Empire of the Sun (1988)

Empire of the Sun

Plot: A young English boy struggles to survive under Japanese occupation during World War II – Empire of the Sun

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Christan Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, Nigel Havers, Ben Stiller

Genre: Historical | War | Drama

Released: 1988

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you liked: 1917, Dunkirk, Master and Commander


The first time I saw this film I was only a child, but I remember being blown away by both the cinematography and the acting of the young Christian Bale, who plays an eight-year-old boy who during the Japanese attack on Shanghai during World War II becomes separated from his parents and over the course of several years survived in different POW camps until the end of the war.

Bale’s portrayal of a somewhat shell-shocked youth was in my mind the reason for the film’s success and one of the main reasons to revisit it. He provided the audience with a nuanced and anchored focal point to follow through this alien and everchanging landscape. With Malkovich acting as the more world-weary counterpoint to the sometimes hyperactive child.


As mentioned before, the cinematography in Empire of the Sun was and still remains stunning, with numerous scenes throughout that lives long in the memory, such as the sorts of the Gone With the Wind poster during the harrowing escape from Shanghai, the one where Jim comes across a fallen Zero plane before walking into a group of soldiers, the scene where Jim sings as a group of Japanese pilots prepare for a kamikaze mission and my personal favourite when the residents of the camp come across the abandoned spoils of war, all of which draw different emotions from the audience at exactly the right time.

This is clearly one of Spielberg’s best-directed ‘serious films’, except maybe for Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan and it’s such a shame this film doesn’t get mentioned as much as his other movies. It’s also a bit of a surprise that this film didn’t do better at the Oscars.


  1. I haven’t watched this yet. This movie looks interesting to me. Perhaps one of these days, I am going to watch it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is such a nice movie review. To be honest, I have never tried to watch this and it looks like a good and interesting movie to watch. Thank you!

  3. Wow an old movie and it’s a good one, thanks for the sharing and everyone is sharing about old movies review these days because we are all at home. 🙂 – Knycx Journeying

  4. Heeeeey! I am a fan of old movies. Name them: The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, A Few Good Men etc. I know for sure that Im going to love this movie!! I have heard about this before. I want to watch it..

  5. I´ve wanted to watch this movie for ages! Both Malkovich and Bale are amazing actors! Thanks for the reminder!

  6. Now that I have more time, will make it a pint to watch the Empire of the Sun! Great actors and Steven Spielberg as Director? Even better!

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