Vietnamese Films Flashback

Vietnamese films have taken a while to appear and contend with Hollywood films, with the first film to be featured on an international level being in 1985, but the decade has seen their rise as a high grossing industry with quality films. Many of the films at the beginning of Vietnamese cinema feature the events of the Vietnam War and its effect on their people, however, recent films deal with a more broad sense of human experience while still featuring the traditional landscape of Vietnam. A more recent example of this is the film, Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass (2015), which tells the coming of age story of two brothers in love with the same girl, focusing on the story of young love rather than the poverty of the village surrounding them.

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

70's

Land of Sorrows (Đất Khổ) (1973)

Genre: War
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Director: Thúc Can Hà
Stars:Hop Bich, Nguyen Dot Luu, Cong Son Trinh, Quynh Van
Synopsis: This film, shot on location in the early 1970’s, including scenes of the actual shelling and evacuation of the city of Hue, contains the only extant Cinemascope footage of Vietnam taken during this time … See full summary »

The Little Girl of Hanoi (Em bé Hà Nội) (1974)

Genre: War, Drama
IMDB Rating: 6.8
Director: Hai Ninh
Stars: Thé Anh, Xuan Kim, Lan Huong Nguyen, Tu Thanh
Synopsis: A young Vietnamese girl must find her lost family after her city was destroyed by US’s bombing campaign in 1972  See full summary »

80's

Me vang nha (1980)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.5
Director: Khanh Du Nguyen
Stars: Dun Van, Duyen Hong, Hang Thu, Phuong Hong
Synopsis: With the Vietnam War as its background, “While the Mother is Away” follows the story of a mother and her five children living in the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam. The oldest of the five … See full summary »

Chi Dau (1981)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Director: Van Khoa Pham
Stars: La Van Tran, Anh Thai Nguyen, Tuan Nguyen, Lan Kim
Synopsis: Based on the book by Ngo Tat To, Chi Dau tells the story of a Vietnamese woman who struggles to keep her family safe and stable under the cruel domination of the French Indochina. … See full summary »

When the Tenth Month Comes (Bao Giờ Cho Đến Tháng Mừoi) (1981)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: Dang Nhat Minh
Stars: Van Le, Luu Viet Bao Dang, Phu Cuong Lai, Huu Muoi Nguyen
Synopsis: Duyen faces a daily struggle to care for her young son and her weakened father-in-law, while keeping secret the fact that her husband died in a battle during the war … See full summary »

Thi Tran Yen Tinh (1986)

Genre: Comedy
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Director: Duc Tien Le
Stars: Bài Bình Bui, Thinh Trinh
Synopsis: A government minister from Hanoi has a car accident on the way to a wedding in a remote village. The county hospital does not have the authority to operate on a minister. The county See full summary »

The Retired General (Tướng về hưu) (1988)

Genre: Drama, War
IMDB Rating: 6.8
Director: Khac Loi Nguyen
Stars: Anh Thang Doan, Cuc Hoang, Linh Manh, Van Tran
Synopsis: A Vietnamese General retires and has difficulty adjusting to civilian life with his extended family. His wife is senile and thinks that the war is still on. His conniving bossy ... See full summary »

90's

The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)

Genre: Drama, Music, Romance
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Director: Anh Hung Tran
Stars: Nu Yên-Khê Tran, Man San Lu, Thi Loc Truong, Anh Hoa Nguyen
Synopsis: A Vietnamese servant girl, Mui, observes lives within two different Saigon families: the first, a woman textile seller with three boys and a frequently absent husband; the second, a handsome young pianist with his fiancée... See full summary »

Nostalgia for Countryland (Thương nhớ đồng quê) (1995)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Director: Dang Nhat Minh
Stars: Tat Binh, Van Le, Bich Ngoc, Ngoc Bao Ta
Synopsis: The dynamics of a Vietnamese rural village change when an urban woman returns to the village she originally belonged to and begins a love triangle... See full summary »

