Guide To The 27 Best Asian Movies
We’ve collected some of the best Asian movies because we believe everyone should see them at least once. As huge fans of Asian cinema, we can assure you; if you don’t watch them you’re missing out on some of the most beautiful movies ever made.
One of the most entertaining and fun ways to get to know a culture is through cinema. To get you started here are some truly remarkable and beautiful Asian movies that will help you understand more about each of these countries’ cultures, its people but also about yourself and human nature.
While some of the movies on this list are more well known to western viewers there are still many perfect pieces just waiting to steal cinema lovers’ hearts from all over the world.
If you like good directing, beautiful cinemaphotography, great acting, captivating, & moving storytelling then these films will skyrocket to your “favorite movies” list. These are the top ten Asian movies that would deserve to be seen by everyone around the world.
You will find everything on our list from Oscar winners to indie darlings.
Note: this post has been updated in January 2020.
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Best Asian Movies to Watch
27| The Assassin by Hsiao-Hsien Hou | 2015, China
The Assasin is the most visually stunning history action drama you’ll ever see.
It’s about a female assassin who is ordered to take out a nobleman she was previously engaged to.
The female lead is strong, unique, and unforgettable.
The Assasin is a one of kind and a must-watch Asian movie.
26| Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior by Prachya Pinkaew | 2003, Thai
Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior is a truly fascinating action thriller movie from Thailand with the amazing Tony Jaa.
The story is about Ting a young martial artist, who decides to go to the big city and try to get back the head of a sacred statue that was stolen from his village.
However, he soon finds out that the task is more difficult than he first thought and finds himself taking on the underworld to retrieve it.
The fights and visuals are stunning and all are actually performed by the leading actor, Tony Jaa.
Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior is certainly one of the best Asian movies with martial arts.
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25| 3-Iron by Ki-duk Kim | 2004, Korea
3-Iron is a thrilling crime drama with romance from Korea. The movie tells the love story of Tae-suk and Sun-hwa.
Tae-suk sneaks into strangers’ homes while they’re away but makes sure that no harm is done to their homes and he even cleans up and does minor repairs in the houses.
One day he sneaks into the house where the walls are covered with photos of a beautiful woman. After eating, washing up, and doing some repairs he is ready to leave when realizes that the woman who lives there is watching him.
Soon he figures out that the woman on the photos is Sun-hwa but sees that she has bad bruises. He suspects that she is a victim of domestic violence and soon he sees as Min-kyo her husband slaps her around.
He barges into the house and saves the woman. They ride away together after Sun-hwa silently joins him in his existence as a squatter. Then their relationship slowly blossoms into a beautiful love affair.
3-Iron is one of the best Asian movies with romance and a bit of crime.
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24| Still Walking by Hirokazu Koreeda | 2008, Japan
Still Walking is a beautiful family drama movie from Japan about a family that gathers together for a commemorative ritual of the death of the one who was taken before his time.
The story unfolds in one single summer they and as the festive gathering commences and the lavish meal is laid out it gradually becomes clear that resentment and sorrow bonds this family as powerfully as love
Still Walking premiered in 2008 yet it is still one of the top Asian movies ever created and one that enjoys a 100% on tomato meter on Rotten Tomatoes.
23| Battle Royale by Kinji Fukasaku | 2000, Japan
You probably heard about Battle Royal because of the novel and while this movie premiered back in 2020 it is still one of the most exciting and famous Asian horror movies ever.
The story takes place in a Japanese facility after the government captures a class of ninth-grade students to then force them to kill each other under the revolutionary “Battle Royale” act.
It’s as crazy and weird as it sounds. If you enjoy horror movies Battle Royal should be on your list.
22| The Crimes That Bind by Katsuo Fukuzawa | 2018, Japan
The Crimes That Bind is one of the best mystery thriller Asian movies of recent years.
This movie came out in 2018 and quickly created a huge fanbase in Japan.
The story is about Michiko who came to Tokyo to visit Hiromi but finds him murdered and the police is struggling to find clues to solve the murder.
However, Michiko finds an item found near the corpse but it just makes the case even more complicated and personal even for the detective assigned to solve the case.
21| Shoplifters by Hirokazu Koreeda | 2018, Japan
Shoplifters is a tremendously uplifting Japanese crime drama by the talented writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda who was praised for his stunning humanistic filmography skills.
