Temujin, the teenaged son of a Mongol lord, is captured by Jamuga, a rival chieftain. Jamuga kills Temujin's father and makes Temujin a prisoner who has to wear a yoke. Temujin eventually escapes and assumes leadership of his tribe. He kidnaps Bortai, a noble woman betrothed to Jamuga, and makes her his bride; she falls in love with him. Temujin allies himself with the Emperor of China and defeats Jamuga, uniting the Mongol tribes and receiving the title of "Genghis Khan". He then conquers much of Asia before defeating Jamuga again and facing him in a final duel.
Hardly the definitive Genghis Khan biopic, and not nearly as well remembered as that other historical epic Omar Sharif made in 1965. Buoyed to some extent by a strong lead performance from Sharif, and definitely better than that John Wayne movie.
See also the 2007 film Mongol.
- And Starring: Oddly, Sharif gets this credit. Stephen Boyd, who plays the villain Jamuga, gets top billing.
- Child by Rape: Possibly Jochi. Bortei is pregnant when Temujin retrieves her from Jamuga. Temujin insists on recognizing the boy as his own son.
- HeelFace Door-Slam: The Shah of Khwarezm tries to retreat his armies and tell Jamuga that he wants no more bloodshed in the final battle, but Jamuga kills him.
- Last-Second Chance: Temujin offers to free Jamuga if Jamuga will fight with him and support him in uniting the Mongol tribes. Jamuga refuses.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: See Child by Rape above.
- A Match Made in Stockholm: Bortei falls in love with Temujin after he kidnaps her from Jamuga's camp. Jamuga is evil, and as a Mongol noblewoman she was going to wind up in an Arranged Marriage of some sort anyway, so it's understandable.
- A Minor Kidroduction: The first scene is a teenaged Temujin being captured by Jamuga. Omar Sharif appears after the Time Skip.
- Mobile Shrubbery: Temujin and the two guys who helped him escape from Jamuga's camp do this when they raid Jamuga's camp and snatch Bortei away.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Eli Wallach gives the Shah of Khwarezm his natural Brooklyn accent.
- Race Lift: None of the Mongol characters are played by Asian actors. Having a blonde woman (French actress Francoise Dorleac) playing Bortei is the most dramatic example.
- That being said, fair hair and blue eyes are somewhat common physical traits for some Mongol and Turkic ethnic groups, to say nothing of people of Tatar descent, and there's some evidence that describes Temujin himself as having been red-haired.
- A great deal of medieval Chinese and Arabic sources from the 7th to 12th centuries describe the people of Kyrgyzstan (a Turkic nation) as having red-hair, blue eyes, fair-skin and strong frames, and many Kyrgyzstanis have red hair to this day in spite of admixture with countless other ethnic groups over the centuries. In certain legends, Genghis Khan's ancestor is said to be have been a Kyrgyz tribesman.
- Rape Discretion Shot: The film cuts away after Jamuga has ripped off most of Bortei's dress and thrown her to the ground.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Bortei is extremely hostile when Temujin first enters her yurt after capturing her, but within a few minutes they are getting intimate.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Some things in this film are sort of true. Temujin was captured by an enemy when he was young. Bortei was snatched away by an enemy, and the paternity of her first child was in fact questioned. And the real Jamuga really was Temujin's main rival for control of the Mongol tribes. But the rest is mostly fiction. Temujin never made any kind of alliance with a Chinese emperor and never stayed in a Chinese emperor's palace. Jamuga, while he did become Temujin's chief rival, was also his friend from childhood, and Jamuga actually helped Temujin rescue Bortei from the rival chieftain who had kidnapped (and possibly impregnated) her. The marriage between Temujin and Bortei had been arranged from childhood. And there was no duel in which Temujin killed Jamuga but was mortally wounded himself; Temujin had the real Jamuga executed and then lived to see old age.
- Yellowface: While the filmmakers, probably wisely, made no effort to make the actors playing Mongols look Asian, the same was not true of the actors playing the Chinese characters. Robert Morley and James Mason are made up in Yellowface to play the emperor of China and his advisor Kam Ling, respectively. Mason, who plays the role as a mincing Charlie Chan stereotype, is particularly embarrassing.