Chinese movies (2018 list)

Finally, the moment that you were all waiting for! (Or maybe not!)… My “Chinese movies of the year” post is back! I just can’t help but feeling I need to keep all of my blog traditions, like the annual books and movies lists. This is the fourth year I make this list, you can also check the 2015, 2016 and 2017 lists if you wish. Like in previous years, I classified the movies in 3 groups: liked them, meh, and didn’t like them. I also included some Hong Kong ones. I think watching movies is a good way of practising your listening comprehension and also of learning more about the culture. Just a word of warning: these are the Chinese movies I watched in 2018, but not all of them are from last year. I am usually not too aware of the latest releases.

Chinese movies I liked:

Paths of the Soul (冈仁波齐): I’m not sure if this is a movie or a documentary, probably half and half. A group of Tibetans start a pilgrimage to Lhasa, 1200 km away from their village. Walking for 1200 km in Tibet would already be hard enough, but they don’t just walk: every few steps they throw themselves to the ground, then get up again and repeat (see it here in the trailer). Non stop, for almost a year. It sounds very weird, and too simple, but the movie manages to not be boring at all. In fact, I was utterly fascinated. As an extra, the characters are super candid and the Tibetan landscapes are breathtaking.

Cow (斗牛): Niu’Er, a not too bright farmer, is appointed to take care of the village’s only dairy cow by the village elders. It’s sometime in the 1930s or 40s and the village gets attacked by Japanese troops. Everybody dies except Niu’Er and the cow, and they have to manage to stay alive in a harsh environment and surrounded by troops and bandits who would love to get their hands on some beef. A quite original drama with some humour too.

Battle of Memories (记忆大师): An entertaining thriller about a writer who tries a new procedure to erase his memories and save them in a disc in case he wants to recover them later. However there is a mix up with the discs and when he later wants to have his memories back, he finds himself having recollections of crimes.

Zhou Yu’s Train (周渔的火车): Gong Li is a ceramist who often travels by train to visit her poet boyfriend. However, her personalities don’t really match and she meets another man on the train…

Twenty Two (二十二): A heart wrenching documentary about the Chinese comfort women (i.e. women that were forced to be sexual slaves for the Japanese troops during the second Sino-Japanese War/WWII). It is estimated that around 200,000 women went through this horrible experience in China, Korea, Philippines and other countries and when the documentary was filmed only 22 of the Chinese ones were still alive. It’s not a typical documentary, more a series of interviews with the survivors.

Little Red Flowers (看上去很美): A very cute movie about a little boy who is taken to some kind of boarding kindergarten at the beginning of the Communist period. He is very individualistic and rebellious and can’t get used to all the rules and discipline. Quite charming.

Mr. Donkey (驴得水): The teachers of a small school in a remote rural area get a donkey to help them fetch water. They call the donkey Lü de shui, which means “the donkey obtains water”. To receive more funding from the government, they pretend Lü de shui is actually a person and the school’s English teacher. In Chinese this makes sense because is also a surname and de shui can perfectly be characters in someone’s name, so the trick works and they get the money. However, one day the official in charge of school budgets wants to visit the school and meet the English teacher… It’s comedy and drama in one movie, as it often happens with Asian cinema, and I really liked it.


Chinese movies that left me “meh”:

Lan Yu (蓝宇): A story about a middle aged, successful businessman who likes to have affairs with young men. He starts a casual relationship with a college student who just arrived to Beijing and is short of money. This movie has good ratings but for some reason I didn’t like it too much. However, it has the big plus of starring the gorgeous Liu Ye as the college student.


Chinese movies that I didn’t like:

This Is Not What I Expected (喜欢你): I’m not sure why I watched this; I was probably alone at home and this was the first thing I found. Romantic comedies are not exactly my favourite genre and Chinese ones tend to be even cheesier. The story is about a super rich and uptight man who becomes obsessed with the food made by a young female chef. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very handsome but his character is just boring, and the female lead I found simply unbearable with her childish voice and face expressions. But, hey, you might like it! Here’s the trailer.

Run for Love (奔爱): Another boring romantic comedy. This one must have been especially bad as I don’t remember anything about it and even reading the plot summary only one scene sounds familiar. I guess my brain doesn’t want to waste space remembering worthless things!


And that was all! I only watched 10 Chinese movies last year. I think this year I’ll watch even less as what mum has time to spend 2 or more hours in front of a screen! Anyway, if you are interested in watching these movies, I noticed that many of them are actually on YouTube with English subtitles (I realized when I was searching for the trailers).

Did you watch any Chinese movies last year? Let me know in the comments!