Film: The Last Emperor

The Emperor has been a prisoner in his own palace since the day that he was crowned, and has remained a prisoner since he abdicated. But now he's growing up, he may wonder why he's the only person in China who may not walk out of his own front door. I think the Emperor is the loneliest boy on Earth.
Reginald Johnston

A 1987 film directed and co-written by Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor was the biopic of Pu-Yi, The Last Emperor of China. Its story, based on his autobiography, tells how Pu-Yi ascended to the throne at the age of three. In his brief reign, he was confined to the Forbidden City, not knowing of the world of his people. When he is forced to abdicate at nine, the rest of Pu-Yi's life is one of desolation and impoverishment. After serving as the ruler of a Japanese puppet government of China during World War II, he becomes a political prisoner of the Soviets and then of the Communist Chinese. When finally released in the 1960's, Pu-Yi dies in obscurity...

This proved very successful at the Oscars, winning all nine of its nominations, including Best Picture, tying the record set by Gigi nearly thirty years earlier.


This work features examples of:

  • Artistic License Biology: There is no way in hell a cricket could live that long, especially in a closed container without food or water.
  • As You Know: The governor helpfully tells Pu-Yi, and the audience, that the Japanese put a puppet state in Manchuria called Manchukuo and even tells the date, even though Pu Yi knew all that because he was there at the time.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Pu-Yi wanted a modern wife who could follow the new dances and was educated outside China. He found her in Wang Rong. But it didn't last.
  • Polyamory: Pu-Yi marries Wan Rong and has Wen Xiu as his First Concubine, and things don't go very well.
  • Pretty in Mink: A few furs, like those worn by the consorts.
  • Puppet King: Pu-Yi as the emperor of Manchukuo.
  • Puppet State: Manchukuo.
  • Royal "We": Pu-Yi when emperor of Manchukuo.
  • Scenery Porn: It was filmed in the Forbidden City itself.
  • Starts with a Suicide: Attempted by Pu-Yi in the beginning to kick off the story.
  • Take Over the World: The Japanese make clear their goal of conquering Korea, China, Indochina and India.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Trope Namer. The title character violently throws his beloved pet mouse offscreen. There's no sound of the mouse hitting anything, but it's never seen again in the theatrical cut, leaving its fate ambiguous.
  • White Man's Burden: Peter O'Toole as wise tutor Reginald Johnston.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Bad times for Wan Rong and her love child.