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Top 50 Hong Kong Films of the Decade - Numbers 10-4

We’re getting there. Numbers 10 through 4 of our LoveHKFilm reader-appointed Top 10 Hong Kong Films of the decade list can be found after the jump. Are there any more Johnnie To movies left to add to this list? The man made 23 films during the Aughts and 14 remain unaccounted for, so the 10 slots left are not enough for them all. I guess that means no love for LINGER.

Previous updates:
Numbers 50-41
Numbers 40-31
Numbers 30-21
Numbers 20-11

Let’s get to it:

10. RUNNING ON KARMA (2003), directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai - 220 points, 5 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

Running on Karma

As if Andy Lau in a fat suit wasn’t enough, in 2003 Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai gave us Andy Lau in a muscle suit. However, RUNNING ON KARMA couldn’t be more different than LOVE ON A DIET. Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai take their Buddhist obsessions to a surprising extreme, challenging the safe notions of commercial cinema while simultaneously shocking, delighting and confounding their audience. Grady Hendrix says that RUNNING ON KARMA is “everything that is good and kind and accomplished and ridiculous and stupid and grotesque and head-scratching and over-the-top and insane and amazing and surreal and powerful about Hong Kong movies rolled up into one.” Well said.

9. INFERNAL AFFAIRS II (2003), directed by Andrew Lau Wai-Keung and Alan Mak Siu-Fai - 229 points, 4 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

Infernal Affairs 2

Some people say its better than the first one, and it’s genuinely hard to disagree. Whereas INFERNAL AFFAIRS was thrilling and overtly commercial, INFERNAL AFFAIRS II is measured, intelligent and subtly rewarding, taking the first film’s iconic characters and developing them in surprising and spectacular ways. Francis Ng adds to his lengthy list of award-caliber performances, and Shawn Yue shows that he’s got more going on than media-appointed status as a hot young thing. There are some debits that are understood for a quickie sequel, but INFERNAL AFFAIRS II is as quality as Hong Kong commercial cinema gets. If only INFERNAL AFFAIRS III was half as good.

8. ONE NITE IN MONGKOK (2004), directed by Derek Yee - 232 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review

One Nite in Mongkok

Derek Yee’s ONE NITE IN MONGKOK is the decade’s classiest crime thriller, going for smart dialogue, solid dramatic performances, and much less style and “aren’t we clever” irony than a decade of Johnnie To has conditioned us to. This is film storytelling at its finest, with strong, clear themes and a cinematic atmosphere that portrays the choked streets of Mongkok with claustrophobic accuracy. The eclectic and very deep cast delivers, with Daniel Wu and Cecilia Cheung providing the star power, but it’s Alex Fong Chung-Sun as the pursuing cop who gives the film its hard, compromised soul.

7. HERO (2002), directed by Zhang Yimou - 251 points, 3 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review


Iffy politics aside, HERO is a masterpiece - and shouldn’t it be? It’s got China’s best director, Hong Kong’s best actor and actress, arguably Asia’s top martial arts star, China’s hottest ingenue, plus DONNNNNIEEEE. More important, HERO has color, which is brilliantly used to shade each perspective of the film’s perfect Rashomon-like structure. HERO is a gorgeous swordplay film about the true nature of heroism, and a stunning, artful advancement in the big budget wuxia sweepstakes that began with CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON. Given Zhang Yimou’s subsequent and lesser HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, HERO may also be the pinnacle of this genre.

6. ELECTION (2005), directed by Johnnie To - 267 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review


Looking to join the triad? If so, then ELECTION is required viewing. Johnnie To’s deadpan brilliant crime thriller consistently enthralls while also playing like a real-world primer on triad politics, with the “dos” and “don’ts” highlighted for those aspiring to one day lead their own gang. DO: suck up to the “uncles”. DON’T: behave like a rabid pit-bull and kick your brothers down Lion Rock in wooden crates. DO: threaten your rivals calmly, while also extending one hand in forgiveness. DON’T: start fights that you can’t win, like you versus everyone. DO: invite your former rival to go fishing while packing a shovel. DON’T: accept an invitation to go fishing with your former rival EVER. Hell, these tips work pretty well in the workplace too. Thanks for the life lessons, Johnnie!

