Biographical Documentaries

There are so many documentaries about Genghis Khan that I couldn’t possibly describe them all here–nor would I want to, as there are some truly terrible biographical films out there. The few listed here are a good beginning and most don’t perpetuate the worst of the myths and rumors that we love to believe about the savage Mongol hordes. Still, some of them indulge is some quite ridiculous reenactment.


Genghis Khan (BBC/Discovery Channel Co-Production), 2005

This is not the worst of the Genghis Khan biographical documentaries but it’s often a little overly dramatic. If you watch many documentaries about the Mongols, you’ll tire of hearing superlatives such as, “The largest empire the world had ever seen!” or “The most effective military the world has ever known!” This particular documentary has more of those most, but is relatively accurate and, for an introduction to the life of Genghis Khan, not a bad place to begin.



The Heirs of Genghis Khan


The Mongol Empire: Kublai Khan






Few historical figures have had as many dramatizations made of them as Genghis Khan. This selection barely begins to explain them all.


Genghis Khan, 1965

Omar Sharif plays the Great Khan with his usual flare. Stephen Boyd is his friend and nemesis, Jamuqa. This is more grandiose Hollywood than Mongol, but entertaining, nonetheless.


成吉思汗 (Genghis Khan), CCTV 2004

This 30-episode Chinese television series is one of the best dramatizations of Genghis Khan’s life available. At over 20 hours, it’s also one of the most complete. Even if you can’t read or understand Chinese, it’s worth watching. The playlist of all 30 episodes can be linked, below. This is the first.

The Search for Genghis Khan’s Tomb

[Summary of the burial story and a short explanation of the searches]


La tombe de Genghis Khan: Le secret dévoilé (The Tomb of Genghis Khan: The Secret Revealed), Cédric Robion and Agat Films, 2016

This is the latest and maybe the most interesting of the documentaries about the unusual characters who search for the tomb of Genghis Khan, Cédric Robion interviewed my teacher and mentor, Professor John Woods, for this film. It is available in an English overdub as well as subtitled, but neither is currently available on YouTube. For more information see: 

**I will be showing this film for the public during 2017-2018 at the University of Chicago. Details will be distributed to the U of C community and to students in my Oriental Institute course, The Khan and the Emperor.


Seeking Genghis Khan’s Great Secret, Land Rover USA, 2013

I’m including this because it’s so bizarre. I don’t think it’s entirely fictional, but it is partly a Land Rover commercial. I don’t know of many non-Chinese scholars who believe that Genghis Khan is entombed in China.


Genghis Khan’s Lost Tomb, National Geographic, 2015

Albert Lin, UCLA, has been searching for the tomb for many years, now, and was one of the first to use imaging technologies and crowd sourcing in his attempt. This is the first of a (very) short three-part presentation that summarizes his project. In Part 2, he describes a type of event that is difficult to explain yet common among the tomb searchers. You’ll hear (and see) similar stories in Bill Curtis’ The Secrets of Genghis Khan and Cédric Robion’s The Tomb of Genghis Khan: The Secret Revealed.


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