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Film / Dune (1984)

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"The Sleeper must awaken."

"A secret report within the Guild. Four planets have come to our attention ... regarding a plot which could jeopardize spice production. Planet Arrakis, source of the spice. Planet Caladan, home of House Atreides. Planet Giedi Prime, home of House Harkonnen. Planet Kaitain, home of the Emperor of the Known Universe. Send a third stage Guild Navigator to Kaitain to demand details from the Emperor. The spice must flow..."
The Spacing Guild


Dune is the 1984 feature film adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel Dune, directed by David Lynch. The film is famous for its unique visual style, obtuse plot and very Troubled Production.

Set in the distant future, the film chronicles the conflict between rival noble families as they battle for control of the extremely harsh desert planet Arrakis, also known as "Dune". The planet is the only source of a drug known as "the spice", which allows prescience and is vital to space travel, making it the most essential and valuable commodity in the universe. Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan, in his film debut) is the scion and heir of a powerful noble family, whose inheritance of control over Arrakis brings them into conflict with its former overlords, House Harkonnen.

The film adaptation of Dune was originally given to the experimental filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, who planned to very loosely adapt the book while basing most of the film on a dream he'd had. He recruited a rogue's gallery of names for his project, including comic artist Mœbius, H. R. Giger, Pink Floyd, Salvador Dalí and Orson Wellesnote . Unfortunately, he burned through his budget before filming a single scene, and the project was ultimately taken away from him. A feature-length documentary titled Jodorowsky's Dune chronicles this project of epic proportions that went nowhere. Jodorowsky later recycled many of his ideas in his epic graphic novel series The Saga of the Metabarons.

Producer Dino De Laurentiis handed the film to Lynch, another experimental director who was a hot prospect at the time due to his cult classic debut film Eraserhead and the critically lauded The Elephant Man. Lynch scrapped most of Jodorowsky's plans and made a film much closer to the book, although still guided by his own unique vision. Lynch's completed work is memorable (and notorious) for its Freudian imagery, elaborate costumes and set designs (containing several holdovers from the Jodorowsky version, including some of Giger's designs), and All-Star Cast, which in addition to MacLachlan features Patrick Stewart, José Ferrer, Brad Dourif, Dean Stockwell, Sean Young, Jürgen Prochnow, Virginia Madsen, Sting, Siân Phillips, Linda Hunt, and Max von Sydow, among others.

Due to Lynch's alien style and the sheer scale of the book, the already-complex narrative became nearly incomprehensible to some viewers; many theaters handed out printed plot summaries to patrons. An altered cut with more exposition to explain the plot was made for television, which ran at almost four hours (with commercials). Incensed at the Executive Meddling, Lynch had his director credit for this extended cut changed to Alan Smithee and his screenwriting credit changed to Judas Booth (as in John Wilkes). Subsequent recut and extended versions have inspired varying degrees of critical reappraisal. It was a complete flop at the box office, but it has become a genuine Cult Classic since.

For the other live-action adaptations of Dune, see Frank Herbert's Dune and Dune (2021)-Dune: Part Two.

The Dune film contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The original ending, cut from the cinematic version, where Paul exiles Emperor Shaddam IV to Salusa Secundus, becomes the new Emperor, and agrees to marry Princess Irulan, was the ending from the book. A different ending was used in the commercial version, where Paul uses his powers to make it rain on Arrakis, Alia proclaims Paul as the prophesied Kwisatz Haderach, and Paul fulfills the prophecy.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Gurney Halleck, repeatedly described in the book as "an ugly lump of man", is here played by the stylish, good-looking Patrick Stewart.
    • The book describes Feyd-Rautha as having a round face and sullen eyes, quite different from the handsome Sting.
    • The blue-within-blue eyes caused by the Melange are portrayed in a way that makes them less creepy than in the book, as the color takes now the form of a glow, with the sclera being lighter blue than the iris, rather than an opaque coloration in both iris and sclera as it was described in the novel (which in poor light or extreme cases of spice usage looked almost black).
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • The Bene Gesserit of the film are explicitly telepathic, and the Emperor even requires Mohiam to watch over his conversation with Edric from another room by this method (although it seems only very powerful and experimented Bene Gesserit have it - Jessica, for instance, does not). In the books, the Bene Gesserit don't have any practical telepathy, only a mental contact they can use to pass their ego/memories among them by touching foreheads (though again, Alia does have a variation of this that works as more conventional thought-transmission).
    • In the books, the Kwisatz Haderach's unique gifts are mostly mental in nature, the main ones being non-limited prescience and access to both male and female genetic memory. This version of Paul, in stark contrast, also demonstrates the power to affect the world, being able not only of telekinetically breaking the floor when very angry, but also of altering Arrakis' climate to make it rain. Frank Herbert himself, who otherwise liked the film, would comment on this oddity.
    • Like Paul, the film version of Alia is capable of using telekinesis, making the Baron spin in the air by spinning her own finger before sending him flying through a hole in the ship's hull.
    • The film version of the Sardaukar seems to have Super-Strength, as one of them can be seen shrugging off several opponents at once with his arms, while in the novels the Sardaukar were regular humans subjected to a very harsh training yet without any explicit superhuman attribute.
    • Feyd-Rautha is made a better hand-to-hand fighter. In the film, he beats Paul up a bit for most of their duel, landing several kicks and strikes before Paul uses a hip throw to pin and stab him. In the novel, their duel was very tentative and uneventful until the end.
    • In the books, the Guild Navigators consume spice so when the Holtzman Drive activates and folds space, their limited precognition allows them to steer. In the film, the spice consumption allows them to fold space itself without the need for the Holtzman Drive, just firing a ray of some kind from their mutated mouths.
