These Might Just Be the Best Vietnamese Films of All Time

The Scent of Green Papaya
The Scent of Green Papaya | © Youtube/Conufan
Dung Phan

Although Vietnamese film only receives a humble amount of attention on the international stage, the country boasts many visually stunning and powerful movies. And while an important part of the country’s history, the topics of films go far beyond the war. We’ve identified the best films, which define both the old and contemporary movie scene in the country.

The Floating Lives (2010)

The Floating Lives was a hit among Vietnamese and foreign audiences, and is based on the award-winning, best-selling short story ‘Boundless Rice Field’ by Vietnamese author Nguyen Ngoc Tu. Released in 2010 and directed by Vietnamese director Quang Binh Nguyen Phan, the sensational movie reveals the stories of people living in remote areas of the Mekong Delta, whose lives are bound to the uncertainty of nature. With gorgeous cinematography, Quang fascinatingly juxtaposes cruelty and compassion, beating and healing, distrust and reconciliation, all against the backdrop of a captivating landscape.

The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)

The White Silk Dress (2006)

The White Silk Dress (2006) was directed by Vietnamese-American film director Luu Huynh. It achieved acclaim abroad after winning the Audience Award at the Pusan International Film Festival. However, it was controversial because of the director’s political motivations—he was perceived as a pro-communist by the Vietnamese community overseas, and propagandistic messages were read into the movie.

The story is channeled through the iconic image of the white silk Ao Dai (the Vietnamese national costume), which the couple in the film struggles to possess because of their poverty. Through the portrayal of a poor family trapped in the circle of war, poverty, and social prejudices, it illustrates a Vietnam striving to maintain its pride, dignity and deep-rooted traditions under any circumstances.

When the Tenth Month Comes (1984)

Sometimes considered one of the best Asian films of all time, this movie directed by Dang Nhat Minh portrays psychological suffering in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. When the Tenth Month Comes reveals people’s efforts to balance the sorrows of the past with the pain and healing of the present. Guilt and innocence are portrayed through the story of a widow whose husband died in the war. It portrays post-war Vietnamese society with compassion and sympathy, and without propaganda.

Cyclo (1995)

After the success of The Scent of Green Papaya, Vietnamese-French director Tran Anh Hung continued his style and talent with another stunning work. Cyclo won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival in 1995. In contrast with his previous work, which was a gentle and charming movie, Cyclo shows the more brutal and disturbing life of low-class labourers in urban Saigon in the early 1990s. It was initially banned in Vietnam.

Three Seasons (1999)

Directed by Tony Bui, an American born in Vietnam, Three Seasons depicts the Vietnamese society in the throes of another invasion: a cultural one. It’s the story of modern Ho Chi Minh City confronting the emergence of luxury hotels, foreign brand advertising, and high fashion, shown through the lives of four people struggling to trace their roots.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Edit article