Mixed or average reviews - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 17
  2. Negative: 1 out of 17
  1. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    As Jim, Bale delivers a stunning performance; he appears in virtually every frame and truly seems to grow over the course of the film from a coddled rich child to a calculating, almost feral creature who will ally himself with whoever wields the most power in a given situation.
  2. Reviewed by: Darren Bignell
    Spielberg's technical ability is very clear, with much to appreciate on close examination.
  3. A visual splendor, a heroic adventurousness and an immense scope that make it unforgettable.
  4. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Spielberg has energized each frame with allusive legerdemain and an intelligent density of images and emotions.
  5. With an edgy, intelligent script by playwright Tom Stoppard, Mr. Spielberg has made an extraordinary film out of Mr. Ballard's extraordinary war experience. [09 Dec 1987]
  6. 75
    Empire of the Sun remains a solidly engaging story of heroism in the face of adversity, as filtered through the eyes of a boy obsessed with planes and flight.
  7. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    It is up to young English thesp Bale to engage the viewer's interest, which he does superbly.
  8. 63
    Empire of the Sun adds up to a promising idea, a carefully observed production and some interesting performances.
  9. Reviewed by: Jay Carr
    Empire of the Sun is an imperfect film, but at its best it's grand and haunting in ways that only a movie can be. [11 Dec 1987]
  10. 60
    Though Empire of the Sun is a profoundly perplexing, frustrating object, there are things in it to marvel at and enjoy.
  11. 50
    The film is sober, serious-minded and paced like a funeral march. [11 Dec 1987]
  12. Reviewed by: Judy Stone
    Although he misses reaching to the heart of Jim's spirit and his relationship to other people, Spielberg has clearly taken an impressive step forward in shaping his new and adult vision for the screen. [11 Dec 1987]
  13. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    A faithful, technically brilliant, but also dramatically malnourished film of J.G. Ballard's popular World War II novel. [08 Dec 1987]
  14. Although Tom Stoppard's script lifts Ballard's spare dialogue directly from the page, the context in which it is placed is kitsch. [11 Dec 1987]
  15. For all its good intentions, for the thrillingly staged moments in the film's first quarter-for all the sweeping movement of thousands of people streaming through the streets of Shanghai-and for all its not-inconsiderable craft, the film's grave problem is a lack of central heating: We don't have a single character to warm up to. [09 Dec 1987]
  16. The pseudomystical vagueness that seems to be Spielberg's stock-in-trade stifles most of the particularity of the source.
  17. Reviewed by: Desson Howe
    Behind the trademark fancy package is a troubling sensibility, too. Spielberg seems unable to come to terms with anything real.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 41 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 8
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 8
  3. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. Aug 31, 2010
    A beautifully woven tale with historical significance. Steven at his very best in my opinion. War viewed from the sidelines during simpler times but no less brutal. Full Review »