December 24th, 2012
Greetings and welcome to the fourth installment of THE BEST HONG KONG FILMS EVER. We’re getting through this thing, though it’s become a bit tiresome, like eating your vegetables or watching a Hou Hsiao-Hsien film.
“I know, I can’t stand Hou Hsiao-Hsien films.
Really, everything about Taiwan sucks.”
Standard boilerplate that we must say every time: if you’re just joining us, make sure to go back to beginning to get the full story of this reader vote there. Joining anything halfway, like a movie or a surgical procedure, reduces the benefits of said thing greatly. Better to get in on the ground floor and not worry if you missed anything at the start.
Almost to the halfway point! Hit the jump and lets get there.
110. YOUNG AND DANGEROUS (1996), directed by Andrew Lau - 28 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Andrew Lau and Ekin Cheng rocketed to bankability with the first of this seminal triad saga, which glorified the gang life while earning tattoo parlors more than a few extra bucks. Wong Jing is currently remaking the YOUNG AND DANGEROUS series but it’ll be tough to make audiences forget about Ekin Cheng’s iconic portrayal of Chan Ho-Nam. And making us forget about Ekin’s hair? Impossible. YOUNG AND DANGEROUS ranked #26 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
109. THE ARCH (1968), directed by Cecile Tang Shu-Shuen - 28 points, 1 first place vote - HKMDB Page
The legendary first feature from CHINA BEHIND director Cecile Tang is a stylized period melodrama about a widow (Lisa Lu Yan) who upholds feudal virtue by suppressing her love for a cavalry captain (Roy Chiao) in favor of her daughter. One of the first modern Chinese films to achieve international acclaim. If you want to see it you can actually get a DVD directly from the film’s editor, Les Blank.
108. ENTER THE DRAGON (1973), directed by Robert Clouse - 28.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
A Hollywood-Hong Kong co-production that will forever be memorable thanks to cheese-ball dialogue like, “Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!” Bruce Lee rocketed to international superstardom with ENTER THE DRAGON, but we must not forget Jim Kelly as Williams, who unfortunately died because he was “too busy looking gooooood.” Oh, this film also has fighting.
106 (TIE). SPOOKY ENCOUNTERS (1980), directed by Sammo Hung - 28.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Another super-entertaining Sammo Hung film, SPOOKY ENCOUNTERS a.k.a. ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND is a seminal entry in Hong Kong’s unique horror-comedy genre. Lee Rankin calls the film, “my favorite Hong Kong horror movie thanks to some inventive and perfectly choreographed set pieces and some surprisingly creepy and tense moments.” Ranked #33 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
106 (TIE). POLICE STORY 2 (1988), directed by Jackie Chan - 28.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
POLICE STORY 2 makes the cut, joining SUPERCOP as the second POLICE STORY movie among the BEST HONG KONG MOVIES EVER. Jackie Chan’s second outing as Chan Ka-Kui is more of the same, only this time with extra Maggie Cheung and even more Charlie Cho (Woo!). The chance that the original POLICE STORY shows up in one of the next 106 slots: 100%. Ranked #17 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
105. ONCE A THIEF (1991), directed by John Woo - 28.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Mick calls ONCE A THIEF “uneven, but Chow Yun-Fat in a wheelchair gives Cary Grant a run for his money.” Chow is in fine form in this John Woo laffer, which goes light on the action but doubles down on the comedy and coolness. Cherie Chung is the supposed love interest but Chow seems more enamored of his co-star Leslie Cheung. Unfortunately for slash fiction fans, their bromance stays platonic. Ranked #46 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
104. FULL ALERT (1997), directed by Ringo Lam - 29.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Grady Hendrix calls FULL ALERT “Ringo Lam’s last real film,” saying it’s “the summation of everything he’d done in his career and it hurts. Deceptively simple, FULL ALERT grows more and more complex the more and more you rewatch it.” He’s not wrong, as the film’s grey-shaded characters and storyline only resonate further as we move deeper into the cynical 21st century. Also: Lau Ching-Wan vs. Francis Ng. Ranked #30 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s, and it probably should have ranked a lot higher.
