29 user 26 critic

Red Sorghum (1987)

Hong gao liang (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, History, Romance | February 1989 (USA)
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.


Yimou Zhang


Jianyu Chen, Yan Mo (books) | 1 more credit »
10 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »


Learn more

More Like This 

Ju Dou (1990)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A woman married to the brutal and infertile owner of a dye mill in rural China conceives a boy with her husband's nephew but is forced to raise her son as her husband's heir without ... See full summary »

Directors: Yimou Zhang, Fengliang Yang
Stars: Li Gong, Wei Li, Baotian Li
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A pregnant peasant woman seeks redress from the Chinese bureaucracy after the village chief kicks her husband in the groin in this comedy of justice. As she is frustrated by each level of ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Li Gong, Peiqi Liu, Liuchun Yang
Not One Less (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

In a remote mountain village, the teacher must leave for a month, and the mayor can find only a 13-year old girl, Wei Minzhi, to substitute. The teacher leaves one stick of chalk for each ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Minzhi Wei, Huike Zhang, Zhenda Tian
To Live (1994)
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

After Fugui and Jiazhen lose their personal fortunes, they raise a family and survive difficult cultural changes during 1940s to 1970s China.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: You Ge, Li Gong, Ben Niu
Crime | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A provincial boy related to a Shanghai crime family is recruited by his uncle into cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s to be a servant to a ganglord's mistress.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Li Gong, Baotian Li, Xiaoxiao Wang
Keep Cool (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A spurned lover seeks a rich man for revenge. A random onlooker -- who witnessed the public assault committed by the rich man against the lover -- seeks for monetary compensation for his ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Rong Chang, Xudong Du, Qingzhuo Fang
Drama | History | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A young woman becomes the fourth wife of a wealthy lord, and must learn to live with the strict rules and tensions within the household.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Li Gong, Jingwu Ma, Saifei He
The Road Home (1999)
Drama | History | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Prompted by the death of his father and the grief of his mother, a man recalls the story of how they met in flashback.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Ziyi Zhang, Honglei Sun, Hao Zheng
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.4/10 X  

Aircraft hijacking with Chinese special forces rescue. Gong Li as a heroic stewardess.

Directors: Fengliang Yang, Yimou Zhang
Stars: You Ge, Li Gong, Zhaoji Jia
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A Japanese father travels to China's Yunnan province in the place of his ailing son to film a famous folk-opera star.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Ken Takakura, Kiichi Nakai, Shinobu Terajima
Happy Times (2000)
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Zhao is an aging bachelor who hasn't been lucky in love. Thinking he has finally met the woman of his dreams, Zhao leads her to believe he is wealthy and agrees to a wedding far beyond his ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Lifan Dong, Benshan Zhao, Jie Dong
Coming Home (2014)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Lu and Feng are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. He finally returns home only to find that his beloved wife no longer recognizes him.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Li Gong, Daoming Chen, Huiwen Zhang


Cast overview, first billed only:
Li Gong ... Wo Nainai (My Grandma)
Wen Jiang ... Wo Yeye (My Grandpa)
Rujun Teng Rujun Teng ... Wo Luohan Yeye (Uncle Luohan) (as Rujun Ten)
Ji Liu Ji Liu ... Wo Die (My Dad)
Ming Qian Ming Qian ... Wo Nainai ta Die (My Grandma's Dad)
Chunhua Ji ... Sanpao
Chunhua Zhai Chunhua Zhai
Zhaoji Jia Zhaoji Jia
Yuxiang Zhang Yuxiang Zhang
Guiyun Zhou Guiyun Zhou
Qianbin Yang Qianbin Yang ... (as Yang Qianbin)
Guoqing Xu Guoqing Xu
Erga Yao Erga Yao
Yusheng Li Yusheng Li
Kun Dong Kun Dong


In 1930s China a young woman is sent by her father to marry the leprous owner of a winery. In the nearby red sorghum fields she falls for one of his servants. When the master dies she finds herself inheriting the isolated business. Written by Brian Rawnsley <rawnsleb@natlib.govt.nz>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History | Romance | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





Mandarin | Japanese

Release Date:

February 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Red Sorghum See more »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Xi'an Film Studio See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »


Featured in The Turandot Project (2000) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Barbaric and beautiful
3 June 2003 | by DeeNine-2See all my reviews

Although I don't think this is quite as good as some of the other films that master Chinese film maker Zhang Yimou has made--e.g., Raise the Red Lantern (1991); The Story of Qiu Ju (1991); Ju Duo (1990)--Red Sorghum is nonetheless an outstanding film strikingly presented visually and thematically.

