Empire of the Sun
  • Empire of the Sun
  • Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun

4.8 21
Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson


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Based on J.G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun stars Christian Bale as a spoiled young British boy, living with his wealthy family in pre-World War II Shanghai. During the Japanese invasion, Bale is separated from his parents. With the help of soldier-of-fortune John Malkovich, Bale learns to survive without a retinue of servants at his beck…  See more details below


Based on J.G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun stars Christian Bale as a spoiled young British boy, living with his wealthy family in pre-World War II Shanghai. During the Japanese invasion, Bale is separated from his parents. With the help of soldier-of-fortune John Malkovich, Bale learns to survive without a retinue of servants at his beck and call. By the time Malkovich and Bale are tossed into a Japanese prison camp, the boy has picked up enough street-smarts and developed enough intestinal fortitude to regard his imprisonment as an exciting adventure. The story ends during the 1945 liberation: on the verge of manhood, the 13-year-old Bale will never again be the pampered, privileged brat whom we met in the early scenes.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Matthew Johnson
Empire of the Sun, Steven Spielberg's beautiful tale of World War II victims, was at best faintly praised as another Spielbergian tale of childhood adventure. But this earlier work by the director of Schindler's List emerges on reexamination as a celebration of enduring innocence and imagination in the face of the horrendous desperation and brutal reality of war. Like a deceptively simple symphony, its joys are revealed in repeat experiences, the subtleties that lie beneath the wide-eyed set pieces that often define Spielberg's work. Jim (Christian Bale) is the privileged child of wealthy British merchants in Shanghai in the years before World War II. He idolizes the pilots and aircraft of the war between Japan and China and dreams of soaring through the clouds, blissfully ignorant of the danger so close to his home. But when the Japanese army storms the port city, Jim is separated from his parents and faced with the bleak reality of life alone in a war zone. Falling in with an American scrounger named Basie (John Malkovich), Jim braves the hostile streets of Shanghai before being captured and dragged to the forbidding prison camps of the Japanese army. Jim's struggle to find his parents becomes secondary to the need to save himself and those around him. Adapted for the screen by Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) from J. G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun is not only one of Spielberg's most soulful movies, but also among his best.
All Movie Guide
Those looking for the source of the full-fledged artist behind Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan need look no further than this relatively forgotten Spielberg effort from 1987. Brilliantly utilizing the kids'-eye-view approach honed in E.T. to decidedly different effect, Spielberg captures the terrors and thrills of a wartime childhood separated from every element that had previously allowed life to make sense. A young Christian Bale gives a deeply impressive performance, nicely holding his own against an equally memorable John Malkovich, but it's the tone of the film -- a sense of dreadful wonder in the midst of extreme circumstances, and a detachment that makes Bale's environment seem as alien to viewers as it does to his character -- that makes the most lasting impression. Though not seen as such at the time, this is a major step forward for Spielberg that is well worth rediscovery.
Washington Post
There isn't a moment in the film that is blandly or routinely directed. And in some of the movie's big set pieces, especially his staging of an American attack on a Japanese airfield, you feel his technical mastery in every frame, and the sheer raw energy he packs into his compositions can make you feel breathless, intoxicated by motion and speed. Hal Hinson

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
Sales rank:

Special Features

Disc 1: ; All-new digital transfer remastered in 1080p hi-def; Behind-the-scenes documentary The China Odyssey: 'Empire of the Sun', a film by Steven Spielberg; ; DVD Disc 2: Warner at War; A documentary look at Warner Bros.' impact on the nation during wartime, narrated by Steven Spielberg

