Planning a night in with friends? Check out these must-watch Hong Kong movies that will thrill you, excite you, scare you, and have you in stitches.
After hitting up the best new brunches in Hong Kong and happy hours in the city, sometimes you just need a night in. But instead of rewatching your favourite Korean movies or 90s cult classics, consider snuggling up on the couch with our hand-picked Hong Kong movies and must-see Cantonese flicks. Put on these HK films on your next movie night – you won’t be disappointed!
Must-watch Hong Kong movies
1. Chungking Express (1994)
One of the best known Cantonese movies written and directed by Wong Kar-wai is Chungking Express. Following two stories, each concerning a lovelorn cop pining after an ex-girlfriend while encountering a new woman, Wong perfectly captures the mood and aesthetic of 90s Hong Kong. Featuring a classic performance from legendary icon Tony Leung, the chemistry between Leung and the enigmatic Faye Wong is one for the ages. Another beautifully shot collaboration between Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle, Chungking Express is definitely one of our favourite Hong Kong movies – as voted by the entire Honeycombers team. P.S. Good luck getting California Dreamin’ by The Mamas & the Papas out of your head!
2. Made in Hong Kong (1997)
Made in Hong Kong, written and directed by Fruit Chan, won Best Picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 1998. As secondary-school dropout, Autumn Moon, works as a debt collector for the Triad, he begins to fall for the daughter of a debtor who suffers from a kidney disease. When Moon takes it upon himself to pay her medical fees by accepting an assassination contract, he finds himself going down a dark path of no return. Masterfully made with a low budget and leftover film materials from other productions, Made in Hong Kong tells a realistic story about the political and social situations of young Hong Kongers in the late 90s.
3. The Mission (1999)
Following the brotherhood amongst five bodyguards brought together to protect a Triad leader after a failed assassination, The Mission is a must-see Hong Kong action-thriller classic. This dynamic film from iconic director Johnnie To fully displays the director’s flair for realistically depicting Triad violence. With actors like Anthony Wong and invaluable stunt persons on the top of their game, The Mission stands as a seminal Hong Kong crime flick.
4. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Stephen Chow’s masterpiece, Kung Fu Hustle, is perhaps the ultimate Cantonese action comedy film. When petty criminals, Sing and Bone, try to scam the residents of a slum into thinking they are members of the notorious Axe Gang, they are quickly humbled by the hidden kung fu masters living there. Soon, the antics attract the attention of the actual Axe Gang, paving the way for more extraordinary action and surprising heart. Featuring a number of previously retired Hong Kong action stars from the 70s, the movie is a celebration of stunt talent. The fantastical special effects and expertly choreographed fight sequences cement Kung Fu Hustle as one of the all-time greats of Hong Kong cinema.
5. Mad Detective (2007)
Another gem from gifted director Johnnie To, Mad Detective is a psychological action-thriller starring renowned Hong Kong actor Sean Lau. As an unstable but brilliant police detective is forced to retire, he takes with him a supernatural ability to see people’s inner personalities. However, he is later asked to return to aid the investigation of a missing police officer. Winning Best Screenplay at the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards, the 2nd Asian Film Awards, and Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards, Mad Detective is tightly paced and wonderfully blends aspects of several genres. To’s stylistic visuals and action shine yet again in this quintessential Hong Kong movie. Trust us when we say you won’t want to miss it!
6. SPL II: A Time for Consequences (2015)
Although titled as a sequel to the 2005 film SPL: Sha Po Lang, SPL II: A Time for Consequences bears no similarity to the first movie. Instead, it focuses on an entirely new story: When undercover cop, Kit, has his cover blown, he finds himself thrown in a prison where the warden harvests organs from prisoners. Neatly entwining themes of the prison complex, corruption, and the black market organ trade, this Hong Kong film will fully satisfy any crime-action fan. And with excellent martial arts action sequences, SPL II: A Time for Consequences confidently tackles its ambitious story.
7. Infernal Affairs (2002)
One of the most influential films of modern Hong Kong cinema, Infernal Affairs is a star vehicle for leads Andy Lau and Tony Leung. The film follows the exploits of a Hong Kong police officer undercover in the Triad while chasing after a Triad spy who has infiltrated the police force. The performances of Lau and Leung as the duelling men are a marvel to witness while the storyline is tight and fast-paced. You can’t say you’ve seen all the greats of Hong Kong cinema without seeing this gem!
Infernal Affairs also got the remake treatment by famed director Martin Scorsese. The Departed went on to win Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Give it a watch and see if you can spot all the differences and similarities.
8. Ip Man (2008)
Biographical martial arts film Ip Man follows the life of Ip Man, a grandmaster of Wing Chun martial arts and eventual teacher of Bruce Lee. Hong Kong legend Donnie Yen stars as the titular character who struggles with the effects of the Sino-Japanese War while living in Foshan. Ip Man’s prowess in martial arts and his gentle soul are at odds throughout the film while he clashes with the Japanese soldiers who push around the villagers. Yen quietly dazzles throughout the film and carries the Ip Man franchise to three more successful films.
9. Project Gutenberg (2018)
Project Gutenberg follows counterfeiter Lee Man’s recounting of his relationship with a master forger, known only as the Painter. The film employs flashbacks to illustrate the story Lee is telling the police for his freedom. The tale of violence and crime is full of twists and turns as both the audience and the characters in the film try to find out exactly who the Painter is. The film was a critical and commercial success, and definitely worth the watch for a quintessential Hong Kong action film.
10. Suk Suk (2019)
Also known as Twilight’s Kiss, Suk Suk tells the tender tale of two older men who discover a passion together they had long repressed. The film chronicles the struggle the men face when contemplating starting a life together due to all the outer challenges they encounter. A compassionate look at late-in-life homosexuality and romance in your twilight years, Suk Suk navigates complicated issues with ease. For a slower, nuanced, and romantic Hong Kong film, Suk Suk is one to watch!
11. An Autumn’s Tale (1987)
A classic Hong Kong romantic drama film, An Autumn’s Tale is a touching triumph from Mabel Cheung, one of the most influential female directors in Hong Kong cinema. The legendary Chow Yun-fat stars as Samuel, who welcomes his relative, Jennifer, to New York City where she plans to study with her boyfriend. Samuel soon finds himself guiding Jennifer through the busy city, slowly forming a deep bond as the two get to know each other. The perfect film to leave you feeling warm inside as you get invested in the characters, An Autumn’s Tale is a moving and funny look at Hong Kongers living abroad.
12. In the Mood for Love (2000)
Universally considered one of the best movies of all time, In the Mood for Love is another masterpiece from Wong Kar-wai. The chemistry between the lead actors, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, charges the story of a man and a woman dancing around their feelings for each other after discovering their spouses are having an affair. Perhaps the most romantic film about a romance that never quite happens, so much is said through unspoken words and restrained touches. Certainly a must-watch Cantonese film, In the Mood for Love will make you notice the influence of Wong’s movie in other acclaimed works.