Top 10 Asian Movies That Will Amaze You

Tags: #Movies ,   #MovieNight ,   #MovieTime

Dan N. Scarborough

Dan N. Scarborough

Last updated:  2023-11-01 15:42:47

Despite having an undeniable influence on western filmmakers, Asian cinema somehow always had niche status. Occasional breakthroughs to the limelight didn't help much for its status, mainly considered "underground" and "exotic." However, that changed after Bong Joon Ho's Parasite's major win at the Academy Awards last year. Suddenly, people worldwide started to get interested in Asian cinema and realized there's so much to discover. Actually, viewers everywhere joyfully realized that Asian cinema consistently produced remarkable films for decades. Just in 2010-2019, there are some exceptional movies worthy of your time. This top ten list means to present some of the hidden gems of Japanese, Chinese, Korean and other cinema for your viewing pleasure.

10. Train To Busan (Yeon Sang-Ho,2016)

A fresh take to the zombie genre coming from Korea

 This movie started the Asian cinema craze with a Korean take on the stalling zombie movies genre. A group of passengers gets trapped in the middle of the speed train ride during the zombie outbreak in South Korea. As the movie goes on, some disturbing and heart-wrenching things happen. Both characters and viewers will have their resolve tested by the zombie invasion.

The success of this movie is even more impressive, considering it is the live-action debut of Yeon Sang-Ho. He is primarily known in his native South Korea for his equally dark and disturbing animated movies.

Also check out: "The King Of Pigs," "The Fake," "Seoul Station"  

9. The Raid Redemption (Gareth Evans, 2012)

The Raid single-handedly revolutionized action movies

This is an unusual entry in this list, as it was made in Indonesia and directed by a Welsh, Gareth Huw Evans. However, don't mix him with Gareth Edwards, the director of "Godzilla" and "Rogue One." This action adrenaline spectacle single-handedly changed the way action films were made. Furthermore, it made Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim international action movie stars. 

This movie gave the viewers a glance at the brand new martial art style, Indonesian Pencak Silat. Furthermore, the choreography, set pieces, and the level of violence set new standards for Asian cinema. The legacy of "The Raid" series is immeasurable, and you can find traces of it in every action movie made after.  

Also check out: "Merantau," "The Raid: Berandal," "The Night Comes For Us"

8. Gangs of Wasseypur (Anurag Kashyap, 2012) 

This epic family feud spans over the three generations

This is another unexpected addition to this list, this time from India. Gangs of Wasseypur is an epic crime story spanning over three generations. Its epic length and overarching themes put this movie at the same level as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. This might sound like overstating until you see the movie and experience the story's scope and ambition first-hand. 

This five-plus-hour epic tells the story of the blood feud between a crime family and a coal mogul. It showcases how far people would go for power and wealth and how easy it is to lose their soul and humanity in the process. Although the story is set in India, the theme is universally human, therefore, close and personal to anyone. 

 Also check out: “Badlapur”, “Raajneeti”, “Omkara”

7. 13 Assassins (Takashi Miike, 2010)

Samurai bloodshed never looked so stylish

Takashi Miike is among the most controversial Japanese filmmakers. In his movies, he explores the borders of cinematic freedom and leaves the audience shocked and appalled. However, this is one of his tamest works, despite having a 100+ body count. 

The story is about a group of samurai trying to overthrow a ruthless shogun by ambushing him and his troops in a remote village. What follows is one of the best heroic bloodshed ever put on tape. Miike's recognizable directing style and execution of a great story earned this movie a whole array of accolades, including a place on the BFI's list of 10 Great Samurai Films. This is a terrific movie to start with Takashi Miike's filmography and definitely his most reserved work. 

Also, check out: "Zebraman," "Ichi The Killer," "Audition"

6. Pieta (Kim Ki-Duk, 2012)

A peek into the dark side of society

Late Kim Ki-Duk was a highly controversial South Korean director who made some of the most beautiful and most disturbing movies ever. Sometimes both at once! "Pieta" is not an exception, telling the story about a brutal debt collector and the middle-aged woman who claims that she's his mother. What follows is a mixture of Christian symbolism and highly sexual content. Consider yourself warned.

Despite being highly controversial, this is the first Korean movie to win the top prize at Venice Film Festival. If you want to glimpse into society's dark underbelly, "Pieta" would be a good starting point. 

Also check out: "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring," "3-Iron," "Moebius"

5. Drug War (Johnnie To, 2012)

The exhilarating game of cat and mouse

Johnnie To is one of the most prominent Chinese directors who rose to fame during the mid-2000s with his Triad-oriented movies. "Drug War" is a bit of a deviation from that, following a team of police inspectors trying to bring a gang of drug dealers to justice. The operation becomes an exhilarating chase with time, as the informant who agreed to help them had his own plans. 

"Drug War" is an excellent example of a crime thriller, with one of the best police officer characters in recent history. Although this movie solidifies To's reputation as one of the greatest Chinese directors, it is also his latest great movie. 

Also check out: "Election," "Exiled," "Mad Detective"

4. The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-Wai, 2013)

The most beautiful rendition of Ip Man's life

The poetic art style of Wong Kar-Wai's movies is already a well-known fact for his long-time fans. Still, most of the public was introduced to his movie art thanks to this rendition of the legendary Ip Man's life. This is definitely the most mainstream Wong Kar Wai movie so far, both theoretically and visually, but it still shines with the pure genius of masterful filmmaking.  

The subtle and colorful atmosphere of mid-1930s China serves as an extraordinary scenery for the story of the golden age of Chinese martial arts. The central character, Ip Man, goes from a privileged prodigal son to a martial arts legend and symbol of resistance through hardships and battle.  

Also check out: "In The Mood For Love," "2046", "Days of Being Wild"  

3. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2015)

A poetic and contemplative tale of loyalty

This movie is one of the best examples of the wuxia genre, mixed with minimalistic movie language and long takes. The result is one of the most refined and subtle cinematic experiences that thrills and awes from the get-go. This movie is intricately made, with beautiful Shu Qi as the leading role of the titular assassin. After a failed assignment, she is ordered to kill her cousin, a high court official in the government. 

Long, contemplative takes and using silence as a method of expression make this movie supreme viewing pleasure. Furthermore, this is accentuated with great cinematography and score.

Also check out: "A Summer at Grandpa's," "A Time to Live, A Time to Die," and "Dust in the Wind." 

2. Shadow (Zhang Yimou, 2018)

The crowning jewel of a great Chinese filmmaker

 Zhang Yimou is a Chinese visionary director known for the wuxia movies with marvelous shining colors and depressing stories, often including intrigue, betrayal, and sacrifice. The Shadow's narrative (unlike the other "Shadow") revolves around a long war between two kingdoms. A dishonored and exiled general plots an elaborate plan to exact his revenge on the rival that defeated him.

The revenge plan includes the general's wife, a look-alike, and two kings. The execution of the plan is one of the most satisfying sequences in Asian cinema. This will be a good movie for you if you're into visual extravagance and complicated relations between people. 

Also check out: "Hero," "House of the Flying Daggers," "Curse of the Golden Flower." 

1. I Saw the Devil (Kim Jee Woon, 2011)

The best revenge flick ever made

 Kim Jee Woon is often called Asian Stanley Kubrick because of the diverse nature of his movies. Despite having similar casts, every flick he made belongs to a different genre. After testing his skills in fantasy horror, comedy, action, and revisionist western, Kim Jee Woon made a bold step into the dark side with "I Saw The Devil."

The strong and gripping story about loss and revenge is accentuated by masterful performances of the stellar cast, including the first major role of Choi Min Sik after "OldBoy" in 2003. This type of movie stays with the viewer long after the ending credits.

Also check out: "A Bittersweet Life," "Tale of Two Sisters," "The Good, The Bad, The Weird"

As you can see, Asian cinema is a fascinating world to get into. Furthermore, it exists parallelly with Western cinema, and the more you look into it, the more you'll find the influence they had on each other. We tried to make this top ten list as diverse as possible, and we hope that we managed to show you the range and the scope of Asian cinema.    

Have you watched any of these movies? Which one is your favorite? 

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