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Top 100 Hong Kong Films of the Nineties

Written by Kozo Tell a Friend

Originally published on LoveHKFilm.com. Reprinted with permission.


It's time for another countdown from a LoveHKFilm Reader Vote! After a couple of weeks of tallying and formatting, we're counting down the Top 100 Hong Kong Films of the Nineties, as voted upon by LoveHKFilm.com's readers. Response was pretty good; we received over 130 entries and over 250 total films were nominated. We barely got any sleep over here.

Let's get started:


100. A CHINESE GHOST STORY III (1991)
- directed by Ching Siu-Tung - 17 points


No Leslie Cheung, no real problem - Tony Leung Chiu-Wai makes a more than adequate replacement. Ching Siu-Tung and Tsui Hark deliver more of the same, which isn't bad at all. Joey Wong may be the most iconic flower vase in Hong Kong Cinema history.


99. RED TO KILL (1993)
- directed by Billy Tang - 18 points


If you must see one movie about a serial rapist who runs a care center for the mentally disabled, then make Red to Kill that movie. Grady Hendrix says, "there are a lot of great, sleazy films from the 90's, but the one film to rule them all is Red to Kill. Bloody Billy Tang makes a movie as meticulously crafted and auteurist as anything by Dario Argento, but it's so offensive that just owning a copy automatically reserves you a place in Hell."


98. MY FATHER IS A HERO (1995)
- directed by Corey Yuen - 18 points, 1 first place vote


Jet Li's strong presence anchors My Father is a Hero, but what makes it special is kung-fu dynamo Tze Miu and a supremely charismatic Anita Mui. An action film with over-the-top sentimentality that works. Corey Yuen's action choreography is top notch, as usual. This is the first movie on this list that Wong Jing had something to do with.


96 (TIE). TEMPTING HEART (1998)
- directed by Sylvia Chang - 18.5 points


Hey, Gigi Leung can act! If her work with Derek Yee hinted at it, Sylvia Chang's Tempting Heart confirms it. Karen Mok and Takeshi Kaneshiro - they aren't so bad, either.


96 (TIE). EBOLA SYNDROME (1996)
- directed by Herman Yau - 18.5 points


Nothing beats Anthony Wong raping and killing - except when he's spitting ebola-infected blood onto people. Wong and co-conspirator Herman Yau do their bloody best to outdo The Untold Story. Some people think they succeeded.


95. ROYAL TRAMP II (1992)
- directed by Wong Jing - 19 points


Stephen Chow brings the snarky comedy, Brigitte Lin the charismatic presence, and the bevy of babes - Chingmy Yau, Michelle Reis, Fennie Yuen, Vivian Chan - the eye candy. Fun action and a side-splitting Swordsman II parody do the rest. Wong Jing really did make good movies once upon a time.


94. A CHINESE GHOST STORY II (1990)
- directed by Ching Siu-Tung - 19 points


As if Joey Wong wasn't enough beautiful enough, Chinese Ghost Story 2 actually has the nerve to add Michelle Reis to the cast. Straight girls and gay guys get Leslie Cheung. The genre fans get flying kung-fu and Jacky Cheung as the Wu Ma stand-in. Horror fans get the evil tree. Everybody gets something.


93. THE ODD ONE DIES (1997)
- directed by Patrick Yau - 19 points, 1 first place vote


Johnnie To was only the producer, right? Patrick Yau's quirky crimer is a great little movie about lost souls connecting on the way to oblivion and/or paradise. Reader WillJayRod calls Odd One Dies "darkly humorous, with one quirky soundtrack. Outsourced assassinations, stinky socks, bad haircuts, amputated fingers on ice…good times!"


92. LIFELINE (1997)
- directed by Johnnie To - 19.5 points


Basically a firefighter soap opera, Lifeline features stirring heroics and some unabashed human drama. Reader Lord Garth says, "More Lau Ching-Wan and Johnnie To goodness. HK's answer to Backdraft is actually a beautifully shot, intense film that stands on its own. The fire cinematography is stunning and all the more impressive that the stars did their own stunts."


91. SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT (1990)
- directed by Corey Yuen - 20 points


Few fighting female films can outdo She Shoots Straight. This 1990 actioner had melodrama and cheesiness to spare, but the painful girl-on-girl fisticuffs more than compensate. Joyce Godenzi = action goddess.


90. SWORDSMAN (1990)
- directed by King Hu, Tsui Hark, Ching Siu-Tung, Raymond Lee, Andrew Kam and Ann Hui - 20 points


Tsui Hark and company brought the wuxia back to prominence with Swordsman, helping to spur the genre's incredible nineties boom. The glut of costume action films only lasted 4-5 years, but they were good times, weren't they?


89. SEALED WITH A KISS (1999)
- directed by Derek Chiu - 21.5 points


Back when Milkyway Image produced more than fan-baiting crime films, they delivered this unheralded little gem set on rural Peng Chau. As for why it's so good, reader WillJayRod cites "Louis Koo's underrated performance coupled with a great, if depressing, ending."


88. ARMOUR OF GOD II: OPERATION CONDOR (1991)
- directed by Jackie Chan - 22.5 points


Despite terrible racial stereotypes, Operation Condor is one of Jackie Chan's most enjoyable action-adventures, with awesome set pieces and bravura stuntwork aplenty. Proof of Chan's one-of-a-kind talent. Released by Dimension Films in the US. Remember?


86 (TIE). JUSTICE MY FOOT! (1992)
- directed by Johnnie To - 23 points


One of Stephen Chow's biggest box-office successes, Justice My Foot! features laughs-a-plenty, a dynamite supporting cast and most of all, the scene-stealing Anita Mui as Chow's kung-fu kicking wife. Directed by some guy named Johnnie To.


86 (TIE). CRIME STORY (1993)
- directed by Kirk Wong - 23 points


Jackie Chan sweats seriously in his intense Golden Horse Award-winning performance. Based on a real kidnap case. Despite the serious pathos at play, Crime Story still has Jackie Chan-type action, e.g. sometimes he runs up walls and uses props on people. Jackie Chan aims to please.


