4k Movie, Streaming, Blu-Ray Disc, and Home Theater Product Reviews & News | High Def Digest
Film & TV All News Blu-Ray Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders 4K Ultra HD Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders Gear Reviews News Home Theater 101 Best Gear Film & TV
Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
Sale Price: $129 Last Price: $ Buy now! 3rd Party 129 In Stock
Release Date: January 30th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1982

Conan the Barbarian - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (Arrow Limited Edition)

Overview -

John Milius's 198actioner Conan the Barbarian is a fun, crowd-pleasing fantasy-adventure epic with a devoted following, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his breakout performance as the titular character and the great James Earl Jones as his nemesis Thulsa Doom. The cult sword-and-sorcery classic raids the Ultra HD temple with a beautiful 4K presentation and an excellent Dolby Atmos remix that brings new life and excitement to this genre favorite. Featuring many of the same bonus material from previous releases, this UHD edition package offers a few new surprises, making this a Highly Recommended addition to anyone's 4K library.

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Region Free
Video Resolution/Codec:
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English SDH
Special Features:
Release Date:
January 30th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


Like its star attraction, the bulging mass that is Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Barbarian has a one-track mind for fantasy-adventure pandemonium, and it follows through with tons of heart and determination. Though not a faithful adaptation of the Robert E. Howard stories, the John Milius (Red Dawn) movie carries a great deal of the enthusiasm and mettle found in those sword-and-sorcery tales. With a terrifically enchanting production value and a simple, lighthearted storyline, this passionate little yarn is a delightful behemoth full of magic, mystery, and scantily-clad, beautiful women. It delivers the perfect blend of cheesy escapism, boorish brawn, and plenty of sword action.

Schwarzenegger makes his breakthrough performance as the titular character in search of barbarous vengeance. The Austrian champion bodybuilder was by this point a renowned celebrity as a world-class body-definer, winning several competitions, before challenging himself in an acting career, which was off to a very slow start. But it wasn't until his role of the already-iconic Cimmerian slayer that his career suddenly catapulted his unique name to superstardom. And he's the perfect fit for bringing the heroic fantasy to the big screen. Practically bursting at the seams with muscles and with his raspy brusque accent, Schwarzenegger's portrayal breathes life and dimension into a character that could only previously be imagined by millions of readers.

Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, Conan's quest to avenge the genocide of his people and the murder of his parents commences as a young slave. This is one aspect of the script — the second written by Oliver Stone demonstrating his talents as a writer — that works extraordinarily well in an otherwise straightforward plot. The narrative takes its time to develop and establish a sympathetic character, who for a big part of the story lives in survival mode. Then it shows he is no naturally-born superhero. Conan must learn the art of wielding a sword, and he has a hunger for learning as well as fighting. The man is also flawed, pursuing emerald riches as a thief and content with a lifestyle of gluttony.

Through the course of his journey, Conan meets fellow thieves Sabotai (Gerry Lopez) and Valeria (Sandahl Bergman). They are a good addition to the story, not only as trustworthy companions but also as an amusing distraction from the fact that Conan is mostly a lone figure. Too much Schwarzenegger in any given movie doesn't necessarily mean a good thing. Remember End of Days and Eraser? Anyhow, filmmakers also bring in the always-charismatic Mako who pulls a double shift as the odd wizard Akiro and the film's narrator. The actor inserts a good comedic element without completely looking like a fool. Max von Sydow also makes an appearance as King Osric, whose plea to rescue his daughter from a religious cult points Conan in the direction of vengeance and eventual heroism.

The leader to this fanatical sect also happens to be the object of Conan's sweltering retaliation and is played by none other than Darth Vader . . . doh! I meant the remarkably talented James Earl Jones. I was thrown off by his character's final lines where repeats the words father and son several times. No matter, Jones is utterly impeccable as Thulsa Doom, giving the film a certain quality of respectability. And Milius does great in making Jones' villain a powerful foil to an angrily determined Schwarzenegger. With a grand musical score by Basil Poledouris which nicely combines traditional symphony with a medieval-operatic quality and a militarized bent, Conan the Barbarian remains an awesome fantasy-adventure epic and one of Schwarzenegger's most memorable action roles.

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Courtesy of Arrow Video, John Milius's Conan the Barbarian rides into home theaters as a two-disc 4K Ultra HD limited edition. For this review we were issued check discs and not a full retail edition so if there are any differences in the packaging we'll update the review ASAP. Housed in their standard black keepcase with a side-sliding slipcover, the Region-free, UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite a dual-layered, BD50 disc. The package includes a booklet, six double-sided postcards and a double-sided poster.  At startup, the disc goes straight to a menu screen with full-motion clips, music playing in the background and the usual options at the bottom left corner of the screen.

Video Review


The classic sword-and-sorcery epic raids the 4K Ultra HD temple with a beautiful and occasionally remarkable HEVC H.265 encode, easily making this the best the film has ever looked on home video. Struck from a fresh remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives, the native 4K transfer arrives with sharp details and clean definition for a majority of the runtime. We can clearly make out the tiniest distinct features in the Pagan architecture, the threading in costumes and tents, the separate wooden parts of the huts, and the individual leaves in the surrounding foliage. Naturally, there are several soft, blurry scenes sprinkled throughout, which is to be expected, but thankfully, they are not terribly distracting and only add to the film's charm. Aside from that, the forty-plus-year-old source has aged incredibly well. 

