Generally favorable reviews - based on 15 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 15
  2. Negative: 0 out of 15
  1. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    This grand and powerful biography begins in 1908 when, at the age of three, Pu Yi was named emperor of China and follows him through a tumultuous life inextricably intertwined with the history of modern-day China, one that that ended with the once-coddled emperor working quietly as a gardener at Peking's Botanical Gardens.
  2. 100
    It probably is unforgivably bourgeois to admire a film because of its locations, but in the case of The Last Emperor the narrative cannot be separated from the awesome presence of the Forbidden City, and from Bertolucci's astonishing use of locations, authentic costumes and thousands of extras to create the everyday reality of this strange little boy.
  3. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Emperor is like Full Metal Jacket - uneven, fuzzy, imperfect, and one of the reasons the movies were invented. [20 Nov 1987, p.1D]
  4. Reviewed by: Giala Murray
    The small screen doesn't quite do justice to the rich visuals but with an incredible story and fine performances, it is still a compulsive and moving epic.
  5. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Very simply, Bertolucci has found an elegance of design and execution that few of his contemporaries could even dream of. [23 Nov 1987]
  6. Reviewed by: Michael Blowen
    The most startling achievement of The Last Emperor is that it accomplishes what seems to have eluded Bertolucci for some time. He has found the small in the large and, in many ways, he has created what many thought impossible -- an intimate epic. [18 Dec 1987, p.95]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 24 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Mar 9, 2014
    Now this is an epic. The film has a regal air about it as it tells the story of Puyi, the last Emperor or China. At the end of the day, it is clear as day why this one won the Oscars it won and just how deserving it truly was. The film sympathetically portrays the final Emperor as we cannot help but look at him as a man who was revered as a small child, but as time went on, his power becomes less-and-less, before he completely loses all of it. What really makes this film work is the acting. The performance by John Lone as the adult Puyi, as well as the child actors who portray Puyi in his younger years is marvelous, as is the supporting work turned in by Peter O'Toole. On top of this, the sets throughout were top-notch and really oozed of that time period and really captured the essence of the era depicted.

    On the negative side of things, the film can be hard to follow at times, what with flash forward storytelling that is utilized. You kind of have to re-adjust to the storyline, as well as who the characters are, since there are quite a bit of them. The other complaint I have is certainly the length. While I watched the two hour and 40 minute version, it still felt a little on the long side, especially considering that there was no real...action or drama that gripped you enough for it to warrant being as long as it is.
    Full Review »
  2. Nov 24, 2013
    9 Oscars for a reason. It's a classic, yet for some reason not very appreciated anymore. This isn't just a story, this is a beautiful achievement in filming a story as accurate as possible. This is the first film footage of inside the Forbidden City, wow. Full Review »
  3. Apr 6, 2012
    Beautiful indeed not easy to forget. At times a bit slow, but still a great piece. I believe people should watch it at least once in their life. I will give it a 8.5 if that was possible to do here. Full Review »