100 Best Chinese films of all time

by james-porteous-582-789597 | created - 06 Apr 2014 | updated - 16 May 2015 | Public

To celebrate a century of Chinese cinema, the Hong Kong Film Awards unveiled a list of Best 100 Chinese Motion Pictures (which in fact includes 103 films) during the 24th Hong Kong Film Awards ceremony on 27 March 2005. The list, selected by a panel of 101 filmmakers, critics and scholars, includes 24 films from Mainland China (11 from pre-1949 and 13 from post-1949), 61 from Hong Kong, 16 from Taiwan, and 2 co-productions.

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1. Spring in a Small Town (1948)

98 min | Drama, Romance

A lonely housewife finds her monotonous life altered when her childhood sweetheart returns to town.

Director: Mu Fei | Stars: Chaoming Cui, Wei Li, Yu Shi, Wei Wei

Votes: 2,117

2. A Better Tomorrow (1986)

Not Rated | 95 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A reforming ex-gangster tries to reconcile with his estranged policeman brother, but the ties to his former gang are difficult to break.

Director: John Woo | Stars: Lung Ti, Leslie Cheung, Yun-Fat Chow, Emily Chu

Votes: 18,080

3. A City of Sadness (1989)

157 min | Drama

A beautiful, historical film based upon the complex lives of four brothers.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou | Stars: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Shu-Fen Hsin, Sung Young Chen, Jack Kao

Votes: 3,431

4. Days of Being Wild (1990)

Not Rated | 94 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

96 Metascore

A man tries to find out who his real mother is after the woman who raised him tells him the truth.

Director: Kar-Wai Wong | Stars: Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Carina Lau

Votes: 14,943 | Gross: $0.14M

5. Huang tu di (1984)

89 min | Drama, History, Music

'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... See full summary »

Director: Kaige Chen | Stars: Xueqi Wang, Bai Xue, Quiang Liu, Tuo Tan

Votes: 1,881

6. Saang gong kei bing (1984)

100 min | Action, Crime, Thriller

Thugs sneak into Hong Kong to rob a jewellery store, killing a cop during their getaway. They plan another heist while hiding from the police hunting them down to avenge their slain comrade.

Director: Johnny Mak | Stars: Jing Chen, Ling Chow, Jian Huang, Lung Jiang

Votes: 485

7. Dragon Inn (1967)

Not Rated | 111 min | Action, Adventure

97 Metascore

When the children of an executed General are pursued in 1457 China, some heroic martial arts swordsmen intervene.

Director: King Hu | Stars: Polly Ling-Feng Shang-Kuan, Chun Shih, Ying Bai, Feng Hsu

Votes: 1,676

8. Boat People (1982)

R | 109 min | Drama

A Japanese photojournalist revisits Vietnam after the Liberation and learns harsh truths about its regime and its "New Economic Zones".

Director: Ann Hui | Stars: George Lam, Cora Miao, Season Ma, Andy Lau

Votes: 591

9. A Touch of Zen (1971)

Not Rated | 200 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

A lady fugitive on the run from corrupt government officials is joined in her endeavors by an unambitious painter and skilled Buddhist monks.

Director: King Hu | Stars: Feng Hsu, Chun Shih, Ying Bai, Billy Chan

Votes: 4,321

10. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

PG-13 | 120 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

93 Metascore

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.

Director: Ang Lee | Stars: Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Chang

Votes: 236,194 | Gross: $128.08M

11. Malu tianshi (1937)

91 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

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.

Director: Muzhi Yuan | Stars: Dan Zhao, Heling Wei, Xuan Zhou, Jiting Wang

Votes: 628

12. Gu ling jie shao nian sha ren shi jian (1991)

Not Rated | 237 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

90 Metascore

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.

Director: Edward Yang | Stars: Chen Chang, Lisa Yang, Kuo-Chu Chang, Elaine Jin

Votes: 5,123

13. Ban jin ba liang (1976)

94 min | Comedy

Private Eyes revolves the characters in a private detective agency headed by Wong Yuk-See (Michael Hui) with two employees, a stuttered, easily bullied Pighead (Ricky Hui) and secretary/... See full summary »

Director: Michael Hui | Stars: Michael Hui, Samuel Hui, Ricky Hui, Angie Chiu

Votes: 534

14. Cheung foh (1999)

Not Rated | 84 min | Action, Crime, Drama

Triad boss Lung, who has just escaped being killed in an assassination, hires five killers for his protection. Their grown solidarity is under compulsion when Lung gives a special order.

Director: Johnnie To | Stars: Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Francis Ng, Jackie Chung-yin Lui, Roy Cheung

Votes: 4,397

15. Du bei dao (1967)

R | 111 min | Action, Drama

A noble swordsman, whose arm had been chopped off, returns to his former teacher to defend him from a villainous gang of rival swordsmen.