85. CASINO TYCOON (1992)
- directed by Wong Jing - 23 points, 1 first place vote


Andy Lau plays Josie Ho's father in this melodramatic, action packed biopic that's probably more than a little divergent from reality. Not based on the popular PC simulation game, nor is the game based on the movie. Would be cool if it was, though.


84. HIGH RISK (1995)
- directed by Wong Jing - 25 points


Jet Li and balls-to-the-wall Die Hard-inspired action rule this over-the-top actioner, but casting Jacky Cheung as Jackie Chan? What genius thought of that awesome idea? What, it was Wong Jing? In 1995, Hell froze over.


83. THE EAGLE SHOOTING HEROES (1993)
- directed by Jeff Lau - 25 points


Super all-star silliness that rises above similar fare produced by Raymond Wong and Clifton Ko. Maybe it's Jeff Lau and Jet Tone Pictures that makes it work. Maybe its the A++++ cast. Maybe it's Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's sausage lips.


81 (TIE). HAIL THE JUDGE (1994)
- directed by Wong Jing - 26 points


Stephen Chow owns all in this Justice Pao-inspired period comedy. Ng Man-Tat and Tsui Kam-Kong make fine partners in crime. Not even Wong Jing can ruin this one.


81 (TIE). ANNA MAGDALENA (1998)
- directed by Yee Chung-Man - 26 points


Quirky, charming and magical fantasy-romance that manages to expand upon Kelly Chen's very limited acting range. Also featuring a vintage Takeshi Kaneshiro performance and probably Aaron Kwok's best acting of the nineties. Came out the same week as Beast Cops and Hitman. 1998 was a great year.


80. THE SAVIOUR OF THE SOUL (1991)
- directed by Corey Yuen and David Lai - 26 points


Andy Lau and Anita Mui anchor Corey Yuen and David Lai's fantasy actioner, but it's Aaron Kwok as the villainous Silver Fox who steals the show. Stylish, dizzying, over-the-top fun.


79. GOD OF GAMBLERS' RETURN (1994)
- directed by Wong Jing - 26.5 points


Chow Yun-Fat's return as Ko Chun blazed at the box office, becoming Hong Kong's highest grossing film at the time. Chow is charismatic, Wu Chien-Lien winning and Chingmy Yau super sexy, but the most memorable thing about Wong Jing's gambling comedy? Maybe the fetus in a jar.


77 (TIE). TASK FORCE (1997)
- directed by Patrick Leung - 26.5 points


An underrated cop soap opera from director Patrick Leung, Task Force is a nineties gem with plenty of genre love, not to mention Charlie Young as one of the most endearing hookers-with-a-heart-of-gold ever put to film. As John Woo says in his cameo, "well done."


77 (TIE). RUMBLE IN THE BRONX (1995)
- directed by Stanley Tong - 26.5 points


The movie that made Jackie Chan in North America. The scenes between Chan and Francoise Yip don't convince one iota, but who really cares? Rumble in the Bronx has some of Jackie Chan's most entertaining and fun set pieces, with a fine use of props and the typical Chan daring. It also has Anita Mui. And a hovercraft.


76. VIVA EROTICA! (1996)
- directed by Derek Yee and Law Chi-Leung - 27 points


Lest we forget, Derek Yee and Law Chi-Leung's comedy reminds us that filmmakers and actors who make softcore pornography are people too. That's one of two big lessons taken from Viva Erotica. The other big lesson: Shu Qi is a damn fine actress.


75. THE CHINESE FEAST (1995)
- directed by Tsui Hark - 27.5 points, 1 first place vote


One of Tsui Hark's most enjoyable flicks, this Lunar New Year Comedy gets better with age. Awesome production values, esoteric and appetizing dishes and a terrific cast led by Leslie Cheung and Anita Yuen make this a winner. The Widesight DVD is the suck though.


74. DR. MACK (1995)
- directed by Lee Chi-Ngai - 28 points, 2 first place votes


One of UFO's most entertaining upscale comedies, Dr. Mack features at its heart a roguishly charming Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in one of his most underrated performances. Lau Ching-Wan, Gigi Leung, Richard Ng, Eileen Tung and Andy Hui are also pretty good. We miss the Lee Chi-Ngai who directed this, Heaven Can't Wait and Lost and Found.


73. SHANGHAI GRAND (1996)
- directed by Poon Man-Kit - 28.5 points


Producer Tsui Hark's remake of Shanghai Beach a.k.a. The Bund is solid genre stuff, with Andy Lau and Leslie Cheung ably filling the iconic roles. Neither can hold a candle to the original drama's Chow Yun-Fat - but really, can anyone?


72. CITY OF GLASS (1998)
- directed by Mabel Cheung - 30.5 points, 1 first place vote


Shu Qi and Leon Lai provide the superstar romance, but Daniel Wu and Nicola Cheung give City of Glass its heart. Does anyone remember that Eason Chan was in this movie? Does anyone even remember Nicola Cheung?


71. KING OF BEGGARS (1992)
- directed by Gordon Chan - 31.5 points


Way before Zhao Wen-Zhou strapped on the Beggar So togs, Stephen Chow took a swing at the character in this hilarious Gordon Chan-directed classic. A fine mix of action and comedy with some surprisingly subdued work from Stephen Chow. Don't worry, he acts wacky too.


70. FLY ME TO POLARIS (1999)
- directed by Jingle Ma - 32 points


In Fly Me to Polaris, director Jingle Ma has a hammer and he uses it - and you know what, it works! Against all odds, this over-the-top romantic melodrama soars. With this and King of Comedy, newcomer Cecilia Cheung showed that she had the right stuff.


69. BIG BULLET (1996)
- directed by Benny Chan - 32 points


One of the premier actioners of the nineties, Benny Chan's Big Bullet hits the bulls-eye with its mixture of high-octane action and mismatched cops camaraderie. Lau Ching-Wan is top notch in the lead, and the ace supporting cast includes Theresa Lee, Jordan Chan, Spencer Lam, Francis Ng and Anthony Wong.


