Red Sonja (film)

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Red Sonja
Red sonja film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Renato Casaro
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Produced by Christian Ferry
Written by Clive Exton
George MacDonald Fraser
Based on Red Sonya
by Robert E. Howard
Red Sonja
by Roy Thomas
Barry Windsor-Smith
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Giuseppe Rotunno
Edited by Frank J. Urioste
Distributed by

MGM/UA Entertainment Company( USA theatrical,VHS and 2000 DVD), Warner Bros.(USA DVD(2003) and Blu-Ray)

De Laurentiis Distribuition Co.(Non-USA)
Release date
  • July 3, 1985 (1985-07-03)
Running time
89 minutes[1]
Country Netherlands
United States
Language English
Budget $17.9 million[2]
Box office $6.9 million[3]

Red Sonja is a 1985 Dutch-American sword and sorcery action film directed by Richard Fleischer. The film introduces Brigitte Nielsen as the title character with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sandahl Bergman, Ronald Lacey, Ernie Reyes, Jr., Paul L. Smith and Pat Roach in supporting roles. The film features the sword-wielding Marvel Comics character Red Sonja, created by Roy Thomas, who first appeared in Marvel's Conan the Barbarian series (#23) in 1973. The film's character of Red Sonja was based on Red Sonya of Rogatino, a character created by Robert E. Howard appearing in his short story "The Shadow of the Vulture" (1934). The film acknowledges that it was "based on the character created by Robert E. Howard" in the introductory credits.

As in Howard's stories of Conan, the film takes place in the Hyborian Age, a fictional prehistoric time that had been depicted previously in the films Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer. The film was shot in Italy, on location in Celano, Campo Imperatore and the rest of Abruzzo, and in Stabilimenti Cinematografici Pontini studios, Rome.


Red Sonja is raped by soldiers of Queen Gedren, a despot who had Red Sonja's parents and brother murdered for scarring the queen's face after rejecting her sexual advances. Answering her cry for revenge, the red goddess Scáthach appears to her, and gives her heightened strength, stamina, agility and fighting skills, on the condition that she never lie with a man unless he defeats her in fair combat. She is later trained under a sword master called "The Grand Master' and is distrustful of all other men besides him. At a near by temple, Varna is a member of an order of priestesses who were preparing to hide a mystical light-powered relic known as the Talisman that created the world and all living things. The Talisman can only be used and touched by women, men are vaporized if they touch it. The temple's High-Priestess commands the relic to be banished to the depths of the temple because of its power continually growing and becoming unstable. However, Gedren's army and her aide-de-camp Ikol intervene and slaughter the priestess and many of the sheild maidens. They take the Talisman while Varna is fatally wounded she is able to escape. Luckily, she is discovered by Kalidor the Lord of Hyrkania. Kalidor goes and finds Sonya and takes her to her sister Varna. Before dying, Varna tells Sonja of the events at her temple while urging her to find the Talisman and send it into darkness or it will ravage the world by storm and earthquake. After turning down Kalidor's offer to accompany her, she leaves him and is witness to a strange storm in the distance. Sonja arrives to the now-ruined kingdom of Hablock. There she meets the young Prince Tarn and his servant Falkon, learning Gedren completely decimated Hablock using the power of the talisman when Tarn refused to surrender. Tarn announces that he is raising a new army to crush Gedren and invites Sonja to work for him as a cook. She declines while told that Gedren is based in Berkubane, the land of Perpetual Night.

Sonja kills Lord Brytag after he refuses her passage through the mountain passes without paying him a 'tender tribute'. His troops surround Sonja, and Kalidor, who has secretly been following her, attacks their rear, allowing Sonja to escape. Sonja comes across Tarn and Falkon in the mountains. Tarn is being tortured by bandits. Falkon rejoins Sonja to help her kill the brigands and free the prince. They travel onward toward Berkubane. At Castle Berkubane, Gedren and Ikol watch Sonja and her party approaching on a large magic dish. Gedren recognizes Sonja and orders that she be brought back to the fortress unharmed. She and Ikol use the Talisman to conjure up a storm, forcing Sonja's band to take shelter in a watery cavern. Gedren unleashes an "Icthyan Killing Machine" in the cavern. Kalidor reappears, and helps Sonja blind the beast.

