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Top 100 Hong Kong Films of the Eighties

Written by Kozo Tell a Friend

Originally published on LoveHKFilm.com. Reprinted with permission.


This is LoveHKFilm.com's Top 100 Hong Kong Films of the Eighties, as voted upon by actual site readers. Each sent in a list of 10-20 favorites, after which we tallied the votes according to some needlessly complex numerical formula. The cold stats: 135 readers voted, 239 films were nominated and 226 films made the final list. The 13 film differential is due to nominated films that were disqualified, e.g. A Chinese Ghost Story 2, which came out in 1990 and does not count in the vote.

A note: This list has 101 films because two films ended in a dead heat for #100. There are tie-breakers built into the scoring system, with first-place votes and number of total votes helping separate films that receive equal points. However, in the case of #100 and #101, both films have the same amount of points, the same amount of first-place votes (i.e., zero), and the same amount of total votes. Yep, math is hard.

Let's get this thing going!


100 (TIE). ROYAL WARRIORS (1986), directed by David Chung Chi-Man - 14 points

Michelle Yeoh ties for #100 with this classic female fighting flick co-starring Hiroyuki "Henry" Sanada and a baby-faced Michael Wong. Plot: Michelle beats up some bad guys with athletic martial arts prowess and the men either assist or get out of the way. Way better than Silver Hawk. Obviously.


100 (TIE). KILLER CONSTABLE (1980), directed by Kuei Chih-Hung - 14 points

Chen Kuan Tai hunts for stolen gold as the eponymous Killer Constable, a merciless seeker of justice who would rather kill on the battlefield than worry about all that pesky "trial" business. A terrific jiang hu character and plenty of violence make this a Shaw Brothers gem.


98 (TIE). THE INSPECTOR WEARS SKIRTS (1988), directed by Wellson Chin - 14 points

According to Jennifer Ng, "Chinese women CAN be crass, kick butt, do physical comedy and get the guy of her choice." At least, that's what she learned from this fighting females meets Police Academy hybrid that launched an entire series. Site reader Guppieluv says, "It's got Sibelle Hu, Cynthia Rothrock and Kara Hui kicking ass...need I say more?" Not really.


98 (TIE). HOLY FLAME OF THE MARTIAL WORLD (1983), directed by Tony Liu - 14 points

When special effects were still primitive and cheesy, the Shaw Brothers gave us Holy Flame of the Martial World, starring Max Mok as an orphan who must avenge his parents and recover the legendary Holy Flame sword. Also starring Philip Kwok (Mad Dog from Hard Boiled), this fantasy wuxia pushes the SFX-enhanced craziness to eleven and never really lets up. Also, it's only 85 minutes! Surely you can spare that much time for Holy Flame of the Martial World.


97. MAGNIFICENT WARRIORS (1987), directed by David Chung Chi Man - 15 points

Michelle Yeoh apes Indiana Jones in this enjoyable eighties adventure alongside actor-and-someday-acclaimed-director Derek Yee and also Richard "Father of Carl" Ng. "Massively underrated," says site reader Snowblood, and we're inclined to agree.


96. HUMAN LANTERNS (1982), directed by Sun Chung - 15 points

The inestimable Grady Hendrix calls Human Lanterns "the ultimate Shaw Brothers movie from the early eighties when they were desperately trying anything to get kids back into theaters," and cites "great kung fu, lots of gore, lush production values and a deeply twisted story" as the carrot on the end of Shaw Brothers' stick. They had us at "deeply twisted story."


95. CRAZY COMPANIES 2 (1988), directed by Wong Jing -15.5 points

Andy Lau and his workplace buddies return for more office shenanigans in this sequel to, duh, Crazy Companies, also directed by the notorious Wong Jing. Maksim explains the appeal thusly: "Andy Lau was so suave and handsome, and it also has Chingmy Yau and Rosamund Kwan. The story is silly and stupid but I don't care. It's amusing and fun, and the crude jokes and beautiful people make it a favorite."


94. OPIUM AND THE KUNG FU MASTER (1984), directed by Tong Gai -15.5 points

Ti Lung takes on Chen Kuan-Tai in this kickass martial arts actioner cum afterschool special. Ti plays one of the leaders of the Ten Tigers of Kwantung, who struggles with opium addiction before realizing that it's bad and taking on a bunch of Opium-dealing villains. Only one of three films directed by veteran action choreographer Tong Gai.


93. THE ROMANCING STAR (1987), directed by Wong Jing - 16.5 points

"Chasing Girls" wackiness that gets an extra lift from the presence of the world's coolest actor Chow Yun-Fat. Mr. Chow plays a car repairman who heads to Malaysia with his buddies Eric Tsang and Nat "Ah Leck" Chan, where he meets Maggie Cheung. Predictably, Maggie charms Chow, but will their romance be destroyed by insane wackiness from director Wong Jing? A big hit, which explains the ten zillion sequels and ripoffs of the same formula.


92. THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983), directed by Kuei Chih-Hung - 17 points

Hong Kong Cinema has a proud tradition of wild, gruesome horror films and The Boxer's Omen is one of the standard bearers, complete with sickening gore effects, icky bodily fluids and flying body parts. Shot in Hong Kong, Nepal and also Thailand, Hong Kong's Cinema's go-to location for bad black magic. Philip Ko Fei stars and Shaw Brothers' master of exploitation Kuei Chi-Hung directs.


90 (TIE). HER VENGEANCE (1988), directed by Nam Lai-Choi - 17 points

Pauline Wong Siu-Fung is raped and brutalized before swearing bloody vengeance in this disturbing and under-appreciated Category III revenge thriller co-starring Lam Ching-Ying - who thankfully does not play one of the bad guys. Dark, brutal, nasty and very much a Hong Kong movie.


90 (TIE). BASTARD SWORDSMAN (1983), directed by Tony Liu - 17 points

From the director of Holy Flame of Martial World comes this equally wild martial arts fantasy starring Norman Tsui Siu-Keung as an unfortunate warrior striving to learn the "Silkworm Style." Expect lousy special effects, over-the-top wire-fu craziness and pure four-color awesomeness.


89. MARTIAL CLUB (1981), directed by Lau Kar-Leung - 17.5 points

Lau Kar-Leung and Gordon Liu deliver their version of the Wong Fei-Hong legend with Martial Club, which besides showing up on this list recently made the Hong Kong Film Archive's list of 100 Must-See Hong Kong Films. What sells this one? Bad guys that are bad and good guys that are very good, plus action, action, action, from fun training sequences to an inventive alleyway duel. Chris Wolter has his own favorite set piece: "The opening scene lion dance…are you kidding me?" Evidently not. Don't confuse this film with Marital Club, which has absolutely no martial arts.


88. NINJA IN THE DRAGON'S DEN (1982), directed by Corey Yuen - 17.5 points, 1 first place vote

In the 16th century, a rogue ninja (Hiroyuki "Duke" Sanada) heads to China to seek his father's murderer, and comes into conflict with an irascible martial artist (Conan Lee). Co-starring Korean martial artist Hwang Jang-Lee, Ninja in the Dragon's Den has a HK-typical thin story but creative and awesome action. Says Richard about Ninja "It's dumb and it's simply great. You simply gotta love the ingenious main theme and the ridiculously cool main characters." The first directorial effort from Corey Yuen, who would go on to make a bunch of other films on this Top 100 list.


86 (TIE). IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1987), directed by Clifton Ko - 18.5 points

Lydia Shum, Eric Tsang, Bill Tung and Loletta Lee anchor Clifton Ko's hit Lunar New Year comedy, which was so popular with audiences that it launched a slew of sequels with very much the same plot. The working class Pui family (led by Shum and Tung) win the lottery, hjinks and tomfoolery ensue, and the audience enjoys warm fuzzies while munching on dried cuttlefish snacks. Add an extra "MAD" to the title and you get the 1963 Stanley Kramer film, which is obviously inferior because it doesn't have Eric Tsang.


86 (TIE). ANGEL (1987), directed by Teresa Woo -18.5 points

Extreme Hong Kong action lives with Moon Lee, Yukari "The Osh" Oshima and Japanese popstar Hideki Saijo wearing laughable eighties tracksuits and accessories while battling with guns and fists. It's the action climax that makes this one a classic. KL says, "The final showdown between Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima is worth more than the entire film: a girl-on-girl fight with total brutality and insanity. Brief, but after more than twenty years the impact it creates still lingers on."


85. WORKING CLASS (1984), directed by Tsui Hark - 18.5 points

One of Tsui Hark's lesser-known titles, this workplace satire features a rare acting appearance from The Master himself, plus a flower vase role for Joey Wong. Sam Hui and Teddy Robin play lowly employees at an instant noodle factory who must rise up against upper management to strike a blow for the Proletariat, basic values and the common man! Also featuring comedy.


84. WE'RE GOING TO EAT YOU (1980), directed by Tsui Hark - 18.5 points

Early Tsui Hark film bears plenty of The Master's trademark gonzo creativity - black humor, breathless pacing, copious action - all mashed together into a kung-fu horror comedy. About a remote village of cannibals, We're Going to Eat You stars Norman Tsui Siu-Keung as law enforcer Agent 999, who discovers said cannibal village while chasing a master thief named "Rolex." A whole lot better than Missing.


