Heavy Metal (1981)


Heavy Metal (1981)

An astronaut brings home a glowing green orb for his daughter. However, the green orb wipes him out and corners the girl for its purposes. Claiming to embody ultimate evil, the malevolent sphere, known as the Loc-Nar, terrorizes the little girl by showing a series of bizarre and fantastic stories it has influenced. The first is "Harry Canyon", a cynical taxi driver in a squalid futuristic New York who finds himself involved with a damsel in distress who is relentlessly pursued by murderous thugs who desire the Loc-Nar her archaeologist father found. The second is "Den", which chronicles the adventures of a nerdish teenager who is thrown into the fantasy world of Neverwhere, where he is transformed into a handsome muscleman, desired by beautiful women, who must get involved in a conflict revolving around possession of the Loc-Nar. The third is "Captain Sternn", where the title character is a handsome but irredeemable scoundrel who stands accused in a trial that the Loc-Nar throws into ...
IMDb  6.7 /10
Metacritic   51%
Director Gerald Potterton
Director John Bruno
Director John Halas
Director Julian Harris
Director Jimmy T. Murakami
Director Barrie Nelson
Director Paul Sabella
Director Jack Stokes
Release Date1981-08-07
Runtime1h 26mins
GenreAnimation, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Content RatingR (R)
Awards4 wins & 2 nominations.
CompanyColumbia Pictures, Guardian Trust Company, Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC)
CountryCanada, UK
Grimaldi (segment "Grimaldi") / Co-Pilot (segment "B-17") / Barbarian (segment "Taarna") (voice)
Girl (segment "Grimaldi") (voice)
Harry Canyon (segment "Harry Canyon") (voice)
Girl (segment "Harry Canyon") / Satellite (segment "Harry Canyon") (voice)
Rudnick (segment "Harry Canyon") (voice)
Alien (segment "Harry Canyon") / Henchman (segment "Harry Canyon") (voice)
Desk Sergeant (segment "Harry Canyon") / Dan (segment "Den") / Den (segment "Den") / Robot (segment "So Beautiful and So Dangerous") (voice)
Whore (segment "Harry Canyon") (voice)
Whore (segment "Harry Canyon") / Queen (segment "Den") (voice)
Katherine (segment "Den") (voice)
Ard (segment "Den") (voice)
Norl (segment "Den") / Taarak (segment "Taarna") (voice)
Prosecutor (segment "Captain Sternn") (voice)
Sternn (segment "Captain Sternn") / Male Reporter (segment "So Beautiful and So Dangerous") / Edsel (segment "So Beautiful and So Dangerous") (voice)
Lawyer (segment "Captain Sternn") / General (segment "So Beautiful and So Dangerous") (voice)

Heavy Metal (film)

Heavy Metal is a 1981 Canadian-American adult animated science fantasy film directed by Gerald Potterton, produced by Ivan Reitman and Leonard Mogel, who also was the publisher of Heavy Metal magazine, which was the basis for the film, and starring the voices of Rodger Bumpass, Jackie Burroughs, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Don Francks, Martin Lavut, Marilyn Lightstone, Eugene Levy, Alice Playten, Harold Ramis, Percy Rodriguez, Susan Roman, Richard Romanus, August Schellenberg, John Vernon, and Zal Yanovsky. The screenplay was written by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum.

The film is an anthology of various science fiction and fantasy stories adapted from Heavy Metal magazine and original stories in the same spirit. Like the magazine, the film features a great deal of graphic violence, sexuality, and nudity. Its production was expedited by having several animation houses working simultaneously on different segments. Despite the mixed reviews by film critics on its initial release, the film was a modest success at the box office and has since achieved cult status.

A sequel titled Heavy Metal 2000 was released in 2000.


"Soft Landing"

Based on the comic of the same name by Dan O'Bannon and Thomas Warkentin.

The title sequence story opens with a space shuttle orbiting the Earth. The bay doors open, releasing a Corvette. An astronaut seated in the car then begins descending through Earth's atmosphere, landing in a desert canyon.

