The movie was written by Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci, and directed by Bertolucci. It is considered a plausible portrayal of the life of Ai-xin-jue-luo Pu-yi. Some characters in the movie (such as the Pu-Yi's Japanese handler) were composites of actual characters, but most of the characters and the incidents correspond to actual people and events that occurred in Pu-Yi's life.
At the same time, many historians have wondered if the documents which were the basis of the film such as Pu-Yi's autobiography and his British tutor's description of him are accurate. In the film and in these documents, Puyi has been portrayed as a pawn of more powerful forces, but many have pointed out that had Puyi portrayed himself otherwise, he would have been executed.
It won every Academy Award for which it was nominated: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Score, Best Picture, Best Sound and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
This was the first film ever authorized by the government of the People's Republic of China to film in the Forbidden City.