Chinese Films Flashback

Chinese cinema could easily be stereotyped into being mainly action based, martial-arts style films when really, there is so much more to it. That style of traditional action film can be seen in a few of the earlier films on this list, such as Fist of Fury (1972), and although some later films still feature it, there is much more political commentary and Government resistance present later on. Being a big part of the international film industry, Chinese cinema has even rippled into Hollywood over the years as well, with Chinese stars such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan becoming popular for not only their Chinese films, but making appearances in Hollywood also.

Check out CulturalPulse’s shortlist of the best Chinese films over the past 70 years below.

60's

The One-Armed Swordsman (1967)

Genre: Action, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Director: Cheh Chang
Stars:  Jimmy Wang Yu, Chiao Chiao, Chung-Hsin Huang, Yin-Tze Pan
Synopsis: A noble swordsman, whose arm had been chopped off, returns to his former teacher to defend him from a villainous gang of rival swordsmen …  See full summary »

Dragon Inn (1967)

Genre: Action, Adventure
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Director: King Hu
Stars:  Polly Ling-Feng Shang-Kuan, Chun Shih, Ying Bai, Feng Hsu
Synopsis: When the children of an executed General are pursued in 1457 China, some heroic martial arts swordsmen intervene …  See full summary »

70's

Fist of Fury (1972)

Genre: Action, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Director: Wei Lo
Stars:  Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, James Tien, Maria Yi
Synopsis: A young man seeks vengeance for the death of his teacher.. See full summary »

Enter the Dragon (1973)

Genre: Action, Crime
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: Robert Clouse
Stars: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Ahna Capri
Synopsis: A martial artist agrees to spy on a reclusive crime lord using his invitation to a tournament there as cover..  See full summary »

Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978)

Genre: Action, Comedy
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Director: Woo-Ping Yuen
Stars: Jackie Chan, Siu Tin Yuen, Jung-Lee Hwang, Dean Shek
Synopsis: Chien Fu (Jackie Chan) is a boy who is used as a janitor at his kung fu school. Fu can’t fight and is always getting bullied by the teachers and pupils. One day, an old man helps Fu train …  See full summary »

Drunken Master (1978)

Genre: Action, Comedy
IMDB Rating: 7.6
Director: Woo-Ping Yuen
Stars: Jackie Chan, Siu Tin Yuen, Jung-Lee Hwang, Dean Shek
Synopsis: Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan) is a mischievous, yet righteous young man, but after a series of incidents, his frustrated father has him disciplined by Beggar So (Siu Tin Yuen), a Master of drunken martial arts.…  See full summary »

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: Chia-Liang Liu
Stars: Chia-Hui Liu, Lieh Lo, Chia Yung Liu, Norman Chu
Synopsis: A man studies kung fu at the Shaolin Temple to fight back against the oppressive Manchu government..  See full summary »

80's

Legend of Tianyun Mountain (1980)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Jin Xie
Stars: Jianlan Shi, Fuli Wang, Shi Wei-Jian, Xuemin Hong
Synopsis: Legend of Tianyun Mountain is a 1980 Chinese film about Chinese people’s sufferings from the long-term political campaigns from “Anti-rightists” in 1950s until the fall of Gang of Four. See more here

My Memories of Old Beijing (1983)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Yigong Wu
Stars: Wenping Chong, Yan Qin, Jie Shen, Zong-yao Tan
Synopsis: The film shows the society and life in Beijing in 1920s through the eyes of a 6 year old girl. Yingzi Lin moves to Beijing from Taiwan with her parents. They live in a lane in the southern … See full summary »

A City of Sadness (1989)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Shu-Fen Hsin, Sung Young Chen, Jack Kao
Synopsis: A beautiful, historical film based upon the complex lives of four brothers. See full summary »

A Time to Live and a Time to Die (1985)