    • Emperor Shaddam IV himself is turned into a fighter in this film, as he personally mans one of his selamlik's turrets (it doesn't have any weapons in the novel) and participates in the final battle through it, while in the novel he has to be protected and carried away by his guards. This also makes a move on Rank Scales with Asskicking, implying that, even if the Emperor loses the battle, he's still a trained military man and not just a lazy despot.
  • Adaptational Context Change: In the original novel, Paul Muad'Dib notes that "[his] own name is a killing word", in reference to the violent fanaticism he has inspired. In the film, it instead refers to a weapon that is activated by shouting his name, making Paul's line literal instead of symbolic.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Rabban. While in the book he's a cruel, brutal man regarded by the Baron as a "muscle-minded tank-brain" and known to the Fremen as "Demon Ruler", he's also erudite and well-educated, and alone of all the Harkonnens, has the insight to realize that the Fremen might actually represent a genuine threat, which he tries to warn his uncle about (the Baron completely disregards this until Thufir Hawat tells him the same thing and presents him with evidence). In the film, he's portrayed as a near-mindless thug.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance:
    • Edric the Guild Navigator appears in the first scene of the film, with the implication that he's The Man Behind the Man for the Emperor; his literary counterpart didn't appear until the second novel, Dune Messiah.
    • Glossu Rabban is shown with the Baron much earlier than he appears in the novel.
  • Adaptational Heroism: For the Atreides and the Fremen, and especially Paul, because the film plays the messiah-hero theme completely straight without any of the subversions and deconstructions of the book.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the book, Reverend Mother Mohiam has some brief moments of humanity, as she admits she understands Jessica's decisions and would have made them herself, and even leaves their reunion shedding tears for her apprentice's fate. Nothing of this happens in the film, where she's an unsympathetic harpy from beginning to end.
  • Adaptational Personality Change:
    • While in the book the Baron is a high-functioning sociopath, here he's a complete psychotic and a downright eccentric. No less evil, though — the film cuts out some of his more extreme Kick the Dog moments in the book, but adds one in particular instead that's not necessarily worse, but certainly more physically gruesome.
    • Piter is more composed and polite than his book version, which was a pest even to the Baron.
    • This version of Edric is much more solemn, creepy and menacing than his book version, helped by his mutation making him completely inhuman here.
  • Adaptational Superpower Change:
    • The film makes the Bene Gesserit telepaths, therefore implying that other skills like the Voice and the Weirding Way are also psychic in nature. In the novels, meanwhile, the mentioned two abilities were supposed to come out of just a very advanced understanding of logic, psychology, spatial perception, body language, mnemonics, and linguistics. The literary Bene Gesserit could still be considered psychics, as they can transmit mentally their genetic memories and are users of the prescience granted by the Spice, but those powers aren't even exclusive to their sisterhood in the Dune universe.
    • The film also introduces other psychic powers like Telepathy, Mind over Matter and Weather Manipulation, which are used by the Kwisatz Haderach and his sister. In the original books, there were no such powers to begin with; telepathy was known to humanity as a concept (named "T-P"), but it was apparently yet to discover and master, while telekinesis was never even mentioned (though it was later introduced with the controversial 2001 prequel Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, which also featured telepathy - and it has been speculated that this very film might have inspired the novel's authors to do so).
    • It also introduces a superpower, used by the Guild Navigators and produced by the Spice, that allows them to personally fold space.
  • Adaptational Ugliness:
    • The Bene Gesserit in this film sport a shaven head down to the eyebrows, with long fingernails and weird clothing added in for extra creepiness. In the book, they looked like regular old women in robes, with Mohiam's metal teeth (which the film version has too) being the only weird thing about their appearance.
    • The Mentats are also given enormous eyebrows here.
    • The Baron is considerably more grotesque and disgusting than he ever was in the book, complete with facial pustules and a filthy, disheveled appearance, whereas in the book he was simply fat. In a subversion, however, the novel version of the Baron was described to be so fat that he could barely walk without anti-gravity suspensors, while his film version is more rotund that truly obese and only uses the suspensors to float around.
    • The Navigators' mutations are taken up to eleven in this film, to the point they stop being human at all and become floating, fish-like monstrosities.
  • Adaptational Wimp:
    • Zig-zagged with Duncan Idaho. In the book, he went down fighting and took a dozen Sardaukar with him, but here a Sardaukar slow-fires a hunter-killer through his shield and he promptly goes down. However, before he was shot, Duncan easily defeated a single Sardaukar (who seconds before was killing regular Atreides soldiers left and right) in a duel, and a few moments later, he took on entire squad of them at once, putting them all down.
    • The Sardaukar in the book is a widely feared elite army of soldiers trained in a variety of weapons. Though their their waning abilities are a plot point, they prove to still be dangerous enemies to the Fremen. In the film, they are more akin to Elite Mooks and their ferocity in melee combat is toned down significantly, even although they seem to be superhumanly strong in this version. The quantity of their forces is also tweaked with it taking five legions to do what only two were needed to do in the book (crush the Atreides men). The climax pits the Fremen against five legions in the book leading to a costly victory whereas the movie pits them against fifty legions in a Curb-Stomp Battle.
    • The Fremen never learn to use the Weirding Way here. Instead, they receive sonic weapons called "Weirding Modules"note .
    • Both in the novel and the movie, the Emperor is revealed to have been arm-twisted by the Guild all the time, but the movie portrays him as more undignified and weak-willed, being verbally lashed by the messengers and even threatened to his very face - things that the Emperor from the book, who was arrogant to the end, would have hardly allowed.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • This film introduced many elements that weren't in the original novel. The quickest example to come to mind is the Mentat Mantra, "It is by will alone that I set my mind in motion," which sounds similar enough to the Litany Against Fear that it feels like a line from the book, despite it is actually original to the film. Also, the Atreides research into sound-based weaponry is absent from the novel, while heart-plugs, only briefly mentioned in the book as some sort of filtration device, are turned into something entirely more sinister by the Harkonnen. Finally, the Baron Harkonnen's skin conditions never were mentioned in the books either. Those and other choices went to influence later works in the Dune universe, to the point many people ignore they in fact originated in this film.
