Favorite Hong Kong Movies, 2002 Edition

Email: NCS@NotComingSoon.com


I am occasionally asked "What are the 10 best Hong Kong films?" There is no way I can answer that because I have only seen a tiny fraction of the HK filmography. However, I can try to determine what are my 10 favorites. Even that is not as easy as one might think. I don't keep mental lists. I decided that over the Fourth of July weekend I would find out what my 10 favorites actually were.


  1. I went through my collection and made a list of all HK movies I own. There are a couple I've seen that I don't own (Drunken Tai Chi and The Executioners spring to mind) but if they had been really good, I would have bought them, right? This gave me close to 300 films.
  2. Once I had my list, I gave each film a rating of 1, 2, or 3. Any film that I remembered as being just awful received a 3. Any film that I watched more than once, automatically received a 1. Since this favored films that had been in my collection longer, I also allocated 1s as deserved. The remainder received a 2.
  3. I looked at my list of 1s and four movies immediately jumped out at me as definite favorites. This left 85 movies vying for 6 slots which I narrowed down to about 25.
  4. I calculated I could watch maybe 20 movies in the four day weekend, though I had to take time out to see MIB 2 and Powerpuff Girls. If I didn't feel like watching a particular film, it obviously wasn't a favorite. In the end I watched 17 and 1/2. After watching a movie I assigned it a position relative to the others I had already seen. The top six of these rounded out my favorite 10.

For your information, following are the 3 lists. You may notice that I'm heavy on the 1980s and 1990s with very little earlier than that. Also, there are lots of action and comedy films but not much in the way of dramas. This reflects my biases and is one of the reasons I can't select the "best". In addition, there are at least a couple of films (Bullet in the Head and Peking Opera Blues jump out) which are regarded as great films. However I often find great art to be bleak. These rankings are my purely subjective attempts to assign a personal enjoyment level and, as such, are also subject to change without notice.

The First Four

These are the movies that just automatically made the list; no re-viewing required. In alphabetical order:

Hitman (1998)

Front cover from Hitman DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Stephen Tung Wei.

The review says it all.

Iron Monkey (1993)

Front cover from Iron Monkey DVD

***** out of *****

Directed by Yuen Woo-ping.

Yu Rong Guang is Dr. Yang/Iron Monkey, a Robin Hoodesqe character who robs from the rich by night and doctors the poor by day. Donny Yen is Dr. Wong Kai-Ying, father of a very young Wong Fei-Hung, in town buying medicines for his clinic. The Iron Monkey is driving the local governor mad; so mad he has everyone with any monkey connection arrested. This includes opera performers, an actual ape, and Wong Fei Hung who knows monkey-style kung fu. Its obvious Wong Kai-Ying is not the Iron Monkey but he seems capable so the governor holds Fei-Hung hostage until his dad can capture the Iron Monkey.

As a Yuen Woo-Ping picture, it goes almost without saying that it has top notch wire fu but that's not what put it on this list. What put it here is the respect and friendship that grows between Dr. Yang and Dr. Wong even as Dr. Yang is protecting his secret identity and Dr. Wong as the stern father with heart of pudding where his son is concerned. It all works.

Running Out of Time (1999)

Front cover from Running Out of Time DVD

***** out of *****

Directed by Johnny To.

Peter Cheung (Andy Lau) is dying, one of those movie diseases which are not disfiguring but do cause the sufferer to cough up blood. He decides he will avenge his dad in the month he has left. Inspector Ho (Lau Ching Wan) is a policeman who is too good at his job; irritating his superiors. Currently he is a hostage negotiator. Cheung forces Ho to dance to his tune with the lure of regaining stolen diamonds and capturing Cheung, himself.

Darkly comic and engrossing as Cheung's complex plan unfolds and Ho tries to foil him, then joins forces to catch a larger fish.

Wing Chun (1994)

Front cover from Wing Chun DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Yuen Woo-ping.

Yim Wing Chun (Michelle Yeoh) was kidnapped and forced to "marry" a bandit as a young girl. To prevent this from ever happening again she studied kung fu. Now, she is too butch for the local men, what with her fighting skills and cross dressing. She lives with her shrewish, man crazy aunt behind their tofu shop. They take in a pretty young widow, Charmy, to prevent her from selling herself to pay for her husband's funeral. Wing Chun's old beau, Leung (Donnie Yen) comes to town looking for her. He's not the sharpest knife in the drawer and mistakes Charmy for Wing Chun and Wing Chun for a man. Oh, and Flying Monkey (Norman Tsui) and his bandits have it in for Wing Chun.

In the fashion of a Shakespearean comedy, one with wire fu, true identities are revealed, Wing Chun and her aunt both get their man and Flying Monkey, when asked "Who's your mommy?" must answer "Yim Wing Chun". This is a great chick flick.

The Other Six

These are my six favorite films out of the movies I watched over the July Fourth weekend, 2002.

