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Top 50 Hong Kong Films of the Decade - Numbers 20-11

Today we’re counting down numbers 20 through 11 on our Top 50 Hong Kong Films of the Decade list, as determined by’s readers. If you’re getting tired of this, raise your hand. No matter, we’re pressing forward.

Previous updates:
Numbers 50-41
Numbers 40-31
Numbers 30-21

Also, we’re going to start hiding the results so any latecomers don’t start reading the last results first. If you’re just tuning in, you can check out the earlier posts first, thereby reading the countdown the way it was meant to be read.

Or, you can read this post first and ruin it for yourselves. You can find numbers 11-20 after the jump!

And here we go:

20. 2046 (2004), directed by Wong Kar-Wai - 143 points, 5 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review


Wong Kar-Wai may have recycled for 2046, but when you recycle the best, you get something that’s still pretty damn good. His 2046 is a fever dream of images and emotions, melding Wong’s most enduring ideas and obsessions with some sci-fi elements that feel fresh and also just a little off. Is this a sequel to IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE? An alternate timeline spin-off? Or just further proof that Wong Kar-Wai really likes to refer to his own work? Who knows? At least he made the movie and we get to watch it.

19. IP MAN (2008), directed by Wilson Yip - 144 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

Ip Man

He’s Ip Man, and don’t you forget it. This biopic of Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun master may play fast and loose with the facts, but its FIST OF LEGEND-style action sequences get the point - and the power - across. Sammo Hung’s action scenes are fast, strong and possessing of an emotional context that makes them both thrilling and essential. Donnie Yen goes subtle and subdued for his role as Ip Man, turning in a performance that blows away anything he’d done previously. Beware: IP MAN 2 is coming.

18. MAD DETECTIVE (2007), directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai - 157 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

Mad Detective

Milkyway Image founders Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai reunited for MAD DETECTIVE, a mindbending and enthralling crime thriller that brought Lau Ching-Wan back to the Milkyway fold. As a detective who sees a person’s “inner personality”, Lau Ching-Wan is great and grizzled, and the complex, haunting screenplay from Wai Ka-Fai and Au Kin-Yee deserves its own special mention. Johnnie To may be the revered master, but MAD DETECTIVE shows that it’s the sum of the parts that makes Milkyway Image click.

17. LOST IN TIME (2003), directed by Derek Yee - 162 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review

Lost in Time

Everyone knew Cecilia Cheung could act, but this well? Derek Yee’s remarkable LOST IN TIME depicts the age-old tale of a widow coping with the loss of her husband (Louis Koo), but it’s how Yee tells his story that earns the film acres of deserved acclaim. Involving details on local Hong Kong life, developed characters, and admirable restraint all make this the standout local drama of the Aughts. Cecilia Cheung won a Best Actress Hong Kong Film Award, but Lau Ching-Wan’s layered performance as Cheung’s could-be new suitor shouldn’t be overlooked.

16. NEEDING YOU… (2000), directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai - 172 points, 3 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

Needing You…

With its focus on workplace romance, NEEDING YOU… could be counted as among one of Hong Kong’s most representative films of the decade, as there’s something in this daffy, delicious romantic comedy that really represents what life in the former British colony is like. For everyone else, it’s simply the chemistry between Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng, plus Cheng’s star-making performance, that make NEEDING YOU… the enduring winner that it is. Never has cleaning a toilet been more funny or endearing.

15. THROWDOWN (2004), directed by Johnnie To - 174 points, 3 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review


Grady Hendrix says, “If I had to pick one Johnnie To film to watch forever, this would be it. He’s made better movies, he’s made more successful movies but he’s rarely made a more philosophically dense and moral movie.” Lots of people apparently agreed, with THROWDOWN ranking far above many of To’s other works - not bad for a film that’s about, of all things, judo. It’s the human factor that sticks though, Johnnie To expertly and stylishly revealing his characters and their situations to astonishing emotional effect. Whether they know judo or not, everyone can take something from THROWDOWN.

