Sword and Sorcery movies are usually characterized by a different and parallel magic reality where the laws of physics or existing historical events have been developed into a fairy tale. Maybe it is due to the low budget, or the bad acting, but many of these flicks get a bad rep when they don’t deserve it. Some do, but most don’t.
This is a list of the 15 best movies with sword and sorcery. You are invited to discover what wonderful, magical, and fascinating films are created when sorcerers, swordsmen, elves, monsters, and dragons merge together!
Best Sword and Sorcery Movies
The Beastmaster (1982)
Get ready for some 1980s cheesy sword and sorcery movie! In the kingdom of Aruk, three witches tell the high priest Maxx (played by Rip Torn) that King Zed’s unborn son will kill him as foretold in prophecy.
The high priest organized the kidnapping and murder of the infant, only for a commoner to save the infant. Naming him Dar (played by Marc Singer), the young boy is raised as a commoner and develops an ability to talk to animals. Surviving the massacre of his village (including his dog), Dar prepares to get revenge in John Wick style.
Just look at this picture still, this movie has been described as Conan the Barbarian and Tarzan mashed together with animal sidekicks. Yeah, The Beastmaster is weird. But that is what makes it so memorable. There are some genuinely creepy scenes, which are still entertaining today. It’s not the kind of movie with over-the-top fight scenes and acting, but it does tell an unforgettable story and scenes that are hilarious or downright creepy.
Kull: The Conqueror (1997)
Kull combines is the kind of sword and sorcery movie that mix Conan the Barbarian with another hero of the 1980s, Kull, the barbarian hero who Robert E. Howard created.
The barbarian Kull (played by Kevin Sorbo) is named the Valusian King after killing the former mad king. However, an assassination attempt by General Taligaro (played by Thomas Ian Griffith) unravels a plot to resurrect Akivasha, the Sorceress Queen of the ancient Acheron Empire (played by Tia Carrere).
Did you know this was initially meant to be the third Conan movie? The story is based on Howard’s Conan novel The Hour of the Dragon. Nevertheless, this is considered a box office bomb. Even screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue said he was disappointed with this movie as there was a lot of studio interference. It’s very dull most of the time, with very stiff dialogue. However, give it a shot if you like laughing at bad CGI and hilarious moments that aren’t meant to be funny (that snake dagger was hilarious).
The Sword in the Stone! (1963)
Speaking of Arthurian legends, here is Disney’s take on the sword and sorcery genre. When King Uther Pendragon passes away without an heir, a mysterious sword appears embedded in a stone. The only person who can pull it out is the rightful heir to the throne. Meanwhile, an orphaned Arthur (voiced by Rickie Sorensen, Richard Reitherman, and Robert Reitherman), who goes by the name Wart, meets the wizard Merlin (played by Karl Swenson). He takes a keen interest in the boy and becomes his tutor. This happens whilst a tournament is held to decide who can pull the sword from the stone and be the next king.
This is going to be a bit of a biased opinion. But, hey, don’t we all have a subjective opinion? Anyway, this is a kid-friendly and fun retelling of the legends. The lessons between Arthur and Merlin are hilarious, especially the revelation about the Earth being round. Merlin is the funniest character. Disney doesn’t make movies like this anymore, with pure whimsical delight and the animation still holds its own against today’s standards 50 years later. It’s not perfect or an accurate retelling, but it’s still a good and bad movie worth watching.
The year is 1501 Italy, and the city has suffered a coup d’état whilst ruler Arnolfini (played by Fernando Hilbeck) is away. Bribing a band of mercenaries with the promise of loot, Arnolfini tells them to get rid of anyone against him. However, he then betrays them.
Hawkwood (played by Jack Thompson) leads the cavalry, crossing his lieutenant Martin (played by Rutger Hauer). However, Martin then makes another enemy in Arnolfini’s son, Steven (played by Tom Burlinson), by kidnapping and raping his fiancée Agnes (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh).
This is not a family-friendly movie. There is no clear-cut hero and no knight in shining armor. This is a realistic look at how wars and mercenaries would prey on towns and what they would do. One of the most compelling characters is Agnes. At first, you see her being a victim, but then she rises. She uses Martin to protect herself and is smart enough to lead the mercenaries to dangerous places. Even Steven can be both sympathetic and ruthless to get what he wants. If you are looking for a typical good sword and sorcery fantasy movie don’t watch this. If you’re looking for a bad but cutthroat fantasy, go for this one.
The Magic Sword (1962)
Loosely based on the medieval legend of Saint George and the Dragon, The Magic Sword is a sword and sorcery movie about Sir George (played by Gary Lockwood) and his battle against the evil sorcerer Lodac (played by Basil Rathbone), who plans to feed Princess Helene (played by Anne Helm) to his pet dragon. To help him on his quest, he takes various magical objects from his foster mother, the sorceress Sybil (played by Estelle Winwood), such as a magic sword and six magically frozen knights.
