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The 13th Warrior: A great movie to watch, one you probably missed.

Updated on October 13, 2011

Taste is a weird thing, especially when it comes to art. Movies, music, books, plays… you name it, it’s really hard to find anyone who can recommend something we will like. But, I think sometimes it has more to do with the expectations that people build than the actual quality of the movie or book or whatever is being discussed.

So, that said, I’m going to recommend a really good movie that I am pretty sure you haven’t seen. And here’s why: It’s an Antonio Banderas VIKING movie, called The 13th Warrior.

Ok, so for starters, no one with an active mind will ever come up with Antonio Banderas in the same sentence or thought process with Vikings. It’s just… far away.

And you know what, I’m trying to sell you on this movie and I will be the first one to admit that, for the first ten minutes of the movie, I was like, “Dude, Antonio Banderas? Really?” And, truth be told, he didn’t win an Oscar for his performance for a reason. So, it’s fine.

However, you should also know that despite his performance not being “Oscar Caliber” I would like to point out that a lot of Oscar winners have had performances that I didn’t think were Oscar caliber either. Antonio's performance is fine. Not great, but fine. The rest of the movie way more than fills in the rest of it.

The story is why this movie is awesome. It’s just a good, honest, open action adventure about men with swords pitted against a really hard core, and very cool enemy. It’s about a great, great man of the most noble of hearts and earnest of minds doing the best he could with what he had at hand and what the gods gave him (and that's not even Antonio's character, who is doing much the same).

It’s about the recognition by one faith that another faith is worthy and respectable without having to question itself. Imagine, two great faiths living not only in “tolerance” but in mutual benefit.

It’s about good people fighting for a common cause that doesn’t include exploitation of someone else. It’s got amazing heroes, even if they are archetypes. It takes the fantasy and historical Viking genres and really, really makes an incredible movie.

I have watched this movie at least a hundred times, and I’m not exaggerating. I am a student of writing, of storytelling, of characters. I can tell you that in a graduate program at some college, the hoity-toity students could rip this movie apart. But, I can also tell you, those that did are hoity-toity and missing it. Totally, completely missing this awesome story. This is a movie you can just turn on, turn down the lights and enjoy. Just spend two hours with really great, honorable men in a truly classic confrontation between an enemy that is real and understandable.

And the best part is, if you really want to geek up on it… it’s true! Or at least, plausibly true based on current anthropology being dug up involving Neanderthals and who died when and who boned who and… etc.

The original story, Eaters of the Dead was written by Michael Crichton, and was based in significant part on the manuscripts Ibn Fadlan who was, roughly, a Persian aristocrat cast out by his leaders because he was a bit too hot and sexy and… adventurous, and accidentally seduced the wrong woman (hence casting Antonio Banderas) and who travelled from the Middle East to learn about the “North Men” in depth for the first time for his people.

There are documents to support this. How closely this movie follows those documents doesn’t really matter to me. Whether there is a connection to the missing Neanderthals and the adventure this great movie shows or not doesn’t matter. The characters are too good, too noble, too well cast.

I'm not a chick, but if I was... I mean... who wouldn't?
I'm not a chick, but if I was... I mean... who wouldn't?

Frankly, Antonio Banderas is the worst casting decision in the whole movie which you will see. And he is perfectly fine once you get a few minutes in. (Women will drool and never forget the character of the Viking king, Bulywif. Just watch, I promise if you are a chick, you will want this dude by the end of the movie.)

Anyway, that’s my review of The 13th Warrior. If you want a really great movie to watch on a dark night (don’t watch it during the day; it’s filmed very dark), and a movie that gets better every time you see it… get this movie.

I truly, honestly and deeply recommend it and I have 66 hubs and not one of them is a book review or a movie review. That has to mean something.

Another cool viking movie (not AS good, but good)


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    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      I'm glad it's doing well. Good work should be rewarded. Maybe it's that old cliché "the cream always rises." I saw in the theater though. I'm kind of a swords and castles movie geek, so I was waiting on it since I saw the first preview, even watched it twice in the theater, which, I do believe, was the last movie I liked well enough to do that (which is sad, actually lol).

    • Abecedarian profile image

      Abecedarian 7 years ago from These United States, Texas

      this one was a sleeper. It didn't do so well at the theatre but has done quite well on video. If you can get pass the spitting and washing in their drinking bowl it's an excellent movie. Go job on this one.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      I'm happy to have you amongst us, the ranks of those in the know on this one. :)

    • kaltopsyd profile image

      kaltopsyd 7 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      That really was an interesting movie. I borrowed it from my aunt and never regretted it. Thanks for a great review!

