Even though most of us are used to watching Hollywood movies with big budgets and often a lot of CGI, there are a lot of quality movies outside Hollywood and the US. In this article, we have made a list of the best Chinese movies of all time.
Chinese movies don’t have as big budget as Hollywood movies and most of them don’t have such visual effects, but plenty of Chinese movies have really great stories and that is why we have listed them here. So without further ado, let’s check out the best Chinese movies of all time.
The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
Returning home with his father after a shopping expedition, Wong Fei-Hong is unwittingly caught up in the battle between foreigners who wish to export ancient Chinese artifacts and loyalists who don’t want the pieces to leave the country. Fei-Hong must fight against the foreigners using his Drunken Boxing style, and overcome his father’s antagonism as well.
Two Stage Sisters (1965)
In pre-revolutionary China, two young girls, Chunhua and Yuehong Xing, rise through the ranks of Chinese opera, but with their artistic success comes a new series of personal and social challenges. After they’re sold to a Shanghai opera and the revolution dawns, Yuehong radicalizes and devotes her career to politically progressive performances, while Chunhua flees to avoid turmoil. As the world changes around them, they fight to maintain their friendship.
Yellow Earth (1984)
Yellow earth focuses on the story of a Communist soldier who is sent to the countryside to collect folk songs for the Communist Revolution. There he stays with a peasant family and learns that the happy songs he was sent to collect do not exist; the songs he finds are about hardship and suffering. He returns to the Army, but promises to come back for the young girl, Cuiqiao, who has been spellbound by his talk of the freedom women have under Communist rule and who wants to join the Communist Army.
In the Heat of the Sun (1994)
The film is set in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution. It is told from the perspective of Ma Xiaojun nicknamed Monkey, a teenage boy. Monkey and his friends are free to roam the streets of Beijing day and night because the Cultural Revolution has caused their parents and most adults to be either busy or away. The story revolves around Monkey’s dalliances with his roguish male friends and his subsequent angst-filled crush on Mi Lan.
Not One Less (1999)
Teacher Gao loves the students in his poor village and is devoted to educating them in the hope of their greater futures. When he is called away to tend to his dying mother for a month, the Mayor calls in an inexperienced 13-year-old replacement, Wei Minzhi; much to Teacher Gao’s dismay. Teacher Gao cannot stand the thought of losing more students: he has already lost twelve to ever-increasing attrition, and he promises Wei an extra 10 yuan if she succeeds in ensuring that upon his return, there will be not one less. Wei’s difficult mission to fulfill Teacher Gao’s wish and her own concern for the welfare of the children begins.
Red Sorghum (1987)
1930, China. The father sends the young girl to a wealthy winery owner with the intention of marrying him. In a nearby rye field, she meets one of his servants, whom she falls in love with. After her husband dies, she is the only heiress, so she arranges the winery and the field as an ideal community that she runs with her lover. However, not everyone is satisfied with such a development in the situation.
Street Angel (1937)
In old Shanghai, two sisters, a prostitute and a singer, tried to escape from the local scoundrels with the help of a trumpet player and a newspaper seller.
Spring in a Small Town (1948)
After eight years of marriage to Liyan—once rich but now a shadow of his former self following a long, ruinous war—Yuwen does little except grocery and medication shopping. A surprise visit from Liyan’s friend Zhang re-energizes the household but also stirs up long-suppressed feelings and resentments.
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Amid the chaos of China’s pre-revolutionary era in Shanghai in 1940, the neglected Sing (Stephen Chow) seeks to raise his status in hopes of joining the elite and ruthless Axe Gang. When he tries to extort money from a local in a crowded apartment complex called Pigsty Alley, his comic attempts at intimidation draw the Axe Gang into conflict. The inhabitants of Pigsty Alley find themselves in a dilemma and have to fight for their lives, and some legendary masters of martial arts will be shown. Sing must now face his own mortality to discover the true nature of the kung fu master.
Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003)
A detailed look at the gradual decline of Shenyang’s industrial Tiexi district, an area that was once a vibrant example of China’s socialist economy. But the industry is changing, and the factories of Tiexi are closing. Director Wang Bing introduces us to some of the workers affected by the closures, and to their families.
Daily life in an impossibly cramped Beijing apartment takes on epic proportions in this, intimate portrait, with unprecedented access, of a working-class Chinese family. Boldly transforming documentary into fiction, Liu Jiayin cast her parents and herself as fictionalized versions of themselves. Her father, Liu Zaiping, sells leather bags but is slowly going bankrupt. He argues with his wife, Jia Huifen, and his daughter over methods to boost business in the shop. A cloud of anxiety follows them into sleepless nights shared in the same bed. But through the thousand daily travails of city life, a genuine and deeply moving picture of Chinese familial solidarity emerges from the screen.
