- Directors: Jean Jacques Annaud
- Producers: Jean Jacques Annaud, Iain Smith, John H Williams
- Writers: Heinrich Harrer, Becky Johnston
- Genres: Adventure, Biography, Drama, History, War
- Actors: Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, Danny Denzongpa
The introduction shows the young Dalai Lama receiving gifts from Tibetan monks. One gift he receives, an ornate music box, has special meaning to him, as he is still a young child.
The progress of Heinrich Harrer through India and Tibet on his trek across the high plateau to Lhasa is interwoven with the story of the young Dalai Lama growing into an 8 year old boy who becomes the spiritual leader of Tibet, with a thirst for western knowledge and later into an adolescent. The Dalai Lama is portrayed by three different actors as he grows up.
Harrer (Pitt) and his pregnant wife Ingrid (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) are briefly shown being driven to the train station in Graz, for Harrer’s departure on an expedition to Nanga Parbat. It becomes evident that Ingrid resents his departure. At the station, Harrer barges through the crowds, dragging his wife by the hand and showing his resentment of Peter Aufschnaiter’s selection as leader of the expedition.
Harrer at the train station in 1939 appears hostile to the Nazi Party, taking their flag with reluctance. The real-life Heinrich Harrer admitted he had Nazi sympathies at the time which he later regretted. Harrer’s arrogance and self-sufficiency become apparent as he sits by himself on the train journey to India.
Harrer bids farewell to Aufschnaiter and Pema and returns to Austria in 1951 to visit his son Rolf, now a young boy. Although his son initially refuses to see him, Harrer leaves the musical box as a gift for him and watches him lovingly from the crack in the door. In the film finale, Harrer gradually comes to know the son he has thought about all the years while he was in Tibet and trains him like himself in the art of climbing mountains. Having reached the top of a mountain, Harrer is shown with a Tibetan flag planted beside him at the peak.