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Hi Shane, thanks for a fantastic commentary on this movie. I think I've finally met the one person who has thought about this movie as much as I have or perhaps even more. While not much of a Freudian faithful, I agree with the essence of what you say, and the symbolism you describe can easily be extracted if anyone cares to take the time. That's why this movie gets better every time you watch it. The first time it's just a cool viking movie. Each time after, you begin to see deeper and deeper into it, understanding it in a new way, almost a heuristic kind of thing. I'm glad to see someone who clearly cares about story telling like yourself on here. (Which is why I am leaving your post up even though I pretty much always delete comments where people jam links to their pages in lol - I had a look at your site. I hope it's doing well.)

    • profile image

      Shane 7 years ago

      Shades - I just found this review as I was dissecting this movie - and what a treat to see you turning on so many people to this outstanding movie! I've owned 13th Warrior since it came out on DVD in 2000, and I agree with you 100% about its entertainment value and the insight it offers into human development. To have John McTiernan directing a Michael Crichton movie - does it get any better? Rarely!

      Here's a thought. Has anyone here read Joseph Campbell's book 'The Hero With A Thousand Faces'? It's a priceless study of mythic structure for storytellers and writers (there isn't a film studies major I've ever met that doesn't own it). He breaks down stories into a structure that allows you to see inside them - see what it is that makes them speak to us. In doing so, you begin to understand the symbolism contained, and understand better why it is that myths appeal to us at a subconscious level. Again - anyone who loves storytelling must read Campbell (and Christopher Vogler's 'Writer's Journey' as well) to unlock some truly awesome insights.

      Here's a thought among many I uncovered about this movie related to myth and symbolism. Remember when Fahdlan and the Viking crew go down into the caves to attack the Wendol? It's not just a gang of Vikings dropping into the lair of a tribe of cannabalistic neanterdahls - it's civilized man descending into the id of mankind - the buried, most basic drives of human nature. The Wendol symbolize man in a state of nature; wild as the animals around them (look at them: dirty, naked, feral...bears!). Fahdlan - cultured and pampered (remember the wash bowl scene?) is modern man. He climbs and swings his way deeper and deeper past the ego and into the dark, running waters of the id, to the inner sanctum where hang viking heads (representing fear, death) and resides the "mother of the Wendol" (providence and fertility). By striking them at their core, Bullwye attacks directly at the primal motivations that drive them. We can debate how "civilized" the Vikings are, but even they are horrified by the raw, remorseless Wendol! Freud would have a field day with this movie!

      And remember - in the end the Vikings don't kill them all - the Wendol only recede back into their caves...! Do we all have a little Wendol still in us? Michael Crichton would assuredly say YES!

      This movie (as do all of Crichton's stories) is loaded with symbolism, and it follows mythic structure to a T: Pampered protagonist thrown out of his ordinary world, reluctant warrior accepts his mission, grows by passing the challenges set for him - thus preparing him for the final battle, and ends with him a changed man that is more worldly, tolerant, and mature. He begins the movie saying "I am not a warrior." He ends it by chanting the viking prayer with his fellow warriors, committing his sword and life to the cause. It's the hero's journey full circle.

      Thanks again Shade for the great review - and I hope that more people come to appreciate The 13th Warrior, and maybe even take it to the next level and see all the hidden wisdom buried beneath the helmets and within the caves. In fact - every movie and every story use these devices to impart a wisdom that your subconscious recognizes even if you realize it!

      Anyone with more thoughts about this can email me, I'd love to hear your thoughts -

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, Wow, thanks for the compliments, but we are all as good as each other on here. I love reading peoples stories and reviews. and you certainly keep me entertained, so there!lol seriously though, I have learned more on here, reading other peoples hubs than I have done in a lifetime! I am always driving people mad with my 'did you know that' conversations! which I have read on here. but thanks anyway, made my day! ha ha cheers nell

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Just more merits on the merit pile. I seem to recall in the afterward of the book that was mentioned, but I'm not sure if it was there or somewhere else that someone mentioned part of that before. That's great to know, and very, very cool. THanks for sharing!