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Christian Bale Jim Graham
John Malkovich Basie
Miranda Richardson Mrs. Victor
Nigel Havers Dr. Rawlins
Joe Pantoliano Frank Demerest
Leslie Phillips Maxton
Masato Ibu Sgt. Nagata
Emily Richard Jim's Mother
Rupert Frazer Jim's Father
Peter Gale Mr. Victor
Takatoro Kataoka Kamikaze Boy Pilot
Ben Stiller Dainty
David Neidorf Tiptree
Ralph Seymour Cohen
Robert Stephens Mr. Lockwood
Hiro Arai Japanese Sergeant/Airfield
J.G. Ballard Guest at Costume Party
Maggie Cartier Actor
Jane Feinberg Actor
Mike Fenton Actor
Kong Guo-Jun Chinese Sergeant/Airfield
Yuriko Matsubara Actor
Paul McGann Lieutenant Price
Ann Queensbury Mrs. Pym
Shi Rui Qing Shopkeeper
Judy Taylor Actor
Zhai nai She Yang
Ge Yan Zhao Merchant
Guts Ishimatsu Sgt. Uchida
Emma Piper Amy Matthews
James Walker Mr. Radik
Jack Dearlove Singing Prisoner
Anna Turner Mrs. Gilmour
Ann Castle Mrs. Phillips
Yvonne Gilan Mrs. Lockwood
Ralph Michael Mr. Partridge
Sybil Maas Mrs. Hug
Eric Flynn British Prisoner
James Greene British Prisoner
Simon Harrison British Prisoner
Barrie Houghton British Prisoner
Paula Hamilton British Prisoner
Peter Copley British Prisoner
Barbara Bolton British Prisoner
Francesca Longrigg British Prisoner
Keiron Jecchinis American Prisoner
Gary Parker American Prisoner
Ray Charleson American Prisoner
Burt Kwouk Mr. Chen
Tom Danaher Col. Marshall
Marc de Jonge Frenchman
Susan Leong Amah
Nicholas Dastor Paul
Edith Platten Paul's Sister
Shirley Chantrell Chinese Cook At Detention Center
John Moore Mr. Pym
Sylvia Marriott Mrs. Partridge
Frank Duncan Mrs. Hug's Father
Ronald Eng Mr. Chen's Wife
Za Chuan Ce Shopkeeper
Lu Ye Merchant
Guo Xue Liang Merchant

Technical Credits
Steven Spielberg Director,Producer
Vic Armstrong Stunts
Charles Bishop Art Director
Gavin Bocquet Production Designer
John Boyde Sound/Sound Designer
Michael Carr Songwriter
Rick Carter Production Designer
Maggie Cartier Casting
Colin Charles Sound/Sound Designer
Harry Cordwell Set Decoration/Design
Allen Daviau Cinematographer
Tony Dawe Sound/Sound Designer
Norman Dorme Art Director
Paul Engelen Makeup
Jane Feinberg Casting
Mike Fenton Casting
Michael Ford Set Decoration/Design
Maurice Fowler Art Director
Ye Mao Gen Special Effects
Huang Qia Gui Art Director
Fred Hole Art Director
Industrial Light & Magic Special Effects
Michael Kahn Editor
Kathleen Kennedy Producer
Chris Kenny Associate Producer
Harry Link Songwriter
Frank Marshall Producer
Yuriko Matsubara Casting
Menno Meyjes Screenwriter
Dennis Muren Special Effects
Michael Pangrazio Special Effects
Antonio Parra Special Effects
Norman Reynolds Production Designer
Bob Ringwood Costumes/Costume Designer
Michael Roberts Camera Operator
Robert Shapiro Executive Producer
Manning Sherwin Songwriter
Tom Stoppard Screenwriter
Jack Strachey Songwriter
Judy Taylor Casting
David Tomblin Asst. Director
David Watkin Special Effects
Kit West Special Effects,Special Effects Supervisor
John Williams [composer] Score Composer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Warner at War
1. Scene 1 [9:50]
2. Scene 2 [9:28]
3. Scene 3 [10:05]
4. Scene 4 [9:58]
5. Scene 5 [6:36]
6. Scene 6 [:59]