  • Jimmy T. Murakami and John Bruno – directors
  • John Coates – producer
  • Dan O'Bannon – writer
  • Thomas Warkentin – art direction
  • "Radar Rider" by Riggs


In the framing story, the astronaut Grimaldi arrives at home, where he is greeted by his daughter. He says he has something to show her. When he opens his case, a green, crystalline sphere rises out and melts him. It introduces itself to the terrified girl as "the sum of all evils". Looking into the orb known as the Loc-Nar, the girl sees how it has influenced societies throughout time and space.

  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as Loc-Nar
  • Don Francks as Grimaldi
  • Caroline Semple as Girl
  • Harold Whitaker – director
  • John Halas – producer

"Harry Canyon"

Original story by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum; based on The Long Tomorrow by Moebius.

In a dystopian and crime ridden New York City in 2031, cynical taxicab driver Harry Canyon narrates his day in film noir style, grumbling about his fares and frequent robbery attempts he thwarts with a disintegrator installed in the back of his seat. He stumbles into an incident where he rescues a sexy young woman from Rudnick, a gangster who murdered her father. She explains that her father discovered the Loc-Nar, and they have been pursued relentlessly by people attempting to obtain it. Harry takes her to his apartment, where they have sex. She decides to sell the Loc-Nar to Rudnick and split the money with Harry. Rudnick is disintegrated by the Loc-Nar at the exchange, and she attempts to double-cross Harry to keep the money for herself. When she pulls out a gun, Harry uses the disintegrator on her. He keeps the money, and summarizes the incident as a "two-day ride with one hell of a tip".

  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as Loc-Nar
  • Harvey Atkin as Alien, Henchman
  • John Candy as Desk Sergeant
  • Marilyn Lightstone as Whore
  • Susan Roman as Girl, Satellite
  • Richard Romanus as Harry Canyon
  • Al Waxman as Rudnick
  • Pino Van Lamsweerde – director
  • W. H. Stevens Jr. – producer
  • Vic Atkinson – producer
  • Daniel Goldberg – writer
  • Len Blum – writer
  • "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" by Blue Öyster Cult
  • "True Companion" by Donald Fagen
  • "Blue Lamp" by Stevie Nicks
  • "Open Arms" by Journey
  • "Heartbeat" by Riggs


Based on the character of the same name created by Richard Corben.

A nerdy teenager finds a "green meteorite" near his house and puts it in his rock collection. During a lightning experiment, the orb hurls the boy into the world of Neverwhere, where he transforms into a naked, bald-headed, well endowed, muscular man called Den, an acronym for his earth name, David Ellis Norman. After tying a nearby flag around him to keep everyone from seeing his "dork" hanging out, Den witnesses a strange rite, rescuing a beautiful young large breasted woman who was about to be sacrificed to Uhluhtc. Reaching safety, she introduces herself as Katherine Wells from the British colony of Gibraltar. While she demonstrates her gratitude with sexual favours, they are interrupted by the minions of Ard, an immortal man who wants to obtain the Loc-Nar for himself. When Den is taken to see Ard, Den demands to see the girl, but Ard orders his men to castrate Den. Den fights off Ard's soldiers and shoots Ard, but since Ard is immortal he heals immediately. Den asks where the girl is located and Ard shows that she sleeping, encased in glass under a spell where only Ard can awaken her. He offers Den a deal; get the Loc-Nar from the Queen and bring it to him and he will release the girl to Den. Den agrees and infiltrates the palace along with Ard's best soldier, Norl. Den and another minion of Ard's are promptly caught by the Queen's guards, but she offers leniency if Den has sex with her. He complies, thereby distracting the Queen while the raiding party steals the Loc-Nar. Den escapes and races back to rescue Katherine from Ard. Recreating the lightning incident that drew him to Neverwhere, he is able to banish Ard and the Queen. Den's voice-over has him suspecting that they were teleported to Earth. Refusing the opportunity to take the Loc-Nar for himself, Den rides with Katherine into the sunset content to remain in Neverwhere. As for the Loc-Nar, it rises into the sky and lands on a space station where it is picked up by someone.