14. PTU (2003), directed by Johnnie To - 201 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review


It’s Johnnie To. Again. The on-again, off-again shooting schedule of PTU raised some concern, but the result was one of To’s most enduring works - a nighttime crime thriller that’s equal parts mystery and suspense, inspiration and irony. To selected his blue-collar actors - Simon Yam, Lam Suet, Maggie Siu - to journey into the Hong Kong night, but the real stars may be Hong Kong’s urban spaces and the pools of light silently dotting the darkness. Remember to bring a flashlight - and for god’s sake, don’t drop your gun.

13. RED CLIFF (2008) and RED CLIFF II (2009), directed by John Woo - 202 points - LoveHKFilm Review 1, Review 2

Red Cliff

Chris Wolter says, “How can this not be on a top ten list?” Well, it’s not in the Top 10, but RED CLIFF scored high with enough readers that it ended up at #13. Give it a few more years and RED CLIFF may rise even higher, with the weight of time only adding to its legacy. John Woo’s return to Chinese cinema is a massive, possibly indulgent, but undeniably entertaining epic, with a star-studded cast that manages to take iconic characters and make them their own. The battle sequences are already the stuff of legend. Chow Yun-Fat was once supposed to star in this thing, but who really cares now? Probably only Chow Yun-Fat.

12. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000), directed by Ang Lee - 211 points, 8 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON ranked number 10 on the Hong Kong Film Awards’ list of 100 Greatest Chinese Films, making it the only film from the Aughts to make it into their Top 10. It’s very easy to understand why. This stunning martial arts epic took a beloved genre and thrust it into a new century, giving it a grandeur, emotion and artistry never before seen, while also appealing to all audiences - something that Wong Kar-Wai’s super-arty ASHES OF TIME could not do. CROUCHING TIGER’s influence on both art and commerce in Chinese film cannot be denied, and neither can Ang Lee’s incredible talent as a filmmaker. The only question is: how did this movie end up at only #12?

11. SPL (2005), directed by Wilson Yip - 218 points, 6 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review


SPL brought Hong Kong-style action back in a big way, mixing some truly awesome fight sequences into a dark gangland tale about cops crossing the line in order to take down the bad guys. But really, the rest of the film could be ignored simply to highlight that one big scene: the alleyway duel between Donnie Yen and Wu Jing where the two go at it so fast and so convincingly that one wonders if they didn’t really try to hurt one another. SPL arguably created more new fans of Hong Kong Cinema than any film on this list - except possibly the #12 and the #1 film - and for that it gets extra props.

We’re almost there. Tomorrow we’ll reveal numbers 10-4, which includes at least three films with Stephy Tang! Well, maybe not. A day later we’ll reveal numbers 1-3.

35 Responses to “Top 50 Hong Kong Films of the Decade - Numbers 20-11”

  1. Nil Says:

    I’ve got a question. From which country are the majority of the lovehkfilm readers? Would be nice with more statistics to see in which country Johnny To is so damn popular.

  2. Foxlore Says:

    ANY film with Stephy Tang is the best film evah and should immediately be granted a bonus of 10,000 points!!!!… ;-P

  3. Calvin Mcmillin Says:

    Wow, 4 of my top ten choices have already made appearances. Will it just be a question of WHICH Johnnie To films really struck a chord with people or will there be some inspired/gonzo choices? This has been a lot of fun!

  4. Munin Says:

    Nil: I keep my bets on Europe. France, in particular. Or, maybe, every country in the world, except, you know, Hong Kong.

  5. ed Says:

    based on this comment:
    “SPL arguably created more new fans of Hong Kong Cinema than any film on this list - except possibly the #12 and the #1 film…”

    I’m guessing #1 is either INFERNAL AFFAIRS or KUNG FU HUSTLE…

  6. valerie soe Says:

    @nil: johnnie to is very prolific and makes action movies, for the most part, that easily translate across cultures, which may be a reason for his popularity. Some of his flicks have also received theatrical distribution in the States and Europe. But he also puts out quality product with stars that are popular with the international fan population (Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Lau Ching-Wan, Andy Lau, etc).

