The Last Emperor

1987 PG-13 2h 45m DVD

The Last Emperor

1987 PG-13 2h 45m DVD
  • Overview
  • Details
Recounting the last years of China's Ching Dynasty through flashbacks and flash-forwards, this Oscar-winning epic charts the life of Pu Yi (John Lone) -- who ascended the throne at age 3 -- from coddled aristocrat to enlightened insurgent to ordinary citizen. Co-starring Peter O'Toole as Pu Yi's Scottish tutor and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, the lavish drama collected nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
John Lone, Peter O'Toole, Victor Wong, Ying Ruocheng, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Dennis Dun, Joan Chen, Maggie Han, Ric Young, Vivian Wu, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jade Go, Fumihiko Ikeda, Richard Vuu, Tsou Tijger
Bernardo Bertolucci
Widescreen Anamorphic 1.78:1
English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
PG-13 - Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.
age 15+
Common Sense rating OK for kids 15+
age 15+

Common Sense Note

Parents need to know that this nearly four-hour film, covering six decades of Chinese history, contains some violent scenes, including a bloody attempted suicide, an execution-style murder with a direct gunshot to the head, and brutal newsreel footage from World War II. There are numerous scenes depicting opium use and its effects. Bare breasts are revealed as a baby and then a young child is nursed several times. Sexual activity includes a young couple kissing and exploring their clothed bodies on their wedding night; a carefully-shot sequence showing a married couple along with the couple's "second wife" engaging in foreplay beneath a satin coverlet; and an extended lesbian toe-sucking scene while the two women involved smoke opium. For older teens it offers a substantially accurate look at China during the last century, and accomplishes the rare feat of bringing history vibrantly to life.

Sexual Content

In a gentle wedding night scene, a bride and groom kiss and begin to caress and undress each other. A man and his wife and his female "consort" engage in sexual activity in bed under a satin cover. A suggestion of lesbianism culminates with two women mutually aroused by "toe-sucking" while smoking opium. The emperor's staff is primarily made up of eunuchs, who upon occasion are seen carrying their testicles in jars. Several shots of a wet nurse breast-feeding a baby. A small boy is shown naked.


An unsuccessful suicide attempt: wrists slashed, blood gushes into water-filled sink. A man is victim of flogging. The young emperor kills his pet mouse by throwing it against a wall. A household servant accused of betrayal is killed by a direct shot to the head. There's an angry confrontation between students and an armed military unit. Political prisoners are treated harshly and forced to confess by ruthless guards. Additionally, there are multiple newsreel scenes of a violent war and its aftermath, including shootings, piles of bodies, graphic shots of children wounded.


One use of the "f" word near the end of the film.

Social Behavior

Pampering and overindulgence can create selfishness and an unrealistic self-image, and can lead to great mistakes. Making decisions should be based on thoughtful analysis, not on emotional whims.


Mention of Bayer aspirin and Wrigley gum.

Drugs / Tobacco / Alcohol

There are a number of images of opium dens. Two women smoke opium while sexually stimulating each other. The empress appears to be under the influence of opium in multiple sequences.

  • Age appropriate
  • Not an issue
  • Depends on your child and your family
  • Parents strongly cautioned
  • Not appropriate for kids of the age

This information for parents is provided by Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving kids' media lives.

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