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My Top 15 Asian Films
a highly opinionated wandering through asian cinema

1. The Killer
Absolutely the ultimate Hong Kong movie, and maybe the very best 'guy' film ever.
Loyalty, honor, friendship, and bullets.
Director John Woo and stars Chow Yun Fat and Danny Lee are at their best.
After this, get "Hard-Boiled", then "Once a Thief".

2. The Seven Samurai
The Ultimate Japanese movie.
Loyalty, honor, friendship, and swords.
Legendary director Akira Kurosawa and star Toshiro Mifune are at their best.
If you like this, move on to "Hidden Fortress", "Ran", or "Rashomon".

3. Raise the Red Lantern
Ok, there isn't much loyalty, honor, friendship, or weapons in this Chinese work of art. But, director Zhang Yimou and Chinese cinema icon Gong Li deliver their best film.
Incredible cinematography and Gong's presence mark this masterpiece.
They also did great work on "Red Sorghum", "Ju Dou", "To Live", and "Shanghai Triad".

4. Ghost in the Shell
The best Japanese anime I've seen.
Stunning art, gorgeous music, and an intelligent storyline.
This will definitely open your eyes to the ability of animation to deliver a mature story.

5. The Bride With White Hair
The best fantasy film ever.
Hell, this film practically redefines fantasy.
The images, the acting, the story, the music, the humor, the action - all are simply amazing.
And Brigitte Lin sets the standard for strong women characters...

6. Ashes of Time
Try to picture the "Pulp Fiction" of sword movies, and you'll have a vague idea what this Wong Kar Wai movie experience is like.
The non-linear plot threw a lot of people for a loop, but if you hang with it, you'll be duly rewarded. Christopher Doyles' imagery, particularly with bird cages, demands a second or third viewing.
And the all-star Hong Kong cast is terrific.

7. A Chinese Ghost Story 1,2,3
Looking for fun?
Here it is.
A three part series full of sexy ghosts, martial arts, bawdy humor, cheesy effects, and frenetic energy - what more could you want?
Leslie Cheung and Joey Wang are perfect.

8. Chunking Express
Wong Kar Wai's antidote to the complexity of "Ashes of Time", this relatively small, plotless look at Hong Kong life is full of great acting and interesting thoughts.
Faye Wong steals the show from all but Chris Doyle's ever-great cinematography.

9. Once Upon a Time in China 1,2,3
Jet Li has never been cooler than in this series.
You'll get yourself some history and some culture, but with all the action, you'll never realize it until it's over.
There's some serious head-shaking kung fu in these.

10. Heroic Trio
Are you tired of the whining, defenseless women in Western films?
Did you like Michelle Yeoh kicking butt in "Tomorrow Never Dies"?
Well, multiply that by three - Michelle, Maggie Cheung, and Anita Mui - and you're ready for this trio that makes Charlies Angels look like Three's Company.

11. Drunken Master 2
The Best Jackie Chan Movie.
Funny, incredible action and a brilliant scene-stealing performance by Anita Mui raise this above the other great Jackie movies.
The bamboo scene leaves you wondering, "How can he top this?", but then he does...

12. Bullet in the Head
This film is John Woo's take on "The Deer Hunter".
It's stunning, violent, and over-the-top.
The first hour has more action and drama than three normal films.
And Simon Yam delivers one of the all-time great Hong Kong supporting performances.
You've got to see it to believe it.
13. Tampopo
An outrageous Japanese comedy about a truck driver who helps a widow turn her down-and-out ramen shop into a success.
The core story and acting are good, but it's the bizarre detours that the film takes that leave the longest impression.

14. Farewell To My Concubine
Director Chen Kaige's epic look at China's Cultural Revolution is a must see.
Other than length, it's hard to find anything wrong with this.
It's a masterpiece.
15. Scent of Green Papaya
A beautiful little Vietnamese film about a young girl growing up in Saigon.
Don't expect much dialog or action, this is a story told with images.
And the images are interesting enough to carry the movie.

*You might ask yourself, "What the hell is Glenn thinking?"
Well, here's what I'm thinking:

1 - The repeat viewing factor is very important to me. I like films that will stand up to, or even improve under repeated viewing. There are some great films that I would never watch a second time.

2 - I want to see something I haven't seen before, and be taken somewhere I haven't been before.

3 - I want the director to have a vision.
The work of Zhang Yimou, Tsui Hark, John Woo, Wong Kar Wai or Akira Kurosawa stands with the work of Scorcese, Tarantino, Stone, or Gilliam. (ie: it may not always be good, but it will always be interesting).

4 - I want good cinematography, dialog, music, acting, story, action, and humor. Sex never hurts either - well, sometimes it hurts, but you know what I mean. All the above satisfy at least six of these eight.

5 - I want to see movies the way they were meant to be seen. I've seen all of these in the original aspect (usually letterboxed), and on DVD or Laserdisc.

6 - I tried to spread my choices around some different types of film.
I mean, I could fill a top 15 with the films of Kurosawa and Zhang Yimou, but what would be the point?
So, Drunken Master 2 makes it, not because it's one of the best 15 films, but because it's the best Jackie Chan - and you haven't seen Asian film if you haven't seen Jackie.