Chinese cinema Master List (without Martial Arts)

by Melvelet | created - 21 Oct 2013 | updated - 01 May 2014 | Public

Films from Mainland China/Hong Kong/Taiwan on the following lists (Martial Arts/Triad films are excluded):

  • Asia Weekly Magazine's 100 Greatest Chinese Films of the 20th Century
  • Hong Kong Film Award's Best 100 Chinese Motion Pictures
  • Golden Horse's 100 Greatest Chinese-Language Films
  • Golden Horse's Greatest Chinese Language Films (4-9 votes)
  • Hong Kong Film Archive's 100 Must-See Hong Kong Movies
  • dGenerate Films' Best Chinese-Language Films of the 2000s
  • Best Films of Golden Horse Award
  • Academy Award Submissions for Best Foreign Language Film
  • Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Films
  • They Shoot Pictures 21st Century Top 250 Films
  • Doubling the Canon
  • additional choices

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1. Zhi guo yuan (1922)

30 min | Comedy, Short, Romance

Cheng the fruit seller is in love with the daughter of his neighbor the doctor, but the good doctor won't let him marry her unless Chang finds him more patients. With some creative ... See full summary »

Director: Shichuan Zhang | Stars: Zhegu Zheng, Zhengqiu Zheng, Ying Yu

Votes: 175

2. Little Toys (1933)

114 min | Drama, War

Add a Plot

Director: Yu Sun | Stars: Lingyu Ruan, Congmei Yuan, Li-li Li

Votes: 154

3. Zi mei hua (1934)

82 min | Drama

Twin girls separated at birth are reunited when the one raised in poverty becomes a servant in the household of her sister, now the pampered wife of a warlord general.

Director: Zhengqiu Zheng | Stars: Xiaoqiu Zheng, Zhiyuan Tan, Jinglin Xuan, Meijun Gu

Votes: 82

4. The Goddess (1934)

TV-PG | 85 min | Drama

Street walker by night, devoted mother by day, a woman fights to get her young son an education amid criminal and social injustice in China.

Director: Yonggang Wu | Stars: Lingyu Ruan, Tian Jian, Zhizhi Zhang, Keng Li

Votes: 1,604

5. Yu guang qu (1934)

56 min | Drama

Silent film about the trials and tribulations of the family of a poor fisherman.

Director: Chusheng Cai | Stars: Langen Han, Peng Luo, Kwah-Wu Shang, Tianxiu Tang

Votes: 95

6. The Big Road (1935)

Not Rated | 104 min | Comedy, Musical, Drama

Six young men from the city take jobs on a road crew, building a highway of strategic importance to the Chinese Army. The story relates the men's interactions with each other, the local ... See full summary »

Director: Yu Sun | Stars: Yan Jin, Yanyan Chen, Li-li Li, Peng Luo

Votes: 223

7. Crossroads (1937)

Not Rated | 110 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Four students in Shanghai have recently finished university. All are unemployed. Xu contemplates suicide but his friend Zhao talks him out of it. Zhao lives in a shabby room with just a ... See full summary »

Director: Xiling Shen | Stars: Dan Zhao, Yang Bai, Ban Lu, Yin Ying

Votes: 124

8. Song at Midnight (1935)

Not Rated | 113 min | Drama, Horror, Romance

China's first horror film, this is loosely based on The Phantom of the Opera. A disfigured musical genius roams a traditional Chinese opera house, punishing those who offend him.

Director: Weibang Ma-Xu | Stars: Menghe Gu, Ping Hu, Shan Jin, Chau-Shui Yee

Votes: 573

9. Street Angel (1937)

91 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

In old Shanghai, two sisters, a prostitute and a singer, tried to escape from the local scoundrels with the help of a trumpet player and a newspaper seller.

