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Top 100 Hong Kong Films of the Nineties - Numbers 10-6

Welcome to the latest entry in our Top 100 Hong Kong Films of the Nineties, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. You know the drill, so let’s get to it, okay? We’re not getting any younger.

Twins
“God, that Webmaster Kozco is so rude, Charlene!
And what’s this comment about not getting any younger?
Thanks to digital photography, I’ll be 23 forever!”

Today’s entry introduces you to Numbers 10-6, as usual determined by actual LoveHKFilm readers. We’re down to ten left, but because we enjoy dragging this thing out until the very end, we’re splitting the final ten into two posts with five films apiece. You can do math with that information.

Standard boilerplate: If you have yet to start reading this Top 100, we highly suggest you go back to the beginning so that you don’t inadvertently reveal to yourself that the #12 movie on this list is RUMBLE AGES. Earlier entries:
Numbers 100-81
Numbers 80-61
Numbers 60-41
Numbers 40-31
Numbers 30-21
Numbers 20-11

Let’s get this thing going!

10. GOD OF COOKERY (1996), directed by Stephen Chow and Lee Lik-Chee - 293 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

God of Cookery

GOD OF COOKERY is a masterpiece of mo lei tau that would probably own the distinction of being Stephen Chow’s most popular film if not for all those fanboy faves that came out during the 21st century. It’s one of his most accessible and funniest films, but also has a striking emotional edge, largely thanks to Karen Mok’s Sister Turkey. Tats Lau as the Shaolin Monk named Wet Dream is also a big highlight, as is Ng Man-Tat in a rare villain turn. The rest of the cast is also aces: Vincent Kok, Law Kar-Ying, Nancy Sit, Christy Chung — and hey, isn’t that Lam Suet? As Jennifer Ng says, “Squirting beef balls you play tennis with and a fat guy running on the beach — this one ranks higher than SHAOLIN SOCCER for me. Sorry, guys.” Hey, no apology necessary.

9. DAYS OF BEING WILD (1991), directed by Wong Kar-Wai - 304.5 points, 4 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

Days of Being Wild

Holy cow, look at that cast! If not for ASHES OF TIME, DAYS OF BEING WILD would be Wong Kar-Wai’s most star-jammed film, but the cast is arguably put to better use here. Not only does this film contain Andy Lau’s best acting of the early nineties, but it features perhaps Leslie Cheung’s best acting ever – if you ignore that FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE film. Also, that last scene with Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is mesmerizing, despite containing no dialogue and essentially leading nowhere until 2000, when the character reappears (maybe) in IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. Probably not Wong Kar-Wai’s most enjoyable look at romance, but DAYS OF BEING WILD captures love’s insecure, interminable state of limbo like no other film. At one time or another, everyone has felt like one of the love-paralyzed characters in DAYS OF BEING WILD. Even if that character is the one played by Rebecca Pan.

8. ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA II (1991), directed by Tsui Hark - 306 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

Once Upon a Time in China II

The debate over which ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA film is better rages eternally, and many choose ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA II. It’s not hard to see why, what with the addition of action director Yuen Woo-Ping, who choreographed the awesome fight sequences between Wong Fei-Hung and the White Lotus Cult, plus Jet Li’s classic duel with Donnie Yen. The appearance by David Chiang as Sun Yat-Sen is also cool, helping to enrich these folk hero stories with more nationalist themes and actual history. Tsui Hark’s OUATIC movies pretty much defined epic martial arts movies for the nineties, and were the defining form until CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON came along and made it all so elegant. Apologies to Jackie Chan, but Jet Li was the martial arts star of the nineties. Among the many films that showed that Tsui Hark was the best commercial film director of the Hong Kong New Wave.

7. ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA (1990), directed by Tsui Hark - 335.5 points, 4 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

Once Upon a Time in China

Of course, then there are those who think that the original ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA is the best OUATIC movie — and they have a pretty damn good case, too. Grady Hendrix describes OUATIC I as “The alpha of Tsui Hark’s period martial arts movies. A lot of people prefer OUATIC 2, but for me this is the one to watch. The foreigners are more devious, Iron Robe Yim is more tragic, Jacky Cheung is a great Bucktoothed So and Yuen Biao is a better Leung Foon than Max Mok any day.” The first entry in this classic series, OUATIC was more obvious in its political themes than its sequels, which trended more towards big-screen entertainment as they progressed. Regardless, it’s an undeniable classic and Jet Li’s take on folk hero Wong Fei-Hong makes it extremely difficult to imagine anyone else taking on the role. Given the upgraded elegance of this genre (see FEARLESS or TRUE LEGEND to get an idea of that), seeing a new Wong Fei-Hong epic is only a matter of time. But will it ever be as good as ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA? I’m betting no.

6. RUNNING OUT OF TIME (1999), directed by Johnnie To - 342.5 points, 5 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

Running Out of Time

If RUNNING OUT OF TIME teaches us anything, it’s that Andy Lau needed Johnnie To. The master director took Lau’s showy screen persona and molded it into his RUNNING OUT OF TIME character, resulting in Lau’s first Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor and the first of three awards overall. However, often overlooked amidst the praise for Andy Lau is Lau Ching-Wan, whose performance here is only typical for the actor — meaning it’s a charismatic, rock-solid performance that perfectly supports his co-stars and the movie. Milkyway Image hit a new high with RUNNING OUT OF TIME, suddenly becoming a hitmaking production house and soon the toast of the genre film fest circuit. Oh yes, the movie is also pretty damn good. Really, it’s hard to find anyone who’ll say anything negative about RUNNING OUT OF TIME — it’s just that popular. The sequel? Originally hated and now underrated.

And that’s it for this time! Tune in tomorrow when we’ll throw out Numbers 1-5 and end our unbelievably interminable coverage of the Top 100 Hong Kong Films of the Nineties. I hope you had fun. I did, but it’s hard to tell from the lack of sleep plus my constant griping.

23 Responses to “Top 100 Hong Kong Films of the Nineties - Numbers 10-6”

  1. QQ Says:

    16/59/95 - YAY!!! DOBW made it! My top 10 are all in.

  2. Mark Shaver Says:

    ok, the top 5 will defintely be Chungking Express, Hard Boiled, Bullet in the Head, The Mission, and Drunken Master II

  3. loco Says:

    milking the last 10 I see. just put them all at once!
    Although predicting the last 5 shouldn’t prove difficult.

  4. KahChun Says:

    Great countdown. Like most nominations, I can’t help but to disagree with most of the movie entries until this Top 10-6.

    It’s scary when I found out that I’ve watched and re-watched all of these 5 movies more than 5 times in my entire 27 years of age. We are not just speaking about quality now but also movies that have made the biggest impact on HK, Asian and international film history.

    A toast to Wong Kar Wai, Johnnie To, Tsui Hark and Stephen Chow.

  5. Grenouille vert Says:

    I have to repeat what I said before: I LOVE the 90s, man :(! Even the BEST of Ah Sing can take only the 10th place, which makes me upset but also proves that 90s HK films rock, just rock!

    I agree with Mark Shaver about the top 5, obviously though. I hope the Top 3 will be Chungking Express (my Top vote), Drunken Master II and The Mission, the two John Woo are good, but a little bit over-the-top and do not stand the same rank as his 80s like A Better Tomorrow or The Killer.

    They always talk about “too good to be true”, but that cannot apply for HK films of the 90s: “it’s true, they are marvelously good”.

  6. ColinJ Says:

    GOD OF COOKERY was the first Chow Sing-Chi film I ever saw. And while the verbal stuff went straight over my head (although the Chinese people in the audience around me were laughing their heads off) I loved the visual gags, the oddball characters and the quality of the production.

    Since then I’ve seen many of Chow’s films but this one still remains my favourite.

