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

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Universal acclaim- based on 24 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.
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. 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]
  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. 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.
  5. The movie's considerable emotional force springs from the splendor of its visual poetry. Mr. Bertolucci allows the sweep of 60 years of Chinese history to unfold around Pu Yi as background noise to his peculiar, poignant role in the emergence of modern China. [25 Nov 1987, p.1]
  6. Reviewed by: Desson Howe
    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.
  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: 4 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. 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. Expand
  2. LeonardoP.
    Apr 11, 2008
    It is an unforgivable movie. It has a lot of captivating moments. Congratulations to Bernardo Bertolucci. I really recommend this movie.
  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. Expand
  4. 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.