Lust, Caution (2007)
During World War II a secret agent must seduce, then assassinate an official who works for the Japanese puppet government in Shanghai. Her mission becomes clouded when she finds herself falling in love with the man she is assigned to kill.
Infernal Affairs (2002)
The young Chen Wing Yan (T. Leung Chiu Wai) is a police mole inserted into the ranks of the underworld, an extremely capable agent whose true identity is known only to Chief Inspector Wong Chi Shing (A. Wong Chau-Sang), who recruited him a full ten years ago. . At the same time, Chen’s peer Lau Kin Ming (A. Lau) is a member of the underworld who was also drafted into the police a decade ago, and he works for the infamous Hong Sam (E. Tsang), head of one of Hong Kong’s most influential mafia organizations. Both were recruited as young men who had just arrived from training, and after years of work had progressed high in the hierarchy of their organizations. However, because of the dual identities and false existences they lead, their private lives suffer, which is especially the case with Chen.
Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
China, the 1920s. After her father’s death, 19-year-old Songlian was forced to marry a wealthy 50-year-old, Chen Zuoqian. She will be his fourth wife and has to fight with the other girls for Chen’s affection. Every night Chen chooses one of them and only the one who manages to enchant him will be rewarded.
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
China, 19th century, Tang Dynasty era. Two imperial officers, Leo and Jin, agree on a complex plan under which Leo will first arrest a young and blind girl Mei suspected of being a member of the secret rebel organization House of Flying Daggers, and Jin will free her and help her escape. The goal is for Jin to gain Me’s trust, so that she can take him to the center of the organization. On a journey accompanied by numerous constructed and real dangers, Jin and Mei fall in love with each other, but each of them hides some secrets …
City of Life and Death (2009)
City of Life and Death takes place in 1937, during the height of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Imperial Japanese Army has just captured the then-capital of the Republic of China, Nanjing. What followed was known as the Nanking Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking, a period of several weeks wherein tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed.
A Touch of Sin (2013)
An angry miner, enraged by the general corruption that reigns in his village, decides to take justice into his own hands. An untidy commercial traveler at home for the New Year discovers the unlimited possibilities that firearms offer him. The handsome receptionist who works in the sauna is pushed to the extreme when she is attacked by a rich client. And the young factory worker moves from one disincentive job to another, only to face increasingly humiliating circumstances.
Days of Being Wild (1990)
Yuddy, a Hong Kong playboy known for breaking girls’ hearts, tries to find solace and the truth after discovering the woman who raised him isn’t his mother.
In ancient times, China was divided into seven kingdoms. Qin (Daoming Chen), king of the western province, is in constant danger of assassination attempts. King Qin is most troubled by the warriors he fears most. Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Sky (Donnie Yen) are three warriors who cause fear in King Qin. One day, one of the peace judges enters the palace claiming to have defeated all three of the king’s enemies. He begins a story that everyone listens to breathlessly and tells how He defeated Heaven in a duel and used the love between Flying Snow and Broken Sword to defeat them.
The Killer (1989)
Jeffrey Chow (Chow Yun-Fat) is a contract killer who wants to quit his job but accepts another, final assignment to help a singer he blinded in a shooting. But in a bloody showdown, the mafia leaves him stranded, and a tireless policeman is on his trail…
24 City (2008)
Chengdu nowadays. The state owned factory 420 shuts down to give way to a complex of luxury apartments called “24 CITY”. Three generations, eight characters : old workers, factory executives and yuppies, their stories melt into the History of China.
Chungking Express (1994)
The film begins on the night of April 30 to May 1, 1994 at Chungking House, a maze-like shopping complex. A Chinese woman with a blue wig tries to hide heroin from Pakistanis who are hired to smuggle drugs out of the country. May 1 also marks the month since police officer no. 223 left the girl. He swears that he will fall in love with the first girl he sees: it turns out that she is a blonde heroin smuggler…
The Blue Kite (1993)
The lives of a Beijing family throughout the 1950s and 1960s, as they experience the impact of the Hundred Flowers Campaign, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution.
Red Cliff (2008)
China, 208. Despite being ruled by Emperor Han Xian Di, China is divided into many warring states. Ambitious Prime Minister Cao Cao used the emperor as a puppet and went to war with the western kingdom of Xu, ruled by the emperor’s uncle Liu Bei. The prime minister’s ultimate goal is to wipe out all kingdoms and become the emperor of a united China.
Happy Together (1997)
Ho (Leslie Cheung) and Lai (Tony Leung) are Hong Kong lovers who went to live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. However, Ho is immature and does not want to calm down, which makes Laia depressed. After they break up, Lai works as a porter at a tango bar to save enough money to return home. The restless Ho becomes a male prostitute. After Hoa is beaten and severely injured, Lai takes him to her apartment to recover. Ho tries to revive their love, but Lai shows no interest. He leaves the tango bar and works in the kitchen where he meets young Chang (Chang Chen) from Taiwan.
