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The Emperor's Club (2002)



Average Rating: 5.8/10
Reviews Counted: 127
Fresh: 64 | Rotten: 63

Though Kline is excellent in his portrayal of Hundert, the movie is too dull and sentimental to distinguish itself from other titles in its genre.


Average Rating: 5.6/10
Critic Reviews: 32
Fresh: 15 | Rotten: 17

Though Kline is excellent in his portrayal of Hundert, the movie is too dull and sentimental to distinguish itself from other titles in its genre.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 21,843

My Rating

Movie Info

A dedicated teacher learns some important lessons about himself years after he retired from the classroom in this drama. William Hundert (Kevin Kline) is an instructor at St. Benedict's School for Boys, an exclusive private academy on the East Coast where Hundert drills his charges on the moral lessons to be learned through the study of Greek and Roman philosophers. Hundert is fond of telling his students, "A man's character is his fate," and he strives to impress upon them the importance of the



Neil Tolkin

May 6, 2003


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All Critics (142) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (64) | Rotten (63) | DVD (12)

Kevin Kline perfectly cast to play this.

November 25, 2002 Full Review Source: Ebert & Roeper | Comment (1)
Ebert & Roeper
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This isn't a stand up and cheer flick; it's a sit down and ponder affair. And thanks to Kline's superbly nuanced performance, that pondering is highly pleasurable.

November 22, 2002 | Comment (1)
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a simpering, ineffective ersatz-drama, so simple-minded and unrealistic and so full of fussy stupidity, it exiles you.

November 22, 2002 | Comment (1)
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You don't have to be an especially tough grader to give a charitable B-minus to The Emperor's Club.

November 22, 2002 Full Review Source: USA Today | Comment (1)
USA Today
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie may not be worthy of an Oscar, but Kline's highly nuanced performance is certainly worthy of our attention.

November 22, 2002 Full Review Source: Toronto Star | Comment (1)
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's comfortable and pleasant, and if you squint you can practically see Dead Poets Society. And then it surprises -- just a bit, but enough.

November 22, 2002 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A soulless rehashing of Dead Poet's Society is hardly the savior of American education

May 31, 2012 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews
Old School Reviews

Some mature content, but fine for many teens.

December 28, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media | Comment (1)
Common Sense Media

Prep school professor tries to mold his students into upstanding young men, in particular one problem student. Ho-hum.

January 29, 2009 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

While it does trumpet good virtues and offer good lessons, it does so without grit, passion, or originality.

December 6, 2004 | Comment (1)
Looking Closer

...allows Kline to play the sort of cocksure character he specializes in.

August 1, 2003 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews | Comment (1)
Reel Film Reviews

William Hundert (Kevin Kline) isn't charismatic or cool… I like that about him. He isn't selling his own personality, authenticity, or commitment; he isn't selling education as self-actualization (Dead Poets Society)…

August 1, 2003 Full Review Source: Decent Films Guide | Comment (1)
Decent Films Guide

Welcome to The Emperor's Club, close affiliate to the Dead Poet's Society and Mr Holland's Opus, where students arrive in limousines and wear ties to class.

March 23, 2003 Full Review Source: Sunday Times (Australia) | Comment (1)
Sunday Times (Australia)

Kevin Kline's star turn as a good-yet-flawed prep school teacher is a very different take on private-school-flick cliches. ...

February 11, 2003 Full Review Source: Netflix | Comment (1)

...Teeters on the edge of over-sentimentality, occasionally just going ahead and falling in.

February 8, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Quips Online | Comment (1)
Film Quips Online

The generic standard of the super-teacher is only one piece of a larger, more satisfying story that runs counter to the overblown optimism of films like Dead Poets Society.

January 13, 2003 Full Review Source: Radio Free Entertainment
Radio Free Entertainment

One of the better stories about teaching, joining such classics as "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" and "Mr. Holland's Opus.'

January 5, 2003 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

The Emperor's Club, ruthless in its own placid way, finds one of our most conservative and hidebound movie-making traditions and gives it new texture, new relevance, new reality.

January 3, 2003 Full Review Source: Nick's Flick Picks
Nick's Flick Picks

Much smarter and more attentive than it first sets out to be.

December 27, 2002 Full Review Source: Mark Reviews Movies
Mark Reviews Movies

doomed to conformity from the outset by its very setting, which also dictates that the primary themes revolve around honor, loyalty, honesty, and all those other important concepts that define "uplifing" message movies

December 23, 2002 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

The Emperor's Club looks like a fossil preserved from the 1950s.

