The story follows the legendary Conan from his childhood through his first great adventure. The audience knows that one day Conan will become a great king, but this is not that story. In other words, if this movie is a box-office smash, be prepared for sequels. Of course, only one sequel was made, but that's another entry.
The primary crux of the story is that Conan, upon achieving freedom from his days as a slave and gladiator set off in the world to seek revenge upon the evil sorcerer and snake-cult leader (James Earl Jones) who destroyed his village as a child. Along the way he falls in love, meets a comic sidekick, and a shamanistic protector of his own (who also happens to be the narrator of this epic tale).
Both Conan the Barbarian and The Beastmaster were released in 1982.2 I mention this only because both have surprisingly similar plots involving muscled nearly naked men fighting against an evil sorcerer to restore some sort of balance in the world. Conan fared much better than Beastmaster in theaters, and the latter probably owes its eventual success to repeated cable showings.
In the end, this movie is a classic sword and sorcerer action flick that truly marked the start of Arnold's career as an actor. It helps to have a camp sensibility when watching it, as the utter ridiculousness could wear on those without one. Either way, it remains a classic for a reason.
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.
1. While I normally use last to refer to actors in films, Arnold is almost always referred to by his first name in the media. Though he hasn't forsaken his last name as Roseanne or Cher did, he is undoubtedly the most famous Arnold alive today. This may all stem from the fact that "Schwarzenegger" was too difficult for people to say and spell, but I shall abide by the common convention and refer to him as Arnold.
2. Also the year of my birth.