Cyclo (Xích Lô) (1995)

Genre: Drama, Crime
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Director: Anh Hung Tran
Stars: Le Van Loc, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Nu Yên-Khê Tran, Nhu Quynh Nguyen
Synopsis: A young man who struggles through life by earning some money with his bicycle-taxi in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city) gets contact to a group of criminals. They introduce him to the mafia-world … See full summary »

Sandy Lives (Đời Cát) (1999)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Director: Nguyen Thanh Van
Stars: Ninh Cong, Duong Don, Anh Hong, Hoa Mai
Synopsis: For twenty years, Canh has lived in North Vietnam, unable to return to his home in the south where his wife is waiting for him. She is happy to reunite with her husband until she learns … See full summary »

Three Seasons (1999)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.2
Director: Tony Bui
Stars: Ngoc Hiep Nguyen, Ngoc Minh, Phat Trieu Hoang, Diem Kieu
Synopsis: An American in Ho Chi Minh City looks for a daughter he fathered during the war. He meets Woody, a child who’s a street vendor, and when Woody’s case of wares disappears, he thinks the … See full summary »

00's

The Deserted Valley (2001)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: Pham Nhue Giang
Stars: Hâu Nguyen Duy, Anh Hong, Hanh Tuyet, Trang Thu
Synopsis: A story about three lonely teachers and their love…See full summary »

Xuoi nguoc duong tran  (2002)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 9.1
Director: Linh Nga
Stars: Duc Anh, Hung Bong, Mai Ngoc Can, Hoang Cong
Synopsis: The practice of patience helps dispel our fears of inadequacy and, by learning to harness and contain the energy of both fear and enthusiasm, overcome life’s suffering and loss. See full summary »

Hanoi: 12 ngay dem (2002)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Director: Dinh Hac Bui
Stars: Mai Thu Huyen, Dan Kirk, Hoang Nhat Mai, Quoc Tuan
Synopsis: The Vietnam War from the North’s viewpoint. Air raids on Hanoi stiffen the resolve of the population to strike back against a far more powerful enemy... See full summary »

Mê Thao: There Was a Time When (2002)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: Linh Viet
Stars: Duong Don, Dung Nhi, Trang Minh, Nga Thúy
Synopsis: A rich man’s fiance dies in a car accident... See full summary »

A Time Far Past (Thời Xa Vắng) (2004)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 9.1
Director: Quang Minh Hô
Stars: Phuong Dung Ho, Thi Huyen Nguyen, Van Minh Nguyen, Ngo The Quan
Synopsis: Based on the novel of the same name by Le Lu, first published 18 years ago, Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) Ho Quang Minh’s film is an ambitious re-telling of the first part of Le’s novel …  See full summary »

Quynh (2005)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.3
Director: Linh Nga
Stars: Quoc Cuong, Le Hang, Thi Khanh, Ngoc Tan
Synopsis: In the beautiful Hanoi countryside, upper-class tomboy Huong meets the exotic, run-away Quynh. Over the beautiful time together, the two young women discover they have much to explore together. Until one day, Huong’s lover comes back See full summary »

Dust of Life (Bụi Đời) (2006)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.7
Director: Le-Van Kiet
Stars: Devon Duy Nguyen, Thu-Mai Tran, Liem Michael Doan, Nguyen Nguyen
Synopsis:  A coming of age story set in the urban backdrop of Orange County in the early 1990s. “Dust of Life” is a term labeled for kids who have been left abandoned on the streets. They live their …  See full summary »

Saigon Love Story (2006)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Director: Ringo Le
Stars: Thi Kim Xuan Chau, Thoai Yen Vy Dinh, Duc Tien Hoang, Vi Van Hua
Synopsis: In modern day Vietnam, a young man finds freedom through the music of a girl whom he is forbidden to fall in love with...  See full summary »

Oh, Saigon (2007)

