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The Best Hong Kong Films Ever - Numbers 5-3…and 213

Hey, you’re still here! That’s amazing, because even we’re tired of how long we’re dragging this thing out. This is Day 11 of THE BEST 200 HONG KONG FILMS EVER and we’re here for numbers 5 through 3. Yep, only three films get revealed this time with numbers 1 and 2 left for another day. Sorry to split it up but you’ll see why later. We hope.

Anyway, the Top Ten is shaping up to be a John Woo vs. Wong Kar-Wai showdown, with each auteur possessing two aces left to show in this final five. But the fifth film is one they should be watching out for. You know what it is.


“Everybody freeze! Nobody leaves this room
until my movie gets another award!”

We do apologize that the films making up this TOP 200 list are so predictable. All told, roughly three-quarters of this list came from the eighties, nineties and aughts, and only a few movies from those decades were not featured on one of our previous lists. Wish we could have provided a better service with this vote and come up with a more comprehensive (read: with older movies) list. It’s just a lost opportunity, like the stuff that happens in life or Wong Kar-Wai movies.

Enough talk. Use the links below if you have to catch up.

Previous Updates:
Numbers 200-171
Numbers 170-141
Numbers 140-111

Numbers 110-81

Numbers 80-61

Numbers 60-41

Numbers 40-21

Numbers 20-16

Numbers 15-11
Numbers 10-6

Jump for #5 on our list of the BEST HONG KONG FILMS EVER. And it is…

5. THE KILLER (1989), directed by John Woo - 397 points, 10 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

The Killer

Chock-full of bullets, blood and bromance, THE KILLER may be the ultimate John Woo + Chow Yun-Fat teaming. Martin says that THE KILLER was “The beginning of my man crush on Chow Yun-Fat (Come on guys, you know you had one too). Woo’s movie introduced many to the joys of Hong Kong Cinema and 20-odd years later it remains one of the purest genre films ever made. Breathtaking in its action and sincerity.” Also breathtaking is the near-romance that develops between Inspector Lee (Danny “The Man Who Plays Cops™” Lee) and hitman John (Chow Yun-Fat), a.k.a. Jeff if you’re watching an early Circle Films release. The two men are on opposite sides of the law but develop a mutual respect and admiration that’s so enormous that it becomes kind of creepy. If THE KILLER achieved mainstream popularity in today’s Internet meme-addicted culture, you’d see endless gifs about men who are so hot and heavy for each other that they’d bleed and kill just for one sweaty look. Credit John Woo and his stars for taking such a romantic, over-the-top dynamic and making it compelling, cinematic and absolutely convincing. The outrageous bullet ballet helps too. Co-starring Sally Yeh as the beard, THE KILLER ranked #2 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s, behind another popular John Woo movie to be named later.

4. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000), directed by Wong Kar-Wai - 475 points, 7 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar-Wai finally shows up on the Top 10! IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE is perhaps Wong’s most internationally-revered masterpiece, a movie deemed so superior in theme, technique and execution that it won awards all over the world and took the #1 spot on Time Out HK’s list of the Greatest 100 Hong Kong Films. On our TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS, it could only muster a #2 spot behind another film with the same actor but much more genre-friendly elements. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE is about a cuckolded man and a cuckolded woman who consider an affair — but the story here isn’t what the characters do but how they they pretty much don’t do anything, leading to frustration, stagnation, missed opportunities and beautiful, beautiful regret. Wong Kar-Wai brings some of his previous themes back, but loses the self-indulgence and self-absorbed characters, replacing them with two very identifiable people played exquisitely by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Maggie Cheung. This is a movie for film lovers, where every choice made with the camera, the music, the mise-en-scene and the acting is deliberate and exacting. Really, you can watch this film over and over and gleam new nuances each time because so much thought was put into every detail and every frame, and it’s all up there on the screen for an audience to take in. Arguably many Hong Kong films could ever be called timeless, but IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE absolutely is.

3. A BETTER TOMORROW (1986), directed by John Woo - 489.5 points, 10 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review

A Better Tomorrow

Martin calls A BETTER TOMORROW “Massively influential, and full of iconic moments and performances. Really what else is there to say about John Woo’s movie?” Nothing at all, since this movie is legendary and popular with both Hong Kongers and international fans alike. Many films talk about honor, brotherhood and loyalty in the criminal underworld but few do it with such meaty, bombastic and utterly convincing conviction as A BETTER TOMORROW. Still, this #3 finish is a little bittersweet, because A BETTER TOMORROW ranked #1 on our list of the TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s — plus if you polled only Hong Kong locals it’s possible this film would destroy its competition. Should A BETTER TOMORROW have ranked higher than #3? We’ll never know the answer, but talking about the movie gives us another chance to revel in the action, bromance and even more bromance that populates this gripping heroic bloodshed classic. Ti Lung and Leslie Cheung headline but the undisputed star is one Chow Yun-Fat, whose towering performance as Mark Gor is rightfully revered and is easily the defining performance of Chow’s career. A BETTER TOMORROW was inspired by Lung Kong’s STORY OF A DISCHARGED PRISONER, which frankly deserved a spot somewhere on this BEST HONG KONG FILMS EVER list. Unfortunately it ended up just outside the Top 200 but what the hell, here’s a quick mention:

213. STORY OF A DISCHARGED PRISONER (1967), directed by Patrick Lung Kong - 11 points - HKMDB Page

Story of a Discharged Prisoner

Patrick Lung Kong’s black-and-white STORY OF A DISCHARGED PRISONER was the inspiration for John Woo’s A BETTER TOMORROW, except it’s really a different film. There’s no Mark Gor and no crazy heroic bloodshed action. Instead, the film is an action-drama with far more grounded concerns. There’s little glamor in the story of ex-con Lee Cheuk-Hung (Patrick Tse) but instead the harsh reality that society and indeed other criminals (led by iconic screen villain Shek Kin) make it far easier — and perhaps inevitable — for an ex-con to rejoin the criminal fraternity. Distinct female characters and relevant social issues stand out amidst the solid drama, and director Lung’s thematic focus is exceptionally balanced with strong storytelling. There’s no bullet ballet, histrionic bromance or Cantopop montages, but STORY OF A DISCHARGED PRISONER is in its own way as successful and essential as Woo’s better-known and more widely-seen reworking.

That’s it for this entry. Tune in next time for number 2 and number 1 of THE BEST HONG KONG FILMS EVER. You know EXACTLY which films they are. The question is which is the bridesmaid and which is the bride.

3 Responses to “The Best Hong Kong Films Ever - Numbers 5-3…and 213”

  1. Helena Says:

    No real surprises at this end of the countdown so thanks for bigging up no. 213 - I love reading about HK’s older film history even though it’s nigh on impossible to get to see the films themselves.

  2. Case Closed Says:

    Infernal Affairs will triumph over Chungking Express

  3. ColinJ Says:

    It’s hard to overstate the impact THE KILLER had on my life. When I saw that movie the desire to become a filmmaker hit me like a truck. And I’ve never been the same since I first saw that movie.

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