The Last Emperor (1987) poster
Your Rating: 0/10
Ratings: 8.0/10 from 448 users
# of Watchers: 934
Reviews: 3 users
Ranked #2231
Popularity #8654
Watchers 448

A dramatic history of Pu Yi, the last of the Emperors of China, from his lofty birth and a 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. (Source: TMDb) ~~ Adapted from the autobiography "From Emperor to Citizen: The Autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi" (我的前半生) by Pu Yi (溥儀). ~~ Co-production with England and Italy. Edit Translation

  • English
  • Ελληνικά
  • Español
  • magyar / magyar nyelv
  • Country: China
  • Type: Movie
  • Release Date: Oct 23, 1987
  • Duration: 2 hr. 40 min.
  • Score: 8.0 (scored by 448 users)
  • Ranked: #2231
  • Popularity: #8654
  • Content Rating: 15+ - Teens 15 or older

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Cast & Credits


The Last Emperor (1987) photo
The Last Emperor (1987) photo
The Last Emperor (1987) photo
The Last Emperor (1987) photo
The Last Emperor (1987) photo
The Last Emperor (1987) photo


11 people found this review helpful
Apr 29, 2015
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 10
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
For all who aren't aware, this is a biography on the last emperor of China, Puyi. It starts off with him only a child suddenly becoming emperor and growing up in the Forbidden City, and ending with him as an old gardener no longer needed in Communist China.
I thought it was a great movie that was able to portray Puyi's life and the background of China's history perfectly! I recommend to anyone who is interested in learning more about China, and especially if you are taking a class on China's history. Even if you're just interested in watching a good movie, this is for you! It is able to hit your emotions without over dramatizing things and just keeping it real! Also, you get to see inside the Forbidden City which is absolutely stunning! This is actually the first film ever that was given permission to film inside of the city, so take advantage of this and watch it!
The only complaint i would have with it, is there were a couple unnecessary scenes in my opinion, but I guess others may enjoy them as well. Also, I haven't read them, but I recommend reading the book Twilight in the Forbidden City which has additional information.

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The Butterfly Flower Award1
4 people found this review helpful
Feb 14, 2024
Completed 1
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 5.0

"You are responsible for what you do"

The Last Emperor was epic in scope with filming for the first time in the Forbidden City, stunning costumes, and an enormous cast. It covered sixty years of Chinese history largely through the eyes of one man…the last emperor of China.

The film bounced back and forth in Emperor Pu Yi’s life in chronological order from his coronation at the age of 3 with his future life as a prisoner of the PRC. From the time he ascended the throne he was told he could do anything, anything that was except leave the Forbidden City. All of his needs were taken care of with the exception of having no friends, his company primarily old eunuchs. As he aged, he was given a Scottish tutor named Reginald Johnston with whom he became close. While safely ensconced behind the city’s walls, different factions gained and lost power outside. Instead of escaping those walls, he escaped into marriage with his Empress and concubine.

After the Beijing Coup in 1924 he bid a final farewell to The Forbidden City and was sent to Tientsin where he lived a hedonistic lifestyle. The Japanese army convinced him and/or coerced him into becoming the emperor of Manchukuo, previously Manchuria and Pu Yi’s ancestral home. Instead of finally becoming the ruler he had dreamed of being, he found himself a puppet of the Japanese. Things went from bad to worse there when the Japanese lost WWII and were looking for the exit door. Pu Yi was captured by the Russians and later turned over to the PRC where he was imprisoned for ten years in order to be “re-educated”.

As glorious as the sets, scenery, and costumes were, Pu Yi wasn’t always the most fascinating character. He went from being a figurehead to a puppet to a prisoner. He had no say in the government and often led an insular life. Dramatic events in China and globally impacted him on the periphery but politically speaking he was as impotent as his eunuchs had been. Prison gave him new insights into himself, others, and the war. A person who had his share of damaging tantrums, he had to learn to grow up. He’d never put toothpaste on his toothbrush or learned how to tie his shoes, soon he had to also learn to pee correctly and to garden. While imprisoned Pu Yi was shown a WWII film demonstrating how the people had suffered and the terrible atrocities committed. After the reality check his reformation and realization began to take hold.

I wish Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci had briefly explained some of the political upheavals better instead of just showing another set of beige uniforms in charge. The cinematography was good and maybe it was because they were trying to show a more realistic view of the places Pu Yi lived in or perhaps it was mood lighting, but many scenes seemed abysmally dark. The version I watched had most of the dialogue in English with some Japanese in a few scenes which was disappointing. I would have much preferred for the dialogue that was supposed to be Chinese dubbed in Mandarin. The Last Emperor’s greatest achievement was not the long glossed over historical events covering six decades, for many in 1987 it was the first look into the magnificent 9,999 room palace and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Joan Chen’s performance as Wan Rong plumbed emotional depths as the Empress became more isolated and dependent on opium. John Lone did his best with Pu Yi, but the character was one I felt little sympathy toward. The wars and tragedies never really touched him except for preventing him from being sole ruler over China. The late Peter O’Toole showed up in the role of Pu Yi’s tutor adding some gravitas to the cast.

The film didn’t touch on the cost to Pu Yi’s people during all of the political upheavals. Even during the various battles and revolutions he ate and dressed well, always had whatever he wanted while many of his people struggled for safety and daily needs. The film ended with Mao’s rule and cult of personality. Despite eliminating the imperial court, they traded one Emperor for another of sorts.

13 February 2024

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  • Movie: The Last Emperor
  • Country: China
  • Release Date: Oct 23, 1987
  • Duration: 2 hr. 40 min.
  • Content Rating: 15+ - Teens 15 or older


  • Score: 8.0 (scored by 448 users)
  • Ranked: #2231
  • Popularity: #8654
  • Watchers: 934

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