83. THE IMP (1981), directed by Dennis Yu - 19 points

Directed by Dennis Yu, this seminal early eighties horror flick plays it straight - a rarity for Hong Kong horror - and succeeds in chilling fashion. Charlie Chin plays a security guard with a pregnant wife who's starting to act a little loopy. Also, his colleagues begin dying, and it may have something to do shopping mall they're all working at. Says Grady Hendrix: "Dennis Yu could have changed the world, but instead he went into advertising. Still, this strangely surreal ghost story is one long, strange trip."


82. PAINTED FACES (1988), directed by Alex Law - 19 points

A fictionalized but still very based on reality drama about the "Seven Little Fortunes" - Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Corey Yuen Kwai, Yuen Wah, Yuen Tak and Yuen Mo - and their childhood as indentured students at a Peking Opera School. Sammo Hung won a Best Actor Hong Kong Film Award for his portrayal of the school head. Sadly unavailable on DVD.


81. THE VICTIM (1980), directed by Sammo Hung - 21 points

Early Sammo Hung work that's just as good as his later, more heralded stuff. The big fella stars as a young fighter looking to an even better martial artist (played by awesome Leung Ka-Yan) to be his master, before coming into conflict with his would-be master's enemies. The plot is no great shakes, but it's the action that naturally sets this one apart, with Sammo's fight choreography (arranged along with Yuen Biao, Lam Ching-Ying and Billy Chan Wui-Ngai) proving to be some of his most memorable.


80. THE MIRACLE FIGHTERS (1982), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 22 points

Yuen Woo-Ping makes his first appearance on the list with The Miracle Fighters, working with his brothers in the esteemed Yuen Clan on this zany creation filled with magic, martial arts and more than a few bizarre elements. Says Nick Orwin: "I don't think anyone other the Yuen Clan could have conceived of this film, let alone made it. Full of ideas, jokes, wonderful strange performances and surprises." And guys named Yuen.


79. HEROES SHED NO TEARS (1986), directed by John Woo - 22 points

Melodramatic John Woo war actioner shot before A Better Tomorrow but released in the wake of his seminal gangster film's insane box office run. Site reader Stride can handle this one: "Rambo is a pussy compared to Eddy Ko in this film, as Eddy tries to lead a ragtag bunch and family out of Vietnam through the Vietcong led by Lam Ching-Ying. Absolutely brutal film. By the end, it is difficult not to shed a tear or snap out of a catatonic state." Also, if you both shed a tear AND snap out of a catatonic state then you instantly die.


78. THE SEVENTH CURSE (1986), directed by Lam Nai-Choi - 22 points

Site reader ThingsFallApart calls The Seventh Curse "Hong Kong weirdness on a budget," and that's a pretty apt description. A spin-off of the popular Dr. Wisley (or Wesley) novels, Seventh Curse stars Chin Siu-Ho as Wesley's kung-fu-wielding pupil, who heads to Thailand to stop a "blood curse" while battling an evil witch doctor (Tsui Kam-Kong in lipstick) and sparring with an annoying reporter (Maggie Cheung before she was an actress). Why you need to see this: Chow Yun-Fat in a glorified cameo as Dr. Wisely, who smokes a pipe and carries a rocket launcher! He uses it too. The rocket launcher, that is.


77. THE TRUTH (1988), directed by Taylor Wong - 23.5 points

Crowd-pleasing courtroom drama starring Andy Lau and Deannie Ip waaaay before they won over international audiences with Ann Hui's A Simple Life. Andy plays a lawyer assigned to protect his long-lost mom (Deannie Ip), who's accused of killing a cop. Not exactly a realistic trial movie, The Truth nevertheless won over Hong Kong audiences with its strong melodrama and courtroom theatrics. Reader b3n1 describes the film as a "Tear-jerking movie that made the whole audience in the cinema cry." Followed by a sequel called The Truth - Final Chapter.


75 (TIE). MAN ON THE BRINK (1981), directed by Alex Cheung - 26 points

Another film that ended up on the Hong Kong Film Archive's list of 100 Must-See Hong Kong Films, Man on the Brink is a key film of the Hong Kong New Wave and one long-overlooked by genre fans worldwide. Says Tim Youngs, "Star Eddie Chan is exceptional as the tormented protagonist in Alex Cheung's bleak undercover-cop flick. A superb follow-up to Cheung's earlier Cops and Robbers and a clearly influential entry in its genre, yet out of print on home video for far too long." I know someone who owns the VCD. By the way, if it weren't for Man on the Brink you would not have undercover cop films like Infernal Affairs, Hard Boiled, On the Edge, or Love Undercover. Well, maybe not that last one.


75 (TIE). KIDS FROM SHAOLIN (1984), directed by Cheung Yam-Yin - 26 points

Martial arts comedy starring Jet Li as a Shaolin pupil who lives with a bunch of other Shaolin boys on one side of the river. On the other side: Wu Tang girls, leading to a rivalry and then some numerically-matched Wu Tang girl-to-Shaolin guy romance. Comedy, musical numbers, playful sparring and Jet Li in drag(!) highlight this eighties family entertainment.


74. THE LUNATICS (1986), directed by Derek Yee - 26 points

Stanley Fung and Deannie Ip turn in superlative performances in this unexpected drama about Hong Kong's mentally ill and the sacrifices made by those who dedicate their lives to helping them. Featuring supporting performances from Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Chow Yun-Fat and also Paul Chun, who won a Best Supporting Actor Hong Kong Film Award as a dangerously unstable but hopefully rehabiliated patient. Derek Yee's directorial debut melds acute social drama with the kind of heightened emotions and unexpected darkness that Hong Kong Cinema is known for.


72 (TIE). TWINKLE TWINKLE LUCKY STARS (1986), directed by Sammo Hung - 27 points

Countless cameos, some terrific fighting, the occasional stunt and three thousand metric tons of super-wacky hijinks highlight this third in the Lucky Stars series. The whole gang is back for more, except Miu Kiu-Wai gets dropped in as a Lucky Star, plus John Sham, Rosamund Kwan and Andy Lau join the mix. Plot: something happens so the Lucky Stars go someplace and sometimes there's fighting. Plus comedy and Richard Ng. Monkeys could write a better movie, but does it really matter? Not one bit! The Lucky Stars movies ARE eighties Hong Kong Cinema.


72 (TIE). HEART OF DRAGON (1985), directed by Sammo Hung - 27 points

Action meets drama meets Hong Kong hijinks in this true multi-genre effort from Sammo Hung. Jackie Chan plays a cop who must take care of his mentally challenged brother (Sammo, in an award-nominated performance) while also busting the bad guys. Site reader Richard calls Heart of Dragon "A movie you could only expect to come from HK. It makes no sense at all, but who cares? This is one powerful movie you won't forget for neither of its two elements."


71. LOVE MASSACRE (1981), directed by Patrick Tam Ka-Ming - 27.5 points

New Wave maestro Patrick Tam directed this romantic and increasingly violent thriller about a woman (Brigitte Lin) who's found far from the perfect man. Film fest consultant Tim Youngs sums up Love Massacre thusly: "Stunning compositions, precise art direction and a great central performance by Brigitte Lin make this one a winner. Patrick Tam escalates tension at a steady, deliberate pace, and the bloody, color-coded climax is one of Hong Kong cinema's most striking finales." There's also a head and a door but you'll have to see the movie to get the reference.


70. LOVE IN A FALLEN CITY (1984), directed by Ann Hui - 28 points, 1 first place vote

Ann Hui takes on the work of Eileen Chang in Love in a Fallen City, a romantic drama naturally taking place in Shanghai and also Hong Kong. Cora Miao is a divorcee who's matched with a Hong Kong playboy (Chow Yun-Fat), the ebb and flow of their romance playing out against the greater backdrop of turbulent 1940's Hong Kong. Ann Hui would return to Eileen Chang's works with the 1997 film Eighteen Springs.


69. THE SWORD (1980), directed by Patrick Tam Ka-Ming - 28.5 points

The swordplay genre meets the Hong Kong New Wave with Patrick Tam's The Sword, starring Adam Cheng as a glory-seeking swordsman looking to become the best by beating the best. His journey brings him in contact with a cursed sword, an old flame and a number of rivals also seeking jiang hu supremacy. Long underrated, The Sword is now a rarity: an excellent genre film that's also a sterling example of thoughtful and accomplished filmmaking.


68. DRAGON LORD (1982), directed by Jackie Chan - 28.5 points

Jackie Chan's last period film before he made all those Project A, Police Story, and Armour of God films, Dragon Lord is pure early Chan, a mishmash of action, stunts and meandering story punctuated by occasional hit or miss jokes. As usual, the key here is Jackie Chan's creative choreography plus a bone-crunching finale where he takes on Korean hapkido guru Whang In-Sik. Jackie would not make another period film until a movie called Drunken Master II, but this one would tide audiences over for quite a while.


67. A FISHY STORY (1989), directed by Anthony Chan Yau - 31 points

Set against Hong Kong's social unrest of the sixties, A Fishy Story is a romantic comedy/drama that remains eminently watchable today for one major reason: Maggie Cheung. Hong Kong's most decorated actress won her first Best Actress award as an aspiring starlet who arrives in the Fragrant Harbor with dreams of becoming a star, while striking up a friendship with a wannabe cabbie (Kenny Bee) who lives in the same apartment building. Directed by Kenny Bee's Wynners bandmate Anthony Chan Yau.


