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The Last Emperor (1987)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama, History  |  15 April 1988 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 66,086 users   Metascore: 76/100
Reviews: 131 user | 74 critic | 15 from Metacritic.com

The story of the final Emperor of China.


(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Won 9 Oscars. Another 43 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ruocheng Ying ...
The Governor (as Ying Ruocheng)
Dennis Dun ...
Amakasu (as Ryûichi Sakamoto)
Maggie Han ...
Wen Hsiu (as Wu Jun Mei)
Chang (as Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa)
Jade Go ...
Fumihiko Ikeda ...
Richard Vuu ...
Tsou Tijger ...
Pu Yi - 8 Years (as Tijger Tsou)


A dramatic history of Pu Yi, the last of the Emperors of China, from his lofty birth and brief reign in the Forbidden City, the object of worship by half a billion people; through his abdication, his decline and dissolute lifestyle; his exploitation by the invading Japanese, and finally to his obscure existence as just another peasant worker in the People's Republic. Written by Martin H. Booda <booda@datasync.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


He was the Lord of Ten Thousand Years, the absolute monarch of China. He was born to rule a world of ancient tradition. Nothing prepared him for our world of change.


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




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Release Date:

15 April 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El último emperador  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$23,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$21,105 (USA) (27 November 1998)


$43,984,230 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (television)

Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (70 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The real Reginald Johnston spoke fluent Chinese and was extremely well versed in the history of China, as well as its poetry. In the film, he and Pu Yi speak English to each other. See more »


When Pu Yi walks out on the terrace during his inauguration the counting of the "kowtow" starts. At the inauguration or coronation of the emperor 3 times 3 bows should be made but you can clearly hear the count until 11. See more »


Reginald Fleming 'R.J.' Johnston: The Emperor has been a prisoner in his own palace since the day that he was crowned, and has remained a prisoner since he abdicated. But now he's growing up, he may wonder why he's the only person in China who may not walk out of his own front door. I think the Emperor is the loneliest boy on Earth.
See more »


Referenced in Saving Face (2004) See more »


Am I Blue
Music by Harry Akst
Lyrics Grant Clarke
Sung by Pu Yi
Published by Feldman Music
c/o EMI Music Publishing Ltd.
See more »

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User Reviews

A great artistic achievement
16 April 2006 | by (Portland, Oregon US) – See all my reviews

Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" is a monumental, perfect film, and stands as one of the great artistic achievements in any artistic medium.

Told in a complicated flashback/ flash-forward style, it's the story of Pu Yi (born 1906) who was the last absolute monarch of China. During his lifetime he falls from the Lord of Ten Thousand Years, the emperor/God of billions of Chinese, to an anonymous peasant worker in communist China.

Pu Yi was the child emperor from 1908 until the Chinese revolution in 1911 when he had to abdicate. He was allowed to remain in the Forbidden City but was stripped of his power by the communists. He was expelled from the city in 1924 by a warlord. In 1932, Puyi was installed by the Japanese as the ruler of Manchukuo, a puppet state of Imperial Japan. At the end of World War II, Pu yi was captured by the Soviet Red Army and turned over to the Chinese communists. Considered a traitor, he spent ten years in a reeducation camp until he was declared reformed. He voiced his support for the Communists and worked at the Beijing Botanical Gardens.

This film vividly portrays the change from the imperial and religious traditions of ancient China to the godless totalitarianism of modern communist China, so the film is, on one level, the story of China's revolutionary transition from imperialism to communism.

Visually the film is stunning especially the scenes in the Forbidden City. It was the first film to receive permission to film in the Forbidden City.

The film can be enjoyed on the first viewing but really demands more than one viewing and some knowledge of history. In this respect it resembles Akira Kurasawa's masterpiece "The Seven Samurai.

The cast includes John Lone as emperor Pu Yi, Joan Chen, and Peter O'Toole.

The film won 9 Oscars including best director and best film. A must see on DVD widescreen or in the theater.

29 of 33 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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