11 Best Asian Movies Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

The 2016 outing of South-Korean auteur director Park Chan-wook (maker of Oldboy and Stoker) once again shifts attention to the dark side of what makes us human: betrayal, violence, and transgression. Based on the 2002 novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden revolves around the love of two women and the greedy men around them. Park shifts the novel's plot from Victorian London to 1930s Korea, where an orphaned pickpocket is used by a con man to defraud an old Japanese woman. Routinely called a masterpiece with comparisons made to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, this is a stylish and meticulous psychological thriller that packs enough erotic tension to put a crack in your screen. If you love cinema, you can't miss this movie. You might even have to watch it twice.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Bae Il-hyuck, Cho Jin-woong, Choi Byung-mo, Choi Jong-ryul, Eun-hyung Jo, Ha Jung-woo, Ha Si-yeon, Hae-suk Kim, Han Ha-na, In-woo Kim, Jeong Ha-dam, Jeong In-kyeom, Jin-woong Jo, Jo Eun-Hyung, Jung In-gyeom, Jung-woo Ha, Kim Hae-sook, Kim Hae-suk, Kim In-woo, Kim Min-hee, Kim Si-eun, Kim Tae-ri, Kwak Eun-jin, Lee Dong-hwi, Lee Ji-ha, Lee Kyu-jung, Lee Yong-nyeo, Lim Han-bin, Min-hee Kim, Moon So-ri, O Man-seok, Oh Man-seok, Rina Takagi, So-ri Moon, Tae-ri Kim, Takashi Kakizawa, Tomomitsu Adachi

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: Not Rated

Koreeda is a master of the tender gaze. He deals so softly, elegantly, and emphatically with the characters in his films, it will make you feel like you're watching life itself in all its complex, emotional splendor. Maybe this is particularly true for this movie because it has been inspired by Koreeda's memories of his own childhood and the passing of his mother. Still Walking is a quietly toned movie spanning a period of 24 hours in the life of the Yokoyama family, as they gather to commemorate the passing of their eldest son. At the center of the story is the father, an emotionally distant man who commands respect both from his family and community. Opposite from him sits the other son, the black sheep, who seeks his father's validation. Directed, written, and edited by Koreeda, this dynamic is one of many in this slice-of-life movie about how families deal with loss. And, however distant the culture or setting in Japan may seem to the outsider, you're bound to recognize either yourself or your family among the tender scenes of this masterful drama.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Haruko Kato, Hiroshi Abe, Hotaru Nomoto, Kazuya Takahashi, Kirin Kiki, Ryoga Hayashi, Shohei Tanaka, Susumu Terajima, Yoshio Harada, You, Yui Natsukawa

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hirokazu Koreeda

Rating: Not Rated

, 2003

From Korean director Park Chan-wook, who also brought you the far quieter The Handmaiden, comes a movie that is positively terrifying. Its premise alone is enough for any sentient human being to shudder. On his daughter's birthday, the good-for-nothing Oh Dae-su (played by Choic Min-sik) gets drunk and is arrested by the police. A friend eventually bails him out and, while he is making a phone call, Oh Dae-su disappears. Not knowing why, he is held in the same room for 15 years for no apparent reason. Until, one day, he is released. That's all that can be revealed about this winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2004 without giving away too much. All we can add here is the way we recommend Oldboy to people admitting to not having seen it yet: “Watch Oldboy. You're welcome. We're sorry.” A crazy, twisted film that goes to extremes. A cult classic and a statement.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Byeong-ok Kim, Choi Min-sik, Dae-han Ji, Dae-yeon Lee, Han Jae-duk, Hye-jeong Kang, Ji Dae-han, Ji-tae Yu, Jin-Seo Yoon, Jin-seo Yun, Kang Hye-jeong, Kang Hye-jung, Kim Byeong-Ok, Kim Byung-ok, Kim Su-hyun, Kwang-rok Oh, Lee Dae-yeon, Lee Seung-shin, Lee Young-hee, Min-sik Choi, Oh Dal-su, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Oh Tae-kyung, Park Jae-Woong, Park Myung-shin, Seo Myeong-Seok, Seung-Shin Lee, Syd Lim, Yoo Il-han, Yoo Ji-tae, Yoo Yeon-seok, Yoon Jin-seo, Yoon Jin-yul

