Empire of the Sun

"Roundly dismissed as one of Steven Spielberg’s least successful efforts, this very underrated film poignantly follows the World War II adventures of young Jim (a brilliant Christian Bale), caught in the throes of the fall of China. What if you once had everything and lost it all in an afternoon? What if you were only 12? Bale’s transformation, from pampered British ruling-class child to an imprisoned, desperate, nearly feral boy, is nothing short of stunning. Also stunning are exceptional sets, cinematography, and music (the last courtesy of John Williams) that enhance author J.G. Ballard’s and screenwriter Tom Stoppard’s depiction of another, less familiar casualty of war." (text taken from Amazon)
Year Released
Running Time
153 min
Warner Home Video
ISBN Number
Average: 1.3 (3 votes)


Please login to review this resource

Dan Faircloth

Field of Interest/Specialty: Social Studies
Posted On: 11/17/2017

I gave it a 3 out of 5 stars. I gave a slightly higher ranking than some because I am a military history nerd but I would agree with some of the previous reviews. It is slow paced, and would probably bore most High School History students. However, I would show clips to my students so I could show them how life was like for civilian internees in a Japanese Internment Camp during the Japanese Army's occupation of the Philippines during WW2.

Too slow for most HS students

Field of Interest/Specialty: Social Studies
Posted On: 02/21/2017

I would agree with the previous post. The movie is brilliantly acted and focused on the Pacific Theater that is rarely addressed. Sadly, with the lack of dialogue and the slow pace, my audience would not find this movie engaging. I could see it used, or parts of it, in an AP or Honors class, but not the regular survey World history classes.

Empire of the Sun

Field of Interest/Specialty: Early Childhood
Posted On: 12/01/2015

Empire of the Sun reviewed by Margaret Logan 12-1-15
Empire of the Sun is a movie based on the autobiographical novel by J. G. Ballard. It is a PG Drama, released in 1987, and is 153 minutes long. This movie was directed by Stephen Spielberg for Warner Brothers Pictures.
In this movie, Jim is a spoiled young British boy living with his parents in pre-WW II Shanghai. The wealthy British citizens have built homes, churches, schools, etc that all look like they are back home in England but they employ many Chinese servants. They spend their days lavishly and with little regard for anyone outside their circle.
Jim gets separated from his parents during the chaos of the Japanese invasion and has to fend for himself. He develops some street smarts and eventually ends up in an internment camp with other non-Asian children and adults. Although conditions are harsh, he thrives and grows into someone who is amiable, a hard worker, and eager to help others.
In the story, Jim witnesses the flash of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and the story end with the 1945 liberation. Jim is found by his parents but he will never again be a spoiled and helpless brat.
This movie has brilliant acting, a wonderful score, and gorgeous cinematography. There is very little dialogue and the viewer is left to interpret things on their own.
This is a wonderful movie but teachers and parents need to know that this is a war movie and it is emotional and violent. It has scenes of bombings, shootings, beatings, people starving and eating insects, dead bodies, and racial slurs. In this movie, we can witness people who triumph over suffering.