68. NAKED KILLER (1992)
- directed by Clarence Fok - 32 points, 1 first place vote


This Wong Jing-produced exercise in over-the-top exploitation has surprisingly smart subtext and some very, very entertaining portions. Lee Rankin says about Naked Killer, "Hahahahahahahahahaha, man eats penis for breakfast!" Yeah, that about sums it up. The poster, featuring Chingmy Yau covering her naughty bits, is a classic in its own right.


67. FLIRTING SCHOLAR (1993)
- directed by Lee Lik-Chee - 33 points


Screwy comedy based on the same Huangmei opera that begat the Shaw Brothers classic The Three Smiles. Gong Li may be the co-star, but Stephen Chow simply owns Flirting Scholar with his insane comic shenanigans. It helps if you know Cantonese, but it's okay if you don't.


66. LITTLE CHEUNG (1999)
- directed by Fruit Chan - 33 points, 1 first place vote


Besides Wong Kar-Wai, Fruit Chan was arguably the filmmaker find of the nineties. Grady Hendrix says, "Fruit Chan has become a ‘whatever happened to?', but with Little Cheung he made what might be the perfect Hong Kong art film. It's one of the best movies about Cantonese street culture and working class Hong Kong I've ever seen, and when Little Cheung pisses in the rain while reciting classical poetry…I still get goosebumps."


65. METADE FUMACA (1999)
- directed by Riley Yip - 33.5 points


Eric Tsang is great but Nicholas Tse may be even better in this unexpected comedy-drama about aging triads and lost memories. Director Riley Yip's follow-up to the excellent Love is Not a Game But a Joke marked him as a talent to watch.


64. WING CHUN (1994)
- directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 33.5 points


In Wing Chun, Michelle Yeoh makes tofu and kicks ass - and not necessarily in that order. Yuen Woo-Ping is a master, but you knew that. Co-starring DONNNNIEEE as the dopey love interest.


63. TRICKY BRAINS (1991)
- directed by Wong Jing - 34 points


Stephen Chow and Andy Lau get super silly with this wacky laffer from - who else - Wong Jing. Tricky Brains features the duo hamming it up in this inspired nonsense comedy, and the cast is aces: Chow, Lau, Ng Man-Tat, Chingmy Yau, Rosamund Kwan, Waise Lee, and the late Shing Fui-On in a cameo.


62. HE AIN'T HEAVY, HE'S MY FATHER (1993)
- directed by Peter Chan and Lee Chi-Ngai - 34 points, 1 first place vote


The two Tonys go Back to the Future in this charming UFO comedy from directors Peter Chan and Lee Chi-Ngai. Featuring one of those awesome everyone-is-in-it UFO casts, including Carina Lau, Anita Yuen, Lawrence Cheng, Waise Lee, Chor Yuen, Michael Chow and the terrific Tony Leung Ka-Fai, who actually outshines Tony Leung Chiu-Wai for a change. Where's that DVD remaster?


61. ALL'S WELL END'S WELL (1992)
- directed by Clifton Ko - 35 points


Stephen Chow, Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Sandra Ng, Teresa Mo - what, you need someone to draw you a diagram about why this Lunar New Year film is so much fun? Jennifer Ng justifies her love for All's Well , End's Well with, "Everyone is in this film and it spawned the eternal phrase ‘I need television! The world is ending!' - it's funnier in Cantonese, but it's our household phrase. Among other things, the film has Hollyyok (Maggie Cheung), the upside-down Eiffel Tower kiss, Stephen King's Misery gone wrong, Stephen Chow hanging on clothesline, male PMS…oh, the memories".


60. 92 LA LEGENDARY ROSE NOIRE (1992)
- directed by Jeff Lau - 36 points


Sublime, smart nonsense from director Jeff Lau that references the classic "Black Rose" serials of Hong Kong yesteryear. Both Fung Bo-Bo and Tony Leung Ka-Fai won acting awards, and both deserved them.


59. SEX AND ZEN (1991)
- directed by Michael Mak - 37 points


Man gets horse penis transplant and learns a life lesson - that's Sex and Zen in a nutshell. The opulent art direction, ridiculous sex scenes and Amy Yip's sizable assets also factor in somewhere. This movie makes Sex and Chopsticks completely unwatchable. See it with the entire family!


58. ROYAL TRAMP (1992)
- directed by Wong Jing - 37.5 points


Stephen Chow and Wong Jing's Duke of Mt. Deer adaptation pissed off more than a few Jin Yong purists back in the day, but it's earned a loyal following, probably because it's so damn funny. Another great teaming of Stephen Chow and Ng Man-Tat, not to mention Chingmy Yau and Cheung Man.


57. YOUNG AND DANGEROUS: THE PREQUEL (1998)
- directed by Andrew Lau - 38.5 points


That was quick. Within two years of starting the Young and Dangerous franchise, Andrew Lau and Manfred Wong attempted a prequel and possible reboot. It was a good one, though, with a surprising serious edge to the expected youth gang shenanigans. Nicholas Tse and Daniel Wu showed early acting promise.


56. SUMMER SNOW (1995)
- directed by Ann Hui - 38.5 points, 1 first place vote


The big winner at the 15th Hong Kong Film Awards, Summer Snow is one of Ann Hui's most celebrated works. Grace Chow says, "Ann Hui has a way of weaving tales about simple lives into great movies. Summer Snow is the finest example; it's never less or more than what it is, and she received help from the finest actors, Josephine Siao and Roy Chiao, to keep that balance. I don't think any other actress could carry Josephine Siao's role as well as she did."


55. GOD OF GAMBLERS II (1990)
- directed by Wong Jing - 40.5 points


Wannabe meets inspiration in God of Gamblers II, with Stephen Chow's All for the Winner character paying a visit to Chow Yun-Fat's God of Gambler's universe. Andy Lau reprises his role as the distractingly hip "Knight of Gamblers." Wong Jing: he's taking over this list.


54. THE LONGEST SUMMER (1998)
- directed by Fruit Chan - 42.5 points, 1 first place vote


About former soldiers in the British Army fired in the lead up to the 1997 Handover, The Longest Summer is strikingly political but also personal, using its larger subject matter to tell a story about complete, recognizable and compelling characters. Fruit Chan's powerful, darkly funny follow-up to his stunning Made in Hong Kong is considered by some to be even better. Awesome fact: this was Jo Koo's debut film.


