Kundun (1997)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama, History  |  16 January 1998 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 20,956 users   Metascore: 74/100
Reviews: 117 user | 86 critic | 26 from Metacritic.com

From childhood to adulthood, Tibet's fourteenth Dalai Lama deals with Chinese oppression and other problems.


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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong ...
Gyurme Tethong ...
Tulku Jamyang Kunga Tenzin ...
Tenzin Yeshi Paichang ...
Tencho Gyalpo ...
Tenzin Topjar ...
Lobsang (5-10)
Tsewang Migyur Khangsar ...
Tenzin Lodoe ...
Geshi Yeshi Gyatso ...
Losang Gyatso ...
The Messenger (as Lobsang Gyatso)
Sonam Phuntsok ...
Reting Rinpoche
Gyatso Lukhang ...
Lobsang Samten ...
Jigme Tsarong ...
Taktra Rimpoche (as Tsewang Jigme Tsarong)
Tenzin Trinley ...


The Tibetans refer to the Dalai Lama as 'Kundun', which means 'The Presence'. He was forced to escape from his native home, Tibet, when communist China invaded and enforced an oppressive regime upon the peaceful nation of Tibet. The Dalai Lama escaped to India in 1959 and has been living in exile in Dharamsala ever since. Written by Deki

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The destiny of a people lies in the heart of a boy. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for violent images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

16 January 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Кундун  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$28,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$72,095 (USA) (26 December 1997)


£157,451 (UK) (10 April 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Filming in Tibet was not possible; Morocco was used instead. See more »


In the movie, when Kundun is disguised as a soldier escaping Tibet in 1959, His Holiness walks through a Tibetan crowd that is singing the song, "Tse-mey Yonten" (Tibetan name) also known as "Words of Truth". However, in actuality, this song wasn't composed until mid 1960, a year after Kundun had escaped to India in exile. See more »


Dalai Lama: I will liberate those not liberated. I will release those not released. I will relieve those unrelieved. And set living beings in nirvana.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The Touchstone Pictures logo shown after the end credits is red. See more »


Referenced in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #2.22 (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

An exceptional film which refuses to compromise its artistic values
14 January 1999 | by (Baltimore, Marylan) – See all my reviews

"Kundun" is one of those rare masterpieces that unfortunately might be run over by more Hollywood acceptable films like "Titanic" and "Seven Years in Tibet" (both films that I still admire). While these films were great, their primary purpose seemed to be entertainment alone. Scorsese creates a work out of the bounds of traditional films; "Kundun" is at once a spiritual journey, a compelling story despite its downplayed action, and a delight for the eyes and ears. It is both entertainment and art. The audience isn't captivated by dramatic action, but simply because it is so beautiful. At the same time, it doesn't produce the slightly sleepy sensation other artistic works like "The Last Emperor of China" can, despite their beauty (I personally loved "Last Emperor"). Not once was I tempted to turn away from the screen.

Scorsese mixes symbolic images and a subtle yet emotionally stirring soundtrack into a non-traditional plot structure, creating an exotic and spiritual vision meeting the demands of its eastern inspiration.

I am not a historian, so I cannot speak about its accuracy, though from what I can tell, Scorsese did his homework. Even if that were not true, this film is not meant as a documentary. It has the same emotional power of the finest art, with a simplicity and directness which keeps it from being pretentious. If you add to this historical accuracy, all the better. But it is not meant to influence via facts but via emotion.

Even those viewers who don't normally sit through credits will most likely do so, simply for the chance to let the film soak in. You need the time to digest everything you've been shown and to sit in contemplative peace. This is a film that inspires and delights. It is the film I wish I could have created. Scorsese has certainly produced the best film of the year, if not more.

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