Arnold Schwarzenegger helped give birth to the action heroes that ruled the 1980s and 1990s, with his iconic roles in The Terminator, Commando, and Predator. But Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s career was kickstarted by 1982’s Conan the Barbarian – which is how the Austrian bodybuilder was first introduced to international audiences in a starring role.
The first Conan movie was successful enough for a sequel in 1984 – which is the same year that Arnie made the first Terminator movie with James Cameron. But in 1985, Schwarzenegger returned to the ‘Conan universe’ (kind of) for a movie which ended up being his biggest regret.
Red Sonja is a character created by Robert E. Howard, the author of the Conan the Barbarian books, and set in the same fictional world of the Hyborian Age. Therefore, Red Sonja can be considered a spin-off from the Conan movies. Schwarzenegger accepted a role in 1985’s Red Sonja – but confusingly, he didn’t play Conan – he played a different character called Lord Kalidor. Sonja was played by Danish model Brigitte Nielsen, in her debut film role.
Red Sonja ended up being a flop, and in his biography, Schwarzenegger called it the worst film he ever made. Fortunately, Arnie’s career wasn’t derailed, and he quickly recovered with the aforementioned Commando and Predator, as well as comedy movies Twins and Kindergarten Cop, the action-comedies Last Action Hero and True Lies, and the science fiction masterpieces Total Recall and Terminator 2.
Schwarzenegger was king of the box office – especially in the late 80s and early 90s – alongside other action stars such as Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Bruce Willis. The sword-and-sandal epic, which Conan was a part of, has had its ups and downs in Hollywood.
It had a 2000s revival sparked by the success of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, which led to Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy, Zack Snyder’s 300, and Tarsem Singh’s Immortals. It has now been replaced by TV series such as Rome and Spartacus.