Director: Muzhi Yuan | Stars: Dan Zhao, Heling Wei, Xuan Zhou, Jiting Wang

Votes: 658

10. Tears of the Yang-Tse (1947)

192 min | Drama, War

1930's China. The village of a poor family is taken over by the occupying Japanese army. One son, Zhongliang, leaves his wife and young son to join a medic group for the Chinese Army. The ... See full summary »

Directors: Chusheng Cai, Junli Zheng | Stars: Yang Bai, Tao Jin, Yang Nai, Yunzhu Shangguan

Votes: 248

11. Spring in a Small Town (1948)

98 min | Drama, Romance

A lonely housewife finds her monotonous life altered when her childhood sweetheart returns to town.

Director: Mu Fei | Stars: Chaoming Cui, Wei Li, Yu Shi, Wei Wei

Votes: 2,225

12. The Lights of Ten Thousand Homes (1948)

Not Rated | 124 min | Drama

This tale of familial warfare and sacrifice takes place in hard-pressed Shanghai at the end of the 1940s. Hu Zhiqing can barely support his wife and children, and his situation is worsened ... See full summary »

Director: Fu Shen | Stars: Ma Lan, Yunzhu Shangguan, Longji Wang, Ping Wang

Votes: 102

13. The Winter of Three Hairs (1949)

Not Rated | 74 min | Comedy, Drama

Three Hairs was the name of a popular comic character, a street urchin with a bald head save for three thin stalks sticking straight up towards the sky. After a night on the streets, Three ... See full summary »

Directors: Gong Yan, Ming Zhao | Stars: Zhen Li, Hongda Guan, Chen Huang, Cheng Mo

Votes: 124

14. Crows and Sparrows (1949)

113 min | Drama

A story of a corrupt party official who attempts to sell an apartment building he has appropriated from the original owner and the struggles of the tenants to prevent themselves being thrown onto the street.

Director: Junli Zheng | Stars: Dan Zhao, Yinyan Wu, Daolin Sun, Yunzhu Shangguan

Votes: 199

15. Life of a Beijing Policeman (1950)

120 min | History

Fifty years of modern Chinese history (1900-1950), including wars, revolutions and corrupt politics, as seen through the life and times of a simple Beijing policeman and his family.

Director: Hui Shi | Stars: Hui Shi, Heling Wei, Yang Shen, Wei Li

Votes: 135

16. Wu Xun zhuan (1951)

208 min | Drama

The life-story of Wu Xun, a beggar in the Qing dynasty who set up free schools for poor children.

Director: Yu Sun | Stars: Dan Zhao, Zongying Huang, Boxun Zhou, Tianliu Jiang

Votes: 34

17. New Year Sacrifice (1956)

Not Rated | 100 min | Drama

Before the Revolution of 1911, widow Aunt Xianglin heard that her mother-in-law would sell her. Therefore, she ran to the Lu town and worked as a servant in Lord Lu Si's house, but she made... See full summary »

Director: Hu Sang | Stars: Yang Bai, Li Di, Zongxiang Guan, Jingbo Li

Votes: 103

20. The Lin Family Shop (1959)

Not Rated | 85 min | Drama

A store in Zhejiang province comes to series of troubles when Japanese invade China and the war break out.

Director: Choui Khoua | Stars: Shu Chen, Tao Han, Bin Lin, Wei Ma

Votes: 85

21. The Wild Wild Rose (1960)

128 min | Musical

Grace Chang seduces as Hong Kong's most sensual Carmen ever. The torrid passions of Bizet's famous opera gets a postmodern reading when it is transposed to the noir-like setting of Hong ... See full summary »

Director: Tian-Lin Wang | Stars: Grace Chang, Yang Chang, Po-Chien Chin, Chi Hsieh

Votes: 129

22. Third Sister Liu (1960)

Not Rated | 117 min | Musical

This is the first musical film in China which tells the story of Liu San Jie (Liu the Third Sister), a legendary folk female singer of Zhuang minority in Guangxi Autonomous Region.