66. YES, MADAM! (1985), directed by Corey Yuen - 34 points

Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock join an eighties girl group and get into shenanigans with the triads! Actually, the two play police inspectors but given their trashy eighties hairdos and outfits, one could easily mistake them for a cross-cultural version of the Go-Go's. Bad hair or not, Yes, Madam! is one super-charged dose of glass-breaking female fighting action thanks to Corey Yuen's fast and powerful choreography. The supporting cast of Dick Wei, Mang Hoi, Tsui Hark, John Sham, Sammo Hung, Billy Lau, Wu Ma, David Chiang, Richard Ng, Chung Fat and James Tien make this a who's who of familiar Hong Kong Cinema faces.


65. RIGHTING WRONGS (1986), directed by Corey Yuen - 36 points

It's Corey Yuen again, but instead of going for fun glass-breaking action like YES, MADAM he heads to darker places with Righting Wrongs (a.k.a. Above the Law). Yuen Biao stars as a righteous barrister who turns vigilante when his star witness and entire family get killed. Then it's one violent set piece after the next as Yuen teams with Cynthia Rothrock to exact justice - no matter the cost. Yuen Biao: has there ever been a more underrated martial arts actor?


64. LEGEND OF A FIGHTER (1982), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 36 points, 1 first place vote

Yuen Woo-Ping directs this beloved martial arts pic about Huo Yuanjia a.k.a. Fok Yuen-Gap a.ka. that guy that Jet Li played in Fearless. The plot is the same: Chen Zhen's master Huo Yuanjia (played by Leung Ka-Yan) rises to become one of the great nationalists before succumbing to the treachery of the imperialist Japanese. Snowblood calls Legend of a Fighter "The only kung-fu film to make me cry. Killer ending." Hint: it's the same ending as Fearless.


63. THE ICEMAN COMETH (1989), directed by Clarence Fok - 39.5 points

Before you sample Donnie Yen's 21st century take, you should definitely see The Iceman Cometh, starring Yuen Biao as a Ming Dynasty warrior who travels through time to battle his former friend and sworn enemy Yuen Wah. Also starring Maggie Cheung as the love interest, Iceman Cometh is a fine mix of action, comedy and even romance. Glenn Griffith calls it "A perfect introduction to why HK films are so much fun. Everything I like about HK cinema in one fun package." Hey, about that Yuen Biao: has there ever been a more underrated martial arts actor?


62. PEOPLE'S HERO (1987), directed by Derek Yee - 42 points

About an ex-con (Ti Lung) caught in a bank robbery perpetrated by some inept kids (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Wong Ban), this early Derek Yee crime drama holds up pretty well twenty-plus years later. Yee nails the intensity, ratcheting it up until the climax, which site reader "2046″ proclaims is "like a kick to the crotch." Grady Hendrix calls People's Hero "Ti Lung's finest hour, Derek Yee's best early film, and one of the first filmic eruptions of little Tony Leung. It's a remake of Dog Day Afternoon but, frankly, it's better."


61. THE BIG HEAT (1988), directed by Johnnie To and Andrew Kam - 42 points

This early Johnnie To foray into the crime genre is better known for insane over-the-top violence than cool irony, pronounced brotherhood or Buddhist leanings. Directing alongside Andrew Kam, To delivers this seemingly routine cop thriller about a nerve-damaged cop (Waise Lee) who goes after the bad guys leading to a shocking abundance of blood flowing, heads rolling, cars zooming through the air and Joey Wong looking pretty. Wong is pretty much a flower vase, but if you watch The Big Heat, you're not here for deep acting or characters. You're here for the creative, excessive and absolutely admirable bloodshed and mayhem. It's not Milkyway Image but that doesn't matter, right?


60. FINAL VICTORY (1987), directed by Patrick Tam Ka-Ming - 42.5 points, 1 first place vote

Film geeks have three very big reasons to see Final Victory: Patrick Tam, who helmed some film called After This Our Exile, directs; Wong Kar-Wai, who made a bunch of films nobody cares about, wrote the screenplay; and Tsui Hark, who directs and produces some movies with a guy named Jet, plays the film's heavy. Beyond that, you have Eric Tsang and Loletta Lee as the mismatched pair who find love while navigating Hong Kong's underworld. Tim Youngs calls Final Victory "A wild, ever-so-eighties concoction of intense performances, oddball comedy, nimble camerawork, off-kilter editing and so much more. Watch once to try to take in the story, then repeat to savor Tam's filmmaking excesses and successes."


59. LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA (1982), directed by Lau Kar-Leung - 43.5 points

The Martial Club trio of Lau Kar-Leung, Gordon Liu and Kara Hui make a reappearance on this list aided by Hsiao Ho, Lau Kar-Wing and other martial arts luminaries in the Shaw Brothers production Legendary Weapons of China. An evil cult seeks to expel all foreigners from China, but must deal with former member Lei Gung, who trains using the legendary weapons of China to strike back at his former comrades. Lau Kar-Leung does double duty as director and protagonist Lei Gung, while Gordon Liu plays a baddie. The action is good. When doesn't a Lau Kar-Leung movie have good action?


58. MY HEART IS THAT ETERNAL ROSE (1989), directed by Patrick Tam Ka-Ming - 45 points

Final Victory's Patrick Tam adds another feather to his versatile filmmaking cap with My Heart is that Eternal Rose, a gangland action-romance-thriller with a super supporting turn from Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. Little Tony is the low-level triad who pines for gangster moll Joey Wong, and he ably steals the show from the film's true star Kenny Bee, as a weary hitman. Chan Wai-Man, Gordon Liu and a nasty Ng Man Tat also figure in, and who can forget Christopher Doyle's cinematography? Still, this movie belongs to Tony.


56 (TIE). MARTIAL ARTS OF SHAOLIN (1986), directed by Lau Kar-Leung - 45.5 points

Jet Li and many of his co-stars from The Shaolin Temple and Kids from Shaolin team for the third entry in Jet's Shaolin series, only this time Hong Kong action maestro Lau Kar-Leung is at the helm as director. Martial Arts of Shaolin features dynamite action choreography and a tried-and-true vengeance storyline, with Jet Li playing a Shaolin-raised orphan seeking his parents' killer. Plenty of action, a variety of fighting styles and a fine mix of drama, comedy and ass-kicking make this a winner.


56 (TIE). A BETTER TOMORROW III (1989), directed by Tsui Hark - 45.5 points

Tsui Hark's Better Tomorrow prequel brings back only Chow Yun-Fat while adding Anita Mui and Tony Leung Ka-Fai, and it's obviously much less popular than the John Woo movies (Proof: neither of those films has appeared on this Top 100 yet). Still, Better Tomorrow III has its own unique power. Site reader KL says, "This Tsui Hark-directed effort has action scenes that look like kid toys compared to John Woo's elegant gun-fu, but the sight of Anita Mui doing her thing in sexy diva mode put me in such a trance that I almost wished I could be either Chow Yun-Fat or Tony Leung Ka-Fai standing next to her. A Better Tomorrow III is all about bittersweet reminiscence. It also boasts one of the most beautiful and poignant endings I've ever seen."


55. THE HAPPY GHOST (1984), directed by Clifton Ko - 46 points

It all started here. The Happy Ghost kicked off a five-film series lasting into the nineties before returning in the 21st century as Eight Girls and a Ghost (with Edison "Photobug" Chen) and finally Magic to Win, which doesn't have ghosts but what the hell - you expect this all to make sense? The set-up: a Manchu-era ghost (Raymond Wong) shows up to haunt a young girl (Bonnie Law), but instead of cursing her to die, the ghost hangs around for wacky hijinks and spectral shenanigans! Happy Ghost is obviously a product of its day, but its family fun-filled legacy has had undeniable impact. Young stars (Loletta Lee, Fennie Yuen), new directors (Johnnie To!!!), etc. - many cut their teeth on the Happy Ghost series, and for that we should be grateful. Really.


54. SECURITY UNLIMITED (1981), directed by Michael Hui - 49 points, 1 first place vote

The seventies belonged to Michael Hui, but the master comedian-director-actor made some pretty good movies in the eighties too. Case in point: Security Unlimited, the last Michael Hui-directed film starring all three Hui Brothers (Michael, Sam and the late Ricky). The three Huis play security officers in a private company who get into all sorts of misadventures. Like other Michael Hui films, Security Unlimited is funny but also satirical and smart, with keen observations about Hong Kong, Hong Kongers and just people in general mixed among the hee-haws.


52 (TIE). MISMATCHED COUPLES (1985), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 49.5 points

To know Mismatched Couples is to love it. Prolific and popular Yuen Woo-Ping directed this hilarious eighties relic starring a super-young Donnie Yen way before he became DONNNNIEEEE. The Yen Master is Eddie, a young dude who loves to breakdance and screw around, while Yuen Woo-Ping shows up as a street hawker and secret kung-fu master who befriends Eddie. The two romance May Lo and Wong Wan-Si while Dick Wei fumes in the background about how Eddie won't fight him. Dick also bites his biceps and prances around in skin-tight exercise outfits, which could be the most awesome and frightening image ever. Donnie's pink polo shirt says it all: the eighties ruled.


