In 1934, Universal Pictures licensed several King Features Syndicates comic strips to adapt as serials, including Flash Gordon, Secret Agent X-9, Ace Drummond and another Raymond created strip, Jungle Jim. Flash Gordon's appeal as a science-fiction adventure inspired Universal to splurge on a much larger budget than usual -- reportedly, Flash was budgeted at $350,000; which was more than three times the average budget for a serial at the time. Still, the production worked on a very tight schedule; the entire four-hour production was shot in six weeks.
The serial was very successful, especially for a serial; it was Universal's second biggest-grossing film of 1936, beaten only by Three Smart Girls. The serial was so popular that it was shown in evening performances -- serials were usually only shown at matinees.
- Chapter 101: The Planet of Peril: The planet Mongo is on a collision course with Earth. Dr. Hans Zarkov takes off in a rocket ship to Mongo, with Flash Gordon and Dale Arden as his assistants. They find that the planet is ruled by the cruel Ming the Merciless, who lusts after Dale and sends Flash to fight in the arena. Ming's daughter, Princess Aura, tries to spare Flash's life.
- Chapter 102: The Tunnel of Terror: Aura helps Flash to escape as Zarkov is put to work in Ming's laboratory and Dale is prepared for her wedding to Ming. Flash meets Prince Thun, leader of the Lion Men, and the pair return to the palace to rescue Dale.
- Chapter 103: Captured by Shark Men: Flash stops the wedding ceremony, but he and Dale are captured by King Kala, ruler of the Shark Men and a loyal follower of Ming. At Ming's order, Kala forces Flash to fight with a giant octosak.
- Chapter 104: Battling the Sea Beast: Aura and Thun rescue Flash from the octosak. Trying to keep Flash away from Dale, Aura destroys the mechanisms that regulate the underwater city.
- Chapter 105: The Destroying Ray: Flash, Dale, Aura and Thun escape from the underwater city, but are captured by King Vultan and the Hawk Men. Dr. Zarkov befriends Prince Barin, and they race to the rescue.
- Chapter 106: Flaming Torture: Dale pretends to fall in love with King Vultan in order to save Flash, Barin and Thun, who are put to work in the Hawkmen's Atom Furnaces.
- Chapter 107: Shattering Doom: Flash, Barin, Thun and Zarkov create an explosion in the atomic furnaces.
- Chapter 108: Tournament of Death: Dr. Zarkov saves the Hawkmen's city from falling, earning Flash and his friends King Vultan's gratitude. Ming insists that Flash fight a Tournament of Death against a masked opponent, and then a vicious orangopoid.
- Chapter 109: Fighting the Fire Dragon: Flash survives the tournament. Still determined to win Flash, Aura has him drugged to make him lose his memory.
- Chapter 110: The Unseen Peril: Flash recovers his memory. Ming is determined to have Flash executed.
- Chapter 111: In the Claws of the Tigron: Zarkov invents a machine that makes Flash invisible. Flash torments Ming and his guards. Barin hides Dale in the catacombs, but Aura has her tracked by a tigron.
- Chapter 112: Trapped in the Turret: Aura realizes the error of her ways, and falls in love with Barin. She tries to help Flash and his friends to return to Earth, but Ming seeks to kill them.
- Chapter 113: Rocketing to Earth: Ming orders that the Earth people be caught and killed, but Flash and his friends escape from Ming's clutches. Flash, Dale and Zarkov make a triumphant return to Earth.
- The theme tune is an excerpt from Franz Liszt's Les Preludes.
- The music for the opening and closing of each chapter, as well as the theme under the recap at the beginning of each chapter, was composed for the serial by Clifford Vaughan. The remainder of the musical score is recycled from classical compositions, or the scores of other Universal films, including The Invisible Man, The Black Cat, and Werewolf of London.
- Flash Gordon: Buster Crabbe
- Dale Arden: Jean Rogers
- Ming the Merciless: Charles Middleton
- Princess Aura: Priscilla Lawson
- Dr. Hans Zarkov: Frank Shannon
- Prince Barin: Richard Alexander
- King Vultan: John Lipson
- High Priest: Lon Poff / Theodore Lorch
- Lawrence Gordon: Richard Tucker
- Professor Hensley: George Cleveland
- Prince Thun: James Pierce
- King Kala: Duke York, Jr.
- Zona: Muriel Goodspeed
- Officer Torch: Earl Askam
- Lead Shark Man: House Peters, Jr.
- Priestess of the Tigron: Sana Rayya
- Orangopoid: Ray "Crash" Corrigan
- Gocko/Fire dragon/Ming's soldier: Glenn Strange
- Woman in Ming's palace: Carroll Borland
- Monkey Men: Bull Montana, Constantine Romanoff
- Shark Men: Bunny Waters, Jerry Frank
- Shark Man/Ming soldier: Lane Chandler
- Ming soldiers: Fred Kohler, Jr., George Magrill, Monte Montague, Eddie Parker, Harry Wilson
- Hawk Men throne room guard: John Bagni
- Hawkman lookout captain: William Desmond
- Spaceograph operator: Al Ferguson
- Transcontinental pilot: Lynton Brent
- Aura's handmaiden: Olive Hatch
- Atom Furnace slavedriver: Charles McMurphy
- Earth radio scientist: Don Brodie
- Soldier with drugged wine: Fred Scott
- Prison guard: Charles "Slim" Whitaker
- Men: Jim Corey, Howard Christie
- Voices: Saul A. Goodkind
- Producer: Henry MacRae
- Directors: Frederick Stephani, Ray Taylor (uncredited)
- Screenplay: Frederick Stephani, George Plympton, Basil Dickey, Ella O'Neill
- Original music: Clifford Vaughan, David Claxton
- Art Director: Ralph Berger
- Roy Kinnard, Science Fiction Serials. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1998.