The Last Emperor

The Last Emperor Image
Metascore
76

Generally favorable reviews - based on 15 Critics What's this?

User Score
8.3

Universal acclaim- based on 31 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: The story of Pu Yi's life from his reign as Emperor to his last days as a peasant worker in the People's Republic.

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 15
  2. Negative: 0 out of 15
  1. USA Today
    Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    100
    Emperor is like Full Metal Jacket - uneven, fuzzy, imperfect, and one of the reasons the movies were invented. [20 Nov 1987, p.1D]
  2. Reviewed by: Giala Murray
    100
    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.
  3. 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.
  4. 80
    That Bertolucci -- with his momentous visual choreography, and Vittorio Storaro's velvety cinematography -- manages to touch on all of this makes The Last Emperor a remarkable achievement. The politics and pageantry tend to overrun the story at times, but it seems appropriate -- Emperor Pu Yi was overwhelmed by such things.
  5. Los Angeles Times
    Reviewed by: Sheila Benson
    80
    If you want the true, jaw-dropping details of Pu Yi's life, try the biography by Edward Behr, Newsweek International's cultural editor. If you want a staggering and certainly singular movie experience, The Last Emperor will do very nicely. [20 Nov 1987, p.1]
  6. Bernardo Bertolucci's visually ravishing spectacle about the life of Pu Yi is a genuine rarity: a blockbuster that manages to be historically instructive and intensely personal at the same time.
  7. The Last Emperor is like an elegant travel brochure. It piques the curiosity. One wants to go. Ultimately it's a let-down.

See all 15 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. May 30, 2016
    10
    The Last Emperor is based on Aisin Gioro Puyi who was the 12th and final emperor in the Qing Dynasty and imperial China. Through Puyi'sThe Last Emperor is based on Aisin Gioro Puyi who was the 12th and final emperor in the Qing Dynasty and imperial China. Through Puyi's autobiography, Bernardo Bertolucci has crafted an incredibly thematic film dealing with both deception, fear, and imminent loneliness that is felt by the child emperor Puyi. Having been a huge fan of Puyi's autobiography "From Emperor To Citizen," I was unsure how dutifully the movie would play to the incredibly well written book. Rest assured, the movie is brilliant and perfectly pays homage to 末代皇帝 (Henry Puyi) while at the same time captivating the audience with his quite saddening story. By far, the most exceptional part of this film must be its absolutely stunning soundtrack and orchestral score. It's moody and very much sets the tone and theme of The Last Emperor while utilizing both foreign and traditional Chinese instruments. It's art direction is also quite impressive giving a nearly perfect representation of Chinese architecture and wall design. Throughout the movie, you can see this through the 双喜 (double happiness) in the beginning and the use of the 大字报 towards the end of the film. But most importantly, the film delivers with content being a nearly spot on representation of China from start to finish. However, if their is one thing to tweak about this film is the immediate death of empress dowager 慈溪 (Cixi/Tsu Hsi) which diverts from historical knowledge given that 慈禧太后 died after she placed Puyi as emperor in an imperial edict. Overall, this movie is absolutely fantastic and totally deserves a ten out of ten. With a moving protagonist, great art direction, and music to add on to this already impressive story, it's no wonder why it has won so many academy awards back in 1987. Expand
  2. Oct 12, 2015
    10
    This is my favorite movie ever. It took me a while to wrap my head around it but it has everything.

    I don't even know if I can go into it
    This is my favorite movie ever. It took me a while to wrap my head around it but it has everything.

    I don't even know if I can go into it all but I'll try. It's one of the best historical dramas because it's profoundly truthful and accurate. Because of that I feel for every moment the film focuses on. It all surrounds a single character - Puyi, the last emperor of China, as he grows up. Reigning over his own ancient world as a teenager, utterly confused as a young adult as to why he no longer has it, going through a magnanimous crisis as a middle-aged man, and finally coming to peace with reality as an elderly man. The ending of the movie is so beautifully symbolic and captivating of China that I dare not spoil it.

    It has my favorite film scorer in the world, Ryuichi Sakamoto, at his very finest work. It is a historic film in that it's the first western film to EVER film inside the Forbidden City, and it is done with such spectacle. You believe that complex is at least 5x bigger than it probably is. It explores every corridor.

    Truthfully, every single person in the world needs to see this film. It is the most honest drama I have seen. It portrays perhaps the most difficult topic in the entire world - China in the 20th century. Chinese people refer to it often as "the Century of Shame", and that is what it is. Constant political turmoil and lies define the entire nation, and the reason they are developing out of it now is because of an evil dictatorship at the helm, the Communist Party.

    This film takes no **** when dealing with the Communist Party of China. It doesn't part their definition to make their country or their government look better. It portrays them exactly how they are – blind, naive, over-powerful and murderous, and only to be reasoned with because they "won the war", even though they really didn't as much as the much cleaner (though certainly not flawless) Nationalist government did. The Chinese government is very corrupt and loves spreading that corruption to other places for primitive causes. But political rant over, I don't want to tarnish the ending of this review too much.

    One thing I forgot to mention - the entire story of Puyi losing power at a young age? That's a metaphor for modern life. It is what everyone seems to live like and what everyone aspires to live like in their late age. You always lose grip of your life as a teenager. You always lose the fundamentals that you had as a child in your own adult ego. Your life always slips away from your control at some point, and it takes forever to get back. You always hope that you get it back. Sometimes it doesn't even. When it does it is beautiful like this film.

    TL, DR? Beautifully accurate, heartbreakingly dramatic, and one of the quintessential films you should see before you turn 20. My favorite in the world.
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  3. LeonardoP.
    Apr 11, 2008
    9
    It is an unforgivable movie. It has a lot of captivating moments. Congratulations to Bernardo Bertolucci. I really recommend this movie.
  4. Nov 24, 2013
    9
    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 beautiful9 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. Expand
  5. Apr 6, 2012
    8
    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 theirBeautiful 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. Expand
  6. Mar 9, 2014
    8
    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 isNow 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.
    Expand

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