Director: Cheh Chang | Stars: Yu Wang, Chiao Chiao, Chung-Hsin Huang, Yin-Tze Pan

Votes: 2,395

16. The Chinese Connection (1972)

R | 107 min | Action, Drama, Romance

A young man seeks vengence for the death of his teacher.

Director: Wei Lo | Stars: Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, James Tien, Maria Yi

Votes: 21,833

17. Yang guang can lan de ri zi (1994)

134 min | Drama, Romance

A story of four teenagers during Cultural Revolution in Beijing.

Director: Wen Jiang | Stars: Yu Xia, Shaobo Dai, Hua Fang, Xiaogang Feng

Votes: 3,148

19. Sai yau gei: Yut gwong bou haap (1995)

87 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Fantasy adventure about the arrival of Buddhism in China. When the Goddess of Happiness tosses the Longevity Monk and his disciples out of heaven (because the Monkey King tried to attain ... See full summary »

Director: Jeffrey Lau | Stars: Stephen Chow, Man-Tat Ng, Kar-Ying Law, Kit Ying Lam

Votes: 5,129

21. Yan zhi kou (1987)

93 min | Drama, Fantasy, Music

Fleur is the blue angel in one of Hong Kong's "flower houses" - bordellos and night clubs of the 1930's. A detached and beautiful performer, she falls in love with Twelfth Master Chan, heir... See full summary »

Director: Stanley Kwan | Stars: Leslie Cheung, Anita Mui, Alex Man, Emily Chu

Votes: 1,723

22. Chungking Express (1994)

PG-13 | 102 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

77 Metascore

Two melancholy Hong Kong policemen fall in love: one with a mysterious female underworld figure, the other with a beautiful and ethereal server at a late-night restaurant he frequents.

Director: Kar-Wai Wong | Stars: Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Faye Wong

Votes: 50,500 | Gross: $0.60M

23. Si shui liu nian (1984)

96 min | Drama

Coral, a Hong Kong woman tortured by city life, went back to her home town to visit her two old friends. They all found that some precious things in life which disappear through the years ... See full summary »

Director: Ho Yim | Stars: Josephine Koo, Gaowa Siqin, Weixiang Xie, Yun Zhou

Votes: 95

24. Tóngnián wangshì (1985)

138 min | Biography, Drama

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.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou | Stars: Chia-bao Chang, Neng Chang, Chih-Chen Chen, Han-wen Chen

Votes: 1,901

25. Hong gao liang (1988)

Not Rated | 91 min | Drama, History, Romance

When a leprous winery owner in 1930s China dies a few days after his arranged marriage, his young widow is forced to run the winery to make a living while contending with bandits, her drunkard lover, and the invading Japanese army.

Director: Yimou Zhang | Stars: Li Gong, Wen Jiang, Rujun Teng, Ji Liu

Votes: 6,864

26. Foo ji ching (1981)

97 min | Drama

A young man dreamed of a career in comics and movies. But his father would rather gave up all he had in order to let him receive formal education.

Director: Allen Fong | Stars: Lei Shih, Hong Zhu, Wai-Man Yung, Yan Chan

Votes: 74

27. Tears of the Yang-Tse (1947)

192 min | Drama, War

1930's China. The village of a poor family is taken over by the occupying Japanese army. One son, Zhongliang, leaves his wife and young son to join a medic group for the Chinese Army. The ... See full summary »

Directors: Chusheng Cai, Junli Zheng | Stars: Yang Bai, Tao Jin, Yang Nai, Yunzhu Shangguan

Votes: 236

28. Tian mi mi (1996)

118 min | Drama, Romance

Two Chinese-mainlanders living in Hong Kong form a close friendship. Over the years this grows into love, but there are obstacles.

Director: Peter Ho-Sun Chan | Stars: Maggie Cheung, Leon Lai, Eric Tsang, Kristy Yeung

Votes: 3,961

29. Shen nu (1934)

TV-PG | 85 min | Drama

Street walker by night, devoted mother by day, a woman fights to get her young son an education amid criminal and social injustice in China.

Director: Yonggang Wu | Stars: Lingyu Ruan, Tian Jian, Zhizhi Zhang, Keng Li

Votes: 1,466

30. Dalu (1935)

Not Rated | 104 min | Comedy, Musical, Drama

Six young men from the city take jobs on a road crew, building a highway of strategic importance to the Chinese Army. The story relates the men's interactions with each other, the local ... See full summary »

Director: Yu Sun | Stars: Yan Jin, Yanyan Chen, Li-li Li, Peng Luo

Votes: 218

31. Fung gip (1979)

85 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

A real murder case which was complicated by the minage ' trois relationship of the victim and the main suspects. As different witnesses narrated their conflicting stories, the case seemed ... See full summary »

Director: Ann Hui | Stars: Sylvia Chang, Angie Chiu, Norman Chu, Chung Kwan

Votes: 103

32. Infernal Affairs (2002)

R | 101 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

75 Metascore

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.