The Dolby Vision HDR presentation also boasts better black levels than its HD SDR counterpart with improved shadow delineation within the darkest, murkiest corners of the frame, providing the 2.35:1 image with some appreciably depth. Although contrast is noticeably controlled and on the lower end of the gray scale, the photography is nonetheless well-balanced with stronger, more brilliant and cleaner whites while specular highlights supply a vibrant shimmer and sparkle to various metallic surfaces, such as swords or Conan's chainmail attire. Likewise, the orange-teal cinematography keeps things relatively restrained while favoring earthy hues, but colors are notably fuller and more accurately rendered, displaying very spirited fiery oranges, animated reds and a dynamic range of browns, tans and auburns. Facial complexions also appear more natural and highly revealing with attractive peachy-red tones among the entire cast.

With a thin veil of natural grain washing over the fantasy action, the 4K video comes a beautiful film-like quality that fans will appreciate, making this the very best it has ever looked. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 84/100)

Audio Review


Arrow provides several listening options for fans to enjoy with the original 1.0 mono in DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and a new Dolby Atmos mix taking top billing, but for the sake of this review, we will focus on the latter. And I have to say that the object-based track is unexpectedly awesome and highly engaging, giving new life to the movie as it occupies a splendid sense of space and presence throughout. 

While still being a very front-heavy presentation, as it should be, the remastered audio delivers a broad, full-bodied image thanks to Basil Poledouris's bombastically fantastic score, filling the entire front soundstage while lightly bleeding into the surrounds and top heights. Each instrument is superbly separated and cleanly delivered, and when mixed with the choir segments, the excitement just builds and immerses the listener. These thunderous moments reveal a dynamic and extensive mid-range, exhibiting superb differentiation between the frequencies. Fans can enjoy every clashing and clanging of the swords with terrific clarity. Although the rear and height channels are largely silent except for the music, some ambient effects are occasionally heard moving across the top front heights or to the sides, such as birds flying overhead or the echoes of screams. Meanwhile, vocals are pitch-perfect and excellently intonated, and the low-end is surprisingly potent and robust, providing appreciable depth and weight to the music and action. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 86/100)

Special Features


Along with the poster and postcards, Arrow Video provides a treasure trove of bonus features for fans to enjoy, making this package all the more tempting to collect. On top of the past great archival extras (that Milius and Schwarzenegger's commentary is as legendary as Robert E. Howard's iconic character), Arrow produced a massive selection of amazing new extra features to dig into. Key to the treasure chest are the new interviews with various crew people. From the jump when you start in with the William Stout piece you know you're in for a treat as everyone interviewed offers some fun anecdotes about making the film, working with Milius, working with Dino de Laurentis, but also adding a lot of insight to their piece of the tableau. Another cool extra is the Conan from the Vault featurette that offers up recently rediscovered archival interviews with Schwarzenegger and Milius that haven't been seen in decades. 

4K UHD Disc

  • Audio Commentary featuring John Milius & Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Audio Commentary featuring Paul M. Salmon
  • Isolated Score Track 

Blu-ray Bonus Disc

  • NEW Interviews:
    • Designing Conan with  William Stout (HD 14:17)
    • Costuming Conan with John Bloomfield (HD 13:21)
    • Barbaric Effects with Colin Arthur and Ron Hone (HD 10:50)
    • Young Conan with Jorge Sanz (HD 7:05)
    • Conan & The Priest with Jack Taylor (HD 6:52) 
    • Cutting the Barbarian with Peck Prior (HD 8:31)
    • Crafting Conan’s Magic with Peter Kuran & Katherine Kean (HD 6:36)
    • Barbarians & Northmen with Robert Eggers (HD 6:22)
    • Behind the Barbarian with John Walsh (HD 17:10)
    • A Line in the Sand with Alfio Leotta (HD 16:43)
  • Conan Unchained (SD 53 min)
  • A Tribute to Basil Poledouris 
    • Conan The Symphony (SD 47:14)
    • Remembering Basil (SD 35:37)
    • The Tale of Conan (SD 15:01)
    • Basil at Úbeda (SD 4:08)
  • Original Promotion Featurettes (HD 35:11 Total) is the original EPK cast and crew interviews
  • Conan: The Rise of a Fantasy Legend (HD 18:25) is a short doc with various interviews discussing the character's comics and literary origins
  • Art of Steel: Sword Makers & Masters (HD 14:40) is an interview with sword master Kiyoshi Yamasaki
  • Conan: The Archives (SD 11:47) 
  • Conan: From the Vault (HD/SD 10:22) is an EPK-style piece with cast and crew interviews not seen in decades.
  • Conan the Barbarian: The Musical (HD 3:01) 
  • Visual Effects Comparison (SD 1:17) 
  • Deleted Scenes:
    • John Milius Cameo (SD 00:53)
    • The Death of King Osric (SD 4:17)
    • Wolves Outtake (SD 00:24)
  • Still Gallery (HD) 
  • Trailers features three theatrical previews

Conan the Barbarian is not a film that will likely please everyone equally, but for fans of fantasy-adventure epics, this 1982 actioner from John Milius is a classic of the genre, one with a devoted following. The sword-and-sorcery flick stars Arnold Schwarzenegger in his breakout performance as the titular character, along with the great James Earl Jones as his nemesis Thulsa Doom. The genre favorite raids the 4K Ultra HD temple with a beautiful Dolby Vision HDR presentation and an excellent Dolby Atmos soundtrack that brings new life and excitement to this cult classic. Featuring many of the same bonus material from previous home video releases, this UHD limited edition package offers a few new surprises with over an hour of new interviews and a new audio commentary on top of a beautiful isolated score track, making this a Highly Recommended addition to anyone's 4K library.

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about the gear used for this review.