In the 21st century, one should not get hung up on Western cinema, no matter how popular and successful it may have been in the past. A true cinephile should also look to the East – towards Japan, South Korea and, of course, the powerful cinematographies of Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China, the latter of which has long rivaled Hollywood studios in terms of box office. For this hit parade, we have selected one hundred of the best and most notable mainland (or collaborative) Chinese feature films and cartoons.
Particular attention was paid to genre blockbusters, which more easily overcome cultural barriers than art-house dramas and comedies.
100. Animal Planet / Dong wu shi jie (2018)
Country – China | Directed by Han Yan | Duration – 132 minutes
About: A young man in dire need of money agrees to participate in a dangerous game of rock-paper-scissors.
The Korean “Squid Game” grew out of Japanese comics about gambling and gambling. In 2018, one of the genre’s most popular comics, Kaiji, inspired the catchy Chinese thriller Animal Planet. As in the early chapters of Kaiji, Planet revolves around a simple game that combines randomness with psychological calculation, and the tape squeezes all possible and impossible drama out of seemingly childish fun. And also, of course, from the cooperation and competition of players fighting for the main prize. Singer and actor Li Yifeng and legendary Hollywood actor Michael Douglas played key roles in the film.
Fact: The game of rock-paper-scissors originated in China, penetrated Japan and spread around the world in the early 20th century through the mediation of the United States.
Why watch: to play without squid
99. How long will our love last? / Chao shi kong tong ju (2018)
Country – China | Director – Su Lun | Duration – 101 minutes
About: A man from 1999 and a woman from 2018 discover that their apartments have connected through time, and that they can visit both eras.
Romantic comedies often benefit from mixing genres, and the Chinese film How Long Will Our Love Last? was no exception. The picture earned almost $140 million at the box office thanks to the fact that the comically charming young heroes typical of rom-coms were found inside a fantastic time travel story with many unpredictable twists. And since lead actors Lei Jiayin and Tong Liya had previously starred together in the hit romance-family series Weaning, they were very convincing as a slowly bonding couple. The film also stars Xu Zheng, Yu Hewei, Tao Hong and Li Nian.
Fact: Actress Tong Liya, by her father, belongs to the small Sibo people, related to the Evenks and living near the border of China with Kazakhstan.
Why watch: to fall in love through time
98. Witness / Wo shi zheng ren (2015)
Countries – China, South Korea | Directed by Ahn Sang-hoon | Duration – 112 minutes
About: a former police officer blinded after a car accident becomes a victim of persecution by a maniac-killer
After directing the successful thriller “Blind” for his home audience, South Korean director Ahn Sang-hoon signed a contract with Chinese producers and created an authentic remake for their market. “Witness” doesn’t repeat “Blind Woman” frame by frame, but it’s essentially the same compelling and tense picture of a woman trying to survive and stop a villain despite her lack of Daredevil’s superhuman powers. The heroine is helped by a casual acquaintance – a teenager who witnessed the first (but not the last) attempt on her life. Starring Yang Mi, Lu Han, Wang Jingchun and Zhu Yawen.
Fact: The Blind Man (and, by extension, The Witness) was based on a screenplay that won a Korean Film Producers Guild competition in 2009.
Why watch: so as not to look danger in the face
97. Assassin: Battle of the Worlds / Ci sha xiao shuo jia (2021)
Country – China | Director – Lu Yang | Duration – 130 minutes
What it’s about: A man who has long and unsuccessfully searched for his missing daughter receives an offer of help in exchange for the murder of a fantasy novel author.
What does a fantasy novel have to do with a noir thriller set in contemporary China? The most direct. In the whimsical multi-genre Chinese film “Assassin: Battle of the Worlds”, events develop in parallel in the book and in the real world, and the two narratives are closely intertwined. If desired, “Assassin” can be compared to “The Neverending Story”, since its fantasy scenes are as magically beautiful as the fabulous fragments of a classic German painting. But Lu Yang’s film is aimed at a more mature and discerning audience, and it boasts far more sophisticated storytelling than Wolfgang Petersen’s film. Lei Jiayin, Yang Mi, Dong Zijian, Yu Hewei and Guo Jingfei were cast in the lead roles in Assassin.
The film has so many complex scenes and computer-generated effects that its post-production took two and a half years.
Why watch: for an adventure at the edge of worlds
96. Save Mr. Wu / Jie jiu wu xian sheng (2015)
Country – China | Directed by Ding Sheng | Duration – 106 minutes
About: Bandits posing as police officers kidnap a famous Hong Kong film actor and demand a large ransom
The plot of the thriller “Saving Mr. Wu” seems to be an idle invention of the screenwriters. After all, as they say: “If you don’t know what to write about, then write a movie about cinema.” However, the picture is based on real events. Moreover, the kidnapped and rescued actor Wu Ruofu played a police captain in the film, who, together with his colleagues, frantically searches for the star, while the public idol tries to negotiate with the villains and buy time. Although the ending of the tape is spoiled by the casting, this does not prevent the film from being a tense spectacle for fans of realistic crime stories. The title character was portrayed by Andy Lau. The film also stars Liu Ye and Wang Qianyuan.
Fact: Unlike Mr. Wu from the movie, the real Wu Ruofu is mostly known for his roles in Chinese dramas.
Why watch: To see how effective Chinese police are
95. Return to 20 / Zhong fan 20 sui (2015)
Country – China | Director – Last Chen | Duration – 131 minutes
About: Grumpy grandma suddenly turns into a 20-year-old beauty and starts performing with her musician grandson, because in her youth she dreamed of becoming a singer
In China, as in our country, many grandmothers live with their children and grandchildren, and do not see them only on holidays, as in the West. Therefore, the attitude towards grandmothers in China is as warm and respectful. This reckless family sci-fi comedy with a Back to the Future flavor easily transcends national boundaries. After all, she is inspired by the South Korean hit of 2014 “Miss Granny”, which quickly acquired remakes around the world. The main character was played by Yang Zishan and Gua A-Le. Together with them, Chen Bolin, Wang Deshun and Lu Han worked on the film.
Fact: The matriarch of Taiwanese cinema Gua A-Le is considered one of the greatest actresses in the history of the island. She has won four Golden Horse awards, Taiwan’s equivalent of the Oscars, over her long career.
Why Watch: To Meet the Grandmother of Cheerful Behavior
94. Soul / Ji hun (2021)
Countries – China, Taiwan | Director – Cheng Weihao | Duration – 130 minutes
About: In the not-too-distant future, a female detective and her prosecutor husband investigate the murder of a businessman who developed innovative treatments.
The Chinese film “Soul” starts out as an ordinary, stylishly shot detective story, but quickly expands its genre range. As the pregnant heroine and the terminally ill hero plunge into a world of futuristic medical experiments, the picture turns into a sci-fi spectacle with a touch of mysticism and horror. One unexpected plot twist follows another, and by the end the narrative is so intricately twisted that you may need a second viewing to understand all the nuances of this dark story. The film stars Chang Chen, Janing Chan, Sun Anke and Christopher Li in the lead roles. Note that the latter is a famous Singaporean actor, and not a classic of British cinema with the same name.
Fact: The Chinese version of the film is six minutes shorter than the Taiwanese version because mainland censors didn’t let through some particularly explicit scenes.
Why watch: to solve the crime beyond the possible
93. Monkey King / Xi you ji zhi da sheng gui lai (2015)
Country – China | Directed by Tian Xiaopeng | Duration – 89 minutes
About: A little boy accidentally frees the mighty Monkey King Sun Wukong, who has been locked up and cursed for rebelling against the heavens.
When The Monkey King was released nationally in 2015, it became the highest-grossing cartoon in Chinese cinema history and remained so until the premiere of Zootopia a year later. After all, no matter what new characters Chinese animators come up with, adult viewers first of all pay attention to the film adaptations of old legends and books so that traditional culture is passed on from generation to generation. And since the Monkey King has been adored in China since his debut in the 16th-century novel Journey to the West, almost every screen appearance of him is interesting. Especially if it’s a vivid 3D cartoon that doesn’t try to convey all the sophisticated complexity of Wu Cheng’en’s book, but makes the legend of Sun Wukong understandable and exciting for young children.
Fact: The film’s marketing budget was raised in part through crowdfunding. Many Chinese families have invested in the project to see their babies’ names on the long list of Monkey King producers.
Why watch: To introduce children to Sun Wukong
92. Brotherhood of blades / Xiu chun dao (2014)
Country – China | Director – Lu Yang | Duration – 111 minutes
What it’s about: Three secret police officers are ordered to kill a powerful eunuch who fell out of favor after the new emperor came to power.
The Three Musketeers is a legendary adventure novel about male friendship that survives any test. Inspired by true events, the historical thriller Brotherhood of Blades also tells the story of brilliant swordsmen in government service who take on a risky mission and go against an official with extensive connections and deep pockets. But The Brotherhood is more tragic than Dumas’s book, and the friendship of the heroes is overshadowed by betrayal, which jeopardizes the success of the common cause and sets blood brothers against each other. The central characters of the tape were portrayed by Chang Chen, Wang Qianyuan, Nie Yuan, Jin Shijia, Zhou Yiwei and Cecilia Liu.
Fact: The film takes place in the 17th century, during the era of the last ruler of the Ming Dynasty, who was infamous for bloodthirstiness and paranoia. As a result, he was left without associates, and the Manchus conquered China.
Why watch: to feel the limits of friendship
91. Get out now, Mr Tumor! / Gun dan ba! Zhong liu jun (2015)
Country – China | Directed by Han Yan | Duration – 128 minutes
What it’s about: A young woman suddenly finds out she has cancer and begins a battle with the disease.
When Beijing-based artist Xiong Dun found out she was terminally ill in 2011, she began publishing a tragicomic autobiographical comic book that turned out to be her most popular work. A year later, Xiong Dun moved to another world, and three years later the film adaptation of her comic book became a hit. Although the plot “Get out immediately, Mr. Tumor!” sad, the creators of the picture tried to reflect the unbending spirit of the artist and her violent imagination, which now and then turns the routine of life into vivid parodies of action films, horror, sports dramas, rom-coms. Therefore, the film basically looks like a comedy, and only gets sad closer to the finale. Due to its stylistic diversity, the tape has become a creative benefit performance for actress Bai Baihe. The film also stars Daniel Wu, Zhang Zixuan, Li Yuan and Liu Ruilin.
Fact: China nominated the film for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Why watch: so as not to retreat and not to give up
90. Warriors of heaven and earth / Tian di ying xiong (2003)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by He Ping | Duration – 120 minutes
About: A Chinese warrior, declared a traitor, and a Japanese warrior sent on his trail defend a caravan carrying a Buddhist relic through the desert.
Manchu by mother, Chinese director He Ping became famous as a director who combined westerns with Chinese heroic films and glorified the boundless sands of the Gobi desert in his films. “Warriors of Heaven and Earth” became the most vivid embodiment of He Ping’s ideas in his art. The film is set in the heyday of the Silk Road, and its plot forces the warring warriors to temporarily join forces to fight the Turkic nomads, whose leader hopes to use the sacred relic to establish power over the north of China. The film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The film stars Jiang Wen, Kiichi Nakai, Wang Xueqi and Vicki Zhao.
Fact: The music for the film was written by the famous Indian composer A. A. Rahman, known in the West for the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire. Rahman was attracted by the opportunity to combine Chinese, Turkic, European and Indian motives in the sound track.
Why watch: to conquer the desert land
89. Chinatown Detective / Tang ren jie tan an (2015)
Country – China | Directed by Chen Sicheng | Duration – 135 minutes
About: a young guy who failed the exam at the police academy comes to a relative in Bangkok and gets into a criminal trouble.
If you miss the detective folly of Sherlock and the hilarious adventures of Taxi characters, check out the Chinese epic Chinatown Detective, which began in 2015 with a two-hour tour of Bangkok’s Chinatown, one of the largest Chinatowns on the planet. Although the protagonist of the cycle could not enter the police school, he investigates crimes no worse than Holmes, while his broken and restless relative performs the functions of Watson and amuses the audience with his antics and misadventures. Since the film is set outside of China, The Detective is less censored than Chinese films about local police, and its emancipation is felt in every frame of this blockbuster. The main characters of the tape were played by Liu Haoran, Wang Baoqiang and Tong Liya.
Fact: The film earned ten times its $15 million budget at the box office and became one of the most successful Chinese films of 2015.
Why watch: to look into the “Little China” of the capital of Thailand
88. Chinatown Detective 2 / Tang ren jie tan an 2 (2018)
Country – China | Directed by Chen Sicheng | Duration – 120 minutes
About: the heroes of the first “Detective” come to New York to investigate the murder of the grandson of a Chinese “authority”
The makers of Chinatown Detective were so confident of their film’s success that they ended it with a scene setting the stage for a sequel. And since “Detective” really became a hit, three years later, the audience received a much more expensive and ambitious film about the heroes’ trip to America. In order to entertain the audience not only with a detective investigation, but also with the events surrounding it, the authors of the tape forced the characters to participate in the competition of detectives from all over the world, attracted by the fabulous reward promised by the head of the New York triad. So the heroes at every turn face colorful competitors who are ready to do anything to get a prize and get around other detectives. The film grossed nearly $550 million at the box office. The key characters were portrayed by Liu Haoran, Wang Baoqiang and American actress Natasha Liu Bordizzo.