    • Bill Mello profile image

      Bill Mello 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      (Warning: Spoiler Comment)

      Shadesbreath. The 13th Warrior does have its intellectual merit. The story is an explanation of the mysterious origins of the novel Beowulf, author unknown. A work of literature that surpassed the capability of any tribe present in the 'northern lands'. Did you notice that the viking crew slept in a hall to ambush monsters who left only an arm for evidence. Then then the 'dragon' (cavalry) came down out of the mountain in reprisal. And then...just like Beowulf they had to go under the lake to kill the 'mother'. Final scene, middle eastern poet promises to write the life story of a viking hero...Now THAT makes the 13th Warrior even more badass doesn't it?

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Hi Nell! Imagine a writer of such depth visiting my movie hub. Thanks. And, I love that he learned the language like that. I admit to having seen it so many times that I actually spot the actors fudging English into the dialogue, but, I think that, as a writer, the screenwriter/director did a good job of giving Iban credibility as an intellect for real, which he needed given how weak he is at first in the northlands. I call it good story telling for sure.

      I count having a story teller like you agreeing with me on this movie as a real statement about my taste in movies. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, this is one of my favourite films! I love it, I first saw it a couple of years ago, and I have been hooked since. I still can't figure out how Antonio Banderas learnt there language just by sitting by the camp fire listening! lol But seriously though I loved the mixture of arab and vikings fighting together. brought back memories thanks nell

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Hiya Saddlerider, nice to see you again. I think if you liked those two movies, you will definitely like this one too. It's different, but appeals to the same part of the movie-liking-brain-part (lol) that likes those others. Let me know too, I'm curious.

    • saddlerider1 profile image

      saddlerider1 7 years ago

      Hey Shades after looking at the General Public reviews in "Rotten Tomatoes" of only a 31% rating I held back downloading the movie. However after reading this Hub of yours, I am rethinking and will download and give it a viewing. I always liked Antonio in his action roles. Once upon a time in Mexico one of my favorites and of course Zorro. Thanks for the great review. peace.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Hi WhiskeyRiver: nice to meet a fellow 13th Warrior fan. And I think Antonio did fine too. I appreciate his performance much more now than I did the first time, and even then I was fine with it once I got past my initial, I don't know... expectation? I guess I kind of had him in a box in my head. But you are right, he did a good job. You know, a quote I use all the time is from that movie too: Luck, often enough, will save a man if his courage holds.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      WhiskeyRiver 7 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading your review of this wonderful movie.I own in and take it with me when I go traveling,

      so when I find someone who HASN'T seen it,I can introduce them to that great bunch if Vikings in the film,and a great story too.I found Antonio to actually fit well,

      personally.It was a role out of his comfort zone,but he pulled it off well.He was supposed to be a dandy sort of fellow.It was the two lead Vikings though,well,no, was the whole bunch of them that made the movie.From, Herger the Joyous with his arrogant swager,to Bulwyf and those great shoulders,wrapped in wolfs hide,plus the other four or so men that really were a treat to watch!

      I'm with you,its a fine film!

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Hi Reagu. Yeah, the book is a good read and pretty quick. And, well, Antonio grows on you with repeat views. :) Thanks for the comment.

    • reagu profile image

      reagu 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Great review. It is a fantastic story. I read the book in one round trip from LA to NY and back. And then I saw the movie which I thought was good too. I did feel the same as you when first finding out that Antonio Banderas was cast as the Arabian character.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Yep, easy to watch over and over. Just a pleasant two hour escape, period. Thanks for saying so, too. :)

    • optimus grimlock profile image

      optimus grimlock 7 years ago

      that was an awesome movie ive seen it about 12 times

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Hi Chaotic Chica, thanks for adding to the conversation on this movie. I'm with you, it was such an unlikely casting choice. It does make sense from a star appeal perspective, and it was pointed out that he is very small, so he, in comparison to the others, made the vikings look big, which was probably part of that decision too. I think it definitely gets better as it goes along, too. Gets better with more viewings too, imo, but, I admit opinions are what they are. :) Thanks for the comment.