Fong Sai Yuk (1993)

Front cover from Fong Sai Yuk DVD

***** out of *****

Directed by Corey Yuen Kwai.

Classic Jet Li Lian Jie wire fu, it is a love story about a boy and his Mom. Joesphine Siao steals the show. Zhao Wen Zhuo is the ruthless villain. Combines slapstick with pathos in the best HK fashion.

Fulltime Killer (2001)

Front cover from Fulltime Killer DVD

***** out of *****

Directed by Johnny To and Wai Ka-Fai.

I don't know why this was HK's Oscar nominee but if your idea of entertainment is guys shooting the heck out of each other while referencing other films about killers, this is the flick for you.

See the review for more.

God of Cookery (1996)

Front cover from God of Cookery DVD

***** out of *****

Directed by Stephen Chow and Derek Lee Lik-Chi.

Full contact cooking from Stephen Chow! Chow is an arrogant master chef. Exposed by a minion, Bull Tong, as a money grubbing fraud he loses his cooking empire. Turkey (Karen Mok), a street food vendor, takes pity on the former super chef. When she concocts a new addictive, gustatory delight, explosive pissing beef balls, Chow is back in the game.

For a bit more, see the review.

Millionaire's Express (1986)

Front cover from Millionaire's Express DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Sammo Hung Kam-Bo.

Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, both at their studliest. I think every stuntman and martial artist in HK is in this. Sammo plays a soldier of fortune with a heart of gold. He accidentally ruined his home town and wants to make amends. He proposes to do this by stopping a rich train and forcing the passengers to stay in the town, thus spending money there. There are Japanese on the train with a map to the terracotta warriors which a gang of about a hundred houdlums plan to snatch. Meanwhile the law is after Sammo.

Shot in Canada, this is Hung's first Eastern Western. The story is trifling but the action and elan carry the day.

Miracle Fighters, The (1982)

Front cover from The Miracle Fighters DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Yuen Woo-ping.

A young man goes to live with a pair of magicians, a bickering brother and sister, after his mentor is murdered by Sorcerer Bat. The couple teach him magic. When the sister is also murdered by Bat, the young man decides he must win the big sorcery competition on her behalf.

The draw here isn't the story, it is the effects which seem to have all been developed for the stage or in the very early days of film. Directed by Yuen Woo Ping and chock full of Yuens this is more astounding visually than the current crop of ultra-CGIed pictures because of the seeming primitiveness of the effects. Sorcerer Bat, for instance, hangs by his toes from beams and creeps along them upside down which is both goofy and creepy.

See the review for a little more info.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Front cover from Shaolin Soccer DVD

***** out of *****

Directed by Stephen Chow and Derek Lee Lik-Chi.

I like this more each time I watch it. In fact I'm adding a star over previous ratings. As of 8/4/2002 the US release appears to be 1st quarter 2003 but there is no telling. It has been pushed back several times now. They should have released it during the World Cup when soccer was in the news.

See the review for more info.

The Runners Up

These 11 didn't quite make the cut but are still damn fun.

Downtown Torpoedoes (1997)

Front cover from Downtown Torpedoes DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Teddy Chan.

ATM, a group of commercial spies are blackmailed into repossessing stolen pound plates for her majesty. You got your classic high tech break ins and down and dirty parking lot fighting.

Jordan Chan is awesome. With this and God of Gamblers 3: The Early Years he rocked (I think it comes from dancing).

Duel, The (2000)

Front cover from The Duel DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Andrew Lau Wai Keung.

Nickie Cheung is "Dragon 9" while Ekin Cheng and Andy Lau play supporting roles as super swordsmen who will be dueling on the roof of the Forbidden City. This is, very loosely, a sequel to Forbidden City Cop. Imperial Agent Dragon 9 is charged with distributing 8 tickets to the big duel while he simultaneously investigates some murders which appear to have perpetrated by his good buddy and super swordsman, Simon Snow-Blower (Ekin Cheng).

I've always liked this. It is good New Year's fluff and great eye-candy. Dragon 9 is a bit vulgar but it works in contrast to the two solemn swordsguys who barely smile. I also find it endearing that all the girls have pink noses from the cold.

For a bit more info, see the review.

God of Gambler's Return (1994)

Front cover from God of Gambler's Return DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Wong Jing.

Great Wong Jingy goodness. The villain is so evil he throws his cat out the window of a moving car when it scratches him and, oh yeah, he performs a ceasarean without anesthetic on Ko Chun's (Chow Yun-fat) wife and pickles the baby. Before she dies, the wife makes Ko Chun promise that he won't gamble or reveal himself as the "God of Gambler's" for one year. Luckily this gives him plenty of time to come up with a plan for revenge.

There is one major gun fight in this movie. In typical Wong Jing fashion, it has extremely cool bits with Ko Chun (Chow) and the "God of Guns" (Charles Heung), goofy bits with Elvis Tsui and Tony Leung Ka Fai, and then a sad bit. Big fun.