December 16, 2002 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The Emperor's Club is a nerd's version of Dead Poets Society...but lacking the wonder, revelation and charisma of the latter.

December 16, 2002 Full Review Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

Serves up something satisfying to the viewer, but isn't terribly original.

December 6, 2002 Full Review Source:

The Emperor's Club is the best pro-vouchers argument I've seen yet.

December 6, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Snobs
Film Snobs

The eleventh hour plot twists are both fitting and unexpected.

December 3, 2002 Full Review

It generates a paltry amount of drama.

December 2, 2002 Full Review Source: eye WEEKLY

Audience Reviews for The Emperor's Club

A film you swear you've seen before a hundred times, that is saved by a wonderful performance by Kevin Kline.
This whistful looks into the world of academia is beyond cliche, from the oopsy moment of Professor Kline playing baseball with his students (and predicably smashes a deep fly ball that careens into the headmaster's car window - gee, where have I seen that before.... in just about every film of this genre).

Still, there is enough witty dialog and a certain moral question that makes me give this film a watchable rating (if you've got nothing better to do on a weeknight).

The main dramatic point of the film is a competition held each year called Mr. Julius Caesar, wherein Kline, the professor, gives the topic for a series of essays on Greco/Roman history. Kline then grades the essays, and comes up with a composite score. The top three then have a head to head competition in front of the rest of the school, taking turns answering increasingly difficult questions.
The moral question comes as Kline has befriended the son of a Senator, and is pleased that he has finally reached the difficult student - to the point where he judges with his heart and allows the boy into the top three (where of course he attempts to cheat).

I found this entire exercise to be distastful, but I've always found that making judgements on subjective writing to be thus. When the film later tries to make amends for Kline's lack of fairness, it just adds to the mediocracy; after all, he is supposed to be the hero, that pilar of moral judgement who is so loved by his former students. The points are made, driven in with a sledgehammer and the sentimentality so saccarin that my teeth hurt - derailing some of the more subtle points concerning honor.

This film is certainly no "Good Will Hunting", "The Great Debators" or even the cheeky "History Boys" - it's certainly not original, and really hasn't much new or important to say, even though at times it says it quite well. For that, you can forgive some of its transparancies and transgressions, like the weak attempt at a love interest for Kline - which was totally superflous and unneccessary.

In conclusion, one of the film's messages is that victory without morality, or contribution to society, is hollow and not what will be remembered over time - just as this film will fade away and be forgotten.
May 31, 2010
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer


William Hundert, St. Benedict's assistant headmaster, practices what he teaches. Striving to inspire his students to live rightly, he's the kind of impassioned Classics professor who believes the history of the Greeks and Romans is more than just a lesson about the past. He also believes the role of a teacher is not only to educate the pupil but to mold his character. But in the fall of 1972, Hundert finds his cloistered world of tradition and influence upended with the arrival of new freshmen Sedgewick Bell, the son of a West Virginia senator. Almost immediately, teacher and student become embroiled in a turbulent battle of wills with repercussions that would still be felt a quarter of a century later.

Kevin Kline is amazing in this movie just like he is in all his roles. Had some good other actors that I like in this movie as well like Emile Hirsch, Jesse Eisenberg, Paul Dano, Patrick Dempsey, and others. Had the feel of Dead Poets Society, but definitely two very different films. The resemblance is the all boys school, and the brilliant teacher. But besides that, two different tales. One is more of the story of a teacher and the other of its students. I do prefer Dead Poets Society over this one though. Probably because I have been a student and never a teacher. Kevin Kline was great, but so was Emile Hirsch. He is one of today's greatest young actor's in my opinion. Love his work. Had quite a few of young good talents in this movie including the elder ones that made this movie so great. Thought the ending was surprising. Probably not a movie for all. Some will probably find it a bit boring. It was in some parts. But the acting is what pulls this movie through. Worth the watch for the performances if nothing else.
January 10, 2010

Super Reviewer

A magnificent movie. Funny and inspirational. Riveting and powerful. Kevin Kline is brilliant. Rich in character and tremdous in story.
September 8, 2006

Super Reviewer

Saw this at school and didn't like it at all. Good acting but the story is horrible and pointless
January 21, 2012
David O'Driscoll

Super Reviewer

Movies Like The Emperor's Club

    1. Professor William Hundert: I am Shutruk-Nahunte, King of Anshan and Susa, sovereign of the land of Elam. By the command of Inshushinak, I destroyed Sippar and took the stele of Niran-Sin and brought it back to Elam, where I erected it as an offering to my god, Inshushinak. Shutruk-Nahunte 1158 BC
    – Submitted by Ivana N (3 years ago)
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