There is no cinema more underappreciated than that of Chinese cinema. So often, Chinese cinema, here meaning that of Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan, has been associated with cheesy B-movie icons that people like Quentin Tarantino revere. And there is no problem with revering those wu xia (martial arts) films as they are quite a lot of fun and fill the quota for violent films. But, they do not highlight some of the mastery that has been exhibited by some truly talented Chinese filmmakers.
Films from mainland China were often times censored and had to fall under the restraints of the Communist Party and the Cultural Revolution. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when films started to flourish their without much Communist propaganda. The Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers was the nickname given to this new crop of visionaries which included Tsui Hark and Zhang Yimou. Meanwhile, the more liberal and westernized Hong Kong and Taiwan were able to strive under creative freedom spurning brilliant directors such as Wong Kar-Wai and Ang Lee.
The films that are counted on this list is by no mean indicative of the vast nature of Chinese films as many great movies do not make it over to the Western markets. But, what is on here are ten films that can give a good sense of what Chinese cinema is all about with a good mixture of artful dramatic films and the classic wu xia films that have become the stereotype of Chinese films. Here are obvious films that are amazing that I left out for no real good reason than wanting to talk more about certain films. There are many more movies that can be included in the list and that are why there is a comment section.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Farewell my Concubine, Once Upon a Time in China, Chungking Express, Drunken Master 2, Raise the Red Lantern, Hard Boiled, and Enter the Dragon
This article was first posted on February 10, 2013