Fact: Warner Studios once acquired the rights to distribute the film in the US, primarily for the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students who study in the US.
Why watch: to see the incredible adventures of the Chinese in New York
87. Chinatown Detective 3 / Tang ren jie tan an 3 (2021)
Country – China | Directed by Chen Sicheng | Duration – 136 minutes
About: The characters of Detective travel to Tokyo to investigate the murder of a yakuza leader blamed on the boss of a rival clan.
Like the first Detective, the second picture ended with the promise of a sequel, and three years later Chinatown Detective 3 came out, sending the characters and spectators to wander around the Japanese capital and understand the crimes of local gangsters. The film’s budget skyrocketed to over $100 million, and the third “Detective” became the epic’s most ambitious production, with large-scale scenes against the backdrop of Tokyo landmarks. And although the troupe of the picture was not as motley as in the second film, it was decorated with the famous Thai action hero Tony Jah. Together with Marvel’s Tadanobu Asano, Jha made the third Detective the most “internationally stellar” film in the series. The main roles in the film were played by Liu Haoran, Wang Baoqiang and Satoshi Tsumabuki.
Fact: The pandemic did not stop Chinatown Detective 3 from earning $686 million and becoming the highest-grossing non-US adult film.
Why Watch: To Complete the Japanese Crime Puzzle
86. Goodbye Mr. Loser / Xia luo te fan nao (2015)
Country – China | Directed by Peng Damo, Yan Fei | Duration – 104 minutes
About: an unemployed musician is transported 20 years into the past and becomes a pop idol because he appropriates the authorship of all the hits of the past decades
Remember Danny Boyle’s 2019 sci-fi romantic comedy Yesterday, in which the protagonist was the only one who remembered The Beatles’ songs? Four years before its premiere, Chinese comedians Peng Damo and Yan Fei made their film about a loser who becomes a recognized musical genius because he steals hits from those who have not yet written them. The hero turns all this sophisticated and homerically funny adventure, because he hopes to win the heart of a classmate who, in his time, married another. The film is filled with references to Chinese pop culture, so it can be viewed not only as a screwball comedy, but also as a tour of the Eastern mass culture of the 1990s and 2000s. The film stars Shen Teng, Wang Zhi and Ma Li in the lead roles.
Fact: Although the film’s distributors didn’t expect much from the film, the film became one of the biggest hits of 2015 and one of the most successful comedies in Chinese history.
Why Watch: To Sing Chinese Pop Hits
85. Hello, Mr. Billionaire / Xi hong shi shou fu (2018)
Country – China | Directed by Peng Damo, Yan Fei | Duration – 118 minutes
About: an unlucky footballer inherits thirty billion yuan – on the condition that he spends one billion in a month, acquiring nothing in the end
If you know well the Hollywood cinema of the last century, you probably recognized the plot of the satirical comedy “Hello Mr. Billionaire”. It is an adaptation of George Barr McCutchen’s Brewster’s Millions, published in 1902 and screened by Walter Hill in 1985, starring Richard Pryor. However, the cultural context is extremely important here. If a Hollywood comedy is just a hilarious farce, then a Chinese film satirizes the “new Chinese” who throw money around in a country where thrift is considered a virtue. Thanks to this, the picture was exceptionally successful at the national box office, although not all viewers were delighted that the screenwriters took the American book as a basis. The key characters of the tape were portrayed by Shen Teng, Vivian Song, Ai Lun and Bao Bei’er.
Fact: Brewster’s Millions is so popular around the world that the novel has been filmed in the US, Britain, India, Brazil and China.
Why watch: to live the life of the Chinese nouveau riche
84. Chinese pilot / Zhong guo ji zhang (2019)
Country – China | Directed by Andrew Lau | Duration – 111 minutes
About: the crew of a Chinese passenger plane is forced to pilot the car after its windshield was torn off
America has Miracle on the Hudson, we have In the Sun, Along the Corn Rows, and the Chinese have The Chinese Pilot. Which, of course, is also based on a real accident. Since the Sichuan Airlines airliner was flying to Tibet in May 2018, the flight was over mountains, and the crew could not immediately descend to compensate for the pressure drop. The latter was so significant that the co-pilot, although he was wearing a seatbelt, was partially sucked out of the window. And although the rest of the plane was in order, the first pilot showed himself to be a real pro when, under such conditions, he was able to reach the airfield and land the plane. The pathetic picture about this pilot became a rolling hit. The film stars Zhang Hanyu, Oho Ou, Du Jiang, Yuan Quan and Zhang Tian’ai.
Fact: The filmmakers invested $15 million in a life-size set of an Airbus A319-100 to faithfully recreate the events aboard the airliner.
Why watch: to see the skill of Chinese aviators
83. Dishonest please do not disturb / Fei cheng wu rao (2008)
Country – China | Directed by Feng Xiaogang | Duration – 128 minutes
About: a hardened bachelor who suddenly became rich decides to marry through online dating
The romantic comedy Do Not Disturb the Dishonest is one of those melodramatic films that bring implausible couples together. But if other films of this direction ask viewers to take it for granted that a beautiful heroine finds a moderately charming hero attractive, Feng Xiaogang’s rental hit openly admits the problem from the very first joint scene of the central characters. And he finds scenario solutions that gradually convince both the audience and the characters themselves of the validity of such an unexpected rapprochement. Along with the relationship of the characters, the tone of the picture evolves – from farce to intimate cinema. The main characters of the tape were portrayed by Ge Yu and Shu Qi.
Fact: Taiwanese-born Shu Qi started out in Hong Kong erotic films before landing roles in more serious productions.
Why watch: to find love by ad
82. Great hypnotist / Cui mian da shi (2014)
Country – China | Director – Last Chen | Duration – 104 minutes
About: a talented psychotherapist works with a woman who says she sees ghosts
The work of a psychotherapist with a difficult patient is similar to the work of a detective investigating a crime. At least the film by Taiwanese director Laste Chen is trying to convince the public of this, and he is doing quite well, judging by the popularity of the picture and its solid box office. This psychological thriller flirts with supernatural matters, but is more like an intriguing detective story in which the protagonist must unravel a shocking criminal puzzle and avoid becoming a victim of those whose past he rummages through. The key characters of the tape were portrayed by Chinese actor Xu Zheng and the most popular Hong Kong pop diva Karen Mok.
Fact: Karen Mok set a Guinness World Record in 2019 when she held a stadium recital in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, at an altitude of 3,650 meters above sea level. Before her, no one had performed so high and on such a scale.
Why watch: to dig into other people’s minds
81. Sky King / Chang kong zhi wang (2023)
Country – China | Directed by Liu Xiaoshi | Duration – 127 minutes
About: the best Chinese military pilots are testing new-generation experimental aircraft
An impressive Chinese response to “Top Gun” and “Top Gun: Maverick”, “King of the Sky” introduces the public to the work of test pilots. In the course of the story, the characters encounter their American counterparts. But, as is clear from the film, the work of military pilots, flying on the edge and beyond the capabilities of the latest fighters, is dangerous even in clear skies. At the same time, the central character is not limited to exploits in the cockpit. In his rare free moments, he tries to improve the car to make it even faster and safer. Judging by the box office of the picture, “King of the Sky” can already be called one of the main rental hits of 2023. The film stars Wang Yibo, Hu Jun, Zhou Dongyu, Yosh Yu and Bu Yu.
Fact: Before becoming a star in his native China, actor, singer and motorcycle racer Wang Yibo rose to fame as a member of the South Korean pop group Uniq .
Why watch: to soar into the Chinese sky
80. Crimson sunset / Zi ri (2001)
Country – China | Directed by Feng Xiaoning | Duration – 106 minutes
About: at the very end of the war between the USSR and Japan in 1945, a Chinese peasant, a Japanese schoolgirl and a Soviet girl officer find themselves behind the front line
While Alexander Rogozhkin was filming The Cuckoo about a Russian, a Finn and a Sami woman during the war, his Chinese colleague Feng Xiaoning made a strikingly similar but less meditative and comedic and more bloody and gripping war thriller. As in The Cuckoo, the characters in the Chinese film Crimson Sunset are forced to interact not as representatives of warring nations, but as people who survive together in “no man’s land.” And although at first the adult Chinese and the young Japanese woman hate each other to the core, they gradually come to an understanding, while the wise Soviet heroine beyond her years acts as a “moderator” of their relationship. The main roles in the film were played by Fu Dalun, Chie Maeda and Anna Generalova.
Fact: in addition to “Crimson Sunset”, actress Anna Generalova starred in the 2006 Chinese-Russian TV series “The Dawns Here Are Quiet …”.
Why watch: to see our heroine in a Chinese movie
79. Sheep without a shepherd / Wu sha (2019)
Country – China | Directed by Sam Cua | Duration – 112 minutes
About: the family is trying to hide the murder of the “major” rapist who mocked their daughter
The psychological thriller Sheep Without a Shepherd presents viewers with a difficult moral dilemma. On the one hand, the characters in the film commit one crime after another, and it’s hard to argue with the law, which insists that you can’t kill people, hide their bodies, and destroy evidence. On the other hand, the victim was a narcissistic villain, and he was raised by a corrupt police chief who is ready for any crime to find out what happened to her offspring. As a result, the picture turns out to be a tense and tough confrontation between two families, and the audience gets the opportunity to choose which side of the truth is on – and whether there is any truth in this dark story. The film earned nearly $200 million at the box office. Starring Xiao Yang, Tan Zhuo, Joan Chen and Philip Kuhn.
Fact: The film was created as an official remake of the hit Bollywood thriller of 2015, Visibility.
Why Watch: To Solve the Moral Equation
78. Waiting alone / Du zi deng dai (2004)
Country – China | Directed by Deyang En | Duration – 107 minutes
About: The owner of an antique shop in Beijing is trying to get out of the “friend zone” of an actress who prefers powerful men.
Director Deiyang En was born on the island of Taiwan, received citizenship and education in the United States, and then transferred to the Beijing Film Academy. This allowed En to become the first formally American director of a Chinese film, as well as the first foreigner, whose film was nominated for the main Chinese film award Golden Rooster in the category “Best Film”. Such a high honor was given to En’s feature-length debut – an ironic, but good-natured, witty and inventive romantic comedy “Waiting Alone”, which in the West was compared to the films of Woody Allen and Nora Ephron. The key characters of the painting were portrayed by Xia Yu, Li Bingbing and Gong Beibi.
Fact: Director Deiyang En married Waiting Alone star Gong Beibi the year the film was released.
Why watch: to master life in the “friend zone”
77. I’m dying as I want to live / Wo bu shi yao shen (2018)
Country – China | Directed by Wen Muye | Duration – 117 minutes
About: A drug dealer starts smuggling a generic drug from India that cancer patients need.
In a socialist state, people should not die because they cannot buy medicines. But China is not an ideal country, and the Chinese have the same problems with medicines as the inhabitants of Western countries. For example, a generic copy of an expensive drug from a large corporation may not be officially available, and people have to import such drugs clandestinely, breaking the law but saving lives. The socio-criminal tragicomedy “I’m dying as I want to live” clearly reveals this topic using the example of an enterprising scammer from the pharmaceutical industry, who first imports generics for the sake of profit, and then gradually realizes how many families he helps and how many destinies he changes. The film was a huge success and received a number of awards, including the prize for best screenplay at the Montreal International Film Festival. Starring Xu Zheng, Wang Chuanjun, Tan Zhuo
Fact: the release of the film provoked a heated public discussion, and the Chinese authorities promised that they would try to make life-saving medicines more accessible.
Why Watch: To Fix Medical Laws
76. Moon Man / Du xing yue qiu (2022)
Country – China | Directed by Zhang Chiyu | Duration – 122 minutes
About: A Chinese astronaut is left alone on the moon, while most of humanity dies after the Earth collided with an asteroid
How would you behave if you decided that you were left alone in the universe, hundreds of thousands of kilometers from the lost humanity? The fantasy tragi-comedy “Moon Man” gives its answer, inspired by a webcomic by a popular South Korean artist named Jo Suk. While the protagonist of the film, “Robinsonite”, shares a moon base with a temperamental kangaroo and experiences ridiculous and hilarious misadventures, the surviving earthlings who watch him but cannot contact him are inspired by his lust for life and try to return the taikonaut to Earth. The main characters of the picture were portrayed by Shen Teng, Ma Li, Chang Yuan, Li Chengzhu, Huang Cailun and Jackie Li.
Fact: Despite using the latest processors, each frame of a CGI-generated kangaroo took one to three days to calculate because the system had to simulate 50 million hairs.