5. EXILED (2006), directed by Johnnie To - 276 points, 6 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review


A gangland actioner supreme, EXILED is the film that everyone wanted Johnnie To to make. He’d already reached the top of his game with the ELECTION movies, so why not call up some old friends, light up a couple of cigars and reminisce about the good ‘ol days a.k.a. THE MISSION? That’s pretty much what EXILED is - THE MISSION with richer production values, newer Milkyway Image players, super-pronounced bromance, and a self-referential streak that borders on parody. There’s some stuff in EXILED that’s arguably necessary, but when it’s sandwiched between thirty-seven layers of coolness, who the hell cares? EXILED is one for the fans. Aren’t we lucky bastards.

4. KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004), directed by Stephen Chow - 281 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review

Kung Fu Hustle

The Buddha’s Palm owns all, and so does KUNG FU HUSTLE. An exciting, hilarious and stunning Hong Kong film, KUNG FU HUSTLE was groundbreaking and revolutionary back in 2004, and yet Hong Kong Cinema still hasn’t figured out what made the film so damn good. Maybe that’s because it takes a mad genius like Stephen Chow to even attempt a combination of kung-fu, Looney Tunes, the Shaw Brothers, Stanley Kubrick, and state-of-the-art CGI. Chow did that and more, creating a make-or-break box office behemoth that would enchant and entertain audiences worldwide. After KUNG FU HUSTLE, there was talk of a KUNG FU HUSTLE 2. We’re still waiting. If necessary, we’ll wait forever.

Only 3 left to go! Can you guess them? HINT: CJ7 is not among them.

37 Responses to “Top 50 Hong Kong Films of the Decade - Numbers 10-4”

  1. sen Says:

    Shaolin Soccer, IA 1 are in top 3, almost sure.

    Another one ? Hope there is a surprise

  2. ray Says:

    should be 花樣年華 right?

  3. Nil Says:

    I’m guessing.

    3. In the mood for love
    2. Infernal Affairs (the first one not the third)
    1. Shaolin Soccer

  4. nazar Says:

    I bet my dime on Infernal Affairs being the first one.

  5. Samson Says:

    Nil, you got there before me. I am guessing the same 3 films, but in a slightly different order:
    3. In the Mood for Love
    2. Shaolin Soccer
    1. Infernal Affairs
    By the way, Happy New Year to all!

  6. Populasian Says:

    Man, only 7 films for this post. But these 7 are all amazing. No one should be ashamed to have these on their top 20 list.

    Johnny To is racking up the slots. Kozo, should do a top 10 Johnny To vote in 2010. Johnny To may not have the best of the decade, but he’s sure got the most quality for the decade.

    I think we all know the top 3, its just the ordering now.

  7. Mat Says:

    I had two movies in the top three that haven’t appeared. Warlords and Jiang Hu… I can hope for them, but I know Infernal Affairs will be in there as well. Guess I need to watch it soon!

  8. lumpdechunk Says:

    Johnnie To owns this list.

  9. mito Says:

    @Populasian , agreed that should do a list of Johnnie To, but anything to do with Johnnie To is quality on its own

    @valerie list was almost spot on, wow

  10. Grenouille vert Says:

    Finally! Valerie, help me make a bet for the 2010 Oscars, you’ll surely win :)!

    Thank Kozo (and others) for this interesting poll! I’ll wait for your 90s films vote.

    For Top 3, I guess 1. Infernal Affairs 2. Shaolin Soccer 3. In the mood for love, no more To but he rules the 2000s indeed.

  11. Leemoy Says:

    Maybe Kung Fu Dunk will be the surprised of the list. Ok, I think the order will be 1.Infernal Affairs, 2. Shaolin Soccer, 3. In Mood for Love.