Director: Su Li | Stars: Wan-qiu Huang, Zong-xue Xia, Ju-ke Zhang, Wen-jun Zhang

Votes: 129

23. The Red Detachment of Women (1961)

92 min | War

In 1930s, Wu Qionghua was a housemaid of Nan-ba-tian, a cruel warlord of a village in Hainan Island, China. Often abused by her master, Qionghua was finally rescued by Hong Changqing, ... See full summary »

Director: Jin Xie | Stars: Qiang Chen, Niu Tie, Xin-Gang Wang, Mei Xiang

Votes: 227

24. Jia wu feng yun (1962)

95 min | History, War

In 1894 the Japanese Imperial Navy provokes the Chinese navy to test defenses. Some Chinese want to make concessions while others want to fight. When Japan invades, some naval officers put up a heroic resistance.

Director: Nong Lin | Stars: Jie Li, Moran Li, Xueqin Pang, Ke Poo

Votes: 49

25. Threshold of Spring (1963)

120 min | Drama

Jianqiu is a high school teacher and sympathizes Mrs. Wen, a widow whose husband was Jianqiu's schoolmate and died in the Guangzhou Uprising. Jianqiu and Lan fall in love, but Jianqiu decides to marry Mrs. Wen.

Director: Tieli Xie | Stars: Daolin Sun, Fang Xie, Yunzhu Shangguan, Xuepeng Fan

Votes: 114

26. Yang ya ren jia (1965)

111 min | Drama

The story of duck man Lin and his adopted daughter Hsiao-yue. Hsiao-yue knows nothing about her real descent, which Lin has been keeping secret from her. But one day, someone appears and changes her life.

Director: Hsing Lee | Stars: Wen-Wen Chang, Kuo Chun Chen, Ming Chiang, Su-chen Hsieh

Votes: 124

27. Two Stage Sisters (1964)

112 min | Drama

Chronicles the fortunes of two actresses in pre-revolutionary China, who are separated by money and politics.

Director: Jin Xie | Stars: Fang Xie, Yindi Cao, Nan Deng, Ran Ding

Votes: 258

30. The Secret (1979)

85 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

A real murder case which was complicated by the minage ' trois relationship of the victim and the main suspects. As different witnesses narrated their conflicting stories, the case seemed ... See full summary »

Director: Ann Hui | Stars: Sylvia Chang, Angie Chiu, Norman Chu, Chung Kwan

Votes: 128

32. Man on the Brink (1981)

100 min | Crime, Drama

An undercover cop goes deep undercover to inside one of Hong Kong's most notorious Triad gangs only to find him getting consumed by a life of crime and seediness.

Director: Kwok-Ming Cheung | Stars: Lun Chia, Hing-Yin Kam, Eddie Chan, Oi-Tsu Fung

Votes: 52

33. In Our Time (1982)

106 min | Drama

Four short films from four different directors, spanning from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Directors: Yi Chang, I-Chen Ko, Te-chen Tao, Edward Yang | Stars: Emily Y. Chang, Sylvia Chang, Chi Chen, Sheng-wen Lan

Votes: 407

34. Boat People (1982)

R | 109 min | Drama

A Japanese photojournalist revisits Vietnam after the Liberation and learns harsh truths about its regime and its "New Economic Zones".

Director: Ann Hui | Stars: George Lam, Cora Miao, Season Ma, Andy Lau

Votes: 641

35. My Memories of Old Beijing (1983)

96 min | Drama

The film shows the society and life in Beijing in 1920s through the eyes of a 6 year old girl. Yingzi Lin moves to Beijing from Taiwan with her parents. They live in a lane in the southern ... See full summary »

Director: Yigong Wu | Stars: Wenping Chong, Yan Qin, Jie Shen, Zong-yao Tan

Votes: 243

36. Boon bin yen (1983)

110 min | Drama

When romance starts to cool, Ah Ying applies for a job in a film centre. Instead of paying her for her work, the centre lets her attend its classes for free. She is later drawn into a ... See full summary »

Director: Allen Fong | Stars: Kwok-Lam Cha, Chi-Hung Chang, Ming-Cheung Chin, Pui Hui

Votes: 104

37. Yi ge he ba ge (1983)

86 min | War

Set in the Anti-Japanese War, an instructor who used to be an undercover at the enemy-occupied area. He is set up by a spy and could not prove his innocence.

