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15 Films to Marathon for Lunar New Year

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Watching movies is a common pastime during the Chinese New Year holidays, so much so that there's an entire genre of Lunar New Year films. Films made to be released during this holiday period run the gamut from comedy to action to romance, but they tend to be lighter in tone and suitable for family viewing. Think Sam Hui's Aces Go Places series and the films of Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow. Probably the most classic image of the Chinese New Year movie is a Hong Kong ensemble comedy filled with stars and gags – plus an end reel of the cast singing a New Year's song and reciting well-wishes.

Since heading to the cinema may not be a good idea this holiday season, why not (re)watch some old Chinese New Year films at home? Below are 15 feel-good comedies to marathon for the Lunar New Year!


1. All's Well End's Well
There are eight films in the All's Well End's Well series so far, spanning from 1992 to 2020, but the most classic is the original. Besides being a quintessential all-star Lunar New Year film, Clifton Ko's blockbuster is also a quintessential 90s Hong Kong comedy of errors. Leslie Cheung, Stephen Chow, series producer Raymond Wong, Maggie Cheung, Teresa Mo and Sandra Ng engage in a battle of the sexes filled with wacky jokes and movie parodies that will have you splitting your sides.



2. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World
Another one of Hong Kong's classic Lunar New Year film series, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World stars the legendary Lydia Shum and Bill Tung as the parents of a typical dysfunctional Hong Kong family. In Clifton Ko's bustling 1987 comedy, the first of four films in the series, the bickering working-class family of five wins the lottery, but mo' money brings mo' problems.



3. Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year
Just like the title says, the beloved British piglet celebrates Chinese New Year in this special film released in 2019 for the Year of the Pig. The curious hybrid film has cartoon episodes of Peppa and friends experiencing the festivities of Chinese New Year. The animated stories are interspersed in a live-action musical about a family meeting up for New Year's. Though an odd mix, it's an easy pick for those with young kids in the house.



4. The Chinese Feast
Food is a huge part of Chinese New Year festivities, so Tsui Hark's 1995 comedy revolving around food gleefully hits the sweet spot – and the funny bone. Leslie Cheung plays a gangster who gets drawn into a high-stakes cooking contest for reasons. To win, he'll need the help of Anita Yuen and Kenny Bee in recreating a legendary ancient banquet spread.



5. The Eagle Shooting Heroes
Even among the many nonsense comedies of the 90s, The Eagle Shooting Heroes is particularly noteworthy, because it's super all-star and super crazy. Jeff Lau's madcap period piece spoofs Louis Cha's martial arts novel The Legend of the Condor Heroes with relentlessly over-the-top gusto. This film has Leslie Cheung, both Tony Leungs, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Joey Wang, Kenny Bee and Carina Lau. It's also produced by Wong Kar Wai and action directed by Sammo Hung.



6. All's Well End's Well 2011
After disappearing from screens for over a decade, the All's Well series returned in the new millennium with annual releases from 2009 to 2012, all featuring Louis Koo and following the familiar formula of stars hamming for love and laughs. Of that lot, the 2011 installment deserves special mention for casting Donnie Yen as a makeup artist whose beautifying skills are Ip Man level. If you want to see Donnie brandish a makeup brush, this is the movie to watch.



7. Hotel Deluxe
Another brainchild of Raymond Wong plus Vincent Kok, this 2013 Lunar New Year gathering is set in a hotel that's in danger of losing its five-star rating. Though this entry offers less celebrity-spotting than the All's Well films, it utilizes the well-honed comedic chemistry of Ronald Cheng and Fiona Sit, as well as reliable fixtures like Sandra Ng and Teresa Mo, for a good amount of lighthearted laughs.



8. Eighth Happiness
Before directing all those intense crime films, Johnnie To directed this hit 1988 screwball farce starring the one and only Chow Yun Fat. The raucous humor may be cringingly dated at times, but the legendary actor is suave and funny in his enthusiastically committed comedic performance as a scheming player who meets his feisty match in Carol Cheng!



9.
Fat Choi Spirit
Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai's 2002 Lunar New Year offering brings in a prized pastime that often makes an appearance during the holidays – mahjong. Andy Lau plays a mahjong master who is suddenly stricken with bad luck at the table in the gambling comedy co-starring Gigi Leung, Lau Ching Wan and Louis Koo. Mileage will vary depending on how much you appreciate mahjong.



10. King of Comedy
Stephen Chow ruled the holiday box office for many years with his comedies. Released for the 1999 Lunar New Year, King of Comedy is one of the comedy king's most classic and most quotable films. Chow stars as a bit actor who experiences many knocks and setbacks while persistently pursuing the art of acting. Alternatively, you could just loop his entire 90s filmography.



11. The New King of Comedy
Stephen Chow updates the inspiring ragtag story two decades later with actress E Jingwen as a plucky, struggling extra trying to make her mark. Though Chow stays behind the camera only, The New King of Comedy still delivers the wacky laughs and earnest feels while offering a glimpse of life at Hengdian World Studios. It also co-stars Wang Baoqiang, whose comedy style is always in over-the-top Lunar New Year mode.



12. Detective Chinatown 2
Sure, there are a few murders involved but otherwise, Chen Sicheng's zany 2018 detective comedy is good-natured entertainment that aims for fish-out-of-water gags while doing some mystery-solving in the Big Apple. With Detective Chinatown 3 set to open this year (after getting pushed back from last year's Spring Festival date), this franchise may be the new Chinese New Year film series to look for in the coming years.



13. Wu Yen
Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai reinvent the legend of Warring States-era female warrior Zhong Wu Yen, who was supposedly immensely talented but physically unattractive. This eye-catching costume comedy keeps the zingers coming and boasts an unbeatable troika of actresses: Sammi Cheng in the title role, Anita Mui gender-bending as the Emperor, and Cecilia Cheung as an enchantress who gets between them.



14. 72 Tenants of Prosperity
A joint production from Shaw Brothers and TVB, this amusing 2010 family comedy pays homage to the 70s classic House of 72 Tenants, Lunar New Year style. Jacky Cheung and Eric Tsang are longtime rivals who run competing shops and fight over everything. Anita Yuen, Stephy Tang, Bosco Wong, Linda Chung and Wong Cho Lam play their family members, and there are more cameos than you can shake a stick at.



15. Elixir of Love
Riley Yip's charming 2004 costume comedy stars Miriam Yeung as a princess born with a severe case of body odor. The Emperor promises her hand in marriage to anyone who can cure her disease. And that suitor is Richie Jen as the poor hero with a heart and nose of gold. This fluffy light and aesthetically pleasing romcom is ideal for the romantic mood of the Lantern Festival, the final day of the Chinese New Year period.






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Published February 5, 2021


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