My wife and I have made a habit of plowing through all the big Christmas specials with our kids every year, once the holiday season begins. The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Garfield Christmas Special, Rudolph, that one with the mice and the broken clock tower; we’ve already watched a whole bunch of them!
There’s one Christmas movie we won’t be watching this year, though. Probably because it has nothing to do with Christmas. Or the holidays. And because it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger hacking people’s heads off with a giant sword.
My favorite Christmas movie? It’s Conan the Destroyer.
I’m using the phrase “Christmas movie” very loosely, of course. Conan the Destroyer isn’t a Christmas film in so much as it’s a movie I watched on Christmas once. I was probably around five years old and my Dad had rented it from the video store.
Conan the Destroyer is also not the best fantasy movie to come out of the 1980s. It’s not even the best Conan movie of the decade.
Most people with a taste for cheesy fantasy flicks would agree that the first of the Schwarzenegger Conan films –Conan the Barbarian- is the better of the two. (And they’d be right! The soundtrack score alone is worth the price of admission)
Conan the Destroyer? It’s the cheaper toned-down sibling. A silly quest flick that doesn’t even try to reach for the seriousness of its predecessor.
I’ve always had a soft spot for it, though. I do think it’s a touch underrated and I kind of like silly quest flicks. Conan the Destroyer is also home to one of my favorite fantasy set-pieces, which I absolutely did rip off in my last D&D campaign.
The bigger, more important reason it’s one of my favorites? Watching Conan the Destroyer just kind of makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
While I’ll admit that the passage of thirty years has left my memories of the evening hazier, Conan the Destroyer always makes me think of sitting with my Dad on the couch, watching it together on Christmas Eve.
I remember the living room of the old Quebec farmhouse we lived in. The crackling fireplace glowing with warmth. The tree lit up in the corner of the room, competing with the glow of the TV, filled with image of the world’s most famous Austrian strongman stabbing a guy in a rubber monster suit.
I remember feeling comfortable and content. Happy just watching a movie with my Dad while I counted down the hours before Santa would slip down the chimney and add more presents to the pile.
I like that. I hope my own kids can call on memories like that someday.
(Just maybe with a more age-appropriate movie.)