Genre: Documentary, War
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Doan Hoang
Stars: Nam Hoang, Van Tran, Anne Hoang, Doan Hoang
Synopsis: Accompanied by gripping images from the war, ‘Oh, Saigon’ is an in-depth, compelling documentary about one refugee family’s attempts to face its divided past and heal the physical and emotional wounds of the Vietnam War...  See full summary »

14 Days (2009)

Genre: Romance
IMDB Rating: 8.2
Director: Khoa Trong Nguyen
Stars: Thai Hoa, Trinh Hoi, Binh Minh
Synopsis: The film is about a Vietnamese expatriate who spends his two-week vacation visiting his home country which has undergone remarkable economic reforms. His journey to discover his home …  See full summary »

10's

Pearls of the Far East (2011)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 8
Director: Cuong Ngo
Stars: Truong Ngoc Anh, Kieu Chinh, Kris Duangphung, Huy Hoang
Synopsis: Seven stories about Vietnamese women spanning different generations, exploring their inner lives and forbidden loves…See full summary »

In the Name of Love (2012)

Genre: Thriller
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Director: Luu Huynh
Stars: Thai Hoa, Huy Khanh, Dinh Y. Nhung
Synopsis: In this dark love triangle that proceeds with the inexorable logic of a Greek tragedy, a dedicated wife in a small Vietnamese fishing village secretly turns to another man when her husband ..  See full summary »

Dành cho tháng Sáu (2012)

Genre: Romance, Sport
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Huu-Tuan Nguyen
Stars: Quoc Trung Do, Huynh Anh Lê, Thien Tu Tran, Bao Son Doan
Synopsis: Three friends must save their friendship before a basketball match between their team and a strong opponent begins…. See full summary »

Homostratus (2013)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.3
Director: Siu Pham
Stars: Thomas Luckmann, Thi Nhung Mello-Pham, Dung Hoa Nguyen
Synopsis: This is a singular destiny of a common man, in any big city’s risks and chances, becoming a strange poem See full summary »

Aimless (2013)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Director: Pham Nhue Giang
Synopsis: Leaving their village to earn a living in the big city, Tham and Quy’s relationship soon suffers in the face of impoverished conditions. Depressed Tham falls for the charms of Thuat, an See full summary »

Tien Chua (2013)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Thien Do
Stars: Nguyen Hau, Jayvee Mai The Hiep, Phuong Anh Leu, Khuong Ngoc
Synopsis: A man of dubious background, Lucky Loc has worked his way into respectable society as the owner of a company producing high-end ceremonial gifts to be burned as offerings to the dead. When See full summary »

Yen’s Life (2015)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.7
Director: Tuan Vu Dinh
Stars: Thuy Hang Do, Lam Tung Hoang, Kim Anh Nguyen, Minh Huong Le
Synopsis: According to the marriage arrangement of parent, Yen had to get married when she was only 10 years old. Since then, her life closed to the ups and downs of her husband’s family...  See full summary »

Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass (2015)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: Victor Vu
Stars: Thinh Vinh, Khang Trong, Lam Thanh My, My Anh
Synopsis: Set in the countryside village of Vietnam, Yellow Flowers on the Green grass is a touching tale of innocent love, friendships and brotherhood...  See full summary »

Sut (2016)

Genre: Sport
IMDB Rating: 8.2
Director: Viet Max
Stars: Ha Hien, Tuan Kiet, Kate Nhung, Thanh Pham
Synopsis: The film is about a Vietnamese expatriate who spends his two-week vacation visiting his home country which has undergone remarkable economic reforms. His journey to discover his home …  See full summary »

Song Lang (2018)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.o
Director: Leon Le
Stars: Kim Chi, Isaac, Vu T. Le Thi, Phuong Minh
Synopsis: An unlikely bond forms between an underground debt collector and a cai luong “Vietnamese opera” performer against the backdrop of Saigon in the 90s...  See full summary »