Shoplifters is a two-hour-long movie about a family of shoplifters who take in a little girl they find outside in the cold despite the fact that they can barely make enough money to survive. Their relationships are soon to be tested when an unforeseen incident reveals hidden secrets.
Shoplifters is the fourth-highest-grossing Japanese film of 2018 and has a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
20| Parasite by Bong Joon-ho | 2019, South Korea
The Parasite is a South Korean black comedy thriller film about timely social themes like greed and class discrimination between two families’, the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.
It’s one of the most successful Asian movies in 2019. It was a huge success in South Korea and the movie also achieved international acclaim and won various awards including a Cannes Best Actress Award. It also has a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
It’s an engaging and memorable social satire one that entertains from the first minute till the last.
19| The Handmaiden by Park Chan-wook | 2016, South Korea
The Handmaiden is a gripping and visually stunning South Korean erotic psychological thriller and is set in the 1930’s South Korea and Japan.
The handmaiden is a sensual tale about a young Japanese lady who lives a secluded life in her estate and her new handmaiden. However, her new servant is secretly involved in a plot that aims to defraud her of her large inheritance.
The movie was inspired by Sarah Waters, British author’s novel ‘FINGERSMITH’ and was brought to life by the immensely talented director, PARK Chan-wook.
This movie is beautifully shot, complex, disturbing, and a true hunting melodrama. The Handmaiden also received international critical acclaim and has a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
18| A Moment to Remember by John H. Lee | 2004, South Korea
A Moment to Remeber is a sad but beautiful South Korean romance drama movie about a young couple and their battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
It’s a Korean love story about Su-jin and Cheol-su whos love get’s tested when Su-jin is diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 27.
Korean cinema is famous for its romance stories and this one is a great introduction into Korean Romance Movies.
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17| A Separation by Asghar Farhadi | 2011, Iran
A Separation is a suspenseful Iranian mystery drama and one of the best morally complex Asian movies in contemporary cinema.
A Separation is about the dissolution of Simin’s and Nader’s marriage. While Simin wants to leave Iran to try and give a better life to their daughter, Termeh in a new country Nader wants to stay and take care of his father who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Simin tries and fails to get a divorce and decides to return to his parent’s home however, Termeh stays with his father. After Nader decides to hire a young woman to assist with his ill father things just get more and more challenging.
It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking movie about the point of view and rights and wrongs.
16| Devils on the Doorstep by Jiang Wen | 2000, China
Devils on the Doorstep is a black and white Chinese dark comedy war movie about two Japanese soldiers who are dumped in a peasant’s home as prisoners during World War II when Japan shortly occupied China.
Its chilling dark humor will surely give you some laughs while the story will introduce to you China’s WW II history in a new way.
15| Departures by Yōjirō Takita | 2008, Japan
Departures is a stunning Japanese drama about a cellist who finds himself unemployed after his orchestra dissolved. He decides to move back to his quiet old town and answeres an ad entitled ‘Departures’.
Soon he starts his new job preparing the dead for funerals. While his new job has its difficulties and his wife and friends seem to dislike his new profession he learns to take great pride in it.
It’s a beautiful movie about life, death and how we live and move from this state of being to the next.
14| Raise the Red Lantern by Zhang Yimou | 1911, China
Raise The Red Lantern is not only one of the best Asian movies because of its visuals or stunning acting and camera work but also because of its political and social messages.
So much so that Raise The Red Lantern was actually banned in China. It’s about a young woman who becomes the fourth wife of a feudal lord. The lord would choose every night which wife he’s going to spend the night with while wives wait for him at the doorsteps of their houses.
Then the servants would light a hung a red lanterns above the favored woman’s house. With beautiful metaphors and symbolism, the movie tells the story of these powerless women and how the system eventually turns them against each other. Raise The Red Lantern is a two-hour-long gripping delight with intriguing metaphors and a thrilling insight into the lives of China’s social elite in the 1920s.
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13| Starry Starry Night by Tom Shu-Yu Lin | 2011, Taiwan
Starry Starry Nights is a beautiful Taiwanese fantasy drama about Xiao Mei a young girl who grows up in the mountains with her grandparents but moves to a big city with her parents as a teen.
