Lost Horizon (1937) - Rotten Tomatoes

Lost Horizon (1937)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

It took British author James Hilton six weeks to write his visionary novel Lost Horizon. It took director Frank Capra two years-and half of his home studio Columbia's annual budget-to bring it to the screen. After a lengthy preamble, inviting audiences to imagine their own ideas of Utopia, the film opens on a chaotic scene at a Chinese airfield. As hordes of bandits approach, hundreds of refugees scramble to board the last plane out. Only five people make it: Mildly disenchanted Far Eastern diplomat Robert Conway (Ronald Colman), his hotheaded younger brother George (John Howard), embezzler Barnard (Thomas Mitchell), dithery fossil expert Lovett (Edward Everett Horton) and consumptive prostitute Gloria Stone (Isabel Jewell). As the plane flies off towards the Himalayas, Robert realizes that he and his fellow passengers are heading in the wrong direction. They are, in fact, being kidnapped-but why? And where to? The plane crash-lands in the snowy Tibetan interior. The pilot is killed, but the passengers are safe. By and by, a strange caravan approaches, led by an enigmatic Chinese named Chang (H. B. Warner). Joining the caravan, Conway and his party are led through a treacherous mountain pass and into a land of temperate weather and dazzling beauty. This is Shangri-La, the idyllic lamasery presided over by the aged, wizened High Lama (Sam Jaffe). In this fertile valley, people are not encumbered by such exigencies as crime, dictators and hatred; instead, everyone is devoted to the pursuit of wisdom and self-improvement-and best of all, the aging process has been slowed to a walk, allowing people to live well past the two-century mark. Though he still does not know why he was brought here, Conway is quicker to adapt to Shangri-La than his wary fellow passengers. He even falls in love with Sondra (Jane Wyatt), an attractive, intelligent young woman. Finally granted an audience with the High Lama, Conway discovers that the old man is actually Father Perrault, the Belgian missionary who founded Shangri-La-over two hundred years earlier. Dying, the High Lama has selected Conway, whose idealism and even-handedness is world famous, to succeed him-and hopefully spread the "love thy neighbor" edict of Shangri-La to the rest of the war-torn world. Conway is willing to assume leadership, but younger brother George, his mind poisoned by spiteful Shangri-La resident Maria (Margo), insists upon escaping to the outside world. The older Conway warns that, despite her youthful appearance, Maria is well past sixty and will surely perish once she leaves Shangri-La; but Maria retorts that the high lama is insane, and that everything he has told Conway is a lie. Disillusioned, Conway agrees to leave with Jack and Maria. The trek back to civilization is a grueling one, especially for Maria, who-true to Conway's prediction-shrivels from age and dies. Appalled that he has been misled, George kills himself. Weeks later, and amnesiac Conway stumbles into a Tibetan mission, where he is rescued and brought back to England. When his memory is restored, however, Conway runs back to Shangri-La, and into the arms of Sondra. When Lost Horizon was shown to preview audiences, it ran nearly three hours-and it was a disaster. In his autobiography, Capra claims to have rescued his pet project by merely burning the first two reels and opening the film with the evacuation scene; In fact, while Capra did remove the film's "flashback" framework, he made most of his cuts in the body of the picture. The release length of Lost Horizon was 132 minutes, pared down to 119 when it when into general distribution. When it was reissued in the 1940s and 1950s, it was rather clumsily pared down to anywhere from 95 to 100 minutes. Only in the mid-1980s was Lost Horizon restored to its original length, with stills used to illustrate certain scenes for which only the soundtrack existed. While not the enormous hit Capra and Columbia had hoped it would be, Lost Horizon was popular enough to allow the name "Shangri-La" enter the household-word category. In 1973, producer Ross Hunter felt the urge to inflict a wretched musical remake onto an unsuspecting public.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense, Classics, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: James Hilton, Robert Riskin
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 31, 1999
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


Ronald Colman
as Robert Conway
Jane Wyatt
as Sondra
John Howard
as George Conway
as Maria
Edward Everett Horto...
as Alexander P. Lovett
Thomas Mitchell
as Henry Barnard
Isabel Jewell
as Gloria Stone
Sam Jaffe
as High Lama
Hugh Buckler
as Lord Gainsford
David Torrence
as Prime Minister
John Miltern
as Carstairs
Jeremy Irons Sr.
as Assistant Foreign Se...
Max Rabinowitz
as Seiveking
John Tettener
as Montaigne
Boyd Irwin
as Assistant Foreign Se...
Leonard Mudie
as Senior Foreign Secre...
David Clyde
as Steward
Wryley Birch
as Missionary
Noble Johnson
as Leader of porters
George Chan
as Chinese priest
Eric Wilton
as Englishman
Willie Fung
as Bandit leader
Richard Loo
as Shanghai Airport off...
Beatrice Curtis
as Passenger
Mary Lou Dix
as Passenger
Beatrice Blinn
as Passenger
Margaret McWade
as Missionary
Arthur Rankin
as Passenger
Henry Mowbray
as Englishman
Wedgewood Nowell
as Englishman
Ruth Robinson
as Missionary
Carl Stockdale
as Missionary
John Howard
as George Conway
Victor Wong
as Bandit leader
John Howard (II)
as George Conway
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Lost Horizon

Critic Reviews for Lost Horizon

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Capra's most challenging film is both naive and pleasantly uplifting.

Full Review… | January 23, 2013
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Boasting great production values, Frank Capra's film is still one of the most cherished fables made during the Depression era.

Full Review… | March 13, 2011

Classic Capra fantasy. Not wholly successful, but essential viewing.

August 11, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for Lost Horizon

Buddha Shrugged.
I think the story Gainesburg tells at the end would make a better movie than this one.

Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

This is my favourtie movie of 1937. It's long, but it's worth it. It has a great story of a group of people who get stranded on an island and discover it's a utopia. I love it.

Aj V

Super Reviewer


It's easy to forget that Lost Horizon is a Frank Capra movie. It has very little of the concentrated feel good quality that most of his other movies have. It's definitely a good movie but definitely not his defining work. Sam Jaffe was incredibly frightening as the High Lama. Picture Mason Verger from Hannibal raping Yoda and this guy would be the baby. I don't like how the story seemed to get rushed in the last 15 minutes and just left at that or how some of the more major characters were just kind of cut short with hushed resolution. Even if the movie was fully restored I don't think that could save it. Don't get me wrong, Lost Horizon is still a good movie, just not quintessential Capra.

Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

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