  12. toratora Says:

    First i didnt vote, came in too late

    Anyway my guess would be (in order)

    1. Shaolin Soccer

    2. Infernal Affair 1

    3. In the Mood For Love

    IA2 (4 first vote) compare to Kungfu Hustle (1 first place vote) will be the determining factor

    The rest of the first place votes being distributed among Johnie To’s film

    Anyway thanks Kozo for the wonderful list. Definately looking forward to the top 50 80s and 90s films

  13. Mat Thompson Says:

    I’m breaking from the pack here and going another way. I guess since a few of my favorites could pull an upset here, I’m not going with Shaolin Soccer…

    3. Jiang Hu (Andy Lau/Jackie Cheung)
    2. Warlords
    1. Infernal Affairs

    (almost my actual picks in the first place)

  14. QQ Says:

    Sigh - I guess Golden Chicken and Truth or Dare - 6th Rear Flat didn’t make it.

    It looks pretty unanimous for Infernal Affairs, In the Mood for Love, and Shaolin Soccer. LOL

  15. ed Says:

    @Mat sorry dude, that’s never going to happen in a thousand years… you just have to accept the fact that 2 of your top 10 is not going to make the list, 2 of my top 10 is not on the list either…

  16. jeffery Says:

    Infernal Affairs is definately the Best movie of the decade. Dog Bite Dog should be somewhere in the top 50. A Johnnie To best of list or best of heroic bloodshed list of all time would be cool.

  17. Sydneyguy Says:

    im guessing everyone got the top 3,but people think infernal affairs 2 is better than one? are you people sure?
    and i still must be the only one that thought election was just plain average

  18. Peach Says:


    If Jiang Hu is one of your favourite films, at least get the lead character’s name right - it’s JACKY Cheung, not Jackie Cheung.

  19. Sean Says:

    Man, no chance Exodus is going to show up now. I’m disappointed by this.

  20. Sydneyguy Says:

    im suprised that infernal affairs 3 doesnt rate in the top 50,its like rating lord of the rings without all 3 being together

    Infernal affairs,shaolin soccer,chungking express (which i believe is better than in the mood for love)

    a underrated movie “merry go round” doesnt look like appearing here,oh well i should of voted!!

  21. Raito Says:

    I can’t remember if I voted Kung-Fu Hustle first or Infernal Affairs.

  22. Sydneyguy Says:

    exiled deserves its spot,and so does kung fu hustle,running on karma is good too, its funny i had to watch it a few times before i truely got how great the film is

    just looking through a list of hk films,

    PRincess D (well i was movied by this movie),

    Colour of truth,

    A war named desire (greatly under rated crime movie)
    eye in the sky (its been a long time since ive been so engaged in a movie)

    golden chicken,

    Legend of zu/storm warriors (ok, they aint great but i love these type of movies!!)

    IT had to be you (my 2nd fav hk romantic comedy of 2000-20101st being needing you),

    Dragon tiger gate (a comic book come to life,i keep watching the action scenes over and over again)

    SURE some arent top ten but they should rate!!

  23. valerie soe Says:

    Hooray! Exiled makes the list, and tops the Johnnie To hit parade, too. My homie Francis Ng makes a strong showing at the end as well. All props to Kozo for this fun and excitement-filled countdown–can we continue the discussion somewhere? Will there be a topic on the forums?

  24. DRFP Says:

    Seems one of my high picks, Exodus, won’t be making this list, which I’m really surprised about given I think it’s by far Edmond Pang’s best movie.

    I thought it was held in high regard but I guess not. Each to their own, as I personally think Exiled is one of Johnnie To’s worst films from this decade (that and Election 2).

  25. AlHaru Says:

    The fact that To didn’t make it to the Top3 was a little surprising. My prediction was 7 of the Top20 would be To’s, also the last seven magnificent cards in his hand. RUNNING ON KARMA would’ve made it to the Top3 if it were made more recently, but then the philosophical downer wouldn’t be able to defeat the fan-service EXILED offered, or the popularity ELECTION generated. It was going to bring a “Johnnie vs Johnnie” mess to the results anyway. In the end, I voted THROWDOWN.

