Skip to main content
The Last Emperor Movie Poster
Plot, Details & Awards

The Last Emperor

(1987)
In Theaters 11/20/1987 , 225min.
Share this movie on

Plot & Details

The Last Emperor is the true story of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, the last ruler of the Chinese Ching Dynasty. Told in flashback, the film covers the years 1908 to 1967. We first see the three-year-old Pu Yi being installed in the Forbidden City by ruthless, dying dowager Empress Tzu-Hsui (Lisa Lu). Though he'd prefer to lark about like other boys, the infant emperor is cossetted and cajoled into accepting the responsibilities and privileges of his office. In 1912, the young emperor (Tijer Tsou) forced to abdicate when China is declared a republic, is a prisoner in his own palace, "protected" from the outside world. Fascinated by the worldliness of his Scottish tutor (Peter O'Toole), Pu Yi plots an escape from his cocoon by means of marriage. He selects Manchu descendant Wan Jung (Joan Chen), who likewise is anxious to experience the 20th century rather than be locked into the past by tradition. Played as an adult by John Lone, Pu Yi puts into effect several social reforms, and also clears the palace of the corrupt eunuchs who've been shielding him from life. In 1924, an invading warlord expels the denizens of the Forbidden City, allowing Pu Yi to "westernize" himself by embracing popular music and the latest dances as a guest of the Japanese Concession in Tientsin. Six years later, his power all but gone, Pu Yi escapes to Manchuria, where he unwittingly becomes a political pawn for the now-militant Japanese government. Humiliating his faithful wife, Pu Yi falls into bad romantic company, carrying on affairs with a variety of parasitic females. During World War II, the Japanese force Pu Yi to sign a series of documents which endorse their despotic military activities. At war's end, the emperor is taken prisoner by the Russians; while incarcerated, he is forced to fend for himself without servants at his beck and call for the first time. He is finally released in 1959 and displayed publicly as proof of the efficacy of Communist re-education. We last see him in 1967, the year of his death; now employed by the State as a gardener, Pu Yi makes one last visit to the Forbidden City...as a tourist. Bernardo Bertolucci's first film after a six-year self-imposed exile, The Last Emperor was released in two separate versions: the 160-minute theatrical release, and a 4-hour TV miniseries. Lensed on location, the film won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Awards

Academy Awards

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Sound Ivan Sharrock Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Editing Gabriella Cristiani Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Art Direction Osvaldo Desideri Nominated
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Director Bernardo Bertolucci Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Score Ryuichi Sakamoto Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Adapted Screenplay Mark Peploe Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Sound Bill Rowe Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Picture Jeremy Thomas Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Art Direction Ferdinando Scarfiotti Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Score Su Cong Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Adapted Screenplay Bernardo Bertolucci Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Score David Byrne Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Costume Design James Acheson Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Cinematography Vittorio Storaro Won
1987 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Art Direction Bruno Cesari Won

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1988 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Director Bernardo Bertolucci Nominated
1988 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Picture Bernardo Bertolucci Won

Golden Globes

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1987 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Original Score Ryuichi Sakamoto Won
1987 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Original Score Su Cong Won
1987 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Picture - Drama Won
1987 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Screenplay Bernardo Bertolucci Won
1987 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Director Bernardo Bertolucci Won
1987 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Original Score David Byrne Won
1987 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Screenplay Mark Peploe Won

American Society of Cinematographers

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1987 American Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography Vittorio Storaro Nominated

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1988 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Director Bernardo Bertolucci Nominated
1988 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Picture Bernardo Bertolucci Won

Directors Guild of America

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1987 Directors Guild of America Best Director Bernardo Bertolucci Won

European Film Academy

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1988 European Film Academy Special Jury Award Bernardo Bertolucci Won

French Academy of Cinema

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1987 French Academy of Cinema Best Foreign Film Bernardo Bertolucci Won

Los Angeles Film Critics Association

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1986 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Music Score David Byrne Won
1986 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Cinematography Vittorio Storaro Won
1986 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Music Score Ryuichi Sakamoto Won
1986 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Music Score Su Cong Won

Stay Connected with Moviefone

My Settings

You are currently subscribed as: {email}


Subscriptions

Get the latest reviews, movie news, photos, and trailers sent straight to your inbox.

Weekly Newsletter

Daily alerts

Movies

You're not following any movies.

These are the movies you’re currently following.


    Update settings
    X