Why watch: To appreciate the Chinese version of The Martian
75. White snake / Bai she: Yuan qi (2019)
Country – China, USA | Directed by Amp Won, Zhao Ji | Duration – 99 minutes
About: a snake girl, participating in the war of demons with people, takes on a human form and falls in love with a young snake catcher
“The Legend of the White Snake” is considered one of the outstanding works of Chinese folklore, and it has been filmed many times in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and even Japan. The 2019 romantic fantasy cartoon The White Snake is one of the freshest interpretations of the classic fairy tale. It adds a lot of exciting twists and magical action scenes to an already entertaining story about the love of an immortal girl and a mortal boy. As in the original fairy tale, the heroes have to win a magical war between two races of creatures so that nothing prevents them from being together. The cartoon was created by the Chinese 3D animation studio Light Chaser Animation Studios.
Fact: In Japan, The Legend of the White Snake is so well known and loved that the first full-length color anime film, released in 1958, was an adaptation of this fairy tale.
Why watch: to delve into oriental folklore
74. Wild Goose Lake / Nan fang che zhan de ju hui (2019)
Countries – China, France | Directed by Diao Yinan | Duration – 113 minutes
About: a small-time bandit from Wuhan accidentally kills a policeman and tries to hide from the authorities and competitors
Thanks to the pandemic, the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan has become famous all over the world and has given a new, unexpected dimension to the melancholic neo-noir thriller Wild Goose Lake, which was released a year before the epidemic. The main action of Diao Yinan’s tape takes place in the criminal district of Wuhan, where the main character is trying to survive and decide what to do next. One of the sources of inspiration for the director was the fatalist tapes of the French New Wave. Therefore, the central character easily comes to terms with the fact that he is doomed, and he only cares about whether he can provide for his family before he is killed or executed. This script move helps the audience feel sympathy for the courageous gangster and think about how they would live their last hours. The film was selected for the competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The key characters of the tape were played by Hu Ge, Kwai Lunmei,
Fact: The movie was filmed in Wuhan Chinese and was shown in China with subtitles translated into Beijing.
Why watch: to visit the infamous city
73. Chinese doctors / Zhong guo yi sheng (2021)
Country – China | Directed by Andrew Lau | Duration – 111 minutes
About: In the midst of the 2020 New Year festivities, doctors at the Wuhan Infectious Diseases Hospital identify a new rapidly spreading disease
If “Wild Goose Lake” took viewers to pre-pandemic Wuhan, then the medical blockbuster of 2021 became the first ever film about Wuhan during the pandemic and about doctors who did not stop the disease, but warned humanity about it and took its first blow. Zhang Jinyu, the head physician of the Wuhan Infectious Diseases Hospital, who was awarded the title of “People’s Hero” (the highest award of the PRC) in 2020 for his contribution to the fight against the disease, became the main character of the picture. However, “Chinese Doctors” is a multi-figured canvas that allows many characters to reveal themselves. The leading characters of the picture were portrayed by Zhang Hanyu, Yuan Quan, Zhu Yawen, Li Chen and Jackson Yi.
Fact: in order not to distract doctors from their work, the creators of the picture built an exact copy of a modern Chinese hospital and equipped it in accordance with all medical standards.
Why Watch: To See the Pandemic Through Chinese Eyes
72. Hidden Man / Xie bu ya zheng (2018)
Country – China | Directed by Jiang Wen | Duration – 137 minutes
About: After years of preparation, a young man returns from the US to 1930s China to avenge the murder of his family.
The Hidden Man begins with a serious opening, but doesn’t require you to take yourself too seriously. This is an ironic action thriller, which, although it does not turn into a pure farce, regularly gives reasons to smile or laugh. The tape does not want to spoil the mood of the audience, and she tries her best to entertain the audience, who likes oriental action games with well-staged action scenes, intricate and intriguing crime sagas and stylish historical films about the relatively recent past. The film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The main characters of Hidden Man were portrayed by Eddie Peng, Liao Fan, Jiang Wen, Zhou Yun, Xu Qing, and Kenya Sawada.
Fact: Initially, Kevin Spacey played a small role in the film, but due to a well-known scandal, the Hollywood was replaced and his scenes were re-shot.
Why watch: to taste cold revenge
71. Nezha / Ne zha zhi mo tong jiang shi (2019)
Country – China | Directed by Yang Yu | Duration – 110 minutes
About: a boy who was supposed to be the reincarnation of the energy of light, due to villainous machinations, is born a cursed demon
Although Nezha was the debut feature film from Chengdu Coco Cartoon and did not feature any big stars, this 3D cartoon took Chinese theaters by storm. By the end of its run, the tape had earned more than $740 million and became the highest-grossing non-Hollywood cartoon in the history of cinema. Probably, the charm of this fascinating family fantasy thriller, as well as the love of the Chinese for the divine warrior Nezha, the most popular mythological character and the hero of many films and cartoons, worked for the success of the picture. In the 2019 film, Nezha appears as a small but powerful boy who tries to do good, although those around him are rightfully afraid of him and believe that he will not be able to overcome his demonic nature.
Fact: In China, Nezha is considered the patron saint of children, and parents pray to him so that their children grow up strong, healthy and respectful.
Why watch: to get to know Chinese myths better
70. New Gods: Rebirth of Nezha / Xin shen bang: Ne zha chong sheng (2021)
Country – China | Directed by Zhao Ji | Duration – 116 minutes
About: Three thousand years after his birth, Nezha is reborn and becomes a smuggler and street motorcycle racer.
If “Nezha” offered the audience a relatively traditional interpretation of the ancient legend of Nezha (albeit with several non-standard plot moves), then the animated fantasy action movie “New Gods” by the Chinese studio Light Chaser Animation Studios moved the events to a fictional dieselpunk universe. This world has cities, mafia, bars, street racing… and warriors with phantasmagoric divine powers. Accordingly, this is a tape for older children and those adults who want to see such an unexpected combination of genres and styles, wrapped in a catchy “neon” visual wrapper. Despite the pandemic, the cartoon grossed $70 million at the box office.
Fact: The animation studio Light Chaser Animation Studios was opened by Gary Wang, the founder of the Chinese video service Tudou, one of the analogues of YouTube .
Why watch: to travel to an alternate past
69. Over the cliff / Xuan ya zhi shang (2021)
Country – China | Director – Zhang Yimou | Duration – 120 minutes
About: In December 1934, Chinese communist agents are trying to infiltrate the puppet state of Manchukuo, controlled by the Japanese
The tense spy thriller Over the Precipice begins as an elaborate covert invasion mission. However, nothing goes according to plan in the war, and the original operation quickly gives way to an impromptu risky game of cat and mouse with traitors and collaborators. As the events take place in December in northern China, the film’s landscapes are gloomy and snowy, and their piercing cold underscores the ruthlessness of the battle for the country’s future. The film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The film stars Zhang Yi, Yu Hewei, Qin Hailu, Zhu Yawen and Liu Haoqun.
Fact: Due to its atypical Chinese climate, the Manchurian city of Harbin is known locally as the “Ice City”. It is a popular place for winter tourism.
Why watch: to sprinkle the snow with red
68. Kill the emperor / Ye yan (2006)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Feng Xiaogang | Duration – 131 minutes
About: the crown prince is plotting the murder of his uncle, a usurper of the throne and a fratricide
As you might guess, the court drama To Kill the Emperor is a free-form adaptation of Hamlet, in which the action is moved to medieval China, and the villain behaves much more aggressively than Shakespeare’s Claudius. The Empress, however, also does not sit idly by after she turns out to be a “prize” in the war for power. The plot differences of this magnificent, baroque painting from the classical play speak volumes about the differences in the Chinese and English understanding of court intrigues and uncompromising confrontations served under the sauce of ceremonial politeness. The film was nominated by Hong Kong for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The main characters of the film were played by Zhang Ziyi, Ge Yu, Daniel Wu and Zhou Xun.
Fact: Gong Li was originally supposed to play the Empress. When the role was handed over to Zhang Ziyi, the script had to be reworked to make her younger.
Why look: to look through the periscope of time
67. Faith in love / Zuo you (2007)
Country – China | Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai | Duration – 115 minutes
What it’s about: Divorced and remarried parents of a girl with cancer learn they can save the baby if they have another child.
In 2009, American director Nick Cassavetes directed the acclaimed family drama My Guardian Angel, which explored the painful problem of child donors. Released two years earlier, the heartfelt Chinese psychological drama Faith in Love dealt with the same question, but from a completely different angle: “Can one love be betrayed in order to possibly save another?” After all, the genetic material of the second child may not save the girl, but the birth of a donor will certainly affect the new relationship, even if the heroes, like honest people, lay all their cards on the table and ask the spouses to enter their terrible situation. The film stars Liu Weiwei, Zhang Chiayi, Yu Nan and Chen Taisheng.
Fact: the film was prepared for the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007, but the audience had to wait for the Berlin Film Festival in 2008, as the Chinese censors decided for a long time whether the film could be released.
Why watch: to risk it all for love
66. Battle of memories / Ji yi da shi (2017)
Country – China | Director – Last Chen | Duration – 119 minutes
About: in the world of the future, where the erasure and return of memory has become commonplace, a man accidentally receives the memories of a serial killer
Every technical innovation has a dark side. So, the more information about ourselves we trust computer networks, the more harm we can be caused by those who steal this data. And what will happen if we learn to read and rewrite memories? While the protagonist of Leste Chen’s sci-fi psychological thriller tries to make sense of the criminal’s flashbacks, the villain sees the painful and intimate moments of his life. That is why this mesmerizing painting is called “The Battle of Memories”. Both characters get weapons against each other and they try to use them. The main characters of the picture were played by Huang Bo, Xu Jinglei, Duan Yihong and Yang Zishan.
Fact: Although the film is set in the China of the future, the film was almost entirely filmed in Thailand.
Why watch: to remember everything
65. Monster hunting / Zhuo yao ji (2015)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Raman Hui | Duration – 117 minutes
About: in a fantasy world where people and monsters live, a young man accidentally becomes the foster father of a newborn prince of monsters.
Hong Kong native Raman Hui moved to North America as a teenager, becoming a computer animator and working on many DreamWorks Animation hits, including the Shrek trilogy. In the mid-2010s, the creator returned to his homeland to create, together with his Chinese colleagues, an extravagant and groovy action comedy about the adventures of real people and computer monsters in a fictional world. Hui was inspired by Western blockbusters and Chinese treatises such as The Book of Mountains and Seas, which describes mythological monsters. As a result, “Monster Hunt” was so popular that it broke the national box office record and for a time became the highest grossing film in the history of the country. Even Western blockbusters could not resist her pressure! Bai Baihe, Jing Boran, Jiang Wu, Elaine Jin, Wallace Chung, Eric Tsang and Sandra Ng were cast in the lead roles.
Fact: Initially, the main male role in the film was played by Taiwanese Kai Ko, but then he was arrested in Beijing for drug use, and the picture was re-shot with the participation of Jing Bozhan.
Why watch: to find out where fantastic beasts live
64. We and them / Hou lai de women men (2018)
Countries – China, Taiwan | Directed by Rene Liu | Duration – 120 minutes
About: during the Chinese New Year, a guy and a girl get to know each other, start a relationship and soon begin to live together
Two years after Hollywood’s “La La Land” revealed how easy it is to fall in love in Hollywood and how difficult it is to keep that love, the touching Chinese melodrama “Us and Them” told viewers about the love life of Beijing geeks. And it turned out that their problems, if not exactly the same, are similar and understandable to any inhabitant of any metropolis. Renu Liu’s painting is called “We and Them” because its action develops in two time layers – in the past, where the characters met and became close, and in the present, where the characters meet again, years after the breakup, and try to understand whether they were right “the old us” when they parted. Unlike the American musical, the Chinese film did without songs and dances, which did not prevent her from hitting a fabulous jackpot at the box office and making Liu one of the highest grossing directors in the history of world cinema.
Fact: Taiwanese pop star René Liu is one of China’s most famous female singers, with over 20 solo albums on her resume. Us and Them is Liu’s directorial debut.
Why watch: To immerse yourself in the privacy of Chinese townspeople
63. Journey to the West / Xi you: Xiang mo pian (2013)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Stephen Chow, Derek Kwok | Duration – 110 minutes
About: A self-proclaimed demon hunter and professional huntress embark on a journey in search of enlightenment.
For his debut Chinese blockbuster, famed Hong Kong comedian Stephen Chow has chosen a sure-fire basis for his classic novel Journey to the West. True, Chow’s Journey looks more like a parody rethinking of the legendary book than its meticulous recreation. But this novel is so well known in China that the audience was more interested in seeing what Chow would do with it than getting a banal film adaptation of the classic. And the director did not disappoint. His movie came out as a hilarious, sweeping and sentimental comedy fantasy action movie with enchanting martial arts. The picture set several rental records and became one of the highest grossing Chinese blockbusters. The film stars Wen Zhang, Shu Qi, Huang Bo, Show Lo and Chrissy Chau.
Fact: In 2017, Tsui Hark released the sequel Journey to the West: Demons with a new cast. Stephen Chow had a hand in the script and was one of the film’s producers.