53. GEN-X COPS (1999)
- directed by Benny Chan - 46.5 points


Gen-X Cops is about 12 pounds of cheese, but it's enjoyable, hip cheese with a take-no-prisoners attitude. Hong Kong's version of Mod Squad has hotter stars (Nic Tse, Stephen Fung, Daniel Wu, Jaymee Ong) and better action, and also features great supporting turns from Francis Ng, Eric Tsang and even Jackie Chan in a cameo. In light of Gen-Y Cops, liking Gen-X Cops gets a whole lot easier.


52. YOUNG AND DANGEROUS 3 (1996)
- directed by Andrew Lau - 49 points, 2 first place votes


Ekin Cheng goes to Holland and fights Roy Cheung. Karen Mok shows up and charms Jordan Chan. Blackie Ko and Anthony Wong steal scenes. Some previous cast members return, some characters die, and everyone gets together for a blisteringly cool rumble at a funeral. With Young and Dangerous 3, the Y&D filmmaking team hit their Hung Hing stride.


51. BULLETS OVER SUMMER (1999)
- directed by Wilson Yip - 53 points


Once upon a time, Wilson Yip made movies that weren't considered good because of Donnie Yen. Bullets Over Summer was one of Yip's best, a cop soap opera with fine characters, complex emotions, and some incredible performances. According to Valerie Soe, Bullets Over Summer is "part art film, part shoot ‘em up, part quirky character study, and all Francis Ng." Law Lan and Louis Koo are also pretty good here.


50. THE LOVERS (1994)
- directed by Tsui Hark - 53 points, 1 first place vote


Overwrought, but with so much naked emotion and feeling that it succeeds. Tsui Hark's take on the classic tale of Cheuk Ying-Toi and Leung Shan-Pak wouldn't work without the fresh-scrubbed charm of Charlie Young and Nicky Wu. The gorgeous cinematography and sublime music play no small part in making Lovers a nineties audience fave. Finding an English subtitled DVD now is like winning the lottery.


49. LOST AND FOUND (1996)
- directed by Lee Chi-Ngai - 55 points, 1 first place vote


Takeshi Kaneshiro turns in one of his most winning and effortless performances as a young dude who makes it his business to find lost things, among them Kelly Chen's heart. Much of its charm has since become cliché, but Lee Chi-Ngai's touching, lyrical drama still gets us in all the right places. Lost and Found is so endearing that it even makes Michael Wong into a decent actor.


48. ALL FOR THE WINNER (1990)
- directed by Jeff Lau - 56 points


Jeff Lau took the gambling genre to new heights - or lows, depending on how you look at it - with All for the Winner, about a psychic mainlander who arrives in Hong Kong and proceeds to bamboozle the locals with his dopey but unbeatable card sharking ways. A funny film no matter how you slice it, but since they cast some TV actor named Stephen Chow, this silly wackfest went on to become Hong Kong's highest-grossing film ever. That Stephen Chow guy never went back to TV.


47. THE HEROIC TRIO (1993)
- directed by Johnnie To and Ching Siu-Tung - 59.5 points, 1 first place vote


Johnnie To and Ching Siu-Tung successfully teamed up for Heroic Trio, the first of two fighting female flicks featuring the best actresses Hong Kong had to offer: Anita Mui, Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung. Site reader KL says, "The absurd cheesiness of this "cult classic" is forgiven because how could anyone reject Yeoh, Cheung, and Mui? Forget that Charlie's Angels flick, this is way cooler." Agreed.


46. ONCE A THIEF (1991)
- directed by John Woo - 62.5 points


Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Cheung and Cherie Chung give Once a Thief star power to spare, with elegant action, fine international settings and wacky laughs doing the rest. Light for John Woo, but is it better than Paycheck? You bet. Please try to forget that they ever made that TV series.


45. THE UNTOLD STORY (1993)
- directed by Herman Yau - 65 points


Dim sum is yummy, but not in Herman Yau's based-on-a-true-story The Untold Story. Anthony Wong won a Hong Kong Film Award as the twisted restaurateur who fills meat buns with people parts, while Herman Yau adds smart satire amidst the Category III carnage. Valerie Soe calls it "a horrible story told in riveting style, with an indescribable performance by Anthony Wong. Herman Yau makes it all watchable."


44. FULL CONTACT (1992)
- directed by Ringo Lam - 65.5 points


There's plenty that makes Ringo Lam's Full Contact a B-movie classic. It's got a vicious Chow Yun-Fat, a dopey Anthony Wong, a flamboyant Simon Yam, plus the bullet-cam and the infamous kiss-off line, "Masturbate in Hell!" Reader WillJayRod calls it "One of the most kinetic action films ever made." We call it a good time at the grindhouse.


43. CENTRE STAGE (1992)
- directed by Stanley Kwan - 69.5 points, 2 first place votes


Silent film actress Ruan Ling-Yu and her tragic story are the basis for Stanley Kwan's docu-drama Center Stage Also known as The Actress, the film is justly acclaimed for its period detail, experimental craft, and most of all its lead actress, the luminous Maggie Cheung, who won her second Best Actress Hong Kong Film Award for her performance.


42. FORBIDDEN CITY COP (1996)
- directed by Vincent Kok - 70.5 points, 1 first place vote


Notch up another one for Stephen Chow. The period spy comedy Forbidden City Cop is one of his best films, and Chow's turn as a loving husband and inventor of kickass devices counts among his most winning. Terrific set pieces, great comedy, and a superb supporting cast (especially Carina Lau and Carman Lee as the female leads) add to the fun.


41. LOVE ON DELIVERY (1994)
- directed by Lee Lik-Chee - 73.5 points


Yes, a silly comedy about a delivery boy who apes Ultraman is considered better than a Stanley Kwan film about the tragic life of a beloved silent film star. That's Hong Kong Cinema for you. Oh, by the way, Love on Delivery rocks. Says Grady Hendrix about the film, "Maybe because it's the first Chow movie I ever saw, maybe it's because it's the best pairing he ever had with Ng Man-Tat, but I like to think that I love it so much because in the end he doesn't achieve his victory by training, or by being good at anything. He wins because he cheats."