The movie is based on the beautiful works of Jimmy Liao and his amazing illustrated novel with the same name ‘The Starry Starry Night’.
The story is about two lonely souls who find each other and became friends and make a magical trip. It’s a lovely story and the visuals are just as gripping as in the original illustrated novel.
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12| The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion by Park Hoon-jung | 2018, South Korea
The Witch: Part 1 – The Subversion is a thrilling mystery thriller from South Korea by the talented director, Park Hoon-jung.
It’s about a high Ja-Yoon a high school student who has amnesia and tries to uncover what has happened to her. After meeting some mysterious strangers and getting into some serious trouble she finds out a horrifying conspiracy surrounding secret human DNA experimentation by the government.
It’s a gripping and creepy story with great visuals. The Witch is one of the best Asian movies in the thriller/mystery genre in 2018. If you’re into dark stories with supernatural elements you’ll love this one for sure.
11| Hero by Zhang Yimou | 2002, China
Hero has one of the most beautiful visuals and colors in movie history. It’s certainly one of the best Asian movies not only in the action genre but generally.
Tells the story of a Nameless warrior who is summoned by the King of Qin regarding his success of terminating three warriors. It’s filled with beautiful action scenes, great drama, and fantastic acting.
It’s also Jet Li’s most beautiful movie so if you’re a fan of him make sure you also watch this beauty.
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10| Harakiri by Masaki Kobayashi | 1962, Japan
Harakiri or Seppuku is a ritualized form of suicide by cutting one’s own stomach and since it was a part of the bushido samurai code and considered one of the most honorable ways to die he was proud to do it.
This story takes place in 1630 when ronin (unemployed samurai) wander the peaceful land. Our hero Tsugumo decides to kill himself because of the disgrace of being a jobless samurai is unbearable to him. However, before he would do so he wants to tell a story. A story that will make you sit on the edge of your seat.
The director Masaki Kobayashi is one of the most admired directors in Japan after you watch this movie I’m sure you’ll join the Kobayashi team too. Samurai, beautiful cinemaphotography and a spellbinding story will make sure of your entertainment.
Japanese movies are famous for their beautiful cinematography and heartfelt storytelling. This piece is a perfect example of both.
Harakiri is, without doubt, one of the best Asian historical movies.
Don’t forget to search for Asian movies on Netflix because they have a fine selection of Asian films and series and it’s pretty much one of the easiest and cheapest ways to watch Asian movies online. I also love that you can check by popularity as well so you can see what’s trending in a certain country.
9| Dolls by Takeshi Kitano | 2002, Japan
Get some tissues ready because as the puppetry and live action mix together you will find yourself dragged into the sadness of Kitano’s characters… and they will break your heart big time.
Again, there are plenty of Japanese movies on Netflix so don’t forget to check it.
8| Children of Heaven by Majid Majidi | 1997, Iran
Children of Heaven serves a beautiful family movie with a simple but spirited story of a sister, a brother, and a pair of missing shoes.
It’s a perfect movie for the whole family, that will give you some never enough tale about the goodness in humanity and shows us a truly happy home where siblings love and support each other instead of constantly fighting. The movie has more than compelling storytelling, beautiful scenes will take you from old streets and alleys to the luxury homes and high-rises and helps you get a more realistic look at Iranians’ everyday life.
Iranian cinema may not be the first thing that comes to mind while you’re trying to find a new movie to watch but Children of Heaven should make your list. Watch sooner thank me later.
7| Memories of Murder by Bong Joon-ho | 2003, South Korea
Memories of Murder is a moving detective story about a series of murders in rural Korea in 1986 under the military dictatorship. This movie has dark humor, social satire, sharp political commentary, beautiful shots, and a story that keeps on surprising its viewers until the very last shot.
Memories of Murder is definitely one of the best Korean horror movies ever made. If you like smart serial killer stories – or just smart stories – this movie is for you!
Netflix has a wide range of Korean comedy and horror movies. So, you should check out their selection. Here is the Ebay link in case you would like to Buy the DVD.
6| Three Idiots by Rajkumar Hirani | 2009, India
3 idiots is a considerably new piece of Indian cinema despite the fact that is almost 10 years old. I choose this movie because it’s one of my favorites, because I have an undying love towards Aamir Khan, and because it gives you a great look into India’s cast systems.