    • The movie also includes scenes of places and events that in the novel were unseen or entirely offscreen. For instance, the creepy visage of Giedi Prime is shown while Piter goes to his meeting with the Baron, which in the book only showed the latter's office, and the talks between the Emperor, Mohiam and Edric are also witnessed by the viewer. Thufir's poison process is also shown, and it's much worse than imagined.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Hardly anything is given a proper explanation, and the film even features a few setups to plot threads whose payoffs are not included.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole:
    • At least in the commercial version, the scene where Paul use atomics to create a shortcut through the mountain during the climax seems like a Deus ex Machina, as the movie never hint where they get them, not to mention the movie never states atomic weapons exist at all in the setting. In fact, this is a scene from the novel but all prior exposition about atomics have been cut (the ones used in the scene belonged to House Atreides).
    • The loss of Thufir Hawat's death scene from the theatrical version ends up robbing the duel between Paul and Feyd-Rautha of any real context. With the death scene, it makes perfect sense that Paul would want to kill Feyd-Rautha in retailiation for his underhanded attempt to assassinate Paul using Thufir, who was instead Driven to Suicide. Without the scene, however it ends up looking like Paul challenges Feyd-Rautha to a duel simply because there aren't any other high-ranking Harkonnens left for him to kill, due to the Baron and Rabban having already been killed by Alia and the Emperor respectively.
    • Liet-Kynes' fate, at least in the theatrical version. The movie keeps the scene where the Harkonnens capture him and decide to leave him die of exposure in the desert. But since the movie doesn't contain the scene where he helped Paul and Jessica to flee from the Harkonnens, this punishment loses its justification and just make the Harkonnens look even more like genocidal maniacs.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The film leaves out Leto II (Paul's first son, murdered as an infant), Count Fenring, his Bene Gesserit wife Margot, and several other minor characters. Jamis does show up, but only in the Alan Smithee version.
    • Oddly, no version includes Jessica secretly being the Baron's daughter, which she only finds out due to Paul's prescience. So later, Alia doesn't address the Baron as her grandfather when they meet.
  • Advertised Extra: Sting as Feyd-Rautha, who only has a small part in the film, was a major selling point.
  • Age Lift: In the novel, Emperor Shaddam was in his sixties, but looked no older than 35 thanks to the Spice and still had all of his hair red. In the film, he's played by José Ferrer, who was in his seventies and obviously looked just as old, and a line of dialogue implies he's much older here than the original, with the Spice having kept him alive for over 200 years (a life expectancy that, with the exception of the Bene Gesserit's secret methods, wouldn't be achieved in the universe of the novels until the times of Miles Teg).
  • All for Nothing:
    • Yueh betrays House Atreides in an attempt to get back a wife he knows is likely dead, with his only comfort that maybe he can kill the Baron on the way out. Instead Yueh gets shanked by Piter and his poison gas trap on the Duke is wasted on Piter when the drugged Duke hallucinates him as the Baron. He ultimately accomplished nothing.
    • Although he did stash stillsuits and Weirding module blueprints onto the Harkonnen ship that was standing by to drop Paul and Jessica in the desert to die, ultimately saving their lives, permitting the rest of the plot to unfold, and kind of redeeming himself. Then again, how could he have known that was the Harkonnen plan if Piter only told Nefud to do it minutes beforehand? Or which ship would be used? Or that they wouldn't already be dead when loaded up? Or...
  • Anaphora: When discussing Spice:
    Princess Irulan: The spice extends life. The spice expands consciousness.
  • Artistic Licence – Gun Safety: When Paul is teaching the Fremen how to use the weirding modules, one of them has their module active while Paul walks past, and saying the word Muad'dib causes a large blast. It's a wonder Paul wasn't vaporized what with the number of times someone with a weirding module must have said Muad'dib.
  • As You Know: Because of Lynch cutting out huge swathes of plot to make the film more streamlined, there is a LOT of exposition dumping.
  • Ascended Extra: The first of many adaptations to do this to the Baron's nephew Glossu Rabban. In the book, he appears on-page for only one scene and his role is in the background. In the film, he's added into many more scenes and has a much larger presence as The Brute for the Baron. The latter describes his plan originally to only Piter and Feyd, while here Rabban is present; here Rabban also leads the attack on the Duke's headquarters and is the one who oversees Dr. Kynes's death.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The population of Giedi Prime all wear 'heart plugs' that are prominently displayed and quite easy to yank out. Hawat is fitted with one once he's captured; Kenneth McMillian's line, "Everyone gets one here," is so delightfully deadpan. It's never actually used by their enemies, however, other than one scene where the Baron Harkonnen murders a boy slave for the hell of it. And the scene where Alia kills the Baron by stabbing him with a Gom Jabbar, then pulling his heart plugs and shoving him out into the sandstorm — where he gets swallowed by a worm.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Multiple scenes on Giedi Prime show animals being treated horribly by the Harkonnens or their servants, from a cow hanging upside-down to a rodent being crushed in a juicer. Only in one case (Thufir's antidote-cat) is there a plot-relevant reason for the animal to be there, and even then there's a rat slung next to the cat for no evident purpose but to terrify the former and frustrate the latter.
  • Badass Creed: The Mentat creed recited by Piter is original to this movie —
    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
    It is by the juice of Sapho that the thoughts acquire speed,
    the lips acquire stains,
    the stains become a warning.
    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
  • Bald Mystic: The Bene Gesserit are bald, presumably to parallel the real-life tonsuring of monks.
  • Beneath Notice: How Shadout Mapes operates. She's just a housekeeper, but also a liaison with the Fremen heirarchy.