Hard Boiled (1992)

Front cover from Hard Boiled DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by John Woo.

Frothiest of Woo's gun operas. By frothiest, I mean that I find it the lightest viewing. I would give this a higher rating but I feel the climactic hospital mayhem runs a bit long and becomes wearisome.

Longest Nite, The (1997)

Front cover from The Longest Nite DVD

***** out of *****. Highly recommended.

Directed by Patrick Yau.

Great plot, great actors, but unrelentingly grim. Too many torture scenes to make it pleasant viewing, at least for wimps like me. Sam (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) is a cop in Macau who is trying to keep Macau from exploding into a bloodbath between two rival gangs. He is also number 2 man in one of the gangs. Tony (Lau Ching Wan) is the monkey wrench.

Mission, The (1999)

Front cover from The Mission DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Johnny To.

Another Johnny To success, this is the story of 5 guys (Anthony Wong, Roy Cheung, Lam Suet, Jackie Lui and Francis Ng) hired to bodyguard a triad leader and how they bond. It's the details that make this film as it shows the guys killing time by playing soccer with a wad of paper and putting sparklers in cigarettes. Comic and suspenseful with a memorable shoot out in a mall.

My Father is a Hero (1995)

Front cover from My Father is a Hero DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Corey Yuen Kwai.

Jet Li Lian Jie is an undercover cop, Kung Wei, who is so far undercover even his beloved family doesn't know he is a cop. Kung gets sent to HK, undercover in Yu Rong Guang's gang. His wife dies, from a pre-existing illness, leaving Kung's young son, Kung Ku (Xiao Miao) in the hands of hardnosed HK cop Anita Mui who is on Kung's trail.

I love the scene where father and son are brushing their teeth in tandem, and the action extravaganza in the restaurant would be the finale in a lesser film. There is a little too much wire fu in the climactic battle but on the whole this movie will definitely satisfy a Jet Li craving.

Prodigal Son, The (1983)

Front cover from The Prodigal Son DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Sammo Hung Kam-Bo.

Yuen Biao is a young man who prides himself on his kung fu until he discovers the losers in all his fights had been paid off by his folks who didn't want him coming to harm. He decides he must really study and Lam Ching Ying, who performs female opera roles, is just the man to teach him. Sammo Hung is another master who tutors Yuen.

Yuen Biao, Lam Ching Ying, Sammo Hung, low comedy, and great martial arts; its a complete package.

Project A II (1987)

Front cover from Project A II DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Jackie Chan.

Can't have a HK "watch-off" without Jackie. Dragon Ma (Jackie Chan) is called in to clean up a rotten precinct. The current superintendent is totally corrupt. Besides the bad cop, there are revolutionaries (Rosamund Kwan and Maggie Cheung), imperial agents, and funny pirates.

This movie contains the stunt that inspires the most awe in my daughter; Jackie crams a hand full of hot peppers in his mouth and masticates. Reportedly, they were actual hot peppers. Some good slapstick and some ace fights.

Savior of the Soul (1992)

Front cover from Savior of the Soul DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by David Lai and Corey Yuen Kwai.

May (Anita Mui) is an assassin loved by her two side kicks, Ching (Andy Lau) and Chuen(Kenny Bee). She loves Ching and when Chuen is killed protecting her from Silver Fox (Aaron Kwok) she disappears to protect him. Ching searches for her and so does Silver Fox.

All right I am a sap. I am actually touched when Chin plans to commit suicide (which I normally think is never a good solution) to be with May as she is being taken over by the Terrible Angel. I must be entering my second childhood because this time out I actually found the slapstick around May's sister funny. I love the wacky gadgets like Chin's yo-yo sword. Visually very much like a comic book with very simple sets for the action to explode in front of.

Wild Search (1989)

Front cover from Wild Search DVD

**** out of *****

Directed by Ringo Lam.

Chow Yun-fat is just a normal guy, a widowed cop. He meets up with country girl Cherie Chung and her tres cute niece, Ka Ka (who actually is cute, despite the unfortunate name, unlike many screen children) and falls for both. Ka Ka's dad is a bad man. Chow gets on the wrong side of both the father and the father's henchman, Roy Cheung.

This is a nice chaste romance with some action and a lot more New Territory than we usually see.


I was actually surprised by the results. I didn't expect so much Yuen Woo Ping or Corey Yuen. I think Jackie Chan didn't make the cut because I have seen his films too many times. I would have expected more John Woo but I suppose I am a typical American and the classic Woo (A Better Tomorrow, A Better Tomorrow II, and The Killer) has a tendency to downer endings.

Give me some action, some humor, and some pathos and I'm happy.

Let me reiterate these are not the "best" Hong Kong movies. However, if you are new to Hong Kong cinema these are a good place to start. If you are at all familiar with HK film you've probably already seen these.

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