    However, there are a couple other directors who are fairly heavily represented on this list, percentage-wise. Wilson Yip’s got 4/11 of his post-2000 movies on the list so far; Wong Kar-Wai has 1/4 (and will probably have one more). Surprisingly, Pang Ho-Cheung directed 7 movies this century and he’s got three on the list, which is very respectable.

    Johnnie To has directed or co-directed an amazing 23 films since 2000, of which nine have shown up so far. Chances are he’s got at least two or possibly 3 (four?) yet to appear, which would bring his percentage to 12/23. So he’d be batting just over .500, which is pretty amazing. Wong Jing, by comparison, is striking out so far and he directed 21 films this century.

    Likewise, Tony Leung Chi-Wai has made 17 movies so far this decade and (I think) seven will show up on this list, which is just a hair below .500.

    My numbers could be a little bit off since I’m not too good with math so if anyone wants to double-check that would be awesome. You could also weight the films according to how high they rank to get a truer picture of each director or actor’s popularity (Charlene Choi has dropped out of the picture, for instance, in the higher-ranked movies: Little Tony has moved up alarmingly).

    Okay, enough fangirl obsessing–looking forward to the end of the countdown!

  7. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    Hi Nil, basically, we get 20% more traffic from North America than from Asia, which itself is twice that of Europe. In simpler terms, that means our audience is largely from the West.

    At this point in time, I think anyone who’s a fan of Hong Kong Cinema is a fan of Johnnie To. That is, except for the popstar fans who follow idols not filmmakers, and they comprise only a small portion of the readers who sent in ballots.

    Hi Valerie, your math and your prognostication skills are both pretty good. :)

  8. terrenc Says:

    God help me if One Night in Mongkok is ot in the list or the whole IA trilogy as well.

    But i belive that most of us here would agree that Heavenly Kings is by far better than My wife is 18.

    It seems that number 20-11 makes the most sense.

  9. Grenouille vert Says:

    Yes, Johnnie To has a great fan base in France, he’s also a “darling” of the Cannes Film Festival, but simply because his films are (often) really good. Beside To, I think Tsui Hark (the old 80s and 90s, not the recent, Tsui Hark, of course) is fairly popular in France.

    About the list, I’m surprised that Ip Man, with its clumsy story, can stand higher than 2046, but also relieved that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon cannot make it to Top 10, it’s a good film indeed, but by Western standard, I, a die-hard fan of wuxia genre, feel uneasy in seeing that film, it doesn’t deserve the hype of media and awards.

    For the top 10, I guess there will be 2 Stephen Chow, 1 Wong Kar Wai, 2 or 3 Johnnie To (where’s Running on Karma??), Infernal Affairs (naturally), the rest I have absolutely no idea (hope there will be no more Donnie Yen or combo Jet Li-Andy Lau, I love them but they cannot … act, indeed).

  10. Mike Mai Says:

    yay finally films from my list! spl, mad detective, throwdown! i can’t remember how many times i’ve watched throwdown already.

  11. Lord Garth, Formerly of Izar Says:

    I very much liked Lost in Time think I’ll watch it tonight!

    God damn I own alot of movies I could start a rental store

  12. Lord Garth, Formerly of Izar Says:

    Oh yeah Kozo
    Did you save everyone’s list’s I’d be grateful if you could post mine. Want to keep score

  13. valerie soe Says:

    fwiw here’re my guesses for top ten (ranked). Not sure if Hero counts or not so I’ve listed 11.

    1. IA1
    2. In The Mood For Love
    3. Shaolin Soccer
    4. Exiled
    5. Election
    6. Kung Fu Hustle
    7. IA2
    8. Hero
    9. Running on Karma

    10. Breaking News
    11. One Night In Mongkok

  14. Populasian Says:

    The list is getting better as its getting closer to #1. 2 more my top ten here as well. 2046, Lost in Time, and Throwdown would make my top 20.

