The novel and film adaptations:
- Strawman Has a Point: George makes legitimate points about how he and his fellow travelers were kidnapped and brought to Shangri-La, and that it's better to try and make The Outside World a better place rather than hide away and wait for it to be destroyed.
- Values Dissonance: In the films, the Wise Man describes the civility of their society, and how terribly rude it would be to express interest in a woman that another man wanted... unless you wanted her desperately, in which case he would of course yield her to you. The woman's opinion is apparently irrelevant. In the book the conversation goes like this: It would be rude to express interest in a woman involved with another. What if you want her so much you don't care about courtesy? In that case it would be polite for the others concerned - including the woman - to humor you.
- As discussed at length in Musical Hell's review of the 1973 version, Shangri-La — a society that isolates and indoctrinates outsiders into a very specific belief system, discourages dissention, has next to no contact with The Outside World, and in fact is waiting for the outside world to destroy itself whereupon the utopian society will be the focal point of a new and better civilization — is effectively a Cult, and thus extremely creepy by modern standards.
The 1937 film:
- Ho Yay: Barnard and Lovett might count, especially when Barnard starts calling him "Lovie". Doesn't hurt that The Golden Age of Hollywood's master of Ambiguously Gay, Edward Everett Horton, plays Lovett.
- Uncanny Valley: The excessive makeup used for the High Lama makes him come across this way.
- Vindicated by History: Frank Capra's film was a critical and box-office dud in 1937, but its reputation has grown immensely over time.
The 1973 film:
- Ear Worm: This is a Bacharach/David score, so some of the songs count (especially "Living Together, Growing Together").
- Narm: A lot of the musical numbers end up as this, but especially the infamous "fertility dance", performed by dozens of muscular men in orange loincloths. After audiences broke out in laughter at the initial screenings, the dance was cut out of all future prints of the film. Long believed lost, it was restored in the 2011 DVD release.
- Narm Charm: Enough people view the film as this to give it a cult following.
- Older Than They Think: This wasn't the first time the story was tried as a musical. Shangri-La, which was done with the full blessing of James Hilton (he even worked a little on the book before his death), opened on Broadway in 1956 but closed after 21 performances.
- Special Effect Failure: John Gielgud's "Chang" makeup comes off as unconvincing for many viewers. A lot of people think he looks more like a live-action Mr. Magoo than an Asian man.
- WTH, Casting Agency?: Liv Ullmann, the face of moody European art cinema at the time, as the female lead in a dopey The Sound of Music copycat? Bette Midler once quipped about this, "I never miss a Liv Ullmann musical."