After 25 years, maybe it's time to reconsider "Empire of the Sun," one of Steven Spielberg's most underrated films (released on Christmas Day, 1987). Falling between "The Color Purple" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," this tale of a young boy (Christian Bale) who is separated from his parents in China during World War II, was not well received at the time: Roger Ebert wrote that it "it never really adds up to anything." It grossed only $22 million, even less than Spielberg's lowest-earning film mega-flop "1941."

The film has its detractors, but it also has its staunch defenders. Among the reasons to check it out, early turns from Ben Stiller (yes, really) and Joe Pantoliano. But the number reason to watch: The brilliant lead performance of 13-year-old Christian Bale, whose journey from spoiled rich kid to world-weary survivor is mesmerizing. Along the way, he takes a little boy's delight in unexpected moments, much like another great movie about war and childhood from the same year, John Boorman's "Hope and Glory."

categories Movies