  • Big Eater: Beast Rabban in this film is always stuffing his face and talking with his mouth full.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Thufir Hawat. They're pretty big. It's possible this was supposed to be shared among mentats, at the other one, Piter DeVries, has some big ones too, but they're still not quite as big.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Paul uses a Voice-assisted "SILENCE!!!" to put Reverend Mother Mohiam in her place.
  • Black-and-White Morality: In contrast with the books, the movie tends to depict the Atreides and the Fremen as the unambiguously good guys, and the Harkonnen and the Corrino as the bad guys.
  • Blasphemous Boast: "Usul, we have wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen". Justified, as they are deliberately attracting as many worms as they possibly can in defiance of all normal logic. Is it blasphemous if it's literally true?
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Things like poison melting the Duke's face and the added Body Horror of the Harkonnens weren't in the original book.
  • Body Horror:
    • A lot in Giedi Prime, especially some of the Baron's medical assistants, who have their ears and eyes crudely stitched shut, and their bizarre shows of animal cruelty. The Baron himself, with his repulsive skin condition, also counts.
    • The Guild's messengers are also crude cyborg, with one of them having the skin of his head horribly cracked.
  • Brown Note: Paul has advanced weaponry that is sonic in nature, using ultra and/or infrasound to shatter structures, inflict pain in enemy soldiers, etc. When Paul becomes The Chosen One, he acquires the ability to imitate the effects of this sonic weaponry with just his voice.
    Atreides: I can kill with a word.
    Soldier: And his word shall bring death eternal for all those who stand against the righteous!
  • Camp: Susan Sontag describes the idea of campiness as an emergent phenomenon that comes from a piece of art or media that takes itself seriously but fails on some level to sell that seriousness, which is what makes it good. For all the problems this movie has, it has amassed a cult following for a reason. It's over-the-top aesthetic might not be successful, but it's sure as hell entertaining, all because of how much it commits to what it's trying to do.
  • Cold Ham: José Ferrer never fails to be hammy while remaining even keeled.
    Emperor Shaddam IV: (Tranquil Fury) Bring in that floating fat man . . . the Baron.
  • Compelling Voice: The Voice is clearly heard as the Voice of the Legion. It can be heard playing over and over in the target's mind, forcing him to comply. Notably, that echoed phrase is the actual command; Jessica at one point tells a Harkonnen soldier holding her captive that "There's no need to fight over me," with the echoing "fight over me" compelling the soldier to kill his comrade.
  • Composite Character: In the novel, although both the Baron and Piter were cunning, evil masterminds, the Baron was the calm, cerebral, long-suffering one and Piter was the giggling maniac. The film gives the Baron Piter's craziness and turns Piter into something of a quiet (if still eccentric) Servile Snarker.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The film follows the plot of the book reasonably closely, but compresses two-thirds of a long novel into half an hour.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Baron Harkonnen takes a slave and pulls his heart plug, while holding him close. It's too gross to properly explain.
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison: In the extended cut of the film, Liet is the one who spits and Leto himself recognizes its value.
  • Creator Cameo: Lynch, as the radio operator on the spice harvester rescued by Duke Leto.
  • Creepy Uncle: The movie plays up the Ho Yay between Baron Harkonnen and Feyd-Rautha even more than the books.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Toto and Brian Eno. This is the main reason why so many games and other adaptations of Dune (excepting the Sci-Fi channel miniseries) have such similar music. Music inspired by Dune is almost invariably space music instead of more conventional thematic music.
  • Cyborg: There are a lot of them compared to the books, with the Harkonnen staff, the Emperor's court and the Guild's messengers sporting all sorts of visible (and often terrifying) biomechanics.
  • Dead Guy on Display: The Emperor has the head of the incompetent governor "Beast" Rabban on display in front of his throne.
  • Decapitation Presentation: The Emperor has Rabban beheaded then leaves the head at the foot of his throne when he summons the Baron, just to punctuate how badly the Baron screwed up by letting Rabban run the planet.
  • Deflector Shields: The entire complex at Arrakeen is protected by a single enormous wall-shaped Shield, and Paul is shown training with Gurney with a personal shield that envelops both their bodies, and Duncan later uses one as he tries (futilely) to rescue Paul and Jessica from the Sardaukar. The film omits the book's lasgun-shield nuclear interaction and the shield harmonics driving worms into a killing frenzy, containing only a line that static charge in Arrakis' dry atmosphere means body shields won't have enough power to operate in the open air.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Barring her exposition in the prologue, poor Princess Irulan is reduced to one, brief on-screen line in the extended edition.
    • Downplayed with Duncan Idaho. Idaho was more of a major character in Dune's sequels rather than in the original novel but even with that his role in the film is reduced from the novel. Idaho originally was House Atreides's connection to the Fremen having saved Stilgar's life and later he saves Jessica and Paul in the desert after their escape. In the film Idaho never meets Stilgar and dies much earlier at the battle at the Duke's compound; being the first of the major Atreides retainers to die.
  • Depraved Homosexual: How the Baron Harkonnen is portrayed, flirting with his doctor, ogling his nephew, sadistically caressing and killing a boy, having quite a fey, high-pitched voice along with painted nails, complete with some rather tasteless AIDS-like lesions on his face.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: A heroic example, in which the Atreides mentat Thufir Hawat betrays the Emperor and Harkonnens by refusing to kill Paul.
    Thufir Hawat: [He turns to Feyd and the Emperor]... Did you actually believe, even for a moment, that I would fail my Duke twice? [He commits suicide]
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation:
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Lady Jessica's hairstyle is a Freudian wonder.
    • The Guild Navigator (portrayed in true Lynchian fashion as a giant floating Eraserhead) breathes through what can only be described as a mouth-vagina.
    • Har har. Okay, fine, so the worms look like giant penises, alright? David Lynch apparently wanted to lampshade the joke before we do; the rhythmic pounding of Shai Halud against the vertical slot of a cave is hard to misinterpret.