103. NAKED KILLER (1993), directed by Clarence Fok - 29.5 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
Category III filmmaking — one of Hong Kong’s most notorious specialties — hasn’t received much love on this list thus far but at least NAKED KILLER wasn’t ignored. Smart, subversive exploitation that slices up all later attempts to cash in on its cult fame. The poster art may be as infamous as the movie itself. Ranked #68 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
102. PTU (2003), directed by Johnnie To - 30.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Johnnie To’s PTU took forever to finish, but the wait was worth it. This atmospheric and ironic journey into the Hong Kong night is thrilling, suspenseful and funny in all the right places. Milkyway Image mascot Lam Suet received acting nominations for his role in the film. Ranked #14 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS.
101. GREEN SNAKE (1993), directed by Tsui Hark - 31 points - LoveHKFilm Review
It’s ridiculous and hilariously baroque, but Tsui Hark’s lurid take on the story of the immortal White and Green Snake is cinema to be savored. Joey Wong owns as the White Snake but Maggie Cheung is even better as the innocently devilish Green. Did you see the 2011 remake with Jet Li and Charlene Choi? If so, sorry. Ranked #36 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
100. WHEELS ON MEALS (1984), directed by Sammo Hung - 32.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Pure fun from the Three Brothers of eighties Hong Kong Cinema. Sammo Hung directs but lets Yuen Biao and especially Jackie Chan shine, especially during his legendary fight with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez. Lola Forner, the food truck, the Spain escapades — whatever. Just know that WHEELS ON MEALS has Jackie vs. The Jet and you’re good to go. Ranked #16 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
99. SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW (1978), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 33 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Says Snowblood, “The “drunken beggar” is now an iconic cultural archetype, and it all started here.” The directorial debut of Yuen Woo-Ping casts Jackie Chan as orphan Chien Fu and Yuen’s father Yuen Siu-Tin as a drunken beggar who teaches Fu the secrets of the “Snake Fist.” Unfortunately, Snake Fist has a big problem with the “Eagle Claw.” A fun appetizer to Jackie Chan’s later, greater achievements.
98. A HERO NEVER DIES (1998), directed by Johnnie To - 33 points - LoveHKFilm Review
So overwrought with its tropes of honor and brotherhood that it surpasses parody and circles back around to full-on brilliance. Martin of A Hero Never Dies calls, uh, A HERO NEVER DIES “a searing deconstruction of the heroic bloodshed genre. Somehow To manages blackly comic and deadly serious at the same time. Also, it features the best character wardrobe in Hong Kong film!” One of the 1998’s big three Milkyway Image films, along with EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED and THE LONGEST NITE. Ranked #35 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
97. THE HEROIC TRIO (1993), directed by Johnnie To and Ching Siu-Tung - 33 points - LoveHKFilm Review
THE HEROIC TRIO features what Tim Chmielewski calls “A killer cast of hot Hong Kong starlets in a movie that manages to be funny, sweet, action-packed and sad at same time.” Those starlets: Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and the late Anita Mui. They basically took the very top echelon of Hong Kong actresses at the time and put them into a single movie, and if anyone attempted to make this movie today we’d probably get a mixture of Charlene Choi, Fiona Sit and Chrissie Chau. My god that would be horrible. Ranked #47 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
96. DRAGONS FOREVER (1988), directed by Sammo Hung - 35 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Phil Gillon calls DRAGONS FOREVER “A pure entertainment extravaganza,” and that’s probably an understatement. Also known by the alternative title YUEN BIAO STEALS JACKIE CHAN’S MOVIE. Says Jeff Goodhartz, “If the Three Brothers are The Beatles, then DRAGONS FOREVER is their Abbey Road.” Sounds about right. Ranked #20 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s and #1 on our list of MOST UNDERRATED YUEN BIAO PERFORMANCES EVER.
95. TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1 (1997), directed by Wai Ka-Fai - 35 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Milkyway Image masterpiece from Wai Ka-Fai that takes the triad genre, turns it upside down (in one scene, literally) and shakes it vigorously. More daring and stylized than any Johnnie To film and actually a whole lot better than most of them. The cast - Lau Ching-Wan, Francis Ng, Carman Lee, Elvis Tsui with a wig - is a super hoot too. Ranked #38 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s, which sucks because it should have ranked higher.
94. THE WILD, WILD ROSE (1960), directed by Wong Tin-Lam - 35.5 points - HKMDB Page
Grace Chang delivers an eye-opening performance as a lusty nightclub singer climbing the social ladder in seedy Wanchai. Borrowing story and song elements from Georges Bizet’s CARMEN, this Wong Tin-Lam directed musical has flair and polish to rival Hollywood, and a superstar leading lady that any film industry would have a tough time matching! A key film from the celebrated Cathay Film Studios.
93. LOVE ON DELIVERY (1994), directed by Lee Lik-Chi - 35.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Grady Hendrix can take this one away: ” LOVE ON DELIVERY is the first Hong Kong movie that blew me away. This s Stephen Chow at his best, with a finale that is so dazzling in its purity (Chow doesn’t win by overcoming the odds, he wins by learning how to cheat, and by being even stupider than he’s been before) that I have yet to see a movie that equals it.” Martin says it simpler: “Gloriously silly, deceptively smart and most importantly absolutely hilarious. Not necessarily Chow’s “best” film but his funniest for sure.” Ranked #41 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
92. HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY FATHER! (1993), directed by Peter Chan and Lee Chi-Ngai - 35.5 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
The UFO guys do BACK TO THE FUTURE one better with this heartwarming nostalgia piece featuring the two Tonys plus Carina Lau and Anita Yuen. Like Marty McFly, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai goes back in time and meets his parents. Unlike Marty McFly, he doesn’t change the past or the future. Instead, he changes himself. Ranked #63 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
91. ALL ABOUT AH LONG (1989), directed by Johnnie To - 36.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Popular melodrama featuring the classic pairing of Chow Yun-Fat and Sylvia Chang. Chow’s terrible hair is a major standout — though obviously much less than the acting, storyline and heart-wrenching pathos. Directed by Johnnie To before he could cinematically articulate irony. Ranked #26 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
90. BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS (2009), directed by Teddy Chen - 36.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
This Teddy Chen (um, also Andrew Lau) award-winner about a fictional attempt on the life of Sun Yat-Sen did not place in our TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS reader vote, and that’s because it came out in December 2009 and we also ran our poll in December 2009. Had we waited until people worldwide had seen BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS, we probably would have seen this historical action drama rank very high because of its stirring story, powerful acting, explosive action and, of course, DONNNIIEIEEEE. We still feel sorry for that horse.
89. THE LOVE ETERNE (1963), directed by Li Han-Hsiang - 36.5 points, 1 first place vote - HKMDB Page
Super-popular and much-awarded Shaw Brothers production based on the classic story “The Butterfly Lovers.” Li Han-Hsiang directs this classic Huangmei Opera about Chu Ying Tai (Betty Loh Ti), who dresses as a boy to attend college and falls in love with Liang Shan Po (Ivy Ling Po). One of a zillion adaptions of “The Butterfly Lovers,” but very likely the most beloved.
