6 Best Movies to Watch From Vietnam

Staff & contributors
Warm, enchanting, poetic and delicate, this is an almost silent film about a poor Vietnamese girl who goes to work for a well-off family in Saigon. The film follows her experiences as she grows but is also very focused on the nature around her, and the beautiful little details of this nature, which the young girl seems attuned to and curious about. The feelings in the film come more from the excellent visuals rather than the plot itself.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Anh Hoa Nguyen, Hoa Hoi Vuong, Keo Souvannavong, Man San Lu, Ngoc Trung Tran, Thi Loc Truong, Tran Nu Yên-Khê, Vantha Talisman

Director: Anh Hung Tran, Tran Anh Hung

Rating: Not Rated

Being released just a year after 9/11, we weren’t expecting The Quiet American to be critical about America’s intervention in the Vietnam War– the original novel was criticized by the country in its initial release, and the previous 1958 film adaptation revamped the entire story for an anti-communist message. Still, while the film could have expanded on Phuong’s perspective, The Quiet American is well made and surprisingly faithful to the book– willing to delve into author Graham Greene’s cautionary tale on exceptionalism and acknowledging how his prediction has happened in reality, all easily understood through the simple, yet effective metaphor of a love triangle.

Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller, War

Actor: Brendan Fraser, Do Thi Hai Yen, Ferdinand Hoang, George Mangos, Holmes Osborne, Jeff Truman, Kevin Tran, Mathias Mlekuz, Michael Caine, Rade Serbedzija, Robert Stanton, Tzi Ma

Director: Phillip Noyce

Rating: R

Not to be confused with the old racist Disney movie, Song of the South is a carefully crafted historical epic based on the classic Vietnamese novel. Set in 1940s Vietnam, French colonial rule hangs over the main story, with the young An searching for his father after a tragic loss. It’s beautifully shot, capturing South Vietnam’s culture in ethereal countryscapes, blatantly nationalistic moments, and excellently choreographed fight sequences. Huynh Hao Khang also depicts An with a charm and charisma that makes his journey the most interesting to watch. However, his journey meanders halfway through, with each change in travel companion unsteadily shifting the tone of the film. Song of the South is an intriguing watch, but the structure, humor, and the CGI distracts from the poignancy of the original novel’s story.

Genre: Drama, Family, War

Actor: Công Ninh, Hồng Ánh, Mai Tài Phến, Trấn Thành, Tuấn Trần, Tuyền Mập

Director: Nguyễn Quang Dũng

Like its governor having many wives, The Last Wife has too many elements left unsatisfied. To its credit, it has lovely scenery, costumes, and set design that matches the era. With Linh forced into a marriage to pay off her father’s debts, reuniting with a childhood love, the film also had the erotic potential of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, with a thrilling second act twist that occurs when they get discovered. However, the film gets dragged down by the slow pace and random comedic scenes that don’t add to the thematic stakes, sometimes even distracting the viewer from the dismal conditions the titular wife is forced into.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: De Ly Luu, Kaity Nguyễn, Ngọc Diệp, Quốc Huy, Thuan Nguyen

Director: Victor Vũ

As a sluggishly paced, three-hour spiritual drama with little dialogue and even less plot, Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell certainly won't convert anybody who isn't already interested in slow cinema. Even those who don't mind these types of films in which "nothing happens" might feel that it doesn't weave its themes of faith and suffering tightly enough. But there's more than enough beauty to contemplate here, courtesy of Dinh Duy Hung's stunning cinematography, which invites us to simply inhabit the world and to stop looking for answers. This may sound like a copout, but it's quite the experience to have a film force you to rethink how you're viewing it, as you're viewing it.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Le Phong Vu, Nguyen Thi Truc Quynh, Nguyen Thinh, Vu Ngoc Manh

Director: Pham Thien An

The latest installment of Ly Hai’s Face Off franchise has an entertaining premise with some terrible plot twists. With this premise, it’s almost expected to see the worst of the worst of people when given a jackpot, and it’s easy to feel distraught when this happens, because the initial dynamic between the six friends feels genuine. However, the fun and wacky hijinks devolve into seriously messed up plot twists. Some of these work, but certain scenes feel like it was just added for shock value at the expense of other characters. The film couldn’t choose between vilifying some characters and celebrating their friendship. Because of this, Face Off 6 feels like it missed its mark.

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Huy Khánh, Huỳnh Thi, Lý Hải, Quốc Cường, Tiết Cương, Trung Dũng

Director: Lý Hải