    • As noted above, Baron Harkonnen is coded as a depraved, monstrous homosexual, and is the only character to have massive lesions and boils on his face. Because of this, film scholar Robin Wood called this "the most obscenely homophobic film I have ever seen," and goes on to say that this portrayal succeeds in "managing to associate with homosexuality in a single scene physical grossness, moral depravity, violence and disease."
  • Dream Sequence: Even before Paul starts tripping out on melange, he's getting glimpses of his future while asleep.
  • Duel to the Death: The film climaxes in a knife fight between Paul and Feyd-Rautha.
  • Einstein Hair: Fittingly, the film depicts the hyper-intelligent Mentats with messy hair… but also eyebrows that can only be described as gravity-defying.
  • Eldritch Starship: The Guild Heighliner, as in the book, is a gigantic mostly hollow FTL-capable starship piloted by spice-mutated psychic Guild Navigators that carries other ships within it for a fee.
  • Elite Mooks: Sardaukar elite troopers. They are effective at destroying the Atreides troops, but less so against the Fremen.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: In the prologue, the Emperor flamboyantly shrugs off his cape before meeting with the Navigator. He wears standard military attire in all other scenes.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Paul is introduced researching the planets before correctly guessing that Gurney, Dr. Yeuh and Thufir have entered the room via their footsteps. When Thufir points out that the footsteps could be replicated, Paul confidently replies that he'd know the difference.
    • For Duke Leto, it's when he puts the lives of his men before spice extraction, despite spice being the most valuable substance in the universe, something that both confuses and impresses Doctor Kynes at the same time.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Baron Harkonnen usually speaks with grandiose gestures and in a rather loud voice.
  • Evil Redhead: All of the Harkonnens have various shades of orange hair.
  • Exact Words: The Baron offers to let Yueh "join" his wife. He holds out a small hope that the Baron might actually have spared her, up until he's knifed in the back.
  • Exotic Entree: There's an inexplicable throwaway scene of Rabban crushing a live mouse-like creature in a small device and then drinking the resulting mess with a straw.
  • Eye Scream: A couple of the minor bad guys have their eyes sewn shut, which is NOT in the book.
  • Facial Horror: The Baron is absolutely covered in blisters, warts, and zits.
  • Fantastic Drug: One of Spice's many uses is as a narcotic. Spice addiction is one of the downsides to repeated consumption. During the Baron's meeting with Rabban his chief of security, Iakin Nefud, is doing something with a futuristic accordian. This is a reference to Semuta, a musical drug that Nefud was addicted into in the book.
  • Fed to the Beast: Baron Harkonnen is shot out a window via Alia's mind control. He is then eaten by a worm.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: Subverted. As the Atreides troops become aware that their shields have been crippled, they run for their ships...which are blown up in their faces by Harkonnen bombers.
  • Final Solution: When the Emperor has decided he's had enough, he coldly averts Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide":
    Emperor Shaddam IV: This is genocide! The systematic extermination of all life on Arrakis!
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Princess Irulan, oft heard, rarely seen.
  • Fisher King: The film ends with Paul Atreides taking up his rightful place as the Kwisatz Haderach, at which point Arrakis, a planet defined by its absurd dearth of water, is consumed by a torrential downpour of rain. Subtle. In the book, it took years of terraforming. note 
  • Fooled by the Sound: Discussed in one of the opening scenes. Paul Atreides is studying the various important planets of the film when his mentors Gurney Halleck, Thufir Hawat, and Dr. Yueh walk in. Paul predicts Hawat is about to admonish him for sitting with his back to the door.
    Paul: I know, Thufir. I'm sitting with my back to the door. I heard you, Dr. Yueh, and Gurney coming down the hall.
    Thufir: Those sounds could be imitated!
    Paul: I'd know the difference.
    Thufir: (thinking) Yes, perhaps you would at that.
  • Genghis Gambit: The Baron assigns Rabban governorship of Dune and orders him to be as brutal as he needs to be to collect the spice. He intends for Feyd to eventually "rescue" the grateful Fremen from Rabban's cruelty. Paul throws a wrench in that plan.
  • Glad I Thought of It: A variation:
    De Vries: Now, as instructed, I have enlightened your nephews concerning my plan—
    Baron Harkonnen: MY plan!
    De Vries: ...the plan to crush the Atreides.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The entire Freman race has glowing blue eyes, as a side-effect of their addiction to the Spice. In the original novels, however, it was simply altered pigmentation, and their eyes were just a weird kind of blue.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We only see blood splattered on the wall when the "heart plug" scene climaxes.
  • Hand in the Hole: Following the example of the book, Paul is subjected to the Gom Jabbar test, where he sticks his hand into a blacked out box and made to suffer excruciating pain (complete with an Imagine Spot of his hand burning away) to show that he has the willpower and self-control to not pull his hand out of the box before being given permission. Failure of the test means immediate death by poison needle instead, but Paul passes with flying colors.
  • Happy Rain: When Muad'Dib makes the rain fall at last, the Fremen rejoice at the end of the film. It probably kills all of the worms since the Fremen had summoned them all to that spot, but oh well. (The worms did wind up going extinct in the books as a result of terraforming, but eventually came back.)
  • Hate Sink: The Baron, more so than in the book as he's physically repulsive, devoid of the original character's suave manners and even gives a Spiteful Spit when he has Lady Jessica at his mercy. Funnily enough, the Fremen consider that a compliment.
  • Heart in the Wrong Place: The unlucky Harkonnen slave's heart plug is too far left. To make matters worse, it spurts out dark blood when pulled, not the bright crimson oxygenated blood which the left side would actually contain.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Gurney actually charges into action against the Harkonnen while clutching a pug dog to his chest. Mind you that's not the safest position for a dog to be in...
    • ...but note that the pug is evidently alive and well, hanging out with the Fremen during Paul's fight with Feyd.