52 (TIE). THE DIARY OF A BIG MAN (1988), directed by Chor Yuen - 49.5 points

Chow Yun-Fat is at his hilarious best in this Chor Yuen-directed screwball classic that makes bigamy into a fun and lovable pastime. Chow plays Chow Ting-Fat, a stockbroker who's so in love with Joey Wong and Sally Yeh that he marries them both and enters into a sitcom situation supreme. Fast, frantic and full of hilarious moments, like the super-famous musical number "Very Nice!", sung by the maraca-shaking, saxophone-playing Chow himself. Too bad they don't make them like this anymore.


51. MY LUCKY STARS (1985), directed by Sammo Hung - 51 points

What makes My Lucky Stars worthy of a spot on this list? Site reader Jake cites: "Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Lam Ching-Ying, Richard Ng, a young Eric Tsang and gratuitous innuendo about young Eric Tsang's small penis." Yeah, that about sums that up, though you should also throw in Charlie Chin, Stanley Fung and Sibelle Hu as butt-kicking cop Miss Woo. Eric Tsang replaces John Sham from Winners and Sinners but who cares about continuity? As Jennifer Ng says, "All star cast, long cameos from Jackie and Sammo, good fight scenes - it's like an action version of Chasing Girls but actually good." She seems to get it.


49 (TIE). SHAOLIN TEMPLE (1982), directed by Cheung Yam-Yin - 51.5 points

A standard martial arts movie lifted by authentic wushu athletes, Shaolin Temple tells the story of a young man who takes refuge in the Shaolin temple, where he trains to exact revenge on the evil bastards who killed his father. This umpteenth Shaolin-themed martial arts drama might have been forgotten if not for the sparkling debut performance of some martial arts acting kid named Jack Lee or Jim Li. One look at the fellow and you could tell that one day he would be killed in a Hollywood sequel by a couple of old guys named Mel and Danny. Phil Gillion says that Shaolin Temple is "Still easily one of the best Jet Li movies." Oh yeah, his name was Jet. He was awesome in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.


49 (TIE). DREADNAUGHT (1981), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 51.5 points

Yuen Woo-Ping and his brothers in the Yuen Clan deliver one of the essential kung-fu comedies of the early eighties with Dreadnaught, featuring a nifty one-two punch of a young Yuen Biao (Say, do you think there's ever been a more underrated martial arts actor than Yuen Biao?) and elder statesman Kwan Tak-Hing, essaying his signature role of Wong Fei-Hong one final time. Adam Laidig calls Dreadnaught "The last great kung-fu flick from Golden Harvest Studios when they were still using the old school playbook and the the most even-keeled of Yuen Biao's few headlining performances." Also, it has lion dancing.


48. RETURN TO THE 36TH CHAMBER (1980), directed by Lau Kar-Leung - 53.5 points

Gordon Liu returns to the 36th Chamber in, uh, Return to the 36th Chamber, the sequel to the super-popular 1978 Shaw Brothers classic 36th Chamber of Shaolin. But Return is no 36th Chamber Redux, as director Lau Kar-Leung uses the sequel to pay tribute to the original film while sending it up at the same time. Changes or not, Return kicks ass because that's what Lau Kar-Leung movies do. Site reader Nick Orwin says, "It may be sacrilege to prefer this to the original, but Return to the 36th Chamber was my first real kung-fu film. I prefer it in every regard." We're sure that he's not alone.


47. AH YING (1983), directed by Allen Fong - 55.5 points, 1 first place vote

Few Hong Kong films are as acclaimed as Allen Fong's Ah Ying, an authentic and low-key look at Hong Kong people as they undergo real, lived-in change and not the sudden emotional upheaval of manufactured melodrama. Says Tim Youngs, "What makes Allen Fong's gentle docudrama truly shine, beyond absorbing scenes of community, family and the film scene, is the charming performance by its newcomer star." Based in part on the real experiences of lead Hui So-Ying who, by the way, still works in Hong Kong film. She has a supporting role in Ann Hui's A Simpe Life.


46. ACES GO PLACES (1982), directed by Eric Tsang - 56 points, 1 first place vote

The "Best Partners" live in Ace Go Places, the seminal Lunar New Year laffer that launched an entire franchise. Cat burglar King Kong (Sam Hui) and cop Baldy (Karl Maka) are the odd couple partners who fight crime, spar over minor issues and assuage the temper of female cop "Hot Tongue" (Sylvia Chang, at her most fetching and feisty). There's little here to take seriously, but Sam Hui and Karl Maka are an ace comic duo and the stunts and set pieces still entertain years later. The theme song is infectiously hummable too.


45. IN THE LINE OF DUTY 4 (1989), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 57.5 points

It's Yuen Woo-Ping again and he's got that Donnie guy with him. In the Line of Duty 4 is yet another cop action movie, but what a cop action movie it is! Cynthia Khan and Donnie Yen provide the brawling and kung-fu kicking, which is as brutal and hard-hitting as anything that came out at the time. Site reader Sean calls this "very much a product of the eighties and that's what makes the movie so awesome. There is literally an action scene almost every 5 minutes, and they are all impeccably choreographed as well." Another reason this movie is awesome: it's got Michael Wong. 'nuff said.


44. WILD SEARCH (1989), directed by Ringo Lam - 58.5 points

Less heralded than other Ringo Lam films, perhaps because it has less tension, violence and overacting. Scratch that: Wild Search has Roy Cheung, which is an overacting guarantee. Cheung plays the baddie in this remake of Peter Weir's Witness, with Chow Yun-Fat as an urban cop who follows a young girl to the countryside after she witnesses a murder. Site reader "2046″ calls Wild Search "Massively underrated with Chow Yun-Fat's best, most subtle acting." It might also be Chow's frequent screen partner - the luminous Cherie Chung - who brings out his best.


43. HONG KONG 1941 (1984), directed by Leung Po-Chi - 61.5 points

Les Wong calls Hong Kong 1941 "a serious drama with none of the usual HK crap thrown in," and that's exactly what it is plus a whole lot more. Fay (Chow Yun-Fat again!) betrays his best friend Keung (Alex Man) and Keung's fiancee Nam (Cecilia Yip) by working for the Japanese in 1941 Hong Kong - and there's a chance Nam may dump Keung for Fay, which would make Fay an epic betrayer without peer. Not to worry, Fay is actually a super-awesome, totally-righteous character who charms the audience, and it's all thanks to Chow Yun-Fat's insanely charismatic performance that it becomes possible. Chow won a Best Actor Award at the Golden Horse Awards for Hong Kong 1941, pre-dating his Better Tomorrow acting wins by 2 years.


42. NOMAD (1982), directed by Patrick Tam Ka-Ming - 62 points, 1 first place vote

Patrick Tam made seven films in the eighties and five of them are on this list. Nomad is his third film, a lost youth melodrama about four youngsters (Leslie Cheung, Cecilia Yip, Pat Ha and Ken Tong) who while away listless days dreaming of life elsewhere, anywhere but Hong Kong. Unfortunately, reality - in the form of the Japanese Red Army(!) - comes crashing in upon them. Nomad explores aimless and free-spirited youth without delivering the all-encompassing self-important message that modern filmmakers are wont to do, and Tam's atmospheric direction gives his young and very talented cast (like that Leslie Cheung guy) space and air to breathe. Hard to see in its proper director's cut - if you have (like at a film festival) count yourself lucky.


41. WINNERS AND SINNERS (1983), directed by Sammo Hung - 63 points

Site reader Snowblood calls Winners and Sinners "the epitome of eighties comedy" and that sounds about right. The first in the long-running Lucky Stars series of populist laffers, Winners and Sinners has action, stunts and stars, from Sammo Hung to Stanley Fung to Charlie Chin, John Sham, Cherie Chung and also Jackie Chan. But forget all those people: let's talk about Richard Ng, who may have scarred untold millions with the drawn-out gag where he "hypnotizes" his friends into thinking he's invisible, then runs around naked in front of them to test his awesome mentalist skills. Obviously he's a crappy hypnotist, but whatever, the scene is comedy gold. Not much of an actual film, Winners and Sinners still has charm, laughs and unpretentious, unabashed good times. One should not overlook good times.


40. TIGER ON THE BEAT (1988), directed by Lau Kar-Leung - 63.5 points

Lau Kar-Leung directs one of his few modern pieces, and the Shaw Brothers martial arts maestro delivers cop action gunplay with an extra choreographed kick. Chow Yun-Fat and Conan Lee team up as mismatched cops in this Lethal Weapon-like action comedy, with Chow handling the gun action (the shotgun on a string is a nice touch) and Conan delivering the eye-popping stuntwork and brutal fisticuffs. Together, the duo take on nasty bad guy Gordon Liu, whose weapon of choice is a chainsaw. Actual story is no big deal, but Tiger on the Beat has more than enough Hong Kong action panache to compensate.