    I’m also a little worried that the fun factor of this list has been diminishing since.

    Wong Jing of the past decade wouldn’t and shouldn’t have been invited. But TRUTH OR DARE, GOLDEN CHICKEN (QQ’s picks) deserved an invitation. So did INNER SENSES, RUN PAPA RUN and RUNNING OUT OF TIME 2. THE EYE, while being the most influential if not the best, horror movie of the decade, was bordered out. It came to a point that the list demonstrated Johnnie’s fan power and excluded some of the Kodak moments of HK cinema in the 2000s. Diversity has been a problem. It’s without a doubt been a great poll Kozo and his associates put together. I’d enjoy it more if it weren’t everything-goes-to-Johnnie. Calvin offers a more balanced and discreet analysis on the best of HK cinema between the years of 2000-2009. It elaborates HK cinema as a whole without singling out a specific director or major piece. The fan factor of this list cannot be denied, but the fun factor could’ve been more intense. And I know, everybody tried.

  26. Tristan Says:

    I’m somewhat surprised that Ann Hui made the list only once despite having made five critically-lauded films during the aughts.

    Another glaring problem with the list: not a single film from 2009!

    Still, a lot of fun.

  27. Sean Says:


    I am also surprised by the lack of Ann Hui. I’m sure if more people saw Night & Fog this year it would have been made the list. It really is an amazing movie.

  28. Mark Shaver Says:

    alright, all 10 of my choices made it since obviously Infernal Affairs and Shaolin Soccer will be in the top 3. Assuming In the Mood For Love is the other, that means I’ve seen 46 out of 50, plus the 2 runners-up!

  29. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    @Tristan and Sean, the lack of Ann Hui is a little surprising, as is the lack of (IMHO) Herman Yau. You’re also right about 2009; since we did this poll at the very end of the year, nobody has had a chance to catch up on the year’s releases. If we ran a do over vote in a year, stuff like ACCIDENT WRITTEN BY, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS, NIGHT AND FOG or (hopefully) KJ might get a shot. Not MURDERER, though.

    This was mostly in fun, and not some definitive list. I suppose we should leave that job to Cahiers du Cinema.

    @Mark, wow you’ve seen 46 out of a possible 52? I wonder what everyone else’s percentage is.

  30. Chris Wolter Says:

    I’m sitting at 28 so far…I’m holding out hope for Dog Bite Dog in the top three. I’m gonna need to join to forum to see what people’s thoughts are on that movie.

  31. Sean Says:

    I’ll have seen 40 assuming one of the top three is Infernal Affairs.

    I was hoping all the movies on my top 10 were going to appear on the list but 8/10 isn’t bad.

  32. Dave Says:

    @Sydneyguy Uh…”Chungking Express” is from 1994.

  33. Lord Garth, Formerly of Izar Says:

    I bet the top three are:

    La Braissere

    Wesley’s Mysterious File

    And last but not least

    Mr. Wai Go 6

  34. Dan Says:

    3. Shaolin Soccer
    2. Infernal Affairs

    … and because Kozo loves Ekin Cheng soooooooooo much!:

    1. Goodbye Mr. Cool

  35. Love HKfilm: Top 50 Hong Kong Films of the Decade (#10-4) | Celluloid Burning Says:

    […] Love HKfilm: Top 50 Hong Kong Films of the Decade (#10-4) No comments for this entry yet… […]

  36. My Top 10 HK movies of the decade « Blurasis Says:

    […] Running On Karma (2003) […]

  37. kenneth l. Says:

    Top 3
    3. Shaolin Soccer (i didn’t vote for that one, but judging from the list of top 50 it has to be somewhere in there)
    2. IA
    1. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (KOZO it better wins; rig it if you have to)

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