  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as Loc-Nar
  • John Candy as Den
  • Jackie Burroughs as Katherine Wells
  • Martin Lavut as Ard
  • Marilyn Lightstone as Queen
  • August Schellenberg as Norl
  • Jack Stokes – director
  • Jerry Hibbert – producer
  • Richard Corben – writer

"Captain Sternn"

Based on the character of the same name created by Bernie Wrightson.

On a space station, crooked space captain Lincoln F. Sternn is on trial for numerous serious charges presented by the prosecutor consisting of 12 counts of murder on the first degree, 14 counts of armed theft of Federation property, 22 counts of piracy in high space, 18 counts of fraud, 37 counts of rape — and one moving violation. Pleading "not guilty" against the advice of his lawyer Charlie, Sternn explains that he expects to be acquitted because he bribed a witness named Hanover Fiste. Fiste takes the stand upon being called to by the prosecutor, but his perjury is subverted when the Loc-Nar, now the size of a marble, causes him to blurt out highly incriminating statements about Sternn (though whether or not any of them are true is unknown) before changing him into a hulking muscular form that chases Sternn throughout the station, breaking through bulkheads and wreaking havoc. Eventually, he corners Sternn, who gives him his promised payoff, and he promptly shrinks back to his gangly original form. Sternn opens a trap door under Fiste, ejecting him into space. The Loc-Nar enters Earth's atmosphere with Fiste's flaming severed hand still clinging to it.

  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as Loc-Nar
  • Rodger Bumpass as Hanover Fiste
  • Joe Flaherty as Charlie, the lawyer
  • Douglas Kenney as Regolian
  • Eugene Levy as Captain Lincoln F. Sternn
  • John Vernon as Prosecutor
  • Julian Harris – director
  • Paul Sebella – director
  • Bernie Wrightson – writer
  • "Reach Out" by Cheap Trick

"Neverwhere Land"

Because of time constraints, a segment called "Neverwhere Land", which would have connected "Captain Sternn" to "B-17", was cut.

The story follows the influence of the Loc-Nar upon the evolution of a planet, from the Loc-Nar landing in a body of water, influencing the rise of the industrial age, and a world war. This original story was created by Cornelius Cole III.

The original rough animatics are set to a loop of the beginning of Pink Floyd's "Time". The 1996 VHS release included this segment at the end of the tape. On the DVD release, this segment is included as a bonus feature. In both released versions, the sequence is set to the music of "Passacaglia" (from Magnificat), composed and conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki.


A World War II B-17 bomber nicknamed the Pacific Pearl makes a difficult bombing run with heavy damage and casualties. As the bomber limps home, the co-pilot goes back to check on the crew. Finding nothing but dead bodies, he notices the Loc-Nar trailing the plane. Informing the pilot, he heads back to the cockpit, when the Loc-Nar rams itself into the plane and reanimates the dead crew members as zombies. The co-pilot is killed, while the pilot parachutes away in time. He lands on an island where he finds a graveyard of airplanes from various times, along with the wrecked airplanes' zombified airmen, who surround him, sealing the horrified pilot's fate.

  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as Loc-Nar
  • Don Francks as Co-Pilot (Holden)
  • George Touliatos as Pilot (Skip)
  • Zal Yanovsky as Navigator
  • Barrie Nelson – director
  • W. H. Stevens Jr. – producer
  • Dan O'Bannon – writer
  • "Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)" by Don Felder

"So Beautiful & So Dangerous"

Based on the comic of the same name by Angus McKie.