40. MADE IN HONG KONG (1997)
- directed by Fruit Chan - 81.5 points, 1 first place vote


Produced for next to nothing, Made in Hong Kong is a true Hong Kong film, showing heart, soul and a can-do attitude to get itself onto cinema screens. Valerie Soe says, "Fruit Chan shows that not all HK triad films have to follow the formula," and considering this film came one year after the blockbuster Young and Dangerous, she's absolutely right. Starring a young Sam Lee and produced by some guy named Andy Lau.


39. THE TAI-CHI MASTER (1993)
- directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 82 points


Jet Li's best collaborator on his films has either been Corey Yuen or Yuen Woo-Ping - and Tai-Chi Master certainly makes the case that it's Yuen Woo-Ping. Awesome action and a fun performance from Jet Li make this one of his best films. The lone Jet Li-Michelle Yeoh collaboration until (*ugh*) The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. That is, unless you count Yeoh's cameo in the director's cut of Fearless. We don't.


38. TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1 (1997)
- directed by Wai Ka-Fai - 83 points


A stylized black comedy about heroism, karma and other triad urban legends, Too Many Ways to be No. 1 is one of Milkyway Image's most defining productions. Valerie So says that the film "takes all of Johnnie To & Wai Ka-Fai's thematic and stylistic tics to the nth degree." This is a deconstructionist gangster art film that turns zeroes into heroes and does so without ever pretending that a life of crime is cool. If that sounds like a genre storytelling feat - well, that's because it is.


37. THE STORM RIDERS (1998)
- directed by Andrew Lau - 84 points


The seminal CGI-enhanced wuxia, Storm Riders hasn't aged particularly well, but when you measure it against its inert sequel Storm Warriors, it starts looking a whooole lot better. Over a decade later the effects still hold up, and the super-loaded cast is a definite plus. Sonny Chiba's overacting threatens to eat both Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng alive. So entertaining that we'll forgive Andrew Lau for A Man Called Hero.


36. GREEN SNAKE (1993)
- directed by Tsui Hark - 88 points, 1 first place vote


Completely bizarre and yet possessing of so much gorgeous, senses-shattering feeling that it's hard not to see the beauty. Green Snake is pure Tsui Hark, i.e. an audience-defying mishmash of genre and theme, meaning simultaneously everything and nothing. Why Jennifer Ng liked it: "Sexuality, mysticism, reincarnation, the hypocrisy of rigid religious beliefs, accepting others no matter what their form, accepting yourself…and it was a very pretty film."


35. A HERO NEVER DIES (1998)
- directed by Johnnie To - 96 points


Heroic bloodshed goes postmodern with A Hero Never Dies. Out of all of Johnnie To's classic nineties crime thrillers, this is the one that feels the most connected with his 21st century films, with pronounced homoeroticism, spellbinding action, and a knowing machismo that radiates cool. Lau Ching-Wan can do no wrong when working with Johnnie To.


34. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED (1998)
- directed by Patrick Yau - 98 points


Lau Ching-Wan leads a fine ensemble in Milkyway Image's take on the cop soap opera. Romantic subplots, minor comedy, charismatic characters and some cooler-than-cool style make Expect the Unexpected an obvious cinema concoction, but the obviously allegorical narrative feels frighteningly real. As WillJayRod puts it, "Even the title won't quite prepare you for the last three minutes."


33. DRAGON INN (1992)
- directed by Raymond Lee - 104.5 points, 2 first place votes


A remake of King Hu's classic 1967 wuxia Dragon Gate Inn, this Tsui Hark-produced actioner stands up decently on its own. Exciting action, excellent cinematography, and an unbeatable trifecta of stars - Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Ka-Fai and the sexy Maggie Cheung - all contribute to making this a classic. Lest we forget, there's also DONNNIEEEE as an evil eunuch who's so powerful that he can take on all three headlining stars at once. Actually, in reality Donnie Yen probably could simultaneously beat-up Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Brigitte Lin and Maggie Cheung, plus also Tsui Hark, Raymond Chow and their wives. After all, he is Donnie.


32. BEAST COPS (1998)
- directed by Gordon Chan and Dante Lam - 108 points, 1 first place vote


Easily the cop soap opera of the nineties, Beast Cops tells a meandering story about corrupt cops, snot-nosed triads and their somewhat silly girlfriends. Strangely, it totally kicks ass. Anthony Wong deservedly won a Best Actor Hong Kong Film Award, and Michael Wong could easily have gotten away with a nomination. Collectively or individually, Dante Lam and Gordon Chan have arguably never topped this film. Patrick Tam, why aren't you a bigger star?


31. THE LONGEST NITE (1998)
- directed by Johnnie To - 109.5 points, 1 first place vote


Super stylish and super mean, The Longest Nite is great fun if you enjoy unhappy endings, unflinching violence, and the sight of people getting their fingernails ripped off. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Lau Ching-Wan are flawlessly evil in the sweaty lead roles. Directed to pitch black perfection by Patrick Yau - or is it Johnnie To? Probably the best cinema use of a ketchup bottle ever.


30. FULL ALERT (1997)
- directed by Ringo Lam - 112 points, 1 first place vote


The inestimable Grady Hendrix can tell you about this one: "By the time Ringo Lam's last good movie rolls its end credits, Hong Kong action flicks are over. Deceptively sophisticated, Lam's 1997 movie was an elegiac farewell to the colony as well as its most famous genre. Beautiful editing, haunting music, perfectly crafted stunt work and deeply lived performances from Jack Gao, Francis Ng and Lau Ching-Wan make this a career high for all involved. But more importantly, it was a farewell to the idea of the action movie as entertainment. Lam wants you to know that while some bad guys need to be blown to hell, the cops who chase them lose their souls when they pull the trigger. What's so entertaining about that?"


