Chinese New Year may be a busy period for many of us what’s with visiting relatives and attending family gatherings, but all these activities may get tiring quickly. And if you are bored of going out and just want to stay in, why not gather your family for a marathon of classic Chinese movies that everyone, old or young, will enjoy? For some inspirations, here are the best movies to watch during Chinese New Year ranging from comedy, drama to action, that will put you right in a festive spirit.
1. All’s Well Ends Well (1992)
All’s Well Ends Well was released as a family-friendly Chinese New Year movie in 1992 and it continues to be the film to watch during this festive period. Starring a star-studded cast including Stephen Chow, Maggie Cheung, Leslie Cheung, and Raymond Wong, the story follows three brothers and their significant others in their respective pursuit of love.
Full of hilarious antics from the characters and well-executed slapstick comedy, All’s Well Ends Well will be the perfect movie to watch with your family that will surely put everyone in a good mood.
Director: Clifton Ko
Cast: Leslie Cheung, Stephen Chow, Raymond Wong, Maggie Cheung
2. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
It wouldn’t be Chinese New Year without at least one action comedy flick to make you and your family laugh till your stomachs hurt, and there’s no movie that can do that better than Stephen Chow’s all-too-popular Kung Fu Hustle. The story revolves around the head-to-head battle between notorious Axe Gang and three retired Kung Fu masters brought about by a petty thief played by Chow himself. The masterful combination of martial arts action scenes and non-stop comedic gags guarantees that you and your family will be thoroughly entertained.
Director: Stephen Chow
Cast: Stephen Chow, Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu, Danny Chan
3. Shaolin Soccer (2001)
If you enjoy Kung Fu Hustle, and are looking for more from comedic master Stephen Chow, you are in luck. While Kung Fu Hustle is arguably Chow’s most internationally popular work, its 2001 predecessor Shaolin Soccer is no less hilarious with an even more wacky premise: a group of Shaolin monks teaming up to promote Kung Fu through soccer. Holding nothing back when it comes to physical gags and slapstick violence with a touch of fantasy, the film is ridiculous, over-the-top, and an immensely satisfying way to spend two hours cheering for this ragtag soccer team while laughing your heart out.
Director: Stephen Chow
Cast: Stephen Chow, Zhao Wei, Ng Man-tat, Patrick Tse, Danny Chan
4. Ip Man (2008)
The fourth installment in the Ip Man series is currently out in theatre, But for those who haven’t seen the previous movies, especially the first one, this Chinese New Year is the perfect chance to catch up on this martial art classic. Ip Man tells the story of legendary martial artist Yip Man, Bruce Lee’s real-life martial art teacher. While the plot doesn’t quite stay true to the real events in Yip Man’s life, it is still a story well told and the fight sequels with authentic choreography will completely capture your attention from start to finish.
Director: Wilson Yip
Cast: Simon Yam, Lynn Hung, Lam Ka-tung, Xing Yu
5. In The Mood For Love (2000)
Wong Kar Wai’s In The Mood For Love features beloved onscreen couple Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung in one of the most romantic movies ever made. The story revolves around two people who find out their respective spouses have an affair. Together, they try to make sense of their spouses’ betrayal while avoiding their own feelings for each other.
Wong Kar Wai’s signature style is instantly recognisable in this movie, and Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung are at their most magnetic as the lead couple. Not the funniest movie out there, In The Mood For Love might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking of Chinese New Year movies, but if you are, well, in the mood for something melancholic in the midst of all the festivities, or are nostalgic for that distinct ’90s Hong Kong aesthetic, you will not regret this.
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Cast: Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung
6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
One of the quintessential wuxia (martial arts) movies of the 21st century, Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a must-watch for those looking to immerse themselves in big-scale, awe-inspiring fight scenes. The action sequences are choreographed to perfection with every move resembling a mesmerising dance step and the characters the dancers.
If you somehow have not seen this masterpiece before, prepare to have your jaw drop open the entire time just from the sheer grandiosity and artistry of the many sword fights.
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh. Zhang Ziyi
7. Infernal Affairs (2002)
The original version of Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winning movie “The Departed”, Infernal Affairs is a Hong Kong crime thriller about a police department and a criminal gang playing a game of cat and mouse with each other. It has everything you would want from a crime movie: gang fights, false identity, murders in thrilling action sequences only a Hong Kong movie can pull off.
Director: Andrew Lau
Cast: Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Sammi Cheng and Kelly Chen
8. Mulan (1998)
If there is a Disney original movie to rewatch during Chinese New Year, it has to be the 1998 animated version of Mulan. The legend of a young Chinese woman masquerading as a man to join the army in place of her father is as old as time, but Disney animated classics, of which Mulan is one, bring a special kind of nostalgia that makes it always worth a rewatch.
Plus, you should totally watch it again just for the chance to sing along iconic songs such as I’ll Make a Man Out of You or Reflection, especially when we still don’t know for sure if the new live action remake coming out this year will feature as much singing as this version.
Directors: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
Cast: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong
9. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
Movies about families are always Chinese New Year-appropriate, and Eat Drink Man Woman is the perfect movie to watch with your family during this time of the year. The story centers around chef Chu and his three daughters as they navigate their generational differences by the dinner table while dealing with challenges in their respective personal life. Released 15 years ago, the movie is still very much relevant and will make you want to give your parents a hug or even restore the lost practice of family meals in your family.
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Sihung Lung, Yu-wen Wang, Chien-lien Wu, Kuei-mei Yang
10. Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
Chinese New Year is undoubted the time for feel-good movies to go with the festive spirit. But there is also space for classic Chinese films with heavier moods such as Zhang Yimou’s masterpiece Raise the Red Lantern. Starring Gong Li as the fourth wife of a wealthy man in 1920s mainland China, the film explores the power struggles of the concubines within the household. With its nuanced political implications and stunning cinematography, coupled with Gong Li’s superb performance, Raise the Red Lantern is one of China’s best and will stay with you long after it’s over.
Director: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Gong Li, Ma Jingwu, He Saifei, Cao Cuifen, Jin Shuyuan
11. Drunken Master (1978)
A list of Chinese New Year movies would not be complete without a Jackie Chan martial art film and Drunken Master is widely considered to be one of his best. It tells the story of a young Wong Fei-hung who studies Drunken Boxing from martial art master Su Hua Chi, who is often intoxicated. However, like many of Jackie Chan’s movies, the plot is only secondary to the arresting action sequences and Kung Fu stunts that are made all the more impressive by the fact that Jackie performed most of those himself without stuntmen or special effects, something that is rarely seen in modern cinema.
Director: Yuen Woo-ping
Cast: Jackie Chan, Yuen Siu-tien, Hwang Jang-lee
12. Rush Hour (1998)
Hardcore fans of Chinese martial art movies will argue that Hollywood can’t do the genre justice, and for the most part, they are right. But if you are craving for a change from all the Chinese movies you have been binging throughout Chinese New Year, Rush Hour (and its two sequels) is the answer you’re looking for. It has all the production advantages that come with a bigger budget while still retaining the Kung Fu moves that are trademark of the genre. And Jackie Chan is as charming and funny as ever in his role as a police officer hailing from Hong Kong tasked to rescue a diplomat’s daughter from kidnappers.
Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker