• Released
  • November 18, 1987
  • PG-13 , 2 hr 42 min
  • Biopic [feature]
    Historical Epic

TV Guide

This grand and powerful biography begins in 1908 when, at the age of three, Pu Yi was named emperor of China and follows him through a tumultuous life inextricably intertwined with the history of modern-day China, one that that ended with the once-coddled emperor working quietly as a gardener at Peking's Botanical Gardens.
Full Review


The small screen doesn't quite do justice to the rich visuals but with an incredible story and fine performances, it is still a compulsive and moving epic.
Full Review

Chicago Sun-Times

By Roger Ebert
It probably is unforgivably bourgeois to admire a film because of its locations, but in the case of The Last Emperor the narrative cannot be separated from the awesome presence of the Forbidden City, and from Bertolucci's astonishing use of locations, authentic costumes and thousands of extras to create the everyday reality of this strange little boy.
Full Review

USA Today

By Mike Clark
Emperor is like Full Metal Jacket - uneven, fuzzy, imperfect, and one of the reasons the movies were invented. [20 Nov 1987, p.1D]
Full Review


By Richard Schickel
Very simply, Bertolucci has found an elegance of design and execution that few of his contemporaries could even dream of. [23 Nov 1987]
Full Review

Boston Globe

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. [18 Dec 1987, p.95]
Full Review

Wall Street Journal

By Julie Salamon
The movie's considerable emotional force springs from the splendor of its visual poetry. Mr. Bertolucci allows the sweep of 60 years of Chinese history to unfold around Pu Yi as background noise to his peculiar, poignant role in the emergence of modern China. [25 Nov 1987, p.1]
Full Review

Chicago Tribune

By Dave Kehr
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. [9 Dec 1987, p.2]
Full Review

Austin Chronicle

By Marjorie Baumgarten
Stunning opulence dazzles the eye.
Full Review

The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

By Jay Scott
The reign of the last emperor, a reign in name alone, was an exercise in style over substance; it is perhaps fitting that his cinematic biography should follow the same incarcerated course. [20 Nov 1987, p.D1]
Full Review
76 out of 100
Generally favorable reviews
Metascore® based on all critic reviews. Scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.