39. TIGER CAGE (1988), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 64.5 points, 1 first place vote

With Tiger Cage, fight choreographer supreme Yuen Woo-Ping brings hard-hitting and tough action to what should be a routine cop corruption thriller. The story of a bunch of happy cops (led by Carol Cheng, Leung Ka-Yan and Simon Yam) torn apart from within their own ranks, Tiger Cage pulls no punches to get a rise out of its audience. Also starring Jacky Cheung, Ng Man-Tat, Irene Wan and DONNNNIEEE, who gets to show off some great moves and also some unexpected pathos. Followed by two sequels, one with Donnie and one with Michael Wong(!).


38. THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS (1986), directed by Sammo Hung - 66.5 points, 1 first place vote

Sammo Hung's Millionaire's Express is a mixture of Hong Kong zaniness, old-Hollywood studio filmmaking and kick-ass action movie. Sammo directs and stars in this ensemble piece about a lovable rogue (Sammo) who plans to derail a millionaire-carrying express train - all so they can use their money to turn around the fortunes of a down-on-its-luck desert town. No 100-word synopsis could do justice to this film's multi-story plot or the enormous amount of familiar faces and Hong Kong stars who appear (Like Yuen Biao - hey, has there ever been a more underrated martial arts actor than Yuen Biao?), and the nimble stunts and hard-hitting fights have to be seen to be believed. One of Hong Kong Cinema's most enjoyable films, from this decade or any other.


37. DUEL TO THE DEATH (1983), directed by Ching Siu-Tung - 79 points, 1 first place vote

Ching Siu-Tung gets his Asian action on with directorial debut Duel to the Death, a classic swordplay fantasy about a centuries old martial arts war between Japan and China, and the politicking, ass-kicking, flying ninja and other weirdness that goes along with it. Damian Lau and Norman Tsui Siu-Keung are the two contestants in the titular duel, but the unquestioned star is Ching Siu-Tung, who puts the energetic, exciting action on the screen. Grady Hendrix says about the film; "Ching Siu-Tung read martial arts pulps alone in his room for years as a child, and this was the first chance he got to put a lifetime's worth of stored-up, pre-adolescent martial arts fantasies onscreen. The result is like uncorking a bottle of cinematic champagne."


36. SCHOOL ON FIRE (1988), directed by Ringo Lam - 81 points, 1 first place vote

Says Sean, "Ringo Lam has made some bleak films but this one may be the most downbeat of them all. Everything that happens just feels so raw that it almost seems like a documentary at times." Sean is right - Ringo Lam's school-set drama is so intense and immediate that it feels remarkably real, and this is despite scenes where a guy gets impaled on the school fence and a girl sets fire to the school library, screaming "I'll never go to school again!" Roy Cheung overacts as a menacing triad and Fennie Yuen is a fresh-faced, ultimately ruined schoolgirl, but it's Lam Ching-Ying and Damian Lau who hold School on Fire together with unassuming veteran presence. As punishing and as rewarding as Hong Kong Cinema gets.


35. DANGEROUS ENCOUNTER - 1ST KIND (1980), directed by Tsui Hark - 87 points

Adam DiPiazza questions, "Does the artistic merit of the film justify the animal cruelty scenes in the opening minutes? Probably not, but it justifies Dangerous Encounter - 1st Kind's a position on my list. Tsui Hark is often compared to Steven Spielberg, but this film finds him closer to Nagisa Oshima." The still young Master directed this violent and astonishingly dark look at kids who let a little mischief take them too far, from blackmail to bomb scares to a bloody shootout with Caucasian arms dealers in a graveyard. Martin calls this "Angry and vital filmmaking," and he's aboslutely right. Probably Tsui Hark's darkest and most uncompromising film since, well, ever.


34. THE YOUNG MASTER (1981), directed by Jackie Chan - 90 points

Jackie Chan found his stride with The Young Master, taking a none-too-special plot about a lovable scamp looking to atone for the treachery of his brother (Wei Pak) and injecting it with the lively personality and comic charisma that would become synonymous with the Jackie Chan brand. Chan shows charm, versatility and toughness in numerous action sequences, from a thrilling lion dance to a funny prop-filled fight sequences to a knock-down brawl with Korean fighter Whang In-Sik. Aric Mannion says, "YOUNG MASTER just might be my Number 1 film. It was Jackie Chan's directorial debut, the one that started it all, and his signature style and unique vision was apparent even back then."


33. SPOOKY ENCOUNTERS (1980), directed by Sammo Hung - 91 points

Not to be beaten by brother Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung clocks in one rung above Chan's Young Master with seminal horror-comedy Spooky Encounters. Besides helming the film, Sammo shows off his amazing physical acting skills thanks to the story's supernatural hook, which finds Sammo's character possessed by various spirits. A variety of fighting styles, a wildly creative "possessed hand" sequence and even some genuine creepiness makes this a standout entry in one of Hong Kong's most unique genres. Nick Orwin calls the film "Weird and infectiously funny. Spooky Encounters is the best of the kung-fu meets ghosts/vampires/monsters films. Sammo is, of course, amazing." Of course.


32. MY YOUNG AUNTIE (1981), directed by Lau Kar-Leung - 92.5 points

Many people love My Young Auntie, so we'll just let them sing its praises. Says Juan, "Lau Kar-Leung's humorous kung-fu movie about a clash of cultures strikes at the core of Hong Kong culture. Kara Hui is the kung-fu obsessed tomboy who has to deal with sexism and what it means to act "like a female," highlighted by an entire scene in which she has to kick ass while wearing a dress and high heels. Hsiao Ho is the testosterone-filled teenager who's recently arrived from America, and wields a basketball, a crazy English vocabulary, and an American helmet and uniform to represent Hong Kong's constant struggle with Western influence. Meanwhile, Lau Kar-Leung is lost between both worlds and fighting an age gap, but a few gray hairs aren't enough to stop him from handing it to Wang Lung-Wei in the final showdown. And there's no shortage of the expert action choreography that typified Lau's work while at Shaw Brothers." Snowblood says simply that My Young Auntie is "a kung-fu film that wants to be a musical. It just sings."


31. ON THE RUN (1988), directed by Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting - 97 points, 2 first place votes

Who knew Alfred Cheung could direct a movie like On the Run? Usually displaying a lighter touch, Cheung goes unexpectedly dark with this grim, blackly funny thriller about a cop (Yuen Biao) and a stern hitwoman (Pat Ha, looking like the deadliest mom ever) trying to elude some hilariously nasty bad guys, led by a self-effacing Charlie Chin. Richard calls this a "A Hong Kong Style neo-noir thriller. Not everything is perfect in terms of craft maybe, but emotionally this is one of the strongest HK films ever made." Nick Orwin says On the Run is "Miserable, pessimistic, misanthropic and completely electric. I still can't believe this film exists." These guys know what they're talking about; On the Run kicks audiences in the face while stomping on their genitals, and the imprint it leaves is long-lasting. Yuen Biao: seriously, this guy IS the most underrated martial arts actor ever.


30. ARMOUR OF GOD (1987), directed by Jackie Chan - 107 points

Jackie Chan's third film series to take flight in the eighties, the Armour of God movies find Jackie aping Indiana Jones, complete with grave-robbing danger, globe-trotting adventure and gross misrepresentation of other cultures. Sean calls Armour of God "Politically incorrect to a fault but the finale makes up for that with plenty of classic Jackie Chan moments." Jackie worked so hard on Armour of God that he almost got himself killed! The outtakes show the infamous moment when a stunt went awry and Jackie busted his skull, resulting in surgery and a permanent hole in his cranium. Say what you want about his career downturn or offscreen issues, but few actors in Hong Kong or anywhere have risked life and limb quite like Jackie Chan - and he does it all to entertain us. That's why the man is and will always be a film legend.


29. SHANGHAI BLUES (1984), directed by Tsui Hark - 128.5 points, 1 first place vote

For the love of all that is good in cinema, why can't they make movies like Shanghai Blues anymore? Tsui Hark's screwball romance finds Kenny Bee and Sylvia Chang playing star-crossed lovers in 1940s Shanghai. The two previously met under a bridge during a 1937 bombing but lost track of each other. Years later they still think of one another, and coincidentally end up living in the same apartment building! However, the introduction of starry-eyed ingenue Sally Yeh may scuttle their fateful reunion. Shanghai Blues is vintage Tsui Hark, mixing sitcom setups with historical references, nimble comedy, musical sequences, unabashed romanticism and a requisite scene where five people are hiding in a room but nobody knows that anyone else is there. This film is simply a joy to watch, and it's tragic that good English-subtitled home video release is nearly impossible to find. Frankly, Shanghai Blues could easily have ranked higher on this list.


28. PROJECT A PART II (1987), directed by Jackie Chan - 129 points, 2 first place votes

No Sammo Hung, no Yuen Biao, no problem. Says Aric Mannion, "I feel like Jackie always ups the ante with his sequels, and for that reason I enjoy them even more than the originals." Aric has a defensible case with Project A Part II, which follows Dragon Ma (Jackie) as he leaves behind the Coast Guard to become a cop, fighting corruption in old Canton while hanging with revolutionaries and dodging Manchu assassins and pirates. The lack of Sammo and Biao is offset by new cast members Rosamund Kwan, Carina Lau, Maggie Cheung, Ricky Hui plus more, and the sheer inventiveness of Jackie Chan's action sequences - with their clever and breathless use of props and sets - makes this an absolute stunner of an action comedy. The Buster Keaton homage is just the capper.


