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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 83,493 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)

Empire of the Sun (1987) on IMDb 7.8/10

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Nominated for 6 Oscars. Another 13 wins & 9 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:



| |

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?


Tom Stoppard's script was originally written for director Harold Becker. See more »


Jim begins the film at the age of 13 or 14, meaning that when World War II ends he would be at least 17 or 18 years old. Actor Christian Bale (who was 12 when the film was produced) barely appears to age and is still a small boy in 1945. 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 »


Lyrics by by Eric Maschwitz and music by Jack Strachey
Performed by Elizabeth Welch
Courtesy of EMI Records Limited
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

13 December 2004 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

I came across this film while I was flipping through the channels on my t.v. This is truly an astounding film. The inimitable dialogue, the dazzling scenes, and most importantly the profundity of its premise make this film unforgettable and worthy of sycophantic obsession. I was completely enraptured by the brilliant acting. I believe this is Steven Spielberg's most noteworthy film. His other movies pale in comparison to this one. John Malkovich and Christian Bale are incredible as usual, but in this film they bring to life a story of a boy who loses everything due to a country trying to conquer everything. The physical and mental destruction of war and the injurious effects of loneliness are very clichéd themes, but this film conveys them in an incomparable way. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite films, and I suggest that everyone take the time to watch it. It would be exceedingly foolish of one to not watch it.

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