Director Bert I. Gordon is mainly known for his giant monster flicks and sci-fi b-grade movies. Despite the lower budget, this is still a good movie. Like much older movies, some bad special effects probably won’t be seen outside of a horror flick today. There still is a cohesive story. The special effects and use of makeup are pretty wise, considering the budget. However, there are some scenes where you can tell the actors are wearing masks. It’s also aware it is low budget and not an epic.
The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
Here’s an absolute cult sword and sorcery classic. After seeing his parent’s death at the hands of King Titus Cromwell (played by Richard Lynch) and the dark sorceress Xusia of Delos (played by Richard Moll), Prince Talon (played by Lee Horsley) gets revenge by helping Princess Alana (played by Kathleen Beller) rescue her brother Prince Mikah (played by Simon MacCorkindale).
Ok, I’m going to warn you about something. There is one element of this classic that is very dated. To ensure Talon will help her, Princess Alana reluctantly promises to spend the night with him. Do you catch my drift? The worst thing is that she does give him his payment. This movie is creative with the triple-bladed projectiles. However, the dialogue is meant to sound badass but turns out to be funny, like the exchange between Talon and Xusia before they fight. It’s easy to see how this film became a cult classic as it is fun, but that scenario with Princess Alana would never pass today.
This is a fanfiction crossover in a movie. On the planet Krull, Princess Lyssa (played by Lysette Anthony) is kidnapped by The Beast (voiced by Trevor Martin). To save his fiancée, Prince Colwyn must find an ancient throwing star known as the Glaive, as it is the only thing that can destroy the Beast.
First, many references exist to other franchises such as Arthurian legends and Star Wars. However, when looking at the hell production and filming went through, it should have been better. With three different scripts, the various sets being changed constantly, and even the animatronics having to be changed, this film should have been more of a mess. Even some of the actors found the sequences distressing. Marshall had nightmares after completing the corridor sequence. This movie goes in so many directions, and it’s hard to keep up. It tries too hard to be so many things that it fails to be a good thing. However, it still retains a cult following to this day.
In a mythical land, Ilias (played by Andrea Occhipinti) is gifted a sorcerer bow from his father on his journey into manhood. Whilst exploring the world, he comes across a nomadic outlaw named Mace (played by Jorge Rivero). The two go up against werewolf-like monsters led by Ocron (played by Sabrina Siani) and other monsters in their quest to rid the land of evil.
When researching, I thought it was a typical sword and sorcery movie and the third act happens. That took guts! It is bold, and I commend it for the decision that Lucio Fulci took. I also really like the underlying message which is better left to explore itself. The bond between Mace and Illias is sweet, with Mace taking a protective brother role. This is a movie where the less said, the better. Just be aware of nudity and gore!
Sword of the Valiant (1984)
We return to the Arthurian legends. However, King Arthur (played by Trevor Howard) is not the main character. Instead, Sword of the Valiant focuses on Gawain (played by Miles O’Keeffe). As a young sorcerer squire, he is the only one who steps up to an ax-wielding Green Knight (played by Sean Connery). When he does so, the Green Knight just picks up his head. Instead of decapitating Gawain, the Green Knight gives him a chance to save his life by solving a riddle in one year.
Where life is emptiness, gladness.
Where life is darkness, fire.
Where life is golden, sorrow.
Where life is lost, wisdom.
Think you can solve it? There are many references to the Arthurian legends. It sounds more epic than it is. This is one of those films that are so bad they are good. Wooden acting, a romance that makes no sense, and plot twist out of nowhere to seem more mystical and enlightening but utterly fail. It has all the try-hard movie tropes. However, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, allowing the actors to be a bit goofy. This does make this movie fun to watch! The editing adds to the bizarreness.
Dungeons And Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012)
Nhagruul the Foul was an evil sorcerer who, in a painful ritual, sold his soul to demon Lords of the abyss to cheat death. This ritual transformed his blood, skin, and bones into the book’s most vile. Those who were exposed to this book turned mad. The Knights of the New Sun swore to end this book’s threat. Each of the knights was gifted amulets by the God of Light. However, to protect their lord, the disciples of Nhagruul disassembled the book to keep the pieces safe. Now, the relics are being put back together. It is up to the new Paladin Grayson (played by Jack Derges) to stop them.
Films based on video games have a very negative reputation. However, this film is renowned as one of the best in the Dungeon and Dragons film franchise. If you are a fan of D&D, have fun with this film. If you are not, this is still a movie worth watching. It’s still entertaining, but it is clear the fans are the target audience. What I appreciate about this film is the ending. It’s fitting to end that way and breaks the traditional ‘love conquers all’ fantasy trope. Good job!
