The early 90s was a golden age for Hong Kong cinema. While action directors such as John Woo, Tsui Hark, and Ringo Lam were smashing box office records, an alternative cinema led by auteurs such as Wong Kar-wai and Clara Law was also thriving. Before the industry fell into a downward spiral beginning in the mid-90s, Hong Kong was producing over 200 films a year. Here are ten of the best films of that era.
Once Upon A Time In China (1991)
Directed by Tsui Hark, this landmark film is credited with revitalizing Hong Kong’s martial arts film genre. Set in the 1870s in Foshan, China, it stars Jet Li as the leader of a small local militia that becomes involved in a fight against the local government and foreign invaders.
Bullet In The Head (1990)
This compelling action film is considered John Woo’s masterpiece. Set in 1967, the story centers around three longtime buddies. When one of them accidentally kills a rival gang member, the trio ends up in war-torn Vietnam where they encounter a new reality that puts their brotherhood and honor to the test.
Days Of Being Wild (1991)
Days Of Being Wild is the acclaimed second film of Hong Kong’s most celebrated auteur, Wong Kar-wai, and is a loose prequel to one of Wong’s most famous works, In The Mood For Love (2000). Set in 1960s Hong Kong, the film stars Leslie Cheung as a violent playboy who goes to the Philippines in search of his birth mother.
Comrades, Almost A Love Story (1996)
This romantic comedy-drama directed by Peter Chan Ho-sun centers on the love story between two mainland immigrants in Hong Kong, played by Leon Lai and Maggie Cheung. The film was a critical and box office success during a slump period in Hong Kong’s film industry, and picked up nine awards, including the award for Best Picture, at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
Drunken Master II (1993)
Drunken Master II is Jackie Chan’s successful follow-up to his 1978 film, Drunken Master, and is considered one of his best works. Chan’s signature style – which combines his impressive physical virtuosity with a penchant for slapstick antics – are on full display here.
Fong Sai-Yuk (1993)
This comedy-action martial arts film stars Jet Li as the legendary Shaolin folk hero, Fong Sai-yuk, and the former child star Josephine Siao as his kung fu-fighting, cross-dressing mother. When Fong deliberately loses a martial arts competition, his mother enters the contest, dressed as a man, to win back her son’s honor.
Autumn Moon (1992)
This intimate drama from the celebrated director Clara Law is a subtle exploration of loneliness and love. The plot revolves around the unlikely friendship between a 15-year-old girl and a 20-something Japanese businessman visiting Hong Kong.
The Heroic Trio (1992)
This campy superhero film from acclaimed director Johnnie To is as chaotic as it is entertaining. Anita Mui stars as Wonder Woman, who teams up with the mercenary Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung) to solve the kidnapping of newborn infants from a local hospital. They discover that the perpetrator is the Invisible Woman (Michelle Yeoh), who is working for an ancient wizard with a sinister plan for world domination.
Full Contact (1992)
Directed by the action movie maestro Ringo Lam, Full Contact was a huge success with American audiences despite being a box office flop in Hong Kong. Chow Yun-fat stars as a Bangkok bouncer who participates in a heist, only to be betrayed by his best friend.
Chungking Express (1994)
One of the most critically acclaimed films to ever come out of Hong Kong, this arthouse masterpiece from Wong Kar-wai follows the parallel stories of two Hong Kong policemen, played by Takeshi Kaneshiro and Jet Li, who have been recently jilted by their girlfriends.
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