Once upon a time, one of the most hardcore metal bands ever was touring the ancient world: Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and the Snake Cult. Their devoted fans clung to their message like gospel, willing to throw their lives and material goods away to worship at the altar of the two opposing snakes over a black sun. Like any good metal band, they were terribly misunderstood by the families of their fans and small villages across the world. One such village was home to the titular hero of John Milius' epic tale of magic and mayhem, Conan the Barbarian.
The film begins as Conan's father gives him a quick lesson about religion and the "riddle of steel," a question Conan is charged to answer by the time he dies and is on his way to meet Crom, their god. Little did they know that their village was a stop for the greatest metal band of their time. Doom, the band, and their groupies rampage through the village in a riot of epic, bloody proportions, causing the deaths of everyone, including Conan's sword-making dad and smoking-hot mom. Then, the band departs as quickly as it arrived, leaving the kids to be sold to slavers.
Understandably, Conan grows to hate Doom and his band. Now grown and trained in the martial arts, bigger, beefier Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) embarks on a trip to bring down the band that ruined his life. He is joined by a wizard (Mako), a thief (Gerry Lopez), and a hot chick (Sandahl Bergman). They're bankrolled by King Osric (Max Von Sydow) who wants them to bring his daughter back from Doom's cult of personality before she's tempted to do something wacky like kill him. This is not a fear completely out of left field as playing Doom's songs backwards does seem to incite violence, patricide, and orgies (they're a metal band, what do you expect?). It's a fact. In any event, Conan and his team rise to the task and their journey becomes a legend that the narrator promises to finish. Later.
For the rest of the movie, the audience gets to sit through some bloody and wonderful action sequences put to the timeless music of Basil Poledouris. (Trivia note: the score for this film, oddly enough, is one of the favorites among industry insiders. Just fyi.) By the time you get to Thulsa Doom's answer to Woodstock, you've been through some death, resurrection, more death, and some big effin' snakes. Still, you'd happily keep watching for hours and hours more just to continue enjoying what is best in life (something involving death and lamentation, see the musical).
Conan the Barbarian was and remains one of the best fantasy action films ever, teaching us valuable lessons about the power of cults and steel.