Why watch: To laugh at Journey with Stephen Chow
62. Mermaid / Mei ren yu (2016)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Stephen Chow | Duration – 94 minutes
About: underwater inhabitants send a mermaid to kill a tycoon whose business threatens the inhabitants of the ocean
If the Disney people turned Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” into a cartoon family musical, then Stephen Chow created a romantic action comedy for adults based on the fairy tale. In his feed, a mermaid poses as a human to take revenge on a businessman for what he does to nature. But the man’s charm takes precedence over the heroine’s thirst for justice, and the characters together confront both underwater and terrestrial enemies of the magnate. Meanwhile, the hero realizes that he must improve and pay more attention to the environment. The film turned out to be captivating and perky enough to break several rental records and become the main Chinese film of 2016. Now “Mermaid” is the ninth in the list of the highest grossing Chinese films. The main characters of the tape were portrayed by Jelly Lin, Deng Chao, Show Lo and Kitty Zhang.
Fact: Jelly Lin won the role of Mermaid by winning an open audition of 120,000 young women.
Why watch: to feel underwater love
61. Ghost bullets / Xiao shi de zi dan (2012)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Lo Chi-Leung | Duration – 104 minutes
About: Chinese police officers of the first half of the 20th century investigate a series of murders at an ammunition factory
We all know how imitations of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes are invented. One detective must be a brilliant detective, while his partner must echo, help and ask in amazement how his colleague guessed who the killer was. Ghost Bullets tells a compelling detective story, but breaks with genre tradition. Both protagonists are distinguished by professional skill and insight, but one of them is elderly and well educated, while the second detective is in his prime and is considered the best shooter in the area. This is a bright and complementary duet, and they conduct the investigation with a bang. The film stars Nicholas Tse, Sean Lau, Yang Mi and Jing Bo Ran.
Fact: Although the action of the tape takes place in the southwestern province of Sichuan, the picture was filmed in Shanghai, on the opposite edge of the country.
Why watch: to investigate with two Sherlocks
60. Anger of silence / Bao lie wu sheng (2017)
Country – China | Directed by Xin Yukun | Duration – 120 minutes
About: A mute miner who works far from his family returns to his homeland to find his missing son.
Unlike the hero of “The Hostage”, the miner from “Wrath of Silence” does not have any special combat skills, and it is difficult for him to interrogate people due to his muteness. But years of work in the mine have made him a “tough nut”, and he does not hesitate to use his fists to find his missing son. And if “Hostage” was reduced to Liam Neeson’s character hunting for mafiosi, then “The Wrath of Silence” offers a more multifaceted narrative, a combination of a tough crime thriller with a social drama about social stratification and the existence of the Chinese poor, who sometimes can only rely on themselves. The film stars Jiang Wu, Song Yang and Yuan Wenkang.
Fact: Director Xin Yukun grew up in a mining area in northern China, and The Wrath of Silence is inspired by his childhood memories.
Why watch: to become related to Chinese miners
59. Black coal, thin ice / Bai ri yan huo (2014)
Country – China | Directed by Diao Yinan | Duration – 110 minutes
What it’s about: A former police detective-turned-security guard unofficially investigates murders that may be connected to his latest case.
It is unlikely that the director and screenwriter Diao Yinan shot “Black Coal, Thin Ice” for fans of the Scandinavian police noir, but connoisseurs of stylish and dark detective investigations will get the maximum pleasure from Diao’s tape. The protagonist of the picture left the service after he lost friends and was himself injured during the arrest of a brutal killer. Although the case was closed, and the villain was buried, five years later, the murders begin again, and the former detective must by all means figure out what is happening. Diao received the Golden Bear of the Berlin Film Festival, and the leading actor of the film, Liao Fan, was awarded the Silver Bear. The film also stars Kwai Lunmei, Wang Xuebing, Wang Jingchun and Yu Ailei.
Fact: Diao Yinan dreamed of directing this film for eight years while he was working on the script and writing scripts for other directors.
Why watch: to solve terrible crimes
58. Drug war / Du zhan (2012)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Director – Johnny To | Duration – 107 minutes
About: To avoid the death penalty, an arrested drug dealer agrees to help the police hunt down other gangsters.
When cult Hong Kong director Johnny To decided to shoot a crime film in China, he had to accept the restrictions of state censorship – for example, refuse to glorify gangsters and not overload the tape with action. Luckily, the Narkovina benefited from this. Because it doesn’t celebrate the “concepts” of gangsters, its comparatively down to earth and realistic storytelling stands out from formulaic crime films that practically advertise a life of crime. And since the spectacular battle scenes are moved to the end of the picture, the “Drug war” captivates with plot intrigue and textured characters, and does not rely on action alone. Sun Honglei, Luis Koo, Huang Yi and Gao Yunxiang played key roles in the film.
Fact: Drug War was director Johnny To’s tenth collaboration with Hong Kong actor Louis Koo.
Why watch: to walk through the criminal nooks and crannies of China
57. No man’s land / Wu ren qu (2013)
Country – China | Directed by Ning Hao | Duration – 118 minutes
What it’s about: A sly lawyer tries to get home from the Gobi desert after winning a case in a small town.
While Chinese cities look like giant anthills from above, the Chinese deserts are just as sparsely populated as they were in ancient times. And they are only slightly less dangerous than in the era of nomad bandits. In an unpredictable and nihilistic thriller with a fair amount of black humor, No Man’s Land, the protagonist gets stuck in a deserted land and quickly learns to fight for his life, because knowledge of the law and the ability to manipulate it cannot help a lawyer. In the West, the picture was compared with modern westerns and hits by the Coen brothers No Country for Old Men. The film stars Xu Zheng, Dubujie, Yu Nan and Huang Bo.
Fact: the picture was filmed in 2009, but it was released only in 2013, because director Ning Hao had to grind off the sharpest corners in order for the film to be approved by the censors.
Why watch: to breathe the air of lawless wastelands
56. Jiang Ziya: The Legend of Deification / Jiang zi ya (2020)
Country – China | Directed by Cheng Teng, Li We and others | Duration – 110 minutes
What it’s about: A brave warrior fights demons and defies gods to save an innocent soul.
If most feature-length cartoons are about young heroes and are aimed at younger viewers, then based on Chinese history and mythology, the spectacular fantasy action movie “Jiang Ziya” tells the story of an adult man who behaves like a valiant foster father, but like a teenager who does not know the world. The cunningly twisted and rigid plot of the cartoon also transparently hints that “Jiang Ziya” is a spectacle for older viewers. Or for those kids who are ready to learn from The Legend of Deification lessons in masculinity, rare in modern art, but sometimes found in video games like the cult “The Last of Us”.
Fact: The cartoon belongs to the same screen universe as the 2019 Nezha cartoon, and the title character of this film appears in Jiang Ziya.
Why watch: to find out the price of an innocent tear
55. True legend / Su qi er (2010)
Country – China | Directed by Yuen Wu-Ping | Duration – 115 minutes
About: a former commander and wushu master becomes a half-mad wanderer after a lost battle with his adopted brother
In Jackie Chan’s early hit The Drunken Master, the protagonist’s teacher was an elderly drunk called Tramp Sow. This is not a character invented for the film, but a legendary South Chinese martial artist who appears in many Hong Kong and Chinese action films. The Drunken Master was directed and choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping. Thirty years later, he directed True Legend, a sprawling action movie about how an evil fate turned a valiant and good-hearted warrior into an eccentric vagabond and master of “drunk” styles. If The Drunken Master was a comedy, then True Legend isn’t funny enough. Rather, it is a sad and powerful movie about what war and strife can do to the best of people, no matter how wushu geniuses they are. The film stars Vincent Zhao, Zhou Xun, Andy On, Guo Xiaodong, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh, Feng Xiaogang and David Carradine.
Fact: the picture was one of the last works of the famous American actor David Carradine, and the film was released after his death.
Why watch: to appreciate the sad prequel to The Drunken Master
54. Shower / Xi zao (1999)
Country – China | Director – Zhang Yang | Duration – 92 minutes
About: A successful businessman returns to his hometown for a few days, where his elderly father and mentally retarded brother run a public bathhouse.
The Chinese word “xi zao” can mean “to take a shower”, but in the family tragicomedy “Shower” it appears in the meaning of “wash in the bath.” As in many countries, baths in China are a traditional center of social life, where friends and neighbors not only bathed, but had fun, cool and without ranks. In 1999, Zhang Yang’s sentimental tape reminded viewers of this “leaving nature”, which is less and less relevant in the era of personal baths and newfangled entertainment. The main themes of the film were the conflict between fathers and children and the separation of modern Chinese from their roots and relatives. Especially from those who, like the younger brother of the protagonist, do not fit into a society that puts career and well-being at the forefront. The film won several international awards and was warmly received by the Chinese audience. The main roles in the film were given to Zhu Xu,
Fact: The filming day of Soul could last up to 20 hours, and the filmmakers slept on beds in a bathhouse they rented as a set.
Why watch: to learn Chinese bath routines
53. Kindred soul / Qi yue yu an sheng (2016)
Country – China | Directed by Derek Tsang | Duration – 109 minutes
About: Former BFFs reconnect when one of them publishes a novel inspired by their childhood friendship.
Best friends are often seen in “women’s” movies, but the evolution of female friendships is rarely the focus of the narrative. The more interesting is Derek Tsang’s tender drama “Soulmate”, tracing the relationship of the heroines from school to adulthood. Although a love triangle develops at some point in the story, Toby Lee’s character does not divert the picture from its main theme. On the contrary, it becomes a test for a devoted friendship and helps the audience to better understand all the facets of the connection between the main characters – very different and, at first glance, incompatible young women. The main characters of the picture were played by Zhou Dongyu and Sandra Ma.
Fact: The lead actresses of “Soul Mate” shared the Best Actress Award at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Film Festival. It was the first such case in the long history of the festival.
Why watch: to penetrate the secrets of women’s hearts
52. Better days / Shao nian de ni (2019)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Derek Tsang | Duration – 135 minutes
About: a high school girl who is being bullied by other teenagers asks for protection from a local gopnik
Teenage bullying is a hot topic throughout East Asia. The Japanese, Koreans and even the Chinese make films and TV shows about this, because no political system can protect the guys from each other. However, unlike many Japanese and Korean works on the subject, the teen drama “Better Days” does not deal with the topic in a naive romantic way, but in an honest and realistic way, with a clear demonstration of what happens when the guys themselves try to solve their problems. This does not prevent “Better Days” from being a heartfelt melodrama about the “meeting of two lonelinesses”, but in the world of “Days” love does not change the world and does not move mountains. It only makes the pain manageable and helps to survive when life seems unbearable. The film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Starring Zhou Dongyu and Jackson Yi.
Fact: Although Zhou Dongyu and Jackson Yi played the same age, in real life, the actress is eight years older than her partner.
Why watch: to get a Chinese perspective on bullying
51. Hello Mom / Ni hao, li huan ying (2021)
Country – China | Directed by Jia Ling | Duration – 128 minutes
About: after the death of her mother, a young woman is miraculously transferred to 1981, becomes a friend of her mother and tries to make her life better
We all remember how in “Back to the Future” the protagonist tried to make the past the way it was before he moved to his parents’ youth. It was natural behavior for a Hollywood character. He did not want to disappear and dreamed of living happily ever after. However, the heroine of the lyrical sci-fi comedy Hello Mom thinks like a Chinese woman, not like an American. She does not consider herself a good daughter and a successful child, and she does everything so that her young mother marries a guy from a good family, and so that her mother’s life is more successful than in the time stream in which the heroine was born. Selfless devotion to parents is a core value of Eastern society, and “Hello Mom” has become one of the highest grossing Chinese films. Many spectators cried with happiness when they left the halls, and immediately called their parents. The main characters of the tape were portrayed by Jia Ling,
Fact: Jia Ling is a popular Chinese comedian, and her picture grew out of a sketch that the actress came up with for a competitive TV show in the spirit of KVN.
Why watch: to love your parents even more
50. Once Upon a Time in Shanghai / E zhan (2014)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Won Chin-Po | Duration – 91 minutes
About: a young guy comes to look for work in pre-war Shanghai and, thanks to his strong fists, finds himself connected to the mafia
Bruce Lee was far from the only Hong Kong action hero of the 1970s. So, simultaneously with the release of “Fist of Fury” in 1972, the audience saw the gangster wushu action movie “The Fighter from Shantong” with Chen Kuan-tai in the title role. Fighter was a hit in its own right, and in 2014 producers from Hong Kong and China created a polished and stylish remake of it, featuring Eastern action bigwigs like producer and writer Wong Jing, action director Yuen Woo-Ping, and actor Sammo Hong. . The lead role was played by Hong Kong-American Philip Ng, who studied martial arts for years and started out as a stunt performer and action choreographer before becoming a full-fledged star. Therefore, he did not have to rely on understudies in the numerous fights of the picture. Along with Ng and Hong, “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” starred Andy On, Jiang Luxia and Chen Kuantai.
Fact: Philip Ng’s spectacular performance in Once Upon a Time in Shanghai landed the actor the role of Bruce Lee in the American film Bruce Lee: Birth of the Dragon.
Why watch: To appreciate a masterfully reworked classic
49. Mountain Patrol / Kekexili (2004)
Country – China | Directed by Lu Chuan | Duration – 125 minutes
About: A Beijing reporter goes on patrol with impoverished Tibetan volunteers who fight well-armed poachers.