Gong Li stars as the betrothed of an old leprous wine maker. The film opens with her being carried in a covered sedan chair to the consummation of her wedding by a rowdy crew from the sorghum winery. It is the 1930s or a little before. They joust her about according to tradition and sing a most scary song about how horrible her life is going to be married to the leprous old man. Through a break in the sedan's enclosure as she sits alone in fear and dread she catches sight of Jiang Wen, a burly, naturalistic man with a piercing countenance. A little later after a bit of unsuccessful highway robbery during which she is released from her confinement, they exchange meaningful glances. The young man doing the voice-over identifies them as his Grandmother and Grandfather. (Obviously the leprous old man is going to miss out!)

Zhang Yimou's technique here, as in all of his films that I have seen, is to tell a story as simply as possible from a strong moral viewpoint with as little dialogue as possible and to rely on sumptuous sets, intense, highly focused camera work, veracious acting by a carefully directed cast, and of course to feature the great beauty of his star, the incomparable and mesmerizing Gong Li. If you haven't seen her, Red Sorghum is a good place to start. Jiang Wen is also very good and brings both a comedic quality to the screen as well as an invigorating vitality. His courageous and sometimes boorish behavior seems exactly right.

I should warn the viewer that this film contains striking violence and would be rated R in the United States for that and for showing a little boy always naked and for the "watering" of the wine by Jiang Wen and the boy. Indeed the film is a little crude at times and represents a view of pre-communist China and its culture that the present rulers find agreeable. The depiction of the barbarity and cruelty of the Japanese soldiers is accurate from what I know, but I must say that this film would never have seen the light of day had communist soldiers been depicted in such a manner.

Nonetheless the treatment is appropriate since Red Sorghum is a masculine, lusty film suggesting the influence of Akira Kurosawa with perhaps a bit of Clint Eastwood blended in. There are bandits and tests of manhood. The men get drunk and behave badly. Masculine sexual energy is glorified, especially in the scene where Jiang Wen carries Gong Li off to bed, holding her like a barrel under his arm, feet forward, after having "watered" her wine as though to mark his territory. The camera trailing them shows her reach up and put her arms around his neck and shoulder as much in sexual embrace as in balance.

Obviously this is Zhang Yimou before he became completely enamored of the feminist viewpoint; yet somehow, although Gong Li is allowed to fall in love with her rapist (something not possible in contemporary American cinema), Zhang Yimou manages to depict her in a light that celebrates her strength as a woman. One can see here the germination of the full blown feminism that Zhang Yimou would later develop in the aforementioned Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou and Qiu Ju.

As usual in Zhang Yimou's films not only are the sets gorgeous but the accompanying accouterments--the pottery, the costumes, the lush verdure of the sorghum fields, even the walls and interiors of the meat house restaurant/bar and Gong Li's bedroom--are feasts for the eyes, somehow looming before cinematographer Gu Changwei's camera more vividly than reality.

There are some indications here however that Zhang Yimou had not yet completely mastered his art, and indeed was working under the constraint of a limited budget. For example there was no opening in the sedan through which Gong Li could see Jiang Wen, and there shouldn't have been one (a peephole maybe). The pouring of the wine (into presumably empty bowls that obviously already contained wine) by Jiang Wen needed more practice. In his later films Zhang Yimou would reshoot such scenes to make them consistent with the audience's perception. Additionally, Gong Li's character was not sufficiently developed early on for us to appreciate her confident governance of the winery she had inherited. "Uncle" Luohan's apparently jealous departure from the winery and his implied relationship with and loyalty to Gong Li were also underdeveloped.

However these are minor points: in what really matters in film making--telling a story and engaging the audience in the significance and the experience of the tale--in these things Zhang Yimou not only excelled, but gave promise of his extraordinary talent that would be realized in the films to come. See this by all means, but don't miss his Raise the Red Lantern, in my opinion one of the greatest films ever made.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)

45 of 52 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 29 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial

Recently Viewed