Box art for Emperor


action & adventure, drama

A gripping tale of love and honor forged between fierce enemies of war, inspired by true events and starring Matthew Fox and Academy Award®-winner Tommy Lee Jones as General Douglas MacArthur.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

ON for kids age 14
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
3 out of 5
Positive messages
3 out of 5
Positive role models
2 out of 5
2 out of 5
3 out of 5

MacArthur meets Hirohito in interesting historical drama.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that Emperor is a historical drama about American generals attempting to establish order in post-WWII Japan, as well as deciding whether or not to arrest and try Emperor Hirohito for war crimes. The filmmakers have padded the story with a fictional romance (which includes some kissing), but the movie could inspire students and families to do further research. Violence isn't especially frequent/graphic, but there are a couple of suicides (with blood), fighting, and images of a bombed-out Japan after the war. There's also some language, mostly coming from General MacArthur, including one use of "f--k." Characters smoke cigarettes (and one smokes a corncob pipe) throughout, which is accurate for the era the movie takes place in. The main character drinks beer, sake, and whisky and sometimes gets drunk, with no apparent repercussions.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about Emperor's violence. What parts were the most upsetting/disturbing? Why do you think so many of the Japanese characters commit or threaten suicide?
  • Why does Fellers drink and smoke so much? Is it related to the high stress of his job? Did people know in 1945 what they know now about cigarettes?
  • Why did Fellers choose not to arrest Hirohito? Did he make the right decision?
  • Why would the filmmakers add a romantic subplot to this story? What happens when fact and fiction are mixed?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 21
    see all Emperor reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Rotten: Regrettably, "Emperor" does not match MacArthur's vigor, or mine his legacy. Instead, the movie is Fellers' tale and dryly told.

- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times, Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fresh: Fox is] so deadly serious, you long for a little fun. And that's what Jones supplies.

- Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic, Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rotten: The subject is intrinsically compelling, yet the central story is padded with an uninvolving love story that functions mostly as obvious symbolism about compassion for the enemy.

- Claudia Puig, USA Today, Friday, March 8, 2013

Audience Reviews

2 stars

Well who better to play Gen. Douglas MacArthur than the great Tommy Lee Jones, who is grizzled hardass defined. Jones is all kinds of excellent as Gen. MacArthur, assigned to aid in rebuilding war-torn Japan after World War II and bring Emperor Hirohito (Takataro Kataoka) to trial for war crimes. It's inspired casting bogged down by a so-so movie. With Emperor, director Peter Webber (Girl With a Pearl Earring), working from a stilted script from Vera Blasi and David Klass, puts most of the attention upon the lamest character. That would be Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox), the general tasked by MacArthur to conduct interviews with Hirohito's cabinet, those who still live and haven't taken to suicide, to decide if there is a case for the emperor to be tried for ordering the attack on Pearl Harbor, and whether he deserves a harsh punishment. It's a promising premise, but Emperor the movie instead turns its attention to a lame romance between Fellers and Aya Shimada (Eriko Hatsune), a Japanese girl he fell for in college before war soured everything. It's an obvious effort to paint a personal face upon a war, particularly on the issue of occupation, something that rings timely today in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not a bad idea, but the film executes it with cliches. The effect is uneven and clumsy. It's towards the end that the film really takes off and that's because Hirohito and MacArthur come face to face and it's a terrific scene, mostly thanks to Jones who does the general proud. Jones steals the movie. Pity it's not worth running away with.

- casillase1, Friday, March 15, 2013

2 stars

This "historical romance" directed by Peter Webber and written by Vera Blasi wasn't historical or romantic... and to be honest with you, I have no idea why the producers made this movie at all! It is a joint American and Japanese production with Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox starring in lead roles. The first one was good, the second one below average. Another fiction story trying to pass as "real" takes us in post-war Japan, where Brigadier General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) is tasked by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) to investigate the role of Emperor Hirohito (Takataro Kataoka) in World War II, in order to establish if he should be tried as a war criminal. Never happened in real life, but nothing will stop filmmakers in making a quick buck. Bad screenplay and some kind of a romance in a movie which doesn't have too many historical facts right were building a disaster from the early beginning which didn't even explode at the end, finished with a simple "flop". No imagination, no heart, no substance - movie which could be a pure waste of time for people looking for anything to entertain them, teach them or inform them.

- panta2, Sunday, August 11, 2013

2 stars

Emperor is a truly disappointing film merely because it should have been "so much better"! Sadly the film is just not very well made and the direction by Peter Webber (excellent before with Girl with a Pearl Earring and less-than-great with Hannibal Rising) is lacking as he has too much story to tell and keep straight as Emperor has many flashbacks and a few different storylines Webber does not cleanly keep separate. Emperor is the story of an American soldier, General Fellers (Matthew Fox - 'Lost'), who is returning to Japan after the end of WWII following the dropping of the two bombs that decimated parts of Japan shortly before. He is there as security detail for General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones - The Fugitive) and as an investigator as to whether or not Japan's Emperor should be tried for international war crimes by questioning his involvement in the war and the lead-up to it. What role did the Emperor play? This is the story that should have taken up the bulk of the story; but Webber decides to intercut this story with flashbacks of Feller's earlier romance many years before the war -- both stateside and in a pre-war Japan -- with a young Japanese girl (Eriko Hatsune - Norwegian Wood) whose family frowns upon a romance with an American. The story is rather un-focused as there is too much story here. It isn't a full-fledged romance nor is it a war-film. I am not sure if the movie wanted to appeal to several different audiences and was hoping for a weepy war romance (think ... ironically ... of Pearl Harbor); but told in this manner it will appeal to even fewer. Both stories suffer from lack of development and clear story telling and I cannot really imagine this appealing to anybody at all. It is a shame because one of these stories could have been a most interesting film/story.

- ThomasJayWilliams, Monday, August 19, 2013