Sonja now accepts Kalidor's company, learning he is a descendant of the lords who entrusted the Talisman to the temple, but also warns him that "no man can have her" unless he can defeat her in a sword fight. Kalidor challenges her and they fight to a draw. Kalidor, Sonja and Falkon then infiltrate Castle Berkubane. To protect Tarn, they convince him to stay behind and guard the front entrance. Sonja confronts Gedren, while Kalidor and Falkon deal with her guards in the castle's dining hall. Ikol, realizing Gedren is insane when she refuses his pleas to stop utilizing the unstable relic, he tries to escape with some of the gold looted from Hablock. But Ikol is stopped by Tarn, and meets an unpleasant end.

The Talisman, which Gedren has placed in a Chamber of Lights, is becoming too powerful to control. Its power breaks the floor open, revealing a chasm of molten lava beneath the castle. Sonja and Gedren dual in the Chamber, but Sonja eventually gains the upper hand and runs Gedren through with her sword, sending the evil ruler plunging to her doom in the lava pit below. Sonja throws the Talisman in after her, destroying it and starting a chain reaction that tears Castle Berkubane apart. The heroes manage to escape just before the castle is consumed by the rising volcano. As Prince Tarn and Falkon eventually depart to rebuild Hablock, Sonja and Kalidor spar again before they kiss.



In Conan the Barbarian, Sandahl Bergman played Valeria, a thief and the love of Conan's life. Bergman was offered the role of Red Sonja, but turned it down, choosing instead to play the villainous Queen Gedren.[4] De Laurentiis met with actress Laurene Landon and was set to offer her the role of Red Sonja until he discovered she was in an earlier film called Hundra; fearing that it was too similar, de Laurentiis decided not to give her the part. On a 2015 episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, soap opera actress Eileen Davidson revealed that she auditioned for the role and was actually runner-up to Brigitte Nielsen. It took Laurentiis almost a year to find an actress "Amazonian" enough to play the title character; he was still looking, eight weeks before the scheduled production, when he saw Brigitte Nielsen on the cover of a fashion magazine. The 21-year-old native of Helsingør, Denmark, in Milan for a modeling job, soon found herself on a plane heading for Rome and a successful screen test.[5]

George MacDonald Fraser, who had recently adapted Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea for De Laurentiis, was hired to work on the script during filming.[6]


The musical score of Red Sonja was composed and conducted by Ennio Morricone.


Track listing for the first release on LP

  1. Symphonic Suite for Chorus and Orchestra - Part I (16:37)
  2. Symphonic Suite for Chorus and Orchestra - Part II (18:42)

Track listing for the CD release

  1. Prologue (01:24)
  2. Main Title (02:22)
  3. The Talisman (03:15)
  4. Temple Raid (01:39)
  5. Touch It (01:03)
  6. Sonja and the Sword Master (01:49)
  7. Vanna's Death (02:00)
  8. The Gate of Brytag (01:47)
  9. Sonja vs. Brytag (01:14)
  10. Fighting the Soldiers (03:36)
  11. The Chamber of Lights (02:02)
  12. Sorcery (00:46)
  13. Sonja Teaches Tam (01:33)
  14. Treasure in the Cavern (02:07)
  15. Kalidor and Sonja (01:43)
  16. A Fair Fight (01:50)
  17. Entering the Castle (02:12)
  18. Defeats the Queen (01:36)
  19. End Credits (03:42)


The film received generally negative reviews from critics.[7] Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 15% based on 27 reviews, with the site's critical consensus stating, "Dull, poorly directed, and badly miscast, Red Sonja is an uninspired conclusion to Schwarzenegger's barbarian trilogy."[8] Schwarzenegger commented, "It's the worst film I have ever made." He joked, "Now, when my kids get out of line, they're sent to their room and forced to watch Red Sonja ten times. I never have too much trouble with them."[9][10]

John Grant, who authored the film's entry in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997), gave Red Sonja a negative review, commenting "Morally dubious (Gedren's lesbianism is depicted as one of her evil attributes) and worse-acted than words can explain, Red Sonja is a great embarrassment."[11]

Siskel and Ebert gave the film negative reviews. Both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert agreed the film was poorly made, but Ebert thought the film contained enough campy humor that he briefly contemplated that Red Sonja may have been intended as a spoof, with "dialogue that sounds like the actors have already read the Mad magazine parody of this film."[12]

Leonard Maltin gave the movie 1.5 out of 4 stars and calling it "Spectacularly silly...It might amuse juvenile viewers, but the only real point of interest for adults is deciding who gives the worse performance, Nielsen or Bergman."[citation needed]

"Phantom of the Movies" Joe Kane wrote, "An unwise return by Schwarzenegger to his first hit property. Only, instead of sword-and-sorcery, this is 'grunt-and-groan'...he grunts while we groan. Yet it should be noted, in Arn's defense, that he manages to stay off-screen for more than half the movie. Though the fur and heads fly in a few scattered battle scenes, the title character is wooden...and the film itself is clankier than a knight's shining armor."[citation needed]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
Golden Raspberry Award Worst Actress Brigitte Nielsen Nominated
Worst New Star Won
Worst Supporting Actress Sandahl Bergman Nominated

Comic book adaptation[edit]

Marvel Comics published a comic book adaptation of the film by writer Louise Simonson and artists Mary Wilshire and Vince Colletta in Marvel Super Special #38.[13] The adaptation was also available as a two-issue limited series.[14]


A second Red Sonja film has been in development for some years. In 2008, Robert Rodriguez and his production company Troublemaker Studios were working on a version that would have starred Rose McGowan as the titular character.[15] By 2009 however, the Rodriguez project had been scrapped, and as of February 2010, rights holders Nu Image are moving forward with another projected new film, to be directed by Simon West. Producer Avi Lerner has said he would like to see Amber Heard take the role of Sonja, after having worked with her on Drive Angry. Lerner says the film will shoot before the sequel to Conan the Barbarian.[16] In August 2012 at the premiere of The Expendables 2 West said that the film was stuck in production.[17] Christopher Cosmos has been hired as a screenwriter for the new film.[18] According to Deadline, Millennium Films will finance and produce a new Red Sonja movie with Avi Lerner and Joe Gatta producing alongside with Cinelou FilmsMark Canton and Courtney Solomon.[19]


  1. ^ "RED SONJA (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 1985-08-01. Retrieved 2012-12-16. 
  2. ^ "Movie Red Sonja - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  3. ^ Red Sonja (1985) – Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ "Comic Book Movies: Red Sonja". 
  5. ^ "Marvel Movie Madness! Part 20: Red Sonja". Rotten Tomatoes. 2011-06-23. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  6. ^ George MacDonald Fraser, The Light's On at Signpost, HarperCollins 2002 p264-271
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (1985-07-03). "Movie Review - Red Sonja - THE SCREEN: 'RED SONJA' -". Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  8. ^ "Red Sonja". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  9. ^ "Arnold Schwarzenegger: 'Red Sonja' | Stars Who Slam Their Movies |". Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  10. ^ Jones, Emma. "Arnold Schwarzenegger, Red Sonja - Actors who hate their own films". Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  11. ^ Grant, John. "Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997): Red Sonja". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Marvel Super Special #38 at the Grand Comics Database
  14. ^ Red Sonja: The Movie at the Grand Comics Database
  15. ^ "Rose McGowan Explains Why Red Sonja Never Happened". ReelzChannel. Archived from the original on 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  16. ^ "Amber Heard For Red Sonja?". Empire Online. Retrieved August 20, 2012. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Red Sonja Movie is Back on with a New Screenwriter". Coming Soon. February 27, 2015. Retrieved February 27, 2015. 
  19. ^ Busch, Anita (November 4, 2017). "Millennium To Produce Female-Strong 'Red Sonja' With Cinelou". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 4, 2017. 

External links[edit]