Best Movies by Farr
The Last Emperor Poster
Released Runtime Category
1987 218 Drama, The Criterion Collection
Director Language
Bernardo Bertolucci English
John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole

The Last Emperor

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What's it About

This sweeping historical epic tracks six decades in the topsy-turvy life of Aisin-Gioro "Henry" Pu Yi (Lone), China's last emperor. We witness his ascendance to the throne in 1908 at age three, and later his imprisonment in the Forbidden City at the hands of foreign invaders. Pu-Yi then undergoes Communist reconditioning in the 1950s, and spends the post-imperial years as a humble plant tender in the Peking Botanical Gardens.

Why we love it

Shot on location in Beijing's Forbidden City — —the first time ever for a Western film— — Bertolucci's lush, sumptuous biopic tells of a deeply sheltered man's personal transformation, while examining the tumultuous political changes rocking the country he ostensibly rules. Ably played by three actors as the character ages, Pu Yi longs for escape, and finds it partly through marriage to Wan Jung (Chen) and in the worldliness of his Scottish tutor (a scene-stealing Peter O'Toole). With its exotic visual flair and cast of thousands, “"Emperor”" is dressed to impress — so it's no surprise the film nabbed nine Oscars.

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BEST MOVIES BY FARR is your personal guide to great movies to rent, stream, or buy; to watch at home or on-the-go. Led by film advocate John Farr, the Best Movies by Farr team works as a "quality filter" for the discerning moviegoer. Every day, we bring you the best of the best, the fantastic familiar films and hidden gems, to answer that age-old question: "What should we watch tonight?"