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: R

, 2009

A thirst for love, a thirst for recognition, a thirst for sympathy, a thirst for meaning, a thirst for life, and a thirst for blood. Director Park Chan-wook and actor Song Kang-ho, two of the biggest names in South Korean cinema, join forces for the first time in a modern take on the supernatural. In present day South Korea, Catholic priest Sang-hyun (Song) volunteers himself as a human experiment during the formulation of a vaccine against a deadly virus. When the experiment fails and he is thought to be dead, he resurrects as a conflicted vampire, one whose moral code continually goes against his intrinsic desires. Along with Song and long-time collaborator cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, Park creates a riveting atmosphere that is both very scary and sad. By blending elements of horror and drama, he also achieves putting a fresh and unique spin on the time-honored vampire film.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Choi Hee-jin, Choi Hui-jin, Choi Jong-ryul, Ériq Ebouaney, Hwang Woo-seul-hye, Jo Deok-jae, Jo Moon-ee, Kang-ho Song, Kim Hae-sook, Kim Hae-suk, Kim Ok-vin, Lee Hwa-ryong, Mercedes Cabral, Natallia Bulynia, Oh Dal-su, Park In-hwan, Ra Mi-ran, Seo Dong-soo, Shin Ha-gyun, Shin Ha-kyun, Son Jong-hak, Song Kang-ho, Song Young-chang

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: R

A special forces team conducts a raid at a multi-story ghetto building where a criminal boss runs his business. Things quickly go wrong and chaos ensues. Full of pure action, with no overblown Hollywood-type CGI nonsense. It is made the way action movies should be made, full of realistic fight scenes. It is exciting, brutal and thrilling. The Raid: Redemption is definitely among the best action movies ever made.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Acip Sumardi, Alfridus Godfred, Ananda George, Bastian Riffanie, Donny Alamsyah, Eka 'Piranha' Rahmadia, Gareth Evans, Henky Solaiman, Iang Darmawan, Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Melkias Ronald Torobi, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Rully Santoso, Saad Afero, Tegar Satrya, Tuhen, Ubay Dillah, Umi Kulsum, Verdi Solaiman, Very Tri Yulisman, Yandi 'Piranha' Sutsina, Yayan Ruhian

Director: Gareth Evans

Rating: R

In what was originally intended to be his final film, Hayao Miyazaki is at his most lucid with The Wind Rises. Fluid and luminous, it cleanly moves between a grounded, historical reality and an intuitive, imaginative dreamscape. Here Miyazaki reflects on the process of creation and what it means to be an artist, drawing parallels between his own meticulousness as a filmmaker with Horikoshi’s immutable passion for flight and efficient design.

But questions of responsibility and duty arise, as Horikoshi—and by extension, Miyazaki—must reckon with the reality that even things as beautiful as aeroplanes can be destructive, and that even dreams can be violent. This meditative film does not offer any easy answers but it provides solace in its prevailing sentiment: The wind is rising, we must try to live.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Family, History, Romance, War

Actor: Hayao Miyazaki, Hideaki Anno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Jun Kunimura, Kaichi Kaburagi, Keiko Takeshita, Mansai Nomura, Martin Short, Masahiko Nishimura, Miori Takimoto, Mirai Shida, Morio Kazama, Sascha, Shinobu Otake, Stephen Alpert

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Rating: PG-13

, 2004

Director Wong Kar-Wai made this loose sequel to one of the best films ever made, his 2000 classic In the Mood for Love. Much of the story is set around Christmas eve.

In the far future, people take a train to the world of 2046, where no sadness or sorrow can be experienced. No one has ever returned from that world except for a lonely Japanese writer, who narrates the first part of the film.

There are four acts to the story and as is common to Wong Kar-Wai, they are listed in non-chronological order. Not that you will care but 2046 is far from confusing. Instead, it functions as a dazzling visual poem on unreciprocated love.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Akina Hong, Akina Hong Wah, Ben Yuen, Ben Yuen Foo-Wah, Berg Ng, Carina Lau, Chang Chen, Chen Chang, Ching Siu-Lung, Dong Jie, Farini Cheung, Farini Cheung Yui-Ling, Faye Wong, Gong Li, Jie Dong, Li Gong, Maggie Cheung, Ping Lam Siu, Ronny Ching Siu-Lung, Siu Ping-lam, Takuya Kimura, Thongchai McIntyre, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Zhang Ziyi, Ziyi Zhang

Director: Kar-Wai Wong, Wong Kar-wai

Rating: R

Written, directed and starring the auteur Stephan Chow, Kung Fu Hustle is a distillation of decades of Hong-Kong Cinema's greatest export : the martial arts comedy. Full of numerous allusions and witty nods to other greats in the genre, this film is nonetheless entirely fresh and new. Equal parts hilarious and breathtakingly action-packed, Kung Fu Hustle showcases an enormous amount of raw talent, cinema magic and ass-kicking for any true cinema connoisseur.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Fantasy

