20 user 9 critic

Tai-Pan (1986)

Historical fiction set against the backdrop of Hong Kong in its early years of British rule.


Daryl Duke


John Briley (screenplay), James Clavell (novel) | 1 more credit »

On Disc

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2 nominations. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Bryan Brown ... Dirk Struan
Joan Chen ... May-May
John Stanton ... Tyler Brock
Tim Guinee ... Culum Struan
Bill Leadbitter Bill Leadbitter ... Gorth Brock
Russell Wong ... Gordon Chen
Katy Behean Katy Behean ... Mary Sinclair
Kyra Sedgwick ... Tess Brock
Janine Turner ... Shevaun Tillman
Norman Rodway ... Aristotle Quance
John Bennett ... Orlov
Derrick Branche ... Vargas
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Vic Armstrong ... Drunken Sailor
Dickey Beer ... Brecks's Crew
Phil Chatterton Tongplaw Phil Chatterton Tongplaw ... Boatswain


Tai-Pan is Chinese for "supreme leader". This is the man with real power to his hands. And such a Tai-Pan is Dirk Struan who is obsessed by his plan to make Hong Kong the "jewel in the crown of her British Majesty". In 1841 he achieves his goal but he has many enemies who try to destroy his plans. Will they succeed? Written by Harald Mayr <marvin@bike.augusta.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Smuggler. Prince. Murderer. Father. Sinner. Saint. See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

7 November 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

James Clavell's Tai-Pan See more »

Filming Locations:

China See more »


Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,863,469, 9 November 1986, Wide Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Director Daryl Duke has said that a television mini-series would have been a better format to capture the story of source novelist James Clavell's Asian Saga "Tai-Pan" (1966) novel. TV mini series have been made for Clavell's other Asian Saga novels such as Shogun (1980) and Noble House (1988). See more »


Near the beginning of the movie a man is seen being executed by decapitation. As the next victim is brought to the executioner, there is no blood splatter seen from the previous killing. See more »


Referenced in Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010) See more »


Music by Adrien Talexy
Arranged by Trevor L. Sharpe
See more »

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User Reviews

It could have been so much more...
16 April 2000 | by BishoptrueSee all my reviews

As another reviewer put it, this movie was very similar to Dune. Very interesting comparison, since Raffaella De Laurentiis produced them both. This was her first project right after Dune. Both were sweeping epic sagas with multiple intertwined plotlines. Both should have been six or eight hour mini series and not feature films. As with Dune, you will find that if you have not read the book, you will not understand the movie. However, if you have read the book, then the movie isn't all that bad. James Clavell's 'Asian Saga' is one of my favorite book series, so I bought this movie cheap just to see it. The characters are like old friends to me, so I didn't think that the movie was all that bad. I realized while watching it though, that someone who had not read the book would not be able to keep up with all of the plot points. My suggestion to you is to read the book, then watch the movie. You will discover two things; first it's a super good book. Second, this movie had everything going for it in cast and settings; it just had too much story to tell in too short a time. It definitely should have been a six-hour miniseries.

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