The 100 Greatest Hong Kong Films


Time Out film editor Edmund Lee celebrates 100 years of Hong Kong cinema with a list of our city’s very best movies.

The Countdown starts here...

100 - 91 | 90 - 81 | 80 - 71 | 70 - 61 | 60 - 51 | 50 - 41 | 40 - 31 | 30 - 21 | 20 - 11 | Number 10 | Number 9 | Number 8 | Number 7 | Number 6 | Number 5 | Number 4 | Number 3 | Number 2 | Number 1 |

Gallants 打擂台 (2010)

Dir Derek Kwok, Clement Cheng (Leung Siu-lung, Chen Kuan-tai, Teddy Robin)

“If you don’t fight you won’t lose. But if you fight, you must aim to win!”

Kung fu stars of yesteryear carry this spirited homage to an old genre by two up-and-coming directors. That the low-budget retro action comedy was named best picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards reveals as much about our cinema’s current nostalgic wave as it does a gradual changing of the guard.

Hard Boiled 辣手神探 (1992)

Dir John Woo (Chow Yun-fat, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Teresa Mo)

“I play a tune to every cop who dies. I don’t want to play the next song for you.”

Life is cheap (and bullets apparently cheaper) in this ultra-cool, ultra-stylish shoot ’em up. From Chow’s gun-fu-fighting supercop to Woo’s cameo as a contemplative jazz bar owner, and from its birdcage-kicking teahouse shootout at the start to its hospital-exploding, baby-saving climax, Hard Boiled remains any action fanboy’s wettest dream.

The Kid 細路祥 (1950)

Dir Fung Fung (Bruce Lee, Yee Chau-shui, Lee Hoi-chuen, Fung Fung)

“Last night I dined with Pak Yin. Tonight I dine with Tam Lan-hing.”

Bruce Lee shined in his first leading role as A-Chang in this vivacious social comedy, playing a 10-year-old orphan who’s raised by a righteous uncle (Yee), groomed by a skilled thief (Fung) and involved in all sorts of trouble around the factory of a hilariously forgetful miser (Lee Hoi-chuen, Lee’s father).

Naked Killer 赤裸羔羊 (1992)

Dir Clarence Fok (Chingmy Yau, Simon Yam, Carrie Ng)

“Once I rammed a toothbrush up a man’s nose. It hit his brain and he was killed instantly.”

Man-hating lesbian assassins populate this Wong Jing-scripted and produced erotic thriller, whose absurdly OTT campness renders it a cult fave internationally. Yau’s classic one-arm-over-the-breasts posture unleashed a new era of sex icons who, even while topless, don’t reveal their goods.

The Secret 瘋劫 (1979)

Dir Ann Hui (Sylvia Chang, Angie Chiu, Tsui Siu-keung)

“Tie the two monkeys to the tree!”

Part pseudo-ghost story, part Hitchcockian mystery thriller, Hui’s debut feature wraps a brutal double murder at its core with disorienting editing, fragmented chronology and some utterly haunting sequences. Its final scene, involving a cleaver and a pregnant woman, is as ridiculously gory as it is surreal.

Orphan Island Paradise 孤島天堂 (1939)

Dir Cai Chusheng (Li Lili, Li Qing)

Orphan Island! Is here hell or heaven?

The oldest movie on our list is a war-time drama which passionately fuses espionage noir with social-realist drama. Set during the Orphan Island period of Shanghai, the film follows a group of revolutionary patriots-cum-assassins who finally earn the support of the suffering public. ‘We’re all Chinese,’ so they repeatedly chant.


Viva Erotica 色情男女 (1996)

Dir Derek Yee, Lo Chi-leung (Leslie Cheung, Shu Qi, Karen Mok)

“Nobody asked you to be Wong Kar-wai! Can’t you be Wong Jing instead?”

It’s not quite the highbrow smut it aspires to be but Viva Erotica, which tells of the artistic pursuit of a downtrodden filmmaker reluctantly engaged to helm a softcore skinflick, remains one of the few satires on Category III filmmaking that manages to be frank, funny and humane all at once.


KJ 音樂人生 (2009)

Dir Cheung King-wai (Wong Ka-jeng)

“I want to be a human being.”

Cheung’s magnificent documentary sees egotistic music prodigy Wong Ka-jeng questioning his existence at the age of 11 – when he’s arguably peaked; at 17, the boy’s free spirit was already corroded by meaningless competitions and his parents’ divorce. His struggle is largely unspoken – and it’s all unspeakably sad.

* Did you know…
… Wong’s story context was very specifically chosen? “I put Wong against the backdrop of [his secondary school], which symbolises the elite education and middle class culture,” says Cheung, “but I wasn’t interested in Wong’s subsequent education in the US, so the filming stopped at that point.”

Father Takes a Bride 小兒女 (1963)

Dir Wang Tianlin (Lucilla You Min, Wang Yin, Kelly Lai Chen, Wang Lai)

“Dad, we don’t want a new mom.”

The transience of youth and the difficulty in affirming love in all circumstances are delicately alluded to in this Eileen Chang-scripted family melodrama, which sees a middle-aged widower’s (Wang Yin) decision to remarry being disrupted by his three children’s fear of a potentially evil stepmother.

Durian Durian 榴槤飄飄 (2000)

Dir Fruit Chan (Qin Hailu, Mak Wai-fan)

“I got the king of all fruits for your birthday.”

The quests for better living of two Mainland migrants – a Chinese opera performer working temporarily as a prostitute (Qin) and a young daughter overstaying her visa (Mak) – become intertwined through the stinky, exotic fruit in this gently observed effort, the first title in Chan’s unfinished ‘Prostitute Trilogy’.

See also:
- Our exclusive interview with Chow Yun-fat
- Their top five personal favourites
- The perfect Hong Kong film
- Top 5 ‘not-quite Hong Kong’ films

100 - 91 | 90 - 81 | 80 - 71 | 70 - 61 | 60 - 51 | 50 - 41 | 40 - 31 | 30 - 21 | 20 - 11 | Number 10 | Number 9 | Number 8 | Number 7 | Number 6 | Number 5 | Number 4 | Number 3 | Number 2 | Number 1 |


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