Directors: Wai-Keung Lau, Alan Mak | Stars: Andy Lau, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Eric Tsang

Votes: 109,582 | Gross: $0.17M

33. Drunken Master (1978)

PG-13 | 111 min | Action, Comedy

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.

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen | Stars: Jackie Chan, Siu Tin Yuen, Jang Lee Hwang, Dean Shek

Votes: 30,990

34. The Butterfly Murders (1979)

Not Rated | 88 min | Action, Horror, Mystery

A journalist attempting to solve a mystery in "Martial World" enlists the aid of a master fighter and a woman named Green Breeze. They go to a mysterious castle where they come across poisonous butterflies and a black-leather-clad killer.

Director: Hark Tsui | Stars: Siu-Ming Lau, Michelle Yim, Shu Tong Wong, Kuo-Chu Chang

Votes: 564

35. Dung che sai duk (1994)

R | 100 min | Action, Drama

69 Metascore

A broken-hearted hit man moves to the desert where he finds skilled swordsmen to carry out his contract killings.

Director: Kar-Wai Wong | Stars: Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung

Votes: 11,647 | Gross: $0.17M

36. Heung Gong jai jo (1997)

109 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

Autumn Moon (Sam Lee), a low-rent triad living in Hong Kong, struggles to find meaning in his hopelessly violent existence.

Director: Fruit Chan | Stars: Sam Lee, Neiky Hui-Chi Yim, Wenders Li, Ka-Chuen Tam

Votes: 1,691

38. Liang Shan Bo yu Zhu Ying Tai (1963)

126 min | Musical, Romance

The story about the life of the students at a university in Hangchow. Chu Ying-Tai is a female who has to be disguised as a man in order to gain entry into the school.

Director: Han Hsiang Li | Stars: Betty Loh Ti, Ivy Ling Po, Li-Chu Chang, Yanyan Chen

Votes: 322

39. Ying xiong ben se (1967)

118 min | Action, Crime, Drama

Add a Plot

Director: Kong Lung | Stars: Tsai-Jung Chan, Chi Chou, Ping Do, Ying-Ying Hui

Votes: 55

40. Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983)

Unrated | 95 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Chinese soldiers in an ancient civil war get caught up in a fantastical quest to save the universe.

Director: Hark Tsui | Stars: Biao Yuen, Hoi Mang, Adam Cheng, Brigitte Lin

Votes: 2,106

41. Kong bu fen zi (1986)

109 min | Crime, Drama

A metaphysical mystery about the lives of three couples in Taipei that continually intersect over a span of several weeks.

Director: Edward Yang | Stars: Cora Miao, Li-Chun Lee, Wang An, Pao-Ming Ku

Votes: 1,845

42. The Killer (1989)

R | 111 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A disillusioned assassin accepts one last hit in hopes of using his earnings to restore vision to a singer he accidentally blinded, only to be double-crossed by his boss.

Director: John Woo | Stars: Yun-Fat Chow, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh, Kong Chu

Votes: 42,336

43. Wong Fei Hung (1991)

R | 134 min | Action, Adventure, Biography

Set in late 19th century Canton this martial arts film depicts the stance taken by the legendary martial arts hero Wong Fei-Hung (1847-1924) against foreign forces' (English, French and ... See full summary »

Director: Hark Tsui | Stars: Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Biao Yuen, Jacky Cheung

Votes: 15,578

44. Center Stage (1991)

126 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

Biopic of 1930's Chinese actress Ruan Ling Yu.

Director: Stanley Kwan | Stars: Maggie Cheung, Han Chin, Tony Ka Fai Leung, Carina Lau

Votes: 1,491

45. The Story of Qiu Ju (1992)

PG | 100 min | Comedy, Drama

A pregnant peasant woman seeks redress from the Chinese bureaucracy after the village chief kicks her husband in the groin in this comedy of justice. As she is frustrated by each level of ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang | Stars: Li Gong, Peiqi Liu, Liuchun Yang, Kesheng Lei

Votes: 4,823 | Gross: $1.89M

46. Wo zhe yi bei zi (1950)

120 min | History

Fifty years of modern Chinese history (1900-1950), including wars, revolutions and corrupt politics, as seen through the life and times of a simple Beijing policeman and his family.

Director: Hui Shi | Stars: Hui Shi, Heling Wei, Yang Shen, Wei Li

Votes: 124

47. Jiang shan mei ren (1959)

100 min | Drama, Family, Musical

Add a Plot

Director: Han Hsiang Li | Stars: Dai Lin, Lei Zhao, King Hu, Lin Ma

Votes: 101

48. Dong nuan (1969)

96 min | Drama

The winters in Northern China could become rather bitter and harsh especially if one must endure it alone. Hoping to spend his last winter in solitude, a timid man must declare his love for... See full summary »

Director: Han Hsiang Li | Stars: Ah-Lei Gua, Yeh Tien, Po-kien Chang, Hsieh Chao

Votes: 44