29. FIGHT BACK TO SCHOOL (1991)
- directed by Gordon Chan - 113 points


Stephen Chow rules the school in the first of the megahit Fight Back to School movies. Basically a thinly-plotted excuse for Chow to put on a school uniform and show up lesser individuals - i.e. everybody not named Stephen Chow - this film helped cement the superstar status that Chow attained with his previous All for the Winner. Co-starring a passel of regular Chow screen partners: Ng Man-Tat, Cheung Man and also Gabriel "Turtle" Wong. Remember him? Probably not.


28. HE'S A WOMAN, SHE'S A MAN (1994)
- directed by Peter Chan - 113.5 points


Once upon a time Hollywood optioned Peter Chan's He's a Woman, She's a Man for a remake, but it hasn't happened yet. Hopefully it won't and someone will come to their senses and give this wonderful romantic comedy the DVD - nay, the Blu-ray remaster it so richly deserves. Anita Yuen charms up a storm in the role that earned her a second consecutive Best Actress Hong Kong Film Award, and Leslie Cheung and Carina Lau are perfectly cast as an appropriately glamourous superstar couple. Featuring one of the classic Hong Kong Cinema theme songs, "Chase", performed by Leslie Cheung.


27. THE BLADE (1995)
- directed by Tsui Hark - 115 points, 1 first place vote


The Blade is what happens when someone makes Ashes of Time but decides to jam in as many themes as possible while cranking up the intensity and the action to a generous twelve. Not surprisingly, it's Tsui Hark at the helm of this gritty-before-it-became-trendy swordplay classic. Grady Hendrix says that The Blade is "the omega of Tsui Hark's period martial arts movies. A retelling of One Armed Swordsman, it represented a new direction in action and story-telling that died a dog's death at the HK box office. Fast and furious, it has never been equalled…nor has it ever been released on DVD with English subtitles." Legally, that is.


26. YOUNG AND DANGEROUS (1996)
- directed by Andrew Lau - 118.5 points


Valerie Soe says Young and Dangerous is good because "you can never get enough of Ekin Cheng in leather pants." Depending on who you are, that's certainly arguable, but the film's impact on Hong Kong Cinema is not. This comic-based film launched its own subculture, not to mention a passel of imitators, a slew of sequels, a couple of spin-offs and a prequel. The film also propelled the actor who played the villain, some guy named Francis Ng, into the Hong Kong Cinema stratosphere. Some consider the sequels to be better.


25. FROM BEIJING WITH LOVE (1994)
- directed by Lee Lik-Chee - 140.5 points, 1 first place vote


The best thing about From Beijing with Love is the reveal - you know, the one where you find out that Stephen Chow's Ling Ling Chat isn't just a slow, dumb hick who likes knives. Instead, he's a slow, dumb hick who is a GOD with knives. That he can't use a gun is forgivable and only adds to this parody-filled laffer. A mixture of esoteric silliness, droll spy parodies and too-cool comic charisma, From Beijing With Love also has Anita Yuen and a very funny Law Kar-Ying. Who didn't catch the Days of Being Wild parody?


24. THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR (1994)
- directed by Ronny Yu - 148 points


Dark, operatic and erotically-charged, The Bride with White Hair still enchants despite its early nineties MTV style. Leslie Cheung and Brigitte Lin play the doomed couple whose ill-fated love results in one of them - Lin, naturally - becoming a white-haired witch who can kill scores of enemies with just a withering gaze. A turning point in HK film history for the wuxia genre and one of the key Hong Kong films of the nineties. It could have easily ranked higher than this.


23. SWORDSMAN II (1991)
- directed by Ching Siu-Tung - 156.5 points


Site reader KL says about Swordsman II, "Brigitte Lin's turn as Asia the Invincible is sublime and perhaps the only reason to make this movie unforgettable. Um, Jet Li is in it, too." Yeah, Jet Li is good in Swordsman II, but his work pales next to the grand performance from Brigitte Lin as a man who wants so much to obtain ultimate kung-fu power that he'll go the extra distance - that is, castrate himself and become a she! One could attempt this in real life as a way to move up the corporate ladder, but we're guessing that it doesn't work. What does work: this movie, both then and now.


22. POLICE STORY III: SUPERCOP (1992)
- directed by Stanley Tong - 161 points, 2 first place votes


Probably one of the five movies every fan of Hong Kong Cinema has seen, Supercop isn't notable for the usual creative Jackie Chan choreography, but for its insane and unbelievable stuntwork, which likely sticks in the memory of anyone who's seen it on the big screen. Also notable: the fact that Chan was willing to let himself be outshone by his co-star, action goddess Michelle Yeoh. Supercop should rightfully live forever in the annals of action film history. If it doesn't, then we weep for action film fans worldwide. Bonus points: it's got a young Maggie Cheung!


21. A MOMENT OF ROMANCE (1990)
- directed by Benny Chan - 178 points, 5 first place votes


A Moment of Romance isn't just popular, it's legendary. Twenty years on, it still gets referenced in films and TV, and numerous people involved with the film - Andy Lau, Johnnie To and writer James Yuen among them - seem more than happy to parody it themselves. Also, Andy Lau's Wah Dee character pretty much defined the righteous street triad archetype. Valerie Soe says its got "triads, melodrama, bloodshed, and Andy Lau, plus Wu Chien-Lien running down the street in a bloody wedding dress AND a bitchin' theme by Beyond. Classic HK moviemaking." We agree and so should you.


20. IRON MONKEY (1993), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 180 points

As perfect a definition of a Hong Kong film as you'll find, Iron Monkey is one of the most enjoyable martial arts flicks of the early nineties not starring a guy named Jet or Jackie. Directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, produced by Tsui Hark and starring Yu Rong-Guang and Donnie Yen before he officially became DONNNNNIEEEE. Sadly, the arrival of the super elegant overproduced martial arts epic has made the chances of more movies like Iron Monkey very rare. That's another reason why we should cherish this one.


19. FIST OF LEGEND (1994), directed by Gordon Chan - 187.5 points, 2 first place votes

Lee Rankin calls Fist of Legend "simply one of the best martial arts movies ever made," and enough people agreed to get the film into the Top 20. This remake of Bruce Lee's classic Fist of Fury casts Jet Li in the Chen Zhen role, and gives him ample opportunity to own others - either one-on-one or one-on-many - and the destruction he wreaks is powerful, impressive, and sometimes more than a little unfair. Gordon Chan directs, but really, this is Jet Li and Yuen Woo-Ping's show.