    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      You caught me! I have seen this movie, more than once.... for Antonio! LOL I (being a healthy female) enjoy his movies and figured this one wouldn't let me down. It did. To be truthful, he did. The movie itself was not bad, it gets better as it goes on, but you are correct in Antonio not being the wisest casting choice here. My husband guessed right away why I would choose such a movie to watch but it turned out to be a win-win. I don't think I would go so far as to own the movie but I wouldn't NOT recommend this movie! Thanks for the review.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Yeah, it gets even cooler if you have the Neanderthal thing going in the back of your head. Good stuff. It's funny, as a writer, to study writing and see how much really cool stuff gets missed totally in the final work of writer as it is seen by the public. It's like people only care about the breading on the outside of the deep fried twinkie, not the cream filling. (lol)

    • Origin profile image

      Origin 7 years ago from Minneapolis

      Good review of the movie! When I first saw this I didn't expect the bad guys to be what they were! I thought perhaps some sort of creatures or something, but it was a nice surprise!

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Randslam, ur spot on with that mead scene. I can hear the line in my mind even now. And I have Pathfinder too. Its pretty good. Not great but I watch it every couple of years. And I agree Antonio works well overall. In fact I like him in his role now, but when I first saw it, his "Persian" accent was killing me for the first ten minutes until the tent scene was well under way.

      Nice to find a likeminded moview viewer. Cheers.

    • randslam profile image

      Rand Zacharias 7 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

      Thanks, Shades, for putting one of my all time favourite movies as your first movie review.

      The other interesting features of the movie is the alcohol abstinence scene where Antonio's character cannot drink any grain-fermented liquid. The Vikings give him honey mead--it's a great scene.

      As far as casting Antonio--I thought it worked out because he's so ridiculously tiny--and his character truly had to be to make small sword/big impact effect, don't you think?

      Karl Urban starred in a similar sort of movie, with far less success, but a North American tale/historical "fantasy/possibility" called Pathfinder in 2007. You might want to check it out.

      Thanks for your first review--and I look forward to reading some more of your hubbery.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Nellieanna: The abs may not typically be a distraction, but from what women tell me about this movie, it's very hard to get past the massive shoulders, tree-trunk arms and just mountainous upper bodies of these guys. Useful strength, real power, not gym muscle, deformed and alien looking. So, it's a real smorgasbord for your eyes, no matter what flavor they crave. lol.

      As for the messages of this movie, that's why I'm so passionate about it. The more you watch it the more you realize what it really is. So easy to get caught up in the adventure the first time through. And the humor. I look forward to your review of it.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 7 years ago from TEXAS

      "It’s about the recognition by one faith that another faith is worthy and respectable without having to question itself. Imagine, two great faiths living not only in “tolerance” but in mutual benefit."

      That and the rest of your hub are sufficient to make me want to see this movie, and probably read the book, as well!

      Excellent review. I wouldn't say action movies are at top of my list of movie genre, but a really good one with a message like you describe (not just a lot of scuffling around with swords or laser-guns or whatever the weapon of the period and crashing of cars or chariots) pleases me individually.

      Banderas came on originally as a sex symbol, and as the boy-toy of Melanie Griffin. And that movie with Angelina Jolie almost melted my DVD player, but it turned out that he seems to be a most honorable, dedicated family man in real life. In spite of the fact that he's made some sizzling movies, he's made some more heroic ones, too, so I no longer see him as the adonis he was introduced to be. (however to some of us chicks, that's even more sexy! - heh heh - and the abs don't detract from either image!)

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Glad to hear it, IzzyM. I hope you like it. I'm actually curious too, so if you do or don't, I would be interested in hearing it.

      Theherbivorehippi, same goes for you if you think of it. Love to know what you thought. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 7 years ago from Holly, MI

      I've never heard of this movie. I will certainly have to add it to my Netflix cue! Thanks for the info!

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      It's not the sort I'd film I'd ever have thought of watching, even if someone said it was a great film and I should, but after reading this review, I might well change my mind :)

      Great hub, well-written in such a short time and it managed to sell me on a movie too. Well done Shades!

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      The book will add to the watching. Especially if you read the foreward (or afterward... wherever it is) that actually has some of the stuff on Ibn Fadlan. And my wife said the same thing, she thinks Antonio is pretty dreamy but some of those huge guys just sort of trump him on screen. He needs a dance floor not a battlefield, then he wins.

    • wychic profile image

      Rebecca Mikulin 7 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming

      Great hub! Luckily I did not miss this one...but then, this is a very small area so when a local director makes a fairly well-known movie (and he has a handful of them now) we all tend to anxiously await its release. That said, I'd have to agree that while Antonio Banderas is so well-known for his sexy seductiveness, he just can't measure up to hairy, well-muscled vikings ;). I really must get around to reading the book, though, there's only so much that dozens of viewings of the movie can do.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Yay! You have 2 very enjoyable hours in your future.

