The Most Interesting 1980s Fantasy Movies in the World
July 16, 2013
Hola, amigos. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. I vowed to myself not to post on this blog until after I finished my next book. I’ve ordered a proof copy, so it’ll be released within a week or two most likely. Onward…
“The Big List of 1980s Barbarian & Fantasy Movies” is the most popular post on this blog. It’s just a list with very little commentary, so I figured it was time to recommend a few.
These aren’t necessarily the best 80s fantasy movies, but are those I find most interesting. One of my main criteria for choosing these five is that they aren’t well known. My general cutoff was movies with less than 1000 votes at IMDB.com at the time.
So here are the most interesting 1980s fantasy movies in the world:
Throne of Fire (1983)
I gave Throne of Fire a hard time in The Big List, but I’m fascinated by it. Throne of Fire a throwback: “60s castle and king cinema” with a large dose of 80s barbarian fantasy dope. By “60s castle and king cinema” I’m talking about Lion in Winter, Man For All Seasons, Becket, etc. Throne of Fire takes the castle setting of those movies, adds a mess of fantasy elements and the stupid fun of trashy Italian barbarian flicks…and wins!
I’m not talking Shakespeare, but Throne of Fire has a better plot than most fantasy movies. Sabrina Siani is drop dead awesome in this one.
Conquest director Lucio Fulci must have had a violent epiphany of excitement when he saw Quest for Fire. He’s more well known for gore movies and must have seen potential in cavemen as the vehicle for bringing his schtick to the bustling barbarian movie market. Fulci’s next thought was probably “I can’t get Rae Dawn Chong in my caveman movie, so who do I know that has small breasts? SABRINA SIANI. Bellissimo!”
At it’s core, Conquest is a “buddy movie” with the same general setup as Midnight Cowboy. One guy is a bumpkin stranger who has introduced a powerful weapon to a grim land: Jon Voight. The other guy is the street smart loner who wanders around scrounging for food: Dustin Hoffman.
As a movie, Conquest is rather sparse, despite having one if the more unique and interesting settings to be found in fantasy movies. It’s better to think of it as a meditation. On what, I’m not exactly sure, and I’ll stop talking out of my ass about this movie now.
The Dungeonmaster (1984)
The two 80s movies with the most obvious D&D influence/coattails-riding are Mazes & Monsters and The Dungeonmaster (aka Ragewar: The Challenges of Excalibrate, aka Digital Knights). Both are set in the modern world and transport the characters to fantasy land via psychosis or dreams or something.
Mazes & Monsters is more well-known and apparently reviled by many. Great for laughs, at least.
The Dungeonmaster seems to have been retroactively gussied up to appeal to D&D fans. The movie itself doesn’t explicitly reference the game, but the plot structure could totally work as an example of one way that D&D was/is played: short, unrelated, gonzo puzzle and combat challenges joined together in a quest to rescue the damsel from the evil wizard/Satan. Very stupid and entertaining.
Also, this movie invented Google Glass before it was even a twinkle in Sergey Brin’s eyes.
Star Knight (1985)
By the mid-80s, the fantasy movie mania was at its peak. To get to the next level, a crossover hit was needed. It finally arrived in 1987 with Princess Bride.
But several filmmakers had the right idea back in 1985, as both Legend and Ladyhawke were minor crossover successes. But the true 1985 crossover champ is a forgotten movie made in Spain called El caballero del dragón, aka Knight of the Dragon, aka Star Knight.
I’m not saying it’s a great movie, but it has Klaus Kinski, is some funny, and should be at least a little more well known. I guess you have to be willing to mix aliens and comedy with your knights and castles.
Iron Warrior (1987)
By 1987, the barbarian movie fad was past its prime, but a half-decade of barbarian movie-making culminated in twin peaks that year: The Barbarians and Iron Warrior. The Barbarians is the more well known of the two, pushing all the right buttons (almost to the point of parody), resulting in perhaps the quintessential barbarian movie. But only because it treads familiar territory.
Iron Warrior deserves more attention. It gets overlooked for two opposing reasons:
First, it was kinda-sorta made as a sequel to Ator and Blademaster, two movies that wear the “bad movie” crown with pride.
Second, it has an experimental style and pretentious grandiosity feel to it at times, which has given it a bit of an artsy fartsy reputation.
Some people who do like the earlier Ator movies are put off by this different style. People who don’t like the earlier Ator movies won’t bother with Iron Warrior anyways. It can’t win with either crowd.
Iron Warrior is bizarre, but no more pretentious than anybody’s D&D campaign. The artsy fartsy stuff works, partly because the movie is ruthlessly edited to keep it moving at a brisk pace. Give it a chance and Iron Warrior may just end up being your favorite barbarian movie.