If the term “Eastern” was a common term for the genre, “Mountain Patrol” could be called that. Based on a true story and inspired by a documentary about Tibetan protectors of endangered animals, Mountain Patrol is very similar in its narrative and mood to the most brutal and poetic westerns depicting men’s lives beyond civilization, where law and power are in the hands of those who shoot better. . Unlike most Chinese films, the main characters of the film are Tibetans, while the Chinese character is only a witness to their victories, defeats and selfless love for their native land. Dubujie and Zhang Lei played the key characters in the film.
Fact: since the filmmakers could not use the “Red Book” Tibetan antelope for filming, they screwed the horns of the antelope to the Mongolian gazelle, which is also found in Tibet.
Why watch: to soak up the beauty and rigor of the Tibetan mountains
48. Let the bullets fly / Rang zi dan fei (2010)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Jiang Wen | Duration – 132 minutes
What it’s about: A gang leader poses as a governor in 1920s China and fights a gangster who wants the “official” to share his taxes with him.
If “Mountain Patrol” is an Eastern about modern China, then “Let the Bullets Fly” is a comedy Eastern about China of the past, when the country was in political chaos and local power belonged to those who could hold it. Writing about the 1920s, screenwriter/director Jiang Wen gave himself carte blanche for a swashbuckling and ironic tale about a “kingdom bandit” who turns out to be better than many of the real officials of old China, because he tries to rob those who have money, and not squeeze all the juice out of the common people. And if at first he behaves like an anti-hero, then in the end the bandit turns into a real folk hero. The film stars Jiang Wen, Chow Yun-Fat, Ge Yu and Carina Lau.
Fact: When Let The Fly Go was released nationally, it became the highest-grossing Chinese film. Only “Avatar” prevented him from becoming the most successful movie in the history of Chinese box office.
Why watch: to find out how a thief stole a baton from a thief
47. Operation in the Red Sea / Hong hai xing dong (2018)
Country – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Dante Lam | Duration – 138 minutes
About: Chinese special forces marines are ordered to evacuate Chinese citizens from an African country where a military coup took place
In China, “Operation in the Red Sea” was advertised as the first Chinese blockbuster about a modern national navy. This was not a completely correct definition, since the main action took place on land, and not at sea, and the Navy ships served as a base for the main characters, and were not active participants in the events. On the other hand, it was a sprawling, spectacular and dramatic military action movie about the Marines, and in this sense the picture was really naval. After all, people are much more important than floating pieces of iron. Along the way, the heroes fought terrorists who tried to fish in troubled political waters. The picture became a rolling superhit and was highly appreciated by critics. Zhang Yi, Johnny Huang, Hai Qing, Du Jiang and Jiang Luxia portrayed the central characters.
Fact: the only woman in the squad was Jiang Luxia, a Shaolin graduate and Chinese champion in Shaolin wushu.
Why watch: To cheer for the Chinese Marines
46. The Wandering Earth / Liu lang di qiu (2019)
Country – China | Director – Frant Gvo | Duration – 125 minutes
About: to avoid the death of the Earth from the upcoming expansion of the Sun, people turn the planet into a giant spaceship and go flying
Before releasing his most famous novel, The Three-Body Problem, Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin published The Wandering Earth in 2000, which invited readers to go into deep space without leaving their native lands. At that time, it was hard to imagine that the Chinese would film The Wandering Earth. However, two decades later, aspiring director Frant Gvo released a grandiose fantasy thriller in which the brave “taikonauts” saved a planet that had flown out of orbit from a collision with Jupiter. Since Gwo is a big fan of Hollywood sci-fi, one of the main inspirations for the director was Armageddon, with its slick space action and gritty masculine heroism. The film is now one of the top five highest-grossing Chinese blockbusters. The film stars Jackie Wu, Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie and Ng Man-Tat.
Fact: the Russian cosmonaut in The Wandering Earth was played by St. Petersburg actor Arkady Sharogradsky, known for his roles in Russian crime series.
Why watch: to experience a space adventure with a Chinese twist
45. The Wandering Earth 2 / Liu lang di qiu 2 (2023)
Country – China | Director – Frant Gvo | Duration – 173 minutes
About: before sending the Earth into flight, participants in the global space program must prevent the moon from crashing into our planet
After the huge success of the first The Wandering Earth, director Frant Gwo announced that he was preparing a sequel to the film. However, then the plans changed, and instead of a sequel, the audience got a prequel. Which, however, was quite logical. After all, it was hard to imagine that the transformation of the Earth into a spaceship went off without a hitch, and it was felt that the first picture missed a lot of exciting and amazing events, when, after the inception, it moved the action at a time when the planet was already flying away from the Sun. Indeed, “The Wandering Earth 2”, the main character of which was the developer of artificial intelligence for piloting the Earth, turned out to be even more ambitious and exciting than the first picture. In addition to Armageddon, Earth 2 was inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Fact: Studio pavilions with a total area of one square kilometer were used for filming the picture. This is 140 football fields.
Why watch: to send the moon to another world
44. Shaolin Temple / Shao lin si (1982)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Zhang Xinyan | Duration – 100 minutes
About: a young man studies martial arts in the Shaolin temple to take revenge on the usurper of the throne for the death of his father
After the communist regime was established in China, films about traditional martial arts were not made there. But when Hong Kong films on the subject entered the world fashion, China recognized their value and allowed Hong Kong and Chinese filmmakers to jointly film “Shaolin Temple” and release the tape in the widest release. According to researchers, 500 million tickets were sold for the screenings of this picture – so much the Chinese audience yearned for acrobatic action films demonstrating kung fu. The star of the tape was the former champion of China in wushu Jet Li, and it was with the “Shaolin Temple” that his rapid run to the genre podium began. Now the tape is considered a classic of Chinese entertainment cinema. It stars Ding Lan and Yu Hai alongside Li.
Fact: The film was filmed in a real Shaolin Monastery, and the success of the tape glorified the monastery in China and beyond.
Why watch: to find out how Chinese action films were born
43. Shaolin / Xin shao lin si (2011)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Director – Benny Chan | Duration – 131 minutes
About: a warlord from a fragmented China of the early 20th century hides in the Shaolin Monastery from a traitor subordinate
The powerful and heartfelt action movie Shaolin is worth watching after Shaolin Temple if you want to know how Chinese-Hong Kong cinema has changed in the three decades that have separated the films. Although both films include action scenes and are closely related to the famous monastery, they are productions from different historical eras and with completely different characters. While the protagonist of The Temple is a straightforward young avenger, the protagonist of Shaolin is an older man with a family and extensive military experience, and its story path is a spiritual journey of a man who gradually rethinks his values in a society of seekers of enlightenment. That, however, does not prevent him from protecting the monastery when the war comes to Shaolin. The central characters of the tape were portrayed by Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse and Fan Bingbing, as well as Jackie Chan.
Fact: all the monks, except for Jackie Chan, agreed to shave their heads. That’s why he wears a hat all the time in the movie.
Why Watch: To Learn About the Chinese Civil War After the 1911 Revolution
42. Our time will come / Ming yue ji shi you (2017)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Ann Hui | Duration – 133 minutes
About: A Hong Kong teacher becomes a member of the Resistance during the Japanese occupation of China
The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong was as brutal as the German occupation of Soviet cities. Many local residents were killed, tortured, forcibly relocated. The Chinese were dying of hunger and disease because there was not enough food, and the city hospitals were converted into military hospitals, and only the Japanese were treated there. However, the Hong Kong patriots did not give up, and the military drama “Our Time Will Come” tells how the Resistance activists acted and survived surrounded by occupiers, traitors and open collaborators. During the action of the tape, the main character goes from a modest intellectual to a fearless leader of a combat detachment. Zhou Xun, Eddie Peng, Wallace Ho and Dinnie Yip played key roles in the film.
Fact: The film was released in China on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s transition to Chinese rule. The Hong Kong premiere took place five days later.
Why watch: to enlist in the Hong Kong guerrillas
41. Balzac and the Chinese dressmaker / Ba er zha ke yu xiao cai feng (2002)
Countries – China, France | Directed by Dai Xijie | Duration – 110 minutes
About: during the “cultural revolution”, two urban teenagers are sent to a mountain village for “re-education”
Writer and director Dai Xijie grew up in a family of university teachers, spent several years in a “re-education” camp, and then, as an adult, went to study in France and never returned. His first book written in French, Balzac and the Chinese Dressmaker, was a semi-autobiographical novel about Dai Xijie’s life in the wilderness and how classic European novels helped him and his fellow sufferers escape from everyday life and impress local girls – illiterate but eager to amazing stories. Since Chinese political mores had softened by the time Balzac was published, Dai Xijie was able to film the novel in his native land and create a touching melodramatic movie with notes of nostalgia. The film stars Zhou Xun, Liu Ye and Chen Kun.
Fact: The film was nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Why watch: to re-educate or re-educate
40. Shanghai Triad / Yao a yao, yao dao wai po qiao (1995)
Country – China | Director – Zhang Yimou | Duration – 103 minutes
What it’s about: A teenage boy arrives in 1930s Shanghai to serve the local ‘authority’ and his singer mistress.
After Zhang Yimou’s masterpiece “To Live” caused discontent among the Chinese party leadership, the director decided that his new film would send viewers into the pre-communist past and not cause ideological claims, since it would depict the bloody ins and outs of old China. So the director came up with the idea to film the gangster novel by the writer Li Xiao “Clan Rules” and create the “Shanghai Triad” – a tragic sketch about the life of the mafia, which is shown through the eyes of a naive boy who understands little about criminal intrigues and showdowns. The film won the Technical Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Cinematography category. The main roles in the film were played by Gong Li, Li Baotian and Wang Xiaoxiao.
Fact: the main role in the “Shanghai Triad” was Wang Xiaoxiao’s film debut, but he could not make a career, and never acted again.
Why watch: to descend into the depths of the Chinese underworld
39. Hidden Blade / Wu ming (2023)
Country – China | Director – Cheng Er | Duration – 128 minutes
About: during World War II, a secret agent of the Chinese Communist Party works in counterintelligence under the Japanese occupation authorities
We don’t know if Seventeen Moments of Spring is watched in China, but we won’t be surprised if we find that the legendary Soviet series is at least studied in Chinese film schools. Because the fresh spy thriller “Hidden Blade” clearly resembles the exploits of Stirlitz and his colleagues in the bowels of the Nazi secret services. True, the protagonist of the “Blade” does not impersonate a Japanese. But he portrays a faithful servant of collaborators and occupiers, while leading them by the nose and frustrating their far-reaching plans. And since the villains are not bastards, at some point they begin to suspect him … The main roles in the film were Tony Leung Chu Wai, Wang Yibo, Zhou Xun, Huang Lei, Dong Chengpeng and Hiroyuki Mori.
Fact: The characters in the film speak four languages - Beijing Chinese, Shanghai Chinese, Cantonese (Hong Kong) Chinese and Japanese.
Why watch: to meet the Chinese Stirlitz
38. Crossing / Tai ping lun (2014-2015)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by John Woo | Duration – 259 minutes
About: Kuomintang supporters participate in the Chinese Civil War, and then try to evacuate to Taiwan on the Taiping steamer
In Chinese history, the shipwreck of the Taiping in January 1949 occupies the same place as the disaster of the Titanic in the history of the West. The steamer was overloaded with refugees, and almost none of them escaped when the Taiping collided with a freighter at night. In the 20th century, it was hard to imagine that Chinese filmmakers would make a sympathetic movie about Taiping. However, in the new century, the confrontation between China and Taiwan softened, and the Hong Kong master John Woo created a grandiose two-part military-romantic epic, the first part of which can be compared with Doctor Zhivago, and the second part with Titanic. This is a sad, but not devoid of life-affirming optimism narrative, tracing the fate of people from different classes, who are brought together by a lost war. The main roles in the dilogy were played by Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Ziyi, Song Hye-gyo, Tong Dawei and Huang Xiaoming.
Fact: The Taiping made numerous voyages between Shanghai and Taiwan before sinking, and is revered in modern Taiwanese culture in the same way that Americans revere the ships that carried the first settlers to the New World.
Why watch: to be on the losing side
37. Under the hot sun / Yang guang can lan de ri zi (1994)
Country – China | Directed by Jiang Wen | Duration – 134 minutes
About: in the midst of the “cultural revolution”, a teenage boy hangs out in the company of restless peers
The “Cultural Revolution” was supposed to bring order to Chinese society, but in fact it brought fear and chaos into people’s lives. Adults were immersed in their own problems, and urban teenagers raised themselves by wandering with friends around the Chinese metropolitan areas. Under the Hot Sun writer and director Jiang Wen was inspired both by Wang Shuo’s popular novel The Fierce Beast and his own memories of a thug childhood. His lyrical drama combined a nostalgic, somewhat romanticized recreation of the past with confessional frankness and touching on uncomfortable topics. Xia Yu, the leading actor, became the youngest actor to win the Best Leading Role award at the Venice Film Festival. Also starring in the film are Wei Chen, Hua Fang, Feng Xiaogang and Geng Le.
Fact: the director’s mother chose the actor for the lead role. Her task was to find a guy who would remind her of her son in childhood.
