25 Years of Fantasy Swords in the Movies – A Retrospective

Twenty-five years ago the movie Conan spotlighted the Atlantean sword. They designed and created a unique sword just for the movie and this started a new trend in fantasy movie making, and today, just about every fantasy movie is released with a collectible sword. Here is a look at some of these great movies and the swords in them.

The movie Conan, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, was released in 1982 and the sword called “The Atlantean” was specifically designed for the movie and for the actor. It was given a major role in the movie because it played a major role in the Conan stories and novels written by Robert E. Howard. The sword itself proved to be very popular and replicas were created for sale on the mass market. Twenty-five years later replicas of the Atlantean are still made and sold. This sword started a whole trend in movie making and today fantasy moviemakers take great care to design, create, and market unique swords as part of the movie and as part of their marketing. This can be seen in the recently released movie 300, which has caused a resurgence in the gladiator type sword. And the new Harry Potter movie will spotlight a sword wielded by Harry himself. This sword replica has already been released and is available in currently limited quantities on the mass market.

The Highlander movies, (First installment released in 1986) are another good example of the sword as a centerpiece of the movie. The swords play a major role in the film plot in that the sword must be used to dispatch a foe, and consequently, to gain the foe’s powers. In the first film a Scottish Claymore was used and as the Highlander moves through time into the present he switches to a highly stylized version of Japanese katanas. This use of the Japanese katana is one of the earliest examples of mass marketing of Japanese swords and this has been very successfully followed in the Kill Bill movies.

Braveheart (released in 1995) is a good example of using replica swords that stay true to the flavor of the time period they portray. Mel Gibson wields a number of different weapons that stay accurate to the time of the movie. These weapons include a war hammer and a flail. The most famous of the weapons that he wields is A Flamberge which is a two-handed sword with a leather wrapping around a portion of the blade which allows the user to choke up on the weapon and use it in close combat situations.

Blade (1996-2004) is a series of vampire movies that use a variety of weapons including flailing, and whipping weapons. The primary weapon of the main character (Wesley Snipes) is a Japanese Katana that has the added effect of a booby trap. If a person picks up the weapon they have a few seconds to press a secret button. If they don’t, secret blades pop out of the handle damaging the hand that is holding it. This series of movies are another good example of how the Japanese katana has become very popular in the movies.

Gladiator (2000) is a good example of how the weapons of the high Roman era have made their mark on movies and on the collecting of swords. The Roman Gladius wielded by Maximus (Russell Crowe) is a good example of the weapon that was wielded at the time and it is still a popular choice of weapon collectors.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies (2001 – 2003) have had an impact on the collecting of movie swords that goes beyond all other movies. This movie returned the collector to the art of the pure fantasy sword much like the Conan sword. While the trend in movies was to create period accurate replicas this series of movies moved the whole trend toward the creation of fantastic blades that represented the wielders personality. Each major character in the movies has his own or her own weapon. Each weapon is unique, and easily available on the mass market for collectors.

Eragon (2006) continues the tradition of unique fantasy sword in that the main character wields a beautiful sword called Zar’roc. This sword has a blue Sapphire mounted at the base of the hilt and the sword itself has significant power and symbolism. It plays an important role in the movie and an important role in the replica collection world.

The past twenty-five years of filmmaking has given us a wonderful selection of fantasy swords that are both accurate reproductions from the real swords of the past and exciting creations of fantasy that never existed except in the minds of writers and blacksmiths. This trend was first started with Conan and over the next twenty-five years we are sure to get an even more incredible selection of weapons and swords in the movies.