The 13th Warrior

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The 13th Warrior
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John McTiernan
Produced by John McTiernan
Michael Crichton
Ned Dowd
Screenplay by William Wisher, Jr.
Warren Lewis
Based on Eaters of the Dead 
by Michael Crichton
Starring Antonio Banderas
Diane Venora
Omar Sharif
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Peter Menzies Jr.
Edited by John Wright
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • August 27, 1999 (1999-08-27)
Running time
103 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$85–100 million[2][3]
Box office $61.7 million[2]

The 13th Warrior is a 1999 American historical fiction action film based on the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton[4] and is a loose retelling of the tale of Beowulf. It stars Antonio Banderas as Ahmad ibn Fadlan, Diane Venora and Omar Sharif. It was directed by John McTiernan. Crichton directed some reshoots uncredited. The film was produced by McTiernan, Crichton, and Ned Dowd, with Andrew G. Vajna and Ethan Dubrow as executive producers.

The film was a massive financial failure. Production and marketing costs reputedly reached $160 million, but it only grossed $61 million at the box office worldwide, making it the biggest box office bomb in history adjusted for inflation (and third biggest unadjusted).


Ahmad ibn Fadlan is a court poet to the Caliph of Baghdad, until his amorous encounter with the wife of an influential noble gets him exiled as an "ambassador" to Northern Barbarians. Traveling with Melchisidek, his caravan is saved from Turkic raiders by the appearance of Norsemen (presumably Varangian). Taking refuge at their settlement on the Volga river, communications are established through Melchisidek and Herger, a Norseman who speaks Latin. Ahmad and Melchisidek are in time to witness a fight, which establishes Buliwyf as heir apparent, followed by the Viking funeral of their dead king, cremated together with a young woman who agreed to accompany him to Valhalla.

A youth enters the camp requesting Buliwyf's aid: his father's kingdom in the far north is under attack from an ancient evil so frightening that even the bravest warriors dare not name it. The "angel of death", a völva (wisewoman), determines the mission will be successful if thirteen warriors go to face this danger—but the thirteenth must not be a Norseman. Ahmad is recruited against his will.

Ahmad learns Norse during their journey by listening intently to his companions' conversations. He is looked down upon by the huge Norsemen, who mock his physical weakness and his small Arabian horse, but he earns a measure of respect by his fast learning of their language, his horsemanship, ingenuity, and ability to write.

Reaching King Hrothgar's kingdom, they confirm that their foe is indeed the ancient "Wendol", fiends who come with the mist to kill and eat human flesh. While the group searches through a raided cabin they find a venus figurine. In a string of clashes, Buliwyf's band establishes that the Wendol are humanoid cannibals who appear as, live like, and identify with bears.

Their numbers dwindling and their position all but indefensible, an ancient völva of the village tells them to track the Wendol to their lair and destroy their leaders, the "Mother of the Wendol" and their Warlord who wears "the horns of power". Buliwyf and the remaining warriors infiltrate the Wendol cave-complex and kill the Mother, but not before Buliwyf is scratched deeply across the shoulder by her poisoned "fingernail claw".

The remaining warriors return to the village and prepare for a final battle they do not expect to survive. Buliwyf succeeds in killing the Wendol Warlord, causing their defeat, before succumbing to the poison. Ahmad ibn Fadlan witnesses Buliwyf's royal funeral before returning to his homeland, grateful to the Norsemen for helping him to "become a man, and a useful servant of God".



Originally titled Eaters of the Dead, production began in the summer of 1997, but the film went through several re-edits after test audiences did not react well to the initial cut. Crichton took over as director himself due to the poor test audience reception, causing the release date to be pushed back over a year. The film was re-cut, a new ending added, along with a new score. Graeme Revell was replaced by Jerry Goldsmith as composer. The title was changed to The 13th Warrior.[5]

Budget and box office

The budget, which was originally around $85 million, reportedly soared to $100 million before principal photography wrapped. With all of the re-shoots and promotional expenses, the total cost of the film was rumored to be as high as $160 million, which given its lackluster box office take (earning only US $61.7 million worldwide), made for a loss of $70–130 million.[2]

The film debuted at No. 2 on its opening weekend behind The Sixth Sense.[6]


The 13th Warrior currently holds a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes which sums it up as "Atmospheric, great sets and costumes, but thin plot."[7]

Roger Ebert gave the film one and a half stars out of four, remarking that it "lumber[s] from one expensive set-piece to the next without taking the time to tell a story that might make us care."[8] Conversely, James Berardinelli gave The 13th Warrior three stars out of four, calling it "a solid offering" that "delivers an exhilarating 100 minutes".[9]

In his book Reel Bad Arabs, media studies professor Jack Shaheen listed The 13th Warrior on his "Best" list of films with balanced and sometimes heroic portrayals of Arabs.[citation needed]

The outcome of the film's production disappointed Omar Sharif so much that he temporarily retired from film acting, not taking a role in another major film until 2003's Monsieur Ibrahim:

"After my small role in The 13th Warrior, I said to myself, 'Let us stop this nonsense, these meal tickets that we do because it pays well.' I thought, 'Unless I find a stupendous film that I love and that makes me want to leave home to do, I will stop.' Bad pictures are very humiliating, I was really sick. It is terrifying to have to do the dialogue from bad scripts, to face a director who does not know what he is doing, in a film so bad that it is not even worth exploring."[10]


The 13th Warrior: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by Jerry Goldsmith
Released August 10, 1999 (1999-08-10)
Genre Stage & screen
Length 54:58
Label Varese Sarabande
Producer Jerry Goldsmith
Jerry Goldsmith chronology
The Mummy
(1999)The Mummy1999
The 13th Warrior
Hollow Man
(2000)Hollow Man2000
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2.5/5 stars[11]

The original soundtrack was composed by Graeme Revell and featured the Dead Can Dance singer Lisa Gerrard. The score was rejected by Michael Crichton and was replaced by one composed by Crichton's usual collaborator, Jerry Goldsmith.[12] The cue heard just before the final battle scene, called "Valhalla", was later used in the film Kingdom of Heaven by Ridley Scott at the final siege scene.

See also


  1. "THE 13TH WARRIOR (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 1999-07-30. Retrieved 2012-11-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Box-Office Bombs, Disasters and Flops of All-Time – 1999". Retrieved 22 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Company Town Film Profit Report". Los Angeles Times. 8 September 1999. Retrieved 22 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Michael Crichton's Novel, The 13th Warrior". Retrieved 2014-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "15 Directors Unceremoniously Fired Or Replaced On A Movie", The Playlist 22 March 2013 accessed 27 March 2013
  6. Natale, Richard (31 August 1999). "The Summer's Other Hitting Streak : The major studios are on a record pace, slugging at least 11 films into $100-million territory. The final tally will approach $3 billion". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. The 13th Warrior Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes
  8. The 13th Warrior :: :: Reviews
  9. Review: The 13th Warrior
  10. Movie & TV News @ - WENN - 20 November 2003
  11. Ankeny, Jason. "Jerry Goldsmith, The 13th Warrior". Retrieved December 10, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "The 13th Warrior (Graeme Revell/Jerry Goldsmith)". Filmtracks. 1999-08-10. Retrieved 2014-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Preceded by
Drive Me Crazy
Box office number-one films of 2000 (AUS)
March 5
Succeeded by
The Beach