Why watch: to nostalgic for someone else’s childhood
36. The power of assassins / Jian yu (2010)
Countries – China, Taiwan, Hong Kong | Directed by Su Chaobin, John Woo | Duration – 117 minutes
About: after meeting a wise monk, a female killer in the service of bandits changes her appearance and becomes a cloth merchant
Imagine a variation on the motif of “Kung Fu Showdown” where the main characters are a homeowning wife – former martial artists forced to fight after retirement – and you get the plot idea that formed the basis of “Killer Power”. True, the legend of oriental cinema Michelle Yeoh and the South Korean actor Chung Woo-son, who played her on-screen husband, look and behave much more aristocratically than the deliberately comical characters of Showdown. And “Killer Power” as a whole is more of a wushu action movie than a wushu comedy. But the romantic-comedy notes in it are felt, and they give the tape the spirit of an exciting action-adventure. Wang Xueqi, Barbie Xu, Sean Yue, Guo Xiaodong, Kelly Lin, Jiang Yiyan, Leon Dai and Nina Pau appeared in the film along with Yeoh and Chong.
Fact: Taiwanese director Su Chaobin was originally supposed to direct the film alone. But since the permanent producer of John Woo films was involved in the project, the master joined the shooting as a consultant and was so carried away that he became the second director.
Why watch: to be touched by the victory of love over evil
35. Battle of wits / Mo gong (2006)
Countries – China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea | Director – Jacob Cheung | Duration – 133 minutes
About: In an age of internecine warfare, a strategist assures the ruler of a city-state so he can fight off an invading massive enemy army.
The great Chinese thinker Mo Tzu was ahead of his time when, in the 5th century BC, he created a progressive philosophy that had much in common with European humanism that developed two millennia later. Not content with thinking about science and social order, the followers of Mo-tzu were famous as experts in military affairs, because they were not shackled by traditional dogmas and the rules of class society. However, for those who were committed to these dogmas, wandering philosophers were like a bone in the throat. The expressive military thriller “Battle of the Minds” introduces viewers to the Mohists and shows how they resisted external and internal enemies in the era of fragmented China. Starring Andy Lau, Ahn Sung-gi, Wang Zhiwen, Fan Bingbing and Choi Si-won.
Fact: the novel by the Japanese writer Kenichi Sakemi “The Moista War”, which was the basis of the film, at one time wanted to be filmed in anime format by the legendary Studio Ghibli , the studio of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
Why watch: to learn the secrets of Chinese strategy
34. Together / He ni zai yi qi (2002)
Countries – China, South Korea | Directed by Chen Kaige | Duration – 116 minutes
About: a man from a small town brings his son, an aspiring but talented violinist, to Beijing in the hope of getting the boy into the conservatory
When Chen Kaige was a teenager, he joined the Red Guards and publicly disowned his father, a famous director. Over the years, he regretted this unforgivable offense, and in 2002, already being the master of Chinese cinema, the director created a heartfelt family tragicomedy about growing up, the collision of naive provincials with the life of a big city and the devoted love of a father for his son and a son for his father. The picture also carefully examines the relationship between teachers and students – the natural evolution of filial piety and parental education. The film’s main characters were portrayed by Tang Yun, Liu Peiqi, Chen Hong, Wang Zhiwen, and Chen Kaige himself.
Fact: Director Chen Kaige and actor Liu Peiqi won Silver Shells at the San Sebastian Film Festival.
Why watch: to make sure you need a violinist
33. World without thieves / Tian xia wu zei (2004)
Country – China | Directed by Feng Xiaogang | Duration – 113 minutes
About: a professional scammer protects a naive guy from bandits who is going home with money earned at a construction site
Can an experienced criminal correct herself and take the side of good, because she is faced with such a pure soul that her owner does not believe in the existence of villains and does not hide from fellow travelers that he is bringing home a round sum? Hardly. But A World Without Thieves does not pretend to be psychological realism. It’s a crime-drama-comedy, and it asks viewers not to think too deeply into the narrative and enjoy the many twists and turns of its relatively minimalist (the main action takes place on the train) but captivating multi-actor action. Starring Andy Lau, Rene Liu, Ge Yu, Wang Baoqiang, Li Bingbing and Gordon Lam.
Fact: At the time of filming, vehicle theft was a significant problem in China, and the film makes clear allusion to this.
Why watch: to believe in spiritual rebirth
32. Postmen in the mountains / Na shan na ren na gou (1999)
Country – China | Directed by Huo Jianqi | Duration – 93 minutes
About: a mountain postman is about to retire, and he teaches his son the intricacies of his profession
As we all know from Mimino, a person who runs between the city and the mountain villages becomes something more than a carrier or a postman for the locals. Here is the central character of the most touching drama “Postmen in the Mountains” – a real hero for those whom he bypasses for several days when new letters arrive. However, his son does not know much about his work and about his constantly disappearing father. Therefore, their first joint trip not only allows the guy and the audience to understand how difficult and important it is to deliver mail to the mountains, but also helps the young man to take a fresh look at his father and finally get closer to him after many years of omissions and alienation. The main characters of the tape were played by Chen Hao and Liu Ye.
Fact: The film was nominated for a Japanese Academy Award (“Japanese Oscar”) in the Best Foreign Film category.
Why watch: to remember your parents
31. War of the Wolves / Zhan lang (2015)
Country – China | Directed by Jackie Wu | Duration – 90 minutes
What it’s about: A training mission turns into a combat mission when Chinese commandos are attacked by foreign mercenaries hired by a crime boss.
The English title of this most popular Chinese action movie conveys its essence better than the translation of “The War of the Wolves”. “Wolf Warrior” means “wolf warrior” and it’s really a story about an indomitable special forces sniper who is ready to fight even when he violates a direct order not to interfere. This is usually a problem, if not a crime, but in “The War of the Wolves” the hero is in his place and gives heat to foreigners under the command of the former American Navy SEAL. The film was filmed with the support of the Chinese army, and dozens of Chinese tanks, as well as military aircraft and helicopters, participated in the filming. Jackie Wu portrayed the main character of the tape, and the famous British actor and stuntman Scott Adkins portrayed the main villain. Yu Nan, Kevin Li and Ni Dahong also worked on the picture.
Fact: Lead actor/director Jackie Wu spent 18 months in a military training camp in southern China before filming began.
Why watch: to get to know the Chinese Rambo
30. War of the Wolves 2 / Zhan lang 2 (2017)
Country – China | Directed by Jackie Wu | Duration – 123 minutes
About: the main character of the first “War” becomes a mercenary in Africa and saves the Chinese working in a country where a civil war flares up
“Those who offend the Chinese must be destroyed wherever they live.” When there is such a slogan in a movie advertisement, you can be sure that an uncompromising patriotic movie is waiting for you. True, the main character of the picture ends up in Africa after two years in a military prison. But that’s why he is a “warrior-wolf”, so as not to fit into a peaceful life and be a hero when his country and his people need a real superman. The budget and scope of Wolf Wars 2 was noticeably larger than the first film, and this action-packed blockbuster became the main Chinese film event of 2017. It was so popular that there was talk in China that the country’s foreign policy should be more “wolfish” and less “conciliatory.” The main characters of the tape were played by Jackie Wu, Frank Grillo, Selina Jade, Wu Gang, Zhang Han and Yu Jian.
Fact: While working on The Wolf Wars, Jackie Wu became so close to the Chinese army that he was allowed to drive a tank himself in one of the film’s most spectacular combat scenes.
Why Watch: To Kick Aliens Out of Africa
29. Mei gong he xing dong (2016)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Dante Lam | Duration – 124 minutes
About: Bandits kill Chinese fishermen on the Mekong River, and Chinese special forces are sent to take revenge on the border of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand
“Operation Mekong” is inspired by the real tragedy of 2011, but not the true subsequent events. While in real life China followed international law and cooperated with local authorities to capture and extradite bandits to China, in the movies, Chinese commandos declare war on the border mafia and don’t worry too much about legal conflicts. Accordingly, instead of a lingering crime drama, viewers got a first-class action movie that combines exotic Thai views, Hong Kong skill in creating a furious action and a truly Chinese scope and patriotic pathos. The film earned over $170 million at the box office. Starring Zhang Hanyu, Eddie Peng, Chen Bao Guo, Sun Chun and Joyce Feng.
Fact: Although the film was partly filmed in Thailand, local authorities considered banning it due to the way Thais were portrayed in the film.
Why Watch: To Hunt River Pirates
28. On the other side of the ocean / Da yu hai tang (2016)
Country – China | Directed by Liang Xuan, Zhang Chun | Duration – 105 minutes
About: a girl from the otherworldly magical world saves the soul of a young man from the world of people and thereby violates the harmony of the worlds
Analyzing the wonderful Chinese cartoon “Other Side of the Ocean”, it is easy to notice in it the motives of “The Little Mermaid” and classic oriental tales and legends. But this is not a film adaptation or pastiche, but an original magical story that touches on the themes of love, fidelity, overcoming obstacles familiar to romantic fairy tales, but first of all teaches responsibility for one’s own decisions. Which, as the film clearly shows, can affect not only those who take them, but also those who, it would seem, have nothing to do with them. “Beyond the Ocean” is a multi-layered and thin film, and it is designed for teenagers who are able to appreciate its nuances, and not just admire its external beauty and fascinating storytelling.
Fact: the South Korean animation studio Studio Mir participated in the work on the tape , drawing for Western producers the TV series The Legend of Korra, Voltron, DOTA: Dragon’s Blood.
Why Watch: To Feel Love Breaking Worlds
27. Warlords / Tau ming chong (2007)
Countries – China, Japan | Directed by Peter Chan, Raymond Yip | Duration – 126 minutes
About: An imperial commander and two bandit leaders form a blood brotherhood pact to put down a rebellion against the Qing Empire together.
In 1973, the classic of Hong Kong cinema Zhang Che created the historical action drama Blood Brothers, notable for the fact that there was no goodie in it. All of its key characters were courageous, but by no means idealized warriors, and their story developed like a Shakespearean tragedy, and not like the conflict of good and evil familiar to action films. For its time, it was an unusual and memorable movie, and in 2007, inspired by the work of the master, Hong Kong director Peter Chan and his colleagues from China created an epic variation on the theme of “Blood Brothers” called “Generals”. While the lead role in the film is Jet Li, who almost always plays the “right” characters, in The Warlords his character is much more complex and interesting than in Lee’s other films, and the characters of Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro are made of the same fabric.
Fact: Peter Chan was originally going to call the film “Blood Brothers”, but ended up dropping a direct reference to Zhang Che so that viewers would not consider his movie as a remake and not worry about how many differences between the tapes.
Why watch: so as not to turn a blood friendship into a blood feud
26. Ju Dou / Ju dou (1990)
Countries – China, Japan | Directed by Zhang Yimou, Yang Fengliang | Duration – 95 minutes
What it’s about: An elderly dyer takes on and abuses his young wife as she secretly has an affair with her husband’s nephew.
“Violence breeds violence, and the vicious circle closes.” This thought inevitably comes to mind when you watch the gloomy family drama Ju Dou, which takes place in the Chinese outback at the beginning of the 20th century. The bullying that the unwanted husband brings down on the main character makes the woman wait for the moment when she, along with her lover, can strike. But cruel revenge does not free the heroes and does not save them from the next round of violence. It is easy to guess why the Chinese censors saw in the film a “counter-revolutionary” background and for two years did not allow the film to reach the audience. However, one does not need to think about politics to appreciate the skill of Zhang Yimou and Yang Fengliang in creating an addictive psychological movie. The film was nominated for an Oscar and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
Fact: The picture was one of the last significant films to be made using the old-fashioned Technicolor color imaging technology. In 1978, Technicolor’s British factory was sold to Beijing, where it operated until it closed in 1993.
Why watch: to break the vicious circle
25. Grand Master / Yi dai zong shi (2013)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Wong Kar-Wai | Duration – 123 minutes
About: the great master of Wing Chun style Ip Man goes from a young student to an elderly teacher Bruce Lee
One would like to compare the “Grand Master” with the famous cycle of Hong Kong historical thrillers “Ip Man”, in which the title character was amazingly played by Donnie Yen. But, although these films are about the same person and include action scenes, they should not be contrasted, as they belong to different genres and solve different creative problems. Unlike Ip Man, The Grand Master is not an action movie, but a philosophical drama about the meaning of life for a person who has devoted himself to mastering the martial art. Therefore, the master of Hong Kong cinema, Wong Kar-wai, talking about Ip Man, simultaneously explores the life of the heiress of the Baguazhang style, who makes other decisions and pays for her hard-won understanding of wushu. The film was nominated for Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Costumes. The main roles in the film were Tony Leung Chu Wai,
Fact: Production on the film began in 2008 and was delayed for a long time because Tony Leung Chu Wai broke his arm while training.
Why watch: to take a fresh look at the life of Ip Man
24. Shadow / Ying (2018)
Country – China | Director – Zhang Yimou | Duration – 116 minutes
About: a wayward commander decides to use his secret double as a pawn in a court intrigue.