Actor: Alex Lam Chi Sin, Bruce Leung, Bruce Leung Siu-Lung, Bruce Siu-Lung Leung, Charlie Yuen Cheung-Yan, Cheung-Yan Yuen, Chi Ling Chiu, Chi-Sing Lam, Chiu Chi-Ling, Danny Chan, Danny Chan Kwok-Kwan, Dong Zhi Hua, Dung Chi-Wa, Eva Huang, Fan Tiantian, Feng Xiaogang, Fung Hak-On, Hark-On Fung, Huang Shengyi, Jazz Lam, Jia Kangxi, Kai Shi Chen, Kang Xi Jia, Kwok Kuen Chan, Lam Chi Chung, Lam Suet, Lam Tze-chung, Leung Siu Lung, Qiu Yuen, Shengyi Huang, Siu-Lung Leung, Stephen Chow, Suet Lam, Tenky Tin Kai-Man, Wah Yuen, Xiaogang Feng, Xing Yu, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Yuen Qiu, Yuen Wah, Zhi Hua Dong, Zhihua Dong, 释彦能

Director: Stephen Chow

Rating: R

Happy Together is a beautifully devastating tale about a gay couple, portrayed by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Leslie Cheun, who struggle with maintaining romance and fidelity in their relationship. Despite their efforts, they find the emotional distance growing between them, especially as they leave their home of Hong Kong for Buenos Aires.

Filmed and set in the late 1990s, Happy Together explored the depths of queer love in a way most films hadn’t. 

Since its release, it has touched the souls of many and caused tears to be shed. It serves as a reminder that love isn’t perfect, but it’s always worth the effort.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Chang Chen, Chen Chang, Gregory Dayton, Law Shu-Kei, Leslie Cheung, Shirley Kwan, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai

Director: Kar-Wai Wong, Wong Kar-wai

Rating: N/A

I didn't know anything about the movie before watching it (this was my husband's pick for 'one of us picks something that the other knows nothing about' night). It is Korean, sweet, funny, touching, unique, odd, poignant. I think the fact I knew nothing about the movie when I watched made it even more enjoyable so I hesitate to write more details in this review! Since watching it I have read that an American remake may be in the works, so I would recommend watching it before there is too much info out there about what is destined to be a less charming and successful version

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Jae-yeong Jeong, Jae-young Jeong, Jang So-yeon, Jung Jae-young, Jung Ryeo-won, Koo Kyo-hwan, Lee Kyoo-hyung, Lee Sang-hun, Mi-kyeong Yang, Min Kyung-jin, Park Young-seo, Ryeowon Jung, Yang Mi-kyung, Yeong-seo Park

Director: Hae-jun Lee, Lee Hae-jun

Rating: PG-13, Unrated

Sometimes it's hard to relate to foreign movies because of the different cultures, languages and actors. But Miracle in Cell No. 7 transcended the language barriers for me and delivered one of the most touching stories I have ever seen. It's a Korean film about the intricate yet simple love story between a mentally challenged father and his daughter. When the father is wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit and is sent to prison, his personable character eventually causes the prisoners around him to help reunite him with his daughter in prison. Warning: many tissues will be needed.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Choi Ro-woon, Dal-su Oh, Gal So-won, Han Yi-jin, Jeong Man-sik, Jin-young Jung, Jo Deok-hyeon, Jo Jae-yoon, Jo Jae-yun, Jung Han-bi, Jung Hee-tae, Jung Jin-young, Jung Man-sik, Jung-tae Kim, Kal So-won, Kang Seung-wan, Kang Ye-seo, Kim Jung-tae, Kim Ki-cheon, Kim Ki-chun, Kim Se-dong, Kyul Hwi, Lee Seung-yeon, Man-shik Jeong, Man-sik Jeong, No Kang-min, Oh Chang-kyung, Oh Dal-su, Park Kil-soo, Park Sang-myeon, Park Shin-hye, Park Won-sang, Ryu Seung-ryong, Seung-ryong Ryu, Shin-Hye Park, So Won Kal, Song Lee-woo, Won-sang Park, Yeo Moo-yeong, Yoon Sun-Woo

Director: Hwan-kyung Lee, Lee Hwan-kyung

Rating: N/A, Not Rated