China is a country rich with culture, and nothing represents it better than the 10 best movies about China. Its history and tradition, its familial customs, and its rough transition into communism are handled with perfection in these films.
- “Hero” (2002) is a martial arts flick about the first Chinese emperor and the three assassins sent to kill him. A nameless assassin must stop them so that the emperor can unify China. The movie’s lush scenery and vibrant cinematography make it not only beautiful to watch but also one of the best movies about China.
- “Once Upon a Time in China” (1991) is based on the legendary Chinese hero Wong Fei-Hung. Fei-Hung fought the influence of Western forces in China that threatened to wipe out all traces of its heritage and unique culture. A stirring epic in its own right, “Once Upon a Time in China” is the first part in the film series of the same name.
- “The Road Home” (1999) is a movie about China that tells the tale of the old giving way to the new. A Chinese businessman living in the city must return to the poor village of his youth to attend his father’s funeral. The burial preparations make him remember how his parents fell in love. From there, he is forced to confront the China that his parents knew and the China he knows now.
- “Eat Drink Man Woman” (1994) is part of the best movies about China for how it deals with the generation gap as experienced within a Chinese family. A widowed Chinese chef lives at home with his three unmarried daughters. Each week they share a meal together where the girls’ love lives are examined. Eventually each daughter finds love and happiness while the father struggles with his loneliness.
- “Farewell My Concubine” (1993) centers around the Cultural Revolution and its effects on the people of China as told through the lives of two stage actors. The film shows them growing up in the theater playing the same two roles year after year until a woman comes between them. The history of China is explored as the backdrop to the actors’ evolving relationship.
- “The Last Emperor” (1987) is the story of Puyi, the last Emperor of China before the Qing dynasty collapsed, marking the end of Imperial China. It shows his life as ruler from the age of two up to his political rehabilitation and life as a civilian under Communist party rule. The greatest strength of the movie is how it contrasts the two very different worlds of the monarchy and the one-party system.
- “Summer Palace” (2006) is a movie about China that is actually a metaphor for the biggest Chinese cultural event after the Cultural Revolution—Tiananmen Square. The two lead characters, who support the Tiananmen protests, fall in love but are soon split apart. They spend the rest of their lives chasing fulfillment and realizing, like the potential democratic revolution of Tiananmen, that they cannot have it.
- “Shower” (1999) is another movie that details the generation gap between traditional and modern China. Believing his father is dead, the son of a Beijing bathhouse owner leaves his capitalist lifestyle in the big city to return home. He finds his father alive but his bathhouse—and along with it, his neighborhood and memories—at risk of being torn down.
- “The Blue Kite” (1993) differs from “Farewell My Concubine” in its portrayal of the Cultural Revolution by offering commentary about the nation of China itself. It does this by using the characters’ attitudes and behavior to reflect China’s changing identity during its most significant upheavals of the 20th century. Because of its excellent design and cinematography, “Blue Kite” is thought to be one of the best movies about China.
- “To Live” (1994) is often considered to be the best movie about China ever made. It portrays a Chinese family that is reduced to poverty and must battle with the Communist party and its oppressive regime just to scratch out a resistance. This film, along with “Summer Palace” and “Blue Kite”, were officially banned in mainland China due to its anti-state subject matter.
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