73 user 27 critic

Lion of the Desert (1980)

In 1929, Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini appoints General Rodolfo Graziani as colonial governor to Italian Libya with orders to stamp-out all resistance from Libyan nationalists led by rebel guerrilla leader Omar Mukhtar.


Moustapha Akkad


David Butler (additional material), H.A.L. Craig | 1 more credit »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Quinn ... Omar Mukhtar
Oliver Reed ... Gen. Rodolfo Graziani
Irene Papas ... Mabrouka
Raf Vallone ... Colonel Diodiece
Rod Steiger ... Benito Mussolini
John Gielgud ... Sharif El Gariani
Andrew Keir ... Salem
Gastone Moschin ... Major Tomelli
Stefano Patrizi ... Lt. Sandrini
Adolfo Lastretti ... Colonel Sarsani
Sky du Mont ... Prince Amadeo (as Sky Dumont)
Takis Emmanuel ... Bu-Matari
Rodolfo Bigotti Rodolfo Bigotti ... Ismail
Robert Brown ... Al Fadeel
Eleonora Stathopoulou ... Ali's Mother


In Fascist Italy pre-World War II, the cruel General Rodolfo Graziani is directly assigned by Benito Mussolini to fight in the colonial war in Libya to vanquish the Arab nation. However, his troops are frequently defeated by the national leader Omar Mukhtar and his army of Bedouins. But the Butcher of Ethiopia and Libya uses a dirty war against the natives, slaughtering women, children, and aged people, to subdue Mukhtar. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A giant of a man against a general seeking glory...a spectacular adventure of arch enemies in battle.


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


This movie cost approximately thirty-five million dollars, but only managed to gross about one million dollars worldwide, making it one of the largest financial disasters in movie history. It was notorious within the movie industry for the sheer magnitude of the amount of money it lost. It sits alongside several other big money losers of the early 1980s, such as Heaven's Gate (1980), Inchon (1981), Pennies from Heaven (1981), and Raise the Titanic (1980). See more »


When Diodiece meets with Graziani and Prince Amadeo about starting peace talks, a map behind him, depicting the Horn of Africa, is inaccurate. The map clearly shows no borders between Ethiopia and the adjoining Italian colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland, a situation that existed only after Ethiopia had been conquered by Italy and was united with the other two territories as the colony of Italian East Africa. However, this did not occur until 1936, and since the film takes place from 1929-1931, such a map could not possibly have existed at the time of the three men's meeting. See more »


[Omar Mukhtar protects two surviving Italian soldiers]
Omar Mukhtar: We do not kill *prisoners*!
Arab Warrior: *They* do it to *us*!
Omar Mukhtar: "They" are not our *teachers!*
See more »

Alternate Versions

The U.S.A. Home Video VHS release in the '80s runs 160 minutes. Footage has been added in the Director's Cut released on Anchor Bay Video. This version, released in 1998, runs 206 minutes. See more »


Featured in The Making of Lion of the Desert (1981) See more »


Marcia Reale
Music by Giuseppe Gabetti
See more »

User Reviews

Desert Master Piece!
4 November 2001 | by LoayOmranSee all my reviews

It is a great shame that only 158 users have voted for this movie until now, this probably reflects great ignorance about this Master Piece. This is the real story of the Great Libyan Hero Omar Al Mukhtar, who fought the Italian occupation of Libya early in the 20th century. You will be surprised with what this movie has to offer. It will take your breath away ... You will laugh and you will cry ... You will scream and shout ... You will hope it never ends. BraveHeart? Yeah that was a good movie, but nowhere as brilliant as this is. This does not only tell the life story of a Great man, it also teaches you the noble aspects that build up a truly Unforgettable Warrior. It explains what Tolerance is all about.

This movie truly shows the the savage means which the conquering Italian army used to treat the Libyan natives. The struggle for freedom took place in the heart of the African desert. Omar Al Mukhtar (The Lion of the Desert), who led the Libyan resistance, a role played in this movie by Anthony Quinn ... this has to be his best ever performance. An Oscar Nominee worth ... nothing less. Director, Moustapha Akkad, who is also famous for the great yet unknown classic Risâlah, al- (1976), gives his best shot at direction here. Excellent work.

Rent this now, if its available, Its worth every penny. You will be the witness of utter brilliance and great performances. Watch it, vote for it, Give it the respect it deserves.

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Libya | USA


English | Arabic | Italian

Release Date:

16 May 1981 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Lion of the Desert See more »

Filming Locations:

Italy See more »


Box Office


$35,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (DVD) | (theatrical)

Sound Mix:



Color | Black and White (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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