If there’s one thing I’ve always found a love for and an urge to watch when there’s nothing else, it’s a good sword & sorcery flick. Bandits, Barbarians, Knights, Ladies, Wizards, Witches, Magic Swords, Dragons, Monsters, and occasionally robots (you’ll see what I mean in a minute), all of these things in a single movie sometimes, there’s just no limit to the high level of awesome these films can contain.
Here’s my list of the best of them. The “must watch” of the genre if you will.
Wow. Excalibur is to Sword & Sorcery films what Nirvana was to “Alternative/Grunge” rock. Whether or not it is the best (let’s be honest, it is) can be argued, but it’s place in the pantheon of the genre cannot. It took Arthurian legend, and breathed life into it like never had been done before or since. It stands alone as the best cinematic version of the story of Arthur and his Knights of Camelot.
If I’ve said it before, I’ve said it a thousand times. Vermithrax Pejorative is THE BEST DRAGON EVER PUT ON FILM. Don’t try to argue that point. You will lose by default. This film is also great for introducing us to the magical lance weilded by the main character, Galen, which just so happened to soon after be adopted by every “Dragoon” character in RPG video games. Whether or not there is a direct connection between the two, I care not. It’s what I choose to believe.
This one is an interesting one. Sadly lost in time due to it’s cheesy direct-to-video sequels that sullied it’s name, Beastmaster has become that movie that only the “dorkiest” of us know. This sentiment was amplified in an episode of Community where Chevy Chase’ character, “Pierce” dresses as the titular character for a Halloween party. Regardless, Beastmaster remains a great. An epic tale of magic, revenge, and ferrets.
Despite doing terribly at the box office, Beastmaster went on to have several sequels, and TV series, none of which every manages to touch the glory of the original film.
Yor, the Hunter from the Future (1983)
I never know where to begin when talking about Yor. I think the idea here was, “Let’s cash in on the popularity of BOTH the Barbarian films AND Star Wars!!!!”. That’s the only way I can think to describe it. The movie goes from Yor fighting dinosaurs and committing genocide against a race of blue-skinned neandrathals, to flying a ship and fighting robots on a futuristic island base. The ONLY thing you can be sure of when watching Yor is that you’ll love it!! Also, it is to be noted that the theme song WILL get stuck in your head.
Hawk the Slayer (1980)
Oh Hawk…. Here’s a movie that I’d seen once as a kid and didn’t fully apprciate until rediscovering it as an adult. I’ve often described it as a D&D campaign brought to life. You have your Human fighter (with magic sword), Elven archer, Halfling theif, Giant warrior (with hammer), fighting against an evil warrior with black armor, getting help from a witch, so on and so forth. Throwing expectations to the wind, heating up a microwavable burrito, and cracking open a beer and sitting down on a lazy Saturday afternoon is the way to watch this.
The Magic Sword (1962)
Ah, 1962’s The Magic Sword. This is possibly the most fun, innocent, film on this list. It’s just so wonderfully classic, just as you’d expect from the great Bert I. Gordon. It’s the type of movie that you’d look at, think it’s cheesy, and then put back on the shelf, but if you’re lucky enough to catch it, you’ll watch the whole thing and be so glad for it. Not to mention, Sherlock Holmes’ Basil Rathbone plays the lead villian and underrated beauty Anne Helm is a sight to behold as Princess Helene.
It’s almost hard to describe Krull. I couldn’t honestly tell you why I love this Midieval/Space/Monster movie so much. It’s just an awesome mix of Sword & Sorcery with Sci-Fi that encompasses everything it means to be a “popcorn movie”. There’s plenty of mythology to behold in the movie, it’s very imaginative. I think it might have played out better as a mini-series. But then, it’s also a bit too “weird” to have been greenlit.
Conan The Barbarian (1982)
Do I really have to explain to anyone why this is on the list? Right….didn’t think so.
Ron Howard and George Lucas in their prime. Willow is the ultimate family adventure set in the Sword & Sorcery genre. Just like Indiana Jones or Star Wars, there’s something here for everyone to enjoy. This is the movie that made millions of people put Val Kilmer on the sexy list.
Fire And Ice (1983)
Millions of fans of Frank Frazetta’s fantasy artwork were thrilled to have it brought to life in this animated tale of good vs evil by the inimitable Ralph Bakshi. A must-see to be sure, it’s worth noting that Robert Rodriguez is tied to a remake as recently as 2014 when Sony Pictures aquired the rights.
Sword and the Dragon (1956)
Welcome to Ilya Muromets’ epic tales of adventure!!! Watching this movie is like being a child and sitting at the feet of your old, russian grandpapa as he tells you tales of yore. Of grand heroes and fearson villians. It’s really a bit of a wonder to watch. Most impressively, this film was made in 1956 Russia. The beauty of the sets and effects especially taking consideration to the time and place that it was made is breathtaking and worth serious appreciation. After you’ve watched it, you absolutely MUST check out the MST3K version. Possibly one of the most absurd episodes they’ve done.