What to know

critics consensus

While decidedly imperfect, Bernardo Bertolucci's epic is still a feast for the eyes. Read critic reviews

You might also like

Where to watch

Show all services

Rate And Review

User image

Verified

  • User image

    Super Reviewer

    Rate this movie

    Oof, that was Rotten.

    Meh, it passed the time.

    It’s good – I’d recommend it.

    Awesome!

    So Fresh: Absolute Must See!

    What did you think of the movie? (optional)



  • You're almost there! Just confirm how you got your ticket.

  • User image

    Super Reviewer

    Step 2 of 2

    How did you buy your ticket?

    Let's get your review verified.

    • Fandango

    • AMCTheatres.com or AMC AppNew

    • Cinemark Coming Soon

      We won’t be able to verify your ticket today, but it’s great to know for the future.

    • Regal Coming Soon

      We won’t be able to verify your ticket today, but it’s great to know for the future.

    • Theater box office or somewhere else

    You're almost there! Just confirm how you got your ticket.

  • User image

    Super Reviewer

    Rate this movie

    Oof, that was Rotten.

    Meh, it passed the time.

    It’s good – I’d recommend it.

    Awesome!

    So Fresh: Absolute Must See!

    What did you think of the movie? (optional)

  • How did you buy your ticket?

    • Fandango

    • AMCTheatres.com or AMC AppNew

    • Cinemark Coming Soon

      We won’t be able to verify your ticket today, but it’s great to know for the future.

    • Regal Coming Soon

      We won’t be able to verify your ticket today, but it’s great to know for the future.

    • Theater box office or somewhere else

The Last Emperor Photos

Movie Info

This sweeping account of the life of Pu Yi (John Lone), the last emperor of China, follows the leader's tumultuous reign. After being captured by the Red Army as a war criminal in 1950, Pu Yi recalls his childhood from prison. He remembers his lavish youth in the Forbidden City, where he was afforded every luxury but unfortunately sheltered from the outside world and complex political situation surrounding him. As revolution sweeps through China, the world Pu Yi knew is dramatically upended.

Cast & Crew

John Lone
Emperor (Henry) Pu Yi
Joan Chen
Empress (Elizabeth) Wan Jung
Peter O'Toole
Reginald Fleming 'R.J.' Johnston
Ying Ruocheng
The Governor
Victor Wong
Chen Pao Shen
Dennis Dun
Big Li, valet
Maggie Han
Eastern Jewel
Ric Young
Interrogator
Mark Peploe
Screenwriter
Henry Pu-yi
Writer
John Daly
Executive Producer
David Byrne
Original Music
Ryuichi Sakamoto
Original Music
Vittorio Storaro
Cinematographer
Ferdinando Scarfiotti
Production Design
Maria-Teresa Barbasso
Art Direction
Gianni Silvestri
Art Direction
James Acheson
Costume Designer
Show all Cast & Crew

News & Interviews for The Last Emperor

Critic Reviews for The Last Emperor

All Critics (72) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (64) | Rotten (8)

  • Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor is like a lavishly prepared six-course meal during which the host keeps telling us we would all be happier and healthier with a place of cold porridge.

    February 3, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Not for the first time in Bertolucci's work, the parts do not quite build into a whole, even when that whole is built on shifting perspectives. But they are magnificent.

    January 27, 2020 | Full Review…
  • The most startling achievement of The Last Emperor is that it accomplishes what seems to have eluded Bertolucci for some time. He has found the small in the large and, in many ways, he has created what many thought impossible -- an intimate epic.

    April 26, 2018 | Full Review…
  • As pure spectacle, "The Last Emperor" is a spellbinding peek behind the gate of a lost world.

    February 17, 2015 | Full Review…
  • It is a hesitant, conservative approach that yields great elegance and a rhythm that carries the viewer along. Yet the film is haunted by a sense of opportunities not taken, of an artist deliberately reining in his artistry.

    January 7, 2014 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • If there is such a thing as voluptuous detachment, Bertolucci and John Lone have found it. Lone's achievement in his absorbing account of Pu Yi is to place him at a distance and yet make his plight totally involving.

    January 7, 2014 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Last Emperor

  • Dec 18, 2020
    The perspective and narrative are obviously very Western in execution but Bertolucci was making this for American and European audiences. It is accessible history that is still fairly honest. I do wish the final section was a lot longer as I think that's where the film's most compelling stretch falls.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 20, 2013
    The Last Emperor is a very sweeping and engaging epic. From a visual perspective it is fantastic and in terms of this man forced to be King, we ultimately get a very tragic tale.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 27, 2013
    Grandly staged and beautifully executed, The Last Emperor is a visually stunning biopic on the life of Aisin-Gioror Pu Yi. The film covers his rise to power, his privileged isolation, and the political turmoil he found himself in later in life. At three and a half hours, The Last Emperor is a film that requires some patience, but has the technical skill and sufficient narrative power to keep you engaged. Director Bernardo Bertolucci is able to fill The Last Emperor with so much visual intrigue, that one can hardly afford to look away. Each scene is framed with immense elegance, and is accentuated masterfully by brilliant costume design and set design. In this way, the world building for Last Emperor is nearly perfect. We see China and its traditional grandeur, the awkwardness that the outside poverty offers, and the contrast to the more modern changes taking place. As such, it is an exceedingly strong example of how a period piece should be staged. As a narrative Last Emperor is largely successfully, but not flawless. Whereas the technical elements of the film are executed to excellence, the story in Last Emperor is told with some mishaps. It offers very interesting characters, but not full characterizations. Peter O'Toole's character, for instance, is a hallmark of the first half, but is never fully paid off. O'Toole brings a fine performance, as does John Lone, but the relationship between the two is never fully realized. How his influence escalates is never quite shown, he exits in far too much of a disjointed manner. This is true of a number of the secondary actors as well, such a Vivian Wu, whose character feels oddly inexplicable in the film. The character arc for Lone is done well up until the last act, where his seeming betrayal is never explored enough, and whose increased intellectual prowess never seems quite on point with where he should be. Taken on a whole, however, the story in Last Emperor is fascinating. The themes are interwoven especially well, examining class, power, change, and retrospection. We are treated not only to a historical journey that is reality-based, but we are also given a biopic that would exist successful on its own dramatic merits, outside of the actual people it's based on. An overall strong and memorable drama. 4/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 18, 2012
    Visually stunning, but suffers from too little dramatic development. As Pu Yi grows, there are too many inconsistencies--the annoying dubbed child's voice at 2 y.o., speaking beautifully fluent British English as an 8 year old, and then becoming suddenly Chinese again at age 15. In other words, more attention is paid to the movie's style than to its substance or the details. And while the style is truly beautiful, you need a decent story to go along, and we don't get that as audiences.
    Jeff L Super Reviewer

The Last Emperor Quotes

Movie & TV guides