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Film / Dune (1984)

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For the other adaptations of Dune, see Frank Herbert's Dune and Dune (2021).
"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 Moebius, H. R. Giger, Pink Floyd, Salvador Dalí and Orson Welles. Jodorowsky 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 another experimental director, David Lynch, 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 an All-Star Cast, which besides MacLachlan, features Patrick Stewart, José Ferrer, Brad Dourif, Dean Stockwell, Virginia Madsen, Sting, 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 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.

The Dune film contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Siân Phillips has some experience playing a scheming matriarch.
  • 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 sad 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 eyes glow blue instead of them looking opaque (and in poor light or extreme cases of spice usage, looking almost black).
  • Adaptational Badass:q
    • 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 have). 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 to use telekinesis too, 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 also made a much 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 Feyd never really had the upper hand.
    • 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.
    • Surprisingly, Emperor Shaddam IV himself is turned into a fighter in this film, as he personally mans one of his spaceship' turrets and participates in the final battle through it. This also makes a move on Authority Equals Asskicking, implying that, even if the Emperor loses the battle, he's still a trained military man and not just a lazy despot.
  • 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.
    • 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 presciente 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 Kenneth McMillan in the film 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.
  • 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.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: "Weirding" is a Fremen word meaning "foreign." In the book, the "weirding way of fighting" is how Stilgar called Jessica's Bene Gesserit martial arts technique. In the film, where said martial arts are replaced by sonic weapons, those are oddly called "weirding modules" despite being developed by House Atreides while it was still based on Caladan, without any relation to the Fremen. The European Spanish dub covered this by translating the term with a different word from that used in the novel's translation.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Big Eater: Beast Rabban in this film is always stuffing his face and talking with his mouth full.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Thufir Hawat and Piter deVries have big bushy eyebrows, possibly to denote them as Mentats.
  • 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:
    Stilgar: Usul, we have wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen.
  • 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: Jose Ferrer never fails to be hammy while remaining even keeled.
    Emperor Shaddam IV: (Tranquil Fury) Bring in that floating fat man.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Dune "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.
  • 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, José Ferrer 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: After Paul Atreides takes up his place as the Kwisatz Haderach, Arrakis, a planet defined by its absurd dearth of water, is consumed by a torrential downpour of rain. In the book, it took years of Terraforming. Perhaps the filmmakers subconsciously realised there weren't going to be any sequels and they had better get it over with?
  • 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.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We only see blood splattered on the wall when the "heart plug" scene climaxes.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Innocent Flower Girl: The Duke kills an innocent flower boy by pulling his heart plug.
  • I Was Never Here: The Guild Navigator from Lynch's movie, after telling the Emperor to kill Paul Atreides.
    "I did not say this, I am not here."
  • Inner Monologue: Taken to almost ridiculous levels in the movie. A great deal of the exposition and background information is given to the audience through this.
  • Internal Reveal: Paul sends Alia to the Emperor so she can reveal that Paul is actually still alive to those assembled.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Large Ham:
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: 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.
  • Man Hug: Paul and Gurney share one when they're reunited.
  • 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.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Feyd's utterly gratuitous speedo scene. Sting's running five miles a day really paid off.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    "A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then that it is the year ten-thousand, one-ninety-one..."
    • Narration was used to insane levels, although being Dune, it needed it.
  • 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.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: There are dresses based on renaissance gowns.
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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 actress 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.
  • 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: Averted — the film portrays the various peoples wearing European Renaissance-style court regalia and military uniforms with an early nineteenth-century feel. This comes off remarkably well.
  • A Storm Is Coming:
    "A storm is coming... our storm."
  • 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.
  • Training Montage: A short one is used to show Paul Muad'dib training the Fremen to fight against the Harkonnens.
  • Video Credits: The end credits show images of all major characters together with their actor names.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Guild doesn't have any morality. It just wants the spice to flow, no matter who is producing it.
  • 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.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: The film turns the Weirding Way from the novel into a martial art 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.
  • 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!"

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