Director: Junzhao Zhang | Stars: Daoming Chen, Xiaoyan Lu, Zeru Tao, Zongwan Wei

Votes: 52

38. The Sandwich Man (1983)

105 min | Drama

Three vignettes from three different directors that tell stories of ordinary people during Taiwan's Cold War period.

Directors: Hsiao-Hsien Hou, Jen Wan, Zhuang Xiang Zeng | Stars: Bor Jeng Chen, Li-Yin Yang, Kuo-Feng Tseng, Te-Nan Lai

Votes: 494

39. A Summer at Grandpa's (1984)

93 min | Drama

A coming-of-age story about a young brother and sister whom spend a pivotal summer in the country with their grandparents.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou | Stars: Chi-Kuang Wang, Shu-Chen Li, Hsiu-Ling Lin, Mei-Feng

Votes: 1,053

40. Yellow Earth (1984)

89 min | Drama, History, Music

'Yellow Earth' focuses on the story of a communist soldier who is sent to the countryside to collect folk songs for the Communist Revolution. There he stays with a peasant family and learns... See full summary »

Director: Kaige Chen | Stars: Xueqi Wang, Bai Xue, Quiang Liu, Tuo Tan

Votes: 1,953

41. A Time to Live and a Time to Die (1985)

138 min | Biography, Drama

The semi-autobiographical film on director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's childhood and adolescence, when he was growing up in Taiwan, living through the deaths of his father, mother and grandmother.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou | Stars: Chia-bao Chang, Neng Chang, Chih-Chen Chen, Han-wen Chen

Votes: 2,061

43. The Terrorizers (1986)

109 min | Crime, Drama

A metaphysical mystery about the lives of three couples in Taipei that continually intersect over a span of several weeks.

Director: Edward Yang | Stars: Cora Miao, Li-Chun Lee, Wang An, Pao-Ming Ku

Votes: 2,091

44. The Horse Thief (1986)

Not Rated | 88 min | Drama

A Tibetan man struggles to provide for his family.

Directors: Zhuangzhuang Tian, Peicheng Pan | Stars: Daiba, Jiji Dan, Drashi, Gaoba

Votes: 922

45. The Old Well (1987)

130 min | Drama, Romance

A married village worker teams up with an old girlfriend to try to dig a well for his water-starved village. The well collapses and they are trapped. Their enforced confinement leads to ... See full summary »

Director: Tian-Ming Wu | Stars: Yujing Liang, Yuqing Liao, Liping Lü, Xingli Niu

Votes: 247

46. Red Sorghum (1987)

Not Rated | 91 min | Drama, History, Romance

When a leprous winery owner in 1930s China dies a few days after his arranged marriage, his young widow is forced to run the winery to make a living while contending with bandits, her drunkard lover, and the invading Japanese army.

Director: Yimou Zhang | Stars: Li Gong, Wen Jiang, Rujun Teng, Ji Liu

Votes: 7,128

47. As Tears Go By (1988)

Not Rated | 102 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

Mid-level gangster Wah falls in love with his beautiful cousin, but must also continue to protect his volatile partner-in-crime and friend, Fly.

Director: Kar-Wai Wong | Stars: Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Alex Man

Votes: 7,381 | Gross: $0.01M

48. Rouge (1987)

93 min | Drama, Fantasy, Music

Fleur is the blue angel in one of Hong Kong's "flower houses" - bordellos and night clubs of the 1930's. A detached and beautiful performer, she falls in love with Twelfth Master Chan, heir... See full summary »