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Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Music | 24 August 1983 (France)
A collection of expertly photographed phenomena with no conventional plot. The footage focuses on nature, humanity and the relationship between them.


Godfrey Reggio

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5 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Uncredited cast:
Lou Dobbs ... Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)
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This experimental film looks at the world and more specifically the effect man has had on the landscape and the environment. Without narration, the film shows the world in a pristine condition and untouched: blue skies, beautiful landscapes and endless vistas. The man-made world is much less appealing. Essentially a montage using a variety of film techniques to provide a visually stunning montage of images. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


October 4, 1982. More than 5,000 people filled the sold out Radio City Music Hall to experience a remarkable film event. That event was the world premiere of KOYAANISQATSI. Now everyone can share the power of that experience. See more »


Documentary | Music


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Official Qatsi Trilogy site





Release Date:

24 August 1983 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The cars being produced on the assembly line are Chevy Camaros. See more »


About an hour into the movie, the camera operator is reflected in the elevator's glass window as the elevator passes "between" floors while shooting the escalators. See more »


[last lines]
title card: Translation of the Hopi Prophecies sung in the film: "If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster." - "Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky." - "A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans."
See more »


Referenced in The Simpsons: Mr. Plow (1992) See more »


The Grid
Written by Philip Glass
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Utterly, completely, blown away
30 March 2005 | by IMDb-6105See all my reviews

I first went to see this film almost by accident. Some friends were going, & it happened that Philip Glass was due to be in the cinema for an after-screening interview. I wasn't a huge fan of Philip Glass, I'd never heard of Koyaanisqatsi or Godfrey Reggio: but what the hell, I went along, expecting some sort of nicely-filmed but vaguely-boring worthy documentary.

An hour & a half later, I was - and I'm having to try very hard to find adjectives here - in fact I'm failing. It was The-Thing-That-You-Can't-Even-Tell-Someone-What-It-Is. Completely transfixed, transported, for 90 minutes of my life.

This film has no dialogue. It has no actors, apart from everyone & everything that Ron Fricke's camera touches. It has no plot, apart from just the simple, complex, unfolding story of the world.

The truth is, of all the films that people feel have really made an impact on their lives - and you only need to read through this lengthy thread to see how many of those people there are - this is one of the hardest to communicate to someone who hasn't actually seen it. You can compare it, perhaps, to things they might have seen - but there aren't that many to compare to. It has a kind of poetry on a whole different level from, for example, Man with a Movie Camera. The only things that spring to mind for me are Orphee or Last Year at Marienbad, but these are completely different kinds of movie, and even people who don't like them might be totally taken apart by Koyaanisqatsi.

Sure you could - rightly - use phrases like "breathtaking cinematography" or "unforgettable images". You could praise the music (which really opened my ears to Philip Glass). You could point out, as many have done, how the film made you look again at the world, & at your own place in it. Or you could try to relay its "environmental" message - and there are people, especially those who take any implied criticism of our species' waste and cruelty as a kind of personal insult, who will not like that message.

But none of these things would come close to capturing what makes this film so special. Like trying to explain "red" to someone who's never seen colours. You have to experience it. If possible in a cinema, sitting right down at the front, completely immersed in the screen and its images.

I know I'll never forget the first time I saw it. You might not either.

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