Flash Gordon is a 1980 science fiction film, based on the comic strip of the same name, created by Alex Raymond. The film was directed by Mike Hodges and produced and presented by Dino De Laurentiis. It stars Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Chaim Topol, Max von Sydow, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed, and Ornella Muti. The screenplay was written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr., and adapted by Michael Allin. It intentionally uses a camp style similar to the 1960s TV series Batman (for which Semple had written many episodes) in an attempt to appeal to fans of the original comics and serial films. The film is notable for its soundtrack composed, performed and produced by the rock band Queen (although orchestral sections were by Howard Blake).
The story opens with the voice of Emperor Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) indicating he will destroy Earth with a variety of seemingly natural disasters. Sometime later on Earth, New York Jets football star "Flash" Gordon (Sam J. Jones) who has been vacationing in Dark Harbor, a resort in the Green Mountains, boards a small plane when the "hot hail" begins. Onboard, he meets travel journalist Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) who is also flying back to New York City. Mid-flight, the disasters become progressively worse and when the cockpit is hit by a meteorite the plane is left with no one at the controls. Flash takes control of the plane, and manages to crash land in a greenhouse owned by Dr. Hans Zarkov (Chaim Topol). According to Dr. Zarkov's research, the disasters are being caused by an unknown physical source in space which is sending the moon out of orbit and toward the Earth. Zarkov had been secretly working on a rocket ship for several years to test his theory, and now intends to go to the coordinates for the source of the attacks. He accidentally launches the rocket during a fight with Flash and all three fly off into space, even sailing into the black hole where they finally land on the planet Mongo. There, they are taken prisoner outside of a grand city. Flash, Dale and Zarkov are brought before Ming the Merciless. Ming hypnotizes Dale and orders her to be removed and prepared for his pleasure, but Flash openly defies Ming and picks a fight with his men, adapting his athletic skills from American football, but is outnumbered and defeated. Ming orders Zarkov into Klytus' custody for reconditioning and orders Flash's execution. Following Flash's disposal, Princess Aura (Ornella Muti) and Ming's Chief Surgeon, one of her numerous lovers, open Flash's casket and resurrect him. Zarkov is delivered to Klytus, who straps him to a table and attempts to brainwash him. Aura and Flash quickly retreat to Arboria, kingdom of Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton), the main lover of Aura. En route to Arboria, Aura teaches Flash to use a telepathic communicator so that he can contact Dale and let her know he is still alive. Aura takes advantage as Flash tries to concentrate on talking to Dale, Aura tries to kiss and seduce him, but Flash is able to hide what is happening from Dale. Relieved, Dale informs Flash that she is locked in Ming's bedchamber. She is served a hypnotic drink that keeps her in a relaxed and loving state towards Ming. She tricks the serving girl who brings the drinks to her into drinking them and the girl soon becomes relaxed and Dale changes clothing with her and escapes. Dale fights with guards and manages to get away. She runs into a reconditioned Zarkov (who managed to resist Klytus' brainwashing) and informs him that Gordon is alive. The two subsequently escape, but they are quickly captured by Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed)'s Hawkmen and taken to his kingdom, Sky City. Aura and Flash arrive at the forest moon Arboria. Aura asks Prince Barin to keep Flash safe. Barin, who is in love with Aura (but does not trust her), agrees not to kill Flash. Barin then places Flash in a cage and deliberately allows him to escape into a sacred Temple, where Barin recaptures him and insists that Flash participate in a deadly ritual as a consequence of his trespassing. The two men take turns sticking their hands into a hollow stump with a poisonous creature inside. When Barin compels Flash to take an extra turn, Flash realises he will not be allowed to win fairly and pretends to be stung by the creature and begs for a quick death. As Barin prepares to strike, Flash grabs his weapon and escapes into the forest. Barin follows, but they are both captured by Prince Vultan's Hawkmen. Klytus (Peter Wyngarde) informs Ming of Flash's resurrection and requests Ming's authority to pursue the investigation which Ming agrees to. Aura returns alone to Mingo City only to be taken prisoner and violently whipped and tortured by Klytus and General Kala (Mariangela Melato). They eventually get a full confession and Ming orders Aura to be banished to the ice world Frigia after his wedding. Flash and Barin are captured by the Hawkmen and taken to Sky City, where Flash and Dale are briefly reunited. Flash is forced to fight Barin to the death, but when Flash spares Barin's life, Barin finally realizes that Flash can be trusted and that they must join forces against Ming. Klytus arrives to arrest Barin and Zarkov for treason and recapture Dale, but Flash and Barin double-team Klytus and kill him. The death of Klytus in Sky City will bring retribution on the Hawkmen, and in a panic, Vultan orders all the Hawkmen to evacuate, leaving Barin, Flash, Dale and Zarkov behind. Ming's ship arrives shortly afterwards and he orders Barin, Zarkov and Dale to be taken aboard his ship. Ming finds himself impressed with Flash, and offers him lordship over a subjugated Earth in exchange for fealty, as an alternative to death, which Flash refuses. Ming returns to his ship and gives the order to destroy Vultan's kingdom with Flash still on it. But once again, Flash cheats death by finding a rocket cycle in the city and escaping before Sky City is destroyed. Flash contacts Vultan, whose people have found refuge on Arboria, and plot an attack on Mingo City. Flash (seemingly) attempts to attack Mingo City alone on his rocket cycle. General Kala dispatches the war rocket Ajax to bring back Flash's body, but it is a trap and the Hawkmen army intercepts and, after a huge battle, Flash and the Hawkmen seize control of the rocket. In Mingo City, Princess Aura overpowers her guard and makes her way to the execution chamber, freeing Barin and Zarkov. Flash and the Hawkmen attack Mingo City in Ajax and Kala activates the city's defenses, as Ming and Dale's wedding starts. The Earth is now minutes from being destroyed and Mingo City's Lightning Field can only be penetrated in time by flying Ajax in to it in a suicide run. Flash volunteers to stay at the helm to ensure it is successful and allow the Hawkmen to invade the city. Just before the rocket will hit, Barin manages to sabotage the lightning field generator and Ajax plummets into the city's great hall where the wedding is taking place; the ship's bow impales Ming as all others flee to safety. The impact throws Flash around in the rocket, dazed but uninjured. Ming falls off the rocket nose, seriously wounded, and Flash offers to spare his life if he will stop the attack on Earth, but Ming refuses to submit. Ming attempts to use his power ring on Flash but his power falters and nothing happens. He then aims the ring at himself and is seemingly vaporized by its remaining power seconds before the counter to the destruction of the earth reaches zero. Ming's robot servant declares that Flash has saved the Earth and a huge victory celebration ensues. Barin is announced as the rightful heir to Ming's vacant throne. The newly-appointed King Barin shows his gratitude to Flash, appoints Vultan as the new General of the Armies, and decrees that all the kingdoms of Mongo shall live together in peace. Flash and Dale embrace, their future (and Zarkov's) left open for either a return to Earth or continuing adventures on Mongo. The last scene focuses on Ming's empty power ring, as an unidentified individual picks it up. "The End?" fades onto the screen, followed by an echo of Ming's evil laughter.