18. KING OF COMEDY (1999), directed by Stephen Chow - 190.5 points, 1 first place vote

This layered laffer finds Stephen Chow as Wan Tin-Sau, a dense actor whose dedication to his craft is both a curse and a blessing. Struggling to win respect or even jobs, he finds purpose when he trains a young prostitute how to act more "professional". At one point she beats him up with a folding stool. LoveHKFilm reader Charles calls King of Comedy "Stephen Chow's masterpiece - a movie about movies that plays with genres as often as he (the director) plays with the audience." The film also introduced audiences to some actress named Cecilia Cheung - which makes it more or less essential viewing for any Hong Kong Cinema fan.


17. ASHES OF TIME (1994), directed by Wong Kar-Wai - 200.5 points, 4 first place votes

The late Barry Long saw Wong Kar-Wai's Ashes of Time during its theatrical run in 1994, and his reaction was, "I have no idea what's going on, but this movie rocks!" Ashes of Time was ahead of its time, but also a product of its times. The bombastic synthesizer soundtrack and over-stylized fight sequences confirm the film's nineties-era origins, but putting postmodern existentialism into a film based on a classic martial arts novel? That's something audiences weren't ready for. Fifteen years later, after the failure of The Blade and the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero? Ashes of Time can be called what it is: a masterpiece.


16. A CHINESE ODYSSEY PART I: CINDERELLA (1995) and A A CHINESE ODYSSEY Part II: PANDORA'S BOX (1995), directed by Jeff Lau - 212.5 points, 4 first place votes

LoveHKFilm reader Garvin says that A Chinese Odyssey is "the ultimate Hong Kong movie. A great blend of everything you would expect - mo lei tau comedy, crazy action, and surprisingly deep, heart-breaking drama (yes, really!). All capped off with a great performance from Stephen Chow, maybe his best ever." Garvin is right on the acting. Just check out the final scene of Part II, where Stephen Chow plays two characters, the mortal Joker and the the immortal Monkey King. They're the same guy at different times in their life, and Chow sells it through the light in his eyes and not just the Monkey make-up. Jeff Lau's comedies are sometimes too smart for their own good, but the Chinese Odyssey films mix low brow shenanigans, cerebral gags and ardent emotions with delirious, affecting abandon. Ng Man-Tat as Piggy? A cast of females that includes Yammie Nam, Karen Mok, Ada Choi and Athena Chu? Icing.


15. FALLEN ANGELS (1995), directed by Wong Kar-Wai - 218 points, 3 first place votes

It's been called the "coolest movie in the world", but Fallen Angels can also be called Chungking Express pushed to lurid, excessive, over-the-top romantic genre extremes. Grady Hendrix sums this one up thusly, "Wong Kar-wai has made better movies, but I prefer him in his pop-tastic mode, and Fallen Angels sees his nineties mannerisms pushed to high art. Resolutely a product of Hong Kong genre filmmaking with embarrassing slo-mo musical montages and improbably badass action scenes, its highs are higher (and lows, lower) than anything else he would ever make. Free of the artsy self-consciousness that would infest his later movies, it gets on this list for having the world's most perfect final shot, if for nothing else."


14. C'EST LA VIE, MON CHERI (1993), directed by Derek Yee - 227.5 points, 3 first place votes

Basically Love Story told Hong Kong-style, C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri demonstrates how to tell an age-old story in sublime style. Derek Yee's tearjerker delivers expected emotions, but refuses to narrate or spoonfeed, instead selling situations and subtle growth in characters that we learn to deeply care about. Also, Chris Babida's music is amazing. Anita Yuen deservedly won her first of two consecutive Best Actress Awards, and the film's portrait of local Hong Kong culture and clashing classes is as fascinating and affecting as its terminal illness plotline. Yet another classic Hong Kong film that is now hard to find on DVD.


13. HAPPY TOGETHER (1997), directed by Wong Kar-Wai - 232 points, 3 first place votes

Grace Chow says, "The melancholy, suppressed, alienated atmosphere in this movie is painful and familiar at the same time." Happy Together so deeply enters the emotions and psyches of its protagonists that it easily rises above its dismissive label as "gay cinema", becoming something universal that can be understood and appreciated by just about anyone. Replace either Leslie Cheung or Tony Leung Chiu-Wai with a female actor and you'd still have an amazing film. Still, then you'd miss out on seeing probably the most handsome couple in Hong Kong Cinema history. Leung won the acting awards, but Cheung's performance is the more heartbreaking.


12. FONG SAI YUK (1993), directed by Corey Yuen - 242 points, 1 first place vote

Fong Sai Yuk should be considered one of the finest examples of nineties Hong Kong Cinema. It's got comedy, switched genders, mistaken identity, chaste romance, and exciting, creative kung-fu action plenty. Like many nineties Hong Kong films, its certainly uneven, but its shifting tones and disparate genres are what makes it a classic. Adam Laidig says, "Every time one of its flaws crops up on screen there's someone right there to gloss over it with two coats of charm." Jet Li is one of those someones, but there's also the beautiful Michelle Reis and the legendary Josephine Siao, who pretty much owns Fong Sai Yuk with her divine comic turn as Fong Sai-Yuk's too-cool-for-school mom. And Zhao Wen-Zhou as the villain? Awesome. Possibly the most fun movie Jet Li ever made.


11. COMRADES, ALMOST A LOVE STORY (1996), directed by Peter Chan - 276 points, 7 first place votes

The big winner at the 1996 Hong Kong Film Awards, Peter Chan's Comrades, Almost a Love Story is easily the Hong Kong romance of the nineties, referencing the city's romantic history while also touching upon the Chinese diaspora and such nifty ideas as identity, serendipity and predestiny. It's impossible to talk about Comrades without talking about Leon Lai, who's great here, and Maggie Cheung, who's more than just great - she raises the film to a complete other level. Says reader KL, "Without Maggie Cheung, this is just a good film. With Maggie Cheung, this is a wonderful film. Her radiant face and heartfelt performance are a real pleasure to behold." In the 21st century, Chan has busied himself with expanding the financial viability of Hong Kong and Asian film through projects like Perhaps Love, Warlords and Bodyguards and Assassins. But wouldn't it be great if he could make just one more personal romance? If he could coax Maggie Cheung back to the screen for a starring role, it would be the Hong Kong film of that year. Hard to find on DVD now. My copy is in a safe deposit box somewhere.