    @valerie, nice guesses for top 10. Hero should qualify according to the rules. Election/Exiled may cancel each other out with even one of them not being in the top 52.

  15. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    @Lord Garth, I sent it back to you via email. If for some reason that doesn’t get to you, let me know. I can post your list here.

    I can do your rental store one better. I have multiple copies of the hot titles.

    @terrenc, I think most people would agree with you. I know I would. At the same time, it’s kind of fun having MY WIFE IS 18 on the list. Oddly charming star-fueled pop cinema has long been a part of Hong Kong Cinema history, and its spot on the list acknowledges that.

  16. Love HKfilm: Top 50 Hong Kong Films of the Decade (#20-11) | Celluloid Burning Says:

    […] Top 50 Hong Kong Films of the Decade #20-11 No comments for this entry yet… […]

  17. valerie soe Says:

    if Exiled doesn’t make the list I’ll eat my hat.

  18. Leemoy Says:

    If Exiled doesnt get Top3 I’ll eat my hat. rsrs

    I didn’t know Crouching Tiger was applicable, otherwise I would have picked for my top10.

  19. Curelover Says:

    Love the list Kozo … so many great films from the decade :) I am excited for what will show up on the top ten; more Tony Leung Chi-Wai films I hope!

  20. ed Says:

    @valerie, I’ll leave out BREAKING NEWS.

    @leemoy, I don’t think EXILED is going to beat the holy trinity of IA1, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and SHAOLIN SOCCER. I’m surprised that it is even top 10. very good film but it’s not THE MISSION.

  21. kiddo Says:

    If only The Mission came out a year later…

  22. Leemoy Says:


    Well, I think Exiled technically is better than The Mission. The Mission soundtrack is pretty good but not so immersive as Exiled. Sure the characters development in The Mission there is no comparison since Exiled doesn’t have it, except Josie Ho’s character. But in the end both are equally entertaining.

    I think many of us, first meet with Stephen Chow was with Shaolin Soccer. It is one of the best comedies ever made, but it still inferior to his two best movies. In Shaolin Soccer it is the CGI who does the job while King of Comedy and God of Cookery it is Stephen Chow.

  23. Nil Says:

    OK, thanks for the replies :) Don’t get me wrong I am also a fan of Johnny To, but I can’t say that I like all his movies :)

    So most readers are from the US, that’s what I guessed. I’m from Sweden, but live in the mainland at the moment.

    Of all the movies so far, I haven’t seen: Love Undercover, The Eye, Love Battlefield, Funeral March, You Shoot I Shoot, My wife is 18 and Juliet in love. Think it’s a great idea with the list, so I can watch all the movies that I’ve missed :) Like the idea of a 80s and 90s list. Would be nice with a top 100 or even a top 1000 :)

  24. Richard Says:

    Errr… how come Summer Holiday didnt make into top 20-11 spot, would it be in top 10 then?, it cant be worse than My wife is 18! really… :-( I lost faith.

  25. AlHaru Says:

    6 of my 10 already showed up. I’m not worried about the rest. It wouldn’t take a genius to fill in the blanks.

    2046 at #20 could’ve been ranked higher, SPL at #11 is a little funny. Having Wilson Yip’s SPL placed higher than veterans such as John Woo and Ang Lee expressed the heights of Donnie Yen’s popularity and career in HK cinema. And Yip, scoring two places in the Top20, is scorching hot.

    Interesting to note that Ang Lee’s CTHD is still doing strong after all these years.

    Derek Yee’s last card hasn’t shown up yet; although I didn’t vote for it, it should still be coming up. Johnnie To scored 4 places in the 11-20 range, just as expected, it’s now up to our speculation if ELECTION and EXILED have the magic to dismember the “holy trinity”, which may in fact kick ITMFL out of the Top3. IA1 will stay still, and Stephen Chow will still be popping his champagne tomorrow.

