My Ten Favorite 80’s Fantasy-Adventure Films

My love of the fantasy genre began in the early 80’s. I was around 11 or so, and our local channel 4 would show the occasional Hawk The Slayer or Conan the Destroyer feature. They fired my imagination, leaving me wanting more. Keep this in mind as you read this list. Many of them are not well-regarded but seeing them during my formative years resulted in my ongoing love for them.

1. Hawk the Slayer (1980)image – I’m one of those rare people who own a DVD copy of this movie. It’s the story of a multi-racial band of adventurers, each with different skills, abilities and personalities fighting an evil warrior in service to an otherworldly sorcerer. What more could you ask for? Memorable Moment: whenever the archer Crow uses his bow to fire off arrows at a machine gun-rapid pace

2. Clash of the Titans (1981) – This Ray Harryhausen classic has magic swords, armor, flying horses, a massive sea monster, and the dreaded gorgon Medusa. Memorable Moment: Persus fighting the serpentine Medusa, whose mere gaze turns men to stone

3. Krull (1983) – There’s so much to love in this film! Assembling the party, the overland journey to retrieve the Glaive, tracking down the evil tower which moves every day, the cyclops, each add to fun adventure in a dark, mysterious land. Memorable Moment: The doppelgänger scene in the marsh is superb!

4. Archer: Fugitive from the Empire (1981) – Meant as a pilot for a tv series that didn’t get picked up, it follows Toran as he becomes the yielder of The Heartbow, a magic weapon from which he fires arrows replenished by a bird every day. Each projectile results in a mystical explosion upon impact. Toran is joined by the beautiful daughter of a goddess who can transform herself into animals, and a jovial thief along the way. Memorable Moment: whenever Toran uses The Heartbow and the evil lizard men

5. Conan the Destroyer (1984) – This is the one from which I expect the most backlash. It seems to be universally hated… yet, I loved it! It moved from one unique setting to another, encountered various adversaries along the way (and yes, the fight with the mirror beast was poorly executed, but I’m willing to overlook that). I also enjoyed Wilt Chamberlin as Bombarda. Memorable Moment: Conan fighting the monstrous Dagoth the Dreaming God inside the opulent palace

6. Return of the King -animated- (1980) I watched this made for TV animated adaptation of the novel whenever they aired it and listened to the book-record adaptation of it frequently. Memorable Moment: Samwise storming the Orc tower to save Frodo

7. Sword of the Valiant (1987) – This is the legend of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, starring Sean Connery as the Green Knight. Young Gawain takes The Green Knight’s challenge, forcing him to venture forth from Camelot to solve the Knight’s riddle within a year or be slain by him. Memorable Moment: Sir Gawain’s surreal return to Leonesse where he fights Linet’s dead father’s suit of armor, encounters Morgan Le Fe as a talking, red ceramic frog, and discovers the residents rotting and covered in spider webs

8. Conan the Barbarian (1981) – The origin of Conan brings him into conflict with the evil wizard Thulsa Doom. Although I prefer the second film, that isn’t to say I don’t appreciate this one. Memorable Moment: Thulsa Doom’s transformation into a giant serpent

9. Sword and the Sorcerer (1983) – A beautiful rebel princess enlisted the aid of a mercenary named Talon to save her captive brother and rightful heir to the throne. He’s being held by the despotic usurper King Cromwell. Cromwell raised a powerful sorcerer from the dead to help him take the throne. Talon yields a mighty three-bladed sword, capable of launching its blades as ranged weapons when needed. Memorable Moment: the opening scene, where the sorcerer is awakened from his tomb of bloody, writhing faces

10. Ladyhawke (1985) – Mathew Broderick plays a young thief called Mouse who tries to help Captain Navarre (Rutger Hauer) and his love Isabeau (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) who are separated by a curse that transforms him into a wolf at night and her into a hawk during the day. Memorable Moment: Navarre fighting his way through the church

12 thoughts on “My Ten Favorite 80’s Fantasy-Adventure Films

  1. Wow, I am ashamed how few of those I have seen. I wonder what it means that, except for Sword of the Valiant, these are all from the earlier part of the decade?

  2. Barry – They seemed to be more popular earlier in the 80’s than later, and since I saw them on our local television channel, they’d been out for a few years before I actually got to see them. A lot of them are very obscure, particularly Archer: Fugitive from the Empire. It isn’t available on DVD unfortunately or I’d buy it.

    Chris – Bubo wasn’t so great, but the movie remaines awesome despite that. I can overlook a mistep here and there if the overall product brings me joy.

  3. I was just kidding about Bubo. There were many things to enjoy in CotT. I especially liked the Pegasus and, of course, Medusa. On my own list would be The Sword and the Sorcerer and Ladyhawke. In addition I would add The Princess Bride and Time Bandits. I was pleased to not see Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal on your list. I’ve always felt these films are overrated.

  4. Hi, does anyone remember a fantasy/adventure film from the 80s where a boy joins a quest and at one point they’re travelling through a forest night and bunch of dead knights walk past them calling ‘joooin ussss, joiiiin ussss, jooooinnn ussss’, I’m trying to find out the title for an article

    1. That one doesn’t jump to mind, but let me check with some of my fellow fans of Fantasy films and see if any of them have. I’ll post it here if someone recognizes it. Sounds like a scene I’d love.

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