37 Certified Chinese Movies To Watch Before You Die

· 15 min read
women holding swords, ready to fight the enemies

While it is true that Hollywood is home to some of the world's best filmmakers, it is also true that the infatuation with Hollywood is the result of a number of less evident elements.

Even if their work is as good as, if not better than, that of American filmmakers, the glamour associated with Hollywood frequently overshadows the work of artists from other countries.

Despite the fact that China and the surrounding East Asian nations are making significant progress in terms of filmmaking, we don't see them receiving adequate recognition or attention for their efforts.

The following is a list of the best Chinese films ever made. Some of the best Chinese films are available on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

37. The Road Home (1999)

Luo Yusheng, a city businessman, travels to his hometown in North China to attend the funeral of his father, a country teacher.

Yusheng spends one-day teaching in the country school before returning to the metropolis, symbolically honoring his father's dearest dream.

The Road Home is a simple, sweet, and tender love story that is beautifully documented.

36. Police Story (1985)

A female witness (Brigitte Lin) must be protected from a Hong Kong drug lord for whom she used to serve by a kung-fu cop (Jackie Chan).

Police Story offers a compelling argument for Jackie Chan as one of the all-time genre greats, combining terrific physical humor with thrillingly orchestrated set-pieces.

35. Once Upon A Time In China (1991)

The Once Upon a Time in China series, one of the pinnacles of Hong Kong cinema's golden age in the 1990s, set a new bar for martial arts spectacle and rocketed action actor Jet Li to international renown.

It vividly depicts China in the late 1800s, a period of enormous cultural and technological development in which Western imperialism collided with tradition, and public order was upended by fears of foreign espionage and increasing nationalism.

34. Together (2002)

Liu Xiaochun (Tang Yun), a 13-year-old violin prodigy, and his loving father, Liu Cheng (Liu Peiqi), travel to Beijing in the hopes of finding a violin teacher and, eventually, success.

The quirky professor Jiang (Wang Zhiwen) initially coaches the youth, but he is soon replaced by the respected professor Yu (Chen Kaige).

The major competition day is rapidly coming, and Xiaochun must decide whether or not this new, high-pressure existence is good for him. Together is a touching and well-acted film, while being melodramatic at times.

33. Blind Shaft (2003)

Migrant laborers are employed in the majority of China's coal mines, who are forced to work in backbreaking, dangerous conditions in order to send money home. Some of them have devised their own plans.

Song Jinming (Li Yixiang) and Tang Zhaoyang (Wang Shuangbao) are expert con artists who have established a complex scheme through years of practice.

They find a job-seeking young man and persuade him that they have secured three lucrative coal mining jobs for themselves and a relative.

They graciously provide the victim with the opportunity to pretend to be the absent relative because the person has not come on time.

They graciously provide the victim with the opportunity to pretend to be the absent relative because the person has not come on time.

Then murder the victim after a few days of labor in the mine, and they use his death to collect compensation money from the mine's management by making the murder appear to be an accident.

The film follows the duo as they repeat the fraud on a fresh victim, Yuan Fengming, who is sixteen years old (played by Wang Baoqiang).

32. Street Angel (1937)

The film Street Angel depicts the darker side of life in Shanghai's slums, telling the narrative of a small group of friends pulled together by their proximity.

Similar to The Goddess (Wu Yonggang, 1934), this socialist film used a variety of approaches to express messages denouncing society's flaws and requiring the viewers to explore the issues for themselves.

31. Hard Boiled (1992)

After losing his partner in a shootout with gun traffickers, a cop sets out on a mission to apprehend them.

He teams up with an undercover cop operating as a gangster hitman in order to get closer to the ring's leaders.

To find them, they utilize whatever measures at their disposal, including severe force.

Hard Boiled is a gripping thriller that punches hard in more ways than one, with tremendous action and startling emotional resonance.

30. The Legend of Drunken Master (1996)

The plot continues from 'Drunken Master (1978),' but this time Jackie Chan takes the lead.

Chan plays Wong Fei-hung, who is originally involved in a dispute with British ex-pats whom he believes are taking his country's valuable and indigenous ginseng.

