Empire of the Sun

December 25th, 1987


Empire of the Sun

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Still of Christian Bale in Empire of the SunStill of Christian Bale and Nigel Havers in Empire of the SunStill of Christian Bale in Empire of the SunStill of Christian Bale and John Malkovich in Empire of the SunStill of Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun

A young English boy struggles to survive under Japanese occupation during World War II.

Release Year: 1987

Rating: 7.7/10 (46,065 voted)

Critic's Score: 60/100

Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson

Based on J. G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, tells the story of a boy, James Graham, whose privileged life is upturned by the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, December 8, 1941. Separated from his parents, he is eventually captured, and taken to Soo Chow confinement camp, next to a captured Chinese airfield. Amidst the sickness and food shortages in the camp, Jim attempts to reconstruct his former life, all the while bringing spirit and dignity to those around him.

Writers: J.G. Ballard, Tom Stoppard

Christian Bale - Jim 'Jamie' Graham
John Malkovich - Basie
Miranda Richardson - Mrs. Victor
Nigel Havers - Dr. Rawlins
Joe Pantoliano - Frank Demarest
Leslie Phillips - Maxton
Masatô Ibu - Sgt. Nagata
Emily Richard - Mary Graham, Jim's mother
Rupert Frazer - John Graham, Jim's father
Peter Gale - Mr. Victor
Takatarô Kataoka - Kamikaze Boy Pilot
Ben Stiller - Dainty
David Neidorf - Tiptree
Ralph Seymour - Cohen
Robert Stephens - Mr. Lockwood

Taglines: To survive in a world at war, he must find a strength greater than all the events that surround him.

Release Date: 25 December 1987

Filming Locations: Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, UK

Box Office Details

Budget: $38,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $1,314,509 (USA) (13 December 1987) (225 Screens)

Gross: $22,238,696 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

It was David Lean who first suggested Nigel Havers for the role of Dr. Rawlins.

Anachronisms: In the establishing shot of the film's final scene, set in the glasshouse, the top deck of a modern British double-decker bus can be seen moving along behind a wall in the background at top right.

[first lines]
Narrator: [title card] In 1941 China and Japan had been in a state of undeclared war for four years. A Japanese army of occupation was in control of much of the countryside and many towns and cities. In Shanghai thousands of Westerners, protected by the diplomatic security of the International Settlement, continued to live as they had lived since the British came here in the 19th century and built in the image of their own country...

User Review

Extraordinary film

Rating: 8/10

Reading through the reviews, there were a lot of people who didn't understand this film. This is Spielberg's venture into the realm of art in cinematography. This film is a visual masterpiece and you are swept along from beginning to end. Yes, the tale gets a bit loose in spots and you never know what's going to happen next. But, if you're willing to give up warm and fuzzy for lush visual images and startling leaps of character, you'll see what Spielberg's trying to accomplish. This film makes use of the talents of Miranda Richardson and gives some early exposure to the likes of John Malkovich and Ben Stiller, but young Christian Bale steals the show. The reviewer that commented on the "gothic" effect of the Tai-Pan's going to the costume ball being driven through Shanghai was right on. This film is rife with such scenes and does not disappoint. It's wholly misleading to look for some kind of action story underlying this film. The tale, taken from the book, is straightforward enough: a young boy's boost into manhood through the second world war. The film is full of memorable moments and visually very, very pleasing. As art, it is excellent. That's likely why it wasn't a blockbuster, as say, e.g., Poltergeist, Close Encounters and the Jurassic Park films, were. But, hey. That's the cost of creating art as opposed to crap. And, crap does draw a lot of flies...


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