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->''P-51! Cadillac of the sky!''
-->-- '''Jim Graham''' (Creator/ChristianBale)

''Empire of the Sun'' is a 1987 American ComingOfAge war film based on J. G. Ballard's semi-autobiographical ''Literature/EmpireOfTheSun'' novel. Creator/StevenSpielberg directed the film, which stars Creator/ChristianBale, Creator/JohnMalkovich, Miranda Richardson, and Nigel Havers. The film tells the story of Jamie "Jim" Graham, a young boy who goes from living with his wealthy British family in UsefulNotes/{{Shanghai}}, to becoming a prisoner of war in the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center, a Japanese internment camp, during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII.

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!! The film adaptation provides examples of:

* AffablyEvil: Basie, a charismatic American scoundrel who Jim ends up assisting with his schemes trying to sell junk in order to get somewhere safer, and later with stealing items of internees who've died. [[spoiler: Basie ends up abandoning Jim as soon as he can find other kids to act as his minions, although Jim ends up on the same transport as him anyways]]
* AndStarring: "And introducing Christian Bale".
* BilingualBonus: At the internment camp, the lady serving Jamie and the other refugees their potatoes speaks in un-subtitled Mandarin Chinese. What she says translates to "you should be happy that you get to eat, I don't get to eat."
* BittersweetEnding: Because of the war, Jim has lost his innocence from witnessing so much death from the people around him and near the end he finally sees the true colors of the man he looked up to throughout the film, but by the last few minutes he not only survives the war and is rescued, he is also reunited with both of his parents.
* BreakTheCutie
* ChildrenAreInnocent:
** Jamie starts off not having any concept of the brutality of war, but he slowly learns the ugly truth.
** Meta-example: Late-movie Jim doesn't look like a teen who's lived on starvation rations for years, because it would've been ''highly'' unethical to ask then-13-year-old Bale to starve himself. As an adult, he's made a thing of radical physical transformations for differing roles.
* ChildSoldiers: One of the kamikaze pilots stationed near the internment camp.
* ComingOfAgeStory: For Jim.
* CoolCar: Jim's parents' Packard limo.
* CoolPlane: "P-51, Cadillac of the Sky!" Jim has something of an airplane obsession.
* CPRCleanPrettyReliable: Averted. Jim attempts CPR a couple of times in the film, it works in neither case and the second time, ([[spoiler: when he tries to resuscitate his kamikaze pilot friend]]), it's not pretty at all.
* DiegeticSwitch: A Welsh lullaby goes from being sung by Christian Bale's character to playing with choral backup after the character has stopped singing.
* DeathFromAbove: Japanese and American air raids.
* EtherealChoir: Jim Graham is a [[CherubicChoir boy chorister]], with his singing voice dubbed by real life choirboy James Rainbird. Choirs contribute throughout the soundtrack.
* GreatEscape: Basie and his fellow Americans plan one [[spoiler: and are successful, but they leave Jim behind]].
* ImperialJapan: The main antagonists of the film.
* JerkAss: Basie, despite taking care of Jim for the most part, often leans towards this.
* TheMedic: Dr Rawlins, who also tries to act as a ParentalSubstitute for Jim.
* ObligatoryWarCrimeScene: The Japanese actions against civilian prisoners in retaliation for American bombing of Japanese military targets.
* OrchestralBombing: Complete with a score by JohnWilliams.
* MagnumOpusDissonance: Steven Spielberg considered this one of his more important, serious works, but it remains overshadowed by ''Franchise/IndianaJones''.
* NotSoDifferent: Jim and the Japanese boy.
* ProudWarriorRace: Jim seems to view the Japanese as being something of this, and certainly the Japanese see themselves as this, but for the most part we see Japanese guards beating unarmed prisoners.
* RareVehicles: One of the IJA vehicles, a Nissan 4x4 used in a brief scene had to be custom-built from a Russian GAZ-69 because ''not one'' original example exists.
* RealPersonCameo: JG Ballard appears as a party guest at the fancy dress party; he's wearing a Union Jack costume.
* RefugeInAudacity: On the way to Lunghua Civilian Assembly Camp, Jim slaps the Japanese soldier driving the truck. ''And gets away with it,'' despite being a powerless POW boy. The look on the Japanese man's face is [[CrowningMomentOfFunny priceless.]]
* UsefulNotes/SecondSinoJapaneseWar: This movie features the conflict between the Chinese and the Japanese and the effect on Westerners who go caught in the war zone.
* UsefulNotes/{{Shanghai}}: The location of the first part of the movie.
* SpoiledBrat: Jim starts out as a spoiled little wuss before he [[TookALevelInBadass takes a level in badass]].
* StarMakingRole: "And introducing Christian Bale".
* StuffBlowingUp: Averted for most of the film, but plenty of flashy explosions when it counts, including [[spoiler:the distant flash of a nuclear weapon]].
* TheScrounger: As time goes on, Jim acquires scrounger skills from Basie, an American sailor and master scrounger.
* VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory: the story is semi-autobiographical after all.
* WorthyOpponent: [[spoiler:Jim salutes and serenades the kamikaze pilots.]]
* WarIsHell: The emphasis of the story is on the impact of war on civilians.
* WeaponsUnderstudies: Postwar Soviet GAZ-69 SUV as an Imperial-era Japanese military vehicle.
* WorldWarII: The story takes place during World War II.
* TheXOfY: ''The Empire of the Sun''
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