As the feud intensifies, Fei-hung enjoys engaging in a style of Kung Fu he refers to as Drunken Boxing, in which he considers himself to be a dangerous opponent.

While most of the battle sequences are at most amusing, they are lavishly produced and executed, making 'The Legend of Drunken Master' one of the most adventurous Kung Fu films ever made.

Keep an eye out for Chan, who appears to be younger and more agile.

29. Lust, Caution (2007)

If you liked "Brokeback Mountain," you should see "Lust, Caution," Ang Lee's critically acclaimed espionage thriller.

It depicts a gang of university students attempting to assassinate a high official of Shanghai's Japanese-controlled administration, based on events that transpired after the Japanese occupation.

Lee's picture is the second to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

28. Infernal Affairs (2002)

Originally a Hong Kong-based film, any list of Chinese cinema would be incomplete without 'Infernal Affairs.'

Not only is it the film from which Scorese built the inferior 'The Departed,' but 'Infernal Affairs' stands alone as one of the best crime thrillers of the decade.

This film will leave you gasping for air as it follows the paths of an undercover cop and a triad member who infiltrates the police department.

27. Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

'Raise the Red Lantern,' one of the numerous fifth-generation films banned on the mainland, tells the story of a young woman who becomes the concubine of a wealthy warlord during the warlord era.

The picture, like 'Farewell My Concubine,' has a particular extravagance in its images that will take your breath away.

Despite the director's denial, several reviewers believe that the iconography of the warring lords in this picture represents the fragmentation of society in China after the Cultural Revolution.

26. House of Flying Daggers (2004)

'House of Flying Daggers,' with a shoestring budget of $12 million USD by today's standards, went on to gross more than 8 times its budget in box office receipts, thanks to an incredible star cast, mind-blowing production design and editing, and some outstanding direction.

The film stars Zhang Ziyi, one of China's most popular actresses today, and is set in 8th-century China when several rebel factions vied for power against a corrupt government.

The House of Flying Daggers is a faction known for its flying daggers, which can kill humans in the blink of an eye.

When the government dispatches two police officers to spy on a dancer named Mei, who has ties to the respected group, one of them falls for Mei and deceives the cops, setting in motion a chain of events that becomes even more complicated.

'House of Flying Daggers,' a thrilling adventure with all the characteristics of a successful film, is simply outstanding.

25. Still Life (2013)

'Still Life' tells the story of two people seeking their spouses in a little hamlet on the Yangtze River that is slowly being destroyed due to the Three Gorges Dam.

Because of its acclaim, it was promoted both at home and abroad by Chinese officials after winning the award for best film at the Venice International Film Festival.

Jia Zhangke's versatility as a director is demonstrated in this picture. After dealing with a wide range of issues in the past, 'Still Life' is yet another impressive achievement.

24. Not One Less (1999)

'Not One Less,' a film about a social issue, focuses on a period in China when there was a scarcity of educated people and the numerous steps the government had to take to send the booming population to schools.

The film emphasizes the government's concern about a very low number of rural people enrolling their children in schools, rather than the urban population, who has always had an affection for education.

The film begins with a young teacher, Wei, who has been assigned as a replacement teacher at a rural school and is tasked with retaining all of the kids within the school, as many students have defected to larger cities in search of work.

Although the film features real characters and was shot in a documentary approach, it still has the air of a socially conscious film.

23. Summer Palace (2006)

Set against the backdrop of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, the film follows Yu Hong (Hao Lei) through high school and university, when she meets her lover Zhou Wei (Guo Xiaodong).

As the Tiananmen Square demonstrations unfold, they enjoy a passionate and abusive relationship.

The film then follows the people several years after the end of the Cold War, catching up with them as they become increasingly jaded and disillusioned.

The film contains not simply You Hong's personal story, but also a horrifying tale of state-sanctioned brutality.

22. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

'The 36th Chamber of Shaolin,' rags to riches story that is possibly one of the most well-known Chinese films outside of China, is the story of Yude, who eventually becomes Monk San Te, and it is Yude's journey to becoming San Te that is worthwhile.

