7 Best Chinese Films Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

Called a masterpiece by many and featured on many best-of-the-21st-century lists, Director Wong Kar-wei has created a thing of singular beauty. Every frame is an artwork (painted, as it were, with help of cinematographer Christopher Doyle) in this meticulously and beautifully crafted film about the unrequited love of two people renting adjacent rooms in 1960s Hong Kong. These two people, played by Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, struggle to stay true to their values rather than give in to their desires, while they both suspect their spouses of extramarital activities. The flawless acting, stunning visuals, and dream-like beauty of In the Mood for Love perfectly captures the melancholy of repressed emotions and unfulfilled love. The cello motif of Shigeru Umebayashi's main theme will haunt you long after you finished watching.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Chan Man-Lei, Charles de Gaulle, Cheung Tung-cho, Chin Tsi-Ang, Joe Cheung, Joe Cheung Tung-Cho, Julien Carbon, Kelly Lai Chen, Laurent Courtiaud, Maggie Cheung, Mama Hung, Paulyn Sun, Ping Lam Siu, Rebecca Pan, Roy Cheung, Siu Ping-lam, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Tsi-Ang Chin

Director: Wong Kar-wai

Rating: PG

Wong Kar-wai’s dreamlike masterpiece is a perfect portrayal of the wilderness of a city at night. A hitman trying to get his job done, a woman hunting the prostitute who stole her boyfriend, and a mute who loves his father's cooking: each of the characters in Fallen Angels is eccentric and interesting in their own way. Along the watch, you may find yourself overwhelmed by all the events taking place as each character fights to stay alive and satisfy their desire, but this is exactly where the beauty lies. A hazy view of Hong Kong is the backdrop for the characters' riveting stories, blending loneliness, lust, as well as missed opportunities. Fallen Angels is a remarkably balanced film that not only exposes the coldness of people in the city, but also their warmth.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Romance

Actor: Benz Kong, Benz Kong To-Hoi, Chan Fai-Hung, Chan Man-Lei, Charlie Yeung, Johnnie Kong, Karen Mok, Karen Mok Man-Wai, Kwan Lee-Na, Leon Lai, Michelle Reis, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Toru Saito

Director: Kar-Wai Wong, Wong Kar-wai

Rating: R

Forlorn longing envelops Days of Being Wild, where the act of dreaming is as valuable as its actual fulfillment. “You’ll see me tonight in your dreams,” Yuddy tells Su Li-zhen on their first meeting, and indeed, this line of dialogue sets the film’s main contradiction: would you rather trap yourself in the trance-like beauty of dreams or face the unpleasant possibilities of reality? Wong Kar-wai’s characters each have their own answers, with varying subplots intersecting through the consequences of their decisions. In the end, happiness comes in unexpected ways, granted only to those brave enough to wake up and dream again.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alicia Alonzo, Andy Lau, Anita Mui, Carina Lau, Hung Ling-Ling, Jacky Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Maritoni Fernandez, Rebecca Pan, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai

Director: Kar-Wai Wong, Wong Kar-wai

Rating: Not Rated

Teenagers forced to grow up quickly and spend their prime years wiling away at garment factories sounds like a grim reality, and it is, but in Youth (Spring), Chinese documentarist Wang Bing captures more than just the inherent tragedy of young labor. Here, they build friendships, find love, discover an affinity for their craft, stand up for themselves against exploitative bosses, and look for ways to have fun. Even if it’s just as simple as eating street food, spending the night at an internet cafe, or finding nice clothes, we’re with them in every way. Though it’s never explicitly political, the documentary makes you think about the conditions that put the kids there in the first place, such as our insatiable need for cheap and trendy clothes, governments turning a blind eye to child labor, and a skewed system that favors these above people’s—especially young people’s—well-being and welfare.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Wang Bing

A classic text of English literature classes is handsomely brought to life in this screen translation of the still-radical play An Inspector Calls. The Birlings, a wealthy industrialist family thriving in 1912 England, have a cozy family celebration shattered by the arrival of a police inspector investigating the suicide of a young working-class woman. But that’s not the only bubble that’s burst: as Inspector Goole (David Thewlis) interviews the family — gradually revealing the part each played in forcing the woman to such a desperate state — he holds a mirror up to the casual cruelty and entitlement with which the Birlings move through the world. Part of what makes JB Priestley’s original play so enduring is how these characters are used as a wider metaphor for their social classes, and that translates with delicate but undeniable force here. A damning indictment of individualism and blind privilege on original publication in 1945, this is a story that retains the same relevance and power today.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller, TV Movie

Actor: Chloe Pirrie, Chrissie Chow, David Thewlis, Donnie Yen, Eric Tsang, Finn Cole, Flora Nicholson, Hans Zhang, Herman Yau, Karena Ng, Ken Stott, Kyle Soller, Lam Ka-tung, Liu Yan, Louis Koo, Lucy Chappell, Miranda Richardson, Raymond Wong, Sophie Rundle, Teresa Mo, Wanda Opalinska

Director: Aisling Walsh, Herman Yau, Raymond Wong

Rating: TV-PG

Though Eternal Summer isn't able to fully engage with its queer characters—maybe due to its being released in the mid-2000s—it still makes for a more interesting character study than you'd expect. This romance between three school friends has more on its mind than simply pitting two romantic pairings against each other. Unrequited feelings, unspoken secrets, and identities that are constantly in flux make Eternal Summer compelling just for the way these people try to dance around one another's emotions. And since it's shot in the muted colors of early digital filmmaking, this is a love story that becomes all the more melancholic just in the way it looks.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Joseph Chang, Kate Yeung, Ray Chang

Director: Leste Chen

Rating: 0

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