Flash Gordon (film)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Pathetic earthlings...
      who can save you now?


The 1980 Flash Gordon film from Universal is considered to be one of the most faithful movie adaptations ever made, an impressive feat considering the large gap between the classic Flash Gordon comics and film serials and this adaptation. The keys to its success in this was simple: high glorious Camp and a soundtrack by Queen. It recognized the dubious quality of the originals and their cheap and cheerful approach to storytelling and took what they pretty much would have made in the 1930's if they had had the money and technology, placed tongue firmly in cheek and got high quality theater actors to give deliciously hammy performances, and had a soundtrack by Queen.

Its actual financial success was pants. The only country where it really made it big was the UK, the same country that invented Pantomime, wry humor and the band Queen, who did the soundtrack. It will probably remain the most well remembered version of Flash Gordon due to its enduring cult classic status helped heartily by its sense of humor and the soundtrack by Queen.

Herewith a rundown of the plot, courtesy of the dialogue sampled for the title track of the soundtrack album (by Queen):

"Seemingly there is no reason for these extraordinary intergalactic upsets. Only Dr Hans Zarkov, formerly at NASA, has provided any explanation... This morning's unprecedented solar eclipse is no cause for alarm."
"What's happening, Flash?"
"Strange object imaged in the Imperial Vortex."
"General Kala -- Flash Gordon approaching."
"What do you mean, 'Flash Gordon approaching'?! ...Open fire! All weapons! ...Dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body!"
"GORDON'S ALIVE?!!" (...ive...ive)
"Flash! Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"

However, merely reading the above cannot do it justice. Watch the music video and stand in awe.


Important trivia. George Lucas wanted to direct this years before, but producer Dino De Laurentiis turned him down. Thus Lucas decided to make his own space adventure series. Although some fans actually prefer the camp of this movie to Star Wars anyway. Star Wars didn't have Queen as it is.

Tropes used in Flash Gordon (film) include:


Flash: You'd call off the attack? ...Everyone would be saved?
Ming: Yes, and no. After the earthquakes and tidal waves, they won't be the same human beings. They'll be more tractable. Easier for you to rule, in the name of Ming.

  • The Dragon: Klytus to Ming, General Kala to Klytus.
    • And after Klytus is killed, one could argue Kala takes over as Ming's Dragon.
  • Duel to the Death: Between Flash and Prince Barin.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Egopolis: Mingo City.
  • The Eighties
  • Eighties Hair: Ohh boy...
  • The Emperor: Ming the Merciless.
  • The Empire: Mongo.
  • The End - or Is It?: Played straight. The film ends with a close-up of Ming's ring, lying where it fell as he died -- then a gloved hand picks it up, Ming's laughter is heard, and the words THE END? appear. HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!
  • Enemy Mine: Princes Barin and Vultan hate each other at first. Only Flash (he'll save every one of us!) is able to convince them to team up and fight Ming.
    • Their hatred was cultivated by Ming. As Vultan later admitted, Prince Barin was the rightful heir to the throne.
  • Evil Gloating
  • Evil Laugh

Klytus: Will you destroy this... Earth?
Ming: Later! I like to play with things awhile... before annihilation. HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Aura: My father has never kept a vow in his life!
Dale: I can't help that. Keeping our word is one of the things that make us better than you.

Ming: Klytus, I'm bored. What plaything can you offer me today?
Klytus: An obscure body in the SK system, Your Majesty. The inhabitants refer to it as the planet... Earth.
Ming: How peaceful it looks... (activates button marked EARTH QUAKE)

  • It Has Been an Honor: Prince Vultan to Flash before Flash's suicide run.
  • It's Up to You: "Flash! I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"
  • James Bondage: Flash in little leather shorts strapped to a chair....
  • Join or Die: Emperor Ming offers to let Flash join him and rule the Earth under Ming's control. If he refuses, he will be killed.
  • Just in Time: To save the Earth -- down to the second! Apparently a little impalement did the trick.
  • Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Zarkov and Munson both have one of these. Given that the science they're engaged in mainly requires looking at radar screens and printouts, there can be no other reason for their labcoats than to visually label them "scientists."
  • Last Request: Klytus asks if Flash has "any final requests" before his execution.
  • Love Dodecahedron: As in the comics, Barin loves Aura, who lusts after Flash, who loves Dale.
  • Made of Evil
  • Mad Scientist: Zarkov, who can't understand why NASA fired him or why Flash and Dale seemed frightened of him...
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Princess Aura, though Ming is a Mad Emperor rather than a Mad Scientist.
  • Magic Countdown: The timer that shows how long is left before the Earth is destroyed.
  • Mask Power: Klytus.
  • Mental Picture Projector: The Mind Probe/Memory Eraser also functions as a way of projecting memories on a screen.
  • Mind Probe: "We're going to empty your mind as we might empty your pockets... doctor."
  • Mood Dissonance: The wedding of Ming and Dale:
    • Instead of the white dress she'd been put in earlier, she's now wearing a black empress getup covered in sequins.
    • "Here Comes The Bride" as an electric guitar rock riff with dirge undertones. And the Rocket Ajax in the background bearing a sign:


  • Music of Note: Score by Queen.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ming claims to only destroy planets that are advanced enough to realize his attacks aren't natural disasters...hence, it's Zarkov's own attempt to warn humanity that nearly dooms the Earth.
    • He also gets Flash killed. Good going.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: General Kala orders Zarkov programmed with high-level information about Mongo's technology and security systems despite being warned that it's probably more than the human mind can take, thus equipping him with all the knowledge he'll need to assist the revolution.
  • No Except Yes:


Klytus: "You have until the sands...run up."
Dale: It won't turn over! It won't turn over!

Aura: Look! Water is leaking from her eyes!
Ming: It's what they call "tears". It's a sign of their weakness.