Like the first of four sword and sorcery movies on this list, it is so bad it had to be good. Right? Rick Hill plays the Darkstalker. What starts as a job from a witch to retrieve four objects of power soon spirals into a tournament against Munkar (played by Bernard Erhard) for control over the kingdom.
What is the fudge in this film? Women are treated as nothing, but sex slaves, and even the warrior Kaira (played by Lana Clarkson) cannot escape this. I thought The Sword and the Sorcerer were bad with Princess Alana! This was meant to appear to young male audiences. This tactic does not age well. However, it did do something right. It bought about the creation of other fantasy classics such as Barbarian Queen (1985), Amazons (1986), and Wizards of the Lost Kingdom (1985). This was the beginning of 10 epics of terrible movies from producer Roger Corman that went on to define the genre.
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Any film buff has seen Jason and the Argonauts at least once. The legendary cult classic retells the ancient Greek hero Jason (played by Todd Armstrong) on his quest to find the Golden Fleece to rally support against King Pelias (played by Douglas Wilmer). Of course, he needs a crew. What better than the Argonauts and the ship Argos?
This is a sword and sorcery classic. The special effects of the skeletons, Talos, and the hydra battle all are cinematic historical moments. It sounds like I am overhyping it as its original release was mixed. With the music from legend Bernard Herrmann and the stop-motion animation by the best Ray Harryhausen that was revolutionary in 1963, it’s no exaggeration to say Jason and The Argonauts still hold today. Did I also mention the star-studded cast?
Yor, the Hunter from the Future (1983)
Another Conan, the Barbarian-inspired movie! Yeah, there were many during the 1980s. This story takes us back to prehistoric times. Caveman Yor (played by Reb Brown) has a mysterious medallion. After hearing about a desert goddess with the same medallion as him, Yor sets off to learn more about his origins, only to find his people are from the future.
Just based on this summary, you know this sword and sorcery movie is weird. You know it is not to be taken seriously, with its awful acting and cheesy dialogue. Seriously, this is such a bad movie it’s good, it just is either making you cringe or laugh. It mixes zombies, dinosaurs, and ape-men with armored soldiers resembling stormtroopers. It is so bad it is good to laugh at. Trashy entertainment is done right!
Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards (1977)
Sorcery vs Technology. It is a battle very much known to mankind. In Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, this story takes place after a nuclear war has destroyed Earth.
It is post-apocalyptic times, where humans have mutated, and mythical creatures such as Fairies and Elves have resurfaced in their paradise Montagnier. Delia, queen of the fairies, gives birth to two sorcerors, Avatar (voiced by Bob Holt) and Blackwolf (voiced by Steve Gravers).
Blackwolf tries to usurp the throne after his mother’s death, only to be beaten and banished by Avatar. Vowing revenge, Blackthorne returns 2000 years later with the mutated humans as soldiers. Using Nazi propaganda as psychological warfare, it is up to Avatar and his student Elinore (voiced by Jesse Welles) to stop the emergence of another Holocaust.
This is an animated movie that deals with many tough topics such as nuclear war and Nazism. Both these topics were quite prominent during this time of the Cold War.
The muted color scheme of the Earth combined with the vibrant colors of the mythical creatures paints a jarring view. Also, I never said this is for kids, judging by Elinore’s outfit (real subtle fan service there). The animation is not the smoothest. There are many problems with this film. However, there isn’t much sword and magic in this film. It seems more inclined to be a message with a thin plot and no characterization rather than an entertaining movie with a message.
Masters Of The Universe (1987)
Finally, how can we talk about the sword and sorcery genres without mentioning the Masters of the Universe? The film follows the events of an American girl who meets the sword-fighting legend He-Man – the strongest man in the universe and the son of the ruler of the universe in his war against the evil sorcerer Skeletor.
In 1987 Mattel recorded one of its lowest points. The first and only live-action film made under its brand, the eponymous “Masters of the Universe,” was released and failed miserably. Mattel was deeply involved in the filming process, and they picked Gary Goddard – an inexperienced director at the time, to direct the movie. The producers were very careful about the theme of violence, and it was marketed by Canon as the “’80s Star Wars”.
The casting included Rocky 4 alumnus, Dolph Lundgren to swing the sword as He-Man, the excellent Frank Langella as Skeletor, and the young Courteney Cox as the teenager who accidentally brings Skeletor and his gang to Earth. However, all this did not help the film’s box office performance, which suffered from an imbalance (too much comedy, too little action), received negative reviews, and was unable to return the investment. It didn’t hit the notes of the mythology.