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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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Title: Empire of the Sun (1987)

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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?


Eric Flynn, who plays a British POW, was actually a POW as a child in a Japanese camp. 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 »


Referenced in Kicking and Screaming (1995) See more »


Performed by The Ambrosian Junior Choir
Arranged and conducted by John McCarthy
Soloist James Rainbird
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A masterpiece in every sense of the word
3 January 2001 | by (Bognor Regis, England) – See all my reviews

When I first saw the epic film 'Empire Of The Sun' by the inspirational director Steven Spielberg I became emotionally involved in the story and could not help but shed a tear for the truly remarkable piece of cinema. Christian Bale performs, without question, better than any other actor has in a Hollywood film that is twice his age. As he closes his eyes at the end of the film in one of the most moving scenes I can remember, you see what a simply fantastic job Spielberg has done to bring J. G Ballard's classic book to the screen. Not ever has a film been more inspirational to me whilst following my dream to become a director as this. At the end of it you feel you want to move people when making a film as much as you were moved by this one. Wonderfully acted, beautifully shot - no other film will ever compare to this.

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