Dr. Anrak, a prominent scientist, arrives at The Pentagon for a meeting regarding mysterious mutations that are plaguing the United States. At the meeting, the doctor tries to dismiss the occurrences. When he sees the Loc-Nar in the locket of Gloria, a beautiful buxom stenographer, he begins to behave erratically and sexually assaults her. A colossal starship drills through the roof and abducts the doctor and, by accident, Gloria. The ship's robot is irritated at Anrak, who is actually a malfunctioning android, but its mood changes when it sees Gloria. With the help of the ship's alien pilot Edsel and co-pilot Zeke, the robot convinces Gloria to stay on board and have "robot sex" (albeit off-screen). Meanwhile, Edsel and Zeke snort a huge amount of a powdered drug called Plutonian Nyborg before flying home, zoning out on the cosmos. Too intoxicated to fly straight, they crash-land unharmed in a huge space station.

  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as Loc-Nar
  • Rodger Bumpass as Dr. Anrak
  • John Candy as Robot
  • Joe Flaherty as General
  • Eugene Levy as Male Reporter / Edsel
  • Alice Playten as Gloria
  • Harold Ramis as Zeke
  • Patty Dworkin as Female Reporter
  • Warren Munson as Senator
  • John Halas – director
  • Angus McKie – writer
  • "Queen Bee" by Grand Funk Railroad
  • "I Must Be Dreamin'" by Cheap Trick
  • "Crazy? (A Suitable Case for Treatment)" by Nazareth
  • "All of You" by Don Felder
  • "Prefabricated" by Trust
  • "Heavy Metal" by Sammy Hagar


Original story by Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum; based on Arzach by Moebius.

The Loc-Nar, now the size of a giant meteor, crashes into a volcano on a peaceful world. It draws people. The volcano erupts, and green lava covers everyone, mutating the crowd into an evil army. The mutants attack a city. The city leaders, desperate, mentally summon the Taarakians, a (possibly extinct) warrior race, with whom the city had a pact. But the city falls.

Taarna, last of the Taarakians, answers the summons. She is strong, beautiful, and mute. Her hair is white and her neck has the Taarakian mark (a sword). She flies upon a large Taarakian bird, her loyal companion. At a deserted temple, she collects armor and sword. The temple releases great power onto the sword.

Taarna flies to the ruined, deserted city. Its people have already been massacred but they can be avenged. She travels in search of the culprits. She encounters a small band of mutants and realizes that she has found the city's destroyers. They try to rape her but she slays them with ease. Now more informed, she travels towards the mutant camp but they are prepared. They surprise her and capture her and her mount. She is bound, stripped, whipped, and thrown into an open pit, unconscious.

Her mount escapes and rescues her. In the ensuing chase, it is seriously wounded and forced to land. The mutants catch up, and their leader faces Taarna, one-on-one. He wounds her but, with the assistance of her trusted companion, she kills him. Surrounded by the mutant army, Taarna and her companion, both bleeding profusely, make a death flight to the volcano. As they approach, the Loc-Nar warns her off, by saying that sacrificing herself would be futile. Ignoring the Loc-Nar, Taarna unleashes the full power of the sword, irradiating her and her mount with its supernatural energies and dives into the volcano, destroying the Loc-Nar.


  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as Loc-Nar
  • Thor Bishopric as Boy
  • Ned Conlon as Councilman #1
  • Len Doncheff as Barbarian #1
  • Don Francks as Barbarian #2
  • Joseph Golland as Councilman #2
  • Charles Joliffe as Councilman #3
  • Mavor Moore as Elder
  • August Schellenberg as Taarak
  • Cedric Smith as Bartender
  • George Touliatos as Barbarian #3
  • Vlasta Vrána as Barbarian Leader
  • Zal Yanovsky as Barbarian #4


  • "E5150" by Black Sabbath
  • "The Mob Rules" by Black Sabbath
  • "Through Being Cool" by Devo


As the final story ends, the Loc-Nar that was terrorizing the girl explodes, destroying the mansion in the process. Taarna's reborn mount appears outside, and the girl happily flies away on it. It is then revealed that Taarna's soul has been reincarnated in the girl. The girl's hair color changes to white and we see a Taarakian mark on her neck.