27. CHICKEN AND DUCK TALK (1988), directed by Clifton Ko - 135 points, 1 first place vote

Clifton Ko directed Chicken and Duck Talk, but the creative force behind this classic comedy is undoubtedly Michael Hui. Hong Kong Cinema's onetime King of Comedy Hui wrote and stars in this crowd-pleasing laffer about a roast duck restaurant owned by Hui that's threatened by the opening of a fried chicken fast food joint. While full of the expected slapstick and comic overacting, Chicken and Duck Talk also satirizes Hong Kong people and society with sharp, caustic and also heartwarming observations. Jennifer Ng says, "Recently saw this movie again and fell in love with it all over again. Chicken and Duck Talk captures the Hong Kong's small business entrepreneur spirit with heart and laughs." Over 20 years later, the film seems even more relevant, as Hong Kong entrepreneurs are STILL cutting corners, picking fights and occasionally working together to earn a living. It's just like the Internet.


26. ALL ABOUT AH-LONG (1989), directed by Johnnie To - 142 points

Before he became Mr. Crime Drama, Johnnie To directed All About Ah-Long, a ten-hankie melodrama about a construction worker/motorcycle racer (Chow Yun-Fat with bad hair) whose relationship with his son Porky (Wong Kwan-Yuen) is the light in his life. Then his ex-wife Sylvia Chang returns from the United States to take Porky away. Melodramatic with a capital "M", All About Ah-Long still sticks to your gut, largely due to Chow's powerful, award-winning performance. Says KL, "Those who doubt Chow Yun Fat's acting ability in melodrama ought to watch All About Ah-Long. Despite some over-the-top elements, it's a touching piece of work with a perfect cast: Chow, the lovely Sylvia Chang and the so-little-but-so-good Wong Kwan-Yuen"


25. BOAT PEOPLE (1982), directed by Ann Hui - 148 points, 2 first place votes

The third part of Ann Hui's "Vietnam Trilogy", following the television featurette Boy from Vietnam and the Chow Yun-Fat starrer Story of Woo Viet, Boat People ranks as one of the most acclaimed films in Hong Cinema history. The film recently made the Hong Kong Film Archives 100 Must-See Hong Kong Movies list, and Time Out Hong Kong ranked it #2 on their list of the 100 Greatest Hong Kong Films. About a photojournalist (George Lam) visiting Vietnam in 1978 following the Fall of Saigon, the film reveals the plight of the "Boat People," Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong, by examining the tragic and brutal conditions that drive them to leave their homeland. Adam DiPiazza says, "The final shot of the two young children on the boat, looking ahead into the future is one of the most memorable in cinema, period." Winner of numerous Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Boat People is also notable as the first film appearance of a young actor named Andy Lau.


24. PEDICAB DRIVER (1989), directed by Sammo Hung - 149.5 points, 2 first place votes

Funny, heartwarming, whimsical, exciting, thrilling, brutal, tragic - all are words that can describe , a true Hong Kong concoction that mashes together comedy, melodrama, tragedy, romance and balls-to-the-wall-smashing action. Sammo Hung notches another classic with this tale of lowly pedicab drivers (Sammo and Max Mok) who romance a couple of ladies (Nina Li and Fennie Yuen) plus fight and mess around with humorous, lively and even tragic results. Besides being a perfect example of multi-genre filmmaking, Pedicab Driver is a fight film clinic, with Sammo's fight with Lau Kar-Leung being the highlight. Site reader Mickey calls this "a Hong Kong working-class mishmash of genres and feelings; at times extremely affecting, with some top-notch creative, brutal action included. Fennie Yuen Kit-Ying is lovely in her tragic role."


23. THE EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER (1984), directed by Lau Kar-Leung - 150.5 points

Considered by some to be the last great Shaw Brothers kung-fu film, The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter is also notable as the final project of Alexander Fu Sheng, who died in a car accident during filming. The tragedy likely informed the resulting film, with the tone possessing a darker, bleaker edge than director Lau Kar-Leung's other works. The fighting, however, is pure Lau Kar-Leung. Says Sean, "The final 20 minutes are not only some of the best fight choreography from a Shaw Brother film but just flat out some of the best ever." Drawn from the stories of the famed Yang Clan, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter details the betrayal of the Yang males as most are slaughtered by Mongol hordes, leaving only the Fifth Brother (Gordon Liu) and Sixth Brother (Alexander Fu) alive. Sixth Brother goes insane, and Fifth Brother retreats to train relentlessly in a Shaolin Temple, waiting for his final, furious vengeance. Also starring Lily Li and Kara Hui, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter was not widely popular upon release, but has since gained a massive following both locally and abroad.


22. MIRACLES (1989), directed by Jackie Chan - 160 points

Probably Jackie Chan's most complete directorial work, Miracles a.k.a. Mr. Canton and Lady Rose is more than a fine Jackie Chan film - it's a fine film period. Grady Hendrix says that with Miracles, "Chan demonstrates just what kind of filmmaking he wants to do and it's basically Cantonese Kubrick: long steadicam trawls through shimmering sets, deeply textured montages and sharp geometric compositions." Juan gets even more effusive saying, "This homage to classic Hollywood cinema has all the staples of Jackie Chan's movies, from the rags to riches storyline, to the non-stop comedy, crazy stuntwork and over-budget production! Jackie leads this massive production both behind and in front of the camera, proving he's just as capable of managing the film's lavish sets, beautiful camerawork and ensemble cast as he is dishing out the punishment." Yeah, people like Miracles all right. And by the way, it co-stars Anita Mui.


21. EASTERN CONDORS (1987), directed by Sammo Hung - 166 points, 1 first place vote

Sammo Hung scores again with action-war-ensemble flick Eastern Condors, and people can't help tripping over themselves to sing its praises. Phil Gillion says, "This is my fave movie from the eighties. It's the Chinese Dirty Dozen with Kung-Fu." Many cite the excellent cast, consisting of Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Joyce "Mrs. Sammo" Godenzi, Lam Ching-Ying, Yuen Wah, Corey Yuen - basically a group that Les Wong calls "almost everyone who was someone in HK action flicks." The characters they play are iconic ones - especially Yuen Biao's, whose first appearance in the film ranks among the best entrances by any character in Hong Kong Cinema history. Grady Hendrix takes the praise a step further, saying, "As Miracles is to Jackie Chan, Eastern Condors is to Sammo Hung. Watching this movie with an audience you realize just how beautifully crafted it is, as setpiece builds on top of setpiece until a final blow out that pretty much marks the endpoint of what screen combat is capable of." Apparently people REALLY like Eastern Condors.


20. DRAGONS FOREVER (1988), directed by Sammo Hung - 198 points, 1 first place vote

It's about time that one of the revered "Three Brothers" films showed up on this list. DRFP says about Dragons Forever, "The last movie on which Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao worked together is also one of their best. There's just enough of everything and it's all good, be it the fighting, the storyline or the comedy." Grady Hendrix says Dragons Forever is "Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao captured at their best and preserved for all time. Watching too much of this movie at once leads to a joy overload." Another opinion: Dragons Forever is the film that Yuen Biao very nearly steals from his two more famous brothers. Yuen Biao's fighting may not be as strong or powerful as his brothers' but in Dragons Forever, his stunts and comic acting greatly impress. Really, with the most serious expression possible: Yuen Biao is the most underrated martial arts actor ever.


19. LONG ARM OF THE LAW (1984), directed by Johnny Mak - 204.5 points

Years before Johnnie To would claim the crime genre for himself, Johnny Mak made Long Arm of the Law, an unflinching, uncompromising thriller about mainland thieves planning a jewlery heist in Hong Kong. More than just a crime procedural, the film examines the forces that drive the thieves to break the law, plus their disconnect with Hong Kong and also the amoral, potentially cruel Hong Kong cops who seek their capture. Long Arm of the Law never moralizes, and thus realizes its power as a hyperstylized document of greed, corruption, longing, dreams and cruel, cruel truth. Recently noted as one of the Hong Kong Film Archive's 100 Must-See Hong Kong Films. Martin says, "I only recently saw this genre-defining classic and was completely blown away by it. I just could not fault it in any way. See it. Hugely influential." Ditto times one hundred.


18. THE PRODIGAL SON (1981), directed by Sammo Hung - 210 points, 3 first place votes

Whoops, maybe we should talk about Yuen Biao's underrated-ness again because it's time to talk about The Prodigal Son. Layabout Leung Chang (Yuen Biao) thinks he's the toughest hombre in town, but his rich father has been fixing all his street fights. When Leung Chang is shown up by Peking Opera "actress" Leung Yee-Tai (Lam Ching-Ying), Leung seeks Yee-Tai as his new master. Co-starring Sammo Hung and also directed by Sammo Hung (He does everything!), Prodigal Son is pure HK Cinema, meaning a multi-genre bag that switches tones at the drop of a hat - and it does so without ceasing to entertain. Nick Orwin says, "Not many films made outside Hong Kong could balance the pathos, action and jokes of The Prodigal Son without capsizing. The middle third, which is almost a sitcom starring Lam Ching-Ying and Sammo Hung as bickering brothers who live next door to one another and squabble over Yuen Biao, is tremendously entertaining." Also of note: Frankie Chan's turn as the villain, plus the simple fact that this is a Yuen Biao starring role. Hey, that Yuen Biao: has there ever been a more blah blah, etc. You know the rest.


