Film / The Emperor's Club

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The Emperor's Club is a 2002 drama film directed by Michael Hoffman, starring Kevin Kline and Emile Hirsch.

Based on Ethan Canin's short story "The Palace Thief", the film centers around teacher William Hundert (Kline) and his students at a fictional boys' prep school, St. Benedict's Academy, near Washington, D.C. It follows the relationship between Hundert and a rebellious student named Sedgewick Bell (Hirsch), which turns into a power struggle that spans literal decades over a classics trivia competition.


This movie provides examples of:

  • Aesop: It is better to build something than to take something is basically repeated throughout the movie.
  • Broken Pedestal: Happens to Sedgewick's son when he hears his dad boast about being a cheater to Hundert in the bathroom.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Hundert relies on these to trip up Sedgewick in both Mr. Julius Caesar competitions.
    • In the original competition, the final question is "Who is Hamilcar Barca?" Mehta had been reading a book about him.
    • The second competition ends with the question, "Who is Shutruk-Nakhunte?" referring to the plaque Hundert had a student read on the first day of class... which Sedgewick had not been present for.
  • Cool Teacher / Stern Teacher: William Hundert.
  • Generation Xerox: Sedgewick becomes more or less a carbon copy of his father.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Shutruk-Nakhunte is used an example of a conqueror who built nothing and is now virtually forgotten. The fact he lived almost three thousand years ago is all but ignored.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: Hundert removed a promising and good-natured student from his earned spot on trivia team to give it to Segewick in hopes of inspiring him to be a better person. The student, Blythe, is still bothered by it decades latter.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Segewick gives one to Hundert about how he's just a teacher when he's a CEO on the way to becoming a Senator.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: A variation: Sedgewick claims to have turned over a new leaf when he grows up, but Hundert discovers that he's just as much of a dishonest cheater as ever.
  • Serious Business: The "Mister Julius Caesar" competition is this to the students and former students, even to adulthood.


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