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Empire of the Sun 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
AlchemystAZ More than 1 year ago
My family and I watched it 4 times on its first day out, in Hawaii. Awesome!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Empire of the Sun is an incredible journey a of a young boy. This movie does not focus on the fighting aspects of war, instaed, it focuses on the effects war can have on the human soul. It demonstrates the effect war can have in an individual, not just a society. I enjoyed the movie because it had a different angle on war and was not focusing directly on fighting. Overall, a great movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of my all time top 10 favorite movies for its touching and truly emotional portrayal of victims of war. Only through the eyes of a young person (boy in this story) could the tragedy be presented in such an absorbing and unforgettable manner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed with this film. I found the exploration of the topic of war done through the eyes of this spoiled kid to be superficial and somewhat predicable. This look at allied prisoners of war held by the Japanese in World World II pale in comparison with the British television series, ''Tenko,'' which treated this subject with much more depth and sincerity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful movie about forgiveness, survival and will. The cinematography is excellent, acting is wonderful and the storyline hertbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this film is one of spielbergs most amazing creations. most war stories nowadays glorify the idea of war and death, this film focuses on the way war will turn someones life upside down. Christian Bale who acted as jim, the hero had me convinced in this story right from the beginning, the film immideatly completley changed my attitude on this incredible actor, and what makes it even better is that it is his first big US performance
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this movie. I've seen a lot of Spielberg films and had never heard of this one until I saw it and rented it. It's unbelievable. I'm amazed that this film is so overlooked.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Steven Speilberg will go down in history as the greatest film maker throughout history. Empire of the Sun was the birthplace for him to make Schindler's List. The vision and scope of the film is only matched by the superb performance of 12 year old Bale.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This delightfully touching war story is unusual in that the military is nowhere in the picture. The dramatic war time turn of events in a young boy's life are sketched with elan. This greatly endearing character is superbly portrayed and the supporting cast is also well put together.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Without a doubt my favorite Spielberg movie, perhaps because it is arguably his most honest. This is a great display of self-discovery and growth in desperate situations. Jim's transformation from brat to young man is well portrayed by a young Christian Bale.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is one of Steven Spielberg's greatest films ever!!! I thought the music was very moving and beautiful. I couldn't make out what language Jamie was singing though,but it was very good!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this movie! I cry every time I watch it, and i've seen it six times! The music is awsome, sou gan is beautiful,and the actors are great. This movie is very poweful. I highly reccamend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are two different kinds of Spielbergian films, the first kind is pure entertainment, no meaning, just what people go to the movies for. Films like Jaws have no real meaning, and people always think Spielberg as a guy who actually came close to Hitchcock or Kubrick with his memorable scenes and wunderkind-like, wonderous fiction. Indiana Jones wouldn't survive all that stuff in real life, and I laugh if he came close to surviving in a prison internment camp! AND THEN THERE'S THE OTHER KIND: Amistad, The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Schindler's List and introducing Munich. Some people might not "remember" any "great film moments" in movies like Amistad or Empire of the Sun, but they have MEANING, OK? Empire of the Sun shouldn't be called a movie with a great film score by a come again Williams, Empire of the Sun hit me. Impact. Something that really did happen, not just a lonely boy finding a great friend like E.T. It almost made me cry. It had impact.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Empire of The Sun is hands-down my favorite Speilberg film. The photography, music, acting and, especially the humanity moved me like few films ever have. Christian Bale's character evolves throughout and his zany behavior is, in part, expressed near the end when he tearfully says, "I can't remember what my parents look like". This is one of several surreal, emotional scenes depicted with more reality-based imagination than any of Speilberg's other films. I dig fantasy and sci-fi but nothing can top a fact-based story done with exceptional feeling.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great and, strangely enough, underrated movie based on the semi-autobiographic novel (meaning, a mix of fact and fiction) of James Ballard, brilliantly put on film by Steven Spielberg. The back of the DVD package reads "Through his [Jamie's] eyes we see the fascination and horror of war" which has to be taken literally: The observer is virtually glued to Jamie/Jim, only in a very few cases we are allowed to look beyond what he can see and hear. This makes the storyline uniquely linear and forces you to completely identify with the main character. Many of the scenes appear to be quite surreal, as the reality of war might have been. Absolutely solid performance of Christian Bale, as the brat in the beginning of the movie, who is playfully glorifying and completely ignorant of the seriousness and danger of the ongoing war, to the sophisticated survivor in the internment camp, then in the end as the apathic boy scarred by the horrors of war. John Malkovich being his rather strange friend Basie, who sort-of cares for Jim as honestly as he can, but would always set himself before anybody else. Great story, great picture, highly recommended! - By the way: Jim's church song is "Suo Gan" and sung in Welsh.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had to get on DVD had on LD (laser disc). Would like on Blu Ray. Love this movie, watch it several times a year.
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