Yude is persuaded by his teacher to fight a rebellion against the government, but the government easily crushes the rebellion and kills many of the rebels, forcing Yude to flee and seek refuge at a Shaolin temple, where he is accepted as a disciple after much persuasion and trains in all 35 chambers of the temple to master the art of Kung Fu.

He defeats the evil general and constructs a 36th room for laypeople to learn Kung Fu easily after mustering a great deal of strength and knowledge of the old art form. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin is widely considered to be the best Kung Fu movie ever created.

21. Red Sorghum (1987)

The film follows the life of a lady who works in a sorghum distillery and is based on the novel 'Red Sorghum Clan' by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Mo Yan.

What distinguishes this picture from others is its lack of sophistication and stylization, which effectively preserves the essence of peasant life.

20. Eat Man Drink Woman (1994)

'Eat Man Drink Woman,' one of Ang Lee's earliest works, is the "father knows best" recipe that gained a cult following and wonderful reviews.

Starting with Mr. Chu, is a cook who is also the father of three spinster daughters, the eldest of them, Jia-Jen, is a chemistry teacher, the second, Jia-Chien, works for an airline, and the youngest, Jia-Ning, works in a restaurant and is a student.

Mr. Chu would prepare an extravagant supper for himself and his three daughters as the weekend approached, and the supper table would be the site of their talk about their love lives and the future, much to the daughters' chagrin.

When Mr. Chu announces that he is going to marry again one fine day, things take an unexpected turn. 'Eat Man Drink Woman' showcases the positive aspects of a dysfunctional family while they eat delectable Chinese cuisine.

19. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

The film 'Kung Fu Hustle' is set in 1940s China, when law and order are in shambles and cities are ruled by crime lords and legendary criminal gangs.

Sum is the overlord of the Axe gang, one of the city's most dreaded gangs. Sing and Bone, two buddies, were born and reared in Pigsty, one of the lowest urban neighborhoods that have yet to be plundered by members of various gangs due to its poverty.

As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that many of the slum-dwellers are actually Kung Fu masters, and Sing and Bone must choose sides.

The film was hailed for its ideal balance of martial arts depiction and humor, as well as its detailed aesthetics.

18. Days of Being Wild (1990)

'Days of Being Wild,' another title from Wong Kar-filmography, Wai's is his second feature picture, made before he became one of the most prominent directors of the contemporary age.

Here we see a more cautious Kar-Wai, who has yet to adopt his hallmark experimental approaches.

Despite this, the film, which follows the life of playboy Yuddy (Leslie Cheung) and his affairs with women, pave the way for classics such as 'Chunking Express' and 'In the Mood for Love.'

17. Hero (2002)

In this magnificent journey, Jet Li plays the Nameless 'Hero,' and be prepared to be stunned by plenty of surprises along the way.

'Hero' begins with the Kingdom of Qin, the most powerful of the seven Chinese feudal kingdoms, which, as is customary, is beset by assassination and sabotage attempts.

The King is particularly concerned about three feared warriors, Broken Sword, Flying Snow, and Sky, who is said to have been dispatched by the remaining six warring nations.

In Qin's realm, Nameless is a provincial official who is said to have defeated all three warriors. The monarch, surprised and taken aback by the shocking news, calls Nameless to his palace to recount the heroic deed.

But not everything appears to be as simple as it appears. 'Hero' received positive reviews at its initial release, with several critics and reviewers hailing it as "amazing."

16. To Live (1994)

It depicts the story of Fugui (Ge You), a compulsive gambler who loses his wife and home in a dice game. It is based on Yu Hua's novel of the same name.

The story then follows Fugui's trials as the country slides into chaos, culminating in the May 4th Revolution.

This film, which is also a fifth-generation treasure, critically re-examines the country's past, where party propaganda obscures ground realities that aren't always in line with the party's grand narrative.

15. The Killer (1989)

'The Killer,' directed by John Woo, tells the story of Ah Jong, a hitman who accidentally damages the eye of a club singer Jennie during his final mission.

Despite the fact that Jennie's predicament is his fault, he pursues her and falls in love with her.