  • Hollywood Darkness: When the seeker probe enters his room, Paul is confident it is too dark for the operator to spot him by any means other than movement. Charitably, the room looks as if it's sunset outside, and Paul hasn't even gotten ready for bed yet. This is made worse by a P.O.V. Cam of the probe, in which Paul is clearly visible (in the book, the anti-gravity field that it depends on for flight greatly impedes visuals, forcing the operator to focus on movement to find the target).
  • Humans Are White: The film has a mostly white cast, even for the Fremen (desert-dwellers of Arabic descent) and the Atreides (of Greek descent, and explicitly described in the source novel as "dark").
  • I Have Your Wife: How Yueh is convinced to betray House Atreides. Curiously, he's already guessed that the Baron has likely killed his wife, but he still goes along because he figures he can use the Duke to take a shot at the Baron.
  • I Owe You My Life: Shadout Mapes is grateful when Paul saves her from an assassin's dart (which was meant for Paul, but targeted her movement), and repays him by telling him there's a traitor among the Atriedes.
  • I Was Never Here: The Guild Navigator, after telling the Emperor to kill Paul Atreides.
    I did not say this, I am not here.
  • I'll Kill You!: Feyd-Rautha dramatically shouts "I WILL KILL HIM!" right before his climactic knife-duel with Paul Atreides.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Human flesh is not eaten, but water is so precious, the dead are cremated and the water collected and distributed for drinking.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corino IV whose plans fail at every turn and who spends every scene on camera being bossed around by the Spacing Guild. You find yourself wondering why he doesn't tell them to watch their fucking mouths. (It's only alluded to in the film, but since the guild holds the monopoly on space travel that makes his Empire possible, even the Emperor can't afford to piss them off.)
  • Info Dump: The film opens with Irulan explaining the basic setup of the Dune universe directly to the audience, then the credits roll, then we're privy to "a secret report within the Guild" which details the four planets important to the story and there's a plot that might conflict with their interests, then this leads to a scene where a Guild navigator visits the Emperor to get the details on this plot, so the Emperor can explain to the Guild (and the audience) the political intrigues around which the story is based, then we pick up Paul studying the history of his Houses' feud with House Harkonnen and and the nature of Arrakis, which he'll soon be moving to. The first fifteen minutes are essentially an extended series of infodumps, bombarding the audience with exposition they have no context for yet.
  • Inner Monologue: While in most examples the audience is only privy to the inner monologue of the main protagonist, here we are treated to the inner thoughts of damn never every single character. Some of it is quite cruicial, some of it is Narrating the Obvious.
  • Innocent Flower Girl: Gender-inverted. The Duke kills an innocent flower boy by pulling his heart plug.
  • Invocation: Piter De Vries recites a mantra after drinking "sapho" juice as part of a ritual to heighten his mental powers. This does not feature in the book and was an invention of Brad Dourif.
  • Internal Reveal: Paul sends Alia to the Emperor so she can reveal that Paul is actually still alive to those assembled.
  • Just Desserts: Baron Harkonnen meets his end when swallowed by a titanic sandworm.
  • Kick the Dog: When Baron Vladimir Harkonnen pulls the heart plug from one of his slaves and then does something too gruesome to describe here.
  • Lamprey Mouth: The sandworms have pedipalps parting to reveal a ring-shaped, saw-toothed maw.
  • Large Ham:
  • Laser Cutter: One of the Fremen watching Paul Atreides' demonstration of the weirding way tries to cut a stone obelisk with a laser cutter.
  • Little Miss Badass: Alia. The scene after she kills Baron Harkonnen, where she's out on the battlefield with the crysknife and the strangely gleeful look on her face, she is actually engaged in systematically killing the enemy wounded.
  • Man Hug: Paul and Gurney share one when they're reunited.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: The movie is a World of Ham, so it's not surprising that there's a bit of this going on. Especially from Piter de Vries.
  • Mind over Matter: Alia uses telekinesis to launch the Baron into a worm's mouth, while Paul shatters the floor when angry.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: A result of high-level Spice addiction, when enough ingestion saturates the blood stream and stains the eyes. Turned into Glowing Eyes of Doom here.
  • Mouth Stitched Shut: Some of the Baron's minions are shown with their eyes, ears, and mouths sewn shut, in the disturbing scene where the Baron rapes a boy while pulling his heart plug. Neither this particular scene nor the people with the stitched-shut sensory organs appeared in the novel however.
  • Mouthscreen: Doctor Yueh's mouth is shown in a closeup flashback reminding Duke Leto about the poison gas tooth intended to kill Baron Harkonnen.
  • Mr. Exposition: Adapting the plot of the book was so complex and so much of it was cut from the movie that Miss and Mr Exposition were required: Princess Irulan before the credits, explaining the general setting, and after the credits, the secret report within the guild giving the context for the next scene, which is the Emperor laying out the intruges of him and Baron Harkonnen against Duke Leto Atreides.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Feyd's utterly gratuitous speedo scene. Sting's running five miles a day really paid off.
  • Mutual Kill: The outcome of Gurney and Paul's duel, had they been fighting for real:
    Gurney: Good... the slow blade penetrates the shield... but look down.
  • Narrating the Obvious: The film is rife with this, including but not limited to: the internal monologues of one-off characters, characters describing exactly what they have just done/ are doing/ are going to do shortly, and infodumps a plenty.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The final scene of the film shows Paul using his incredible psychic powers as the Kwisatz Haderach to make it rain on Arrakis for the first time in eons. However, in one scene, a worm is killed using water, and Paul very deliberately notes it. It seems his making it rain is more of a deliberate Apocalypse How, to make spice that much rarer and valuable.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Sting had already acted by the time he appeared in this role, though he was primarily known as a musician.