17. POLICE STORY 2 (1988), directed by Jackie Chan - 219.5 points

Hey, some people prefer Police Story 2 to Police Story. Despite the fact that the original Jackie Chan cop action-comedy has insane stuntwork, Police Story 2 ups the ante with expert, intricate choreography that perfectly demonstrates Jackie's signature mise-en-scene-utilizing brand of action. Nick Orwin says, "Not as tight as the first, Jackie's sequel is still a killer showcase for his approach to action cinema. The fight in the playground is a real highlight - nuanced, exciting, and faster than you thought was possible." Also, you simply must love a film where legendary cinema pervert Charlie Cho has his glasses broken three separate times. Three more reasons why Police Story 2 can be compared favorably to Police Story: Maggie Cheung, Maggie Cheung and Maggie Cheung. Sure, Maggie was also in the original, but when she smiles in Police Story 2, she positively glows. Too bad Police Story only ranked #104 in this reader vote. Just kidding.


16. WHEELS ON MEALS (1984), directed by Sammo Hung - 225 points, 1 first place vote

Even more Three Brothers action, only this time they're in Barcelona and have former Miss Spain Lola Forner along for the ride. Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao run a fast food van in Spain and befriend lovely Lola, who plays a pickpocket. Unfortunately, bad guys are after her, and so is Moby (Sammo Hung), a private dick who's as tough as he is large. What does this plot mean? Who really knows? The main point of this Hong Kong confection is action, hijinks and adorably sloppy production values, like having everyone in Europe speak Cantonese or having Blackie Ko play a Spanish biker. Richard says that Wheels on Meals is "a movie I could watch a thousand times. Simply never boring due to the great chemistry of the cast involved, the excellent action and Barcelona as an 'exotic background.'" Richard also cites the high-impact, brutal knockdown between Jackie Chan and Benny "The Jet" Urquidez - and he should because it's one of Jackie Chan's best fights ever.


15. PRISON ON FIRE (1987), directed by Ringo Lam - 227 points, 1 first place vote

Site reader KL calls Prison on Fire "Hands down, the best prison film I've ever watched," and that sentiment is not uncommon. Director Ringo Lam is at his strongest with this intense and gritty portrait of Hong Kong prison life. Lo Ka-Yia (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) is sent to the slammer for manslaughter and gets a crash course in prison life and politics. But Lo also finds camaraderie with the charismatic and pragmatic Mad Dog (Chow Yun-Fat) and for a time, life in prison is agreeable. That is, until things go bad - and when they do, Mad Dog goes with them. Says Grady Hendrix, "City on Fire is a better all-around movie, but this is the pure essence of Chow Yun-Fat, uncut, with a street value of one billion dollars. Nothing made him look looser, warmer and more life-affirming than pairing him onscreen with Tony Leung Ka-Fai, the world's biggest tightass." Chow Yun-Fat was nominated for Best Actor for his performance as Mad Dog, but he lost to himself in another film. It might show up later on this list.


14. ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (1983), directed by Tsui Hark - 249.5 points, 1 first place vote

Weird and wild kung-fu fantasy that's incredibly dated by today's standards, but has imagination and vision to spare thanks to its ringmaster, the ever-unfathomable Tsui Hark. An all-star cast, including Adam Cheng, Brigitte Lin, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Norman Tsui Siu-Keung, Mang Hoi and Moon Lee, take part in this rather generic-sounding plot about the quest for a couple of twin swords that are the only objects capable of defeating a nigh-unstoppable evil. Tsui's imagination does the rest, with astounding visuals, criss-crossing comedy, chintzy visual effects, high-flying martial arts, delicious romanticism and a pace that could generously be called breakneck. Still superior to its 2001 remake-sequel The Legend of Zu, despite the latter having new-fangled CGI, Ekin Cheng and Ekin Cheng's hair.


13. A BETTER TOMORROW II (1987), directed by John Woo - 259 points, 2 first place votes

A Better Tomorrow was a massive, massive success so of course there had to be a sequel. The problem: Chow Yun-Fat's iconic Mark Gor was dead. The solution: bring Chow Yun-Fat back as Ken, Mark's US-based twin brother! Sean calls A Better Tomorrow II "Quite possibly the most ridiculous sequel ever but it works. Dean Shek's overacting is quite the sight and the final action scene is vintage John Woo. The best scene though can be summed up with only one phrase though: 'Eat the rice!'" Sean refers to a famous moment in the film where Chow Yun-Fat accosts Italian gangsters in New York for daring insult his Yang Chow Fried Rice. Honestly, the nerve of those rice-insulting Italians - but let's face it, Better Tomorrow II is not much of a film, and entertains because it so gleefully embraces its ridiculousness AND because its final action scene is John Woo-choreographed craziness times a thousand. Martin calls the finale "Probably the 10 minutes of film I have seen more times than any other!" Join the club, Martin.


12. ROUGE (1988), directed by Stanley Kwan - 272.5 points, 2 first place votes

Grady Hendrix says that Rouge is "still Stanley Kwan's best movie, still heartbreaking, still smart as hell," and who are we to argue? Lauded and award-winning at the time, Rouge has only grown in resonance, and it's all because of the film's stars. Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui, both Hong Kong Cinema superstars who left us before their time, turn in marvelous performances in this atmospheric, sensual and suffocating romantic drama. KL says that "the film's strength lies in its subtlety of forlorn gazes, minimal words, playful but doomed courtship, and smoldering chemistry between the two leads. Leslie Cheung is impeccably cast, but it is Anita Mui who elevates Rouge to its classic status." Twenty years later, Mui's beauty, poise and melancholy still profoundly affect. Stanley Kwan and Leslie Cheung do undeniably sublime work, but the enduring spell cast by Rouge belongs mostly to Anita Mui.


11. MR. VAMPIRE (1985), directed by Ricky Lau Koon-Wai - 281.5 points, 1 first place vote

Lots of people like Mr. Vampire, and they should. Case one: this Sammo Hung-produced classic is the quintessential kung-fu horror comedy, with action scenes and cultural detail that prove both clever and exhilarating. Case two: Mr. Vampire has Lam Ching-Ying, who totally rocks as a vampire-busting Taoist priest who's wise, venerable and also ass-kickingly athletic. KL calls Mr. Vampire, "A priceless treasure to fans of the late, wonderful Lam Ching-Ying. I can watch it again and again." Snowblood says the film is a "genius mix of elements; it's funny, action-packed, romantic… even scary! And Adam Laidig calls it "A perfectly synchronized genre-bender that practically gave birth to the vampire subgenre that ultimately became late star Lam Ching-Ying's namesake in the final portion of his extensive career." Also: Ricky Hui, Moon Lee, Chin Siu-Ho, Pauline Wong and Yuen Wah as one of the hopping undead. Hong Kong has made a zillion films like Mr. Vampire and most have been forgotten. But not Mr. Vampire.


10. AS TEARS GO BY (1988), directed by Wong Kar-Wai - 293.5 points, 2 first place votes

As Tears Go By is the only Wong Kar-Wai film to make our Top 100 Hong Kong Movies of the Eighties list and that's because it's the only movie Wong Kar-Wai made in the eighties. The famed auteur's first film is more of a standard genre flick than the pop art confections he's known for, but As Tears Go By has Wong's signature emotions of longing and loss plus super-popular stars like Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung and especially Jacky Cheung, who owns the screen as the troubled triad Fly. Site reader Guppieluv echoes the Jacky praise, saying "Cheung's performance set the tone for all other trouble-loving sidekicks with insect names." DRFP has more measured praise, saying "It's not a patch on Wong's later works but As Tears Go By is still a superior triad film. Good performances all around and little of the ridiculousness that can blight films from this genre." Also, it's got a Cantopop version of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away." Tom Cruise approves.


9. CITY ON FIRE (1987), directed by Ringo Lam - 306.5 points, 2 first place votes

Ringo Lam and Chow Yun-Fat collaborated on City on Fire, an obvious rip-off of Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs that had the termerity to not be good as Q's superior genre picture…no, we're kidding. Of course, it was Quentin who took the plot and character dynamics from City on Fire, and he did it so pervasively that Reservoir and Fire are now inextricably if unfairly linked. Lam's City on Fire is a gritty and tough crime drama that pulls no punches and never plays to the crowd, and it deserves to be talked about for its own merits. Says Sean, "This is more than the movie that inspired Reservoir Dogs, it's a gritty crime classic featuring one of Chow Yun-Fat's best performances. And it has Danny Lee playing a criminal!" Martin comments that the chemistry between Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee helped inform their other classic pairing, John Woo's The Killer, and says that Lam's film is "a great film in it's own right, tarnished for some in the Tarantino scandal, but not for me." Agreed with both that City on Fire is a great crime classic - but notice how we all have to mention Reservoir Dogs?