    • Alison Graham profile image

      Alison Graham 7 years ago from UK

      You've sold it to me Shadesbreath, a great hub, rated up!

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      I totally agree. I own two copies of this, one still wrapped in original plastic, just so when I wear the other one out, I'll have a back up. I watch it whenever I'm sick. Like under a blanket, medicated to hell, with a box of kleenex and a kick ass viking movie. (You'll have to join us next time we bust out an Instant Hub Challenge.)

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      I own this movie, and yes, if you are going to own a number of movies, this should be in your collection. Some people prefer to rent, or subscribe to a service, I buy movies that I will watch again. Great choice Shadesbreath, and great hub. I found this because of your challenge thread.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Mrpopo: You're in for a treat. :) And, I admit this one did come out pretty fast and easy. But, that's why I went with this topic. Something I already knew really well so could just dash off.

      Msorensson: Yeah, I bet you remember him. I have yet to talk to a woman who's seen it who didn't think he was dreamy. It's kind of funny to listen to the debates over which one of the vikings was hotter, or if Antonio is the hottest, etc. lol.

      De Greek: Yeah, I whipped right through the book and it does add to the movie viewing. The line about the women from the book makes me laugh when I watch it now.

      Hi Austinstar! I was sad to hear of his passing too. He had more stories to crank out for sure. Haven't got the pirate one yet. I forgot about it, honestly. I'm glad you reminded me. And yes, this was one of my random 30 minute challenge in the forum things. A few crazy people try to whip off a hub in a half hour. It's fun. :)

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 7 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Great book, great movie! I loved Antonio in the movie. The world lost a truly excellent writer when Michael Chrichton died much too young. I just got his last book about pirates and will read it as soon as possible.

      Was this hub some sort of challenge? If so, you win.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago from UK

      I read the book at one sitting many years ago and was delighted to find that it was turned into a film. I watched it and enjoyed it greatly, more so I think exactly because I had read the book and was able to use my own imagination as a result. I shall now watch it again, thanks to you :D

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 7 years ago

      Wow..great suggestion. I like Antonio Banderas so I would not mind. I think he is a fine gentleman, although, I must admit what you said is true...ha ha ha..I remember Bulywif..I don't remember if my son just showed a clip to me or I caught it while I was flipping through the gazillion cable channels at my friends house, but I did remember can I say?

      When I have time, I will watch it..the 13th Warrior.

    • mrpopo profile image

      mrpopo 7 years ago from Canada

      Goodness you guys write fast in 30 minutes!

      Great Hub Shades, I will definitely check out this movie.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

      Thanks you guys. It was the perfect topic for the 30 minute challenge. I just enjoy the movie so much. Even though people might not like it, the tons that do, the ones that approach it just wanting a really cool, non-agenda, good people two hour diversion will love it. If I give even one person the joy I have gotten from it, then I win. :)

    • Cagsil profile image

      Cagsil 7 years ago from USA or America

      Hey Shades, very nicely done. I was not even able to watch the first 10 minutes of the movie. And, I like some of his movies. I've seen other actors/actresses fail in other roles too and I agree with you, there have been some winners who should not have won. Overall, great hub for the challenge. :) Thank you for sharing. :)

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 7 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Good review of a good movie! Good luck!

    • Thorn058 profile image

      Thorn058 7 years ago from Grand Forks, ND

      I watch this movie everytime I am feeling down and something about it just seems to make me feel good. Maybe it is the sweeping score or some of the themes that resonate with me or maybe I just love watching Scandinavians calling people little brother. It is an awesome movie. Great write up.

      As a side note and totally unrelated if you ever watch the movie Kingdom of Heaven they copy the main theme for the 13th Warrior. I still like the movie but it felt cheap after I heard that familiar music

    • TheGlassSpider profile image

      TheGlassSpider 7 years ago from On The Web

      You've done an excellent job, always! (Have I told you lately that I love you? ;-) ) I don't know how you managed to crank out so much in such a short time. Funny that we each decided to write our first reviews for this challenge.

      It sounds like a great film (and honestly, Antonio Banderas just makes me drool!); you are correct: I have not seen it, but now I think I will.

      Great Hub! Thanks for the challenge!