8 Best Sword and Sandal films of the 80’s

8 Best Sword and Sandal films of the 80’s

by | Feb 12, 2021

The Sword and Sandal’s subgenre has transformed over the years, with films such as Ben-Hur, Cleopatra, and Spartacus starting the fad for adventures in ancient times. In its most stereotypical form, the genres depicts muscle-bound heroes (professional bodybuilders, athletes, wrestlers, or brawny actors) in mythological antiquity, fighting fantastic monsters and saving scantily clad beauties.

As the series expanded, the bigger budgets and larger imaginations started to produce films of epic proportions, and whilst modern day Sword and Sandal films are truly mind-blowing, it’s the films of the 80’s that capture the age of sorcery, swords and sandals. Here are 8 of the Best Sword and Sandal films of the 80’s.

Ator, the Fighting Eagle (1982)

Ator is the first of four Italian movies made in the 1980s created by director Joe D’Amato. The film follows a sword-wielding warrior who has learns his true heritage and attempts to save a kidnapped princess from a crazed cult. Falling very firmly in the so bad it’s good category, Ator is a hilarious exercise in how not to make a fantasy film. Despite it’s many flaws, it does tick all the right boxes with killer cults, muscular fighters, scantily-clad warrior women, and seductive sorceresses.

Conquest (1983)

As the popularity of swords and sorcery grew into the 80’s, many film directors tried their hands at the genre. Switching from a lifetime of making Giallo horror, Lucio Fulci jump onto the bandwagon and directed the fantasy film Conquest.

In Conquest Two warriors wage battle against an assortment of vicious beasts and monsters dispatched by a demonic demigod.

Despite the low budget and terrible acting, this high adventure films manages to pack a whopping punch. Filled with werewolves, zombies, subterranean creatures and even some super smart dolphins, this is swords and sandals at it’s most ambitious.

She (1984)

She is an interesting take on the Sword and Sandals genre, mixing high adventure and sword play with post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Whilst the story is a little confused, the acting terrible, She manages to find a way to squish in lots of action. Filled with swords, magic and the easy on the eyes Sandahl Bergman, who had only just appeared in Conan the Barbarian, the film sets up a female heroin battling baddies in a distant future setting.

She never really takes itself serious, and it’s this tongue in-cheek approach that raises the film into an enjoyable feature that tries hard to entertain.   

Time Bandits (1981)

Terry Gilliam’s high fantasy adventure, Time Bandits, takes the audience down many paths, one of which falls firmly into the sword and sandals signature. The film tells the tale of Young history buff Kevin, who is whisked away on an amazing adventure by six dwarfs. Using portals to jump around in time, Kevin find’s himself in Mycenaean Greece, meeting King Agamemnon. After Kevin inadvertently helps Agamemnon kill a minotaur , the king adopts him, much to the dislike of Kevin’s fellow travelers.

It’s a really great sequence, starring James Bond star Sean Connery as King Agamemnon. Despite its fragmented nature, it’s a highly enjoyable moment.

The Beastmaster (1982)

One of the most loved sword & sandals epic came from the director of the Phantasm series, Don Coscarelli. Released around the same time as the influential Conan The Barbarian, The Beastmaster starred Marc Singer (brother of Lori) as the heroic Dar, a telepathic barbarian fighting injustice with two badass ferrets, an eagle and a panther. The films antagonist is the High Priest of Aruk, and king of creepy eyebrows, Maax, played by the scenery chewing, late great, Rip Torn. This terrible priest is causing all sorts of trouble and Dar’s friends are in the firing line.

The film is filled with memorable and imaginative sequences that involve plenty of sword fighting, explosive magic, and a sexy love interest. But it’s the beasts of Beastmaster that manage to surprise their human co-stars, as the majestic creatures manage to steal all the good humor and the true beauty of the films story.

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Clash of the Titans is an epic adventure movie that sadly suffers from feeling very dated, even when it launched on to screens in 1981. The films saving grace is the phenomenal stop-motion work of Ray Harryhausen who provides the films quirky fantasy visuals, including the creepy ferryman, the two-headed dog Dioskilos, and the terrifying gorgon, snake-haired Medusa. Whilst many films of this period were using animatronics, prosthetics and advanced film technology, this step back in visuals lends the film a whimsical feel.

Despite its flaws, the film’s fantasy adventure vibe are hard to dislike. In Clash, The son of Greek god Zeus, Perseus, must take on the gods to protect his future wife, Princess Andromeda. Battling the cursed satyr Calibos, the city destroying Kraken, and the Gorgan Medusa, Perseus must face some of his greatest challenges to save the woman he loves.

It’s classic swords and sandals, with plenty of sword play, dangerous creatures and lots of magic and mysticism.

Red Sonja (1985)

Whilst Red Sonja was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s third outing into the sub-genre of sword and sandals, it marked his first as a supporting cast, as actress Brigitte Nielsen takes the lead as the titular “Red Sonja”. Nielsen plays a young woman turned supernatural warrior aiming to put to the end to an evil tyrant.

Whilst Red Sonja is a sword-and-sorcery film that attempts to capitalize on other more successful films, it manages to stand on it’s own with plenty of action and magic to make a huge impact.

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

Conan the Barbarian is the film that launched Arnold Schwarzenegger into stardom. Despite his almost mute role as The Terminator a couple of years later, here in this high fantasy adventure, Arnold proved he could act his, scantily clad, ass off.

Arnie stars as Conan, who was sold into slavery as a child, sets off to find the sorcerer responsible for the genocide of his family and people. It’s an amazing adventure film filled with swords, beautiful men and woman, oiled bodies, bizarre creatures and more muscle flexing then an episode of WWE.

If you like you sandals filled with sand, your swords sharp and your magic raw, then Conan the Barbarian is the film for you.

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“Hello Horror Fans – I don’t like sand. It’s coarse, and rough, and irritating, and it gets everywhere. But I do love a good sword fight, mythical creatures and a handful of gory beheadings. What is your favorite sword and sandals film? Let us know in the comments below. 

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