  7. WillJayRod Says:

    Seen 4/5, voted for 1.
    16/42/95
    My prediction for the ordering of my remaining three valid picks - The Mission before Hard-Boiled ahead of Bullet In The Head.
    My #10, Where A Good Man Goes, is definitely not placing, heh! Would be interested to know just how many votes/points it DID get.

  8. glenn Says:

    So far, only one of the top 10 has been one of my top 10. I should have voted. I would have ranked King of Comedy higher than God of Cookery but to each his or her own.

    Geez, if this list pans out the way I expect it to, that means only 3 of my top 10 were in this top 10. Maybe my tastes are a bit off?

    Seriously, I am surprised — shocked even — to see Running Out of Time rank so high. I know To-mania is rampant among the fanboys — myself included at times — but, really?

  9. Cihan Says:

    Yeah, I can’t believe Running Out of Time is so high on the list. I’ve almost finished a Johnnie To filmography marathon and this film, along with its sequel, is easily one of his least good. (Linger is his worst movie that I’ve seen so far) Where A Good Man Goes (1998) should have been placed at #6 instead.

  10. mordred13 Says:

    I cant believe John Woo made so fat, put above Runnin Out of Time and God oF Cookery. Well, never understimate Mr. Woo, that’s my lesson.

    Running Out of Time is no surprise, well I predicted even higher position. It’s the most comercial Milkway film and it is a winning film of a popular and overexplored cat-and-mouse theme. There are a lot of Andy Lau fans, and here he gives one of his finest performace.

    Well, in my opinion God of Cookery and King of Comedy is much better than Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle because both films are more acting than CGI. But for those who doesn’t understand a single cantonese, maybe it doesn’t help.

  11. Golf Says:

    I agree that Running out of time is rank too high. That’s why I think the Mission would become number one on this list. Anyway, let me guess for the top 5
    5. Bullet in the head 4. Drunken master II 3. Hard boiled 2. Chungking express and 1. The Mission

  12. WillJayRod Says:

    See?! Where A Good Man Goes should have placed, like Cihan said!

  13. Mat Thompson Says:

    I wish the Stephen Chow (along with more than half this list) was more readily available in Taiwan with English Subs. The ONLY Chow movies I can get here are Hustle, Soccer and The Royal Tramp, all the rest are Chinese only. It may have changed my vote.

    I think availability of movies is key. Tarantino went crazy for Chungking Express and without that, I think it would not be what it is today. The same went for Infernal Affairs. I may have found out about it myself moving to Asia, but I knew it was ‘The movie that inspired The Departed’. I voted Chungking, but only gave it a #20 in order to support it, but with only .5 points knowing others will beef it up themselves.

    3 of my top 5 are done (Days of Being Wild, Storm Riders and Once A Thief), and all I have left is a double shot of Woo, which I guess will probably come true… hopefully above Chungking. I’m watching the tally and if Chungking wins by .5 I will have to throw my laptop off the balcony!!!

  14. Nil Says:

    Forgot that Jacky Cheung was also in Once upon a time in China! That gives him the count of 3 in the top10! Never understood the greatness about The Mission, guess I will have to watch it again. Only watched it once (same with God of Cookery). Voted for the rest of the eight on top10.

    My guess for the top5:
    5. Drunken Master II
    4. The Mission
    3. Bullet in the head
    2. Hard Boiled
    1. Chungking Express

    So I’m guessing Tony in all top 3 movies…

  15. Senny Says:

    wow…i actually thought for sure once upon a time in china 2 would own 1 by miless….surprising..
    for once i’ve actually seen some of the movies on the list..xDD

  16. Lord Garth, Formerly of Izar Says:

    Who the hell is Tiffany Chen and why do I see her name at the top of nearly every HK film I own?

    What’s the deal with Carlsberg beer?

    Why doesn’t Lam pluck that mole hair, is it good luck?

    Questions Questions Questions!!

    Where the heck is Moment of Romance III?

