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Kundun (1997)



Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 58
Fresh: 44 | Rotten: 14

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 6.8/10
Critic Reviews: 16
Fresh: 11 | Rotten: 5

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 11,470


Movie Info

Martin Scorsese's magical mystery mandala on the life of the Dalai Lama is a visually exhilarating, spiritually ambitious film that goes where Scorsese has never gone before.

PG-13 (For violent images)
Drama , Classics
Directed By:
Written By:
Melissa Mathison
In Theaters:
Oct 13, 1998
Buena Vista Internationa


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Critic Reviews for Kundun

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (14) | DVD (8)

The music ties together all the pretty pictures, gives the narrative some momentum, and helps to induce a kind of alert detachment, so that you're neither especially interested nor especially bored.

Full Review… | February 1, 2010
Top Critic

Scorsese has taken the harsh mystery out of Tibetan Buddhism, and out of its oppression, too.

Full Review… | February 1, 2010
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Disregarding commercial considerations, Scorsese's haunting meditation on Dalai Lama's early life is a majestic spectacle of images and sounds, but it's bogged down by a routine script that fails to offer fresh insights on Tibet's non-violent culture

Full Review… | December 20, 2006
Top Critic

Urged on by Philip Glass's throbbing, blaring score, the director conjures a phenomenal, trance-like climax, owing more to dreams, second sight and the mind's eye than conventional dramatic rhetoric.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A great film about a good man.

Full Review… | April 12, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Careful and respectful, it is everything a movie about the Dalai Lama should be except dramatically involving.

Full Review… | February 14, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Vigorously directed, sensual and hypnotic, Scorsese's film is a visually extraordinary meditation on ritual, nature and humanity.

Full Review… | February 1, 2010
TV Guide's Movie Guide

A challenging, thought provoking, mediative film that sits uncomfortably with Scorcese's previous work is helped no end by a superb score by Philip Glass.

Full Review… | February 1, 2010

Scorsese's rich tableau of image and music bears a potent emotional weight.

Full Review… | March 29, 2009

Kundun is surely the most gentle and meditative of Scorsese's films, a placid biography with the scope of an epic, the quality of a storybook, and the dramatic stakes of a tragedy.

Full Review… | January 17, 2008
Turner Classic Movies Online

There's no denying the artistry of Kundun. Its heart also appears to be in the right place. But for those like me who don't have a versed history in the modern history of Tibet or Buddhism, the scope is ultimately too big.

Full Review… | November 3, 2006

Martin Scorcese has made a meditative, low key historical drama about a truly mystical figure of our modern history, departing from his usual, violence-prone flicks.

Full Review… | April 9, 2005
Reeling Reviews

Scorsese skillfully indulges his propensity for obsessive detail. Visually, the direction is varied and exhilarating

Full Review… | July 1, 2004

Though a meditative, introspective film, Scorsese's distinctive techniques cause Kundun to pulse with life under its calm surface.

Full Review… | October 23, 2003

All in all, Kundun is beautifully produced and honestly acted.

Full Review… | February 8, 2003
Film Quips Online

Scorcese has made one of his best and most personal films.

Full Review… | December 8, 2002
Film Threat

Kundun is original, moving, inspiring -- and one of the best movies of the year.

Full Review… | October 15, 2002
Cincinnati Enquirer

'Filmed with the approval of the 14th Dalai Lama himself, Kundun is reverential to a fault...and that fault is the film's biggest weakness.'

Full Review… | August 1, 2002
Old School Reviews

Kundun is both a stunning visual feast and a moving meditation on the difficulty of sustaining the Buddhist principle of nonviolence in a brutal world.

Full Review… | June 5, 2002
Boxoffice Magazine

Scorsese's celebrated eye for composition and camera placement has never been more evident.

Full Review… | March 24, 2002
Boston Phoenix

Memorable mainly for its moral message about the courage it takes to adhere to the Buddhist principle of nonviolence in the face of so much suffering.

Full Review… | March 2, 2002
Spirituality and Practice

Audience Reviews for Kundun


The Dalai Lama is important, but this movie believes otherwise.

Full review coming to on 6/8

Alexander Diminiano

Super Reviewer


The cover of Kundun makes you think "kids movie," until you see who directed it: Scorsese. No one gets whacked, and the film is nearly bloodless, (compared to, say, Goodfellas), but if it wouldn't horrify a child, it would certainly bore one, as it's basically a biopic. This may, in fact, be the one time we could accuse Scorsese of Oscar-baiting: Tibet was a hot issue in the mid-90s, and you know how much the Academy likes this kind of story (see: Gandhi), and it's almost purgatorial of him, after Casino, to turn his attention to this paragon of non-violence - as he did with Jesus, too, come to think of it. Scorsese's fascination with violence makes this - and Last Temptation of Christ - a strange choice, but then again, violence can be equally fascinating in its absence. A lot went right, but Kundun will forever be lumped with Last Temptation in the "departures" section of Scorsese's career.

As concerns the film itself, it opens rather dully, with a strangely ominous Tibetan drum track appearing almost too often, but eventually it wraps its loving arms around you and shares excellent cinematography, insights from afar, and wonderfully unfamiliar music (by Phillip Glass). The powerful way in which the music drives the film almost makes up for a plot - discovery of the Dalai Lama, his coming of age, confrontation with Mao and his exile in India - that's somewhat rote, and for wooden acting across the board (language barrier, perhaps?). In all, it's not Scorsese's best work, but to dismiss it is to overlook some of the aspects of his films that - as the Academy recognized, with Hugo - are among the best in the industry: costuming, music, sound, cinematography, makeup... all things you can't really be the best at without having the Best Director, but I digress. Kundun is unorthodox, but if you let it, it can carry you away.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer


more than any of scorsese's films, kundun shows his remarkable range as a story teller. the film struggled to draw in real emotion at points and reverence shown to the dalai lama went too far in missing an opportunity to show his flaws, but just about every other element of this film was nearly perfect. deakins cinematography was astounding, some of the best of his already mind blowing career, and the landscapes, costumes, and acting performances were all excellent. when this film is set against scorsese's gangster films as a contrast, you can really see the difference between the hate and sin of those characters and the humility and spirituality of these ones. a stunning film.

danny d

Super Reviewer

A film I have been wanting to see for quite some time, purely on a spiritual level and because I have an attraction toward Tibet.

I feel I have learned a few things from this film, but at the same time I found it a little boring - which was a little disappointing.

The film, directed by Scorsese, was made well and I'm sure resembled the facts as a true story, it just wasn't as insightful as I had hoped it would be.

Lady D'arbanville

Super Reviewer

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