There are thousands of beautiful movies were made in Bollywood, some even say 3 idiots is overrated and that there are so many other movies that worth mentioning before 3 Idiots. However, this movie is important because it shows us the changing India. It lets audiences connect and understand one of the most unique cultures on earth and it achieves that while being tremendously entertaining.
The story is quite simple, it revolves around Rancho and his classmates and how he teaches not just them but the parents and the teachers as well that thinking differently and being an “idiot” is the way to truly succeed in life.
3 Idiots is one of the most heartwarming and fun Asian movies on Netflix.
This movie will make you cry, laugh (fall in love with Aamir Khan) and you will find yourself thinking that India’s far and foreign land just got a hell of a lot more closer, familiar, and relatable.
It’s a beloved Bollywood film that will most certainly steal your heart. Netflix has a wide selection of Bollywood movies and they even have many of Aamir Khan’s films as well. You can BUY the DVD here.
5| Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa | 1950, Japan
Rashomon created by the legendary director Akira Kurosawa is here for you to take your breath away. I think this movie is another masterpiece that can be easily enjoyed by those too who are not a fan of old cinema.
The acting is brilliant, the narrative structure is innovative and the story explores reality vs perception and how subjective truth really is.
The story is about three men who find a shelter from a storm and while they wait for the storm to pass they discuss an incident where a bandit raped a woman, and about her husband who died soon after this incident. And while this may not sound the most exciting story you have ever heard you’ll be surprised how much this seemingly elementary story pulls you in and makes you think in a completely different way about reality.
Rashomon is considered one of the best Japanese films of all time. You can BUY the DVD here.
4| Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring by Kim Ki-Duk | 2003, South Korea
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring beautifully reminds us of the circle of life. The story revolves around a young Monk and an older Monk who live in a small isolated floating monastery surrounded by mountains and trees.
It’s five short stories all tell a tale about how life changes, and how we evolve and experience it just like how seasons pass by. The movie is stunningly shot and while it’s slow paced it gives the viewer a meditative experience.
It’s one of the top Korean movies out there and if you’ll ever talk to someone who loves Asian movies I’m sure they’ll mention it as one of their favorites.
There will be many beautiful moments that will stick with you for a long long time. BUY the DVD here.
3| Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee | 2000, China
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of the best examples of what Chinese cinema was always so good at achieving; an artistic, smart, and exhilarating action movie. The kind you will enjoy even if you’re not a fan of action movies. Because this one is a truly enjoyable action movie with a good story and astonishing cinema photography. One of my favorite movies from the amazing director; Ang Lee.
The story is about a stolen sword, an epic romantic adventure, and a whole lot more.
In most Western action movies the story and fighting revolve around hate and around the fact that the good guy wants to catch the bad guy. While in most Asian action movies the main story is about how they fight against their own fears to achieve personal excellence and how the heroes push the limitations of their bodies. These stories tell more and do it more wondrously than most dramas.
It’s one of the most beautiful and best Chinese action movies that you should definitely see at least once. You can BUY the DVD here.
2| Barfi! by Anurag Basu | 2012, India
Barfi! is a modern masterpiece that gives us a little taste of the past’s silent movie era. I have a soft spot for silent movies and films with a somewhat unique concept and Barfi! has both. It plays a tribute to the giants of the silent era of Hollywood such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. So much so that their cutouts even made it into the movie.
Priyanka Chopra who plays Jhilmil and Ranbir Kapoor as Barfi both did an exceptional job in portraying these pure, kind, and difficult characters. The film’s main character is Barfi who cannot hear or talk but is full of life and pranks. The story is about his unconventional and bittersweet but joyous love triangle. You can also watch this beautiful romance Bollywood movie on Netflix.
This movie is gloriously shot, will entertain you and surprise you over and over again. Not to mention that it’s able to make its viewer cry and laugh in the same scene. An all-time favorite for sure. Barfi is one of the best romantic Bollywood movies out there for sure.
You can BUY the DVD here.
1| In The Mood For Love by Wong Kar-wai | 2000, China
In the mood for love
I’ve first seen this movie a couple of years ago now but I still have such strong emotions every time I think about it. A simple romance story acted out and shot so beautifully that it made the world move.
With all its remarkable sensuality and melancholy, this movie is a treasure of modern cinema.
BUY the DVD here.
Thank you for reading!