Genre: Biography, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Chia-bao Chang, Neng Chang, Chih-Chen Chen, Han-wen Chen
Synopsis:  The semi-autobiographical film on director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s childhood and adolescence, when he was growing up in Taiwan, living through the deaths of his father, mother and grandmother. See full summary »

Hibiscus Town (1987)

Genre: Biography, Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.2
Director: Jin Xie
Stars: Wen Jiang, Linian Liu, Xiaoqing Liu, Ning Xu
Synopsis: Love, humiliation and politics play out in a distant village of China during the cultural revolution. See full summary »

90's

A Brighter Summer Day (1991)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 8.4
Director: Edward Yang
Stars: Chen Chang, Lisa Yang, Kuo-Chu Chang, Elaine Jin
Synopsis: Based on a true story, primarily on a conflict between two youth gangs, a 14-year-old boy’s girlfriend conflicts with the head of one gang for an unclear reason, until finally the conflict comes to a violent climax … See full summary »

Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

Genre: Drama, Romance, History
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Li Gong, Jingwu Ma, Saifei He, Cuifen Cao
Synopsis: A young woman becomes the fourth wife of a wealthy lord, and must learn to live with the strict rules and tensions within the household… See full summary »

Farewell My Concubines (1993)

Genre: Drama, Romance, Music
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Leslie Cheung, Fengyi Zhang, Li Gong, Qi Lü
Synopsis: The story of two men, who met as apprentices in the Peking Opera, and stayed friends for over 50 years… See full summary »

To Live (1994)

Genre: Drama, War
IMDB Rating: 8.3
Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: You Ge, Li Gong, Ben Niu, Wu Jiang
Synopsis: After Fugui and Jiazhen lose their personal fortunes, they raise a family and survive difficult cultural changes during 1940s to 1970s China… See full summary »

In the Heat of the Sun (1994)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 8.2
Director: Wen Jiang
Stars: Yu Xia, Shaobo Dai, Hua Fang, Xiaogang Feng
Synopsis: A story of four teenagers during Cultural Revolution in Beijing… See full summary »

00's

Devils on the Doorstep (2000)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, War
IMDB Rating: 8.2
Director: Wen Jiang
Stars: Wen Jiang,Kenya Sawada, Hongbo Jiang, Teruyuki Kagawa
Synopsis: During the Japanese occupation of China, two prisoners are dumped in a peasant’s home in a small town. The owner is bullied into keeping the prisoners until the next New Year, at which time…  See full summary »

A One and a Two (Yi Yi) (2000)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Director: Edward Yang
Stars: Nien-Jen Wu, Elaine Jin, Issei Ogata, Kelly Lee
Synopsis: Each member of a middle class Taipei family seeks to reconcile past and present relationships within their daily lives.See full summary »

In the Mood for Love (2000)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Director: Kar-Wai Wong
Stars: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Maggie Cheung, Ping Lam Siu, Tung Cho ‘Joe’ Cheung
Synopsis: Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs… See full summary »

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Ang Lee
Stars: Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Chang
Synopsis: A young Chinese warrior steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man in the frontier of the nation.See full summary »

Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2002)

Genre: Documentary
IMDB Rating: 8.4
Director: Bing Wang
Stars:
Synopsis: During the Japanese occupation of China, two prisoners are dumped in a peasant’s home in a small town. The owner is bullied into keeping the prisoners until the next New Year, at which time… See full summary »

Infernal Affairs (2002)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Director: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung
Stars:Andy Lau, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Eric Tsang
Synopsis: A story between a mole in the police department and an undercover cop. Their objectives are the same: to find out who is the mole, and who is the cop… See full summary »

Hero (2002)

Genre: Action, Adventure, History
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Jet Li, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang
Synopsis: A defense officer, Nameless, was summoned by the King of Qin regarding his success of terminating three warriors… See full summary »

Wu mi le (2004)

Genre: Documentary
IMDB Rating: 9.0
Director: Cres Chuang
Stars:
Synopsis: This documentary records the lives of several old farmers in Houbi Township … See full summary »

Ip Man(2008)