  • Non-Verbal Miscommunication: Liet-Kynes spits on the table in front of Duke Lete Atreides. Duke Leto recognizes the gesture as being friendly (due to how precious any moisture is on a desert planet) and stops Gurney Halleck from stabbing Liet-Kynes, because Gurney mistook it for Spiteful Spit.
  • No-Sell: After becoming the Kwisatz Haderach, Paul tells off Reverend Mother Mohiam for thinking she can manipulate him with the Voice. When she tries to up her game, he uses the Voice to shout "Silence!" with such intensity that she is physically knocked back.
  • Opening Monologue: Narration was used to insane levels in order to condense the plot of a six hundred page book down to two hours without confusing anyone. It didn't really help.
    "A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then that it is the year ten-thousand, one-ninety-one..."
  • People of Hair Color: In the movie, nearly all of the Harkonnens have orange hair, while the Atreides (and almost all Fremen) have black hair.
  • People Jars: The Spacing Guild navigators are essentially mutated ex-humans in jars.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: There are dresses based on renaissance gowns.
  • Playing with Syringes: House Harkonnen's minions are all fitted with "heart plugs"—a plug which, when opened, would empty the blood from the heart itself resulting in the victim bleeding to death. There was also a creepy scene with other minions who had their eyes and ears sewn shut. The surgical procedures that resulted in these things were not seen, but one can imagine they were horrific and certainly not voluntary.
  • Plot Tumor: In the novel series, the Voice — the ability to control the minds of the weak-willed — is only one of a number of talents that the Bene Gesserit cultivate through training. Lynch's adaptation takes this idea and expands it into devices that allow anyone to use their voice as a weapon, and Paul eventually becoming so powerful that he can use his voice to destroy without these devices.
  • Poison and Cure Gambit: Thufir Hawat is required to milk a cat daily for the antidote to the poison he has been administered by the Harkonnens.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Baron Harkonnen tries to open up negotiations with Duke Leto but Leto rejects that offer and so House Harkonnen goes on the attack. The Baron had no real interest in peace or discussion he simply went through the expected channels for House politics to try and quell any legality around his offensive.
  • Precious Puppy: In the book, there is no mention of a specific dog, but the film showed several pugs (owned by the Atreides) and bulldogs (by the Corrinos).
  • Pretty Boy:
    • Paul Atreides is portrayed by the strikingly pretty Kyle MacLachlan. Because Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach and can access the genetic memories of his female and male ancestors, his androgynous looks reflect his unique skill.
    • Meanwhile, every Harkonnen is ugly save Francesca Annis as Jessica and Sting as Feyd. Heck, one scene has him slathered in oil (wearing a winged speedo), with his uncle lusting after him. One unfortunate Harkonnen slave boy is pretty enough to capture the Baron's attention.note 
  • Progressively Prettier: The pustules on Baron Harkonnen's face gradually heal over the course of the movie.
  • Prolonged Prologue: The movie begins with four infodumps in a row: Irulan's introduction before the title sequence, "A Secret Report Within the Guild" after the title sequence, the conversation between the Guild Navigator and the Emperor, and Paul's filmbook.
  • Proper Lady: Lady Jessica behaves like one even though she's technically not part of the nobility.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: There's a scene in which several Bene Gesserit cry blood when Paul drinks the Water of Life. Although the movie doesn't make it clear, those who read the books will know that all of them are his relatives, and the identity of two of them makes guessing the significance of the third reasonably easy.
  • Putting on the Reich: Subverted with House Atreides. They may wear stern uniforms, but are unabashedly just and fair people.
  • Race Lift: The novel describes Wellington Yueh as having a butter complexion, which coupled with his Chinese surname imply he's meant to be the setting's equivalent to an Asian. In the film, he's portrayed by the white Dean Stockwell.
  • Real Is Brown: One aspect of the film that has regularly been criticized is its rather ugly art direction. Virtually every world other than Arrakis looks gloomy and overcast, which arguably makes sense in the case of Giedi Prime but not so much for the other planets. As for Arrakis itself, the landscape tends to be dominated by dust and smoke, which doesn't exactly convey the kind of grandeur that the filmmakers were aiming for. This was one of Roger Ebert's biggest complaints about the film.
  • Reality Warper: Unlike in the books, the Guild Navigators can fold spacetime with their minds.
  • Re-Cut:
    • In addition to the Theatrical Cut, a few years later, a made-for-TV version, containing a prologue sequence and many deleted and extended scenes was created. Originally meant to air in two parts, it was disowned by Lynch, who goes by pseudonyms in its directing and writing credits. It was eventually released on DVD (as a nearly three-hour film with the recap linking the two parts removed) as an 'Extended Edition.'
    • Fandom insists there is a cut closer to Lynch's first cut of the film that runs at around four to five hours. Frank Herbert's son Brian said in an interview in 2003 his father had seen a 'five-hour' version (likely the very first assembly cut), but no longer version than the TV cut has been officially verified.
    • Author Frank Herbert actually provides the narration of the prologue sequence in the TV cut, rather than Virginia Madsen as Princess Irulan.
    • The extended cut has yet to appear in HD in the States, but it has been released on Blu-Ray both in Germany and in Japan.
  • Recognizable by Sound: Paul has his back turned to the door when Thufir, Gurney and Dr. Yeuh come in his room. He identifies the three based on the sounds of their footprints.
    Thufir: Those sounds could be imitated.
    Paul: I'd know the difference.
    Thufir: ''(thinking) Yes, perhaps he would at that.
  • Red Right Hand: Baron Harkonnen has giant facial pustules. This was invented for the film, though both book and film versions of the Baron are morbidly obese. The Baron's weight in a prequel novel is attributed to a sexually-transmitted disease he contracted from the Reverend Mother after he raped her and he later pretended to have gotten fat due to intentional over-indulgence so as not to appear to be a weak victim.