A master of color and light, director Zhang Yimou has for many years dreamed of making films in the style of black and white Chinese ink drawings, a kind of aesthetic response to Hollywood films imitating American comics. The logical plot for such a film was a pathetic story about a double who first becomes the shadow of a illustrious warrior, and then comes into the light, while his master leaves the stage to weave a plot in the dark against those whom he considers enemies. Does the double use this chance to start his game, or will he remain a piece on someone else’s chessboard? The Shadow maintains intrigue almost to the very end of the story and proves to be a brilliant and stylish historical action thriller. The central characters of the tape were played by Deng Chao, Sun Li, Zheng Kai, Wang Qianyuan and Wang Jingchun.
Fact: the prototype of the protagonist of “Shadow” was the commander Zhou Yu, one of the participants in the battle at the Red Rock, which is told about by the Chinese blockbuster of the same name.
Why watch: to fly from light to shadow
23. Message / Feng sheng (2009)
Country – China | Directed by Chen Kofu, Gao Qunshu | Duration – 118 minutes
About: In 1942, a Japanese counterintelligence officer arrests and interrogates five collaborators because he believes that one of them is a “mole” of the Resistance
If ordinary detectives invite viewers to cheer on detectives, then the historical spy thriller The Message asks the public to worry about who Japanese investigators are trying to catch. In this regard, the tape is a bit reminiscent of “Seventeen Moments of Spring”, where, as we remember, the Nazis hunted Stirlitz, while the intelligence officer played a risky game with them. True, the Chinese film cannot boast of the charm of our best series. On the other hand, this is an exciting and tough canvas, which does not hesitate to show torture (of course, not as bloody as in Western trash films). Starring Zhou Xun, Li Bingbing, Zhang Hanyu, Huang Xiaoming, Wang Zhiwen and Ying Da.
Fact: The head of the Chinese collaborators, Wang Jingwei, was originally a “leftist” politician who advocated cooperation with the communists. However, after the Japanese invasion, he went over to the side of the invaders in the hope of eventually actually leading China.
Why Watch: To Outsmart the Japanese Warlords
22. Curse of the Golden Flower / Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia (2006)
Country – China | Director – Zhang Yimou | Duration – 114 minutes
About: while the emperor plans the poisoning of his wife, a conspiracy against the ruler is brewing at court
In Tempest, a classic play by 20th-century playwright Cao Yu, passions boil in the mansion of a wealthy family in mid-1920s China. In creating a film based on The Tempest, director Zhang Yimou moved the action to a medieval imperial palace and turned a shocking family drama into a bloody dynastic tragedy in the spirit of Shakespearean dramas. While the mutually hating members of the imperial family weave intrigues and prepare riots, they involve hundreds, if not thousands of court guards in their war, and they end up giving their lives for rulers who are not capable of being as loyal and selfless. The film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Costumes category. The key characters were portrayed by Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Liu Ye and Ni Dahong.
Fact: The painting was the first joint project of Zhang Yimou and Gong Li since the mid-1990s, when the former lovers broke up.
Why watch: to plunge into imperial passions
21. In the name of honor / Ji jie hao (2007)
Country – China | Directed by Feng Xiaogang | Duration – 124 minutes
About: Veteran of the Chinese Civil War and the Korean War seeks to have his fallen colleagues recognized as heroes
When soldiers fight to the last, and almost no one remains alive, their feat can go unnoticed, because there is no one to tell about it. The penetrating drama “In the Name of Honor” recalls and vividly illustrates this sad truth. The film tells a story based on real events about a man who, for many years after the war, was looking for formal evidence of his innocence, because they did not dare to take his word for it. Due to army reorganizations and heavy losses, the paper trail of his unit was lost in the archives, and almost no one remembered that such a company even existed. But a veteran of two wars did not survive at the front in order to surrender in a fight with officials … There are many battle scenes in the picture, and it depicts military and peaceful confrontations with equal brilliance. The main character was played by Zhang Hanyu.
Fact: Korean special effects masters who previously worked on the famous South Korean military epic “38th Parallel” worked on the film.
Why watch: to find out what “no one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten” means in China
20. Eight hundred / Ba bai (2020)
Country – China | Directed by Guan Hu | Duration – 147 minutes
About: while the Chinese army retreats from Shanghai in October 1937, several hundred soldiers and officers are ordered to hold out to the last
The four-day defense of the Sihan warehouse was of little military importance, and minimal forces were allocated for it. The warehouse defenders were ordered not to win, but to prove to their own people and the whole world that the army’s spirit was not broken and that it was ready to continue fighting despite the loss of one of the most important cities. And the defenders of the warehouse – several hundred fighters who repulsed the attacks of the thousands of Japanese army – covered themselves with such glory that they are remembered and honored in modern China. Although they were part of the Kuomintang army and were enemies of Mao’s supporters. “Eight Hundreds” is an epic military thriller about the feat of the defenders of the Sykhan warehouse, filmed in the same spirit as “Brest Fortress” and “28 Panfilov’s Men”. The film stars Wang Qianyuan, Jiang Wu, Huang Zhizhong and Zhang Jiongyi.
Fact: The pandemic did not stop the film from earning nearly $500 million at the box office and becoming one of the highest-grossing films of 2020 worldwide.
Why watch: to see the Chinese Brest Fortress
19. Way home / Wo de fu qin mu qin (1999)
Country – China | Director – Zhang Yimou | Duration – 89 minutes
About: a resident of a big city returns to his native village to bury his father
In the late 1990s, Zhang Yimou temporarily abandoned his usual lush visual style and began making films that were deliberately simple and mundane, inspired by the works of Italian neo-realists and Iranian directors. The Road Home was his best work of this period – at least in the eyes of viewers who enjoy soulful cinema with a touch of nostalgia. The journey to his native land gives the main character a reason to remember the story of pure and devoted love of his parents (a simple villager and a teacher sent from the city), and the minimalist, realistic style of the picture helps viewers believe that such a sincere and touching relationship is possible in ordinary life. The film was the screen debut of future star Zhang Ziyi. Together with her, Sun Honglei and Zheng Hao starred in the film.
Fact: The film won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Why watch: to be nourished by the fullness of feelings
18. Mulan / Hua mu lan (2009)
Country – China | Directed by Jingle Ma | Duration – 109 minutes
About: the daughter of an elderly warrior pretends to be a young man and goes to serve when northern tribes attack China
Even if you’re happy with a perky Disney cartoon inspired by the legend of Mulan, don’t miss out on a Chinese movie about a medieval heroine. It’s a more serious and grown-up interpretation of Mulan, and it depicts a hard-fought war rather than a peppy adventure with friends on a camping trip. Unlike the recent Disney film remake, Hong Kong director Jingle Ma’s film does not hesitate to show Mulan as flawed and doubtful of her decisions, and she does not reduce the enemies of the main characters to a gray mass that deserves only humiliation and extermination. This is a saga of heroism, growing up, gaining wisdom and choosing between love and duty. The film stars Vicky Zhao, Chen Kun, Hu Jun and Jaycee Chan.
Fact: Actress Liu Yifei, who starred in Disney’s Mulan 11 years later, was one of Vicki Zhao’s competitors during the casting of Jingle Ma’s Mulan.
Why watch: to experience the Chinese vision of Mulan
17. Detective Di and the mystery of the ghostly flame / Di ren jie: Tong tian di guo (2010)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Tsui Hark | Duration – 123 minutes
About: the empress orders the release of the famous detective and former rebel from prison so that he understands the mysterious deaths of palace servants
Judge Di Renjie is a real-life dignitary from ancient China who became famous all over the world when the Dutch orientalist Robert van Gulik began publishing detective novels about the fictitious investigations of a shrewd defender of justice. Over time, the Chinese began to invent and shoot their own series and films about Judge Di, and in 2010 the Hong Kong master Tsui Hark, together with his Chinese colleagues, created a stylish and exciting detective-historical thriller in which Di is forced to investigate in the interests of the ruler, against whom in the past rebelled. This plot move gives the narrative political overtones that are not typical for detective stories and helps the film to go beyond genre boundaries and stand out from the competition. The film was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The key characters of the film were portrayed by Andy Lau, Tony Leung Ka-Fai,
Fact: Tsui Hark also directed two prequels about Dee’s youthful adventures, starring Mark Chao as the titular character.
Why Watch: To uncover a court plot
16. The Emperor and the Assassin / Jing ke ci qin wang (1998)
Country – China | Directed by Chen Kaige | Duration – 163 minutes
About: The ruler of the Qin kingdom sends a spy to a neighboring kingdom to stage a fake assassination attempt on himself and get an excuse to invade
The first emperor Qin Shi Huang is a controversial figure in Chinese history. On the one hand, he united the warring kingdoms, established an empire, and paved the way for modern China. On the other hand, he flooded the country with blood and ruled like a tyrant. The epic historical drama “The Emperor and the Assassin” uses one of the key events of Qin Shi Huang’s reign to reflect the duality of the future emperor and show how he sometimes turned against himself even his closest associates, who previously believed that he was fighting for peace and prosperity. The picture is luxuriously filmed and masterfully acted out, and all its central characters are as complex and ambiguous as the title lord. Gong Li, Zhang Fengyi, Li Xuejian and Sun Zhou played key roles in the film.
Fact: The palace of the Qin ruler was so carefully recreated in full size that after the release of the painting, its scenery was used as an amusement park and an open-air museum.
Why watch: to look into the cradle of the empire
15. Qiu Ju goes to court / Qiu ju da guan si (1992)
Country – China | Director – Zhang Yimou | Duration – 100 minutes
About: a simple peasant woman tries to achieve justice after her husband was beaten by a village headman
Zhang Yimou’s Qiu Ju Goes to Court is a film with a deceptively simple plot and a multifaceted and multi-genre narrative. This is a social drama, and a satire about Chinese bureaucracy, and a thoughtful study of provincial society in the early 1990s, and immersion in the subtle nuances of Eastern culture and “loss of face”. And it is also a universal, universal story about how far it is worth going when you fight for the truth and defend your own and other people’s dignity. And about how difficult it is to find a compromise when both sides, not without reason, rest against the horn (the headman beat Qiu Ju’s husband in response to an offensive insult). The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The film stars Gong Li, Liu Peiqi, Liuchun Yang and Lei Kesheng.
Fact: many street scenes were filmed with a hidden camera, and the city passers-by were ordinary people, not hired extras.
Why watch: to take a sip of Chinese bureaucracy
14. Devils at the threshold / Guizi lai le (2000)
Country – China | Directed by Jiang Wen | Duration – 139 minutes
About: at the end of World War II, the inhabitants of a small village receive two prisoners at their disposal – a Japanese sergeant and a Chinese collaborator
“Devils at the Doorstep” is a Chinese tragicomedy, unique in its impudence, whose creators dared to joke about the war with the Japanese. But do not think bad – this is not a mockery of the heroes of the past. Director Jiang Wen’s dark humor is a biting mockery of nationalist rage and hatred. The characters of The Devils are simple peaceful people who know that they should hate their captives and wish them harm, but all their attempts to get angry for a long time turn out to be absurd, because they contradict their good-natured nature. In turn, the Japanese prisoner tries to behave like a proud servant of the emperor until he loses his “mask” and exposes his insides. For obvious reasons, the picture was not particularly joyfully received in China and Japan, and it looks best in third countries, where its humanistic pathos can be assessed without partiality. The picture was awarded the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. Starring Jiang Wen, Jiang Hongbo and Teruyuki Kagawa.
Fact: As a punishment for showing the film at Cannes without the permission of the Communist Party, director Jiang Wen was banned from independent filming for several years. He was allowed to act in films, but not to shoot himself.
Why Watch: To Reflect on Humanity in War
13. Big Soldier / Da bing xiao jiang (2010)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Ding Sheng | Duration – 92 minutes
About: an elderly infantryman captures a young general of the enemy army and leads him to his kingdom in the hope of a reward.
Jackie Chan came up with The Big Soldier in the 1980s and hoped to shoot it in Hong Kong, but then the actor’s hands never got around to this project. Therefore, The Big Soldier was filmed only in the late 2000s, and he, perhaps, only benefited from the fact that his title character is not a grip in the prime of his life, but an aging man who dreams of a peaceful life and sees in his prisoner retirement pass. The venerable age of the hero makes The Big Soldier a sentimental tragicomedy and helps the audience empathize with the misadventures of the warrior and his prisoner on the way to the kingdom of Liang. And since the action of the tape develops in the III century BC, the heroes make their way through the wild places and face not only the enemies of their nations, but also dangerous animals and nomadic barbarians. The film is considered one of Jackie Chan’s finest late works. The second lead role was played by Wang Lihom.
Fact: Jackie Chan’s wife Joan Lin wanted their son Jaycee Chan to get a role in The Big Soldier, but Jackie Chan chose to invite Wang Lihom, one of China’s most popular pop musicians, to the project.
Why watch: to walk with Jackie Chan through ancient China
12. Fearless / Huo yuan jia (2006)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Ronnie Yu | Duration – 105 minutes
About: A martial artist confronts foreign imperialists in early 20th-century China.