Li Yuanni lives in a small apartment with her husband Da Qiang and twins son Fang Da and a daughter Fang Deng. On July 27, 1976, just a moment after they put the children to bed and left the house, the ground shook and everything began to crumble. Da Qiang was killed trying to save the children from the apartment. But the twins are separated and the mother has to choose who to save and Fang Daa saves. But Fang Deng also miraculously survives and is adopted by the Wang family. After 32 years, Fang Deng returns to China from Canada where she lives with her husband to help after the earthquake. She accidentally meets Fang Dao who recounts to her the drama Yuan Ni has experienced over the years. Although full of bitterness and resentment, the family is still together again.
Mountain Patrol (2004)
Kekexili, the largest wildlife reserve in China, is home to many rare species. When photojournalist Ga Yu (Lei Chang) arrives at a patrol camp on Mount Kekexili, volunteers mourn the death of one of their members. To uncover the real truth about the disappearance of volunteers, the killing of Tibetan antelopes, and rumors that the patrol is collaborating with poachers, Ga Yu joins a patrol in the wild. Led by Ri Tai (Duobuji), the patrol risks their lives in the fight against ruthless hunters. Ga Yu, at first away from real action because of his camera, is slowly becoming involved in a dangerous fight. Ga Yu returns to Beijing as a second man and writes a story that will shock the nation.
At the height of his success and fame, Oriental martial arts master Huo Yuan Jia (J. Li) recalls his childhood: as a boy, he was fascinated by the fighting and skills of his father, also the famous master Huo Andi.
Devils on the Doorstep (2000)
A small Chinese village was under Japanese rule during World War II. A detachment of Japanese soldiers marches up and down every day as if in a parade, and the residents are careful not to anger the occupiers.
Farewell My Concubine (1993)
The plot of the film takes place over 53 years and depicts the political and social changes and turmoil in China in the 20th century, through the lives of two singers of the Beijing Opera and the woman who stood between them.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Place and time of action: China, 19th century. The legendary warrior, Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), got tired of years of searching for his teacher’s killer and decided to dedicate himself to the spiritual side of martial arts. On the way to a friend he intends to leave his famous sword, “Green Destiny”, Li Mu Bai meets the old love of Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), a warrior to whom he has never expressed his true feelings. The reunion is interrupted by the brazen theft of a sword, which is stolen by young Jen (Zhang Ziyi). She proves to be extremely talented in martial arts, but attracted by the power of the sword, Jen slides towards the dark side of the skill. A conflict with Yu Shu Lien is inevitable, and even Li Mu Bai can no longer stand aside.
In the Mood for Love (2000)
Chow has a secret. A little secret that was supposed to be sweet revenge at first, but it began to haunt him. The period of seduction was bitter-sweet. Li-Zhen, whose husband had been sleeping with Chow’s wife for some time, knelt before the tangled baits Chow had carefully placed for her. Li-Zhen did not expect it to fall so low. She thought she was just interested in how people could gamble with a normal, happy life and choose a life of lies. She thought she would just glance and turn around. And then she fell. Revenge was a filling. Or so it seemed. And then a bitter taste appeared in his mouth. Fate has really toyed with you when maneuvering hits you in the head. Chow, longing for Li-Zhen, fell into his own trap and became the prey of his hidden heart. “I heard that in ancient times, when they wanted to get rid of the burden of the secret, people would go to the mountain, dig a hole and bury the secret in it.” With such thoughts, Chow turns to Angkor Wat years later to get rid of his burden.
Big Fish & Begonia (2016)
Beyond the human realm, there is a magical race of beings who control the tides and the changing of the seasons. One of these beings, a young girl named Chun, seeks something more—she wants to experience the human world! At sixteen, she finally gets her chance and transforms into a dolphin in order to explore the world that has her fascinated. But she soon discovers that it’s a dangerous place and nearly gets killed in a vortex. Luckily, her life is spared when a young boy sacrifices himself to save her. Moved by his kindness and courage, she uses magic to bring him back to life only to learn that this power comes at a serious price. On a new adventure, she’ll have to make her own sacrifices in order to protect his soul until it is ready to return to the human world.
The Swordsman (1990)
When a scroll containing valuable martial arts secrets is stolen from the Emperor, an army detachment is sent to recover it. It is based on the novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer by Jinyong.
Space Sweepers (2021)
When the crew of a space junk collector ship called The Victory discovers a humanoid robot named Dorothy that’s known to be a weapon of mass destruction, they get involved in a risky business deal that puts their lives at stake.