  • Rule of Sexy: Sting in a rubber g-string. If you've made it this far into the film, you've probably learned to let this kind of stuff go. Both Sting and Lynch would have preferred to shoot the scene with Male Frontal Nudity, but they couldn't because the movie had to be rated PG.
  • Scenery Porn: The deserts of Arrakis and the sets in general are very striking, though the former is kind of spoiled by the Real Is Brown aspect.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Paul gets in a good one against Reverend Mother Mohiam when she tries to manipulate him through the Voice.
    Paul: Don't try your powers on me. Try looking into that place where you dare not look. You'll find me there, staring back at you.
    Mohiam: You mustn't speak!
    Paul: Silence!
  • Shirtless Scene: Paul has one when he's in bed with Chani.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The three scenes Feyd is in, you won't forget.
  • Space Clothes: The movie managed to come up with one set of strange clothes, thanks to the really weird mind of David Lynch, along with particular distinctive physical quirks (Mentats have giant eyebrows, the Spacing Guild are all bald and have weird voices, Harkonnens are red-haired and mostly have terrible acne).
  • Spiteful Spit: In perhaps the most infamous iteration of this trope in cinema history, the Baron degrades Jessica like this when he has her at his mercy.
  • A Storm Is Coming:
    "A storm is coming... our storm."
  • Storybook Opening: In the extended version, one of the first shots after the opening credits is a shot of a copy of the original book.
  • Super-Scream: The wierding modules channel the user's voice into a destructive sound pulse which can cause a variety of ailments based on how the user speaks, though mostly it just causes explosions. This leads to the memetic "My name is a killing word" scene, wherein a Fremen using one says "Muad'Dib" and blows up part of the ceiling.
  • Surprisingly Super-Tough Thing: Paul tells the Fremen about an obelisk "cut from your hardest rock." He has them kick it, yell at it and cut it with a laser. Nothing. Then he blasts it with the weirding module and shatters it.
  • Taking You with Me: Leto is given a poison tooth by the traitor to kill the Baron when he comes to gloat. Unfortunately, he's so drugged up that he hallucinates Piter as the Baron and kills him instead.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • In the novel and miniseries, Baron Harkonnen dies simply as a result of being stabbed with a Gom Jabbar by Alia. In the film, she stabs him and rips out his heart plugs, before he goes flying out of a hole that had been blasted in the palace wall, leading to him being Swallowed Whole by a sandworm.
    • Feyd-Rautha gets killed by Paul stabbing a knife upwards into the under-side of his head — to the point where it's just about possible to see the blade vertically piercing the inside of his mouth — and then crushing his chest with a sonic blast despite not holding a Weirding module.
  • Throne Room Throwdown: The final battle between Paul Muad'Dib and Feyd-Ruatha takes place in the throne room of the palace of Arrakis.
  • To the Pain: A variation occurs when Reverend Mother Mohiam has the Gom Jabarr at Paul's neck and his hand inside a box that causes excruciating pain. If he pulls his hand out of the box, the Gom Jabarr will kill him. Reverend Mother Mohiam recites the effects of the box on Paul's hand—for Exposition, surely, but also to make the torture a little worse (as Paul has a difficult time maintaining his internal "anti-fear" mantra, and Mohiam knows it):
    You will itching. There. Now, the itching becomes....burning. Heat....upon heat....upon heat....You feel flesh....crisping. Flesh....dropping off....
  • Training Montage: A short montage is used to show Paul Muad'dib training the Fremen to fight against the Harkonnens.
  • Translator Microbes: Members of the Spacing Guild speak an alien language. The First-Stage Navigators have their speech translated by devices resembling old-fashioned radio microphones held by the Second-Stage Navigators (The Voiceless Faceless Mooks). Notably, their Mouth Flaps don't match the translated dialogue. A similar translation device seems to be built into the Third-Stage Navigator's spice tank.
  • Video Credits: The end credits show images of all major characters together with their actor names.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Baron plans to make Feyd into this trope, as he first intends to send Rabban to brutally oppress Dune's population and collect as much spice as possible. Then, when the populace is at its lowest, he will send in Feyd to "rescue" them. Paul throws a wrench into this plan before Feyd gets his chance.
  • Voice of the Legion: The Voice used by the Bene Gesserit to control minds is depicted this way. It gets especially creepy when Alia does it, being not yet seven years old at the time.
  • Wham Line:
    Guild Navigator: We ourselves... foresee a slight within House Atreides. Paul... Paul Atreides.
    Emperor: (confused) You mean, of course, Duke Leto Atreides, his father.
    Guild Navigator: I mean Paul Atreides. We want him killed.
  • Wham Shot: It begins to rain on Arrakis.
  • Witch with a Capital "B": The Guild navigator demands that the Reverend Mother leave at once, calling her a "Bene Gesserit witch". Meow.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: The film turns the Weirding Way from the novel from a martial art into a sonic weapon and gives "my name is a killing word" a more literal meaning. Paul, in fact, is nearly flattened by rocks when a hapless Fremen utters the word "Muad'Dib".
  • World of Ham: The Baron Harkonnen is only the biggest pig in this ham-fest, followed by Patrick Stewart, Sting, and Siân Phillips. Even Kyle MacLachlan gets more and more juicy as the film progresses.
  • Wormsign: The Trope Namer. A Sand Worm makes the pretty distinct wormsign shape underground. For an added effect, we also see lightning-like effects. Presumably, the motion of the giant creature (and more importantly tons of sand) ionizes the air.
  • You Have Failed Me: Contrary to the Baron's intentions in the book, Rabban meets his end here under the Emperor's orders. Unsatisfied with the Harkonnen's rule on Arrakis and their inability to deal with the Fremen, Rabban is beheaded and his head is presented to the Baron.

"And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!"


Video Example(s):


House Harkonnen

There's evil, there's true evil, there's cartoonishly evil, and then there Harkonnenly evil.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / EvilIsHammy

Media sources: