They ran a poll of all Hong Kong movies, coming up with a ranked list of the best Hong Kong movies ever. And it’s a damned fine list, even if they split up the postings so much that it took 24 days for them to print the whole list – though to be fair there’s a lot of content there, with each film’s poster and at least a paragraph on each.
I’m going to spoil things a bit and give you the top ten:
- Chungking Express
- Infernal Affairs
- A Better Tomorrow
- In the Mood For Love
- The Killer
- Hard Boiled
- Police Story
- A Chinese Ghost Story
- Peking Opera Blues
- Shaolin Soccer
I suppose there aren’t many surprises on that list – prominent placements for the works of John Woo and Wong Kar-Wai to be expected. The top ten has just one film made after 2000, and that one’s ten years old.
Back in ’95 when I first moved here and it was easy to rent movies on laserdisc from Fotomax, I immersed myself in what was then the current golden age of Hong Kong cinema, one that began in the 80s and basically continued up until 1997. I watched everything I could get my hands on that starred Chow Yun-Fat, Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow, Jet Li; everything and anything directed by John Woo and Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam.
It all changed in ’97 with the handover. Many in the HK film industry, unnerved by the handover/return to China, tried to make the jump to Hollywood, where they were mostly ill-served.
Those who stayed and the new talents who arose mostly couldn’t fill the shoes of those who had left. I think HK has plenty of good actors and plenty of people who know how to light and shoot and cut, but very few people who can write a decent script or who know how to tell a story.
So I’m somewhat surprised that 49 of the films on the list are films released between 2000 and now (with an overwhelmingly large number from the prolific and usually worthwhile Johnnie To). Okay, the list includes 2 McDull films and The Twins Effect, but I was surprised by how many of those 49 I’ve seen and enjoyed. Hong Kong may not make as many films per year as it did in the golden age and a smaller percentage of films each year may be worth your time and money, but there are still good films being made here and worth seeing.
(For those who might be curious, I’ve seen 123 films from the list.)
Incidentally, the list includes just a small handful of films made before the mid-70s. I’m assuming that the reason for this is that Hong Kong cinema has been very poorly served by the companies that own the rights to these films. Perhaps the market for them is too small but it seems to consist of just a few films with horrible transfers and few if any bonus features at high prices. So most people today (myself included) don’t have the chance to go back and discover the first 50 years or so of HK films, except at archive screenings or perhaps late at night on TV (usually without English subtitles).
At any rate, click this link to see Damn You’s write-ups of the #1 and #2 films and that page has links for the rest of the list.