  • Percy Rodriguez (uncredited) as Loc-Nar

Closing Credits


  • "Working in the Coal Mine" by Devo


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Animator Robert Balser directed the animated "Den" sequence for the film.

The film uses the rotoscoping technique of animation in several shots. This process consists of shooting models and actors, then tracing the shot onto film for animation purposes. The B-17 bomber was shot using a 10-foot (3 m) replica, which was then animated. Additionally, Taarna the Taarakian was rotoscoped, using Toronto model Carole Desbiens as a model for the animated character. The shot of the exploding house near the end of the movie was originally to be rotoscoped, but as the film's release date had been moved up from October/November to August 7, 1981, a lack of time prevented this. This remains as the only non-animated sequence in the film. During development of this film, the Canadian animation studio, Nelvana Limited, was offered the chance to work on Heavy Metal, but they declined their offer, instead working of their first theatrical film, Rock & Rule.

Fantasy illustrator Chris Achilléos designed and painted the iconic promotional poster image, commissioned in 1980, that features the central character Taarna on her birdlike steed. That artwork continues to be used for home video releases. Achelleos also did conceptual design work for the Taarna character.


Box office

The film was released on August 7, 1981. It was a financial success, grossing over $20 million on a $9 million budget.


The film was met with mixed response. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 60% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10 and the critical consensus: "It's sexist, juvenile, and dated, but Heavy Metal makes up for its flaws with eye-popping animation and a classic, smartly-used soundtrack."

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that "for anyone who doesn't think an hour and a half is a long time to spend with a comic book, Heavy Metal is impressive," and noted that the film "was scored very well, with music much less ear-splitting than the title would suggest." Variety declared, "Initial segments have a boisterous blend of dynamic graphics, intriguing plot premises and sly wit that unfortunately slide gradually downhill ... Still, the net effect is an overridingly positive one and will likely find its way into upbeat word-of-mouth." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three stars, writing that it "isn't intended for close scrutiny on a literal level. The film clearly is intended as a trip, and on that level it works very nicely." He criticized the film as "blatantly sexist" and for having "wildly romanticized" violence. Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Somehow a great deal of the charm leaked out on the way to the movie house, but all of the sadism stayed put. And then some. It's the most expensive adolescent fantasy revenge fulfillment wet dream ever to slither onto a screen." John Pym of The Monthly Film Bulletin found that it was "to put it mildly, something of a hodge-podge." Film historian and critic Leonard Maltin gave the film 3 stars out of 4 in his Movie Guide, calling the feature "... uneven, but great fun on a mindless, adolescent level."

On the whole, in terms of individual segments, critics were typically most favorable towards the "Den" story. Critic Janet Maslin gave the film a positive review in The New York Times. She said, "The other highly memorable story is about a bookworm from earth who winds up on another planet, where his spindly body is transformed into that of an extraterrestrial Hercules." She also complimented John Candy's vocal performance as Den.

Christopher John reviewed Heavy Metal in Ares Magazine #11 and commented that "Sadly, what could have been a true boost for animation in this country is a weak, opportunistic failure, put together with very little care and no love at all."

Home media

Prior to official release on VHS and LaserDisc in 1996, the film was re-released to 54 theatres on March 8, 1996 taking in $550,000. The subsequent home video release moved over one million units.

The film was released on Blu-ray Disc on February 1, 2011 as a Best Buy exclusive and it was later released everywhere on June 14.



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Heavy Metal
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedJuly 1981
GenreHeavy metal, hard rock, pop rock
LabelFull Moon/Asylum/Epic
Heavy Metal film soundtracks chronology
Heavy Metal
Heavy Metal 2000 OST

The soundtrack was released on LP in 1981, but for legal reasons, was not released on CD until 1995. The album peaked at number 12 on the Billboard 200 chart. The movie's theme song, "Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)" was sung by Don Felder. It was released as a single in the U.S. and reached number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number five on the Mainstream Rock chart on September 19, 1981.