When Jet Li starred in the 1994 Hong Kong action movie Fist of Legend, he played a student of Huo Yuanjia, a renowned martial artist and teacher. Therefore, when Lee decided that his next picture would be the last kungfu action movie in his career, he took on the role of Huo Yuanjia, as if showing that he was leaving the genre at the peak of knowledge and skill. And although age was already making itself felt, the actor did his best to show everything he was capable of and give the audience one of his best films – a pathetic action extravaganza about a man who, in difficult times, raised the spirit of the nation and proved the superiority of the Chinese military art on any other – especially over Japanese. Along with Lee, Dong Yun, Colin Chow, Nathan Jones and Shido Nakamura starred in Fearless.
Fact: according to the plan of the fight director Yuen Wu-Ping, Lee’s character was supposed to slap the opponent in one of the scenes. Li, however, refused to do so, as he felt that Huo Yuanjia would never show such disrespect to an opponent.
Why Watch: To Enjoy Jet Li’s Swan Song
11. City of life and death / Nan jing! Nanjing! (2009)
Country – China | Directed by Lu Chuan | Duration – 132 minutes
About: in 1937, the Japanese army captures the Chinese city of Nanjing and begins to mock prisoners of war and civilians
When the Japanese General Ivane Matsui won the battle for Nanjing and made atrocities there, he hoped that he would break the will of the Chinese, and the war would soon end. However, the commander miscalculated. The Nanjing massacre proved to the Chinese that they must fight valiantly so that such events would never happen again, and Nanjing became a symbol of national resistance. That is why the Chinese have repeatedly turned to those terrible days in their art, and the large-scale historical drama “City of Life and Death” has become perhaps the strongest depiction of the tragedy of Nanjing on the big screen. At the same time, director and screenwriter Lu Chuan refrained from reducing the production to a primitive nationalist statement that “all Japanese are villains.” On the contrary, one of the key characters of the tape is a Japanese sergeant, who is no less horrified by what is happening. than the Chinese and Western heroes of the “City”, and eventually takes the side of his enemies. The film stars Liu Ye, Gao Yuanyuan, Fan Wei, Qin Lan and Hideo Nakaizumi.
Fact: director Lu Chuan dreamed of becoming a creator since childhood, but his writer father insisted that the young man graduate from a military academy and serve in the army for several years. The man believed that you first need to know real life and only then go into art.
Why watch: to feel the pain and sorrow of the Chinese people
10. Snipers / Ju ji shou (2022)
Country – China | Directed by Zhang Yimou, Zhang Mo | Duration – 96 minutes
About: during the Korean War, Chinese shooters fall into a trap set by American snipers
Talking about the exploits of their fathers and grandfathers during the Korean War, the Chinese readily admit that the Americans were superior in equipment and training. So, the Chinese sniper-record holder Zhang Taofan had an ordinary “mosquito” without an optical sight, and he did not immediately sharpen up using it as a sniper weapon before he got a taste and eliminated more than two hundred enemies. Seven decades later, the exploits of Zhang and his comrades inspired director Zhang Yimou and his daughter Zhang Mo to create a tense military thriller about the confrontation between Chinese and American soldiers and snipers. While the veteran Chinese filmmaker filmed his compatriots, Zhang Mo, who was educated in the West, worked with foreign actors to make sure the film adequately portrayed both sides of the conflict. Of course, adjusted for the fact that the Americans in the picture are enemies.
Fact: Zhang Taofang’s rifle is now in the Korean War Museum in Dandong, Liaoning Province in northeast China.
Why watch: to participate in a sniper duel
9. Earthquake / Tang shan da di zhen (2010)
Country – China | Directed by Feng Xiaogang | Duration – 139 minutes
About: During the 1976 Tien Shan earthquake, a woman is forced to choose which of her children, son or daughter, will be pulled out from under the rubble.
Earthquake was the first Chinese film produced by Huayi Brothers, a major Chinese studio, in partnership with IMAX. Accordingly, the main task of director Feng Xiaogang was to use all IMAX technologies to recreate on a huge screen a nightmarish natural disaster that destroyed most of the buildings of the Tianshan metropolis and led to innumerable human casualties. But who would go to see a movie where there was nothing else? Therefore, “Earthquake” is not only a disaster film, but also a poignant and life-affirming family drama about people who found the strength to survive and build new happiness on the ruins of the old. China nominated Earthquake for the Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. The main roles in the film were played by Xu Fan, Zhang Jingchu, Yang Lixin, Chen Daoming, Chen Jin and Li Chen.
Fact: The Tienshan earthquake is considered the deadliest in Chinese history, although due to the complexity of accounting, it is not known for certain how many lives it claimed.
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Directed by Tsui Hark | Duration – 141 minutes
About: In 1946, a small detachment of the People’s Liberation Army of China fights against bandits who have settled in a mountain fortress
In the midst of the “cultural revolution”, the masters of the Peking opera were forced to abandon classical plays and stage new, ideologically verified works. One of them was the opera “The Dexterous Seizure of Tiger Mountain”, based on the real events of the Chinese Civil War. The protagonist of the opera was a red scout who pretended to be a bandit and rubbed himself into the confidence of the villains in order to find out how to capture the seemingly impregnable fortress. In 1970, the PRC released a film version of Capture, which literally every adult Chinese of that time saw (attending the screenings was mandatory). 44 years later, Hong Kong director Tsui Hark turned the opera into a spectacularly shot historical thriller that turned into a spectacular action movie towards the end of the story. The key characters of the tape were portrayed by Zhang Hanyu, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Kenny Lin, Yu Nan,
Fact: Communist operas like The Deft Capture of Tiger Mountain were the personal projects of Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s second wife and former actress. She served as Minister of Culture and was responsible for many aspects of the Cultural Revolution.
Why watch: to meet the famous Chinese hero of the 20th century
7 Raise the Red Lantern / Da hong deng long gao gao gua (1991)
Country – China | Director – Zhang Yimou | Duration – 125 minutes
About: In 1920s China, a young woman is forced to become the fourth wife of a wealthy man.
Fanciful Chinese ceremonies from the outside seem exotic and attractive. But how did the people who lived in the world of traditions feel, while the society behind the wall became more free and uninhibited? Zhang Yimou’s celebrated psychological drama Raise the Red Lantern may remind one of The Thunderstorm, Anna Karenina and other classics about women breaking out of their world. The Chinese heroine, on the other hand, is locked up with other women, accustomed to stalking each other for the sake of the master’s attention. Their desperate confrontation and mutual envy became the core of this poignant story. Deliberately luxurious outfits and expensive decoration of the chambers only emphasize that the heroines are imprisoned in a golden cage, which at any moment can become a sarcophagus. The film stars Gong Li, He Caifei, Ma Jingwu and Cao Cuifeng.
Fact: Zhang Yimou won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and his film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Why watch: to look behind the screen of an old-fashioned Chinese family
6. House of flying daggers / Shi mian mai fu (2004)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Director – Zhang Yimou | Duration – 119 minutes
About: Government detectives arrest a blind girl who may be connected to the rebel army.
After Zhang Yimou’s huge success with Hero, he went on to make stunningly beautiful Wushu action films and released House of Flying Daggers, which is not as flashy as Hero, but more sentimental. In essence, “Home” is a touching melodrama about a love triangle, whose participants are so masterful in martial arts that they sort things out in duels, and not in the usual quarrels for the genre. Therefore, the tape looks great both as a heartfelt romantic story and as a powerful oriental action movie. China nominated “Home” for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The central characters of the picture were played by Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau and Zhang Ziyi.
Fact: many of the film’s natural landscapes were filmed in the Carpathians, with the exception of scenes in bamboo forests.
Why watch: to put feelings above the law
5. Live / Huo zhe (1994)
Country – China | Director – Zhang Yimou | Duration – 132 minutes
About: a wealthy family goes bankrupt and experiences the main events of Chinese history of the 20th century, from the Civil War to the “cultural revolution”
When revolutions destroy habitual existence, and the wheel of history elevates former losers to the top and crushes the former owners of life, many families are simply trying to survive, endure, hold out until the end of the era of change, when it will again be possible to live as one lives, raise children and nurse grandchildren. Zhang Yimou’s family were supporters of the Kuomintang during the Civil War, and those of them who did not flee into exile had a hard time during the first decades of communist rule. Therefore, for the director, the novel “To Live” by the Chinese prose writer Yu Hua was not only a source of inspiration, but also a reflection of his own family history, and the film adaptation of the book became the most sincere and powerful dramatic canvas of Zhang Yimou. This is a confession about survival and faith in better times, despite all the blows of fate. The film received three awards at the Cannes Film Festival, sharing the Grand Prix with “Burnt by the Sun” by Nikita Mikhalkov. The key characters of the tape were portrayed by Ge Yu, Gong Li, Niu Ben and Jiang Wu.
Fact: Due to its politically ambiguous content, To Live didn’t get a wide Chinese release, but it could be seen in some theaters and watched on video.
Why watch: to relive major milestones in recent Chinese history
4. Battle on the lake / Zhang jin hu (2021-2022)
Country – China | Directed by Cui Hark, Chen Kaige, Dante Lam, Huang Jianxin | Duration – 325 minutes
About: the Chinese army fights the American troops during the Korean War
In November 1950, the Chinese came to the aid of the North Koreans. Their army clashed with the advancing Americans, who believed they would win the war before the end of the year. In fact, Western troops were forced to flee North Korea. There were more Chinese in the battle of the Chosin reservoir, but they were much worse armed and trained. The sweeter was their triumph, now considered one of the heroic pages of national history. 70 years later, Chinese filmmakers marked the anniversary of the battle with a bang by releasing the monumental duology “Battle on the Lake”. Leading Chinese directors have created two amazing war films. These were some of the best blockbusters of recent films, and the first “Battle on the Lake” deservedly became the champion of Chinese box office, earning about $ 900 million. Starring Jackie Wu and Jackson E.
Fact: more than 70 thousand soldiers of the Chinese army, attracted as extras, participated in the filming of the dilogy.
Why Watch: To Witness the Defeat of the Americans
3. Battle of the Red Rock / Chi bi (2008-2009)
Countries – China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and others | Directed by John Woo | Duration – 290 minutes
About: The founders of the Kingdom of Wu and the Kingdom of Shu fight a decisive battle with the troops of an imperial minister who is trying to unite China
The era of the Three Kingdoms in Chinese history lasted a little over a century, from 169 to 280 AD. However, it receives great attention thanks to the medieval novel “Three Kingdoms”, one of the greatest masterpieces of oriental literature. The writer Luo Guanjun portrayed the heroes and villains of the Three Kingdoms so vividly that they are forever registered in Chinese culture. John Woo’s epic dulogy The Battle of Red Rock is a superb on-screen depiction of the book’s climactic confrontation – a battle over the fate of the empire between rebels and a tyrant trying to keep the country from falling apart. “Battle” skillfully intertwines grandiose battle scenes with more intimate episodes that help viewers feel the passions of ancient times. Key roles in the film were played by Tony Leung Chu Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen and Vicki Zhao.
Fact: the Chinese military “lent” the creators of the picture one and a half thousand soldiers who participated in the construction of scenery and depicted ancient armies.
Why watch: to plunge into the history of ancient China
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon / Wo hu cang long (2000)
Countries – China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, USA | Directed by Ang Lee | Duration – 120 minutes
About: a girl from a wealthy family steals a unique sword so that no one can stop her from being with her lover – a road bandit
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon might seem like a delightfully beautiful costumed kungfu action movie with amazingly filmed fights. But if you look closely, it turns out that the Taiwanese master of family dramas Ang Lee is not far from his crowning genre. At its core, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a heartfelt melodrama about the confrontation between older and younger Chinese, who understand love and duty in different ways. The heroes fight only because their conflict has reached such an intensity that it is no longer possible to agree. The tragic contradiction between the feeling and the rigidity of the narrative helped the tape to become a masterpiece recognized all over the world. The film was nominated for ten Oscars and won four awards, including Best Foreign Language Film. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh,
Fact: The film was the first foreign-language film to gross over $100 million at the US box office.
Why watch: to learn how to talk about love in Wushu
1. Hero / Ying xiong (2002)
Countries – China, Hong Kong | Director – Zhang Yimou | Duration – 96 minutes
About: a servant of the ruler of the kingdom of Qin arrives at the court to tell how he dealt with three murderers who attempted on the life of the ruler
The brilliant Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon inspired the master of epic dramas Zhang Yimou to release his own addictive kungfu action movie, and Hero surpassed Ang Li’s creation in expressiveness and integrity of the narrative, as well as in the beauty and power of battle scenes. Known for his work with Wong Kar-wai, Australian director of photography Christopher Doyle created the most elegant canvas from which it was impossible to look away, and the fight between the characters of Jet Li and Donnie Yen – true masters of on-screen martial arts – became one of the greatest fights in the history of oriental cinema. And if “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was, first of all, filmed for fans and fans of oriental melodramas, then “Hero” turned out to be an ideal male spectacle, combining the pathos and scope of a costume action movie with the wisdom of a political parable. The film was the first Chinese-language film to top the US weekly box office. Together with Li and Yen, Tony Leung Chu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi and Chen Daoming played in the film.
Fact: The film was inspired by the same historical events as Chen Kaige’s The Emperor and the Assassin.