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

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


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

Holy cow, look at that cast! If not for Ashes of Time, Days of Being Wild would be Wong Kar-Wai's most star-jammed film, but the cast is arguably put to better use here. Not only does this film contain Andy Lau's best acting of the early nineties, but it features perhaps Leslie Cheung's best acting ever - if you ignore that Farewell My Concubine film. Also, that last scene with Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is mesmerizing, despite containing no dialogue and essentially leading nowhere until 2000, when the character reappears (maybe) in In the Mood for Love. Probably not Wong Kar-Wai's most enjoyable look at romance, but Days of Being Wild captures love's insecure, interminable state of limbo like no other film. At one time or another, everyone has felt like one of the love-paralyzed characters in Day of Being Wild. Even if that character is the one played by Rebecca Pan.


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

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


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

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


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

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


5. DRUNKEN MASTER II (1994), directed by Lau Kar-Leung - 350.5 points, 6 first place votes

Jackie Chan's highest ranking film on this list is arguably the last truly great fightfest of his career, with later works weighed down by gimmicky plots or clumsy attempts at meaning. Grady Hendrix can close this one out: "Jackie Chan turned in three great films in the 90's and five second string films, but it's Drunken Master 2 that will stand the test of time. Chan has always been generous to his co-stars as long as they're willing to stand up to him, and in DM2 he gives Anita Mui the spotlight, while Lau Kar-Leung and Ti Lung make the most of their limited screentime. Most importantly, this is a typical Hong Kong period martial arts movie done right: the nationalist angle works, the comedy is (mostly) funny, the production values are slick and the action is truly magnificent. Watching the three-stage climax sees character, story and action all come together into a seamless whole that kicks you in the face."


4. BULLET IN THE HEAD (1990), directed by John Woo - 370 points, 7 first place votes

Bullet in the Head is heroic bloodshed taken to its most exhausting, compelling and gut-wrenching extreme. John Woo takes his usual themes (brotherhood, honor, loyalty, friendship, troublesome women), subtracts the romantic heroism, and then jacks everything up to an over-the-top, punishing eleven. The result is neither subtle nor polished, but it is exceptionally felt, with the overacting, bombastic music and obvious symbolism (the guy blocking the tank is NOT a reference to Vietnam) ultimately adding to and not detracting from the experience. In the lead, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai displays a ferocious inner emotion, while Jacky Cheung goes hilariously and then frighteningly over-the-top as the pal who gets the eponymous bullet in the head. John Woo brandishes a directorial hammer for Bullet in the Head, but instead of just hitting you over the head, he swings it with such force that it lodges deep in your skull, probably damaging you irreparably. Message to John Woo: thanks for the trauma! And the movie.


3. THE MISSION (1999), directed by Johnnie To - 412.5 points, 7 first place votes

Johnnie To's filmmaking skills grew exponentially in the nineties, and with his last film of the decade, he pretty much claimed his position as Hong Kong's top filmmaker. The film in question: the oddball gangland thriller The Mission. Looking like just another one of To's rushed genre gems, The Mission proved to be his unexpected masterpiece, the director revealing a mastery of spare yet complete storytelling where inaudible grunts and subtle nods reveal more than whole pages of dialogue could. The action sequences here are surprising in their stripped-down stillness, with deliberate inaction proving far more exciting than bullet ballet or gooey squibs. To's five character actors - Francis Ng, Anthony Wong, Roy Cheung, Lam Suet and Jackie Lui - complement one another beautifully, creating strong, believable relationships through body language and wordless action. Ten years on, To has perhaps surpassed The Mission, with his Election films showing us a revered master who makes it look effortless and all-too-easy. The Mission, however, heralded the ascension of that master, and for an audience, that rush of discovery is impossible to recapture.


2. HARD BOILED (1992), directed by John Woo - 547.5 points, 9 first place votes

Site reader Mut said, "Considering it's possibly the greatest action film of all time, this was a no-brainer." That is correct, because this is Hard Boiled. John Woo's seminal actioner easily qualifies as one of the five Hong Kong films seen by every Hong Kong Cinema fan, and determining the other four films would probably lead to endless argument. But agreeing on Hard Boiled? No problem. Bullet in the Head is better thematically and emotionally, but can it match the pyrotechnic prowess or balls-to-the-wall insanity of this film? Of course not - we're talking about Hard Boiled! Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Anthony Wong are great actors and none won awards for this film. But they're awesome here because hey, they just appeared in Hard Boiled. And it's useless for me to try to justify why this movie belongs in a list of the Top 5 Hong Kong movies of the nineties. That's because - say it with me - THIS. IS. HARD BOILED.


1. CHUNGKING EXPRESS (1994), directed by Wong Kar-Wai - 673 points, 24 first place votes

If this website had to choose one representative film, it would be this one: Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express. As a nineties Hong Kong film, it's emblematic of why the industry was so wonderful at the time - except for the fact that it lacks any sort of martial arts or kung-fu. What does it have instead? Artful existentialism, urban alienation, postmodern self-analysis, the city as character, beguiling sitcom romance, cop soap opera, MTV-inspired visuals, Cantopop montage, plus unique Hong Kong locations and some of the most charismatic stars the industry had to offer. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai won multiple Best Actor awards for his coolly charming turn as lovelorn cop #663, while Takeshi Kaneshiro, Faye Wong and Brigitte Lin are impressive despite their lack of jury-given hardware. Romantic, breezy and gorgeously accomplished, Chungking Express is a movie that makes love and its myriad, unexpected chances seem absolutely, wondrously possible. Grace Chow asks, "What isn't there to love about this movie?" Pretty much nothing.


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Published April 28, 2010


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