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Empire of the Sun (1987)

PG  |   |  Drama, History, War  |  25 December 1987 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 83,590 users   Metascore: 60/100
Reviews: 287 user | 56 critic | 17 from

A young English boy struggles to survive under Japanese occupation during World War II.



(novel), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 6 Oscars. Another 12 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mrs. Victor
Dr. Rawlins
Masatô Ibu ...
Emily Richard ...
Mary Graham, Jim's mother
Rupert Frazer ...
Peter Gale ...
Mr. Victor
Takatarô Kataoka ...
Kamikaze Boy Pilot (as Takatoro Kataoka)
David Neidorf ...
Mr. Lockwood


Based on J. G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, tells the story of a boy, James Graham, whose privileged life is upturned by the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, December 8, 1941. Separated from his parents, he is eventually captured, and taken to Soo Chow confinement camp, next to a captured Chinese airfield. Amidst the sickness and food shortages in the camp, Jim attempts to reconstruct his former life, all the while bringing spirit and dignity to those around him. Written by Jeff Hansen <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

japanese | british | food | pow | pilot | See All (279) »


To survive in a world at war, he must find a strength greater than all the events that surround him.


Drama | History | War


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



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Release Date:

25 December 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El imperio del sol  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$35,000,000 (estimated)


$22,238,696 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


It was David Lean who first suggested Nigel Havers for the role of Dr. Rawlins. See more »


In the POW camp, when Basie stands at the dead woman's stretcher and tells her children "She's with God now", the woman can be seen blinking behind the veil. See more »


[first lines]
Narrator: [title card] In 1941 China and Japan had been in a state of undeclared war for four years. A Japanese army of occupation was in control of much of the countryside and many towns and cities. In Shanghai thousands of Westerners, protected by the diplomatic security of the International Settlement, continued to live as they had lived since the British came here in the 19th century and built in the image of their own country... built banking houses, hotels, offices, churches and homes ...
See more »


Chopin Mazurka Opus 17 No. 4
Written by Frédéric Chopin
Arranged and Conducted by John Williams
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User Reviews

Another Wonderful Spielberg Creation
13 November 2004 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

it was one of those movies i never expected to watch. it was late, i was bored, and i happened to stumble upon a channel i barely ever watch. and while i sat watching events unfold in front of me, i slowly forgot about my usual program of interest. there is something about this film that truly captivates you and leaves your eyes glued to it every second. Christian bale displays his talents wonderfully in this movie, and the most striking thing to me was his ability to give such a realistic, yet youthful performance. his subtle acts of defiance against authority, his brave expeditions that left older men in awe, the fact that a little boy could irritate a general so much. friendships were forged, even with the enemy and it was by far one of the most astounding movies i've ever seen. it's long, it's good, and if you haven't seen it - do so.

66 of 89 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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