    It’s New Year’s Eve btw, rejoice! :)

  26. Webmaster Kozo Says:


    Don’t lose faith. The truth is we did have a small run of ballots from a bunch of Charlene Choi fans, as evidenced by their lists containing 9/10 or 10/10 films starring her. Those votes pushed MY WIFE IS 18 to a higher rank, though truth be known, 11 people voted for MY WIFE IS 18, meaning over half not Charlene Choi fans. It could still have ended up being in the #45 or higher area.

    SUMMER HOLIDAY is arguably better than MY WIFE IS 18, though they’re both pretty much the same: popstar vehicles that are pleasing, light and thankfully not insulting. It could simply be that Sammi Cheng’s fanbase has left her behind. In the early Aughts, she could do no wrong, but lately she’s been quiet and her fans the same. Charlene Choi’s fans are still here for her.

    Anyway, in the end this list is just for fun. And I just gave away that SUMMER HOLIDAY is not in the Top 10. But as AlHaru says, it’s not much of a surprise from here on out. The only real suspense might be what their final order (and point total) is.

  27. kyra Says:

    Wow too bad for me I didn’t recognize Johnnie To before. Watched some of his work and like it though. But for Chinese movie, maybe I’m too Wong Kar Wai - Ang Lee - Zhang Yimou - Chen Kaige - Tsui Hark - some Andrew Lau and Peter Chan minded. As shown on my list for this decade: two by Ang Lee, three by WKW, one by Andrew Lau, one by Stephen Chow, one Tsui Hark’s, one Pang Brothers’, one by Zhang Yimou.

    I have watched Fultime Killer, Love on a Diet, A moment of Romance (maybe the three of them or only two…I don’t remember) & Wu yen. I liked them but my failure not really recognized the filmmaker. Now I assume that he is the ultimate Hongkong commercial filmmaker as he can make variable genre from comedy, ation, phsychological, romance, etc which are not only have commercial success and fun to watch, but also meaningful and memorable.Unlike Wong Kar Wai or Zhang Yimou who mostly make typical movies.

    I think I’m gonna put him on my list of “must collect and/ or watch the film” director.

  28. mito Says:

    @kozo, is there any more Charlene film? I think Hidden Heroes should be in the list, it is better than My Wife is 18.

    @valerie , nice list

    Disclaimer: I did not vote.

  29. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    @mito, you may want to wait for the full list I’ll post early in January. It’ll list everything that got voted on. Lots of Charlene there.

  30. Richard Says:

    sigh — but I shall admit if I were to vote for a Charlene Choi movie, I’ll probably take My Wife is 18 as well… :-)

    Waiting for the top 10 now…and the order…

    Happy new year

  31. mito Says:

    thanks Kozo, I am eager for the list of everything got voted

  32. Damn you, Kozo! | Drakz News Station Says:

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  33. Sydneyguy Says:

    Needing you would be in my 10 ten for sure,its the ultimate date movie!!

    Spl is a good movie,im a big donnie yen fan but its not great!!But its true, he’s brought back action movies to hk fans and abroad

    throwdown is a bit of a suprise to me

  34. DRFP Says:

    I was really considering putting “Lost in Time” on my list but, although I remember liking it a great deal, I struggled to remember what actually happens. Maybe it’s been too long since I watched it? I’ll certainly give the DVD a spin again but I couldn’t list it because of that fact.

    “SPL” was my number one (it may not be highbrow viewing like a WKW film but no other HK film this decade has enthralled me so much).

    I’m glad to see my number two choice “Exodus” hasn’t yet appeared on the list. I’m hoping its made it to a real high spot.

  35. Charuto Says:

    Despite its numerous, irritating flaws, I also love Throwdown too. If the opportunity arises tonight, I’m going to attempt to dump a 300lb bouncer on his head… fail, and get my ass kicked.

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