"The gun is good. The penis is evil."
It is the year 2293 AD. A post-apocalyptic Earth is inhabited mostly by the "Brutals", simple soil-tilling serf types, who are in turn overseen by Exterminators. These Exterminators worship the god Zardoz, a huge, flying, hollow stone head that dispenses weaponry and ammunition by the truckload.
Zardoz is neither a mindless sci-fi action movie nor a serious SF-as-ideas film a la Tarkovsky or Kubrick. It's... hard to describe, on account of the fact that it really doesn't make a lot of sense. Still, some sort of plot description might help. One day, an Exterminator named Zed gets swept up into the hollow stone head and finds himself under possession of the Eternals, an elite class who long ago discovered the secret to immortality and removed themselves from all that penis-having to the rarified heights.
Life has become so meaningless that Zed is hailed as manna from heaven. Some, however, see him as a dangerous threat to their status as higher beings As it turns out, a lot of the Eternal scientists are female. They argue all this for awhile. Then others start clamouring for Zed to kill them and end this awful tedium.
In the end he finally does off them, much to their joy. The film closes with Zed and Consuella having a child, growing old, and dying.
Fun fact: Boorman wanted to adapt The Lord of the Rings, but that fell through. It's that project which inspired Zardoz. It's a trippy dystopian fantasy full of psychotropics, philosophical something-or-another, and lots of gratuitous female nudity. It's definitely a Cult Classic, and frequently considered more 70's than That 70's Show.
- Actor Allusion: In his first appearance onscreen, Sean Connery aims his gun at the camera and shoots it.
- Age Cut: The final shot takes it further than most, aging two characters and their newborn son repeatedly until the adult son walks off and the parents remain until they're nothing but skeletons.
- After the End: Apparently this takes place after a Nuclear War
- Blessed with Suck: The Eternals' immortality. At first that seemed a like a good idea until boredom set in and with no way to end it.
- Body Horror: The immortals punish the criminal by speed-aging the offender. The more you resist, the closer you get to endless senility...
- The Cameo: Boorman appears as one of the Brutals that gets shot in the head.
- Cargo Cult
- The Chessmaster: Arthur Frayn, if we are to believe the opening prologue.
- Crossdresser: The Renagades need to get Zed away from rioting Eternals that want to kill him....so they dress him up in a wedding dress.
- Crystal Spires and Togas: Subverted, in that the film presents this as a Dystopia, too.
- Domed Hometown
- Dude, She's Like, Apathetic!
- Executive Meddling: The movie studio forced Boorman to add a prologue to make the movie make more sense. It doesn't work.
- Fan Service: In that very special 70's but-nudity-is-just-natural sort of way.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Because no Eternal can die, the only available punishment is aging the offender into senility.
- Gun Porn
- Hall of Mirrors: The Tabernacle.
- Jerkass: Friend...before turning into a Jerkass Woobie.
- Kill'Em All: No sooner do the immortals get their immortality mechanism destroyed than they mostly get slaughtered by a bunch of Exterminators. They couldn't be happier.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: The gun is good.
- Low Culture, High Tech: The barbarian class.
- Mind Rape: This happens to Zed.
- Mind Screw: The whole movie, from beginning to end.
- Mishmash Museum: The Tabernacle.
- Nietzsche Wannabe
- Planet of Hats
- Playing Against Type: Connery did the film purely to get people to stop thinking of him as just James Bond. And boy, did it work.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: As noted, Zardoz is very big on this, to the extent that his version of 'showering blessings' involves automatic rifles.
- Ring of Power: All the Eternals have them.
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You
- Scenery Porn: The rolling Irish hills sure are gorgeous.
- Science Fiction: A very broad use of it anyway.
- The Seventies. Very much so.
- Sex Is Evil:
Zardoz: The penis is evil! The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was.
- Shout-Out: A salute to The Wizard of Oz becomes a pretty major plot point.
- Slap Slap Kiss: More or less the film's entire attitude to romance.
- Straw Feminist: The future women (and possibly men) who speak constantly about how horrible and violent sex was, but at the same time, obviously want to get into Connery's pants.
- Stripperiffic: What else would you call him?
- Technology Marches On: The immortals are said to have been in this state for 300 years, and the year is 2293, which means they started in 1993...
- Trickster: Arthur Frayn.
- Trrrilling Rrrs: Arthur Frayn.
- Turned Against Their Masters
- Twist Ending: Zardoz is... The WiZard of Oz.
- Unintentional Period Piece: Even though the movie's set in a Post Apocalyptic future, its 70s influence shows.
- Watch It Stoned: Boorman admits he used drugs during filming.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Eternals long ago succumbed to ennui.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The scene where Zed reveals how he learned Zardoz was actually The WiZard of Oz makes you think the movie's wrapping up when, in fact, there's still almost an hour to go.
- Zettai Ryouiki: Grade B Male Example. Yuck.