Genre: Action, Biography, Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.0
Director: Wilson Yip
Stars: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Siu-Wong Fan, Ka Tung Lam
Synopsis: During the Japanese invasion of 1937, when a wealthy martial artist is forced to leave his home and work to support his family, he reluctantly agrees to train others in the art of Wing Chun for self-defense… See full summary »

Petition (2009)

Genre: Documentary
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Director: Liang Zhao
Stars: Zhang Weiye, Xiao Yuan
Synopsis: During the Japanese invasion of 1937, when a wealthy martial artist is forced to leave his home and work to support his family, he reluctantly agrees to train others in the art of Wing Chun for self-defense… See full summary »

10's

Ip Man 2 (2010)

Genre: Drama, Action, Biography
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Director: Wilson Yip
Stars: Donnie Yen, Xiaoming Huang, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Lynn Xiong
Synopsis: Centering on Ip Man’s migration to Hong Kong in 1949 as he attempts to propagate his discipline of Wing Chun martial arts. … See full summary »

Aftershock (2010)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.6
Director: Xiaogang Feng
Stars: Daoming Chen, Chen Li, Yi Lu, Fan Xu
Synopsis: The epic story of a family separated as a result of the Great Tangshan Earthquake of 1976 …  See full summary »

Let the Bullets Fly (2010)

Genre: Action, Comedy, Western
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Director: Wen Jiang
Stars: Yun-Fat Chow, Wen Jiang, You Ge, Carina Lau
Synopsis: In 1920s China, a bandit arrives in a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor, where he faces off against a tyrannical local nobleman…  See full summary »

Echoes of the Rainbow (2010)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Director: Alex Law
Stars: Simon Yam, Sandra Kwan Yue Ng, Aarif Rahman, Buzz Chung
Synopsis: The ups and downs of a Hong Kong family and their shoe shop as seen through the eyes of their eccentric eight-year-old son…  See full summary »

The Piano in a Factory (2010)

Genre: Comedy, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Director: Meng Zhang
Stars: Qianyuan Wang, Yongzhen Guo, Shin-yeong Jang, Qian Liu
Synopsis: To fight for custody of his daughter who loves playing the piano, a steel factory worker decides to forge a piano from scratch…  See full summary »

You Are the Apple of My Eyes (2011)

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance
IMDB Rating: 7.6
Director: Giddens Ko
Stars: Kai Ko, Michelle Chen, Shao-Wen Hao, Owodog
Synopsis:  A group of close friends who attend a private school all have a debilitating crush on the sunny star pupil, Shen Jiayi. The only member of the group who claims not to is Ke Jingteng, but he ends up loving her as well …  See full summary »

The Flowers of War (2011)

Genre: Drama, History, Romance
IMDB Rating: 7.6
Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Xinyi Zhang, Tianyuan Huang
Synopsis: An American finds refuge during the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanking in a church with a group of women. Posing as a priest, he attempts to lead the women to safety  See full summary »

A Simple Life (Tou ze) (2011)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.6
Director: Ann Hui
Stars: Andy Lau, Deannie Ip, Hailu Qin, Fuli Wang
Synopsis: After suffering a stroke, an altruistic maid announces that she wants to quit her job and move into an old people’s home.  See full summary »

Warriors of the Rainbow (2011)

Genre: Action, Drama, History
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Director: Te-Sheng Wei
Stars: Masanobu Andô, Jun’ichi Haruta, Sabu Kawahara, Shiang-Chu Tang
Synopsis: An indigenous clan-based people living in harmony with nature find their way of life threatened when violent interlopers from another culture arrive, intent on seizing their natural resources and enslaving them…  See full summary »

Dearest (2014)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.6
Director: Peter Ho-Sun Chan
Stars: Wei Zhao, Bo Huang, Dawei Tong, Lei Hao
Synopsis: A story centered around a divorced couple living in a southern Chinese city Shenzhen and dealing with the disappearance of their missing son…  See full summary »