He accepts yet another job for killing someone in exchange for money in order to get her an eye transplant, but he is double-crossed and does not get paid.

The police, the assassin, and the assassin's bosses engage in bloody, fast-paced encounters as the film proceeds, all leading to the elimination of the terrible mafia lords.

'The Killer' was a blockbuster hit, with a high action rating but a below-average screenplay. It's consistently ranked among the top 50 Asian films of all time.

14. 24 City (2008)

Jia Zhangke employs an avant-garde approach in this film, which uses a narrative style that combines documentary and fiction elements.

It uses a documentary-style technique in which actors deliver prepared interviews to demonstrate how the closure of a real state-owned industry impacts workers.

13. Chungking Express (1994)

'Chungking Express,' a film by Wong Kar-wai, the famed director known for his visually fascinating on-screen miracles, tells the story of two cops struggling with their heartbreaks.

The first cop, often known as Sgt. On April 1st, Cop 223, a.k.a. Qiwu, broke up with his fiancée May. Cop 223 purchases pineapple cans that are about to go bad on May 1st in honor of their romance and because May was a pineapple enthusiast.

On May 1st, he meets another woman with whom he instantly falls in love, unaware of what would happen to him later.

The second scenario follows Cop 663, who has split up with his air hostess lover but meets up with another female who works in a restaurant as a waitress.

'Chungking Express,' like all of Kar-films, wai's is a performance-driven, lively, and unforgettable experience worth every second of your time.

12. The Blue Kite (1993)

'The Blue Kite,' along with 'Farewell My Concubine,' is one of the most important films of China's Fifth Generation.

This story, narrated in three episodes from the perspective of a young boy and banned in China because of its political stance against the Communist party, blends the perpetual sense of terror propagated by the presence of the party in all aspects of one's life with the tragic state of affairs in the boy's family.

11. Red Cliff (2008)

'Red Cliff,' yet another John Woo classic, was filmed and released in two parts.

The first chapter begins in 208 A.D. with the Han Dynasty. Cao Cao is Emperor Xian of Han's fickle-minded Prime Minister, who persuades the latter to go to war against the western and southern rebel kingdoms, changing the course of history forever.

With a million-strong army and an imminent conflict that may be a spectacle, the rebel kingdoms band together against a common foe in the Battle of Red Cliff, which went down in history as one of the most intricate naval battles in human history.

'Red Cliff' has been acclaimed as a timeless classic with enormous action, triumphant fight moments, and edge-of-your-seat intensity everything you'd expect from a John Woo picture.

The research for the centuries-old warfare techniques depicted in the film exemplifies Woo's pursuit of perfection.

10. Happy Together (1997)

It's a narrative about two guys who plan to rekindle their already dormant relationship by moving to Argentina, expecting that the new atmosphere will help them re-discover themselves, which helped Wong Kar-Wai win the prize for best director at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

Kar-bold Wai's experiments with the camera allow the audience to have a more visceral feeling of the relationship's turbulence and abuse.

9. Aftershock (2010)

'Aftershock,' a historical catastrophe film based on the Tangshan earthquake of 1976, which killed over 242,000 people in its aftermath, grossed more than US$100 million at the box office.

The story revolves around the Daqing family, who had twins named Fang Deng and Fang Da who live in a Tangshan neighborhood apartment.

An earthquake strikes in the early morning hours of 1976, killing the husband and trapping his wife Li and their twins beneath the rubble.

In their search for the captive children, they locate a boy – Fang Da and Fang Deng – who are relocated, found, and adopted by a military family.

Years later, Deng discovers her long-lost sibling and, eventually, her mother when eloping from her adoptive parents, also because she is pregnant, which she didn't plan for, and another earthquake has struck.

'Aftershock' is one of China's most successful films, receiving critical acclaim from throughout the world.

8. In the Heat of the Sun (1994)

A post-modern take on a heartbreaking tale of growing up, woven with tales of love, friendship, and loss.

It chronicles the personal story of a teen growing up in a particular Beijing neighborhood, with him interjecting retrospectively from time to time.

