How Old Napoleon Bonaparte Is At The Beginning & End Of The Movie

Light spoilers ahead for Ridley Scott’s Napoleon.




  • Napoleon Bonaparte is 24 years old at the beginning of the movie and 46 years old at the end.
  • Despite historical inaccuracies, Napoleon is praised for its battle sequences and memorable performances.
  • Joaquin Phoenix, despite being older, effectively portrays Napoleon’s different life stages, capturing his insecurity at every age.

With Ridley Scott’s Napoleon spanning a large chunk of time, viewers are wondering how old Napoleon Bonaparte is at the beginning and end of the movie. Penned by All the Money in the World writer David Scarpa, Napoleon stars Oscar-winner Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role. Even though the historical epic chronicles over two decades of Bonaparte’s life, Phoenix is the only actor to portray the short-lived Emperor of the French. The film also marks director Ridley Scott’s second collaboration with Phoenix, who had a prominent, antagonistic role in the filmmaker’s 2000 classic Gladiator.

Despite Scott’s reputation for crafting fairly well-researched historical epics, Napoleon has been criticized for its historical inaccuracies. There’s no doubt that the director’s take on the subject is different. In fact, many viewers have left the theater wondering if the Napoleon movie is supposed to be funny. Jarring tonal shifts aside, the film has been praised for its breathtaking battle sequences, bizarre humor, and memorable performances by Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby, who plays Napoleon’s wife, Empress Joséphine. From Napoleon‘s deep-dive into its titular character’s military campaigns to Bonaparte’s fraught personal life, the film is engrossing, even in the face of more tedious elements.

Napoleon Bonaparte Is 24 Years Old When The Napoleon Movie Begins

Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte looking skeptical in Napoleon

Napoleon opens amid the French Revolution, a 10-year period of major social upheaval that began in 1789 with the convening of the Estates General. Shortly after, revolutionary insurgents stormed the Bastille in Paris. A few years later, the French monarchy had been abolished, and, in 1793, the former King Louis XVI was executed. Any historical inaccuracies aside, when Napoleon begins Louis XVI has been dead for months, but Marie Antoinette is just being sent to the guillotine. Since that event happened in October 1793, and since Bonaparte was born in 1769, the young army officer was just 24 years old at the time of Marie Antoinette’s execution.

Under the direction of revolutionary leader Paul Barras, Napoleon oversaw the Siege of Toulon, successfully storming the city and repelling the British. It’s the first of many military campaigns chronicled in Scott’s Napoleon — a film that’s forced to condense the historical figure’s life into just 157 minutes. Driven by what he considers to be his destiny, a young Napoleon aims to restore stability in the wake of France’s Reign of Terror and, eventually, conquer France (and beyond) through military might. All the while, he courts an aristocratic widow, making Napoleon and Joséphine’s marriage the other principal element of the film.

Napoleon will stream exclusively on Apple TV+ later this year.

Napoleon Bonaparte Is 46 Years Old When The Napoleon Movie Ends

Joaquin Phoenix wearing a crown in Napoleon

The ending of Napoleon is set in 1815 — just six years before Bonaparte’s death in exile in 1821. Of course, the movie chronicles other key milestones in the military leader’s life. For example, Napoleon was 29 years old when he was victorious at the Battle of the Pyramids in 1798. In one of the film’s more memorable moments, Napoleon is crowned Emperor of the French by the pope — although, in a rather pompous movie, Bonaparte puts the crown on his own head. That crowning achievement of Napoleon’s occurred in 1804, making him 35 years old. At the film’s end, Napoleon is 46, though he lives to be 51.

Why Joaquin Phoenix Plays Napoleon Despite Being So Much Older

In total, Ridley Scott’s Napoleon covers just over two decades of the titular character’s life. Other films might have seen a younger actor being aged-up to account for the drastic shift; or, in The Crown fashion, other movies might have cast two different actors to portray Napoleon Bonaparte at different stages of life. Currently, Joaquin Phoenix is 49 years old, putting him at around 48 during the time of filming. While the end-of-the-movie Napoleon and Phoenix are similar in age — just 46 vs. 48 years old — it’s more of a leap to cast Phoenix as the 24-year-old Napoleon at the film’s beginning.

RELATED: What Happened To Napoleon Bonaparte After The Movie & When He Died

While Phoenix may not be the 20-something he was while collaborating with Ridley Scott on Gladiator, he still manages to pull off Napoleon Bonaparte’s different life stages. Given Phoenix’s talents, it may just be that it’s easier to forgive the age gap. On the other hand, the petulant, pompous Napoleon being infused with something of a man-child sensibility makes quite a bit of sense. Despite his desire to conquer all who opposed him, and despite his military strength and political wits, Napoleon was clearly insecure. In Napoleon, Phoenix captures this aspect of the character — at every age.


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