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Red Sonja
File:Red sonja film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Renato Casaro
Directed byRichard Fleischer
Written byClive Exton
George MacDonald Fraser
Produced byChristian Ferry
  • Brigitte Nielsen
  • Sandahl Bergman
  • Paul Smith
  • Ronald Lacey
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
CinematographyGiuseppe Rotunno
Edited byFrank J. Urioste
Music byEnnio Morricone
Dino De Laurentiis Company
Distributed byMGM/UA Entertainment Company
Release date
  • July 3, 1985 (1985-07-03)
Running time
89 minutes[1]
United States
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 and the rest of the Abruzzo region, and in the Stabilimenti Cinematografici Pontini studios near Rome.


After being raped by the soldiers of Queen Gedren, a despot who had her parents and brother murdered for scarring the queen's face while rejecting her sexual advances, Red Sonja is visited by a spirit who grants her the strength to seek revenge. Having trained under a sword master and becoming distrustful of most men, Red Sonja is found by Lord Kalidor, who takes her to her dying sister Varna. Varna is a member of an order of priestesses who were preparing to destroy a light-powered relic known as the Talisman that created the world and whose growing power now threatens it. However, Gedren's army and her aide-de-camp Ikol slaughtered the priestesses and took the Talisman while Varna was fatally wounded by the time she found Kalidor. Before dying, Varna tells Sonja of the events at her temple while urging her to find the Talisman and destroy it. After turning down Kalidor's offer to accompany her, seeing a 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 wiped out Hablock 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 Kingdom of Eternal Night.

Sonja kills Lord Brytag after he refuses her passage through the mountain passes. 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 magic screen. 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 in order to prevent Gedren from escaping. 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 place the Talisman in a dark place for a while, 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 fight 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.


  • Brigitte Nielsen as Red Sonja
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger as Lord Kalidor
  • Sandahl Bergman as Queen Gedren of Berkubane
  • Paul L. Smith as Falkon
  • Ernie Reyes, Jr. as Prince Tarn
  • Ronald Lacey as Ikol
  • Pat Roach as Lord Brytag
  • Terry Richards as Djart
  • Janet Agren as Varna, Red Sonja's sister
  • Donna Osterbuhr as Kendra (High Priestess)
  • Lara Naszinsky as Queen Gedren's handmaid
  • Hans Meyer as Red Sonja's father
  • Francesca Romana Coluzzi as Red Sonja's mother
  • Stefano Maria Mioni as Barlok (Red Sonja's brother)
  • Tutte Lemkow as Wizard
  • Kiyoshi Yamasaki as Kyobo
  • Tad Horino as Swordmaster
  • Sven-Ole Thorsen as one of Lord Brytag's bodyguards
  • Erik Holmey as Lord Brytag's bodyguard who battles Red Sonja before she kills him


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 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]

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[]

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[]

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.[12] The adaptation was also available as a two-issue limited series.[13]


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.[14] 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.[15] In August 2012 at the premiere of The Expendables 2 West said that the film was stuck in production.[16] Christopher Cosmos has been hired as a screenwriter for the new film.[17]


  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. Marvel Super Special #38 at the Grand Comics Database
  13. Red Sonja: The Movie at the Grand Comics Database
  14. "Rose McGowan Explains Why Red Sonja Never Happened". ReelzChannel. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  15. "Amber Heard For Red Sonja?". Empire Online. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  17. "Red Sonja Movie is Back on with a New Screenwriter". Coming Soon. February 27, 2015. Retrieved February 27, 2015.

External links[]

Template:Richard Fleischer Template:George MacDonald Fraser