8. AN AUTUMN'S TALE (1987), directed by Mabel Cheung - 326 points, 5 first place votes

Another Chow Yun-Fat movie makes the Top 100, but this one is special because Chow isn't a gun-toting, ear-chewing, maniacally-grinning movie character - he's just a normal dude. Yin Szeto says that An Autumn's Tale is "An ordinary story about two ordinary people in one extraordinary movie. Chow Yun-Fat was the coolest, even when playing a regular Joe." Chow is an uncouth Hong Kong guy living in New York, who falls in love with his cousin Jenny (the remarkable Cherie Chung) and quietly resolves to change. And that's it for An Autumn's Tale and its story, but director Mabel Cheung gives the film absorbing, pitch-perfect mood, and the actors are subtle and absolutely sublime. Annemieke calls An Autumn's Tale "The most simple and pure movie I've ever seen. Not near a perfect movie, yet endearing and mesmerizing." To Glenn Griffith, the film is "A classic. One of the best Hong Kong films I've ever seen, even if most of it is set in New York City. A product of the Hong Kong film industry that can easily stand side-by-side with other works of the era from Europe and the US." What? Can we actually compare a Hong Kong movie like An Autumn's Tale to award-winning 1987 films like The Last Emperor or Wings of Desire? Sure we can.


7. GOD OF GAMBLERS (1989), directed by Wong Jing - 405 points, 7 first place votes

Wong Jing makes the Top 10 Movies of the Eighties and it could only happen with God of Gamblers. The gambling genre wasn't new when Wong made this action-comedy classic, but Chow Yun-Fat's irresistible charisma and acting savvy raised what should have been an updated Mahjong Heroes into sublime populist entertainment. As Ko Chun, who owns the gambling world before getting brain damage and turning into a Rainman-like savant, Chow Yun-Fat is suave, calculating, confident, righteous, excitable, childlike and unflappably cool. Andy Lau is his co-star but here the current award-winning actor pales compared to Chow. Granted, the role is not challenging or special, so it's not surprising that Lau doesn't make much impact. But Chow Yun-Fat? He can make an impact in any film and any role (Except maybe Pirates of the Caribbean 3), and Ko Chun is now a genre icon only because Chow Yun-Fat was the man in his suit. Annemieke says, "Yeah it's Wong Jing…but it's so entertaining." We shall not argue with Annemieke.


6. PROJECT A (1983), directed by Jackie Chan - 431 points, 1 first place vote

No more Three Brothers films after this one, and that's just fine because Project A is a movie that can stand tall over the rest. Jackie Chan is Coast Guard member Dragon Ma and his co-conspirators are gambling thief Fei (Sammo Hung) and frenemy police inspector Hong (Yuen Biao). The bad guys: pirates, led by Dick "I am evil in every film" Wei. Then it's action and comedy for a good two hours and the fun never stops. Lots of testimonials for this one. Nick Orwin says, "By turns thrilling, silly and jaw-dropping, Project A might be the single most entertaining film ever made. Even now, I'm shocked by how fast and tough the action is." Sean calls Project A "The original Three Brothers film and still the best. Wheels on Meals and Dragons Forever never managed to balance the action, comedy, and interaction between Jackie, Sammo and Yuen Biao as well as in Project A." Veronica goes a step further and singles out writer-director-star Jackie, saying, "It's just a pure wonder that a person like Jackie Chan exists in HK Cinema history and could do what he did." She's right - Jackie Chan's movies are so physically amazing that they're bound to be remembered for generations, especially when someone realizes, "Hey, all these transforming robots are fake!" Jackie Chan: he's real.


5. PEKING OPERA BLUES (1986), directed by Tsui Hark - 613.5 points, 21 first place votes

No need to even talk about Peking Opera Blues - let's just hit the quotes. Says KL, "Tsui Hark is the Master! Peking Opera Blues is one of his best directorial efforts, featuring an unrivaled mixture of all genres and a divine treatment of female characters. Brigitte Lin, Cherie Chung and Sally Yeh are fabulous, and the whole film bursts with breathtaking cinematic energy." Guppieluv says Peking Opera Blues is "Hands down the best movie of the eighties! Mixes comedy, music, Peking Opera, three of the most awesome leading ladies at the time, action, adventure, the intensity of Kenneth Tsang - that man is awesome." Adam DiPiazza says, "I can't think of a single movie that better exemplifies Hong Kong Cinema in the 1980's. Everything from the whiplash mood changes to the exciting action sequences are here, not to mention Tsui Hark's thinly veiled political commentary. What's even more impressive is that it all works." Grady Hendrix minces no words, calling Peking Opera Blues "quite simply the best movie ever made. Everything that can be said or done in a movie is said and done perfectly here. By the time the credits roll, I expect the entire planet to turn out the lights and close up shop." Oh, we like the movie too.


4. A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987), directed by Ching Siu-Tung - 616 points, 14 first place votes

They don't make them like this anymore. Sliding in at #4 is A Chinese Ghost Story, the classic horror-romance-wuxia-comedy-whatever from director Ching Siu-Tung and producer Tsui Hark, which was remade in 2011 by director Wilson Yip to irked response from many. Veronica says that Chinese Ghost Story is "Soooo classic and beautiful. Makes it a shame to watch Wilson Yip's 2011 attempt." Actually, the 2011 remake isn't terrible but Yip also copied the tone, look and feel of the original film. Was that a mistake? Absolutely, because those things - the visuals, the dynamic energy, and the fun and fantastic way that Ching Siu-Tung and Tsui Hark brought everything together - made the original a classic. Mickey says, "What is best about this film is that it exemplifies the best of Hong Kong Cinema. Underdog characters you care about, a memorable soundtrack, dynamic action, fast pacing, a recipe of equal parts tragedy and farce." And the actors ruled - no offense to Louis Koo, Yu Shaoqun or Liu Yi-Fei, but they can't match the combo of Leslie Cheung and Joey Wong, not to mention Wu Ma, Tsui Siu-Ming, etc. A Chinese Ghost Story is a one-of-a-kind. You just can't remake movies like this.


3. POLICE STORY (1985), directed by Jackie Chan - 740 points, 9 first place votes

Chris Wolter says "no one does it better than Jackie Chan" - and by "it", Chris must mean risking dismemberment and nearly killing oneself to entertain nameless strangers. Jackie Chan is the clown prince of comedy and the patron saint of stuntmen, and his daredevil insanity is dialed up to a generous thirty-five in Police Story. The story of a cop (Jackie!) who does cop things and breaks lots of glass, Police Story is an eye-popping extraganza of stunt spectacle, nimble comedy and moment after moment of painful-looking impact. And it's all awesome. Says Sean: "Jackie Chan made great movies before and after this, but this is still his unequivocal masterpiece of martial arts cinema." ThingsFallApart says, "For a long time I was a Jackie Chan nay-sayer, but when I finally saw this I suddenly saw that there was a depth and a passion to go with the amazing stunt work." Sure there's cheesy comedy and co-star Maggie Cheung had yet to learn how to act (Brigitte Lin shores that department up nicely), but Police Story is so full of "wow, did Jackie just do that?" moments that it is impossible not to appreciate. And if you can't appreciate Police Story then we have to ask why you're even reading this.


2. THE KILLER (1989), directed by John Woo - 794 points, 22 first place votes

Does anyone remember when the US distributor Circle Films billed their new arthouse release The Killer as a "thriller-comedy?" Times have changed, because while John Woo's action classic may be overwrought, homoerotic and melodramatic, nowadays nobody would ever call The Killer a comedy. All this over-the-top craziness - that's simply how Hong Kong movies and John Woo roll. DRFP calls The Killer "Probably the best John Woo film. It balances the body count of Hard Boiled with the emotional ties of A Better Tomorrow to stunning effect. This is a rare gem: a heartfelt action movie." Sean says, "John Woo managed to find the perfect balance between action, character and melodrama and if it was anybody else but him directing, it probably would have been a mess." The Killer is ballsy stuff because John Woo takes all those hitman movie tropes and brings them to the brink of parody, while still retaining power, emotion and good old-fashioned genre cool. Adam Laidig says it best, calling The Killer "The standard by which all hitman films have been measured against since its release over 20 years ago, and to this day has yet to be surpassed." Amen to that, doves and all.


1. A BETTER TOMORROW (1986), directed by John Woo - 857 points, 14 first place votes

KL says, "If you've never heard of this action flick, you're not qualified to vote for any poll on HK cinema. This little movie explains why Chow Yun-Fat is the coolest man with guns EVER." As completely and totally expected, John Woo's A Better Tomorrow takes the #1 position in our Top 100 Hong Kong Movies of the Eighties reader vote, and who can blame anyone who voted for it? The film broke box office records, made Chow Yun-Fat a box-office guarantee, and pretty much defined a generation of action filmmaking both locally and worldwide. Blazing automatics akimbo? Sunglasses and raincoat combo? Awesome synthesizer music? A Better Tomorrow has it all. And this isn't just a fanboy thing; if we ran this vote in Hong Kong with only locals, A Better Tomorrow would probably still win. According to Adam Laidig, "A Better Tomorrow enjoyed the local popularity of Gone with the Wind, became as culturally significant as Star Wars, and today still enjoys the respect of Citizen Kane practically the world over. Simply put, A Better Tomorrow is the face of Hong Kong's golden age of filmmaking." And Chow Yun-Fat is the poster boy.


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Published April 16, 2012


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