The film's greatness resides in the fact that the narrator is not some demi-godlike entity who keeps track of all the events and individuals in the film, but rather a regular human who lies and exaggerates to create false perceptions about himself in front of others.

Without professing moral superiority, the film embraces human fallibility and faults.

7. Mountain Patrol (2004)

The film is mostly set in Kekexii, in the Quinghai-Tibet region, and tells the story of poachers of the nearly extinct Tibetan Antelope and rangers who have protected the animals on their own due to a lack of official support.

Ritai is the leader of a patrol unit that recently had one of its members executed.

They begin on a mission to find the poachers after being joined by Ga, a journalist, with one trail leading to another.

'Mountain Patrol' has a nasty and wild demeanor at times, and it largely imitates Hollywood in terms of violence and gore, yet it manages to keep its Asian flavor.

6. City of Life and Death (2009)

'City of Life and Death' is a brutally explicit war film about Japan's annexation of China and the slaughter in Nanjing, China's capital.

The picture escalates to a point of absolute lunacy when it becomes impossible to make sense of the violence anymore, telling a frightening story of inhuman brutality done by mankind on each other.

It's one of the most realistic descriptions of combat you'll ever witness, narrated with absolute impartiality and an emotional dryness that's almost frightening.

5. Fearless (2006)

'Fearless,' a biographical film, is based on the life and times of Huo Yuanjia, a renowned Wushu martial arts genius who, prior to the foundation of the Republic of China, brought tremendous recognition to China with his publicized martial arts tournaments.

Huo instilled a strong sense of nationalism among Chinese citizens by defeating Westerners, and his matches against Japanese wrestlers would undoubtedly demolish Japan in the aftermath of the Japanese invasion of China.

Jet Li is fantastic in his portrayal as Huo, and 'Fearless' is one of his best films to date. In addition, the way the action sequences were captured is excellent.

4. Devils on the Doorstep (2000)

A farmer named Ma is visited by an unpleasant man with a gunny sack containing two men – a Japanese army member and a Chinese translator – in a little village along the Great Wall of China's foothills.

The odd man orders Ma to keep the troops inside the gunny sack well-fed for a few days and question them for details on enemy establishments during the peak of the Japanese invasion of China.

Ma, who is terrified and timid, agrees, but his and the villagers' patience is wearing thin as the strange guy does not return for another six months.

Ma chooses to conceal the prisoners in one of the Great Wall of China's watchtowers, but when the locals find out and return one of the Japanese men to the Japanese camp, they are not welcomed enthusiastically because the captives were thought to be dead and are now lauded as war heroes.

Because of its political incorrectness, the picture was banned in China.

3. Farewell My Concubine (1993)

You haven't experienced grandeur until you've seen Kaige Chen's 'Farewell My Concubine'.

Set against the backdrop of Chinese history as the country is torn apart by political turmoil one after another, beginning with the warlord era and ending with the May 4th Cultural Revolution.

This film follows the evolving relationship between two actors who have been tied by fate into a lifelong friendship because of their roles in a popular indigenous play that they have been performing since childhood.

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

One of the best action films of all time, Ang Lee's masterwork is still regarded as one of the best.

'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a captivating display of skill and metaphysical frippery wrapped in a fascinating narrative that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Yu Shu Lien's sacred sword is stolen from her possession, which she received from the famous Master Li herself.

An enraged Lee goes on a journey of romantic and thrilling adventures, complete with unexpected turns.

There's no getting around the reality that the film's tempo is a little off. However, the way Ang Lee shot the movie, with symbolic and deliberate direction, is a joy to see and enjoy.

1. In the Mood for Love (2000)

There is no other picture that is more deserving of being ranked first. The photography, narrative, plot, and background score combine to create a delectable combination that will leave you buzzed for a long time.

Wong Kar-Wai is a conjurer who transforms one of cinema's most clichéd and banal subjects, adultery, into a really timeless work of art.

The film's unconventional usage of music from both the West and China helps it to transcend its geographical specificities and become a work of art with a trans-national spirit.

One must mention that it completely reinvented one of the film's soundtracks, Nat King Cole's 'Quizas.'

Thanks For Reading!