Blue Öyster Cult wrote and recorded a song called "Vengeance (The Pact)" for the film, but the producers declined to use the song because the lyrics provided a capsulized summary of the "Taarna" vignette. "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" was used instead. Both songs can be found on Blue Öyster Cult's album Fire of Unknown Origin. Though used in the film, the songs "Through Being Cool" by Devo and "E5150" by Black Sabbath were not included in the released soundtrack album. These songs are on New Traditionalists and Mob Rules, respectively.

The legal difficulties surrounding the use of some songs in the movie delayed its release to home video. The production company's use of some songs was limited solely to the theatrical release and soundtrack and did not include home video releases. It was not until 1996 that there was an official home video release on VHS when Kevin Eastman, who had bought the publishing rights of Heavy Metal magazine in 1992 and previously contributed to the magazine, reached a settlement with the music copyright holders.

1."Heavy Metal" (Original Version)Sammy Hagar3:50
3."Working in the Coal Mine"Devo2:48
4."Veteran of the Psychic Wars"Blue Öyster Cult4:48
5."Reach Out"Cheap Trick3:35
6."Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)"Don Felder5:00
7."True Companion"Donald Fagen5:02
8."Crazy (A Suitable Case for Treatment)"Nazareth3:24
9."Radar Rider"Riggs2:40
10."Open Arms"Journey3:20
11."Queen Bee"Grand Funk Railroad3:11
12."I Must Be Dreamin'"Cheap Trick5:37
13."The Mob Rules" (alternate version)Black Sabbath3:16
14."All of You"Don Felder4:18
16."Blue Lamp"Stevie Nicks3:48


Unusual for the time, an LP recording of Elmer Bernstein's score was released alongside the soundtrack in 1981, and it featured the composer's first use of the ondes Martenot, an instrument which became a trademark of Bernstein's later career. On March 13, 2008, Film Score Monthly released an official, expanded CD release of Bernstein's score, which he conducted. The score was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with the London Voices and Jeanne Loriod on the ondes Martenot.

Original track listing:

Re-release track listing:

Bonus tracks



The first sequel, titled Heavy Metal 2000, was released in 2000. A second sequel has been in various stages of development since.


In March 2008, Variety reported that Paramount Pictures was set to make another animated film with David Fincher "spearheading the project". Kevin Eastman, who is the current owner and publisher of Heavy Metal, will direct a segment, as will Tim Miller, "whose Blur Studio will handle the animation for what is being conceived as an R-rated, adult-themed feature".

Entertainment website IGN announced, on July 14, 2008, "David Fincher's edgy new project has suffered a serious setback after it was dropped by Paramount, according to Entertainment Weekly." Entertainment Weekly quoted Tim Miller as saying "David really believes in the project. It's just a matter of time."

In September 2008, Eastman was quoted as saying "Fincher is directing one, Guillermo del Toro wants to direct one, Zack Snyder wants to direct one, Gore Verbinski wants to direct one". It was reported that the film had been moved to Sony division Columbia Pictures (which had released the original) and had a budget of $50 million.

In June 2009, Eastman said "I've got breaking news that Fincher and James Cameron are going to be co-executive producers on the film, Cameron will direct one. Mark Osborne and Jack Black from Tenacious D were going to do a comedy segment for the film."

Production is stalled indefinitely, as no film distributor or production company has shown interest in distributing or producing the remake since Paramount Pictures decided to forgo being the film's distributor, who purportedly thought such a film was "too risqué for mainstream audiences".

In July 2011, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez announced at the Comic-Con that he had purchased the film rights to Heavy Metal and planned to develop a new animated film at the new Quick Draw Studios. On March 11, 2014, with the formation of his very own television network, El Rey, Rodriguez considered switching gears and bringing it to TV.

On March 15, 2019, the reboot was released on Netflix as a reimagining titled Love, Death & Robots.