88. THE MILLIONAIRES’ EXPRESS (1987), directed by Sammo Hung - 37.5 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
As both a star and a director, Sammo Hung owned the eighties, and incredibly entertaining movies like THE MILLIONAIRES’ EXPRESS are the reason why. According to Steve Gane, the movie has “an astonishing cast, astonishing stunts, non-stop action and the best double (Quintuple?) take in cinematic history by Richard Ng.” Seriously, watch the movie and take a shot every time someone you recognize appears. You won’t last an hour. Ranked #38 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
87. THE BIG BOSS (1971), directed by Lo Wei - 38.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Bruce Lee’s first martial arts film made in Hong Kong has an unoriginal plot, but the Little Dragon’s power and screen charisma shone so brightly that history (and lots of money) was made. The highest grossing film in Hong Kong Cinema history until FIST OF FURY came along a year later. THE BIG BOSS is also known by the U.S. title FISTS OF FURY, thereby confusing people who have a problem with plurals.
86. FROM BEIJING WITH LOVE (1994), directed by Stephen Chow and Lee Lik-Chi - 41 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Side-splitting parody of James Bond films starring Stephen Chow as a totally useless spy who nevertheless is a god at throwing knives. In true Stephen Chow style, that one single skill allows Ling Ling Chat (Chow) to save the day, get the girl (a fabulous Anita Yuen) and still annoy the crap out of everyone around him. Complete non-surprise: this won’t be the last Stephen Chow movie to appear on this list. Ranked #25 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
85. LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE (2011), directed by Johnnie To - 41.5 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
Like PTU, Johnnie To’s LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE was ages in the making but unlike PTU, this urban thriller has loftier goals. A razor sharp look at Hong Kong and its obsession with money, LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE is Johnnie To as socially relevant satirist - though the movie still has triads and cops. Lau Ching-Wan won his first Golden Horse Award for Best Actor as a loyal but inept triad caught in the midst of a financial meltdown.
84. CENTRE STAGE (1992), directed by Stanley Kwan - 42 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Also known as THE ACTRESS, this Stanley Kwan docudrama put star Maggie Cheung on the road to multiple award-winning actress. Cheung won her second Best Actress Hong Kong Film Award for her flawless performance as silent film actress Ruan Ling-Yu. Ranked #43 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
83. THE WAY OF THE DRAGON (1972), directed by Bruce Lee - 43 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Also known as RETURN OF THE DRAGON, this Bruce Lee-directed effort is a personal fave of many. Ben Soh calls THE WAY OF THE DRAGON the “most entertaining of Bruce Lee’s films, with rare humor and solid action scenes. The presence of the ravishing Nora Miao is a big plus.” Snowblood says “the comedy and cross-cultural confusion lift this above all other Bruce Lee films.” For almost everyone else, THE WAY OF THE DRAGON can be boiled down to this: Bruce Lee versus Chuck Norris. That is all.
82. SPL (2005), directed by Wilson Yip - 43 points - LoveHKFilm Review
When SPL was released back in 2005, it was like a lifeline to a certain segment of the Hong Kong Cinema fan base. Just ask Ray, who says, “Just when I’d given up hope, SPL came along. So I forgive it all its flaws because it delights me.” That pretty much explains the devotion to Wilson Yip’s dark crime actioner, which features Donnie “I throw away my leather jackets like nothing” Yen versus Wu “killing is my pleasure and privilege” Jing in a five-minute alleyway fight sequence for the ages. The 90-plus minutes surrounding that fight are pretty good too. Ranked at an astounding #11 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS.
81. PRISON ON FIRE (1987), directed by Ringo Lam - 43.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Genre-defining prison film from Ringo Lam casts Chow Yun-Fat in one of his most warm, charming and charismatic performances — and then the whole thing turns and Chow turns into a violent ragebeast and IT IS SCARY. Made back when Ringo Lam was possibly Hong Kong’s most consistent and powerful filmmaker. Sorry, PRISON ON FIRE II fans, it’s not showing up anywhere on this list. Ranked a deservedly-high #15 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
We’re past the 100 film barrier on this thing! Now we’ll slow it down slightly and reduce the films per entry to not-much-more-manageable 20 per post. Numbers 61-80 are up next time. It’s about time for THE PROMISE to show up.
NOTE: Article edited 1/8/2013 to reflect availability of THE ARCH, which can be purchased directly from the website of Les Blank, the film’s editor.