustful princess, Flash leads a revolt against Ming and his cyborg henchmen.
Is it any good?
Coming in an era when the merciless emperors of Hollywood were copycatting Star Wars in every way, the blockbuster FLASH GORDON remains daringly offbeat. As with the (more brazenly sexy) European 1960s fantasies Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik, also based on comics, there’s practically no attempt at realism, with extravagant Arabian-Nights costumes, Oz-like creature f/x, crayon-box sets, and sparkler-trailing model spaceships inspired directly by the iconic 1930s strips and serials. It's a party for the eyeballs, nearer Rocky Horror than LucasFilm. Dialogue is loopy, the plotting earnestly absurd (Flash fights his first battle against Ming’s minions with NFL football moves), and the famed rock soundtrack by Queen is the best camp anthem since Adam West's Batman (with the same screenwriter, incidentally). Older kids and young-at-heart grownups could have a blast- - if they don’t mistake the deliberate, sly kitsch for big-buget dumb.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film’s way-out retro style and lighthearted attitude. Is it entertaining, or do younger viewers prefer their comic fantasy characters to be fashionably dark, tough, and brooding (as Batman has become)?
Is the violence here necessary? Does it add to or take away from the story?
- In theaters: December 5, 1980
- On DVD or streaming: August 7, 2007
- Cast: Brian Blessed, Max von Sydow, Melody Anderson, Richard O'Brien, Sam Jones, Timothy Dalton, Topol
- Director: Mike Hodges
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.