  17. lumpdechunk Says:

    Can’t say I’m shocked by the lower half of Top 10, but some movies could have been higher. I feel assured that Chungking Express could at least be in the Top3 spot, if not win. And Future Cop will not be in the list. :P

    Zhao Wen Zhou needs more love as a Wong Fei Hung. Poor guy has so much been forgotten until True Legend pops up this yr.

  18. mordred13 Says:

    @Nill

    What makes The Mission great is the silence comradeship that is crafted between that different men during the film. Since there is few dialogues, we feel what is happening on screen. The shootouts simply rock too.

    And as I said, God of Cookery is very good because it is the pinnacle of the archetype of an arrogant character who seeks redemption after his downfall constructed by Stephen Chow during all his career. And full human acting without CGI to help the comedy.

    Certainly there will be people who prefer CGI, and taste is taste.

  19. AlHaru Says:

    A MOMENT OF ROMANCE III is probably one of the few titles that will never make it. There are some good fighters in the ring but they don’t have any showmanship to impress people - people in particular who are geographically or linguistically remote. Many of the Top100 here have celebrity status (except RED TO KILL I’m still scratching my head with); I can’t say I loved RUNNING OUT OF TIME, but they do have a lot of fans.

    It’s not easy to like a movie while access to it is limited. ROMANCE II & III (especially III) are pretty much forgotten if not completely missed. To was running out of bullets when III was made, as far as I remember reception was pretty bad. These movies will never be remastered because no one really wants them anyway. My only rant to the 90’s was that film studios (or whatever they were called) never really packaged their intellectual properties as air-tight as, say, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, and let them run loose when it came to DVD releases (if lucky, many films only made it to VCD, an alien format to North American viewers). OUATIC has more than 3 films. As lumpdechunk mentioned, Zhao was completely whited out like the guy never existed. Lau’s Y&D wasn’t any better, the last movie had to undergo a complete name change. I understand that movie bosses had to usher the movies out fast only to serve the sole purpose of making easy money with fast sequels; understanding is one thing, accepting is another. Years later, we’re looking at an ugly picture of lost, forgotten, or intentionally destroyed chapters of a somewhat significant serial. Mixed feelings clouded my mind when putting my list together, I hated the 90’s as much as I loved it. I’d be entertained if ROMANCE III or OUATIC V ever came close to spar with the heavyweight champs.

    Hollywood treats sequels, no matter how bad they usually are, with better respect. FAST & FURIOUS is always 3 movies + 1 reboot. Lucas will continue to package STAR WARS as 6 movies no matter how many fans riot down the streets with Jar Jar Binks tied up and burning on a crucifix. The marketing guys know the word “recognition” sells. And people buy them. Not until recently HK film industry realizes this, but it is still too late for the 90’s where many good films were lost, inaccessible or left in the vault with no chance of parole to see daylight again.

    Interesting enough, WKW didn’t revive ASHES OF TIME. He buried the old and gave us the new. It couldn’t hide the fact that his original movie was a hated and badly-received mess by gluing pieces on a 1920×1280 high-def template. It’s not the way Criterion do things.

  20. b3n1 Says:

    @Alharu. Agree with you, MOMMENT OF ROMANCE 3 isn’t a good movie. It was totally a different concept compare to the first & second one. I don’t like its storyline.

  21. Lord Garth, Formerly of Izar Says:

    I was joking about Moment of Romance III

  22. Jimaur Says:

    Once upon a time in China made it! WOOT! To quote the movie, “Who is this Wong Fei Hung, The Devil??” awesome!

  23. Sydneyguy Says:

    For me, running out of time is still over rated,ive watched it a few times just to try to like it but i cant!! It’s ok but to be number 6?? Also i am a big Stephen Chow fan but i never liked God of cookery,is that because im not from Hk? not sure but looking through the list just shows us how good kung fu movies USE to be!!

    My guess for number 1 has to be HARDBOILED, though i love THE MISSION and CHUNGKING EXPRESS,HARDBOILED is just the best modern action movie made PERIOD!!

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