Critics Consensus

Hallucinatory but lacking in characterization, Kundun is a young Dalai Lama portrait presented as a feast of sight and sound.



Reviews Counted: 60

liked it

Audience Score

User Ratings: 11,772


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.7/5

You may have noticed some of the recent changes we have made. To read more about what we’ve been working on behind the scenes, please check out our new RT Product Blog here.

Want to See

Add Rating
My Rating    

Kundun Photos

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.


Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong
as Dalai Lama (adult)
Gyurme Tethong
as Dalai Lama (age 12)
Tulku Jamyang Kunga Tenzin
as Dalai Lama (age 5)
Tenzin Yeshi Paichang
as Dalai Lama (age 2)
Sonam Phunstok
as Reting Rinpoche
Geshi Yeshi Gyatso
as Lama of Sera
Sonam Phuntsok
as Reting Rinpoche
Lobsang Samten
as Master of the Kitchen
Robert Lin
as Chairman Mao
Gyatso Lukhang
as Lord Chamberlain
Tsewang Jigme Tsarong
as Taktra Rinpoche
Tenzin Trinley
as Ling Rinpoche
Ngawang Dorjee
as Kashag/Nobleman No. 1
Phintso Thonden
as Kashag/Nobleman No. 2
Kim Chan
as Second Chinese General
Tenzin Topjar
as Lobsang (Age 5-10)
Tenzin Lodoe
as Takster
Tsering Lhamo
as Tsering Dolma
Lobsang Gyatso
as Messenger
Jamyang Tenzin
as Norbu Thundrup
Tashi Dhondup
as Lobsang (as an Adult)
Jampa Lungtok
as Nechung Oracle
Karma Wangchuk
as Deformed Face Bodyguard
Ben Wang
as General Chang Chin-Wu
Henry Yuk
as General Tan
Ngawang Kaldan
as Prime Minister Lobsang Tashi
Jurme Wangda
as Prime Minister Lukhangwa
Selden Kunga
as Tibetan Doctor
John Wong
as Chinese Comrade
Gawa Youngdung
as Old Woman
Tenzin Rampa
as Tenzin Chonegyl (Age 12)
Vyas Ananthakrishnan
as Indian Soldier
View All

News & Interviews for Kundun

Critic Reviews for Kundun

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (16)

  • The film is, in many ways, a remarkable achievement but also a singularly undynamic entry in the director's canon.

    Jan 9, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

    Mike Clark

    USA Today
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Feb 1, 2010

    David Edelstein

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

    Feb 1, 2010 | Rating: C | Full Review…
  • 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

    Dec 20, 2006 | Rating: B+

    Emanuel Levy

    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.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • A great film about a good man.

    Apr 12, 2002 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
    Globe and Mail
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Kundun


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
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
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
Lady D'arbanville

Super Reviewer


Scorsese's amazing film about the life of the 14th Dalai Lama is something to behold.

Schoonmaker's editing and Deakins's cinematography bring exquisite beauty to this stunning pieces of cinema

Ken Stachnik
Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

Kundun Quotes

News & Features